“Why” Always Trumps the “What” and “How”

I would urge you to start off this blog post by watching this 18-minute TED video from Simon Sinek. This is arguably the best TED video I’ve seen this year.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qp0HIF3SfI4]

Why are some leaders more persuasive and inspiring than others? What inspiring qualities have cemented Apple, Martin Luther King Jr, and the Wright Brothers into their iconic status as leaders in spite of intense competition in this red ocean market?

Simon Sinek offers a simple, effective principle: Start with Why.

In fact, these leaders have utilized this principle whether knowingly or unwittingly. The more you dissect these great leaders, the more noticeable the pattern becomes. In essence, leaders think differently. Instead of the conventional “what-centered thinking” they have embraced a “why-centered thinking.”

The why-centered thinking is best explained by the Golden Circle:

WHAT: Every single person on this planet knows WHAT they do.

HOW: Some people know HOW they do WHAT they do. HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better.

WHY: Very few people can clearly articulate (i.e., why do you get out of bed every morning?)

The Golden Circle shows that the conventional thought-process of most people are:

What –> How –> Why

Leaders like Apple, Martin Luther King Jr, and the Wright Brothers have started inside out:

Why –> How –>What

By starting with Why, Sinket means starting with purpose, cause, or belief that drives your What. Your What my change over time, but your Why doesn’t.

Apple is a case in point. Apple epitomizes the “why-centered thinking.” See how Apple frames their messages.

“We make great computers.(WHAT) They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly.(HOW) Want to buy one?”

Doesn’t really sound compelling, does it? This is how Apple really communicates:

“Everything we do, we believe is challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. (WHY) The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. (HOW) We just happen to make great computers. (WHAT) Want to buy one?”

Finding Your Why

Now, let’s think about how you can apply the concept of “why” in your life. The author Sinek shares his precise definition of Why:

“My Why is to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. [My] vision is to have every person and every organization know their WHY and use it to benefit all they do. So that’s what I’m doing, and I’m relying on the concept of WHY … to help me get there. “

This new paradigm shift of thinking follows my thought-process of living with intentionality. I define living intentionally as living today as God intends you to live tomorrow. That is, you must discover your purpose in life, how to utilize your spiritual gifts, talents, and potential to achieve your vision. Life must be seen from a larger scheme rather than from a focus solely on your career, family, or personal life.

Here is how I have defined my Why, How, and What:

What’s Your Why?

When we start with Why, things change. Our thought processes begin to change. We gain clarity around our why we do certain things. Why we choose this certain job over the other, why we spend time with family and friends…We often take things for granted without thinking the reason behind the ‘what.’  We gain the opportunity to understand what truly matters – the core of who we are, our unyielding conviction, belief, and purpose.

Now, can you think about examples of things you’ve started with Why and with What? How were the experiences different? Besides companies like Apple, what companies come into your mind that has mastered the ‘Why-centered thinking?”

So, here’s the question of the day: why do you get out of bed every morning?

  • Go Ahead Launch, LLC

    Paul, great article. Loved Simon’s Ted talk. I would love to post your
    take on this on our site (www.goaheadlaunch.com) and give reference
    back to you and this site. It appears we have the same focus.
    -Joe Schlosser

    • Hey Joe, that would be great! Just checked out your website. You have some great content there. Looking forward to some of your future posts.

      • Go Ahead Launch, LLC

        Thanks Paul. Looking forward to reading more of your content as well.