Start With Why

By Jan Allison

Time for a true confession on my part.  I have a crush on Simon Sinek.  There.  I said it.  I don’t think my hubby will mind that I shared the truth.  He thinks Simon is a pretty awesome guy, too.  The reason for my crush?  Simon helped me find my “Why” and I am forever grateful!

Simon Sinek is the motivational speaker and author of Start with Why and Leaders Eat Last.  A “Why” is defined as the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires you to do what you do.  In October of 2008, I had the pleasure of seeing Simon speak, in person, with a small group of ladies aspiring to be successful in growing their businesses.  Simon was just beginning to share his message of Starting with Why and had the luxury of time to be able to share his message in detail.  Simon walked me to the very center of my being and got me to my Why:  I CARE.  In a short conversation, I was reduced to huge alligator tears that I could not control, no matter how hard I tried.  Simon explained that I couldn’t stop the tears because I had gotten to my Why in my limbic brain where emotion could not be controlled. ( Side note – our limbic brain is responsible for all of our feelings, like trust and loyalty.  It’s also responsible for all human behavior, all decision-making, and it has no capacity for language.)

That very moment I was able to define who I was as a person and will always be.  Since that point, I follow my Why with a passion and take action in my own life based upon caring.

The Golden Circle

Every single organization on the planet, even our own careers, always functions on three levels.  What we do, How we do it and Why we do it.


When all those pieces are aligned, it gives us a filter through which to make decisions.  It provides a foundation for innovation.  When all three pieces are in balance, others will say, with absolute clarity and certainty, “We know who you are,” and “We know what you stand for.”

Every company or organization knows WHAT they do.  These are the products we sell or the services we provide (for example:  Apple’s product is the iPhone).

Some companies and organizations know HOW they do what they do.  The unique selling proposition that sets us apart from our competition; the things we think make us special or different from everyone else (for example:  Apple’s products are beautifully designed and easy to use).

Very few people and organizations can clearly articulate WHY they do what they do.  Why is a purpose, a cause or a belief.  It provides a clear answer to Why we get out of bed in the morning, Why our company even exists and Why that should matter to anyone else (for example:  Apple believes in challenging the status quo and doing things differently).

Making money is NOT a Why.  Revenues, profits, salaries and other monetary measurements are simply results of what we do.  The Why inspires us.

We naturally communicate from the outside-in of the Golden Circle.  We tell people WHAT we do, we tell them HOW we’re different or special, and then we expect a behavior, like a purchase, to occur.

The problem is that WHAT and HOW do not inspire action.  Facts and figures make rational sense, but we don’t make decisions purely based on facts and figures.  Starting with What is what commodities do.  Starting with Why is what leaders do.  Leaders inspire.

Ready to find your Why?

Visit for tools to help you define your why, enabling you to lead your life in a more inspirational manner.