People Buy “Why”, Not “What”

Simon Sinek is the author of “Start With Why”, a book that explains the theory behind finding your passion and how that passion helps us become effective leaders that can inspire change.

Sinek delivered a compelling TED Talk, using the success of the Wright Brothers as an example of the power of passion. You see, we often believe that success comes from perfect market conditions, a gifted team and plenty of capital. Sometimes we can get caught in the “they were at the right place at the right time” mindset to explain others’ success.

But, Sinek explains, there is grounded research to prove otherwise. Take, for example, the Wright Brothers. They didn’t have any money. They didn’t have a specialized team. And they certainly weren’t in the right place at the right time–not only did they not have the means to make that happen, but they were also too busy concentrating on their passion, which was the pursuit of powered man flight.

They weren’t chasing success for the sake of success, which was, according to Sinek, the case for Samuel Pierpont Langley. Langley was on a quest to succeed at powered man flight–he wanted to be first, famous and rich. He had plenty of capital and a large, influential and educated team. He was always in the right place at the right time because The New York Times followed him wherever he went, hoping to capture a historic moment.

And yet, if we were to be asked who Samuel Pierpont Langley was, most of us would be pressed for an answer.

Who were the Wright brothers? We got that one.

Sinek says the difference between Langley and the Wright Brothers was that the Wright brothers, “were driven by a cause, a purpose, a belief.” They believed a flying machine would change the course of the world.

Sinek explains that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. People buy from, and align with, those who share their beliefs.

It’s the difference between innovators, early adopters, the early majority and the late majority–innovators are people like the Wright brothers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Apple. Early adopters are the people who see the vision and passion of those innovators. And those early adopters are the ones who build enough excitement to cause the early majority to buy in.

Innovators and early adopters are more comfortable taking risks and trying something new because they are motivated by passion and “are driven by what they believe about the world and not just by what product is available.”

We follow these leaders because of why they do what they do–because of what they believe, and because we want to stand up for (and prove that) we believe the same thing about the world.

When you look at your personal brand, what do you offer, and why do you offer it? Why do you do what you do? What is your true passion? What do you believe?

As you develop your personal brand, discovering the answers to these questions should be at the top of your list. Understanding what you believe in and why–and knowing it’s more important than choosing a blogging platform or social network– is what will make you an effective leader who inspires change…a personal brand people want to follow.