Book Review: Start with Why – by Simon Sinek

What does this have to do with (fill in the blank)?

In the IT field and especially if you are a tech, it’s easy to get in the “weeds” of what you do, and you forget why you do it. It’s when you forget your why that you often have writers block, make bad decisions and you have a hard time getting your ideas and projects from being accomplished.

The book Start With Why was written from a ted talk Simon Sinek did Start with Why.

He outlined as an example how an average computer company would sell computers, I’ll paraphrase:

Average computer company:

We’re GreatComputers company. We do 6 Billion dollars in sales. We make state of the art computers, that are user friendly and powerful.
Buy our computers.

This sounds like every other company and is not very compelling.

Here’s what Apple computer markets itself:

We’re Apple, and we’re against the status quo. We believe in empowering the individual. That’s why we make user friendly computers which are both easy to use and powerful using cutting edge technology. Do you want one?

You may notice, that the content itself hasn’t changed much except for the reason behind the content. This makes the message more compelling.

He gives several examples of this in his book such as Martin Luther King, The Wright Brothers and examples of failures of why such as Tivo and Wallmart that lost it’s why.

The key principle he outlines is the golden circle where its:


This golden circle model is based on how the human mind works. The limbic primative brain is where the feeling that drive our actions come from. It is where our hunches and intuitions come from. When people say “It just doesn’t feel right” or wordings to that extent, How and what comes from the outer parts of the brain, the Neo-cortex. This is where our language and logic comes from.
We may have all the intellectual understanding to do something, however if your heart is not in your work or you don’t have any kind of passion to do the work, then things like burnout, anxiety and other stress related problems will creep in. It’s better to do what you believe in than not. Your feelings drive your logic and actions, not the other way around.

Without your why, then how and what become meaningless exercises and your actions and efforts just become a commodity.

How do I use Why in DevOps? (or anywhere else)

The why is what’s behind the strategies that guide your groups and organization. It guides your tactics and helps you build trust in your group. They “buy in” you need to make things work. It is also important for understanding individually why you do those things. For instance, you might get push back from a particular individual in operations for deploying a new software package. You go and talk with him and find out he’s the one who gets all the pages and ends up fixing the new package every weekend. If your able to address his why that is “I don’t get any piece of mind when a new package is deployed” then you remove that resistance and you will get buy-in from him.

Also with a good why, when they buy the why, they will help figure out the technical details. Shared intelligence is better than being the smartest man in the room. If your the smartest man in the room, you are doing all the work. You don’t want to be a micromanager.

Everyone is a leader – Start by leading yourself

Everyone is leading someone. At the end of the day, you are leading yourself. Start with your own why and communicate with yourself why your doing whatever your doing. Then communicate this with everyone else you are working with. It makes it easier for others to work with you and follow along.

This is what I found useful from Start With Why and my main takeaways are:

  • Why – remember why your doing it.
  • Look for peoples whys.
  • Communicate your whys to other people.

Your mileage may vary.

Feel free to give me your comments and suggestions.

Until then, have a good day.

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