I’ve wanted to read “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek for a while, ever since one of my ex-boyfriends told me about it. My ex is an executive at a Big Five Canadian bank. At that time, he was preparing a presentation for C-level executives in his company, and he was raving about this book, but he couldn’t explain well WHY it was so great that everybody had to read it. (If you are reading this, just so you know, you should work on your book reviewing skills).
Sinek is the author of five books including “Start with Why.” He is a very well-known motivational speaker and organizational consultant. He also teaches Strategic Communications at Columbia University. His Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” is the third most-watched on TED.com with over 40 million views. I love to watch Sinek talk. He is a brilliant and inspiring speaker. He wants to inspire other people to do what inspires them. Whatever story he tells, I will listen to. That’s why I was so surprised that my feelings about his book could be at best described as conflicted.
On the one hand, “Start with Why” gives an interesting perspective on leadership from an ideological and marketing standpoint. It also provides a very thought-provoking insight into the human brain and talks about motivation and psychology of our decision making. “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it,” writes Sinek. The values of the company have to align with those of its clients to bring loyalty and drive sales. This is the only way for sustainable growth.
On the other hand, “Start with Why” got repetitive very quickly. About the first third of the book was impressive, the rest of the first half was ok, but the second half of the book was boring.
Dear Simon, how many times do you think you need to repeat “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it”? I’ve got it the first time you said it. The second time was ok. Maybe you wanted to reinforce the point. However, then you go on and on saying the same phrase again and again. Moreover, how many times can one use Apple as an example of an inspiring company with a very loyal following?
In “Start with Why,” Sinek provides many examples to illustrate his point. Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, Motorola, Starbucks, Walmart, Costco, Southwest Airlines, the Wright brothers, Martin Luther King, and more. However, my problem with that is that those are the most popular and the most basic business cases you learn in your business or marketing classes in college. This book is written primarily with CEOs and other executives in mind, and they already know these stories very well. You don’t even have to get an MBA to understand them. Another issue is that the book is written in a too simple language with short sentences and phrases as if it’s meant to children, and I don’t understand why. The audience is capable of reading prose in a more complex language.
When he speaks, Sinek is a compelling storyteller. If you are not familiar with the cases mentioned above, I suggest you read the book. At least, the first half until you get bored. However, if you are familiar with them or want to save your time, you are better off watching his TED Talk. That will be an excellent use of 18 minutes of your time.
In the end, a few interesting quotes from the book as food for thought.