Simon Sinek on Why the Past is Relevant to Why We Do What We Do

In Chapter 15 of 16 in his 2009 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author Simon Sinek elaborates on the purpose discovery process on why we do what we do is built around past success patterns, themes, and motivations. Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer who applies his curiosity around why people do what they do to teach leaders and companies how to inspire people. He is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". Sinek holds a BA degree in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen: Simon, in your book, "Start With Why" you write:  "The WHY does not come from looking ahead at what you want to achieve and figuring out an appropriate strategy to get there.  It does not come from extensive interviews with customers or even employees.  It comes from looking in the completely opposite direction from where you want to go.  Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.  And it usually starts with a single person." Can you elaborate on that?

Simon Sinek: Why you do what you do comes from you.  We are products of our own upbringing.  We are products of our own cultures.  How your parents raised you, where you lived, your childhood experiences formed who you are.  A miserly CEO who grew up in the Great Depression grows up to be miserly. That's not because he read a management book the importance of being miserly, it is because he grew up in the Great Depression.  To understand why we do what we do, we have to go back into our own past and see what our own patterns of success have been and when certain circumstances exist, when we are motivated by certain things we excel, naturally, and when they are not there, we struggle, naturally.  Projecting forward are aspirations.  To have it truly be lasting it has to be from within you.