The Power of Why

Simon Sinek’s TED Talk from TedxPuget Sound (Sept 2009) has been posted and is just awesome.  He starts out with the question “Why is Apple so innovative,“ Why is it that Martin Luther King led the civil rights movement,” and  “Why is it that the Wright Brothers were able to figure out controlled power manned flight?”

He answers this by describing something he calls the Golden Circle:


Every single organization knows WHAT they do.  Some know HOW they do it.  Very few people and organizations know WHY they do what they do, where WHY is “what’s your purpose, your cause, your belief; why do you get out of bed in the morning; why should anyone care.”

Most people start with the WHAT, go to the HOW, and end with the WHY.  Sinek makes the very clear point in this video, and on his Start With Why web site, that great people and organizations start with the WHY.

Find a quiet space and listen carefully to this TED Talk for 18 minutes.  Then spend at least the next 12 minutes thinking about your WHY.

  • I'm with you, this was great. I listened over the weekend and was enlightened. Now to put it into practice!


  • I met Simon at New York's Entrepreneur Week last year (an hour before your talk actually).

    His presentation skills are second to none and his content really kicks ass.
    He is completely congruent and I believe he's destined for great things

  • I noticed this very phenomena when I watched Jamie Oliver try, fail, try, fail, try again, fail even bigger, try, succeed only to fail again. Having tried, failed, tried, failed, succeeded and failed again, I was amazed at Jamie's tenacity. And his clarity. He is so clear on why he's doing what he does. Further, he's clear about the righteousness of his why.

    While I may know my 'why's I frequently stumble on the righteousness of the why. <–this is where the pedal hits the metal.

    Thanks for the great video.

  • That was awesome. Thanks for sharing!

    Now I have a new strategy for communicating my business.

  • Brad, isn't your advice exactly the wrong thing to do? You should start with WHY instead of pondering why you do what you do? If I have to think about my WHY then it's already too late. I obviously already started on the wrong foot and all subsequent thought will be limited by my initial vector.

  • JP

    I loved this one! His example of the Wright brothers reminds me of Dan Pink’s book Drive. His TED talk was great too:


  • I really enjoyed learning about this concept. Simon did a very good interview on Mixergy if anyone wants to go deeper:

    As a new entrepreneur experimenting with pitching my product, I've seen how the why is the most important part. And meeting other entrepreneurs, I've realized that the pitches I don't respond to are the ones that don't contain the why. This is a simple but powerful concept.

  • Thanks for sharing this Brad. I think it can argued the product focus you mentioned recently is completely in sync with this presentation. The question – Why are you focused on a particular product? – seems like the perfect place to begin the exploration of an entrepreneur's source of drive.

  • What an amazing piece of work. Simon could also use China as an example. Ever since China has taken up the cause of turning itself into developed nation, it has transformed itself so fast and now its a leading economy.

    @Brad, sent you a message yesterday on twitter. Would love a response from you since you are on Zynga board.

  • Loved this. Just watched all 18 minutes.

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  • Loved this video….and it resulted in this:

  • I love to see and think of business as an holistic solution to the world, in a way that is solves a problem for people. so WHY is the right question to ask, since you will keep on asking it 10 years from now and your response should be as passionate and focused as today…. a destiny if you well…

    I always wanted to ask this question, Why do people who blog like you, take the time and efforts to write blog posts? and will they do it 10 years from now?


  • The juxtaposition of this video with the previous video re software patents is ironic in that many including myself would argue that the Wright brothers' vigorous enforcement of their aviation patents severely slowed and in fact damaged the development of aviation technology in much the same way as software patents are damaging development today.

  • For what he observed, there are better explanations just using well known 'causes':

    Cause: As in E. Fromm, people are highly motivated to join groups.

    The people who lined up to buy the latest shiny Apple product and the 250,000 who went to the Mall and heard King's speech were joining groups. The "I believe" part made the groups sound authentic.

    The groups can be from the lunch table in 'Mean Girls' to the dinner table in 'Titanic' and political organizations up to cults. From a group, a person seeks membership, acceptance, praise, and approval. In some groups people in the group can reinforce their status via gossip.

    With a shiny, new Apple product, can assert membership in the Apple cult and use the product for more gossip!

    Related is the common motivation to join groups to save X for X one of the whales, the oceans, the rivers, some bird, some fish, the rain forests, the poor schools, the poor children, the planet.

    So, maybe a company can assert that they "believe" that their 'inspired goal' is saving X.

    A Web 2.0 company can ask if their company wants to be seen as leading a group of some kind, up to maybe a cult: Some people are eager to join such groups, and some people are eager not to.

    For that decision, measure twice and saw once.

    So, apparently according to Sinek, the CEO needs to be obsessed not with just the product but also with building a cult about the product! So we have one more entry on the long list of candidates for the number one thing the CEO must focus on!

    We might test Sinek's idea: What is the "I believe" part of the success of Intel, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, Toyota, BMW, Exxon, Wal-Mart, FedEx, HP, Dell, Rupert Murdoch, McDonald's, the Ford F-150, Pratt and Whitney, Boeing, Applied Materials?

  • Chris Heidelberger

    Brad – This was awesome thanks for sharing. This post is incredibly timely for Nexaweb and we are adopting his thesis as we define our mission going forward.

    • Cool – glad it was helpful.  And – more importantly, I’m psyched to seeing you take Nexaweb to the next level!

  • I blog because I love to write, love to teach, and love to learn.  Blogging helps me do all three.

  • Brad, great post – and what an informative and inspiring presentation by Simon. In one of the replies JP wrote about Dan Pink, which came to mind very quickly as I'm attempting to make compensatory and creative changes in my company.

    In Simon's talk, at 12:21, regarding "the law of diffusion of innovation", he talks about the early majority not trying something until someone else tries it first. I had a quick flashback to another absolutely entertaining and informative TED presentation by Derek Sivers on "How to Start a Movement". It's a 3-minute speech and the connection between these two presentations quickly becomes clear with regard to early adopters. It can be seen here:

    This is a great blog and I thought I'd step out of my usual lurking mode and drop a not-so-quick comment.



    • Thanks for the comment – thanks for the link to Sivers talk – it’s another good one.

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  • tlanger

    i'm contemplating how his perspective is different than "simply" connecting to someone's worldview via a story that resonates. simon is trying to explain the underlying process of why, but the part about the biology of the brain isn't accurate. he's probably basing it on paul maclean's theory of the triune brain, but it's meant to be more of a metaphor than actual physical representation (i.e. current neuroscience indicates that the brain is a lot more complex)….

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  • Wonderful. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Jon Feld sent this to me. I'm part of Tech Wildcatters, Dallas, Texas

  • Another take on this is company culture as a driving factor of success:

    Tony Hsieh: Company culture is #1 priority

    Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

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  • I think the photo like a teacher.
    Thank you for share. 🙂

  • kevin

    why is just the what but with emotions

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  • Sorry to learn that his book really sucked 🙁

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  • There is no doubt this talk is inspirational and life changing. I really enjoyed the delivery and content and above all I really get it. Thanks Simon and thanks TED for such invaluable shared resource. You are my inspiration and my "Golden Circle".


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