Have you fallen into the trap of the treadmill phenomenon?

3 min readApr 27, 2021

KellyOnBooks book recommendation “Start with Why”

We often see some people who are always busy, talk fast, walk fast, have no time to chat, or even take time to eat lunch. Does “busy” mean productivity? Not necessarily. This reminds me of the “treadmill phenomenon”:

  • You are hardworking. But no matter how fast you walk or run, you don’t go anywhere.
  • If you stop, you will find that you still stay where you are.
Image source: Costco

To be fair, many companies have limited their budgets due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees carry relatively more responsibilities compared to their workload in the past. However, to some extent, being busy means laziness. Being busy may be a good excuse to not think about why we do what we do. As long as we finish what we have to do, everything will be fine.

How can we escape the trap of the “treadmill phenomenon”?

Simon Sinek put forward the concept of the golden circle in his book “Start with Why”.

Book cover: “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek
Book cover: “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek

The golden circle consists of three layers:

1. “Why”- why do we need to do it? Why can’t we do it?

2. “How” — How can we achieve the goal? It’s the route towards the direction.

3. “What” — What is the expected result?

Image source: Simonsinek.com

The concept of the Golden Circle is a philosophy of thinking from the inside out. The core belief is “why”. If you have a business, or you are transforming your business based on the development of technology and a constantly changing customer base, it is mission critical to find out the “why” that is the true value of the business. As Sinek put it, “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”

Successful companies are those that can clearly answer the “why” question. For example, Mark Zuckenburg founded Facebook because he identified “why he wanted to do it”, and he believed it is very important to connect with people all over the world. Everybody wants to keep in touch with his/her friends and family. If we can connect with people and share with them what happens in our life, then life becomes more meaningful.

As a marketer, it is important to find out why customers buy from us out of all other competitors, and to convey the value of the product to customers. When Steve Jobs unveiled the MacBook, he did not say that he sold computers, but that he sold dreams and helped customers unleash their inherent talents, thus winning the favour of hundreds of millions of Apple fans around the world. Steve found the “why”.

Finding the “why” often requires us to start by challenging the status quo, stepping out of our comfort zone, and overcoming all our negative emotions, and continue to adjust in the process albeit obstacles and criticisms at different levels. However, this may be the only way to avoid the treadmill phenomenon, keep abreast of changes, and stay ahead of the game.




Tech Investor / Founder at Mans International / Author