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Episode 034 – David Mead from the Simon Sinek Start With Why Team

Posted on Jan 5, 2017 by in Podcast Episode | 0 comments


David shows us how to discover our Why, and gives examples of companies and people leading with their Why before their How or What.


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David Mead has spent time as a corporate trainer, and then a few years ago partnered with Simon Sinek and the Start With Why team.

David now utilizes his tools and expertise to spread the Why message at scale across North America and beyond, and we are thrilled to have him join us.


  1. Before we get to your work with Simon Sinek and Start With Why, tell us how you got your start in the field.
    1. Graduated from college with a communications degree, where you can do both everything and nothing
    2. He then went into corporate training (after watching his dad’s similar career)
  2. When you would go speak to companies and organizations, what were they most wanting to get out of their sessions? What were they are struggling with the most?
    1. Was in sales training and so the goal was simply to increase sales
    2. But there was a missing piece for him, which was the purpose behind the sales
    3. He liked his job, but that missing piece prevented him from loving it.
  3. I read where you are a “serial optimist.” Is that true? How would you define that? How can we gain optimism in our lives if that’s something we lack?
    1. Serial optimist is when you make the choice to be grateful for what you have and look to the future rather than the bad from the past
    2. Didn’t always have this approach, but more recently hast lived this way
    3. Practical: For 30 (50?) days, every day, write down every single thing you are grateful for, and you can’t repeat yourself. We take a ton for granted, and it helps to stop and recognize those things.
    4. (Daniel) Gratefulness has been a recurring theme on the show; recent research backs this up
  4. Let’s talk about Simon Sinek and your work with Start With Why.
    1. Who is Simon and what is his message?
      1. Simon has the third most viewed Ted Talk; he owned an ad agency and realized he wasn’t fulfilled with his work. He understood what he did and how he did it, but he didn’t know why he was doing it. Just making more money wasn’t fulfilling. He then thought of the Golden Circle composed of three rings: what how and why.
      2. Simon’s “Why” is to inspire people to do the things that inspire them
    2. He started telling others about it, and a friend suggested he present the idea to his company, and it grew exponentially since.
    3. How do we know what our WHY is? How do we discover it?
      1. There’s a “Why” at the organizational level, and then an individual “Why”
      2. Very hard to be objective with ourselves; we might think we know who were are, but we need others to help us
      3. There is an online Why Discovery course, as well as a “friends exercise” to help you
      4. Simple definition: the meaningful contribution that we make to the lives of people, and the impact that contribution has.
      5. This is how you show up at home, work, with friends, everywhere.
      6. Balance is between two opposing forces, and work/life should not be opposing forces. They are both part of who we are. If we are different at work than at home, we’re lying because we aren’t being true to who we are.
        1. This isn’t necessarily the individual’s fault; it’s sometimes the nature of the environment differences between work/home
      7. Is there an organizational WHY and an individual WHY? If so how do they interact with one another when presumably individuals within an organization have various WHYs?
        1. Within an organization there are really three Why’s: The organization Why, Department/Division Whys (needs to be under the umbrella of the organization why), Individual Why
        2. When someone doesn’t seem to be working out or that they aren’t a great fit, it might be they are a good fit with the organization, but not within the division/unit they are in, so the answer is not to let that person go but rather to move them to another area.
      8. Can we test to make sure we know what our Why is?
        1. Our Why comes from our past, so it’s not aspirational it is who we already are
        2. Whatever you come up with, the next time you have an incredible experience, think about that against what you came up with and see if they match
      9. What is it that ties all your stories together? There are patterns that it’s easier for outsiders to pick up on
      10. How does our WHY interact with our HOW and our WHAT? (outside/in v. inside/out)
        1. The How is the action component for bringing the Why to life; how are you different/special; what are the core values/principles you live by
        2. Everyone knows What they do, some know the How, but few understand Why
        3. Language does not live in the limbic brain, so most organizations communicate from the outside in: they talk about What they do, give a little bit about How, but nothing about the Why
        4. This doesn’t provide for opportunities to build trust
      11. Can you give us a couple of examples of people or companies that have implemented this model and are clear and successful with their WHY/HOW/WHAT?
        1. Start with the reason they exist/what they stand for/cause/purpose, then they talk about How they are bringing that to light and What their products are that are simply the vehicle or the way they are living for the Why
        2. Disney, Lego, the Virgin Companies, Apple, Trader Joes, CostCo
        3. Even though they sell similar products/services to other competitors, they stand out and we are more loyal to them; we are drawn to them; it’s not because of what they sell, it is because of what they believe
        4. Think about T.V. commercials: cars/cell phones are good examples. The ad starts with the product and tells you the features, costs, etc., but nothing much more.
        5. Tesla, on the other hand, sells electric cars (like many others do); if it were like the rest, they would start with their car, say how it reduces pollution and makes innovate technology available to the market.”
        6. But instead, they say “everything we do, we believe in creating a happy sustainable future for humanity. The way we do that is reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and making the most advanced technology available to the market. We happen to make electric cars.
        7. Tesla has 400k deposits/preorders for a model that hasn’t been finished yet
        8. Elon Musk gave a presentation where he spend the first 17 minutes on the Why, more on the How, then in the final three minutes said: want to see the car?!
        9. (Daniel – the Why is static while the What can change or be multiplied)
        10. Tesla v. SpaceX v. Solar City – all different Whats brought together by the same cause/purpose. When you are clear on why you do what you do, you can do whatever you want.
        11. Richard Branson/Virgin too. – His planes feel the same as the record stores; fun, etc.
      12. Can this work for a toothpaste company as opposed to more exciting products?
        1. You don’t need a sexy product to have a Why
        2. The Why doesn’t Have to be tied to the product/service; that’s not necessarily the case
        3. Barry Waymiller in St. Louis builds production machines for food products; their Why has nothing to do with the difference their product makes in the world. It measures its success by the way it touches people.
        4. So if you’re having trouble connecting your What, that’s okay!
    4. As leaders within our organizations, what is your advice on how we should implement Start with Why and use it with our teams?
      1. The place to start is to shift the perspective of leadership away from a title/role, and leadership is about creating a space where people belong, are safe and are real human beings. Treat people well and start to talk about Why the organization exists.
      2. That will help getting people act in a different way. Tell stories about when the organization was at its best. Those moments will come down to when the have directly impacted people.
    5. Where can people go to connect with you and learn more about what you have going on?
      2. Simon Sinek
      3. New book: Together is Better

Thank Yous/Acknowledgements:

  1. Antioch Live/Clear Day Media Groupmusic
    1. More here.
  2. Jonathan Davis – production
  3. Clint Musslewhite voice over

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