5 Things I learned from Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’

I’m an information junkie. I have mentioned that before, but I love to learn and honestly, that is what draws me to non-fiction. Obviously, I prefer well-written, entertaining, easy to read and engaging texts but even when they aren’t the best, I can always fallback on the informative aspects to get me through. That being said, I am trying to branch out and read a wider variety of genres. I am discovering that there is a lot to learn from fictional books. My friends and family insist that I, at the least, look into historical fiction. They have pointed out that authors of historical fiction do a tremendous amount of research in order to ensure that while the story may not be true, the context and details accurately reflect the time period. I’m also trying to focus on other priorities, to find additional reasons to read. I can benefit even more from one of my favorite pastimes. Any excuse to pick up a book!

I recently finished Simon Sinek’s Start With Why which was born from his Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” My guess is that it gets classified as a business book but the lessons go beyond that. I am not looking to start a fortune 500 company, heck, I don’t even like selling people things at a garage sale, but Sinek’s thoughts about relationships and trust, reaching people and building things that last, with examples ranging from Apple to Martin Luther King Jr., all hit home. So many things stood out; here is what I learned from Start With Why.

“When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.”

Something I try to live by anyway; I have little interest in competing and generally believe that we can work together and co-exist. Sinek pushes this even further. Even in a competitive market, by focusing on only creating the best possible version of you, you can elicit support. People may not help you beat someone else but, in general, they’ll feel differently about helping you improve yourself.

“Only when individuals can trust the culture or organization will they take personal risks in order to advance that culture or organization as a whole.”

There is a difference between support and trust. Whether you are building a business, political campaign or social movement, you will need people to take personal risks and responsibility because you can’t do it alone. According to Sinek, you need their belief, not just encouragement.

“This is the norm. First they start with what they do ‘here’s our new car.’ Then they tell us how they do it or how they are better – ‘its got leather seats, great gas mileage and great financing.’ And then they make a call to action and expect a behavior”

This was pretty business and marketing specific but the breakdown of how companies target their audience was eye-opening. I won’t be able to watch an ad, from anyone whether I like them or not, the same way again.

“Cultures are groups of people who come together around a set of values and beliefs. When we share values and beliefs with others, we form trust.”

If sharing beliefs and values with others allow us to form trust and culture is people coming together around those beliefs and values, then culture is what allows us to trust one another. I don’t essentially endorse this completely but I do like hearing different definitions of culture. Although it is a bit oversimplified, I think this part of Sinek’s book can be boiled down to defining culture as our collective agreement to trust one another.

Sidenote: one of my personal favorite definitions of culture is Yale researcher Mei Tan’s: “Culture enables creativity to be recognized in society.”

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