Starting with why

June 27, 2017


As I arrived at the airport, I had a clear sense of why I took this trip, and that was to learn about the world’s cultures. With this as my guiding principle, everything I did on this trip was driven by curiosity, a sense for exploration and an open-mind. Whenever there was a decision to be made, I asked myself: “Will this show me a perspective of the culture that I wouldn’t have known?”

In Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with Why’ (@simonsinek ), he makes a case that the most influential, innovative and impactful leaders and organizations in the world operate with an “inside out” process. Specifically, they frame opportunities, decisions and everyday behaviours starting with the ‘why’, followed by ‘how’, and then the ‘what.’ The ‘why’ is synonymous to purpose, cause, mission, belief, etc.


From a neuroscience perspective, starting with why activates the limbic brain — the part of the brain that is responsible for emotions, memory formation and decision-making. And yes — contrary to common belief — it is our emotional brain that often drives out day-to-day decision making. Countless studies have illustrated that the neocortex (our ‘rational’ brain) can help us evaluate the options but does not have the capacity to apply human reasoning to actually make a decision. In other words, our rational brain will tell us that one pill is blue, and the other is red, but it is our emotional brain that tells us which pill to take (Matrix reference). This is what makes humans different from robots and AI!



1) Frame every opportunity and decision w/ the why — e.g., Why do you want to accomplish this goal? Why is this a problem? Why do you want to purchase this? Why should I behave in this manner?


2) Your ‘why’ becomes the anchor for how you define success or whether to go ahead with something


3) Create a strategy on how you can realize that ‘why’ 


4) Execute, do, and create the outcome 


5) Consider the capabilities & resources you need


(Tip: starting with why can be applied to any aspect of your life — not just work/career related decisions)

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