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936 of 961 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars At once a brilliant must-read and painfully redundant, May 28, 2010
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This review is from: Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action (Kindle Edition)
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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Tracked by 10 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 16 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 29, 2010 10:52:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 29, 2010 10:53:50 AM PDT
Simon Sinek says:
I actually think this review makes some good points. The HOW is indeed the most complicated part of the Golden Circle - it is the part most people or organizations struggle with most because it's about process, systems and discipline - all hard to build and/or maintain. That said, there are many books and people much smarter than me who can explain HOW in much greater depth. That was my own problem in business - there was no shortage of opinions on HOW to get things done, but even when I followed them as prescribed, they either lasted for 2 weeks or didn't work for me at all (even though they worked well for others).

The book was the result of discovering this third piece - a piece most don't even know exists - the WHY. Not because it's not there - but because it functions in the part of the brain that doesn't control language - so it's hard to talk about and hard to it gets ignored. My cause is to show people that it exists.

I do appreciate the constructive criticism - much more valuable to me than calling me a neanderthal (though I sometimes my posture does falter). Thank you Morphenius.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 27, 2010 7:58:02 PM PDT
finfam says:
Thank you for the response. I bought your book today because of it.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 26, 2011 6:46:47 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Apr 14, 2012 6:38:54 AM PDT
Yuyiya says:

Please elaborate a little on your statement that "the WHY ... functions in the part of the brain that doesn't control language", as I don't understand what you mean by it, and perhaps others are equally confused by it.

More specifically, can you tell us: Where does the WHY function? And even if that's not in the language control centre, how does that imply that we'll struggle talking about it?


I've just taken the time to watch your TED talk - and it was worth every second. OK, now I get it, the WHY you're talking about is the motivation, the feelings, which all happen in the "pre-human" brain, within the limbic system. "Motives" are what move us; the single well-spring of action.

The puzzle that remains for me is the link between motive and language; how inspiration finds expression in words. And there's no denying that hearing and understanding the words leads to an awakening of the emotions that move us to act, to change the world. But I guess that's more of a procedural thing: HOW does it happen? and I'm not emotionally invested in knowing that.

Yet we do have plenty of words to describe our "inner" life, our motives, our feelings: MLK said "I believe" (as can we all). And we can all say "I love that", or "I hate that", either of which will almost instantly move people to work with or against us. So it seems to me that whatever mechanism exists so (HOW) we can talk about our emotions is almost immaterial; given that we really, really need to do so (the WHY), nothing is too difficult for this very plastic human brain.

BTW: I take your point that people didn't attend that rally for MLK, but for themselves. Yet rather than saying those people, who shared his beliefs, "followed him", I believe (truly! - not just "I think") that it's truer to say that "they walked with him". They shared his values; they were a community; they worked, often independently, for common goals. As a great motivator, yes, he moved them, by tapping into their own beliefs, by explicitly sharing values; or more accurately, he started them moving. But after that, he didn't need to keep giving them pep talks; once started, they (for the most part) moved themselves. Which once again shows why they were there - to give their own actions meaning, by living out their own beliefs. The power, of course, was not MLK's, but of all those people he inspired to act; their power created new structures, organisations and methods (WHATs), all moved by the same WHY.

Did you know that researchers are now able to use brain scans to statistically reconstruct fuzzy pictures of what the scanned brain saw? For over 50 years, I've wanted to be able to film a movie of my dreams, so I could share them with others. I believe this started at age 8, when I had trouble explaining to my parents what I saw without my glasses. I could say, for example, 'all the street lights look like big, bright stars, and the ones far away are just as big as the nearest"; but that wouldn't let them share the reality of this (to my mind, enhanced!) vision like being able to SHOW them would. So now one of my life goals is being realised, by people whose original motives may have been very different to mine, but who all BELIEVE, like me, that it would be great to see what's going on in somebody else's head. Although our motives are not identical - we remain individuals, after all - it's the extent to which we can share our WHYs that ultimately determines how well we can work together.

Thanks for your time.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 12, 2011 7:19:05 PM PST
Thank You Simon I'm glad you clarified that. ED

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 30, 2011 10:02:17 AM PST
Veleka Gray says:
Regarding your street lights, it reminds me of how I feel and felt seeing the work of artists such as Van Gogh or Dali who were able to show us how they saw things in their paintings.

Posted on Apr 24, 2012 12:31:21 PM PDT
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In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2012 7:27:41 PM PDT
Adel Anwar says:
David Carlson, you have totally missed the purpose of the book. The question "why not" results in analysis. The question "Why" taps into motivation in a powerful practical manner, using non-language more primitive parts of the brain. By your incorrect assumption here: you can see the results you have in your own life. Change it by living the "Why" - and use it [don't just read it , use it].

Posted on Feb 28, 2013 6:18:30 PM PST
one of the most intelligent and analytical comments I"ve read. I will watch the TED talk first. Thank you for taking the time for writing your lucid analysis.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 10, 2013 9:22:12 AM PST
RudraNS says:
I really do think this makes perfect sense. I run large complicated global projects across a variety of corporate segments and I also run some really short quick and dirty type projects as well. Every day without fail I run into people who keep asking "What's in it for me" and we have large sections of our corporate workforce trying to answer this using "change management" and other techniques.
I honestly believe adoption to change cannot be mandated - you can threaten people with job loss and they will do it for a time till they figure out a way to circumvent it altogether. Unless people subscribe to doing the right thing out of a sense of responsibility or morality - no amount of incentives will ever actually modify their long term behavior. Yet as Simon points out people get lost in the "how" and they almost never question the "why". The way to speak to people in a way that would lead to true adoption is to identify those who want what you want and build your teams based on that.

Posted on Dec 15, 2013 12:27:46 AM PST
Caroline Y says:
I was most interested in learning the steps to discover my WHY but that was barely covered.
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