Finding Your Why from Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why”

02/16/2013 | Roger and Susie Engelau

We’ve been discussing “finding your WHY from Simon Sinek’s book “Start with Why.” If you know WHY you’re in business, you’ll inspire and attract others who share your WHY. You’ll have great customers and devoted employees, all inspired to take action because you’ve hooked them with your WHY.

We know what happens when you don’t know your WHY or when you don’t use it, according to Sinek:

  • Loss of passion
  • Increased stress
  • Obsession about what your competition is doing,
  • Trouble differentiating
  • Being forced to play the price game

So HOW do you find your WHY?

What’s YOUR purpose? Your cause? Your belief? Understanding the “in flow*” concept helps you figure out your WHY. Being “in flow” is the mental state in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Being in flow is characterized by complete absorption in what you’re doing. Check out this TED talk on this fascinating concept.

Michelangelo may have painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel while in a flow state. They say he painted for days at a time so absorbed that he didn’t stop for food or sleep until he reached the point of passing out. Then, he’d wake up refreshed, start to paint, and re-enter a state of complete absorption.

Passive activities like taking a bath or watching TV don’t count. We’re talking about activities with a clear set of goals and that have some direction and structure.

Your WHY isn’t something you create. You discover it. Sinek says its fully formed by the time you’re 18- 20. The longer you live, the more data points you have to find patterns. By the way, you can help teens find their why. Talk to them and find out what drives them, when they’ve been happy. Pay attention to the times when they’re happy and driven and encourage them in that behavior. Don’t tell them to get a job. Help push them in the direction that naturally drives them. Too many of us wake up at 40 or 50 and find we don’t have a job that fulfills us.

Discover your WHY by asking yourself questions like “What am I passionate about?” and “What are the times when I most happy…what am I doing?” Click here for my Finding Your WHY Worksheet, a list of questions that can help guide you to discover your WHY.

Send me your WHY statement draft at Let me know if its OK to share, anonymously, of course, with others in a future blogpost. Next week we’ll talk about what to do with your WHY.[p]

Consider also, Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept where he describes how Walgreens fine tuned its focus and outperformed the stock market by more than 15 times from 1975 to 2000. The “Hedgehog” concept, doing one thing and doing it well comes from the example of the clever fox who keeps coming up with new ways to catch the hedgehog. The simple hedgehog defeats him by doing one thing really well—rolling into a prickly ball.

The concept results from the juncture of three answers: What are you passionate about? What can you be the best at? What can actually make you a living?

(The Hedgehog Concept can also be used by young people trying to find their WHY).