Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) is the best-selling author of Find Your Why and Start with Why. He returns to the show to discuss his latest offering, The Infinite Game, which offers a framework for leading with an infinite mindset in a limitless world.

What We Discuss with Simon Sinek:

  • Common public speaking gaffes and how to avoid making them.
  • How Simon blocks time for himself in his calendar without feeling guilty.
  • Finite games vs. infinite games: the metrics by which they’re governed, the stakes for which they’re played, and the mindsets required to master them.
  • Why having a worthy rival (as opposed to competition) can be a healthy catalyst for personal growth — and how you can select one.
  • How friendship works as an equitable, not equal relationship.
  • And much more…

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The Infinite Game by Simon SinekA finite game — like hockey or Chutes and Ladders — has a clear set of rules, a designated endpoint, and a criteria that separates the winners from the losers. But an infinite game — like the course of a life — has more elusive metrics not easily discerned by its players. In his latest book, The Infinite Game, Simon Sinek shows us how we can operate with an infinite mindset to enjoy success in a game with constantly shifting and boundless parameters.

In this episode, Simon joins us to discuss The Infinite Game as well as explore deeper subjects like trust, focus, branding, and the way we look at our career or business as an extension of ourselves. Listen, learn, and enjoy this landmark 300th episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show!

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THANKS, SIMON SINEK!

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Transcript for Simon Sinek | The Infinite Game (Episode 300)

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world’s most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. I want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. I want you to become a better thinker. That’s what strengthens your life, your career, your business, your family, the democracy we live in. If you’re new to the show, we’ve got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, public speaking, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you’re smart and you like to learn and improve, then you’re going to be right at home here with us.

[00:00:45] On this episode of the show, Simon Sinek, this guy’s just a force. You’ve seen him everywhere on the TED stage, ranting about millennials or consulting some of the top companies in the world on business strategy and spitting fire about fulfillment and culture in the workplace today. Today, Simon Sinek like you’ve never heard of him before. We really cut loose on this one and broke the mold of leadership and corporate topics. Diving deep into subjects like trust, focus, branding, and the way that we look at our careers and our business as an extension of ourselves. If you don’t have a business, this will still apply to your career. If you don’t have a career, we’ll figure it out. If you’re a Simon Sinek fan and even if you’re not, I know you’re going to dig this one.

[00:01:23] And if you want to know how I manage to book all these great people and have people like Simon Sinek on speed dial, well, it’s about systems, it’s about tiny habits, and it’s about making and maintaining relationships in a way that’s not frankly awkward, weird, and needy. I’m teaching you how to do that for free. That’s at Six-Minute Networking. It’s a free course over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they subscribe to the course and the newsletter. Come join us, you’ll be in great company. Now here’s Simon Sinek.

[00:01:54] At some point, every speaker writes a lot of books. I don’t know if you consider yourself a speaker, an author, more, or both? Or is it like thought leaders, some sort of nebulous third category?

Simon Sinek: [00:02:02] Oh, my God, I would never call myself that. I prefer guru.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:07] Yes. Guru. Like Bikram from the yoga thing or that guy who founded this city.

Simon Sinek: [00:02:14] I love that, when people call themselves guru in their own bios, because I think the whole point of being a guru is you actually don’t call yourself a guru. I consider myself an optimist. I believe that I have a vision of the world that does not yet exist. I’m trying to build it and whatever it takes for me to advance that vision — speaking, writing, teaching — whatever it is, I’ll do it. I don’t define myself by anything that I do.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:33] By the medium.

Simon Sinek: [00:02:37] No, I don’t define myself by who I am and where I’m going.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:40] I spent years doing that though, like it’s easy and people go, “You’re a podcaster,” and it’s like, well, that sounds really lame, but it’s also kind of true just as you’re an author, but it’s not all that you are.

Simon Sinek: [00:02:51] It’s one thing that I do, and it’s one thing that I do by accident. I didn’t plan on being an author. I was one of those guys who’s like, “I’ve got a book in me,” you know?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:58] Oh, really?

Simon Sinek: [00:02:59] No, never.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:29] I’m surprised to hear that.

Simon Sinek: [00:03:00] it wasn’t an aspiration from youth or anything like that. I had an idea and somebody thought I needed to write it down, and so I did.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:07] I can’t remember who told me this. It was like, “Oh yeah, she had discovered Simon Sinek,” and I was like, “I wonder if he would agree with that?” I can’t remember who it was though, so this story kind of falls on its face. Or the anecdote.

Simon Sinek: [00:03:18] Who was it?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:19] If I remember, I will send you an email because I can’t, it wasn’t something I was —

Simon Sinek: [00:03:22] There are many people who gave me breaks. I don’t think there was any one.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:26] It was somebody who basically had said, “This guy’s got to go to TED and like — ” but this is someone else’s version of events too. So it may or may not have happened that way.

Simon Sinek: [00:03:36] I mean, I don’t know. I mean, I was given the opportunity to speak at a TEDx. I’m very grateful for it. And the TEDx video became the highest watched TEDx video on YouTube, which is, I think, what caught the attraction of the TED people. At least that’s how I understand it.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:48] So you didn’t start off at TED?

Simon Sinek: [00:03:50] No, I only talked at TED on the main stage a few years ago for the first time.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:50] Really? That’s shocking.

Simon Sinek: [00:03:55] It’s a TEDx. And I love it because you know, people especially, you know, TED can make a career. I mean, I’m living proof of it. You know, it can be a catalyst for a career in a major way. And so when people go on and do a TED or TEDx, you can feel it. The tension is palpable because they think it’s a make or break, and they want it to be perfect and they have everything rehearsed and everything. And I’m living proof. That I have terrible video quality, terrible audio quality, my microphone broke at the beginning of the talk. I’ve got a pad and pen and no PowerPoint, and it became, at one point, it was the second most watched TED Talk of all time. And my point is like, if you have good content, you have good content. It doesn’t matter if it’s rough and tumble. It doesn’t matter if that sound quality is imperfect. People want ideas. It’s nice if it works out nicely, but it’s not essential.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:40] That’s such a lucky break in so many ways, and I don’t mean that you didn’t earn it. What I mean is how great is it to go up there and go, “It’s just the TEDx. I’ll be fine. Oh, the mic broke, whatever. It doesn’t really matter,” and then that blows up. Not, “Okay. I wrote prepared for this for 90 days. I’ve been rehearsing eight hours a day. It cost me 60 grand for a speaking coach full time.” Then you’re five minutes late or something, or the event’s a little off and the microphone is glitching out, and you’re freaking out.

Simon Sinek: [00:05:07] I think what made it work was that I didn’t freak out. I mean, they literally replaced my mic in the middle of my talk. I’m using a wireless mic, which the signal is getting interrupted, and somebody comes up and hands me a wired mic in the middle and you don’t hear me go, “Umm,” or, “Hold on ladies and gentlemen,” or, “Whoa, this mic is not working.” I’m in the middle of a sentence and I take the new mic and I just keep talking. And I think that’s one of the reasons it works is my mind is really focused on spreading the message. I’m not getting stuck in the mind trap of, “Oh, my God, this is going horribly wrong. Oh, my God, what am I going to do?” And so you’re just in stride. I gave a talk once where the fire alarm went off in the middle of my talk and we all stopped and we’re like, “What? What?”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:48] You’re not going anywhere, ladies and gentlemen. This is important.

Simon Sinek: [00:05:51] Exactly, and then, you know, I stopped and figured out what happened, and then I started again. I see it on the stage a lot where I see the speaker complaining about something or talking about something or interrupting because what’s bothering them they think is bothering the audience and it’s just not true. What bothers us on the stage really doesn’t bother the audience. “Oh, ladies and gentlemen, I’m really sorry, I have a cold.” Nobody really cares. They can hear that you have a cold.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:16] “Oh, we just thought you were a nerd with a nasal voice.”

Simon Sinek: [00:06:18] They can hear that you’re sniffling and that your sinuses are clogged. They can hear it. So I think that’s one of the big tricks of being an effective public speaker, which is the audience is rooting for you. They always are, and they’re pretty forgiving. And the more that you point out the stuff that’s wrong, the more it’s going to go bad. The message is what matters. That’s why people are there. And I understand you want perfection, but sometimes that’s out of your control. I think that’s part of what makes the really effective ones, like I said, I’ve seen it on stage before, the really good ones, it’s really about the message and not about them.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:48] People have said that TED Talks, they’re so well-rehearsed that even the little gestures that look like they’re off the cuff are rehearsed. I know every speaker is different, but what do you think about that? Do you think a lot of these people are just really good speakers? Or they’re so well-rehearsed that even then looking to the left casually is part of their blocking?

Simon Sinek: [00:07:08] It depends on the speaker. I mean, some speakers do actually rehearse every gesture, every joke. TED is a very buttoned-up operation, especially for people who don’t do it professionally. But they do rehearse them like crazy. There are a few videos out there. I can’t remember one of the late night talk shows made a joke about giving a TED Talk. And they sort of like take, it’s Jesus giving a TED Talk, and has all the tropes in it and it’s uncomfortably accurate. It’s very funny. But yeah, I mean, some of it is a little canned, but it depends on the speaker. Some speakers are more casual. You know, Ken Robinson, who has the number one TED Talk of all time and has forever, and we all worship Ken. I mean, he’s as good as it gets. Everything’s real. It’s all on camera. It’s just how he is. It’s magical to watch him.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:52] When you get sort of elevated to this plane where you’re like straight into the pros, not that you had nothing to do with that before, but like to jump to that stage, there’s got to be a little bit of — did self-doubt creep in at all? Are you like, “Oh, crap, how the hell am I going to compete with Ken Robinson?” Or, “Well, I hope this goes as well as my first talk did?” I mean, it seems like you’re competing with yourself, you’re competing with other people at the top of the game. It’s a little bit —

Simon Sinek: [00:08:17] I mean, I’m not competing with Ken Robinson. I’m amazed that I get to be in the same grouping as Ken Robinson. I think there’s an intense gratitude that I get to share the stage with these remarkable human beings who I adore. And some of them I’ve gotten to know personally. I love their work and it’s a treat for me to hear them and to be included in that group is, it’s an honor. So that’s a real treat.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:39] What about pressure from your own work going, “Okay, well, how am I — ?”

Simon Sinek: [00:08:44] How am I going to do? Well, when I got the opportunity to do the main TED stage, people were like, “What are you going to do?” I mean, it’s like, first of all, I won the Internet lottery. I didn’t plan on the Start With Why talk going viral. That wasn’t like, “Yup. Check. Did that.” I met somebody recently at a dinner, and I asked him what he does. He says, “I make viral videos.” I’m like, “No, you don’t. You make videos and you hope they go viral.” This is the whole point of a viral video. Nobody really knows how to make them. You can do videos that do okay, but I don’t think any videos that have truly gone viral, it wasn’t machined that way. So when I had the opportunity to do another TED Talk, I was under no illusions that it was going to do as well as the first. When people said, “How are you going to do better than the first?” The answer was “I’m not! Are you insane? You go and do one better.” It’s like it was number two. “You go ahead; you go be number one.” You can’t plan that stuff. And so I had no pressure on me to outdo — like I said, I won the lottery. I can’t win the lottery again. And so what I did when I showed up for a future TED Talk is I showed up to do the best job I could do and communicate the message that I was trying to communicate as clearly as possible for that message and let the chips fall where they may.

[00:09:49] I compete with myself in the sense that I’m trying to outdo — it’s not a question about doing. I want to hone my craft. I love feedback. I love honest feedback even more. And I want to get better at what I do. I think that’s not unusual. I think a lot of people have that. Any of us who show up on a daily basis, you go and listen to your own podcasts and you know, you might beat yourself up a little bit, but the opportunity is, “Okay, next time I’m going to do this differently; I’m going to do this better.” You become more relaxed, you become more comfortable. You develop a style.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:20] It is a little painful though. I assume you watch her own talks and you give yourself —

Simon Sinek: [00:10:24] Some of them, some of them.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:26] Not everything. You couldn’t possibly watch —

Simon Sinek: [00:10:27] I do the ones that are different. I like to watch the ones that I took a risk or did something new. Those are the ones I go watch.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:33] You hear about guys like David Letterman, who you brought up earlier, watching every show after they do the show, like can’t go to bed before they watch it. And by all accounts, he would shred himself mercilessly to the point where people around him were like, “Hey, man, calm down.” You know, he’s making himself actively miserable doing it. There’s got to be a happy medium there. Do you find —

Simon Sinek: [00:10:56] It depends on the style of the person. These folks are at the top of their game because they’re very, very hypercritical of themselves. Some of the highest performers I know are very hypercritical of themselves, more hypercritical of themselves than they are of other people or other people can be of them. I’m probably my own worst critic for sure, and I notice the little things that probably other people miss. I think anybody who’s satisfied with the job that they’re doing isn’t growing. I mean, I definitely had things that I do where I walk over and like, “That was good.” Like, I know when it’s good, but I also know when I could do better.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:24] I think the reason I ask so many questions about this process is because looking from the outside in, right? People go, “Well, Simon Sinek, every book that you stamp is going to kill it. Every talk you give is going to kill it.” You do a show like Impact Theory, rant about millennials — possibly unplanned — and then that just takes off and gets, I don’t know, 18 million views or something like that.

Simon Sinek: [00:11:45] It got 80 in the first week.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:46] Yeah, 80 in the first week. All you’ve got to do is complain about people 35 and under, and that’s the new formula.

Simon Sinek: [00:11:53] I wasn’t complaining, but point well taken.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:11:56] Well, obviously, I’m exaggerating for lame comedic effect.

Simon Sinek: [00:12:00] It’s working. I’m laughing!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:03] That thing pops off and then it’s like, “This guy can’t screw anything up.” At what point do you go —

Simon Sinek: [00:12:08] Hang out with me for a while!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:10] Right? That’s why I’m asking. Someone came over to my house, Neil Pasricha, who I think you probably know or maybe know of. He came over and he’s like, “From the outside in, you’re doing so great.” And I’m thinking, “I wish I had a glimpse of what other people — like, I want to look at myself like other people maybe do for like five minutes a day just to relax for a second.” But then there’s another part of myself that says, “Well, being hypercritical and beating myself up all the time is why you’re here in the first place. This is why you get to go hang out with somebody who’s a guru thought leader,” whatever you call yourself these days!

Simon Sinek: [00:12:45] Lottery winner.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:45] Lottery winner, double mic each other, and then just sit here and record and then like, somehow a check arrives in the mail for doing so. But it also is kind of a recipe for — there’s an element of, I don’t want to say unhappiness, but there’s got to be a part of you that goes, “All right. Now I’m just torturing myself for this.” Like you’re flying around giving talks and you love it, but at the same time, don’t you want to hang out a little bit more at home? Watch a little Netflix? The balance has to be hard.

Simon Sinek: [00:13:10] Well, that’s in my control, isn’t it?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:12] It is. But also the temptations.

Simon Sinek: [00:13:13] You know, when I overcommit myself, I have only myself to blame. Sure, I’ve overcommitted myself and sure, I’m exhausted and I beat myself up for saying yes to too much stuff because I want to be out there spreading the message. I sometimes forget that I need to recharge my batteries, but I’m pretty good. I learned the hard way. The good news is I try not to make mistakes more than once, but I’m pretty good about blocking off time for me. If I have a particularly grueling few weeks, I’ll purposely take it easy for a week or two.

[00:13:42] I think one of the things we can all do — regardless if you have a nine to five job, if you have more control of your own schedule or not — is we can still build in time for ourselves. The thing that I started to do is because personal time or going to the gym or anything like that started to become flexible. Someone’s like, “We need to have a meeting with you.” I’m like, okay, I can go to the gym tomorrow. And what ended up happening is I got out of shape and I wasn’t sleeping, and things get worse and worse and worse. And so I just became much more prescriptive and much more sort of dogmatic about protecting these blocks in my calendar.

[00:14:11] So, you know, at the beginning of the week, I’ll put in gym time for the next two weeks, and we treated it like a meeting. So somebody called and said, “Is Simon available?” The answer would be, “I’m sorry, he’s engaged now.” They don’t have to know what I’m doing. I’m booked.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:24] “He’s in downward dog right now.”

Simon Sinek: [00:14:26] Exactly right. And so I started to become more like, that’s protected time. And every now and then what I would do is I’d go into my own calendar and block off two hours that I wrote “Do not schedule anything,” and it was just time that I wanted to do whatever I want to do, whether it was to watch TV, or go for a walk, or catch up on some errands, and just like take the dry cleaning in kind of thing. It was just time for me to catch up, but I became really, really dogmatic that these times were not to be changed or moved. Of course, there are always exceptions and extenuating circumstances. But for the most part, I’m pretty good about it and I think we can all do that.

[00:14:57] When you come home to your family, especially if you have kids and stuff, to actively turn off the telephones for an hour to play with the kids or have dinner with the family, I think is a big deal. If the time for you is eight to nine o’clock or eight to 10 o’clock at night, where you just want to sit down and watch television and just be like, “Ah,” you know, to literally put it on a calendar and be like, “That’s TV time. That’s my TV time. I don’t answer emails.” And I became really good at that and less guilty. I felt less guilty about it.

[00:15:27] I think one of the problems with technology is — I remember when cellphones were just starting to show up in the proper way — smartphones, not like the big extenders. “Hello? Sell! Sell!” You know, there was this great promise that we could leave the office because of this device. And in reality, it backfired. We don’t leave the office, the office comes with us. So we were always at the office because of the device. The whole idea, it sort of backfired, and one of the things that happens when we take the office with us is if we’re not constantly engaging and checking in, we actually feel guilty that we’re not.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:01] Yeah, of course.

Simon Sinek: [00:16:02] And so what ends up happening is there’s no blank time. You’re walking to the subway, you’re on the device. If you’re off the subway going to the office, you’re on the device. We take the phone with us to the bathroom. We do. You hold it in and look for the phone. There’s something unhealthy about that!

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:19] So true!

Simon Sinek: [00:16:21] And I think when we’re not connected, we actually feel guilty. And the reality is, is that ideas don’t happen when we’re connected. Ideas happen when our minds have an opportunity to wander. Our conscious brains, our thinking parts of our brains, have access to the equivalent of something like two feet of information around us. This is the part of the brain we access when we access our expertise.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:40] Wait, repeat that one more time.

Simon Sinek: [00:16:41] Our conscious brains, our thinking brains, have access to the equivalent of information to about two feet of information around it.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:47] Oh, I see.

Simon Sinek: [00:16:48] Like a diameter of two feet is about how much information the conscious brain can store.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:51] Got it. Okay.

Simon Sinek: [00:16:51] And you’ll see it’s an analogy. It’s coming. It’s coming.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:54] I’m with you.

Simon Sinek: [00:16:54] It’s coming. This is the part of the brain we access when we weigh the pros and cons and we think through an idea, but our subconscious brain has access to the equivalent of 11 acres of information, right? Every conversation we’ve had, every movie we’ve seen, every book we’ve read, gets stored somewhere. We just can’t recall it. We just can’t pull it up when we want to. And this is why we have our great ideas in the shower, when we’re driving, when we’re going out for a run, when we’re just going for a walk. Because the brainstorming session actually isn’t the time to solve the problem. The brainstorming session is the time to ask the question. Your subconscious brain won’t solve a problem for something you’re not thinking about. It will attempt to solve something for a problem you’re really facing or an idea you really have. It’s not going to just start thinking of random things. And so if we don’t allow that part of the brain to wander, literally, W-A and W-O. When we go for a wonder to allow our brain to wander, we don’t have those innovative ideas. And there’s a reason for it in the shower, on the run, in bed, whenever your ideas strike, it’s because you’re not actually actively thinking about anything else.

[00:17:52] And so when I learned about this, it became really important to me. I mean, I’m in the idea business. It became really, really important to me to allow my brain to not think, but to wonder. And so I will schedule time specifically not to engage, not to be on my phone. And I think like sitting in a restaurant when a friend goes to the bathroom, not to pick up my phone while I’m waiting, but just to look around the room, is it time to allow my brain to wonder.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:20] Like a psychopath, just sitting there, drinking your coffee.

Simon Sinek: [00:18:22] I wouldn’t call it psychopathic. I’d call it life before cell phones. For millennia, we’re looking at the restaurant while our friends are in the bathroom. It’s only the past 15 years that we haven’t been, you know? Very often, I won’t even take a phone with me when I go out, especially when I’m out with friends, because I want to be totally present. But it’s actually great for ideas. And so allowing ourselves these disengaged times is absolutely essential for innovation. It’s absolutely essential for problem solving. It’s absolutely essential for creativity to disengage with the device because the problem is I don’t know when it’s going to happen. So I’d be like, “Well, I wasn’t on my phone for a whole hour and I had no ideas.” I know. I get it. And this is the problem. It has to be a repetitive behavior, because we don’t know when the inspiration strikes. So one of the things that I try to be good at is figuring out how I think, figuring out where my ideas come from and trying to repeat those things. So if my ideas are happening in showers, have longer showers.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:13] Right. Just wasting water like crazy, but it’s good for business!

Simon Sinek: [00:19:16] Well, there’s a difference between a two-minute shower and a five-minute shower. It doesn’t mean you’re standing in there for an hour and a half. When I was writing Leaders Eat Last, I would have so many ideas in the shower, or when I was brushing my teeth, for example, and I would forget them as quickly as I had them, that I kept a dry erase marker in my bathroom and I wrote on the tiles. So as soon as I got out of the shower, while I was brushing my teeth, I’d write an idea on the tile. When I was standing there the next day, brushing my teeth, I’d be staring at my writing on the tile and I’d sometimes have another idea. It looked like a Beautiful Mind. It was ridiculous. My bathroom was covered; all the tiles had these little chicken scratches all over, and I didn’t want to raise any of them because I didn’t know what ideas were going to be sparked.

[00:19:53] But my point is if you figure out what works for you, do that. Keep a notebook by your bed. If you go for a run, take a notebook with you. I usually carry a notebook in the back of my pocket at all times because I don’t know when I’m going to have an idea, and like I said, I lose them as quickly as I have them. The whole idea of disengaging and capturing the ideas is, I think, a big part of where ideas come from.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:17] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Simon Sinek. We’ll be right back.

[00:20:22] Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:22] This episode is sponsored in part by Eight Sleep. We love our Eight Sleep. Jen turns up her side for the baby. I turned mine down because it’s freaking hot in the house now because the baby’s there, so the heat is always on. Every time you go online you hear another ad for another mattress but this is by far the best one. Jason and I were so excited for this. Jason, I know you use yours all the time.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:43] Well, yeah, I sleep all the time, so I use it all the time and it’s great because I can have one side for the dogs. So that’s just for them and one side for me. And I tell you what having 120-pound Rottweiler jump in and out of the bed all the time when I’m sleeping, I can’t feel a thing. That mattress does not move. The heating and cooling are fantastic, but it also the foam that it’s made from, I cannot feel the dog jumping in and out of the bed. That is a fantastic side effect that I forgot to tell everybody about, like on the previous reads. But you know, if your partner tosses and turns you’re, you’re probably going to sleep a hell of a lot better.

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Jordan Harbinger: [00:21:57] This episode is sponsored in part by Honey. I love this plugin and I installed it the other day. What it does is it knows what site you’re on when you’re shopping and it’s like, “Hey, do you want to try some coupon codes?” That you probably would Google and then give up after trying to, that didn’t work because there’s 16 and it’s only, you know, 10, 15, 20 percent off, so depending on what you’re buying. Well Honey, what it does is it scours the web for promo codes, finds the best promo codes, applies them to the cart. So you just click Go or whatever, and it just tries all the codes. So if you’re on one of your favorite sites, like Target, Best Buys, Sephora, Macy’s, eBay, Etsy, Walmart, and even smaller sites too, it’ll just try to apply all the coupons. You click Apply Coupons and boom, it scans the Internet for these and you can see your price go down or get free shipping and stuff like that. Really, really handy. You save random amounts. Sometimes it’s like a buck 75, other times it’s free shipping, and sometimes it’s like, “Oh crap, I saved like 15% on this expensive thing from this promo code that I never would have even thought to look for.” It’s really useful, 18-million members, two billion dollars plus in savings, 30,000 online stores. So it’s not just the big guys and they’re adding more every day. They got a hundred thousand plus five-star reviews on the Google Chrome Store. It’s a browser plugin for Chrome. Really easy to use, not a lot of effort here, and it’s free. Jason.

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[00:23:34] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals and don’t forget we have a worksheet for today’s episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Simon Sinek. That link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast if you’d like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to jordanharbinger.com/subscribe. Subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don’t miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Simon Sinek.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:11] There’s something to this, of course, and there’s science behind all of this. I’m wondering if the two feet/11 acres thing, is that something you just kind of like plucked, or is there actually kind of —

Simon Sinek: [00:24:23] I heard it from a reputable source.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:25] Okay, that’s good enough, that’s good enough for now.

Simon Sinek: [00:24:27] I have a friend and I so envy him. He’s so good at remembering. He’s like, “Yale conducted a study in 1974 by Dr. Rogers and Dr. Smith and they studied this. And what they discovered is that there’s an 18 to two ratio,” and I’m like, “They did a study…” like they who do all the studies.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:46] They! Google it. It might just —

Simon Sinek: [00:24:48] You know, the numbers are about right. That’s me.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:53] You know, and that should be good enough. Although, now with everybody sort of making things up as we go along, it’s more important to know that.

Simon Sinek: [00:25:01] I do pride myself on the fact that I do actually go double-check these things. And even though I can’t remember the details, and if I’m wrong, I’ll immediately change it. A couple of times I’ve got a couple of things wrong and I immediately stopped even though the wrong one really helped my argument. And like when you write a book, there’s real rigor to writing a book, and I have to go find all the exact studies that I’ve been, you know, quoting approximately for years. So, yeah, I’m really envious of my friends who can remember every detail of these studies.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:31] Speaking of friends that elevate our game, worthy rivals.

Simon Sinek: [00:25:34] Yeah. I love that one.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:36] It’s so good.

Simon Sinek: [00:25:36] It’s so good, isn’t it?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:37] Because I feel like we all have these worthy rivals, but sometimes we mistreat them. Can you go over the concept fairly briefly so people know what we’re talking about?

Simon Sinek: [00:25:45] So James Carse is a philosopher who used to teach at NYU for many years. He’s 87 now. He’s an amazing guy. He theorized in 1986, he wrote a little book about these two types of games, finite games and infinite games. A finite game is defined as known players, fixed rules, and an agreed-upon objective — baseball, football. There’s a beginning, middle, and end. The goal is to win, and if there’s a winner, there has to be a loser. Then you have an infinite game. An infinite game is defined as known and unknown players. The rules are changeable, which means you can play however you want. There are no referees, and the objective is to perpetuate the game, to stay in the game as long as possible. We are players in infinite games every day of our lives. These are the games that have no finish line. There are no agreed-upon metrics. There are no agreed-upon rules. There are no agreed-upon timeframes. There’s no such thing as winners and losers. Like, you can’t be the winner in your marriage. You can definitely be the loser, but you cannot be the winner, right?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:33] Yeah, good point.

Simon Sinek: [00:26:34] There’s no such thing as winning career. Like, no one is declared the winner of careers. There’s no such thing as winning global politics, and there’s no such thing as winning business. There’s no winner of business. But if we listen to people, they talk about being number one, being the best, and beating their competition — based on what? Well, we’re number one based on the metrics and the time frames of your own choosing. And even if you are number one, you’re only number one for now. It doesn’t last because it’s an infinite game. There’s no finish line. The game just keeps going and going. And so when we view the other players as competitors, it’s a finite mindset, because that means we want to beat them, because that’s what competitors are for. I want to be the winner. I want them to be the loser. Which is very unhealthy in games that have no finish lines, like our careers, like in business, because what ends up happening is we look for shortcuts. Our perspective becomes shorter and shorter timeframes, and it ends up hurting trust, cooperation, and innovation.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:25] People will sacrifice their integrity to get ahead short-term, but then it’s like, well, you have to keep doing it.

Simon Sinek: [00:27:31] Yeah, or you make a substandard product, or the rest of it. You know, and we see it played out all the time. We’re seeing it playing out right now with Boeing. That was nothing short of short-term pressure that made them make some stupid decisions. They were obsessed with making their numbers rather than obsessed with making the safest airplane in the sky.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:27:46] Terrifying.

Simon Sinek: [00:27:48] It is terrifying, but that’s how it plays out. And it’s a whole series of events that take place, including ethical fading and all the rest of it, where pressure put on somebody put pressure put on somebody put pressure on somebody, adding in unhealthy incentive structures, you end up with decisions being made all over the place that allow for this to happen. Leaders are responsible for that environment. The buck does stop somewhere, and that’s at the top.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:09] Is it the leader responsible for the environment, or is it like hashtag capitalism?

Simon Sinek: [00:28:13] It’s not hashtag capitalism. That’s absolutely nonsense.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:16] I agree.

Simon Sinek: [00:28:17] There’s nothing wrong with capitalism. There is something wrong with the form of capitalism that we practice now. Capitalism as Adam Smith envisioned it is capitalism that Thomas Jefferson believed in, which is capitalism that made America what it is today. It’s only since about the 1970s that capitalism has become bastardized. Capitalism has always been about people. It’s always been about the consumer.

[00:28:35] It’s only recently since the late 1970s a theory was proposed of shareholder supremacy, which was popularized in the ‘80s and ‘90s by people like Jack Welch, the CEO of GE. That’s a new idea, shareholder supremacy. Adam Smith could never have imagined that — the idea of putting profit before a human being — that’s a new idea. The idea of using mass layoffs to balance the books on a regular basis didn’t exist prior to the 1980s. It didn’t exist; it didn’t exist. So all of these insane ideas like rank and yank, where you promote the top 10 percent of performers and fire the bottom 10 percent every year. These are new ideas that were really popularized and promoted in the boom years of the ‘80s and ‘90s, so people are blaming capitalism, which is incorrect. It’s this form of capitalism that I think is the problem, and the champions of this form of capitalism, like Jack Welch and his disciples, that is the problem. But capitalism isn’t the problem. It’s the form of capitalism.

[00:29:27] So the concept of viewing other companies or other individuals as competitors is really unhealthy. I mean, if you have a competitor at work, it means you will undermine them so that you can improve your sales numbers, so you can get the bonus. That’s insane. You work for the same organization. And some companies, some leaders, actually promote internal competition, which is really bad for the organization. So I like the term rival. And some of the rivals are worthy of comparison. They’re worthy rivals, and a worthy rival is another player in the game whose strengths reveal to you your weaknesses. In other words, they’re really good at something that makes you so uncomfortable, sometimes even angry, that you want to beat them, that you hate them sometimes. You have visceral responses. But in reality, it’s because they’re revealing something uncomfortable and it’s easier to take that uncomfortable energy and directed at them rather than looking at yourself.

[00:30:15] We’ve all had the experience where somebody we worked with at work got a promotion and we got mad. Think about that for a second. We’re getting angry at somebody else’s good fortune. What is it about that person that is touching a nerve inside us? That’s a worthy rival. And the whole point of worthy rivalry is to recognize these people. You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to agree with them. But you have to respect them. To recognize these other people or organizations, because their strengths reveal to us our weaknesses, and our opportunity is to look at our weaknesses and build on them, to work on them. In other words, it’s a self-improvement exercise, as individuals or as organizations. And there are always other players in the game who are better than you. Always.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:49] Well, yeah, ideally, otherwise you’re really wasting your time.

Simon Sinek: [00:30:54] Because you get to pick your own worthy rivals, if you just pick people that you consistently outperform, well then you’re going to get caught totally by surprise, because someone will come and swoop in. So I love this idea of the worthy rival. And you asked at the top of the show about whom I’m competitive with, some of the other remarkable —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:10] Yeah, I was going to ask you about that.

Simon Sinek: [00:31:11] — folks out there, and we were talking about Ken Robinson, and the answer is no. I learn from them. If I had a finite mindset, I’d want to compete with them. I’d want to get more gigs than them. I’d want to get higher profile gigs than them. I’d want to do more TED Talks. I’d want more views — based on what? You know, I can be all high and mighty about myself because I got more Instagram followers than they do, well, they’ve got four times more Twitter followers than I do. Like, what’s the correct metric? It’s ridiculous. The whole thing is a fool’s errand. You just drive yourself nuts. And you can either make yourself feel proud because you only look at the ones where you’re ahead, or you make yourself depressed because you only look at the ones that you’re behind. And the answer is: it doesn’t matter, which is what are they doing that’s better than you, that you have an opportunity to push your own game to advance yourself? It’s self-improvement. So I would much rather view the other players in the game as worthy rivals rather than competitors.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:57] That makes sense. I noticed that, in the book, you mention we can select these people strategically. And that I think is simple, but most people don’t do that. They just kind of look at whoever’s in their orbit or whoever sits next to them in the office, or whoever’s getting accolades that day. And that’s really unhealthy because if I’m just looking at whoever is showing up in my Instagram feed, it’s a constant ass-kicking that I’m giving myself.

Simon Sinek: [00:32:22] Not only that, we don’t know how they’re doing it. I know for a fact — because I get to see behind the scenes — that there are people who game the Amazon and New York Times bestseller lists. You can pay for a company to make you a New York Times bestseller. And if you look at the numbers behind the scenes, you can see the ones who are doing it. I know some of their names; I’m not going to say a word.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:40] Right, of course. I wouldn’t. It’s not that kind of show.

Simon Sinek: [00:32:43] Amazon, you know, the number of emails I get that say, “Hey, everybody, can you all please buy my book at the same time?” Because Amazon calculates it, I think, hourly. And so if you get all your friends to buy your book in the same hour, you can become number one in a category.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:57] And then you screenshot it and go home and watch Netflix.

Simon Sinek: [00:32:59] And then for the rest of the time, you’re an Amazon number-one bestseller. Or you get all your friends to write fake reviews to drive your stars up, because more stars means more book sales. There are millions of ways to game the system. And so if I’m comparing myself to people who’re gaming the system, so I’m getting all insecure because I think that they’re better than me, but they’re built on a house of cards anyway.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:19] They’re better than you at emailing all their friends at the same or whatever.

Simon Sinek: [00:33:22] So you have to be a little bit cynical, even when you make the comparisons, which is we don’t actually know how people achieve their success. You know, the ones that I admire are the ones that I legitimately like them. I admire their work. I admire their message. But there’s a consistency. Like, they’re able to do it on a regular basis. And when you meet them in person and when you see them on a stage, they show up as exactly how you see them on a video or something, and there’s an authenticity to it. Those are the ones I really choose to make myself a worthy rival with. Those are the ones I choose to compare my craft with their craft, and they’re the ones who push me to be a better version of whatever I’m doing.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:55] For people watching and listening, how do we select worthy rivals in a healthy way? You kind of touched on this, but I would love some sort of prescriptive if you can.

Simon Sinek: [00:34:01] You know, my rule of thumb is the ones that make you uncomfortable. Like you hear their name and you go, “Argh.” Or somebody mentions the other company and you go, “Well, let me tell you the truth. Let me tell you how they do it.” If there’s an emotional response, there’s probably touching a nerve for a reason. Sometimes it’s because they’re worthy rivals. Well, not always, not always, not always. But I think that’s a good rule of thumb.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:34:24] There’s an introspection to be had here, because there are definitely people where I go, “All right, this person’s a worthy rival because they show me that I should be reaching out for bigger names or better equipment.”

Simon Sinek: [00:34:36] Oh, no, that’s not it. That’s not how worthy rivalry is. You don’t pick worthy rivals because their numbers are better than yours. That’s the finite mindset, because we’re comparing metric to metric, and they’re arbitrary selections. No. A worthy rival, we compare because their marketing is better than ours, or they’re the gold standard. Like if you’re in the airline business, Southwest Airlines should definitely be one of your worthy rivals because everybody talks about and writes about Southwest Airlines. You’d be insane to ignore that they’re doing something right. You don’t have to do it the way that they do it, but you have to pay attention that they’re doing something. You have to learn from them. If you are in the smartphone business, we cannot ignore the iPhone. You just cannot ignore it. Now, is it as incredible as it used to be? It’s debatable. But what got us here, there’s something pretty remarkable about that. Netflix, if you’re in the TV and movie business, you have to be looking at Netflix, not by their numbers or their market caps or anything like this, but there’s something that they’re doing that made them the gold standard. There’s something that they’re doing that everybody uses them as the benchmark. They should definitely be a worthy rival.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:35:38] So you’re not looking at metrics — and it’s so easy to get sucked into the metrics. It’s so easy to go, “Tim Ferriss has a million downloads per episode; I guess it’s possible,” and that’s great to get a little bit of like, expand your horizons and see what’s a possibility for you, what the market could possibly bear or whatever it is. But that’s kind of where that has to end. Because if you’re just chasing the same number of subscribers, you’re going to drive yourself crazy.

Simon Sinek: [00:35:59] Also, isn’t it better to have loyal subscribers rather than lots of subscribers?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:03] For sure.

Simon Sinek: [00:36:04] You know, it’s like profit versus revenue. “Our revenues are — ” “Yeah, but you’re losing money hand over fist.” And the problem is when you have truly visionary companies like Amazon, where they were able to lose money over the course of time because there was something bigger at play that Bezos understood, and so now that’s used as the reason we should sustain all money-losing companies. “Well, Amazon lost money for — ” You know, it’s like, “Yes…” “Tesla loses!” “Yes…” But there’s a much bigger vision at play that is not about their metrics, by the way. So we have to be very careful in those kinds of comparisons. So if you’re talking about it, it’s the same thing. It’s like I’d rather a company be small and profitable than big and losing money.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:36:42] You speak at a lot of companies and you talk with, I assume, head honchos at a lot of these companies. Some of them, Amazon, Tesla, those are obvious winners. What are some of the sort of silent killers where you’re like, “Wow, these people really had it figured out, but nobody’s really talking about them,” or “They’re so small, but wait five years!” Because you have an inside look at a lot of these places.

Simon Sinek: [00:37:03] I’ve written about some of them. I mean, I think that Barry-Wehmiller, who’s run by a guy named Bob Chapman, is an absolutely remarkable company. And what I like is, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to really get to know Bob and he’s become a dear friend and mentor. He’s written his own book. The foreword, by the way, is fantastic.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:20] I assume you wrote it?

Simon Sinek: [00:37:21] I did! If you read nothing else, just read the foreword.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:23] Just read the foreword and then place it back on the shelf.

Simon Sinek: [00:37:27] Joking aside, I mean, Bob, his company is one of those companies that we should be learning from. It’s a funny-named company, Barry-Wehmiller, we don’t really know even how to spell it. But his work is really important and I’m glad that people now know more about who he is and know about his company. There’s a lot of companies that just do well that we know are good, but we don’t study them enough. What Tindell built over at The Container Store is very, very special.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:52] That, from your book, was so surprising. Because when I think of businesses that seem incredibly boring, it’s The Container Store. And whenever my wife’s like, “I’m going to go to The Container Store and get shelves for the garage,” I’m just like, “I’m going to go to the dentist and get a root canal,” because I don’t want to go.

Simon Sinek: [00:38:07] You just can’t deal with that you’re not an organized person.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:09] Clearly I’m not.

Simon Sinek: [00:38:09] Organized people like, you know —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:11] They love The Container Store. That’s why I married Jen. She loves The Container Store. It’s a good match.

Simon Sinek: [00:38:15] It is a good match. I know many people who The Container Store is like, “Ahh.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:19] It’s their thing.

Simon Sinek: [00:38:20] It’s their Utopia. Their Shangri-La.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:22] The Container Store though, such an interesting example. You wrote about this in Infinite Game where, well, why don’t you tell it better? They basically hit the recession after growing 20 percent —

Simon Sinek: [00:38:32] The reason I admire Kip Tindell and what he did is what happened cannot be reproduced overnight. It takes years to achieve what he achieved, which is when the recession hit after, as you said, 20 percent compounded growth over the course of 30 years, all of a sudden, everything plummeted by 13 percent and they weren’t used to that. And so, like many companies, they looked into cost-cutting because they had to get through these rough times, but they did not lay off a single human being. They did not look to layoffs as the means to cost cut. But what they did do is they went around the company and said, “Okay, here’s what’s going to happen. We need to tighten the belts.” And they had some ideas, and spontaneously, people started taking it upon themselves to find more opportunities.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:13] That was shocking.

Simon Sinek: [00:39:14] I know. And so, for example, some of them would take business trips and not submit their expense reports. They downgraded their hotels voluntarily — they were not told to do it. So they’d stay in an economy hotel versus a luxury hotel, or not a luxury, but a nice hotel. And they even called vendors and said, “Can you help us out? We need to cut costs.” And the vendors said, “Sure.” Which is unheard of. Why should your vendors cut their costs to help you save your money? It doesn’t make any sense. And it’s because of years and years and years of looking after their employees that their employees wanted to look after the company. It’s after years and years and years of treating their vendors with respect, that the vendors wanted to pay back and it’s a very human thing. They couldn’t have done anything. There’s no company that could have instructed their employees to downgrade their hotels or pay their own expenses on business trips. And even if people were forced to do it, the rumblings underneath would be furious. And then as soon as times got better, people would look for ways to steal it back. Even if they were stealing office supplies, they would rationalize it. “Well, like they’re forcing me; I’m going to take from them.” But there was this amazing sense of camaraderie and pride like, “We’re going to figure this out together.” And again, it’s because they didn’t use mass layoffs either. They said, “We’re not going to sacrifice you to save this company, but we’re all going to have to find ways.” And because it was spontaneous, it worked.

[00:40:28] And again, you couldn’t do it overnight. Think of it like friendship, right? Friendship is not a balanced equation. Nobody keeps a notebook of like all the things that I’ve done for you and all the things you’ve done for me. Like, “Well, I did 13 things for you last month and you’ve only done four for me this month. This friendship is not fair.” It’s not how friendship works. Friendship is about equitable, not equal. The way I like to define equitable versus equal, equal is: “I do the dishes; you do the dishes.” “I cook; you cook.” “I take out the garbage; you take out the garbage.” That’s equal. Equitable is: “I’ll cook; you do the dishes.” “I’ll put the kids to bed; you take out the garbage.” Like, it’s equitable, not equal. We’re not doing the same things, but we both feel like we’re contributing. We both feel like it’s balanced. And the same goes in a company. They’re equitable relationships, which is we take care of the people. It’s like in friendship, as I was saying, a friendship is not about the equal number of things we do for each other. I could do 50 things for you and you do nothing for me, but the reason I consider you a friend is because I have absolute confidence that the one time I’m going to need something, I know you’ll be there for me no matter what. Even if I never call it in. It’s the confidence that you will, and that’s what makes the friendship equitable. That’s what makes friendship good and balanced. It’s the same in a company, which is when we take care of our people over and over and over again, even though we may never ask them to sacrifice, if it ever came to the point where we do, they will because it’s equitable because we’ve been taking care of them and we know that they’ll be there for us.

[00:41:51] This is why a lot of companies, they expect in hard times to just ask people to sacrifice and expect it to go well, and it won’t because you haven’t been looking after the people for the past five years, six years, 10 years when times were good. So Kip Tindell is a very important CEO and founder of a company in the world today. He was also very satisfied with being extremely profitable, but not necessarily being the biggest. Container Store is a reasonably, relatively small company compared to a lot of other companies, but very profitable, very well-run, very loyal employees, very stable. And so Kip always talked about how he’d rather have that than more revenues, than arbitrary size. Open thousands of thousands of stores that don’t make money just to say that you have more stores than everybody else.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:34] It’s funny how this shows up everywhere inside the business, too. Jen, my wife, loves going to The Container Store because she’ll go during their one or two sales, buy these, I don’t know, Italian Elfa, whatever shelving.

Simon Sinek: [00:42:46] Swedish.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:47] Is Elfa Swedish?

Simon Sinek: [00:42:48] Mhm.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:48] So she’ll buy these things, they’re amazing. And then she’ll go, “Uh-oh, I bought the wrong thing,” or “I bought too many,” and then she’s like, “I got really busy and then we flew to wherever and I didn’t return them.” And she’ll call and they’ll be like, “It’s fine. Just bring them back.” And then the guy from the store will help unload the car, which is probably against every insurance regulation that they have, but it’s a nice thing to do when you’re eight months pregnant.

Simon Sinek: [00:43:12] And the reason that works is because The Container Store trusts its employees to use their own discretion. Poorly led organizations, people say things to you, “I’m not allowed to do that. It’s against the rules.” “I’m not allowed to do that; I’ll get in trouble.” But you’re eight months pregnant and you’ve got a heavy thing, like, “I’d love to help you, but I can’t. I’ll get in trouble.” That’s a poorly led organization. A well-led organization, they know what the rules are. We don’t trust people to follow the rules. We trust people to know when to break the rules. And we hire good people, and we take care of them, and we build up their confidence, and they know the rules. But there’s always an opportunity to break the rules because it’s the right thing to do.

[00:43:45] I’ll give you an example. Both of these stories are true. They’re unrelated, but they’re both true. In the US Air Force, we have a very simple rule: Don’t fly into Iranian airspace. Really simple. There was a KC-135 tanker that was in the region, and they accidentally drifted into Iranian airspace. Completely unrelated, completely separate incident. There’s another KC-135 tanker that was in the airspace, and a fighter jet called “Bingo,” which means he ran out of gas. And so they needed to get to him to refuel him, in-flight refueling. And they made the decision that the quickest way to get to him was to just slice through a little corner of Iranian airspace. And the crew made the choice knowing that they could get in trouble because it broke the rules to slice through the Iranians’ airspace. Now if we treated everybody the same just based on the rule book, both of those crews would have been punished, which later on produces some serious problems, because then if there’s another crew and there’s a plane in trouble, will they be too afraid, for fear of getting in trouble, to cut through Iranian airspace? Now, in real life, what happened is only one of those crews got in trouble, which is the idiots who drifted into Iranian airspace. But the crews who made the choice to break the rules because it was the right thing to do to get to a pilot who was out of gas, that’s what I’m talking about. That’s discretion. We trust people to make their decisions and we trust people not to follow the rules. We trust people to know when it’s the right time to break them. So yes, for insurance reasons, we can’t help everybody take all their stuff curbside, whatever it is, but if there’s someone pregnant and there’s something heavy, you know what? I’m going to break this rule because it’s the right thing to do.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:45:11] It’s the right thing to do.

Simon Sinek: [00:45:11] And a good leader will look at that and understand their intentions, and may not agree, but say, “I understand, and it’s fine.” But if you’re doing it for everyone, now you have an insurance problem. Again, we don’t trust people to follow rules. We trust people to know when to break them, and that’s called discretion. And the best organizations give their frontline employees the discretion to make decisions. The founder of the Ritz-Carlton said, “My lowest-paid employees have all the contact with my customers.” So if you’re not treating these frontline people well, and you’re not giving them discretion, you have a terrible, terrible brand, no matter how great your executive ranks are.

[00:45:42] And we’ve seen this a thousand times. We’ve all had really bad experiences. There are even companies that we “don’t like” because of our experience with them. But if you meet their leadership, the leadership’s wonderful — except for the fact that it’s not filtering down. It happens on a regular basis. So it’s a reason to admire The Container Store.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:46:00] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Simon Sinek. We’ll be right back after this.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:46:05] This episode is sponsored in part by Heineken 0.0. Heineken 0.0 is an alcohol-free beer. You can enjoy it wherever you want. Well, theoretically, anytime, anywhere, but let’s be real. There are definitely some places you shouldn’t have a beer, whether it has alcohol or not. But unlike many non-alcoholic beers, Heineken 0.0 is completely alcohol-free at 0.0 percent and it still tastes like Heineken under 70 calories per can. Good choice if you want to skip the alcohol, but still enjoy a beer and January, as we all know, time for those resolutions to be made and for many of us already broken, but for people like me, that means no alcohol for a month. If you’re doing dry January, check out januarydrypack.com. It’s januarydrypack.com you can get a coupon for three bucks off your next purchase of Heineken 0.0 and skip the booze this January. Let me know what you think.

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Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:48] This episode is also sponsored in part by Better Help. Online counseling. I talk about it every Friday especially, but I’m a huge fan of therapy. I’m a big fan of Better Help. Better Help offers, licensed professional counselors who are specialized in issues such as depression, stress, anxiety, relationships, sleeping, anger, trauma, family stuff, grief stuff, self-esteem stuff. A lot of times younger people or older people for that matter, coming out of the closet with the LGBT stuff that can be massively stressful and kind of encompasses all of the other things, sleep, trauma, anger, family and relationships. So humans are complicated. Look, there’s no shame in getting therapy. I think the most sane people are the ones that work hard to maintain their sanity. It’s just like people who are athletic, they go to the gym, they work out. It’s very rarely, just naturally their state. Better Help is here to help you maintain or regain your sanity. You can connect with a professional counselor in a safe and private online environment, so everything’s confidential, everything is convenient. No driving scheduling’s easy. You can get help at your own time. At your own pace, secure video or just phone sessions. Plus you can chat and text with your therapist and you can switch therapists at any time. It’s really easy. It’s convenient and I’m a huge fan because it takes the friction out of finding a therapist, driving across town, scheduling, et cetera. This is the way to go. Dip your toes in those therapy waters and get your sanity back here in 2020. Jason.

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[00:50:32] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers keeps us going. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, so you can check out those amazing sponsors for yourself, visit jordanharbinger.com/deals and don’t forget that worksheet for today’s episode. The link is in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you’re listening to us on the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Simon Sinek.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:01] I think you can really see this in businesses that are run well, and it’s hard to say if something like Apple where you know, it can be hit or miss, but usually you walk in there and the people at the retail locations, it’s Thanksgiving rush. Everyone should theoretically be miserable and angry, and they almost can’t wait to help you. Well, once you break them out of their little click conversations or whatever. They’re kind of excited to show you something in the photo app and you’re just like, how on earth do you build fans among your employees that are so interested in helping somebody on Black Friday?

Simon Sinek: [00:51:32] Angela Ahrendts, who was the head of Apple retail until recently, gets a lot of the credit for that. And she was the former CEO of Burberry as well, who was responsible for the big Burberry turnaround. They offered all kinds of benefits to the frontline employees. If you are a full-time retail employee, you got stock option opportunities like HQ employees. You’ve got the same health care benefits as HQ employees. You’ve got $2,500 in outside education opportunity, which the company would reimburse you for. All these amazing perks that are usually reserved for folks who work at headquarters. But these are frontline, full-time retail employees that usually are treated differently. And her attitude was they’re full-time employees, we should treat them like all full-time employees. They gave them all the same benefits. So of course, the first thing that goes through people’s mind is, “That must cost — we couldn’t do that. It costs a fortune.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:16] “No wonder my iPhone is so expensive!”

Simon Sinek: [00:52:19] So Angela actually ran the numbers. What she discovered is that the cost to take care of these people was net-zero because it was offset by the savings because they had so little turnover. They had a much smaller recruiting department because they weren’t constantly, constantly hiring new frontline retail people and training them.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:52:37] And losing productivity.

Simon Sinek: [00:52:38] Most shoplifting happens by employees. The numbers that I’ve heard are astonishing that the average retail store suffers 10 percent losses from shoplifting, most of which is by employees. I know it’s astonishing, but if you look at the best-led organizations, they suffer, like, two and three percent shoplifting numbers, like they’re much, much lower because people — you take care of me, we take care of you. And so what Angela found out was the reduced recruiting costs, not to mention the fact that it’s hard to train somebody up every single few months to get the kind of quality of knowledge, basically, the net expense was zero — was zero. And so when other companies say, “We can’t afford to do that,” and by the way, this is not just because Apple is a high-price retailer. I mean, Costco does the exact same thing. Costco takes care of their frontline employees extremely well and their net expense on that is also zero, because of the additional savings on the backend. Not to mention, the number which you just cannot calculate, is just the improved quality of customer service, that plays to customer loyalty and all the rest of it. Here we are singing the praises of Apple and Costco, simply because of their employee treatment. The way they treat their employees, because I can tell you some terrible stories of companies as well and you and I go on the air and tell terrible stories as well. Those are numbers that are hard to calculate.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:50] Yeah, and I would imagine that a lot of executives who are thinking in finite terms, playing finite games, they’re reporting, “Well, we’re going to lose money, but if we lay off 3,000 people, it looks like we made a profit,” and then they just don’t necessarily have a backend and go, “Crap, we’ve got to rehire 3,000 people in the next two years.”

Simon Sinek: [00:54:06] I’ll tell you one of my favorite stories. I was flying Air Canada. I was flying from Toronto to New York, so short flight, like a 40-minute flight. Customs is on that side and so you have to get to the airport really early because who knows how long the lines will be at customs. And so we got there super early and it went really quickly and we got through really quickly and we were there early enough to get on the earlier flight. So I went up to the gate agent, said, “Hey, I got here early. Do you have any seats on the earlier flight so I can get back home earlier?” And she said, “Yeah, we do.” I said, “Fantastic! Can we get on this plane?” And she went like this and said, “Yes, it’ll cost $500 each.” I was like, “Look, whether you put me on the plane or you’re not putting me on the plane, I’m not paying $500 to get on a flight one hour earlier for a 40-minute flight. It’s never going to happen.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:47] That’s ridiculous. Yeah.

Simon Sinek: [00:54:48] “It’s going to the same airport. I’m not changing my route, not changing anything. I just got here early and you have empty seats. Can I please get on it?” By the way, this is something that every airline in the world will do. And she said, “Well, we have to charge you.” I said, “Just so I understand, you are okay sending two empty seats back to New York because you’re so intent on making this $500 a ticket, which I’m not paying. I’d rather just wait. So you’re not going to get the money, but either way, you’re not getting the money. So you’re okay, knowing that you won’t get the money, sending two empty seats back instead of making the customer happy?” And she leaned forward and said, “Sir, this is a business.” What hit me is that didn’t come from her. No frontline employee is going to lean into a customer and be like, “Sir, this is a business,” that came from her manager. And her manager was told that, and that manager was told that. And that manager was told that. So all the way through the line, people were trying to do the right thing, and somebody stopped them from doing the right thing and were told, “This is a business!” That trickled down from up on high. That did not come from her.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:45] No, of course not. She doesn’t care. She has no dog in that fight.

Simon Sinek: [00:55:47] Now, look what’s happening. Not only did they not get my $500 because I waited for my hour, but here I am talking about —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:54] We’re trashing Air Canada.

Simon Sinek: [00:55:55] — terrible customer service on Air Canada.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:58] And it’s Canada. That’s double worse.

Simon Sinek: [00:56:01] I don’t know that they’ve changed their policy since. That was a few years ago. I don’t believe they have.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:06] No. Why would they?

Simon Sinek: [00:56:07] And I believe you need like, executive status to like get on a flight earlier or something. But my point is it’s okay to have the rule there. It’s okay to charge the fee and all of this. And you know, I don’t have an issue with that. It’s that this employee had no discretion to break the rule because she decided this is the right thing to do to take care of a customer and the seats are empty anyway. Right? She had no discretion. She felt she had no discretion, and that’s the problem, because everybody knows the right thing to do. It doesn’t require excessive amounts of training to know this is fair and that’s unfair. This is a leadership problem, not an employee problem. I do not blame her. I blame her manager and her manager’s manager, and her manager’s manager, manager, and however many managers I can go up the chain of command in the hierarchy. That somebody’s denied their employees the discretion to do the job they’d been trained to do. And we suffer. The company suffers and the employee suffers.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:56:57] She probably goes home and goes —

Simon Sinek: [00:56:59] Yeah, she doesn’t like her job.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:00] — “I have to freaking deal with this.”

Simon Sinek: [00:57:01] I guarantee you she doesn’t like her job. The reason employees really want to take care of us is because usually those employees really feel taken care of, and it’s the same companies. The companies that we celebrate the way they treat their employees tend to have remarkably good customer service. Costco, Southwest Airlines, Container Store, they tend to have an amazing customer service, not because they train people how to do amazing customer service. It’s because they look after their people and their people are happy to look after us. It’s not a complicated formula.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:26] Man, it burns to hear that because it seems so simple. I’m not an upper management in Air Canada. However, looking at Southwest and having the people at the check-in gate doing their little rap, they didn’t go, “Okay, it’s Friday, so you can rap the safety rules if you want to.” It’s not Office Space. They just go, “Do what you want as long as it sort of complies with FAA rules.”

Simon Sinek: [00:57:47] The FAA rules are, is that you have to do it, and you have to be able to understand it, be legible or whatever the audio version —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:53] I was trying to —

Simon Sinek: [00:57:55] Articulate, I don’t know what it is —

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:57] Intelligible!

Simon Sinek: [00:57:58] Intelligible! Thank you. You have to do it. and it has to be intelligible, but the FAA does not instruct how you do it. And so Southwest requires their people to do it. They take it upon themselves in how they do it. And it makes us all actually listen. Most of us don’t look up or take our headphones out for the safety announcement. Worse, the number of employees that push a recording. It’s not even a human being we’re talking to, it’s a recording, which is the most impersonal thing in the world.

[00:58:25] My favorite one is, you know, a recording that comes on that says, “Ladies and gentlemen, please put your seatbelts on.” A recording, like for every nervous flyer out there, there’s nothing more beautiful than a really relaxed captain coming on going, “Ahh, ladies and gentlemen, from the flight deck, a little bit of a chop for the next 10 minutes. Nothing dangerous. If you just put your seatbelts on please, and we’ll be out of this in 10 minutes.” I mean, amazing versus a recording that comes on and says, “Seatbelts.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:48] “Strap yourself in. You might die.”

Simon Sinek: [00:58:49] And the point is, it’s nothing to do with good, bad, right, wrong. It’s that one is personal and one is impersonal. And when we treat people like human beings, the whole process becomes human. When we treat people like robots or like numbers, the whole process becomes inhuman. And in this day and age, humanity is something we’re struggling to find. You know, deep, meaningful relationships seem to become more and more elusive. And just human connection becomes so wonderful and so valuable that we can build it into other places. We can build it in. Why is it that you have to be an elite passenger or a gold platinum customer with a bank that when you call a customer service number, the human being picks it up? Nobody wants to listen to the recording. We all hit zero, zero, zero, zero, zero anyway. Like, when did talking to a human being become a status or a luxury? That should be a basic thing. And they do it because they save money. They save money and at the same time, they actually are creating a burden. I’m okay with the electronic stuff for really basic stuff. Is my flight on time? Most of us go online to change our seats. But I think a lot of the time, for a lot of people, when we call, it’s because we can’t do it online. Like, we’re stuck.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:52] We’re stuck.

Simon Sinek: [00:59:52] That’s why I’m calling. Or there’s something unusual. Or I need some advice to work this through. So I think that the organizations that really understand that connecting somebody with a human being, even though they might be an additional cost on the call center side, pays dividends on the backend.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:00:10] Which company or organization do you think is exhibiting finite thinking instead of playing an infinite game, and whose reckoning is on the horizon? And I’m worried you’re going to say the United States.

Simon Sinek: [01:00:21] Organizations go in and out of it, especially when there’s succession, when there are different leaders. And so because some leaders are more infinite and some leaders are more finite. An infinite organization is rich, it can usually sustain a finite leader for a period of time. But hopefully, successive leaders will be infinite. Otherwise, that organization will eventually go out of business. So there’ve been organizations that have gone in and out of it.

[01:00:44] So Walmart is a great example. Walmart definitely was infinite when Sam Walton ran it and a couple of the CEOs who followed after Sam Walton definitely were infinite-minded, trying to advance the cause of the common average American, working American. And then you had a guy by the name of Mike Duke who was the previous CEO, not the current CEO, who was much more finite-driven, much more numbers-driven, cared much more about short-term results, cared much more about lining his pockets than taking care of his people, and Walmart suffered as a result. We used to rally for Walmart and love Walmart. Then we started hating Walmart and wanting them out of our neighborhoods and the company might’ve done okay in the short term, but it did a lot of long-term damage to the employee and to the customer, which really made the company much harder to run. Doug McMillon came in, he’s the new CEO. He’s way more infinite-minded. Under Steve Ballmer, Microsoft, which was an infinite-minded company for many years under Gates, really became very excessively focused on short-term results and financial results, trying to beat Apple as opposed to just trying to be the best version of themselves and advance their cause of helping people be more productive. Satya Nadella, the new CEO at Microsoft, is way more infinite-minded.

[01:01:47] So the good news is those companies had a lot of money to sustain through a finite-minded period. Some organizations are not as lucky. I mean, Lehman Brothers is a great example. They went bankrupt lickety-split. And a lot of those companies that sort of hit the skids pretty early — pretty quickly, rather. You know, the companies go in and out of it. And I think a lot of the companies that we struggle with, we have problems with their ethical decisions, odds are very high that they’ve become very finite-minded. Usually, companies that we question their ethics — and I don’t mean every company has ethical lapses, but when it becomes a recurring theme, you know, Facebook is a prime example.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:18] I was just going to ask about Facebook.

Simon Sinek: [01:02:20] You know, they were an infinite-minded company when they started and Zuckerberg really had every opportunity to become one of the great leaders in American business today. And I don’t know what happened. The company became more obsessed with its business model than it did with advancing a cause. It uses its cause to justify decisions rather than looking for ways, and they seem more protective of their business model. And so all of these questionable ethical decisions they make over and over and over again, it’s not one ethical lapse, it’s a series of ethical lapses. It seems that the company has just really become much more finite-focused, which is a real shame. Can it come out of it? Of course. Of course, like any individual. I know many leaders who were very finite-minded and they became — Bob Chapman, who I now rave about, he was one of those finite-minded leaders for many, many years, and he had an epiphany and he became pretty remarkable. He’s become a pretty remarkable leader as a result of that transformation. I yearn for these leaders to refine that infinite vision that helped them build their companies into what they are today and go back to that. Even if it means struggling in the short term to get there or to find a new business model, it’ll make the company more sustainable in the long term, beyond the lifespan of all of these founder leaders.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:24] I think a lot of people think, “I can’t do that,” or “Our company can’t do that because it’ll hurt profit.” And then you look at somebody like The Container Store or Patagonia, who says, “We’re going to investigate all the labor and the people that make the jackets,” and then suddenly your friends are shaming you for wearing the other brand that has, I don’t know, human trafficking as part of the process.

Simon Sinek: [01:03:43] And the answer is let’s not kid ourselves. Yeah, it will hurt profits in the short term, but over the long term, it’s the right thing to do. And it’s like going to the gym. Well, it hurts. When you start going to the gym, it really, really hurts and you don’t see results for a while. But you kind of have to stick with it and that’s the right thing to do. It’s the same thing. Yes, it’s going to hurt, and yes, there’s going to be a struggle, but if you’ve been taking care of your people, the people will hunker down and go through the hard times with you because it’s the right thing to do. You know, Kodak is one of the prime examples of an organization that couldn’t change their business model. They invented the digital camera in 1975.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:13] A lot of people don’t know that.

Simon Sinek: [01:04:14] Kodak invented the digital camera, but they were too worried that the digital camera would steal market share from film sales, which they were a film, chemical, and paper company, that they literally suppressed the technology. And they made billions of dollars, not millions, billions of dollars from the royalties they got from the patents they owned. So other companies were actually using Kodak technology as the digital revolution started to show up. So your Nikons and Fujis were actually using Kodak technology. And when those patents ran out, five years later, Kodak went bankrupt.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:04:47] It’s mind-blowing that that can happen.

Simon Sinek: [01:04:48] Yet on paper, Wall Street was hailing them as healthy and good and strong, just because the income sheet looked good, but it was built on questionable foundations. What would have been more responsible and very difficult was to transform the company into a digital company, knowing that the end of paper and chemicals and developing was nigh and to film was nigh and it absolutely would’ve hurt profits and it absolutely would’ve hurt revenues, and it absolutely would’ve put the company through a short-term stress. But they would have done it, and Kodak may have been the digital company today where we would be demanding the phone that had the Kodak technology. We just don’t know, but that would have been the right thing to do. Instead, they went bankrupt. You’ve got to be kidding me!

Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:26] Unbelievable.

Simon Sinek: [01:05:27] And the worst part is that every single one of those executives that made those decisions had long retired when Kodak went bankrupt, which means that all of them got their fat bonuses because the company was making tons of money. And literally left the company in shambles after they left and bared no responsibility and bared no consequences because of it.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:44] And that’s finite thinking, and it’s scary when you extrapolate that out to current world politics or any sort of like, macroeconomic decision and you go, “Wait a minute, aren’t we doing that in a lot of areas?”

Simon Sinek: [01:05:55] We look for short-term gains because there are political advantages, just like we look for short-term gains because it helps me get my bonus at the end of the year, but there are long-term consequences. There’s a cost for every decision we make. And I think people forget that. Sometimes the cost comes in money, and sometimes the cost comes in in other things, but there’s a cost for every decision we make. And not all the costs are worth the money we make.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:13] Simon, thank you. This is interesting, as expected.

Simon Sinek: [01:06:16] Thank you Jordan. Good to see you.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:20] Thanks to Simon for popping by the studio today. Always good to see you, man. The book, the new book, is called The Infinite Game. All his books are good. They’re a good read. We’ll link to those in the show notes. I highly recommend you pick those up. And by the way, when you buy books through our website, you do support the show. We didn’t have the little affiliate links up before, but now we do. Because you know, I’m buying diapers these days, folks, and those things ain’t cheap. But no, really, we actually do really appreciate that. We put the money towards improving things like transcripts. The reason we have transcripts, which are typically ROI negative for us, is because of those affiliate links. So if you’re digging the show, you’re digging the transcripts and the work that’s put into the website, please do shop Amazon through us and through those links on the site, that really does add up with all y’all. and I’m not just going and eating fine sushi with it, I’m reinvesting it in the show.

[01:07:11] Otherwise, you know, it’s tempting sometimes to just not even have the site and just do the show. I’d save so much money, but I know you guys use those things and those resources, so I do appreciate when you use them. There’s a video of this interview, by the way, speaking of things that your purchases pay for. There’s a video on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. Also in the show notes, worksheets for every episode, including everything you’ve learned here from Simon Sinek — or almost everything. You can review that by checking out the worksheet linked in the show notes. We also have transcripts for every episode. As I just mentioned, those are also in the show notes as well.

[01:07:44] I’m teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems, using tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free at jordanharbinger.com/course. Don’t do it later. Do it now. It takes six minutes a day. It actually takes five, but that other domain was taken. What can I say? Dig the well before you get thirsty. You know how awkward it is to reach out to somebody when you need something and you haven’t talked to him for a while. That’s totally avoidable. That’s completely up to you. Don’t procrastinate. It will let you stagnate. jordanharbinger.com/course. The drills take a few minutes a day. I wish I knew this stuff 20 years ago. jordanharbinger.com/course is where it is. It’s free. There’s no upsells. Don’t worry. You don’t need to put in your freaking credit card. It’s totally free. Just login. I don’t even need to know who you are.

[01:08:30] By the way, most of the guests on the show actually subscribe to the course in the newsletter, so come join us. You’ll be in smart company where you belong. In fact, you can reach out to Simon. Tell him you enjoyed this episode of the show. Show guests love hearing from you, and you never know what might shake out of that. Speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and follow me on social. I’m @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram.

[01:08:52] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. This episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, and our engineer is Jase Sanderson. Show notes and worksheets by Robert Fogarty, music by Evan Viola. I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions and those of our guests are their own. I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer — and I would not recommend hiring me as your lawyer even if I were — so do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. And remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting that should be in every episode and for sure this one was Simon Sinek, come on. So she had the show with those you love, and even those you don’t. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the shows, so you can live what you listen. We’ll see you next time.


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