Skip to main content
Start with Why - Book summary

Great leaders and organizations can create sustainable change because they inspire others. In the process, they create loyal followers who stick with them through thick and thin, so they can create success again and again. In this book, Simon Sinek explains what it means to start with WHY, and how it can create true, lasting success for you and your business. In this free Start with Why summary, you’ll learn about the “Golden Circle”, and how starting with WHY can create a loyal following and bring you past the tipping point to success.

Manipulation vs Inspiration

You can motivate people through carrots and sticks, or manipulations. In fact, they work so well that they are used everywhere in sales and marketing, and have become the norm in our society. Although they work, their effects are short-term in nature, and are costly over time. Generally, manipulations work well for one-time transactions (e.g. a reward for returning a lost dog), but they do not build loyalty.

Forms of Manipulation

Here are some examples:

  •  Fear is one of the most powerful forms of manipulation. Marketers and politicians play on our fears, like fear of illness, death, and loss, with messages like, “you must buy or do this, or beware of the consequences…”.
  • Peer pressure. The use of celebrity endorsements, or messages like “4 out of 5 doctors prefer this solution”, “over a million satisfied customers have tried this”, are all manipulations using peer pressure. They appeal to our fear of being wrong, or being left out.
  • Price. When the price is low enough, people will buy. However, dropping prices means less profit, and may not be sustainable in the long run.
  • Promotions like “buy 1 get 1 free” or cash-back incentives, are also used rampantly to boost short-term sales.

To make people want to go the extra mile, you need to touch them in a different way. Great leaders – like Steve Jobs, the Wright brothers and Martin Luther King – inspire people with a deeper sense of purpose or belonging. When you develop a lasting relationship built on loyalty, followers who will stick by you even when you slip up, or when better options emerge.

The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle helps us to understand why we do what we do, and it’s closely related to how we’re built biologically.  The most impactful and inspiring leaders and organizations communicate from inside-out. They start with WHY, and the WHATs are merely proof of their beliefs.

Inside-Out Communication

Sinek breaks this down further into 3 parts: the Clarity of WHY, the Discipline of HOW, and Consistency of WHAT, all of this you can find out in more detail from our full 12-page summary. You need all 3 components, and you need them in the correct sequence:Start with Why_The Golden Circle

A strong WHY offers reasons for people to buy, and gives you flexibility to offer a wide range of WHATs as a manifestation of your cause. For example, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple to start a revolution, not sell computers. Apple stands for thinking differently, for challenging status quo, for simplifying technology so individuals could have the same power to create as big companies. Its earliest fans and supporters weren’t just buying computers – they were buying what Apple stood for; and because Apple’s WHY was so strong, people could relate to a wide range of their products, from the iPod to Mac.

Obviously, good products are important, but you don’t need the best or perfect product.  You need a good-enough product with a strong WHY.

Why & the Human Biology

All human beings have a biological need to belong, and we are willing to go out of our way to get that feeling. In fact, our limbic brain, which is in charge of our decisions, is also the part of our brain that’s in charge of feelings, like trust and loyalty. That’s why, when we “follow our heart” or make a “gut decision”, it involves our emotions-centered limbic brain and such decisions “feel right”.

In fact, the Golden Circle explains 3 levels of certainty in our decision-making. Decisions that start with WHY literally win hearts and minds. And, when we’re inspired by a product or brand, it even becomes a mirror of who we are. To build loyalty, you need to (a) inspire people with WHY, (b) adopt inside-out communication with an alignment of your Why, How and What. Get more details in our complete Start with Why summary.

Applying the Golden Circle

What does the Golden Circle mean for us?  Essentially, you can apply it to
• Create a following;
• Create a tipping point; and finally
• Create lasting success

Two people given the exact same job could view it very differently – one could find it laborious and boring, while the other feels pride and joy. One could give up in face of obstacles, while the other perseveres to success. The difference is in their WHY or sense of purpose. Sinek illustrates this using several examples, like the Wright Brothers and their quest for man’s first flight, Martin Luther King Jr and the American Civil Rights Movement, the Endurance expedition to explore the Antarctica, and more.

We’ll now outline some of the key components leading to lasting success – get our complete summary for a detailed, visual overview.  

Start with Why_Application

Build Trust

People start to trust you when they understand your beliefs (WHY), and can see that your actions (HOW) and results (WHAT) are aligned with your beliefs.

Find those who Believe

Common values and beliefs hold people together and build a strong and trusting organization. Start by finding people who are passionate for your WHY (your belief, cause or purpose), before assessing if they have the right skill sets and experience. Then, create the right environment where people feel a sense of belonging, and feel safe to take risks, seek advice, and depend on others for support.

Rally those who Believe

Common values and beliefs hold people together and build a strong and trusting organization. Start by finding people who are passionate for your WHY (your belief, cause or purpose), before assessing if they have the right skill sets and experience.

Create a Tipping Point

Focus on the 15-18% of innovators and early adopters who believe what you believe, and want to incorporate your ideas and products into their lives. To inspire and create loyalty, you need charisma and conviction, which comes from the clarity of your WHY. You can then amplify your WHY to reach enough people (the book explains what this entails, in 3 layers or dimensions).  You can get more details from our complete Start with Why summary

Create Lasting Success

Most of us, or our organizations, will reach a point when our WHY gets fuzzy, and is not longer aligned with our WHAT. The book elaborates on examples like Wal-Mart and Starbucks, with some recommendations on how to maintain your alignment as you grow.

Getting the Most from Start With Why

Finding your WHY is a process of discovery, and the hardest part is not just to discover the WHY, but to stick to it and have the discipline to maintain balance and alignment with your HOWs and WHATs. If you’d like to get more insights, examples and tips, do check out our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 12-page text summary, and a 24-minute audio summary.

Start with Why summary - book summary bundle

The book is full of additional examples to help you understand how the concepts are at work all around us. You can purchase the book here or get more details from

If you want to start discovering your why, then read our Find your Why summary. Or, check out another of Simon Sinek’s book : Leaders Eat Last summary.

About the Author of Start With Why

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action is written by Simon Sinekan author, speaker, and consultant who writes on leadership and management. He joined the RAND Corporation in 2010 as an adjunct staff member, where he advises on matters of military innovation and planning. He is best known for popularizing the concepts of “the golden circle” and to “Start With Why”.

Start With Why Quotes

“Those who are able to inspire will create a following of people – supporters, voters, customers, workers – who act for the good of the whole not because they have to, but because they want to.”

“The danger of manipulations is that they work…Just because it works doesn’t make it right.”

“For values or guiding principles to be truly effective they have to be verbs… we have a clear idea of how to act in any situation.”

“For a logo to become a symbol, people must be inspired to use that logo to say something about who they are.”

“There are leaders and there are those who lead.”

“The goal is not to hire people who simply have a skill set you need, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.”

“When we are selective about doing business only with those who believe in our WHY, trust emerges.”

“The role of a leader is not to come up with all the great ideas. The role of a leader is to create an environment in which great ideas can happen.”

“Loyalty to a company trumps pay and benefits…It’s the cause we come to work for.”

Click here to download Start with Why book summary and infographic

Leave a Reply

0 cart

My Cart

Cart is empty