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14 Steps To Find Your “Why” From “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

Poppy Higgins
Poppy Higgins
14 step to find your why inspired by simon sinek

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14 Steps To Find Your WHY From “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

14 Steps To Find Your WHY From “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

If you’ve read our 10 Books Every Startup Founder Should Read, you’ll already know that we believe “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek is an essential one to read for every entrepreneur at any stage of your startup journey.

Simon Sinek’s 2009 TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” was a viral success, calling on business leaders to “Start With Why.” His book expands on the concept of “why” and how it impacts businesses.
In this competitive climate, it’s not enough to be an excellent, determined, smart entrepreneur, there needs to be a deeper motive. Founders, if you want the greatest shot at success, to secure funding, and grow your startup, follow these 14 steps to find your “Why.”

Step 1: Assume You Know

“Start With Why,” looks at assumptions we hold and their impact on our actions. Sinek provides case studies that demonstrate how looking at the bigger picture can directly manifest a behaviour that shapes long-term results. For example, the classic American car manufacturer versus a Japanese one. In American car factories, workers continue to reshape car doors with rubber hammers to fit the car, but their Japanese counterparts design the doors to fit perfectly from the start.
This is a metaphor for the two types of founders. In type one: founders that manipulate the end result. In type two: founders who start with the end goal in mind, and allow everything to fall into place accordingly.

For Step 1: envision your end goal.

Step 2: Carrots and Sticks

These are the two ways to attract customers, according to Sinek.

  1. Inspire the carrots,
  2. manipulate the sticks.
MMost of the sales tactics used by businesses today involve manipulation. The most common form of sales manipulation includes price and promotions. Novelty and more discrete forms of manipulation include fear, aspirations, and peer pressure.

Step 2 is understanding that boths types of manipulation are short-term solutions and ultimately lead to repetitive manipulative cycles. Going too far in this direction will affect your long-term profitability.

Step 3 introduces another method.

Step 3: The Golden Circle

The key is Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle: Why, How, and What. At the center of the circle is ”Why” and this is where we should start.
The Golden Circle

“Why”: few founders or startups understand “Why” they do what they do. It’s not just scaling a successful startup, that’s a result. “Why” is your purpose. Why did you found your startup? Why do you wake up in the morning and do what you do? And why should others care?

“How”: some founders and startups know how to do what they do. Whether you call this a “differentiating value proposition” or a “unique selling proposition”, “Hows” are given to describe how your method is different or better.

“What”: every startup on the planet knows “What” it is doing. This is true regardless of the size of your company or industry. Easily describe the products and services your business sells or what your business does.
Starting with “Why” means starting at the center of the circle. “Why” is the reason to buy and “what” is only tangible products as evidence of this belief. “Whats” are how we rationalise choosing one company over another.
Simon Sinek gives an example from Apple. According to him, Apple is not technically different from its competitors. But Apple communicates with “Why”. Apple’s “Why” challenges the status quo and empowers people. Their challenge to the status quo is a model that reflects everything they say and do, and that’s why people believe Apple is genuine.

For Step 3: study how The Golden Circle corresponds to your startup.

Step 4: This Is Not Opinion, This Is Biology

Step 4 highlights our desire to belong. This desire leads us to engage with others who share the same “Why.” The golden cycle coincides with the way our brain works.
Why What How in relation to the brain

Neocortex: our neocortex corresponds to the “What” level. It is responsible for all our intellectual and analytical thinking and language. This allows you to see a lot of facts and figures, but it does not lead to action.

Limbic Brain: the two central parts of the limbic brain are responsible for all emotions, such as trust and loyalty. Close to the “Why” level. This part of the brain is responsible for all human actions and all our decisions.
We want to join founders and startups who share our beliefs.
When startups begin with people who believe in the same “Why,” we take advantage of our unique motivation to accept these products as symbols of our values ​​and beliefs. It feels like a tribal connection buying the same products as others who share our values, as if we belong to something bigger.
Most startups will begin with “What” and “How.” This is what customers want. They demand high quality, low price, 24 hours service and a lot of customer care.
According to Simon Sinek a scientific approach driven by data is nonsense. The part of the brain that controls decision making is different from the part of the brain that makes “Why” decisions. All of these focus groups and surveys may be of little value.
Henry Ford Quote

For Step 4: understand how the brain works in relation to The Golden Circle.

Step 5: Clarity, Discipline, and Consistency

Follow The Golden Circle from the inside out.
The three degrees of certainty:
  1. If you can only point to tangible, logical measurements, the maximum confidence is “I think this is the right decision.”
  2. When we make gut decisions, we can have maximum confidence. Even if it goes against all facts and figures, the decision feels correct.
  3. The ability to verbalize “Why” provides the emotional context for decision making. Knowing “Why” you feel a gut decision gives you the highest level of confidence, “I know it’s right.”

For Step 5: the purpose of your startup should not be to do business with anyone who wants what you have. You have to focus on those who believe in what you believe in.

Step 6: The Emergency of Trust

Trust grows when you see founders and startups leading for reasons beyond their own service. Align “Why,” “How” and “What” to build that trust.
The “What” culture is perpetuated by companies that constantly chase the competition, trying to match them feature-for-feature. This makes it challenging for companies that act like commodity producers to differentiate themselves from the competition.
Consumers are motivated by “Why” companies do what they do. Starting with “Why” makes for more flexibility in the marketplace. Take Apple and Dell as an example. Apple produces computers. Apple also manufactures iPad and iPhone devices.
On the other hand, Dell is defined by “What” they do. Because Dell does computers, consumers don’t like buying tablets and smartphones from them. They tried to expand into various fields, but retreated to “focus on their core business”.
Simon Sinek refers to First Mover Advantage in relation to “Why.” The case study of Creative versus Apple gives us a great example. Creative had the First Mover Advantage, and was far more capable of producing an mp3 player. They chose a “What” to market their offering, a “5GB mp3 player.” Apple marketed the iPod with a “Why” we need it; “1000 songs in your pocket”.
When employees belong, success is guaranteed. They will work hard and be innovative not for you, but for themselves.
The goal is to hire people who are equally as passionate and driven by your “Why”. Once that is established, then evaluate their candidacy based on their relevant skillset for the role.
Companies with a strong “Why” inspire their employees, hiring skilled people who are already motivated. This leads to higher productivity and innovation, as the energy they bring to their work is palpable.

For Step 6: focus on your core mission, your “Why”, when marketing and hiring.

Step 7: How a Tipping Point Tips

How do you distinguish between a fad and a life-changing idea?
The law of diffusion of innovation
The Law of Diffusion of Innovations stated by Everett M. Rogers pertains to the bell curve of product adoption. The curve outlines the percentage of the market who adopt your product, beginning with the Innovators (2.5%), followed by Early Adopters (13.5%), Early Majority (34%), Late Majority (34%) and Laggards (16%).
The left hand side of the curve are the early adopters, those who queued up for hours or days outside the Apple store to get the new Iphone. On the far right side, those are the customers who will never be satisfied with your product/company, and have no loyalty towards you. They will easily go to your competitor if they’re offered a better deal. So get to know the right side of the curve, and don’t waste effort/time/money in trying to convert them. You may get some of their business, but probably not long-term.

For Step 7: the goal of your startup is to be clear on your “Why.” Find people who believe what you believe. Once you get enough of the 15-18% on the left side of the bell curve, they will encourage the rest to follow.

Step 8: Start With Why But Know How

“Energy motivates but charisma inspires.”
Energy is easily detected, measured and copied.
Charisma is something all great founders have, charisma comes from having a purpose bigger than yourself, being clear on your “Why.”
Sinek gives us 2 examples, Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer. The latter was energetic, when Ballmer speaks, people are energised, but that energy quickly dissipates. While the first is charismatic, despite being shy and awkward. When Bill Gates speaks, people actually listen in a way that his lessons stick with them for days, months, years.
Lesson here: charisma commands loyalty, while energy doesn’t.
The two types of founders: “Why” and “How” Types.
Both types are “How” founders, but the “Why” founder brings the “How” to life.
“Why” types are: visionaries, overactive imaginations, optimists, futurists, tend to focus on the thing most people can’t see.
“How” types are: more practical and more realist, tend to focus on the things most people can see and build them better.

Simon Sinek says that “How” types can be very successful, despite rarely building billion-dollar-life-changing-startups. A “How” type doesn’t necessarily need a “Why” type to succeed. But, a “Why” type always needs a “How” type! If not they’ll end up penniless visionaries. Ideally, co-founders, one of each type would make an excellent founding team. 

For Step 8: figure out your vision and mission statements. The vision is the founders intent, “Why” did you found your startup. The mission is the description of “How” you will create your vision.

Step 9: Know Why. Know How. Then What?

Founders of Startups in their initial phase generally have direct contact with their clients base. As the Startup scales, the founder will no longer be the loudest/most direct voice, meaning their message needs to be strong enough to resonate beyond the sound of their own voice.
As we explored in Step 4, “Why” exists in the limbic part of the brain that controls gut instincts, (aka decision making|), but not language. “What” lives in the neocortex, the language part of the brain.
How this translates to leadership: the leader is the inspiration and symbol of the reason employees do what they do. They are the limbic brain. “What” the startup does is the neocortex, the rational thought and language.

Most startups struggle with differentiating themselves, or communicating their value.

For Step 9: is putting your words into a language the limbic brain understands, like metaphors, imagery and analogies. Using symbols creates a tangible way to communicate with those who believe in the same thing you do. If done properly, this is who marketing can communicate with clearly and with purpose.

Step 10: Communication Is About Listening

Symbols make ideas tangible. The only reason symbols have meaning is because we give them a meaning. A logo itself is not a symbol, to become a symbol it must be assigned a meaning. This happens when it inspires people to use it to say something about who they are.
Sinek gives the example of Harley Davidson, people wear the logo as a symbol, that they share the same value-set as the brand itself.
Sinek proposes The Celery Test in order to differentiate what is good for you as opposed to your opposition.

For Step 10: do The Celery Test. Imagine you are offered cookies, Nutella, celery, fruits and ice cream to grow your startup. It would not be wise to accept them all, as it would be time-consuming, expensive, and you would dilute your purpose. So filter through these with your “Why” in mind. If your “Why” is health-conscious, you would stick to the celery and fruits. Filter decisions from a place of “Why” to save money, time, and build a strong foundation.

Step 11: When Why goes Fuzzy

Sinek explains what happens when companies loose sight of their original “Why.” The example of Volkswagen and Walmart. Volkswagen translate from german to “car of the people”, its image is of reliable, affordable cars for everyone. The original VW Beetle fell into this image, a cheerful symbol of freedom and simplicity. They launched a super-expensive, $70,000 VW Phaeton that was a flop, because it flew against their own “Why”. Who wants to buy a high-end car from VW?
Walmart is more serious. It was founded by Sam Walton, his mission was to help people and communities by providing products at low prices. But, after the death of its founders, Walmart focused solely on low prices, and omitted helping people and communities. It became a cutthroat business towards its suppliers, employees and the communities it was a part of. Walmart lost it’s “Why,” serious trouble ensued.

For step 11: once you have found your “Why”, have the discipline to stay true to your cause/belief over outside pressure.

Step 12: Split Happens

An Idea is step 1 of a startup. Ideas are fueled by passion. Passion is a compelling emotion that sometimes causes irrational behaviour.
Passion needs to be structured in “Hows” to thrive and survive. Most startups fail because both “Hows” and “Whys” need each other.

For step 12 structure your “Whys” into “Hows.”

Step 13: The Origin of a Why

You’ve heard that market research is key for a startup. Do your market research, know your customer, then build your niche. Sinek disagrees with this model. According to Sinek, the “Why” does not come from visualizing and strategizing in this manner. It does not come from market research or interviews with customers or employees. “Why” comes from the totally opposite direction from where you are right now. Finding the “Why” is a process of discovery, not invention.

Step 13 : look inside to find your “Why.” When you’ve found your “Why,” as we discussed in step 11, the hardest part is to remain true to it.

Step 14: The New Competition

When you’re competing with everyone else in the world, no one wants to help you. But when you compete against yourself, everyone wants to help you.
Now translate this to business, we’re always competing against another company. Better quality. More features. Better service. When comparing ourselves to the competition, no one wants to help us.
How about showing up to work every single day to be in direct competition with ourselves.
Great startups keep their “Why” as they scale. Those who forget their “Why” are in competition with everyone else.

For Step 14, understand that you are, and will always be, your best competition.

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