From Frankl to Sinek: How to Reapply the Why


I’m a sucker for quotes. Amidst the flood of my Instagram feed, news articles, Presidential campaign speeches and more, discovering the famous German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s quip caught my attention:

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”

I came across this insight in Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

As his book’s title suggests, Frankl’s “why” was to share his experience and understanding about man’s search for meaning. This helped him endure the horror and escape the fate of the 1.1 million prisoners exterminated in Auschwitz, the network of Nazi extermination camps. He internalized his “why” to overcome the “how.” Believing his life had meaning and a greater purpose allowed him to persevere through hell-on-Earth. And as Frankl details in his book, those who survived weren’t the necessarily the most physically strong, but rather were those who had found a purpose and meaning for their life — a “why.”

Perhaps the reason I was so struck by this quote and story was it recalled Simon Sinek’s famous book and TED Talk, “Start With Why?” Sinek argues the best companies start with a Why.

The How [the company does it] and What [the company does] then follow and evolve, but the Why always stays the same. The Why is the guiding force behind the Company.

So while Frankl and Sinek discuss two very different experiences, the core principle concurs. The How and the What will follow any person or company with a strong enough Why. Let your Why shape yourself or your firm.

When I first heard Sinek’s TED talk, I assumed he originated the Why → How → What paradigm. Perhaps he adapted it from Nietzsche or Frankl. Regardless of how he developed his philosophy,

there’s equal value when we realize that insights and ideas in one sphere may apply to another.

In this case, Sinek transformed the personal principles of Frankl into the professional guidance of his own.We should seek to not only lead our personal and professional lives alike with a sense of purpose, but also to apply and adapt the realizations within each to the other. If you’ve had any Sinek worthy magic moments, be sure to share in the comments or shoot me a note at

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