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Three reasons why you should start with WHY

The WHY is a concept brought by Simon Sinek is this inspiring TED talk from 2009, which has been viewed over 58 million times on the TED website. His book Start with Why, published in 2011, is a bestseller and a must-read for any aspiring entrepreneur and leader.

So, why should we start with WHY? Here are three reasons. 

The Golden Circle

How come some leaders and organizations inspire, and others don't? How come some companies are successful and others are not? According to Simon Sinek, the explanation lies in the way they communicate. 

He introduces us to the concept of the Golden Circle which applies to individuals, companies or organizations, 

  • The WHAT is the product, service,  or information that you provide. 
  • The HOW is the way you deliver this product or service: the features, the method, the Unique Value Proposition.
  • The WHY is the purpose, the cause, the belief behind the product, service, or information. 

Most companies communicate from the outside in of the Golden Circle: they say WHAT they do and HOW they do it, how they's better or different, and they expect you to have a certain behavior. They often skip the Why. They will say:

The WHAT: we make this product

The HOW: our product has all these great features. do you want to buy one?

It's boring and uninspiring.  

Inspiring leaders and companies do the exact opposite: they communicate from the inside out. They start by saying WHY they do what they do, HOW they do it, and WHAT it is that they actually do. They will say:

The WHY: Everything we do is because we have this particular belief. 

The HOW: The way we express our belief is by making this product. It has all these great features. 

The WHAT: We make amazing products. Do you want to buy one? 

A great example of brand that has always had a clear WHY is Apple. From the start, they communicated about their "rebellious side", their belief in changing the status quo. Apple users are not just regular users, they're superfans and advocates for the brand. 

"People don't buy what you do, they buy WHY you do it. "

This is a very important thing to remember: the goal is not to sell to people who just want what you have, but to sell to people who believe what you believe. The same goes when you want to hire people: don't hire people who need a job, hire people who believe what you believe. When you talk about what you believe, you attract people with the same beliefs. 

This is how our brain works

The idea that you need to do business with people who believe what you believe is actually engrained in our biology. The human is made of three major components that correlate perfectly with the golden circle: 

  • the neocortex corresponds with the "What" level. It's responsible for our rational and analytical thought and language. 
  • The middle two sections make up our limbic brains which are responsible for our feelings, and all human behavior and decision-making. 

Therefore, when we communicate from the outside in, people can understand complex information, like features, benefits and figures, but it doesn't drive behavior. But when we communicate from the inside out, we talk directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior, and then allow people to rationalize by giving tangible details. This is where gut decisions come from. We use expressions like "it doesn't feel right" or I follow my heart" because we associate emotions to our decisions, but all our emotions and decisions are actually controlled by our limbic brains. In other words, the WHY will always be more powerful than the WHAT and the HOW. Starting with WHY will allow you so sell more, lead better, and have a greater impact. 

To learn more about the Why, watch Simon Sinek's TED talk, and read his book. 

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