Start With Why


I’ve finished reading this book just yesterday, and have been recommending this book recently to a few of my friends. If anyone has a mind or two to start their own business, they should read this book. Or if you’ve wondered or are wondering why they are stuck in a terrible company where management doesn’t ever seems to know what they’re doing, this book offers a great explanation that.

I couldn’t quite remember what was my motivation for starting this book though, it could be because it’s one of the top-selling books in Book Depository, or I stumbled upon it on goodreads. Although by this time, my motivation is clearly mentioned in the above paragraph with the explicit and specific situation where one is driven to read this book.

Starting with the book’s core concept, the golden circle:


In the case of starting a company, it is very important to start from the inside out, as according to the golden circle:

  1. Why – why do you do what you do
  2. How – how are you going to do it
  3. What – what are you going to do

When people start their own businesses, they should identify their WHYs as to why are they going to do what they do, their cause and the main objective. An example that was regularly brought up in the book is Apple Inc. Apple don’t identify themselves as a software or a computer company – to identify themselves as a computer / software company is concentrating on just WHAT they are doing.

Before the time of smartphones era, telecom companies are the ones that tells phone companies like Sony, Nokia etc etc on what the phones can or cannot do. Apple wanted to challenge that kind of thinking, they refused to follow the flow and did what they wanted to do, and defeats everything the telecoms expected other phone companies to do.

Apple’s core value is to “challenge the status quo”, so whatever they’re doing, it make sense to their employees and to consumers alike. They are able to take their businesses to making computers, mp3 players, tablets alike and people will buy them, because buyers in what they believe – challenging the status quo.

Steve Jobs knows his WHY, and continued to produce great results and brought Apple Inc to what it is today. But what a lot of people don’t see is, while sure, Steve Jobs is the one with all the ideals – the WHY, but he don’t necessarily need to be the one who knows the HOW as to how is he going to bring about doing the things he wanted to do.

If anybody watched Modern Family loyally, there was an episode where the family were split into 2 groups of people – the idealists and the pragmatists. One of the idealists came from a rural farm and told wonderful stories of how when he was a kid, together with his siblings / friends, managed to launch a pumpkin across a big field and it landed on a car roof about 80-100 meters away. The other group of family members, skeptics, as the idealists called them, highly doubted the authenticity of this story and proposed for a replay of the launching. The first round of pumpkin-launching failed, it dropped shortly after being launched, the idealists were disappointed with the results, and the pragmatists eventually helped with the pumpkin-launching by giving suggestions and cheering the other team on. Ultimately, they succeeded.

As the book put it, most of the people in this world excelled in the HOWs of the golden circle, most of us know how to do our jobs, and many of us are in fact great at doing what we do. Same as with the Modern Family episode, most of us fall into the know-
HOWs group of people, only a small percentage of people know their WHYs. People like Steve Jobs and a lot of number of great leaders in the world are able to inspire people to believe in what they believe and as a whole, able to work together towards a common goal.

Once the WHY is established, and you’re able to inspire people and let people see the vision that you’re trying to work towards to, all the people with the HOWs would help you to reach your WHY together. The thing about a lot of companies that exist nowadays focus on their WHATs instead of their WHYs. In the case of technology for example, Microsoft launched an Mp3 player – the Zune, Microsoft was so good at doing what they do – computers, that when they launched an Mp3 player, everybody was confused as to why did they release Mp3 players? Microsoft established themselves as a computer / software company, to release anything other than computers or software goes against what the masses perceive of them, and Zune flopped in the end. Any other hardware companies that released Mp3 players faced the same problem, companies like Sony, Asus tried to release Mp3 players to get a piece of the pie, but because they were so good with their WHATs – which is computers, they’re so good at making computers and selling them that when people think of them, they thought of computers or other peripherals, that selling anything else that doesn’t fit those categories would seem confusing.

In terms of this though, Apple Inc’s WHY made sense to the users. On top of producing their iPod, which the idea is for users to be able to “carry 5000 songs in your pocket”, they created iTunes, which changed the entire music’s industry’s business model – thus fulfilling their WHY again which is to “challenge the status quo”. Everything that Apple did aligned with their WHY and in turn, are able to find people who share the same values, became and remain Apple’s loyal fans.

Most of the time, we are unable to word out the exact feelings we are feeling. So when we say gut feelings, there is actually more basis than just saying that it’s a gut feeling. We are very likely to already have the ideas of why we think what we think, but we are unable to communicate that out verbally. Ask a Apple fan on why do they like to buy and use Apple products and they will likely give answers like,

“the quality is good”
“their designs is simplistic”
“I just like them”

We are unable to word out the exact thoughts / preference for something we like and so under probing, we rationalize these feelings and talk around it by giving explanations like above. In actual fact, however, is there is a part of them that actually felt that what Apple did resonated with them.

On Apple’s and Microsoft’s advertisements, Apple’s always depict a young person in just T-shirt and jeans carrying Mac and working in cafes, airports etc, always relaxed, Microsoft on the other hand, usually depicts businessmen in suits carrying Windows laptop going for meetings and gatherings, which gives a more stoic, stodgy feel. To use Mac, you have to be like Mac.

Many people who know HOW to do things went on to start their own businesses and yes, most of them managed to run a business and are able to sustain them. The HOWs people are able to do things on their own without the aid of the WHYs people, but strangely enough, the WHYs people are unable to do without the HOWs. Put a WHY and a HOW person together however will usually result in extraordinary results.

The crux of this whole book is that, all of us long for a sense of belonging, being drawn to the same value make us feel like we belong, and that we are not alone. We feel a strong bond to those who are also drawn to the same values, Apple users feel a bond with each other. People who like Harley Davidson feel a bond with other Harley Davidson fans. We are drawn to leaders and organizations alike that are good at communicating what they believe. Those whom we consider great leaders all have an ability to draw us close and command our loyalty.

Reading this book gave me an insight to the problems I’ve found in the local IT companies nowadays, I can’t say the same about the other industries, but as I jump from company to company, I noticed there was something fundamentally wrong, and this book worded out the exact problem. Most IT companies have no idea what they are trying to do, a lot of the bosses I’ve seen so far usually started the IT companies because they know IT is the next big thing, and they wanted to have a share of the market.

There are usually no general direction in anything they want to do, what they want to do is to rake in money. They pick up whatever projects that come their way, and bid project for low money, companies outsourcing also tend to go for the companies that offered to provide solutions for the lowest cost available. This in turn, due to the low money collected for the project, the executives in the IT company rushed and panicked and ordered everybody else in the company to put in extra hours to maximize employee’s paycheck and finish the project in the shortest time available with no proper design nor planning, resulting in shit being produced. Clients, on the other hand, ending up with the shit, will revamp again within the next few months and spend money for another company which offer low cost. As how things are going right now, it doesn’t seem like problems will change for the better, and due to an increasing number of companies that likes to adopt the low-cost policy, any new company that joins the market will sooner or later adopt this kind of of working method and thus perpetuating this sick cycle of problems.

Rather than saying it’s just the IT companies’s fault though, I’d say there’s fault on both client’s side and the IT companies’ side. Clients are always looking for the cheapest solution available, because executives on the middle management are bound by figures and statistics, they tend to go for the cheapest so as to justify to their superiors on their decisions. This results in IT companies bidding for lower and lower price and causes problems as above. However, at the same time, IT companies are the ones who should have advised the clients on why costs are high for making software / websites. Based on requirements and complexities of the said products, development time from planning to completion requires a lot of people involved and working hours. But of course, with people nowadays going to the extremes to try and get promoted without even having the years of experience and expertise, I don’t see the management ever tried or know how to explain these concerns to the clients.

Anyways, going into the details of the IT industry over here will take a large amount of time and effort to pen it down here. For now, I’ll stop here, but strong strong strong recommendation of reading this book. There’s just too much details that I’m unable to write as it would just be copying texts into my blog, so just go check it out yo!


If the leader of the organization can’t clearly articulate
WHY the organization exists in terms beyond its products
or services, then how does he expect the employees to know WHY
to come to work?


Birthday Wish List 2018

There’s like no other reason for the existence of my blog nowadays except to update on my birthday wishlist every year LOL.

Regardless though, it’s a convenient way of sharing birthday list, okay, let’s get down to it

  1. Rocket Everlast book
    Haiz, I only know about this book after the post was long out. In any case, I’m updating this for my own sake.
  2. JBL Reflect Mini Bt

    Red, if not blue.
  3. Staedtler Color Pen Set, Set of 36 Assorted Colors (Triplus Fineliner Pens) (Lynnette)
  4. One Zentangle A Day : A 6-Week Course in Creative Drawing for Relaxation, Inspiration, and Fun (Oi Shan)
  5. Joy of Zentangle (Oi Shan)

Lesser choices this year hahaha.