My top picks from “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek

It has been many years since Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” was published. Only recently did I find myself inspired enough to give it a read and I came away with an appreciation for the thoughts and elucidation of the man. His videos, where he talks about various aspects of leadership many other related topics are quite popular on YouTube and LinkedIn, as are his TED talks. In the book, he talks about his WHY being about “Inspiring people to inspire themselves”. Well, I needed that bit of inspiration to actually read the book and there were bits in there that resonated very well with me. Some were an eye-opener while others reinforced my beliefs. Simon focused on companies and organizations in the book and I think that these are applicable to every individual, be they at home or in the office or anywhere at all. With that said, here are my top picks from the book:

Great leaders, …, are able to inspire people to act

The interesting part is not the statement itself, which appears to be obvious, but HOW is it that leaders inspire people to act? It is through deeds and words. Just stating WHY I come to work, for example, was a technique that I used with my team. I work for my family. I usually keep that at the top of my mind whenever I am faced with a question and that usually paves the way towards the answer.

Two ways to influence human behaviour: manipulate or inspire

Simon says that inspiration is the way to influence the behaviour we desire to see in ourselves and in others. However, as he rightly points out, most of the techniques that we see employed are tailored towards manipulation. In reality, we aspire towards creating intrinsic motivation in the organizations that we work in. Manipulation does have its say as well. Who does not feel extra motivated when they receive a particularly good bonus or an unexpected promotion/ increment?

We are not better than the competition in all cases

This statement was particularly hard to digest. Every day, I see questions on the competition at the work place. Admitting that we are not better than the others happens very, very rarely, especially to a customer. I am going to adopt the approach stated in the book. To me at least, just stating things as I see it comes more naturally. This only means that I talk more about my product and myself, rather than compare against others. The judgement on which is better, is best left to the customer.

When fear is employed, facts are incidental.

It is not the statistical probability that one could get hurt by a terrorist, but it’s the fear that it might happen that cripples a population

I loved this section of the book simply because I could immediately draw parallels between the above statements and the current situation across the globe, particularly more so in India. If I were to replace the “terrorist” in the above sentence by “coronavirus”, I think we have the apt statement for the reality facing us today. The one thing that we have to fight in the pandemic is fear. Not so much the virus itself, but the fear that spreads far more easily than the virus. Caution is different from fear, of course. Fine line between the two.

Assumptions, even when based on sound research, can lead us astray

How often do you rely on data to make decisions? Depending on your mileage, you might say all the time or most of the time. I think this is a very individualistic method. Some of us, like me, are analytically inclined. I usually need to write down or be clear about the steps to be taken based on what I know. Others, like my wife, are braver than I am. They are willing to take decisions from “the heart”, or as Simon says in the book, from the limbic section of the brain that is responsible for our feelings. Ultimately, even I will know in my gut when I am taking a decision based on research that doesn’t “feel right”. Of all the items in the book, I struggle with this one the most. Striking a balance between data based and the limbic brain decision is difficult. Maybe I already do it, maybe I don’t!

This book did get me thinking and gave me valuable tips on how I should plan my work and life. On the flip side, there were times in this book when I wished he did not focus so much on the one company, Apple. The book is also tailored mainly towards the American audience, which is understandable. Nevertheless, the positives to be gained from his insights far outweigh this minor critique.

If you have read the book or heard Simon Sinek speak, what did you think? Do let me know!

Residing in Bengaluru, I am a Techie by profession and a thinker and doer by birth. I muse about any topic under the sun and love to share my thoughts in print when I am not doing something with them. I love reading and at some point, thought that maybe others would like to read what I have to write, too!

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