Simon Sinek Biography—How Failure Inspired His Greatest Idea

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Start With Why" by Simon Sinek. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Who is Simon Sinek? How did he formulate his “start with why” philosophy? What is Simon Sinek’s biography?

Simon Sinek is an entrepreneur and the author of bestselling book Start with Why. After losing his passion during his first business venture, he realized the importance of understanding your purpose, in business and in life, and “starting with why.”

We’ll cover Simon Sinek’s biography and look at how he developed the secret to success that he’s shared with millions of readers and audience members. Learn how Simon Sinek realized he needed to start with why.

Simon Sinek Biography: Journey to Why

Simon Sinek shares his own experience and how he got to WHY in his personal life and his career in the Simon Sinek biography portion of Start with Why

He explains that in 2005, he found himself struggling. He’d founded his business in 2002, even though he knew that 90 percent of new businesses fail in the first three years. But he wasn’t deterred. 

Over the next three years, his company stayed afloat and even succeeded. Sinek thought they beat the odds. This is a key moment in Simon Sinek’s biography.

But the fourth year was a different story. The novelty of running a business had worn off. He’d lost his passion and his WHY, which left him demoralized and depressed. Imposter syndrome set in, and Sinek became convinced he was a failure. 

It took meeting Victoria Duffy Hopper, who explained the limbic brain and neocortex to him, to change his perspective. Suddenly, Sinek realized why people do what they do—which is the secret behind effective marketing. In that moment, he rediscovered his WHY.

From this point in Simon Sinek’s biography, he made sure that his WHY motivated all of his business decisions. Sinek went from worrying that he was failing to speaking about The Golden Circle and WHY all over the world. But more importantly, he explains that the only thing he changed was his mentality. By starting with WHY, he not only recaptured his own passion, he found himself is a position to inspire others, too. WHY has been Sinek’s path to success, and now he’s sharing it with you. 

The English Longbow

In the Simon Sinek’s biography portion of Start with Why, Sinek gives an example that shows how starting with WHY a) has always worked and b) is effective outside of business, too. 

In 1415, King Henry V of England was marching into the Battle of Agincourt, one of the deciding battles of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France. Henry had already lost 40 percent of his troops, and he was about to square off against a much bigger, much healthier French army. 

And yet, the English won because they had one piece of technology the French didn’t: the longbow. Archers could stand out of range of French artillery and still deliver devastating volleys of arrows onto the battlefield. The longbow created a tipping point, as did meeting Hopper in Simon Sinek’s biography. 

But the arrows and bows themselves weren’t the tipping point: it was the arrow’s momentum. 

And yet again, the momentum doesn’t come originally from the arrow flying forward–the momentum develops when the arrow is pulled backward and cocked into place.

As Simon Sinek’s biography shows, the same thing applies to a company or organization, too. While it’s tempting to look forward and planning out how to get there, the power of WHY comes from looking inside your organization and figuring out your beliefs first.

And that starts with you. 

Simon Sinek Biography—How Failure Inspired His Greatest Idea

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Here's what you'll find in our full Start With Why summary :

  • What Steve Jobs did right compared to every other business leader
  • How to define your organization's WHY
  • How to help your organization avoid losing its edge as it succeeds

Amanda Penn

Amanda Penn is a writer and reading specialist. She’s published dozens of articles and book reviews spanning a wide range of topics, including health, relationships, psychology, science, and much more. Amanda was a Fulbright Scholar and has taught in schools in the US and South Africa. Amanda received her Master's Degree in Education from the University of Pennsylvania.

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