• Grace Shin

Monthly Book Review, Jan 2022: Start with Why by Simon Sinek

One of my 2022 new year resolutions is to read at least one book in English a month and write a short review in my own words. The first English book I finished is ‘Start with why’ by Simon Sinek.


As many of you already know, I am not a native English speaker. I realised it was not that easy to write down my thoughts about a book I read in a logical way in another language. However, I didn’t aim for being perfect. Rather I tried to share what I felt and learnt from this book just to add another perspective that might be helpful for someone else.


This book is about why we as individuals and organisations should start with why instead of starting with how or what. The answer I found to this question is this. When we communicate ‘what we do’ and ‘how we do it differently to the outside world, we can achieve the goals. But for a short period of time. It can never be sustainable because there will always be companies that come up with better and cheaper products than ours.


Basically, the entire book explains that people become loyal to one company only when they think the company shares the same values and beliefs they have in life. However, as people can’t explain why they love their loved ones, what loyal customers feel about the brands they love can’t be logically explained.


Hence if we as organisations or individuals want to influence others to take action, we need to earn trust by demonstrating that we share the same values.


As I learn about management, I kept thinking organisations and individuals are alike, especially when it comes to growth. Another concept that stuck in my mind was ‘growth from the inside out'. A company’s growth can only last long when the decisions that are made are based on its WHY. It’s the same for individuals. I could keep working hard for the rest of my life to earn money or make a living. However, if I understand ‘WHY’ I do things that I do and the value that I add, I’ll be able to stay motivated and inspired and therefore not only achieve my goals but be successful in life.


After reading this book, I had a chance to think about my own ‘WHY’. It was all about growth. I’ve always longed for growth and been willing to help others around me to grow. There were times I was too competitive and constantly tried to compete against others. Fortunately, thanks to the many great bosses in my career and those who love me no matter what, I grew and became a person who compete against myself. I hope I will be able to live a life that is led by my WHY and therefore help anyone who strives for growth to grow.


Here are a few favourite paragraphs out of so many just in case you want to skim through and get the sense of this book before ordering one.


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All inspiring leaders and companies, regardless of size or industry, think, act and communicate exactly alike. And it’s the complete opposite of everyone else.


Repeat business is when people do business with you multiple times. Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price to continue doing business with you. Loyal customers often don’t even bother to research the competition or entertain other options. Loyalty is not easily won.


With the iPod and iTunes, Apple did a much better job of communicating the value of both the mp3 and the mp3 player relative to how we lived our lives. Their advertising didn’t offer exhaustive descriptions of product details; it wasn’t about them, it was about us. And we understood WHY we wanted it.


If a company doesn’t have a clear sense of WHY then it is impossible for the outside world to perceive anything more than WHAT the company does. And when that happens, manipulations that rely on pushing price, features, service or quality become the primary currency of differentiation.


When you fill an organization with good fits, those who believe what you believe, success just happens. What all great leaders have in common is the ability to find good fits to join their organizations - those who believe what they believe.


Companies with a clear sense of WHY tend to ignore their competition, whereas those with a fuzzy sense of WHY are obsessed with what others are doing.


Companies with a clear sense of WHY tend to ignore their competition, whereas those with a fuzzy sense of WHY are obsessed with what others are doing.



It is not just WHAT or HOW you do things that matters; what matters more is that WHAT and HOW you do things is consistent with your WHY. Only then will your practices indeed be best.


Achievement comes when you pursue and attain WHAT you want. Success comes when you are clear in pursuit of WHY you want it. The former is motivated by tangible factors while the latter by something deeper in the brain, where we lack the capacity to put those feelings into words.


Harbridge know, however, that no matter her intentions, if she measured the results the same way as others, the same awful behavior would result. So she came up with an entirely new way to incentivize her people. She found a way to measure WHY.


The WHY for every other individual or organization comes from the past. It is born out of the upbringing and life experience of an individual or small group. Every single person has a WHY and every single organization has one too.


When you compete against everyone else, no one wants to help you. But when you complete against yourself, everyone wants to help you. Olympic athletes don’t help each other. They’re competitors. Ben starts every race with a very clear sense of WHY he’s running. He’s not there to beat anyone but himself. Ben never loses sight of that. His sense of WHY he’s running gives him the strength to keep going. To keep pushing. To keep getting up. To keep going. And to do it again and again and again. And every day he runs, the only time Ben sets out to beat is his own.



The early majority, indeed the entire majority, need the recommendation of someone else who has already sampled the product or service. They need to know someone else has tested it. They need that trusted, personal recommendation. According to the Law of Diffusion, mass-market success can only be achieved after you penetrate between 15 percent to 18 percent of the market. That’s because the early majority won’t try something new until someone else has tried it first.


The goal of business then should not be to simply sell to anyone who wants what you have - the majority - but rather to find people who believe what you believe, the left side of the bell curve. They perceive greater value in what you do and will happily pay a premium or suffer some sort of inconvenience to be a part of your cause.