Review: "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

While I appreciated many of the sentiments in Simon Sinek's book, Start With Why, overall I found the book to contain far too much "fluff." Throughout the book, Sinek uses several examples to explain his "Golden Circle" theory, including the creation of Apple, the Wright brothers' first flight, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous speech. He tends to circle back on the same examples to prove different points, but he does so by saying essentially the same thing each time (at one point, Sinek himself even acknowledges the repeated reuse of Apple as an example). By my estimation, this book could be about a fourth of its current length if all the repetitive and cyclical writing was cut. Sinek's message is important. The concept of starting with "why" is one that I plan to use to formulate projects moving forward, but the book feels as if it is written by a college student trying their best to reach a minimum word count. I'm not sure I was given the tools to find my own "why," nor do I feel that Sinek properly laid out the criteria for what makes a "why." Many of the examples of companies' "whys" feels too simple to be the foundation of their business. Perhaps his second book, aptly titled Find Your Why, would help me find mine.

All this is not to say that I gained nothing from reading the book. There were several parts of the book that I found interesting or informative and saved for future reference. Sinek's section on the use of fear and manipulation in sales is one I found interesting. Some companies warn customers of the consequences of not having their product to scare them into a purchase. For example, Life Alert warns elderly potential clients that they may be alone when they "fall and can't get up" and will need their product to call for help. Another company might warn customers that they are missing out on the "best price of the year" if they don't act fast. This encourages the customer to make a purchase solely based on the fear of missing out on a good deal. As Sinek explains, both of these tactics are successful (which is why they're used so frequently), but neither breed loyalty.

Another section I appreciated was this section on discussing your value with a client. I felt it was particularly relevant to the illustration world:

What if the next time someone pushes, "Well, what makes you better than your competition?" we replied, "We're not better than them in all cases." And what if the next time someone asks, "Well why should I do business with you then?" we answer with confidence, "Because the work we're doing now is better than the work we were doing six months ago. And the work we'll be doing six months from now will be better than the work we're doing today. Because we wake up every day with a sense of WHY we come to work ... Are we better than our competition? If you believe what we believe and you believe that the things we do can help you, then we're better.

Finally, I enjoyed this quote from Thomas Edison that Sinek shared, because I felt it related to the way I have been developing my illustration style: "I didn't find a way to make a light bulb, I found a thousand ways how not to make one."


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