Two weeks ago, I wrote about the importance of learning to talk about yourself, and one key component to that is knowing WHY you do what you do. In researching and writing that article, I watched Simon Sinek's TEDx talk for the second time, and remembered why I loved it the first time around last year. As engaging as his 18-minute presentation was, I wanted to know more, so I swung by Powell's and picked up his book, Start With Why.
I haven't read a book this quickly in quite a long time, mostly because I don't actually make that much time to read on a regular basis. But when I hit the middle of last week and the middle of the book, I knew that I wanted to finish it and share my thoughts before leaving for a trip back East tomorrow morning. I made the time to make it happen.
WHY over HOW and WHAT
If you've watched Sinek's TEDx talk (and I certainly hope you have), then you probably feel amazed that 18 minutes can pack such a wallop. Imagine, then, a 233-page book that dives into the importance of WHY even deeper. There's more to his Golden Circle than a two-dimensional plane, and there's much more to the real life examples that illustrate his points, from the military to Apple to Microsoft to Southwest Airlines to the Civil Rights Movement. His language is straightforward, I could relate to his anecdotes, and his points were very clearly organized.
People don't buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. —Simon Sinek
But I feel it's important to note that this is not a book about sales. Nor is it about marketing or copywriting. All those things fall into due place—whether you make consumer goods, sell art, or offer higher education—when you're able to clearly identify, communicate and embody your WHY in HOW you do WHAT you do. Buying in this context is really buy-in inspired in others based on the guiding philosophy or principle—giving them something to believe in. This is a book about leadership.
Challenging the Status Quo
Ever since re-watching the video and reading the book, I've been walking around like a five-year-old at work, always asking "Why? Why? Why?" I must sound like a broken record to my colleagues, but I think that it's crucial to challenge the status quo on a regular basis and make sure we're constantly evaluating our WHY and whether or not our HOWs and WHATs fit within that.
The truth is, I think in a lot of ways the institutions I work for have lost sight of their WHY. And in my experience over the last two weeks, not everyone wants to go down that road because it forces them to rethink and puts them outside of their comfort zone. In fact, I know I've put people on the spot with my questions and even angered them for constantly challenging the status quo, which is largely a focus on WHAT and sometimes on HOW. But as frustrating as the process is, I think it's absolutely necessary to ask these questions and put these assumptions through the ringer. I believe we'll be better for it.
We need more leaders who can inspire passion in our work. We need believers who can help rally support, especially as non-profit institutions who rely so heavily on the support of others.
Start With Why has also been a huge resource in helping me identify my own WHYs in my personal life and in my side projects. Sinek doesn't spell out exactly how to find your WHY—nothing this important could be so formulaic. But despite hoping he would include a worksheet or a set of introspective questions at the end to help spur the WHY-seeking process, I realized that he couldn't have ended it better: his own personal discovery. He brought it from a macro, corporate level into a micro, individual level. And it was just what I needed.
I will continue to ask WHY and challenge the status quo. I will let my work be guided by my core beliefs and principles. And I will continue to spread the word.
Thank you, Simon Sinek, for making of me a WHYvangelist.
Buy Start With Why from Powells.com (affiliate link)
Further Reading: The Start With Why website.
Next up on my shelf:
I had to put down the sassy Crazy Enough to read this book, and in the process I picked up a couple more books. The flights back East should give me plenty of time to catch up though. On my list: Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau, and Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, among others.
Bookshelf is a series of book reviews and thoughts about what I've read. Some are left-brained books, some are right-brained books, but the best books are the ambidextrous-brained books.