Simon Sinek wants to inspire people to do what inspires them, and he believes that will, in turn, make the world a better place.
Everyone has the right to live a fulfilled life. Everyone has the right to wake up with a clear understanding of why today matters and why it is important to get out of bed. However, Simon Sinek argues that self-help books are unable to do that. They might help people find some kind of definition for their lives or a bit of fleeting happiness, but they will not help readers find fulfilment.
Not having a Why is what prevents many people from finding fulfilment in their lives. Our lives all function on the same three levels: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Most people know their what and their how, but finding a Why is often difficult.
That is the premise of Simon Sinek’s message. He wants to inspire people to do what inspires them, and he believes that will, in turn, make the world a better place. Sinek is an international bestselling author, business owner, adjunct at RAND, and popular TED Talk presenter. His first TED Talk covered his first book, Start with Why, and has been viewed more than 36 million times.
However, things were not always easy for Sinek. Before his career exploded, the source of his fame was born out of pain. He did not always know his own Why, and before he could find it he had to face some difficult truths.
He started life well with parents who moved around frequently, but that also meant personal connections were difficult to manage. Born in England in 1973, Sinek’s family moved to Johannesburg and Hong Kong before settling in New Jersey where he graduated high school. Then Sinek attended law school at London’s City University before moving to Brandeis University in Massachusetts to get his BA in cultural anthropology.
After graduation, Sinek began working for New York marketing agencies. In 2002, he started his own marketing agency with a partner, Sinek/Gomes, LLC. After the partnership ran its course, Sinek changed the name to Sinekpartners, LLC in 2005.
And that is when things began to sour for Sinek. All the momentum he had built through all the changes in his life started to spiral out of control until he hit an emotional and professional brick wall. For the first three years of Sinek/Gomes, business was good, but Sinekpartners began struggling as it took on staff. Managing the staff of the business was Sinek’s greatest weakness, and the stress of his failure was debilitating.
The struggle to manage and lead effectively is all too common for corporate managers and executives, but they often find somewhere else to diffuse the blame. For owners of small and medium sized businesses, the responsibility rests solely on the owners’ shoulders. And that is why Sinek felt the need to know everything about the business and be everything for the business. As happens to so many business owners, his stress led to an increasing loneliness, and Sinek sank into depression.
His need to be an expert in everything drove him to a breaking point. He realized that although he had all the hallmarks of success, he struggled to find any fulfilment because his focus was on himself. The stress was obvious to observers, and a friend eventually approached him to offer a hand in support. With just a little moral support, Sinek was able to begin focusing beyond his weaknesses.
He began to evaluate his life. He knew What he did, and he knew How he did it differently from anyone else. The missing piece of his life’s puzzle was Why. He could no longer remember Why he did what he did. He had lost his passion for advertising and marketing.
He decided he did not need to know everything anymore. And he decided that when he did not know what to do or how to do something, he no longer needed to pretend that he did. When he finally made that decision, he was free to ask for help, and he found many people happy to help him succeed. In fact, he attributes all his success to the generosity of other people
He started figuring out how to find his passion, his personal Why. More importantly, he was able to inspire others to do the same. After that, they inspired him in return. His business made even less sense to him than it did before. He had found his Why and it clashed with his business. So, he shut it down in order to rebuild and restructure in accordance with his Why.
One of the friends he had helped, in return, encouraged Sinek to publish a book about his method so that it could be shared with a larger audience. She introduced him to editor Adrian Zackheim. Sinek did not have a unique expertise, a special platform, or any quantifiable evidence. He simply had a vision, one that helped many of his contacts become as inspired as he was. With that vision, Zachheim took a chance and edited Start with Why.
From there, he began helping more than just individual friends. He helped businesses, government agencies, global NGOs, and even families. Why is always at the heart of success, whether it is in negotiations, governance, or parenting. The reason is simple. Finding a Why provides a filter through which decisions can be made more easily and with greater effect. It can help corporations improve their marketing, political parties improve their rhetoric, and parents improve how they communicate to their children regardless of age.
A couple of years ago, Simon Sinek tweeted, “Innovation is not born of the dream. Innovation is born of the struggle.” Many Twitter users disagreed with his statement, and they posted their own revisions to it. However, for Sinek, this statement is true to life. Sinek became famous for popularizing innovative ideas, and those ideas came to him during a time of great personal and professional struggle. More importantly, it was because he had found his Why that he found fulfilment, and it was because he helped others find theirs that he found international success.
All of us need to identify our individual Whys to find our own fulfilment in this world. We can then live with confidence and greet each day with purpose.