People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. – Simon Sinek
Why did the Wright Brothers, with no outside funding, no formal education, and no credentials in aviation, manage to build the first airplane before Samuel Pierpont Langley, who was supported by the War Department and followed by the New York Times?
More significantly, how can you and I replicate that kind of inspired innovation in our own lives?
Simon Sinek, inspiration coach and author of Start with Why, claims to have the answer, and it is a very simple concept.
According to Sinek, there is a fundamental difference between how inspiring leaders see the world and how everyone else does. The reason most endeavors fail to inspire is because they try to engage us by telling us WHAT they do, rather than WHY they do it. Sinek demonstrates this with a model he calls the Golden Circle, which is actually three circles nested within one another.The golden circle
At the center is a small circle labelled WHY. The middle circle is HOW, and the outermost circle is WHAT.
- What do you do?
- How do you do it?
- Why do you do it? (And why should anyone care?)
Everything we do is motivated by the WHY, but we don’t usually communicate that. We may not even be aware of why we behave the way we do. This is because the part of the brain that controls motivation and decision-making, the limbic brain, is one of the most primitive and has no capacity for language. We have difficulty articulating our motivation or why they should care.
As Sinek points out, this fails to inspire action, purchases, or loyalty.
The Wright Brothers believed that figuring out powered, manned flight would change the world. Changing the world is powerful motivation to build an airplane. Langley, according to Sinek, was mostly in it for the fame and the money.
These differences also affected the respective teams. The Wright Brothers’ team gave the dream everything they had, which wasn’t much; nobody on the team had a college degree. Langley’s team, consisting of the country’s best minds, only worked for the money. They weren’t inspired because they weren’t changing the world, they were simply earning a paycheck.
“So, what do you do?”
Often, people see what I’m really into, and they automatically say, “Ah, you are a fitness guy,” or “You are a writer/academic/Buddhist/eco-hippie/local foodie/whatever.” I was never really comfortable with those labels though; I really don’t care about fitness per se, or anything else on that life, except to the extent that it enables my higher calling, which is inspiring others. Fitness is only one aspect of WHAT I do.
The problem was that I myself was too focused on WHAT I did. I didn’t put emphasis on WHY I did it. As a result, it was hard for me to present a cohesive face to the world, or even to myself.
A Powerful WHY Justifies Many WHAT’s
How seriously could you take the spiritual practice of a person who was primarily an athlete?
Sinek used the example of Apple to show how a company could inspire loyalty no matter what they did. Apple’s marketing message starts with WHY–”we believe in challenging the status quo”–goes on to HOW–”by making all our products beautiful, simple, and user-friendly”–and ends with WHAT–”we happen to make computers. Want to buy one?” Because Apple’s emphasis is on WHY, we are equally comfortable buying computers, MP3 players, TVs , or computer mice from them.
After watching Sinek’s TEDx talk, I realized why I felt fragmented. I was only telling people WHAT I did. Most of the time, I was thinking of myself in terms of WHAT I did, not what I believed in, my WHY. But if I had a strong reason, it would tie everything together and create a stronger sense of integrity that would not only inspire me, but others as well.
WHY do I live this way? What motivates what I do? I believe that all of us, every individual, is capable of historically significant positive change. I want to inspire people to be their best, believe in their dreams, and create that positive change.
HOW do I do it? By setting an example of what great powers humans can be, sharing my journey with others so they can be encouraged, and helping them overcome obstacles to achieve their potential.
WHAT do I do, day-to-day? I personally develop myself to be the best I can be. I blog about it. I write my thoughts to refine them. I nurture my body through nutrition and movement. I hone my spirit through meditation (still need to implement that consistently, but it’s part of the plan). I advocate for ecological sustainability and local food.
Here is Sinek’s TEDx talk that will change the way you think. Enjoy!
After watching it, think about how his ideas relate to your life right now. How could you incorporate a more WHY-centered attitude to your life? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
I got Sinek’s book, Start with Why, and I will be reading it over the next few months. I’m sure it will inspire a lot of powerful ideas.