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on May 28, 2010
I really had to struggle with what rating to give this. Simon Sinek's idea is astoundingly insightful, very helpful, and definitely worth the price of this book let alone the Kindle price. I'm inclined to think that the world would be considerably better off if more people lived by Sinek's simple idea.

On the other hand, the book is agonizing in its redundancy, often repeating the same examples many times over to make precisely the same point as the first time the example was used. I'm inclined to think that virtually everything Sinek wrote could have been stated in a 20-page article without leaving out anything important. I daresay it might be possible to do it in five pages. That's part of the beauty of the idea: it's incredibly simple while still being astoundingly powerful. But Sinek doesn't seem to have bothered taking the time to distill the idea down into its essence for straightforward presentation in this book. It reads a little bit like he took articles from his blog, stuck them in a large word-processing document, did some minor editing, and submitted the thing as-is for publication in order to create this book.

So, the idea is worth the cost of the book and the time to read it, but the book itself is, in my humble opinion, very poorly organized and needlessly long.

I would advise those who are interested in Sinek's ideas save themselves a great deal of time and a little expense by first watching his TED Talk:


This covers virtually all the core ideas involved. The one thing Sinek never does either in this presentation or in his book is spell out what "HOW" is. It's a bit confusing in large part because it's different for each of the two communication structures. In the "WHAT --> HOW" structure, "HOW" is "how we're different"; for instance, Dell has to argue that its computers are somehow better than (say) HP's and therefore specifies HOW they're better in order to compete against HP. On the other hand, in the "WHY --> HOW --> WHAT" structure, "HOW" is "how we enact our purpose (i.e. our 'WHY')".

As far as I can tell, if you're reasonably intelligent you can glean pretty much everything essential to Sinek's idea based on his TED Talk together with this understanding that "HOW" means something different in each of the two contexts he contrasts.

What you WON'T get from that is his rather in-depth, incredibly clear exposé of why the "WHAT --> HOW" communication pattern requires manipulating people to some degree or another and why that is by necessity unsustainable in the long run. That's not core to his point but it's certainly a nice supplement.

So in short, the book is a reasonable buy, certainly at the Kindle price, but do consider benefitting from Sinek's wisdom for free in 20 minutes first by watching his TED Talk. If you want more details, you can get the book, but understand that you're not likely to learn much more than what you could have figured out on your own between the talk and what I mention above.
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on May 21, 2012
Having watched the TED talk (last year) and just last week saw Sinek speak I was keen to dive into this book for a bit more wow - but was sorely disappointed. If you have seen the TED talk there is a little new illustration here - but no new content.

The genius of simple and powerful ideas is that they are easy to get (if difficult to see until illuminated) and for this Sinek deserves 5 stars - but here he labours that beautifully simple nugget and tortures the reader with such repitition. We get it! (If there was a dollar for every time he says "people don't buy what you do they buy why you do it" you could buy many copies of the book! I actually have the audio book - read by Sinek and it all gets overlaboured and smug. How dumb does he think his audience is? My advice - watch the tead talk - skip the book - as it fails on his why - 'to inspire'!
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on December 9, 2009
Simon Sinek's "Start With Why" is a must read for any entrepreneur or leader struggling to create a long-term vision and guiding principles for their company or cause. The book can provide just the inspiration needed to get started in the right direction. You'll learn that the most important thing you can do as a leader is to figure out why your company or organization exists and why that should be meaningful to customers and others in society. Once the answer to this becomes clear and you believe it in your heart, the rest of the decisions about what to do and sell and how to do it become infinitely easier.

For those faced with competition, price-war and customer churn, Sinek's book can provide great insights for developing a new long-term strategy to combat these issues once-and-for-all. Sinek explains that while your product's features may be replicated and commoditized, no one can copy the kinship and confidence that your customers feel when doing business with you. This is because those feelings come from intangible values and beliefs that only you share with your customers.

How does one create such kinship with customers? The book explains the Golden Circle concept, which shows business leaders how to inspire instead of manipulating customers or employees to act. Sinek explains that trust is built naturally when you target customers that understand and believe in your WHY. So, if getting repeat and word-of-mouth business is important to you, then use inspiration, not manipulation to get the sale. Also, when business leaders properly articulate their company's WHY to employees, it makes it easier for the employees to believe in what they are selling. When sales reps sound authentic, it builds trust and loyalty with customers. It all starts with WHY.

In light of the last decade of greed and short-term trading mentality with little regard for future consequences, I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with Sinek's observations that there are no short cuts to long-term success. Manipulation may help achieve short term results, but long-run success is only achievable when leaders are ready to make short run sacrifices/investments and willing to account for long-term impact of their decisions from the start. There is much that our universities and MBA programs can do to teach these principles to the next generation of leaders. All and all, this book left me truly inspired. Beyond the tons of practical business insights, the mental framework that "Start with Why" provides can also make anyone a better communicator as a mother, father, husband, boss or just a decent human being.
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on October 14, 2013
The content:

Sinek's "start with why" premise and catchy "golden circle" approach to business may sound great on the surface, but even minute consideration reveals that there is no underlying theory supporting his claims. Perhaps it's because "Begin with a deliverable company creed" is solid advice which requires no explanation or examples, but Sinek is stretching himself thin on a premise that cant be supported: He found a catchy slogan that relates to the majority of what he wants to discuss, and spends an entire book attempting to make his examples fit his theme. Needless to say, it doesn't work. Look no further than his attempt to correlate the diversity of Apple products with the success of the Wright Brothers under the universally simplistic heading of "why," and you will unequivocally understand that Sinek's premise needs some major revision.

The philosophy:

If you've come to this book looking for a business philosophy that will actually take you to the heart of why, you have come to the wrong place. Sinek, like most of the business world, has mistaken "what" for "why." Although Sinek will insist that he has not made this vital error by assuring his readers that "everyone knows what they do, but hardly anyone knows why they do it," it seems that Sinek himself doesn't even know how to find the why! Sinek is among the many, many writers and critics who ask - not why - but "What makes you different?" The Wright Brothers believed in the power of flight to unite the world. Apple believes in the power of the personal computing device to empower the individual, bringing the world and knowledge to each of us. These traits make them unique and powerful forces, but do not tell us why Apple employees wake up in the morning, why the Wright Brothers invested every bit of their time and money in the airplane, or - most importantly - why we should care. When we ask "why," we ask something far more fundamental than, "What distinguishes Apple from Microsoft?" Sinek does not deliver the answer.

The writing:

If you thought - correctly - that Sinek's TED Talk was repetitive, don't even think of torturing yourself with this book. Wrought with repetition, peppered with the occasional tautology, and edited by what I can only assume to be a very busy 8th grader, this book never should have made it to print.

The conclusion:

Writer, editor, publisher...someone should have stopped this book from being published. Please don't waste your money.
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on November 25, 2012
The book is a treaties on virtues of value (as in principle) driven organization. It would have been a good book if it was 80 pages instead of 250. As others have pointed out, it is painfully redundant.

The central message of the book is that if you are the kind of leader or organization that clearly stands for something, then you will gain loyal following and you can "market" anything so long as it is compatible with the value you stand for. On the other hand, if you are defined by what you do (e.g. making copiers) then you will have a hard time breaking into new markets and more importantly will not be able to connect with your customers. There are *tons* of examples in the book about people and companies to illustrate the above point, where only a few examples would have sufficed.

Aside from too much bloat, the book is short on analysis as to when this "ideological" stance on organization is better than other approaches. He makes it sound as if it is always better to stand for something. But in business, this is not always feasible. Personally I think the approach he advocates is great if you are marketing something that is a game changer. But it is not necessarily more fruitful to try to be like Apple or Harley Davidson if you are in pluming supplies business.

The great idea is buried under a ton of fluff and not allowed to develop. Apple for example paid a very heavy price in terms of market share during the mid '80s to mid '90s. Its fanatical customers kept it alive, but the company did not prosper...and no, it was not because Jobs was ousted. Jobs was ousted because Apple did not reach its target. Nor did Steve Jobs' follow up computer business, NeXT, achieve greatness. So there are times that the advocated approach works and other times that it does not. There is no discussion in the book as to when it does or what the right mix is.
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on December 1, 2013
I was gifted this book to read after coaching a friend through Sinek's online course. That course was excellent and the outcomes we achieved stellar. Sinek is very engaging. My other friend had heard Sinek speak at a conference and said he brought the house down, which I believe given how engaging he was in the online course. That being said, this book was downright painful to read. He uses the same old companies that everyone writes about, and refers to the same examples over and over for a dreadfully long 200+ pages. I buy into the entire concept, don't get me wrong, and clearly Mr. Sinek is passionate about his work. As a business consultant I have been reading books like this for over 30 years; maybe that's my problem. Many reviewers seem to have stumbled across this concept for the first time. It's old news, repeated too many times for too many pages. However, I am always glad when someone gets something out of a book and I admire those with the patience and stamina to write one.
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on March 11, 2015
A lot of people are searching for a clearer understanding of what "HOW" is (especially judging by the most highly rated review).

I was searching for it also. I found it over the course of much labor, across many other books and a large number of hours of additional research. HOW is only how you deliver your product when you start with WHAT - when you start with WHY, your HOW also changes. HOW becomes how you bring your WHY to life in your CULTURE, not products

So you start with WHY (your purpose). HOW do we deliver a purpose? HOW we deliver a WHY (purpose) is in HOW we behave - through Core Values. With purpose and aligned core values, the broad guidelines for every decision is in place. The validity of every system is obvious. The people to hire are clear. The reasons to fire are even more clear. And every person instantly knows the validity of every decision.

Think about it. Just like the golden circle concept, this fits. You cannot go backwards from WHAT (product) to HOW (core values). You will NEVER have an aligned WHY if you write the core values first. The consistency is immediately obvious. The golden circle must be in balance.

WHY is the purpose, and HOW are the Core Values around which we make every single decision, even in the absence of the visionary. It's HOW we make our WHY come to life every day. Our core values tell us who to hire, who to fire, and which decisions are right on a micro-level. Is that system or that process true to our core values?

Try to create core values. You cannot create genuine, honest core values without first knowing WHY you exist. When you know your WHY (such as apples challenging the status quo), you can then describe the values (in terms of behaviors) that exemplify that WHY. Without a WHY, core values are blatantly phony and greed-serving things. Without a WHY, nobody cares what your core values are, because all we know is your WHAT. If all we know is your WHAT, then the rest just comes down to features and price. But if we know your WHY, we can buy into your HOW (core values), which we see reflected in your WHAT (product)

Look at it in the light of Zappos:

WHY - to deliver the best customer service possible
1.Deliver WOW Through Service
2.Embrace and Drive Change
3.Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4.Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5.Pursue Growth and Learning
6.Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7.Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8.Do More With Less
9.Be Passionate and Determined
10.Be Humble

Sure, they sell shoes online. But they dont seek to innovate how people shop online (WHAT-based HOW). Instead, they seek to bulid a culture around core values centered on their WHY. Nobody mentions anything about product until the WHAT.

The constitution is another great example of a WHY & HOW which guides us in an ever evolving WHAT. It doesnt try to make every law, or build every system. The constitution is our WHY, followed by our HOW. The president knows WHAT because he is guided by the WHY and HOW. When one president is replaced after 4 to 8 years, there is no lapse, no lack of clarity as we find in corporations - Tell me why that is? Because we define our WHY (purpose) and HOW (core values) in our CONSTITUTION, as every good company should have. Without a supreme law of the land, nothing stops a CEO from destroying the company when the prior CEO steps down.

WHY - We believe all humans have a right to life, liberty, and a pursuit of happiness.
HOW - our Core Values are the values we hold most dear, through which we show what we believe, out of which our culture grows, out of which our laws are defined, redefined, and removed. It does NOT attempt to define every situation, or create every law, or prevent every problem. it is our WHY and HOW, out of which we are left to determine WHAT.
We believe in fair representation of the people
We believe in freedom to defend ourselves.
We believe in speaking out against injustice.
We believe in expressing ourselves as we see fit.
We believe that no individual should hold total power to undo these things.

Hope this helps, or at least stimulates discussion.
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on December 17, 2012
I really have enjoyed Mr. Sinek's youtube videos and so I bought the book. But the whole book is just reaffirming this theory which I agree with but didn't get anything out of the book. I wish it had developing how to find your why. How to express it with others, etc. Maybe he is leaving that for when you pay the big bucks and have a consult with him. Anyway the book left me disappointed.
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on May 7, 2012
Start With why is a bit too simplistic and repeats it's self. Several times I thought I lost my place while reading the same passage in different chapters. Just watch the Ted talk for a inspirational talk.
One more book with an "all you have to do is do it like Apple" message. If the messages were backed up with research (instead of opinion) you would really have something.
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on December 16, 2012
The thesis -- "start with why" -- is good but there's not enough here for a full book. Too much of the material seems to be digression and rehashing of the same ideas.
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