Book Notes: The Power of Why

start with why

I simply cannot say enough how much I love this book. I read it three times and listened to its audio version at least twice. Lots of inspiring and exciting stories. Most importantly,  it reminds me to keep the root causes of my actions in mind – not just what to do or how to do something, but also why I do what I do.

Inspired by this book, I delivered a speech named “The Power of Why” in my local ToastMasters club. I want to thank my wonderful friend Ryan and mentor Niz, without their help, I cannot make such a beautiful and powerful speech.


The Power of Why

We all know Apple’s iPhones, iPods, iMacs and iPads are elegant and easy-to-use. And we also know Apple is just a computer company. Dell, is another famous computer company. What do you buy from Dell? Laptops. Have you ever bought MP3 players from Dell? Do you even know it manufactures good-quality MP3 players? No, why? It sounds so weird to buy an MP3 from a computer company, right? But we do every day with Apple.

Why can Apple, this computer company, get us so hooked? Why is this world so crazy about Apple?

Simon Sinek, the author of a great book “Start with Why”, once said, “Every single organization on the planet knows what they do, a hundred percent. Some know how they do it, and very very few people or organizations know why they do what they do.”

By “why” I mean what’s you purpose, what’s your belief. A belief is what’s deep inside your heart, what you want to accomplish. It is not about making money.

What is Apple’s belief?

“Think Different.” Some of you may have heard of this Apple early motto – Think. Different. Apple wanted to know how to re-invent the telephone and how to change the way that people interact with high technologies.

Apple’s employees believe they are at their best when they deliver enriching experiences, they believe they are changing the world. That’s why Apple’s retail store employees can always put a smile on your face. They’re not trying to sell you anything, it’s you who really want to buy their stuff. Yes, Apple has elegant products, but Apple’s experience is not just about the product design. Apple has beliefs.

But this is not unique to Apple’s success. It’s also very important in our lives. Knowing why we’re doing what we’re doing provides us the real motivation to succeed.

Just think about this: What makes you get out of bed every day? Do your work hard for your families, to challenge yourselves, or to realize your personal values? Dig out your beliefs from deep inside and follow them, because if your mission goes fuzzy, you may lose your track easily and sometimes you might not even want to continue.

I have a little personal story about this: When I was very little, my mom really wanted my sister and I to learn playing electronic piano. Perhaps my mom hoped that I would have an extra skill, or become a more graceful person, or maybe that she could enjoy our music playing. But as a kid, I totally couldn’t understand any of these, all I knew was that my mom forced me to practice when other kids were playing. I was so resistant to the practice and I did not want to do any stupid key pressing. My mom would actually hold my hands on the keyboard, and I would put them back to my knees. We were like this back and forth for a year, and finally my mom gave up. The electronic piano sat quietly in the corner of my room for quite a few years before I became interested in it again.

Same thing happens in companies. When an employee asks why the company does things in a certain way, and the boss can explain the logical reason, then the employee knows what she’s doing is valid. But if the boss cannot give an answer other than “we’ve always done it this way, just do it!”, the employee must reconsider her motivation. If the boss doesn’t know why we’re doing what we’re doing, then he needs to thank the employee who gave him the wake-up call.

As we can see with Apple and other successful individuals and organizations, clear mission in mind can lead to great achievements. If we have a clear understanding about what we want to achieve, then we will have the passion to make things better; but if we do not and feel lost, then it’s time to pause and re-think.

Now everyone – why do you do what you do?


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