Start with WHY Book Summary


Lost Your Passion? Key Points from Simon Sinek’s “Start with WHY”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

If you told me there were more joyless days than good in your career, then I would say you are not alone.

I’ve felt a similar way in my career in Optometry.

Then I came across Start with WHY by Simon Sinek.

You probably have a good sense of WHAT you do. For me, it’s eye exams.

You know HOW you do it. I perform tests to work out a diagnosis. Then, I use my knowledge set to provide advice on how to manage the patient’s concern.

But you are probably missing WHY you are doing it. And that was me.

In this book, Simon Sinek explains the importance of the WHY. This can work at an individual level as well as part of a community or organisation, like a business. 

Sinek documents the WHY, using well-known individuals like Martin Luther King and Bill Gates, as well as iconic businesses like Apple Inc. and The Walt Disney Company.

In the end, we will see what we can do to get that passion back. I hope this summary will help you or someone you know is in a similar position. Remember, a summary cannot replace reading a whole book.

This article contains Amazon Inc. affiliate links.


In the game of product and services, Sinek begins by talking about manipulators. 

Manipulators are quick and easy ways to gain short-term advantages in the market.

These include:

  • lowering prices
  • promotions 
  • fear-inducing advertisements
  • unrealistic aspirations
  • peer pressure
  • novelty

Manipulators grab and sink their teeth into potential buyers. 

They attract the price-conscious among us, those who are looking for the freebie inside. They attract those who are afraid and those who want a quick fix to their problems. They attract those who do not want to miss out. And they attract those who seek constant novelty.

Manipulators work one time, but what about the next?

There is going to be an expectation of a lower price or an extra free item. Fear will most likely still remain, or aspirations still not met. The latest trends are going to be demanding, more novel than the previous.

To keep these buyers you will have to spend endlessly on these manipulators.

Motorola’s at-the-time-successful RAZR phone follows this example. The novelty was the reason for this.

The design of the RAZR was innovative and it worked. Sales were driven as it was the shiny new thing… until something else became the shiny new thing. Sales plummeted as Motorola was not able to provide any more novelty.

Back to you, spending your thoughts and focusing on the manipulators adds no real value to what you are doing. Manipulators do not build on a service or a product. They only superficially work at the level of selling WHAT you do.

We can translate business sense to a personal sense, using my example in Optometry. I definitely viewed my career through the eyes of focusing on manipulators. I thought the only reason a person would see me is for the price, availability, or how many deals you can offer.

It had nothing to do with what I valued in providing an experience for the patient.

I will be happy to tell you that success doesn’t come from offering the best deal or biggest promotion. We will learn that companies that were described to last and prosper, did not resort to these manipulators.

They become successful because they focus on what Sinek calls the Golden Circle, and this is where the WHY comes into play.

People buy your WHY not WHAT you do

The human brain can be roughly divided into two systems: the limbic and the neocortex.

The limbic system relates to emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust..

The neocortex is the logical side of the brain. Analysing information, performing complex mathematics, language tasks is thanks to the ability of the neocortex.

Decision-making involves inputs from both the limbic system and the neocortex. This is why decision-making at times is often difficult due to the nature of how differently the two systems in the brain operate (I talk about this when making purchases).

The neocortex relates to WHAT you do. The limbic system relates to your WHY you do it.

People do not solely base their decision on WHAT you do. They buy WHY you do it as well.

When putting your WHY into words, it is difficult because it originates from the limbic system. The limbic system is the gut feeling, and it does not contain a centre for language and therein lies the difficulty in putting you WHY into words.

The link between the WHY and the WHAT is the HOW. These are the components of Sinek’s Golden circle.

The Golden Circle is composed of three parts: the WHAT, the HOW, and in the centre, the WHY.

Originating from the centre, the WHY is the core reason or principle

Extending from this is the HOW which is a verb, the action

Outside of this is the WHAT, the tangible proof of you WHY

Start with WHY Book Summary
The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek

The comparison between Apple and Dell points to the presence of the WHY.

Even if you are not a fan, you cannot deny Apple as a successful business. Dell, too, is successful but Apple has somewhat of a cult following.

Dell and Apple are similar in that WHAT they produce in computing products – talking about the period in the 1980s and 1990s.

HOW they did is similar as well. 

A Dell computer is a Dell computer. But an Apple computer represents something more.

Their line in their famous Superbowl commercial,  “why 1984, won’t be like ‘1984’”, summarises the WHY in Apple. Their products represent breaking the status quo and being a free individual. 

If you are an owner of an Apple product, you are a part of the society that has rejected the boring norms of society. You now have the ability to “think different” and express creativity beyond your wildest imagination.

Relating this back to us as individuals, we must realise that people buy into your WHY. The WHY links to your limbic system, the emotional centre of the brain.

A lack of WHY takes you away from your reason and purpose, leaving you with dissatisfaction and unhappiness.

Focusing on the WHY

The market can be divided into portions based on how quickly they adopt a new product or service.

This describes the law of diffusion.

Start with WHY Book Summary
The Law of Diffusion

On the left-hand part of the graph, there are innovators and early adopters. These are the first people to adopt a trend or a product. These are the people willing to spend days or weeks, standing in line, waiting to be one of the first people to buy an iPhone on launch day, and they are also willing to spend any amount.

The right-hand of the graph includes the late adopters and laggards, who are late in the party of getting this particular product or service. It is not because they are uncool, but because they show little interest. These people are focusing on price and are likely to get this product when the prices are lower and the hype has died down.

This does not describe an individual’s personality, but rather their attitude to a particular item. For instance, a person could be an innovator for a pair of branded shoes but a laggard for a laptop.

The manipulators we discussed before work well with the people on the right hand of the graph as well as the early majority. It is tempting to focus on this group as they are the bulk of the population.

Yet, we found out before that focusing on manipulators takes us away from our values, purpose and reason – our WHY, and it does not build long term success.

Instead, we should divert our attention to focusing on our WHY so that we can resonate with those who believe in our cause. This is the smaller yet rewarding part of society, the innovators and early adopters.

These individuals are the most loyal and the most satisfying to serve and provide.

For us, if we focus on individuals on this part of the diffusion curve, then we are aligning with our own values and passions, rather than focusing on the bulk of society with manipulators.

We are satisfying our WHY, igniting the passion that was once lost.

Leadership and Partnership

I think the importance and relevance of the WHY has been fairly stated so far.

We have looked at examples of the WHY in business and how it can translate to our personal situation in our career or any causes that we may have, but we can also see the importance of the WHY in leadership roles and its impact on a major movement or in business.

The late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave one of the most iconic speeches in history. 250,000 people attended the “I had a dream” speech at the Mall in Washington D.C. on the 28th of August, 1968.

The 250,000 present on that day was not because of a flashy website or promotional email. The reason was Dr. King’s WHY was so powerful and resonated with so many people that so many had to attend.

Countless others have tried and failed to unify a nation based on race – this is WHAT they were trying to do.

The only difference is that Dr. King had a clear sense of WHY and a purpose to drive him through failure and almost insurmountable odds to not only change a nation’s legislation on racial inequality but also the world’s view on how we view people on difference by race.

Another example in the business world involves Bill Gates and Microsoft. 

Bill Gates envisioned having a personal computer on everyone’s desk – and to solve everyone’s problems.

This WHY resonated throughout the entire company. When he left, Microsoft momentarily lost their WHY. The company went from making world-changing products in solving people solutions to another big corporation pumping out software.

It was only when Bill Gates came back and remained around the company’s periphery that Microsoft was able to loosley maintain its WHY.

The WHY is not the only important element of the Golden Circle. We must also focus on the HOW to make the WHY a tangible WHAT. This is where leadership can make use of partnership.

For example, we all know the famous and late Walt Disney. He was the visionary behind most of the iconic Disney characters that are now household names.

We do not hear much about Walt Disney’s late brother, Roy Disney. Roy Disney had worked in banking before partnering with his brother. Roy Disney’s sensible nature and business mind worked well with Walt Disney to turn his vision into a reality.

This is an example of a WHY-type and HOW-type partnership. Walt Disney exudes the WHY and Roy Disney bring in the HOW.

About Fulfillment

There is a difference between achievement and success. 

Achievement is tangible: how much money you have made to the size of the business you have created. These can all be represented as numbers on a spreadsheet. It links to the WHAT.

You can achieve a lot but still feel unfulfilled.

Success links to your WHY. Unlike achievement, success is difficult to measure. Success answers the question: are you satisfying your WHY?

Achievement can be compared among others. When you try to compete against others, it feels like the whole world is against you.

On the hand, if you want to have success, you must look inwards and compete against yourself. You must focus on your WHY and those who support your WHY will rally behind you.


Lack of passion can result when you focus on the WHAT rather than the WHY.

Manipulators, in business, like lowering price or providing constant novelty take away from the WHY, resulting in short-term gain.

The WHY is important because it links to your purpose and focusing on this part provides satisfaction. It links to the limbic system of the brain, which deals with emotions. People buy into the WHY not the WHAT.

Focusing on those who resonate with you WHY provides satisfaction as well as long-term growth and strong relationships.

The WHY in the leadership sense is important as it fuels any movement or business.

Finally, success is linked to the WHY as opposed to achievement which links to the WHAT.

I hope this summary has explained the key takeaways from Simon Sinek’s, “Start with WHY”, and it has helped find your passion in your career of life if it has been lost. What is your WHY? Follow me by subscribing to the newsletter and we will find that out together. If you have a sense of your WHY, please comment below.

Related posts

Don’t give into the hype

Reading Time: 4 minutes A definition of hype: To publicize or promote, especially by extravagant, inflated, or misleading claims Recently, I talked about the wonders of the world of

Read More »
vr, virtual, virtual reality-3460451.jpg

The Future of the Web

Reading Time: 3 minutes With all the negatives happening in the world, there is one good: democratisation. But, what do I mean by that? The root word, democracy, originates

Read More »

Feeling Stupid? Don’t sweat it

Reading Time: 4 minutes Lately, I’ve been feeling stupid, and it has been getting me down. Since last month, I’ve been working on a project called nutrify. The master

Read More »

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on email
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.