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Start With WTF

Simon Sinek’s Start with Why book is brilliant, and so is his Ted talk with 40 million+ views. But if you’re doing something other than marketing messages, something is missing.  

 The book and the Ted talk about how great leaders inspire people to take action. We agree, but it’s often not action that sustains itself. More on that in 30 seconds. 


Why it’s a goodBook. 

His insight, that the why comes before the what and the how makes for Breakthrough Thinking with only a small adjustment. You go directly to compelling marketing messages and evocative presentations that appeal directly to the part of the brain that makes the decisions. Great example of this: The former CEO’s all-time favorite Best Buy ad line: “Minnesota’s two seasons, winter and road construction.” 

What’s missing that would make it even better. 

But that misses a vital point when it comes to getting things done: People Are Different. And thinking is not doing. If you want people to follow you as a leader, give them a role that they love and do well.  

  • 60% of the people are nature thinkers, and only 40% natural doers. That’s their ability. (What they do well.)  
  • 50% are early adopters, and 50% later adopters. That’s their affinity. (What they love.) 

The early/late adopter distinction comes from the same Diffusion of Innovations law that Sinek explains in his talk and book. We simply moved it inside the company where it also works beautifully. 


How to fix what’s missing. 


  1. Still do thewhy before the what and the how 
  2. But, also do thewho and the when before the what and the how.  

You’ll learn how the leadership changes hands in every phase of the project, and how ideation and implementation must have different leaders or they will blow up in your face. These qualities will move you from Function Management to Role Management, which produces three to eight times more. 

So simple, you can do this on your own. 

Listen to the podcast here:    

“Start with WTF”   

Karla Nelson:And welcome to the People Catalysts podcast, Allen Fahden.  

Allen Fahden:And welcome to you, Karla Nelson.  

Karla Nelson:That’s a new one. I love that. That’s fantastic. Welcome to me. 

Allen Fahden:Welcome to you.  

Karla Nelson:All right. For today’s podcast, we’re going to be talking about, honestly, one of my favorite books. I think it’s one of yours too, isn’t it, Allen?  

Allen Fahden:Yeah, it is, and the best TED Talk ever.  

Karla Nelson:Honestly, I watched it so many times, I have emailed this so many times, and we even had the opportunity of interviewing David Mead, Simon Sinek’s co-founder, on this podcast, and the book is Start with Why, and I know they’ve come out with a new book and I wish I had the name of it. It was really recent but- 

Allen Fahden:Leaders Eat Last is one of them.  

Karla Nelson:Isn’t that awesome? Good night, that’s just awesome. And so but what we’re going to talk about on the podcast today is the book Start with Why. And, really, the essence, I think, of what Simon Sinek is looking at and then what potentially we could talk about in identifying to make the process have … throw gasoline and a match on it because that’s what we love to do. Start with Why was by Simon Sinek, and the whole concept of the book is how great leaders inspire everyone to action. And his TED Talk views, which I just looked up today on Start with Why, I couldn’t believe it, it’s the third highest view of TED Talks of all time. It had 44 million views on Start with Why, which was just incredible for a TED Talk, incredible. And one of the pieces I love about his TED Talk and his book is the law of diffusion of innovations. And by the way, he actually says innovation and it’s innovations. You guys look it up.  

Allen Fahden:Plural.  

Karla Nelson:It is plural.  

Allen Fahden:Right, Everett Rogers slaved over that last S. 

Karla Nelson:Yeah, exactly. And so but his talk and his book is based off of the same 110 years of research as the Who-Do Method is and, by the way, many more, lean manufacturing, lean startup. What’s a couple others, Allen? In developing technology, agile, all of these incredible, wow- 

Allen Fahden:Scrum. 

Karla Nelson:… yeah, yeah, scrum, all of that was based off this 110 years of research that has brought us to this point, and I think that the really successful piece that the book Start with Why has is making something simple, and he calls it The Golden Circle, and he actually says it’s the most simple thing that you can understand, which is start out with the why, then the what, and then the how. It’s a simple concept, and he tells these incredible stories, but I think it’s really, really drawn out in the Wright brothers story, which you’ve got, what, two brothers that run a bicycle shop- 

Allen Fahden:Orville and Wilbur Wright. 

Karla Nelson:Exactly, and everyone knows their names. My goodness, they’re on the license plates in North Carolina, right? 

Allen Fahden:Right. 

Karla Nelson:And then you’ve got Samuel Pierpont Langley, who was given- 

Allen Fahden:My hero. 

Karla Nelson:What’s that? 

Allen Fahden:My hero. 

Karla Nelson:Your hero, yeah, right. That guy would drive you crazy, I guarantee it. He was given $50,000 by the war department, which, by the way, is probably close to five million dollars today, and the Wright brothers were given zero dollars. But he hired the best minds at the time to figure out how they could take flight, and the New York Times followed that man everywhere. And then you’ve got the Wright brothers that had no money, and they used the proceeds from the bicycle shop to take out these parts, and I think they said, in his talk, it said they had to have five times the parts because they crashed that frequently, but they were so in desire of flight. They had no college education and the New York Times didn’t even know their names. And then on December 17th, 1903, they took flight and nobody even knew. 

And it was interesting, the response, when Samuel Pierpont Langley discovered that, oh, my gosh, somebody had beat him to the punch, and I think this is critical in regards to just the, yeah, the human condition of why. And I think that’s the successful part of this book, it’s, well, why did you do it? When you look at the Wright brothers and they found flight, well, as soon as he found out that they did, well, he quit. He didn’t say, “Hey, I’m going to make it better,” because, by the way, flight has become better since 1903. I can guarantee you that, that we’ve got aircraft that is much more capable, much more dependable, around the board, but he didn’t care because he’s in it for the rich and the famous part. He was in the pursuit of the outcome. 

Allen Fahden:I wonder if he rode the Greyhound bus for the rest of his life. Samuel Pierpont Langley’s here again at the bus station. 

Karla Nelson:Yeah, and I thought that was brilliant, not only in his talk, but identifying that in the book and- 

Allen Fahden:Beautifully told too. 

Karla Nelson:Yeah, beautifully … juxtaposing that and saying you’ve got two guys that nobody knows who they are in a bicycle shop- 

Allen Fahden:And the way he said it, and the New York Times followed them nowhere. 

Karla Nelson:Nowhere. And then the coolest part about it is he actually goes back to the law of diffusion of innovations, which, of course, you and I are completely biased on that because we love that and our method is based off of this, but, my goodness, how can you turn your head at 110 years of marketing research? I think The Golden Circle, the why, the what, and the how, is definitely cool, but as you know, that’s not a new concept, Allen. 

Allen Fahden:Yeah. My jaw dropped when I saw that TED Talk for the first time because it was, to me, the most brilliant repackaging of things that have been around for a long, long time. I had a long career in advertising and one of the first things we learned is start with the why, now that is in his Apple story which is in communication, marketing communication external to the company, but, for example, if you started with a how, and I had a client who sold stereos and it was a little stereo store in Minneapolis called Sound of Music. 

Karla Nelson:Oh, I love this story.  

Allen Fahden:And they were in and out of bankruptcy all the time and, actually, the founder was like one of the Wright brothers. He just kept on going and kept on going. His motto was, “You get knocked down, you get right back up again, and always get up one more time than they do and you win.” And in 1982, they changed their name to Best Buy, so they’ve done pretty well. But I was their ad agency guy- 

Karla Nelson:You think? 

Allen Fahden:… and so if we were going to sell a car stereo, if you just did the what and the how, you’d say, “Hey, we got good car stereos here. The sound is terrific. We install them fast. Come on in. Price is right, and you just come in, don’t even have to make an appointment.” That’s not very inspiring. As Simon Sinek would have said to that, “Meh.” Instead, another way of saying the why is take a look at the problem, see if you can intensify the problem, and that’s why we talk about that in marketing. Instead of saying, “We got good stereos. Come on in,” instead, the whole commercial started with this line, it said, “Minnesota has two seasons, winter and road construction,” and that phrase caught on so much that it’s now in 17 sta- 

Karla Nelson:Everyone knew all the traffic associated with both, so you’d better have a darn good stereo. 

Allen Fahden:Yeah, you’re going to get slowed down in the winter, so you’re going to be in your car way too long, and then, the minute the ice goes off the roads, then you’re going to have to repair the roads and all the orange barriers and the warning lights go up and now you’re going to be stuck in traffic and now it’s even noisy, you’d better have a good car stereo. It was that simple and it just busted their doors off and sold a ton of car stereos. 

Karla Nelson:Yeah, Best Buy’s doing pretty well these days. 

Allen Fahden:They’re doing pretty well. And I ran into the CEO of Best Buy at the Fortune Innovation Forum and he says, “Out of all the commercials we’ve done all these years, that’s the one we like the best.” It’s the why. 

Karla Nelson:Yeah, and he sits still as the chairman of Best Buy too. And that reminds me, Allen, of the vitamin versus the aspirin. I don’t even know who taught me this or said this, but in working with any company, marketing, raising capital, whatever, is that people will pay so much more for the aspirin because they have a headache, versus the vitamin that will keep them from having the headache. Intensifying the problem is what he does and does it well because, in identifying the why, you basically, and I think he even says it, people will work with their blood, their sweat, their tears. They don’t even care what their paycheck is. That is their aspirin to something that is causing some dissonance in them and I think that is a huge part of why the book and everything was really successful. 

Allen Fahden:Well, and even the vitamin people paid attention because now they’re selling vitamins like aspirin and saying, “Hey, here’s what happens when your adrenals don’t work,” and then they’ll, “Oh, you’re getting headaches, you can’t-“ 

Karla Nelson:Here’s the vitamin for your headache. Yes. 

Allen Fahden:“Yeah, we got a special mixture here.” 

Karla Nelson:That’s hilarious. That’s actually true. They’re using the same exact metaphor and then using it to apply it to actual vitamins. That’s great. I love it. The one thing that I thought that they missed, though, was the law of diffusion of innovations, and almost every single application of it has been towards the client, which is important. You have to make money. You have to market. However, I think they jump over the team. If we’re using the law of diffusion of innovations to find our next client, well, how does your team work into that scenario? And I think it’s different because your team is going to be … you’re going to have to focus on the why, but then the who and the when.  

With your client, it’s the why, the what, and the how. With your team, it’s the why, the who, and the when. But we just completely scrape them off the board and just say, “Well, we’ve got to make money.” And I think that is, in my opinion, the biggest, as Geoffrey Moore would say, the chasm. If you jumped over your team completely and just said, “We have to do this for our clients,” well, why didn’t you do it for your team? 

Allen Fahden:Absolutely. We’ve got to bite the bullet and get this thing done. Everybody’s going to sacrifice now. 

Karla Nelson:Yeah, no kidding. And it reminds me, is like, with the team and how we jump over them completely, is, I know … weren’t you working with or you were at a company that was in the food industry? 

Allen Fahden:No, I was working with their advertising agency at the time and I was selected to be in a brainstorming session, which lasted all morning. And here’s the why, “We want to completely revolutionize our category in the food industry. We want to be in a class by ourselves. We want to be so good that nobody can ever catch us,” and I’m getting all fired up here because, wow, what a big why. Let’s go. We came up with about 190 ideas during that morning, and some of these ideas were so good that I actually skipped out of work that afternoon, came back to the little center where we did the brainstorming thing, facility, just to see what ideas they were going to go with. And so I was so excited because you wouldn’t believe some of these ideas. This is a food product sold in the refrigerated section of a store, a grocery store.  

I walked into the place, and now these two clients were the only people in the room, and I look at all the ideas. They were on these huge, big flip chart papers on the wall, and I noticed on my way in that almost all the ideas had lines through them, they were crossed out, which means they were killed, and I’m going, “Oh, my god, what’s going on?” 

Karla Nelson:I shouldn’t have left that meeting. No, I’m just … 

Allen Fahden:Exactly. And so it’s like one of our principles, never ever kill an idea, you’re going to need it, if not now, 15 minutes from now when everything changes. I’m looking at these charts and I see my favorite ideas, ideas I came back for, are crossed out. Now I’m really getting upset. What is going on here? It’s a huge room and I walk to the other end of the room, and these guys are over in the corner with their little pens and they’re crossing out stuff and they’re writing they’re making notes and all that, and I said, “What happened? What happened to all these ideas? Why did you kill these ideas?” And they looked and they said, “Oh, we just got rid of everything that had something wrong with it.” And they said, “But don’t worry, we have centered. We have chosen a killer idea. We are going to revolutionize our market.” And I’m skeptical now. I’m thinking, “Geez, really, after you killed all these great ideas,” and I asked- 

Karla Nelson:What could you possibly come up with? 

Allen Fahden:Yeah, what is it? And they got these big grins on their faces and they point to this paper and they point to this idea and you know what it said? And then they actually verbalized it and here’s what they said, they said, “You know, on the package, how the front panel of the package has a rectangle on it and the type with the logo and the name is reversed out of it in white lettering, so it’s white lettering on a navy blue thing, we’re going to change the navy blue rectangle to teal, hot color right now. Isn’t that great? Isn’t that great?” 

Karla Nelson:It’s going to revolutionize the way food is done. And there you go, that’s the challenge. 

Allen Fahden:Oh, my god. Shoot me now. 

Karla Nelson:Seriously, everybody knew the why. Everybody agreed with the why. The who and the when was kiboshed in that situation. And, by the way, that’s the process that happens before you hand it off to the client. Why are we putting the client before we have this figured out with the team? And the start with why actually applies to both, but, remember, when you’re talking about your team, it’s the why, who, and when, and then your client is your why, what, and how. 

Allen Fahden:Yep. And so what happens is, when you do the why, what, and the how without paying attention to the who and the when, people’s core natures come to the front. It just so happens that these two people were from the company, they were in power, and both of their core natures was prover. And prover will look at an idea and see everything that can go wrong and, if they don’t know the process, they see no other choice but to kill the idea or to not do the idea because it’s got too much wrong with it or we’ve done that before or it’s not going to end well and it’s too expensive and nobody will get it and so on and so forth. That kills the ideas. Without the who and the when, you can never get a great why actually implemented because, you know what, wanting to revolutionize the food market is not the same as revolutionizing it. 

Karla Nelson:Yeah, good point. There’s a big difference. 

Allen Fahden:Five frogs sat on a log. One of them decided to jump off. How many frogs are left? 

Karla Nelson:Five. 

Allen Fahden:Five, yeah, and a lot of people are thinking four. What’s the matter? Can’t you do math? Why are there five frogs left? 

Karla Nelson:Yeah. Well, there is a big difference between being pulled to something and getting something done or doing something. 

Allen Fahden:Yes, deciding is not doing. 

Karla Nelson:Deciding is not doing. And a lot of people, even when they decide, they do, but they’re not taking this into consideration, and then they take the client into consideration more than they take the team into consideration. You have to get the team aspects correct to then extend that to the client, and we have to remember that the law of diffusion of innovations has been used for years and years and years and years and it is a law. They call it law for a reason. And people adopt ideas in a company the same exact way they adopt ideas outside of the company. You have to keep that core nature of work in that aspect of the why, who, and when, and then you apply the law of diffusion of innovations to the client and that’s going to be your why, what, and how, because they’re still adopting ideas, they’re just adopting it from a different perspective, but it’s still the same data that is having them adopt those ideas. They just want to receive it differently because the object of the exercise in a company is to get something done.  

It’s not to sing Kumbaya. It’s not to have a potluck on Friday. Employee engagement is a problem because, when you don’t put people in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, they don’t want to engage because they don’t want to do stuff they hate. We call it all these other words and all these other things. 

Allen Fahden:I call it employee enragement. 

Karla Nelson:You know what? We should do a podcast on that. 

Allen Fahden:Yes. I’m already planning it. 

Karla Nelson:All right. I got to write that one down. I like that, employee enragement, because it’s true. We ask people to do things that they hate all day long. How many job descriptions have we looked at and we’re just shaking our heads? 

Allen Fahden:Exactly. Another book we’ve reviewed is Jim Collins’ Good to Great and he uses the metaphor of a bus. It’s not the direction the bus is going in that comes first, it’s who’s on the bus and, not only who’s on the bus, that’s your team, but who’s in what seat on the bus, and that’s your team working in their core nature and handing off to the right person. That’s the who, which are who’s on the bus, and the when is when do they get the part of the work that they do best in the phases of the work. The who and the when is the seat, is the bus and the seat on the bus.  

Karla Nelson:And I think we have to bring up … and you have to put two parts of this. The ideation aspect of the process is what are we going to do, and it’s getting buy-in from team. It’s taking the time to have everybody put their thumbprint, besides the maker because they don’t actually care in the ideation stage. What are we going to do? Now that does not change the why, the who, and the when, because you have to have the why, the who, and the when to figure out and get everybody in agreement on what are we going to do. 

Allen Fahden:Right, a good idea will never see the light of day without the why and the who and the when. 

Karla Nelson:Yes, oh, man, no kidding, because we trample over each other and we don’t do it because we don’t want to change the world or put our dent on the universe. We do it because we have a core nature that we can’t deny. It’s like you can’t deny who you are, but you have to figure out how to not, as we say, not co-mingle the animals or keep everybody in their lane. Where are you great? Stay in that lane. But our natural tendency is to run into other people’s lanes and, as we always say, you’re crapping on everybody else on your team and not on purpose. It’s just that they’re different and they’re not seeing it the same way. If you’re a prover and you’ve got a shaker and you’re working with them, instead of shedding the light on what they’re fantastic at, your core nature is going to say, “You’re an idiot. You got your head in the clouds. Gosh, you’re the chief idea fairy, god. Squirrel!”  

We say everything negative in the books about people’s core natures at work and it’s funny because everybody knows them. But do you know the positive side of it? And that’s the same with implementation. When you get to implementation, I think the critical aspect here, Allen, and we talked about this, I can’t even remember in what conversation, was that, when you hand off the power to the prover, and so many people look to the mover in many aspects when they do or don’t know the Who-Do Method and handing off that power to the prover to be able to own it and then figuring out what … although, even if you do that, you have to figure out how do you keep that mover as the buffer between the two, and it’s that dance that you go back and forth. 

Allen Fahden:That’s right, because even if you’re in implementation, when the prover is running things, chances are you’ll get stuck somewhere and that’s the time you’re back in the dance and you kick it right back up to the ideation stage. You put the mover in the leadership of the ideation team to come up with ideas to overcome the barrier to solve the obstacle. Whenever you’re stuck and you’re doing the implementation phase, that means you got to get a who-do go-to, you got to get a who-do go-to, you got to get a who-do go-to. Who’s the who-do go-to? Anytime you’re stuck, the who-do go-to is the mover. It’s their core nature to want to move things ahead and to do so by setting priorities and always having a gut feel for what the best idea of several is. 

Karla Nelson:That’s so funny because everyone on any team I work with, I look at what do we need to do and my very second thing is let’s prioritize. After we figure it out and we work through it, how do we prioritize because we don’t want to be working on number four when there’s a number one. And so that is absolutely critical. And I think that’s exactly why, and I’ve said this over and over again, there’s only 15% of the population that says yes to an idea, and that’s your mover. However, unless you understand that aspect of it, and I think you said it right, Allen, the gut feel of it, I think we have it so much easier than the other three core natures of work because we’re just naturally wired to … even if it’s, okay, not as good as it could be, we don’t have a dog in the fight. We really don’t care what idea happens. We want to know what’s going to go wrong with it, which the shaker’s not going to understand, and we want it to be repeated.  

Allen Fahden:Well, and that’s the beauty and that’s why, once people know this, shakers trust movers because they know they’re going to pick an idea and get it done and that’s really important to shakers. Provers trust movers because provers know that movers will listen to their objections and honor them and then help them get solved so that the best idea can move ahead and, if you can’t solve the objection, the mover will chose another idea, and that’s good enough. That’s one of those things, “I’m not in love with that, but I can live with it,” says the prover. And then the maker, of course, because of our process, doesn’t have to be involved in the ideation session because they don’t even want to be in the meeting. 

Karla Nelson:Because it hurts them and then, in implementation, don’t even expect them to speak up. They just need to know the process. But I think another part of that, Allen, in implementation is the prover protects the maker, and I think that’s critical because we abuse our makers and we don’t even realize we’re abusing them. 

Allen Fahden:Because both the prover and the maker are late adopters. The prover’s a thinker late adopter. The maker is a doer late adopter. They have so much in common and it’s the prover’s job, just as you say, is to protect that maker from all these crazy ideas being brought in here that disrupt everything. I just got everything in order. Come on now! What are you doing to me? 

Karla Nelson:Exactly. They bring it into this nice little, comfortable, just do these steps. 

Allen Fahden:This is going to rock your world. 

Karla Nelson:Early in my career, because I probably stompled on more makers than … well, because, of course, I’m a mover, so the only red-light relationship, as a mover, you have is a maker- 

Allen Fahden:Maker. 

Karla Nelson:… and the reason why is because you have to stop, explain things, and tell them exactly what needs to happen. Well, actually, for a shaker, that’s pretty rough too. It’s probably even more rough than a mover. But Start with Why with Simon Sinek’s fantastic, amazing book, we just wanted to talk about a little bit that if you start why, well, you have to start with why, but what do you do after you start with why?  

Thanks again for being on the podcast, my friend. 

Allen Fahden:Yeah. Thank you. This was a fun one. 

Karla Nelson:I love it because I love Simon Sinek and I love this book. 

Allen Fahden:Me too. 

Karla Nelson:I love his co-founder that we had on the podcast that was … I literally thought I was talking to Simon Sinek too because they just believe what they believe. They are so into their why, it’s incredible. They’re definitely making their dent on the universe and we’re just adding a little bit to that dent. 

Allen Fahden:Yeah. And, of course, I hope he likes the parody that we did of his book title, which was, instead of Start with Why in big red letters, It Starts with WTF in big red letters, and that’s what takes place at most companies we know about. 

Karla Nelson:Exactly. Exactly. 

Allen Fahden:I hired a consultant to come up with that parody title. He’s quite a notable character. His name’s Samuel Pierpont Langley. 

Karla Nelson:I think his name was- 

Allen Fahden:He quit on me. 

Karla Nelson:… Allen Fahden. 

Allen Fahden:Langley quit on me. I don’t know what happened. 

Karla Nelson:That’s awesome. All right, my friend. Until next time, thank you. 

Allen Fahden:Thank you. 

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