Book Summary: How To Find Your WHY

This article is a double book summary of Start With Why by Simon Sinek and Find Your Why by Simon Sinek, Peter Docker, and David Mead.

Start With Why explains why organizations need a clear purpose (a WHY), and how it translates into the concept known as Golden Circle. Find Your Why is a guide on how to develop your own Golden Circle.

Start With Why

The Golden Circle is a framework composed of 3 nested components: Why, How, and What.

WHY is your purpose, cause, or belief. It's the vision of a future that has yet to exist.

HOWs are guiding principles. It's the route you take to accomplish your WHY. It's your value proposition. Your values, principles, systems, processes, and actions you perform on a daily basis.

WHATs are the results of HOWs. What's easy to identify: the services you provide, and the goods you sell.

WHY is at the center. WHY drives the HOWs, and HOWs orientate the WHATs. Most organizations start with WHATs, when in fact we should always start with WHY: WHYs are emotional (originating from the limbic brain, hard to articulate in words), and that's why their impacts is always stronger than HOWs and WHATs originating from logical reasoning (sourced from the neocortex) by biological design.

Shared values and beliefs represented in a Golden Circle create a sense of belonging. Belonging makes us feel connected and safe, and that's how we generate trust that can be turned into loyalty.

That's how golden circles help organizations and individuals be more efficient and happy at work, while driving growth upward by creating cult-like brands.

If all members of an organization are transparent about their purposes and design their own individual golden circles, they can also be used to generate empathy and resolve tensions in a group.

Similarly, a well-defined golden circle drives healthy hiring processes based on beliefs rather than skillsets (skills can always be taught). The best fits for an organization are people with the same values (cultural fit).

Find Your Why

Finding your WHY is a discovery, not an invention. You need to have a look back at your own life experience, not project yourself forward in an unknown future.

The WHY Discovery methodology happens in 8 steps:

  1. Find a partner

    A WHY discovery requires a facilitator to help you explore your own past in an objective fashion. Your partner needs to be curious, good at asking probing / follow-up questions, and objective.

  2. Introduce your partner to the methodology

    In this phase, you introduce the pattern to the concept of Golden Circle and the WHY discovery methodology.

  3. Find a time and place

    A WHY discovery is an intimate conversation that lasts at least 3 hours, so you will need a quiet, private space and plenty of time to dig deep enough to find a strong WHY.

  4. Gather stories

    A WHY is an origin story, so finding your WHY is a retrospection.

    Tell specific experiences and people that shaped who you are today. Recall specifics about what they said or did that made such a difference to you. At least five stories you consider the most impactful of your life.

    The facilitator notes down each story as contribution (facts, what's been given or received) and impact (meaning, effects on the person) statements.

  5. Share stories

    Each story is further talked about to bring out their emotional side.

  6. Identify themes

    A theme is a recurring idea, a pattern. To find your themes, you need an objective overview of your stories, hence the need of a facilitator.

    Each theme has to at least connect with 2 stories.

  7. Draft a WHY statement

    A WHY statement is simple, clear, actionable, and focused on the effect you'll have on others.

    A draft follows the format to <contribution> so that <impact>.

    For example, Simon Sinek's WHY statement is To inspire people to do the things that inspire them so that, together, we can change our world.

  8. Refine the WHY statement

    Finding your WHY is a continuous exercise that requires you going beyond rational answers to dig out its true value.

    A great WHY statement is clear yet visceral. It doesn't have to be original, but it must carry a heavy emotional weight that truly embodies your organization.

The remaining themes can be turned into HOW statements reflecting your strengths. HOWs are simple and actionable:

  1. Narrow the remaining themes to 5 atomic ideas
  2. State your HOWs by turning them into action phrases (e.g Focus on the long term)
  3. Provide context with a one-sentence descriptions (e.g Focus on the long term becomes "Build something that will outlast every one of us" and "Focus on momentum and trending more than hitting arbitrary numbers and dates")