My Notes From: Simon Sinek – Start With WHY

I have made it a habit to take notes every time I hear or read something important. Writing and structuring the new information helps me to learn it and also to remember it better when I come back to it later. I thought you could benefit from my notes, so I have published this classic talk by Simon Sinek at TEDx Puget Sound 2009 together with my notes.

See also Simon’s website:

The tool I am using for taking and structuring all my notes is WorkFlowy.

More of my favorite speeches can be found here.

  • All great and inspiring leaders of the world they all think, act and communicate in the exact same way. And it’s the complete opposite to everyone else.
  • The golden circle: WHAT – HOW – WHY (middle of the circle).
    • All people and organization or know WHAT they do.
    • Some know HOW they do it.
      • Differencing value proposition, proprietary process or USP.
    • Very few know WHY they do what they do.
      • Why does not mean to make a profit, that’s just a result.
      • Why means: What’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief, why does your organization exist?
    • The way we usually communicate is to go from the outside in. From WHAT, the most concrete thing to WHY, the most fuzzy thing.
    • All great leaders and inspired organizations think, act, communicate from the inside out. From WHY over HOW to WHAT.
  • People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. WHAT you do simply serves as proof of what you belief.
  • The goal is not make business with people who need WHAT you have, the goal is to make business with people who belief what you belief.
  • Our brain is organized like the golden circle:
    • The neocortex corresponds with the WHAT level. The neocortex is responsible for our rational and analytical thought and language
    • The HOW and WHY levels make up our limbic brains. The limbic brains are responsible for our feelings like trust and loyalty, all human behavior, all decision making and has no capacity for language
    • So if we communicate from the outside in, most people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features, facts and benefits – it just doesn’t drive behavior.
      • “I know what all the facts and details are, but it just doesn’t feel right”
    • When we communicate from the inside out we are talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior and we allow people to rationalize it with the tangible things we say and do.
  • If you hire people just because they can do the job (the WHAT), they work just for the money. But if you hire people who belief what you belief, they work for you with blood and sweat and tears.
  • The three reasons why it seams that projects fail: 1. under-capitalized, 2. the wrong people, 3. bad market conditions. But in reality it’s not because of those WHATs, it’s because the WHY is missing.
  • The law of diffusion of innovation:
    • Distribution of the population
      • 2.5% Innovators
      • 13.5% Early Adopters
      • 34% Early Majority
      • 34% Late Majority
      • 16% Laggards
    • If you want to get to the mass market (early + late majority), you first have to get over the 16% of innovators and early adopters.
    • Usually it’s easy to get the first 10%, those who “just get it”. But how do you get the next 6% until it can tip over to the majority?
    • The innovators and early adopters are more driven by what they belief in (the WHY) than the majority. The majority looks at the early adopters for confirmation.
    • Example: Standing in line to be the first who get’s a new Apple product. They are not there because of the WHAT (they can get the product later with less hassle), but because of the WHY. They want to be the first, and seen by others to be the first.
  • We follow those who lead not because we have to but because we want to.
  • We follow those who lead not because of them but for our selves.


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4 Responses to My Notes From: Simon Sinek – Start With WHY

  1. Mike McMillon says:

    Thank you for posting this it is much better than my hen scratching. I just discovered Simon Sinek this morning after seeing this video posted on LinkedIn. I am between watching the fourth and fifth ones now. What a speaker!

    Thanks again

  2. Arun Jain says:

    I have read Sinek’s and very impressed and can clearly see how it applies to companies. I am not so clear how an individual can ‘start with why’ and change his like? Would appreciate comments/ ideas.


  3. Phil says:

    Thanks for putting these notes together, i’ve watched that TED video several times, you can pretty much incorporate this technique everywhere in your life!

    Much appreciated

  4. hayden davis says:

    can you elaborate on the sentence below please:
    •The goal is not make business with people who need WHAT you have, the goal is to make business with people who belief what you belief.

    what does that mean? im struggling to understand that question. The invitation is open for anyone to share what they think it means as well.

    thank you


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