Start with Why – But how?

I’m a strong advocate and active user of Simon Sinek’s idea/model/theory concerning the Golden Circle. I have been implementing Sinek’s ideas in my teaching, speakings and in my own personal matters since 2011. This post is based on interpretations that have arisen during the writing process of my Master thesis in Experience Leadership in the summer of 2014 and on my own thoughts and curiosity surrounding the matter; Why and the complex of discovering it.  

Sinek’s ideas are increasingly taking root in many different businesses and industries worldwide. Many people include his Golden Circle visions in books, speakings, blog posts, etc. And almost every time the finding is that you need to find your Why prior to anything else. This is inarguably correct, but the problem is how to do so? Very few if any succeed in pointing out practical actions to follow when working with the Golden Circle. I simply believe it is because the Golden Circle is a lot more complex to figure out than what might appear to be the case at first glance.

The Golden Circle

According to Sinek the Golden Circle can be used to improve management, company culture, product development, sales numbers, marketing, explain loyalty and to turn an idea into a movement. Outcomes that undoubtedly excite many people - but the question is once again: How? I personally think that Sinek’s suggestions in his book “Start with why” lack practical actions – an issue I will dig further into later on in this post.

A new interpretation

When I was writing my master thesis (as mentioned in the beginning of this post) I discovered a new interpretation of the Golden Circle that made me realize the complexity surrounding the model. I may be getting it all wrong, but this new approach makes a lot of sense to me.

For instance Sinek says:

“With Why I mean: What is your purpose, cause or belief?” 

In my opinion Sinek’s statement has the same starting point and yet the same complexity as Morten Albæk when he is seeking an answer to perhaps the most profound question of all:

“What is the meaning of the human life … and what is the meaning of life itself, as we are living it?”  

The answer to this profound question concerning the meaning of life has haunted mankind for about 2,500 years.

As an idea/model/theory the Golden Circle may appear quite simple and inspiring at first glance, but when working with the different steps it turns to a rather complex journey. The following questions seem to hit me every time I try to crack the code:

  • How can the Golden Circle be practically implemented step by step into a person’s life?
  • How does a person take the very first step towards finding his or her Why/purpose/meaning of life?

It’s all about the past – not the future

In this section I would like to highlight maybe the most important statement from Sinek’s book. A statement that defines the starting point of discovering your Why:

"The Why does not come from looking ahead at what you want to achieve and figuring out an appropriate strategy to get there.  It is not born out of any market research. It does not come from extensive interviews with customers or even employees. It comes from looking in the completely opposite direction from where you are now.  

Finding Why is a process of discovery, not invention" 

In this extract from the book Sinek reveals that the Why discovery lies within our past, but he doesn’t outline a thoroughly defined action plan to follow. One of the reasons to why he didn’t do so, may very well be that he added a Why University to his website a couple of years after his book release. In return for payment (129$) you now have the possibility to discover your why on the website by following a number of steps over a time period of 7-10 hours.

Here you will get a short introduction to the three guiding themes of the course:

  1. Gather your stories
  2. Work with a partner to articulate your Why
  3. Refine your Why and take action

Gather your stories

“Gather your stories” focuses on your past and here you are to recall both positive and negative experiences from your work life, personality and childhood through different exercises. Subsequently you are to divide these stories into a diagram going from +5 to -5 and finally you have to choose six level 5 stories, both positive and negative, which you are going to dig deeper into in the second part of the course.

Work with a partner to articulate your Why

In the second part called “Work with a partner to articulate your Why” you have to find a partner who can help you closer to you Why. Together you are to discover the recurring themes throughout your six level 5 stories and try to use these discoveries to make different suggestions to what your Why can be.

Refine your Why and take action

The third and last part of the course is called “Refine your Why and take action”. In this section you are to present your Why to friends, colleagues, acquaintances and the like and through their feedback you get to improve your Why until it fits you perfectly.


This procedure may come of rather obvious at some points, however it is a tangible suggestion from Sinek on how to find answers to some of the most important and rather complex questions in life. At the same time you get to build a solid platform from which you can continue your journey towards creating a profound sense of meaning in your life.

Consequently in my opinion the book Start with Why is not sufficient in itself when you want to discover your Why, but has to be followed up by the Why Discovery Course.

Jesper OutzenComment