Wealthtech Insider: What the ‘Golden Circle’ Teaches Us About Financial Advice

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The best advisors add holistic value to their clients’ lives, addressing both their personal and financial well-being. Creating that holistic value is a matter of starting with the right questions: “Why, how, and what.” In his simple but profound TEDx Talk, Simon Sinek lays out a model for purpose-driven action he calls the Golden Circle.

Sinek suggests uninspired behavior, whether corporate, personal, or financial, begins with

“What?” instead of “Why?” In other words, the behavior starts with an explanation of what people want to do, touches briefly on how it is accomplished, but seldom addresses why it is done.

By contrast, Inspired leaders and exceptional organizations start with their purpose and let that answer the other questions. Sinek uses the example of Apple in the year 2009, a year after the release of the iPhone, and says they answer the three questions thusly:

Why – “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.”

How – “By making our products beautifully designed and user friendly.”

What – “We just happen to make great computers.”

Sinek convincingly suggests we are less persuaded by what is being sold than the reasons underlying it. In his words, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The same principle applies to financial advice. Ensuring our clients’ decisions are consistent with their long-term best interests can be extremely difficult. But when their financial lives are anchored in something that matters to them personally—their very own “Why”—it becomes almost effortless for them to do what is right. They would never sacrifice something so important for some short-term emotional comfort.

Sinek is hardly alone in highlighting the power that comes from alignment with principles.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers (2011), found that “meaningful work” was one of the key differentiators between those who excelled and those who did not. Imbuing your investing life with meaning may not make you Warren Buffett, but it is predictive of both enjoyment and success in many walks of life.

As George Bernard Shaw said in a similar vein, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” For quite some time now, the prevailing doctrine of capital markets has been of a decidedly “find yourself” model. They believed there was an efficient allocation of resources that could be plotted along a curve to best serve your needs, and we just simply needed to find it. Now though, it is time we took back the process from the economists and talking heads and re-established our centrality in making our financial lives work.

Investors simply can no longer benchmark themselves against an arbitrary goalpost floating somewhere in the ether. It is undoubtedly more prudent, more beneficial, more purposeful, and more fulfilling to establish goals and strategies that are deeply personal and constructive. In this new model, risk is simply the likelihood we will underperform our dreams. Irrationality is acting in ways that thwart our ability to reach those dreams. And the optimal portfolio is not the one generating the highest return in abstraction, it is the one helping us meet our goals without killing our nerves before we get there.

To learn more about rooting clients’ financial strategies in purposeful goals, visit The Center For Outcomes.


The best advisors add holistic value to their clients’ lives, addressing both their personal and financial well-being. Creating that holistic value is a matter of starting with the right questions: “Why, how, and what.” In his simple but profound TEDx Talk, Simon Sinek lays out a model for purpose-driven action he calls the Golden Circle.

Sinek suggests uninspired behavior, whether corporate, personal, or financial, begins with

“What?” instead of “Why?” In other words, the behavior starts with an explanation of what people want to do, touches briefly on how it is accomplished, but seldom addresses why it is done.

By contrast, Inspired leaders and exceptional organizations start with their purpose and let that answer the other questions. Sinek uses the example of Apple in the year 2009, a year after the release of the iPhone, and says they answer the three questions thusly:

Why – “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo.”

How – “By making our products beautifully designed and user friendly.”

What – “We just happen to make great computers.”

Sinek convincingly suggests we are less persuaded by what is being sold than the reasons underlying it. In his words, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

The same principle applies to financial advice. Ensuring our clients’ decisions are consistent with their long-term best interests can be extremely difficult. But when their financial lives are anchored in something that matters to them personally—their very own “Why”—it becomes almost effortless for them to do what is right. They would never sacrifice something so important for some short-term emotional comfort.

Sinek is hardly alone in highlighting the power that comes from alignment with principles.

Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers (2011), found that “meaningful work” was one of the key differentiators between those who excelled and those who did not. Imbuing your investing life with meaning may not make you Warren Buffett, but it is predictive of both enjoyment and success in many walks of life.

As George Bernard Shaw said in a similar vein, “Life is not about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” For quite some time now, the prevailing doctrine of capital markets has been of a decidedly “find yourself” model. They believed there was an efficient allocation of resources that could be plotted along a curve to best serve your needs, and we just simply needed to find it. Now though, it is time we took back the process from the economists and talking heads and re-established our centrality in making our financial lives work.

Investors simply can no longer benchmark themselves against an arbitrary goalpost floating somewhere in the ether. It is undoubtedly more prudent, more beneficial, more purposeful, and more fulfilling to establish goals and strategies that are deeply personal and constructive. In this new model, risk is simply the likelihood we will underperform our dreams. Irrationality is acting in ways that thwart our ability to reach those dreams. And the optimal portfolio is not the one generating the highest return in abstraction, it is the one helping us meet our goals without killing our nerves before we get there.

To learn more about rooting clients’ financial strategies in purposeful goals, visit The Center For Outcomes.

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