How "Start With Why" Got Really Personal For Me

I intended to write a normal book review for Start With Why by Simon Sinek, but then something happened that made me realize what I got out of the book was more important than the book review I had originally planned to write. I've included details about the book down at the bottom of this post for those that are interested in picking it up (I highly recommend it!)



For those that don't know, I have another blog that I've been running for the past six years (where does the time go?!) called Isle of Books. It's a book review blog I started years ago because I love reading and people kept asking me what I had read recently that I'd enjoyed and I kept drawing a blank and recommending the same books over and over. So I decided to start a blog where I wrote reviews for everything I read that I could send people to. Over the years, the blog morphed and it now has other types of articles up about my writing journey to publish a book, reposts of other writer's poetry, my reading spaces series, and other fun things. And I now have more than just friends and family reading my blog - over the lifetime of Isle of Books, I've had visitors from over 130 countries! I don't say that to brag - it is just so mind blowing that people in places as far away as Nepal and Uganda have stumbled across my writing.  

I don't usually have guest bloggers or do very much sponsored content. Mostly because I don't get asked all that often. I do review free books for one book PR company I like and I have had some occasional guest blogs over the years. But I'm open to doing more if it makes sense. Which is where this story begins.

I got approached by someone with a cool piece of content and I suggested the idea of doing a guest blog on Isle of Books. It would work out well for me since I've been traveling and haven't had time to do as much content as I normally do. I was looking forward to running it.

We got almost all the way through the guest blog process when I realized I couldn't run that guest blog.

Here's why: It was totally my mistake for not thoroughly researching the company (in my defense, I've been stupid busy like I just told you) and I didn't realize until way late in the game that our values weren't in alignment. To quote Simon Sinek, it didn't pass my personal celery test.

I felt bad about having to go back to them and say no. I don't think I have to tell you I like making people happy. That's probably obvious from my even saying I felt bad about having to turn someone down that I've never even met/will probably never meet. But I knew it was what I had to do.

Start With Why is a book about really getting clear on your why. What makes your company, your brand, unique. What you stand for. What you believe. To quote Simon, "You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do."

But it isn't just WHY that makes you great. HOW and WHAT play a role as well.

"A WHY is just a belief...HOWs are the actions you take to realize that belief. And WHATs are the results of those actions."

So that's why as I drafted and redrafted the email I didn't want to send because I don't like letting people down, I felt like Simon was cheering me on.  And I realized that even though I didn't want to send this email, I knew I had to because the decision to publish that blog didn't pass my personal Celery Test. Simon does a great job of explaining this metaphor so make sure you grab a copy of the book. But this short quote also sums it up pretty well:

"It is not just WHAT or HOW you do things that matters; what matters more is that WHAT and HOW you do things is consistent with your WHY."

Isle of Books might have started as a hobbyist blog, but it long ago became a personal brand. I used to have a separate website for my writing, kind of intended as an author website for whenever I actually had a book to stick there, not just published articles. But I realized this spring that Isle of Books was really where my brand was. People knew me over there and expected to read about my writing or publications just as much as they did my book reviews. I didn't need to have this other website. I already had my author platform. 

I don't want to say what company it was that I was talking to about doing a guest blog. They are perfectly nice. But our values aren't in alignment and at the end of the day, I had to go back to my why for what I was doing. I might not have a clearly articulated mission like I do for Minute Marketing, but I do know why I started Isle of Books way back in December of 2011: to give people honest book reviews they could trust and to share my love of reading with anyone who would listen.

Honesty is one of my core values, both personally and professionally. Though as a people pleaser, I definitely tell white lies. I don't like upsetting people. But I'm getting better about not doing that either. And I have to say, I like what it's doing for me. 

So it felt incredibly dishonest to even be considering having a guest post from a company I 110% didn't support. When I filtered that decision through my WHY, the decision was obvious. So I closed my eyes and hit send on the email.

Start With Why is a little book with a big message. If you need help on getting clear with your WHY or why (haha) it matters to your business/brand, make sure you pick up this book!

From the publisher: 

In 2009, Simon Sinek started a movement to help people become more inspired at work, and in turn inspire their colleagues and customers. Since then, millions have been touched by the power of his ideas, including more than 28 million who’ve watched his TED Talk based on START WITH WHY -- the third most popular TED video of all time.
Sinek starts with a fundamental question: Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty from customers and employees alike? Even among the successful, why are so few able to repeat their success over and over? 
People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers had little in common, but they all started with WHY. They realized that people won't truly buy into a product, service, movement, or idea until they understand the WHY behind it.  
START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way -- and it's the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.