Simon Sinek (@simonsinek) is the author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team and Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action.
“We are worth more than the work that we do; the work that we do is supposed to reflect who we are and what our worth is.” -Simon Sinek
What We Discuss with Simon Sinek:
- Why high performers get depressed the more they achieve.
- Even if you love what you do for a living, it’s only a part of why you do it.
- The role of trust and how to develop a culture of trust in your life at work and at home.
- Can we incentivize performance or behavior?
- Goldman’s Dilemma and how many of us play a real-life version of this shocking thought exercise.
- And much more…
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Too many of us define our lives by what we do for a living rather than accepting what we do for a living as just a part of an overall purpose that guides our lives — or, as Simon Sinek would call it, a why.
Simon is the author of Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team and Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. He joins us to clarify what this elusive why is and where it can be found. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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As we’ve discussed on this show recently, uncertainty is not something we should view as an intrusion into our lives, but as something that’s crucial to our lives if we want to grow.
When asked recently why the why he writes about is so important in times of uncertainty, Simon Sinek — author of Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action and Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team — replied: “Times are always uncertain! Even when you have sustained growth, it’s going to end. Nobody wants their house to burn down, and most houses don’t burn down, but we still have insurance. That’s called uncertainty.”
Simon explains that it’s easy for us to forget about the why — the purpose that drives us — when things are going well enough to have a semblance of certainty. If we’re on a road trip across the country and our goal is to cover 150 miles a day and we make 180, we can get wrapped up in the metrics that seem to spell success and forget about our destination entirely.
“It’s only when there’s a roadblock or you’re struggling or something’s not going right that you start thinking, ‘Why am I on the road in the first place?'” says Simon. “And that’s what why means — it means before you get in the car, you actually have a sense of destination.”
In other words, the why is there to guide us through the entire journey — a journey in which the one thing we can truly count on is uncertainty.
Your Work Is Not Your Why
Simon says one of the biggest mistakes people make in our society is to equate their professions with their sense of self. But work is really only a part of the equation — one facet of how our overall purpose, our why, is expressed.
“Take me for example,” says Simon. “My why is to inspire people to do the things that inspire them so, together, each of us can change our world for the better. Now I can do that in a million ways: I can write a book. I can give a talk. I can give advice to someone. That’s who I am as a friend. That’s who I am as a brother. That’s who I am as a son. It’s who I am. And my opportunity is to find the creative ways in which I can bring who I am and inject life into it.”
Mistaking our work as our why can make us miserable even when, to the eyes of the world, we seem wildly successful. This is why we see so many people at the top of their fields confessing to battles with depression.
Of aspiring athletes polled in the ’70s, over half said they would take a drug that would guarantee them success (from Olympic gold medals to the title of Mr. Universe), but kill them in five years.
“As a little girl, my friend, all she ever wanted to do was be on Broadway,” says Simon. “That was her whole goal…then she made it onto Broadway, and then what’s the next goal? She spent 25 years trying to achieve this one goal, and then what?”
So if we can understand what our why is (and what it definitely isn’t), we can focus on the big picture rather than just the milestones that mark our accomplishments.
Can You Incentivize Performance?
“One of the biggest fallacies about incentivizing performance is you cannot incentivize performance!” says Simon. “It doesn’t exist. You can only incentivize behavior. When we say to people, ‘If you perform, we will give you a bonus,’ what we’re doing is incentivizing a set of behavior that people will stop at nothing to achieve those goals — which sounds good in theory, except when people are doing things that are sometimes illegal, sometimes unethical, and very often destroying the very culture and fabric of the company.”
As it turns out, not many investment bankers call upon Simon to give this speech at their offices.
“During the financial crisis when all the banking CEOs were brought out to testify in front of Congress and the question was asked, ‘Why do you pay such exorbitant salaries?’ They all gave the same party line, which is, ‘We have to pay exorbitant salaries to get the best talent.’ No. If you offer exorbitant salaries, what you get are people who want exorbitant salaries! You don’t get the best talent; you get the people who will stop at nothing to get the most money. Sometimes they’re talented.
“Whereas when you offer people an opportunity to have a profound and positive impact on the world and you give them the freedom to make decisions that could redirect the entire way an economy works — “Oh, and yes, we’ll pay you very well, too” — what you get are people who are driven by the profound desire to have a positive impact on the world and want to reinvent banking and the economy as we know it.”
Someone under these circumstances is far more likely to see the job as an extension of their why rather than their entire reason for existing.
The Role of Trust
Simon points out that he wrote his first book, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, for leaders. Then again, he defines leadership more broadly than some.
“If you want to individually lead — and that can come in any form — you can be a leader in the family, you can be a leader in your community,” says Simon. “And good leadership is not about being in charge, it’s about taking care of those in your charge…so a good parent is a leader. A good friend is a leader. And sometimes they have rank and sometimes they don’t, but what rank affords them is the ability to lead at greater scale.”
In order to be an effective leader, the people in our charge need to trust us. And what builds that trust can vary by circumstances, but at its core is authenticity: that you say and do the things that you actually believe.
“When we seek to trust others, and we want others to trust us, we have to act first — somebody has to go first, and it’s the leader who takes the risk to trust first. I’ve never in my life heard a great leader say, ‘Give me a reason why I should trust you.’ They simply bestow trust. I’ve never in my life heard a great leader that says to me, ‘Prove why I should give you more responsibility.’ They assess someone’s skills and talents and abilities and potential and take the risk to give them more responsibility.”
While it sometimes works out and sometimes it doesn’t, Simon considers any relationship — whether personal or business — a dance that starts slowly. Each side gives a little more until each can let their guard down as trust is established and grows.
He adds that there’s also something to be said for a leader who recognizes that certain perks are rewarded to their rank and not them, personally. But when we’re that leader, sometimes it takes the people around us — the people we trust and who trust us — to share the memo.
THANKS, SIMON SINEK!
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Click here to thank Simon Sinek at Twitter!
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Resources from This Episode:
- Find Your Why: A Practical Guide for Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team by Simon Sinek, David Mead, and Peter Docker
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t by Simon Sinek
- Simon Sinek’s Website
- Simon Sinek at Twitter
- Goldman’s Dilemma
- Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury
- What Companies Can Learn from the Homeless by Simon Sinek, HuffPost
- Simon Sinek’s TED talks
- Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace, Inside Quest
- Simon Sinek on Donald Trump, Leaders In
- Mind Pump
Transcript for Simon Sinek | What’s Your “Why” and Where Do You Find It? (Episode 6)
Simon Sinek: [00:00:00] The skill of listening, a very difficult skill that requires education and tons of practice active listening that if you do it right, you’re exhausted at the end of it because it takes so much energy where you don’t just hear the words that are spoken, but you understand the meaning behind those words.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:18] Welcome to the Jordan Harbinger Show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with my producer Jason DeFillippo. On this episode, we are talking with Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why and now Find Your Why. He’s big on “Why.” He also argues that as individuals and companies, everything that we say and do is a symbol of who we are. It’s only when we communicate our beliefs authentically — got a love hate relationship with that word — that we can attract others to our cause. So today we’ll discover why high performers get depressed the more they achieve and we’ll discuss the idea that why you do something is far different than what you actually do for a living.
[00:00:54] We’ll also explore the role of trust and how to develop a culture of trust in your personal life, in your business and even at home. Now, here’s Simon Sinek. You know, we followed your stuff for quite a while here, Start With Why and this all is hitting home now. But back when I first read it, I thought, “Okay, yeah, you got to have a purpose and you got to have, you know, reason why you’re doing everything. I get it. Okay, cool.” Cool business book. I enjoyed it. You know, it’s good to do a show about it. And now, we’re rebooting. We used to be a different show. I used to host a different show called The Art of Charm. Now it’s the Jordan Harbinger Show. It’s a brand new reboot. Jason and all the rest of the team, we’re all here and we found that our “why” seems to be much more important now that we’ve gone into crisis mode. [00:01:41] And I know that might not be normal or the usual case why a company might go and get re-examined their why. But I think it’s something that we started to do because if you’re at the top of the mountain, you have a really popular show, you kind of go, “Oh yeah, it’s nice to know why we’re doing something,” but it’s not important maybe enough for you to sit down and spend a lot of time on it. When you’re starting from the bottom of that mountain again and you’re looking at climbing up it, you kind of have to go, “Shoot, do I want to go back up that again? Do I have a good enough reason to do it?” And so your work has become a lot more relevant to our personal and business circumstances.
Simon Sinek: [0:02:15] Well that’s good to hear.
Jordan Harbinger: [0:02:16] Does that sort of jive with the types of companies and individuals that you do work with? Or is it mostly places are kind of looking for a morale boost in a larger organization.
Simon Sinek: [0:02:25] Oh, they come in all shapes, sizes and forms. Some of them are high-performing, some of them are struggling, some of them are doing it offensively and some of them are doing it defensively. But I think one of the things that you touched on, which is really significant, is that somebody asked me recently, you know that the why seems to be important in times of uncertainty. Then my answer was times are always uncertain, right? Even when you have sustained growth, it’s going to end. It’s like nobody wants their house to burn down and most houses don’t burn down, but we all still have insurance. That’s called uncertainty. Even though our houses are just fine, and I think what ends up happening
[00:03:00] is companies are lazy, right? Because when times are good, I don’t need to think about that. It’s like, imagine you’re driving down the highway and your goal is to drive 150 miles a day and you’re driving 180 miles a day every single day. You don’t think about your destination because you’re just driving and it’s only when there’s a roadblock or when you’re struggling or something’s not going right that you start thinking, why am I on the road in the first place? And that’s what why means. That means before you get in the car, you actually have a sense of destination. You actually know where you’re going and if you don’t have a sense of destination, what ends up happening is you become obsessed with daily metrics and so excited when you beat those metrics, but you’re unaware of the fact that you don’t know where you’re going. [00:03:42] And that’s what purpose is. It’s very common for people to think about it when they hit roadblocks, but it’s usually because of hubris that they’re not thinking about it when things are good.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:51] I agree with that 100 percent. I used to check our download statistics every 15 minutes and I have something happened one day I’ll be like, “Jason, why didn’t we get as many today as we got last time?” And it was just this terrible addiction really. And I can’t remember if it was a friend of mine or somebody in my family, and certainly Jason, my producer was saying this all the time. He’s like, “Look, there’s no point. We’re going to grow this year. That’s the goal, not grow after lunch.” And if we grow after lunch, that’s great, but we don’t have to grow after lunch. And if we don’t go after lunch, please don’t wake me up and ask why and why that didn’t happen.
Simon Sinek: [00:04:28] No, I mean that’s 100 percent. I mean, I know one of the impacts of when I learned my why is I became more calm. You know, because I have the sense of purpose and longevity that I understand that sometimes that’s up and sometimes it’s down and sometimes it’s ahead and sometimes it’s behind. But I’m in it for the long haul. And the anxiety of the daily is really a very finite mindset and we become more obsessed with the finite when we have no sense of that sense of higher purpose or cause that really, you know, is an infinite idea.
Jordan Harbinger: [0:05:04] So how do we start to find this if we’ve never really thought about it, right? I mean, yes, it’s always nice and cushy to say, “Look, I love delivering great content to people that helps them improve their lives.”
[00:05:17] That’s sort of the rough measure of the Jordan Harbinger Show mission, right? Like I want to get great people and dissect some of their mindsets and the things they have to teach and help the audience apply those things for themselves. And yet I mean that, but I kind of, I don’t have it. That’s not the feeling that I have when I’m creating this stuff. I’m still passionate about it. Does that make sense?
Simon Sinek: [0:05:38] No, that’s not your why. That’s just what you do. Of course you do that. That’s what the show is. And if you don’t deliver good content that people can listen to and use, then people won’t listen and then you don’t have a show, right? So you’re eloquently and adding more intonation in your voice when describing what you do doesn’t turn it into a cause. You know, it’s like what we want to do is bring great content.
[00:05:59] Know that it’s still what you do. Purpose and cause is why you sacrifice for this. And it’s why your friends like you. It’s the same thing. Your friends love you, your colleagues love you, your audience loves you, you know for the same reason. And your show is simply one of the things you’re doing in your life that brings your cause to life. You know, anything you do in your life has to bring your cause to life. This is just one thing. So if you say, I want to find great people and give people actual content, well what happens if you don’t have a show? Do you not have a why anymore? Of course you do. You’re defining yourself by what you do. So take me for example, my why is to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. So together, each of us can change our world for the better. [00:06:42] Now I can do that in a million ways: I can write a book. I can give a talk. I can give advice to someone. That’s who I am as a friend. That’s who I am as a brother. That’s who I am as a son. It’s who I am. And my opportunity is to find the creative ways in which I can bring who I am and inject life into it, right? So simply saying, I like writing books and I want to write books that people want to read. But what if I stopped writing books? And the problem is, too many people define their value based on their job. So if you stop doing that job, you know, your retirees have this problem. They literally lose their whole identity because they spent 20-30 years building themselves up to do this one thing, to be this one thing. We are more, we are worth more than the work that we do. The work that we do is supposed to reflect who we are and what our worth is.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:36] So this is a great encapsulation of the problem that when my other show ended sort of abruptly and we found ourselves rebooting because I thought the why was doing the show, doing the interviews. And so when I didn’t have that platform anymore, and now that we’re regrowing the platform, I’ve went through a few days of, I was really, this sounds so dramatic now that I’m verbalizing it, but I was really asking myself, “Have I lost this part of who I am? Have I lost the why?” Because I was conflating the why with the method of delivery, right? So in that, I had the retiree problem, except I’m 37 because I ended up getting retired in a way that I was not expecting, right? And so I found myself sort of drifting and the first thing I did was, of course, start a different show because I still have a passion for it. But you’re right, I didn’t really lose my why. I just I didn’t have my thumb on it. I sort of misunderstood. What I was doing. Like you said, what I do with my actual, and I think a lot of people do that.
Simon Sinek: [00:08:42] You never lost your why. And I would argue you never had a sense of it, but you may have had a sense but you weren’t able to put it into words before and confused the passion you had for what you did, for the reason why you started doing it in the first place.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:55] Exactly, and I think a lot of people do that and I think especially creative people or people who perform or something like that, I guess those are the same types of people. I feel like that happens a lot because if you suddenly find yourself where you can’t sing or you can’t dance anymore or you can’t act in the same way that you use to or you can’t play the same sports. And you hear about this with athletes too, and I know you work with a lot of high performers and probably athletes as well. What about somebody like, let’s say Tiger Woods, right? Who suddenly finds himself being attacked and he can’t play in the same way or even an athlete that actually retires. You hear about them feeling lost because it’s like, “Am I still a basketball player? I don’t play for the NBA anymore. I play in my backyard with my kids.”
Simon Sinek: [00:09:42] What is fairly frequent is when individual athletes set themselves on the path to become “the greatest in their sport,” right? And for those who achieve it, once they achieve that — that lifelong goal that they’ve set their whole life in motion to achieve — the immediate reaction is actually depression. So Andre Agassi became the greatest tennis player of all time and his immediate reaction was depression. And Michael Phelps became the most medaled Olympian in history. And the reaction shortly after was depression because they’ve spent their whole life to achieve this one thing. And they thought that that was the thing. And then when they get there, they realize what comes next and they literally don’t know what happens next. I have friends who are performers that have gone through this, which is, you know, as a little girl, my friend, all she wanted to do was be on Broadway.
[00:10:30] Right. That was her whole goal. Her whole life was organized about being on Broadway and then she made it onto Broadway. And then what’s the next goal? She spent 25 years for, you know, trying to achieve this one goal and then what, right? And team athletes don’t suffer this as much. You know, when you win the Superbowl, you don’t suddenly suffer depression, right? It’s more frequent amongst individual athletes. And I think it goes to the point that our lives are better when we feel like we belong to something and we have sort of common purpose because as individuals absence of that sense of common purpose and the requirement to both give and receive help from others, we actually find ourselves obsessive goal setters, which is fine. And you see this in business all the time. I want to be a millionaire. Okay, you made your first million. [00:11:15] Well, I’m not happy, but maybe if I make 2 million. Okay, made 2 million. Okay. So I still don’t have that feeling. Maybe I make 5 million and we confuse the thing that brought us joy in the first place, you know? And because it was all the hard work and making the goal the first time they gave us this incredible sense of accomplishment. We think it happens over and over again. But when you’ve had, you know, 15 promotions and 25 bonuses, you know, whether you’re an entrepreneur or working in a company, the novelty wears off. You know, your first bonus feels much better than your 50th bonus. It’s nice, but it’s not the same. 10th promotion just doesn’t feel the same as your first promotion. In other words, it was never the promotion. It’s the journey to get on that promotion. And I think this is what why does. It gives you a sense of the whole thing rather than, rather than just the individual milestones,.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:08] I predict that you’re going to see a lot of people after the PyeongChang Olympics going, “I got a gold medal and now I don’t know what to do with myself.”
[00:12:15] Do you, do you find that a lot? I feel like you’re about to have a rush of book sales among the U.S. or the entire Olympic team.
Simon Sinek: [00:12:22] Yeah, I mean, you know, I have a friend who was a two-time Olympian and she didn’t even make it into the — she didn’t even get past the first round in both Olympics and she will maintain that she is healthier than some of the ones who medaled. Like she went to the Olympics and got nothing and she thinks that, just mentally, she’s a lot healthier. And I can’t remember the exact numbers, but you’ll get the idea that they did a study, you know — they who do all the studies. Yes. The department of “They.” They did a study where they asked athletes, and again, I’ll get the numbers wrong, but you’ll get the point.
[00:12:55] They asked Olympic athletes, would you be willing to give up your career immediately if we can guarantee that you medal?” And something like 60 percent said yes. You know, and then they asked, “Would you be willing to die within five years if you could be guaranteed a goal?” And something like 80 percent said yes.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:14] What?
Simon Sinek: [00:13:17] Yeah, no. Like I said, I’m getting the numbers wrong, but you’re getting the point.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:19] It doesn’t matter if one person said that, that’s crazy.
Simon Sinek: [00:13:22] No, but it was a majority. It was an uncomfortably high number. It was the majority. It was way, way more than 50 percent. It was an uncomfortably high number of Olympians who thought that the gold was more important than living.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:36] This is crazy!
Simon Sinek: [00:13:38] And I think like everything in the Olympics, it’s exaggerated. You know, their talents, their gifts, their ability to work hard, their focus, their discipline — all of that is exaggerated from the rest of us. Which means there are probably many amongst us who are so ambitious in their careers, for promotion or money, that they would willingly sacrifice things that are very valuable for that promotion.
[00:14:00] And despite what they may say, because look at the way some people act and companies, backstabbing and people, we’ve all worked for people like this who we can tell are way more interested in their careers than ours. Who would absolutely lie, cheat and steal to get the promotion. And some of it is the leadership environments in which we asked these people to work. You know, one of the big fallacies about incentivizing performance is you cannot incentivize performance. It doesn’t exist. You can only incentivize behavior, right? So when we say to people, “If you perform, we will give you a bonus.” What we’re doing is incentivizing a set of behaviors that people will stop at nothing to achieve those goals, which sounds good in theory except when people are doing things that are sometimes illegal, sometimes unethical and very often destroying the very culture and fabric of a company. This is why, you know — hit the goal, get the bonus, hit the goal, get the bonus, hit the goal, get the bonus — that is the predominant means by which organizations intend to incentivize performance. What they often get is behavior that is well-constructed for short term success. Again, because we cannot incentivize performance, you can only incentivize behavior. And so, what kind of behavior will you get if there’s no values that are infused and included in that performance structure, in that bonus structure?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:22] I feel like, have you ever been brought into an investment bank or something like that to talk about this work? Because I feel like they’d bring you in and then show you the back door pretty close to the beginning of this particular talk because this is exactly how Wall Street operated when I was there.
Simon Sinek: [00:15:36] Say, don’t call me that much. You know, but the funny thing is they don’t call me that much, but secretly a lot of them read my work and go, “Ugh, this is just what it’s like here.” You know, there’s so many false truths and myths that they’ve told themselves. You know, my favorite one also is during the financial crisis when all of the banking CEOs were brought out to testify in front of Congress. And the question was asked, “Why do you pay such exorbitant salaries?” And they all get the same party line, which is “We have to pay exorbitant salaries to get the best talent.” No, if you offer exorbitant salaries, what you get are people who want exorbitant salaries, right? You don’t get the best talent. You get the people who will stop at nothing to get the most money.
[00:16:21] Right? Sometimes they’re talented. Whereas when you offer people an opportunity to have a profound and positive impact in the world and you’ll give them the freedom to make decisions that could redirect the entire way an economy works — “Oh, and yes, we’ll pay you very well too” — what you’ll get is people who are driven by the profound desire to have a positive impact in the world and want to reinvent t banking in the economy as we know it, but when all we do is put money ahead of everything else, you’re going to get just a recurring pattern of people who will continue to break the institutions that they claim to protect. I love the irony. I love irony.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:16:58] You’re British kind of, right? So of course you do.
Simon Sinek: [00:17:01] Yeah, no, it’s true. I’m, as an Englishman, I’ve been raised to just love irony.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:05] Yeah, it’s true. It’s in your DNA. You can’t get rid of it even if you want it to.
Simon Sinek: [00:17:11] It’s true. I do love irony.
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Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:43] By the way, the Olympic study, the elite athletes study or what would you call this? The phenomenon? It’s called Goldman’s dilemma.
Simon Sinek: [00:19:53] Oh, okay. You looked it up, great.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:54] Yeah, Jason did. He is here. He’s paying attention, maybe even sometimes more than anyone else on these programs, but he’s always digging it up.
Simon Sinek: [00:20:04] So, Jason, do you have the real numbers there? Do you have the real numbers?
Jason DeFillippo: [00:20:06] It doesn’t have the exact numbers, but it’s over half.
Simon Sinek: [00:20:09] Yeah, I mean even half is disturbing, but I just remember reading this and being so disturbed that over half of all Olympic athletes would sacrifice their lives to be guaranteed a goal. Let’s just think about that for a moment and then take a step back and think of them as exaggerated versions of us.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:20:25] It’s something I’d like to think is only happening because these are the most intense people in the world and they’re really focused on one particular thing.
[00:20:35] But I think there’s just like any human condition, we all have a little bit of this in us, right? There’s probably some measure of the population, non-Olympic population, that would say, “Well, you know, I would never do that for a gold medal, but if I could just get my company to this level, or if I could be at the top of this corporate ladder, or if I could make this particular salary grade, then I could then I would give up 10, 20, 30 years of my life.” And what we don’t realize, or maybe what we do realize maybe less consciously, especially when I was working on Wall Street and working myself to death with a lot of other people, although I had it pretty easy, I’ll admit. I think a lot of people are making this trade. We just don’t do it consciously. We might not be thinking that I’m going to die in five years, but if you’re working seven days a week and you’re working a hundred hour weeks and you have no family and no life and you live, eat and breathe financial transactions that you really don’t care about.
Simon Sinek: [00:21:30] You can take it further than that. You can take it further than that. Forget about, you know, you have no life despite the fact that we have better medicine than we’ve ever had. The fact that you can buy good food and everybody’s exercising and doing yoga, we’ve seen a profound increase of stress-related disorders and diseases over the past decades, which includes some cancers, diabetes and heart disease. Profound increases in people dying from these things, and they’re attributed to increase of stress. The primary source of stress in our lives is work. Which means that the organizations or at least the leadership environments that are being fostered are literally killing people. And because it doesn’t happen immediately, it doesn’t happen overnight, it’s like eating a Big Mac does nothing. Eating two big bags does nothing. Do that everyday, you’ll die young, right?
[00:22:14] In other words, you don’t see the deleterious effects of these things compounding in our lives, but our jobs are literally, literally killing us. And that to me is an astonishing prospect. And let’s be clear, ambition is good, right? Without ambition, nothing will ever get done. Ambition is good. But ambition at the expense of others is dangerous. And I think this is why team athletes probably suffer less than individual athletes because individual athletes are sacrificing anything and everything for their own personal advancement where team athletes know that you cannot sacrifice your team because then the team won’t win. So you have to be a team player. You know, that may be a part of it, which is ambition is good, but not at the sacrifice of the group.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:00] How do we know if our ambition is going too far? How do I know that my level of ambition is healthy versus, I don’t know what you’d call it, predatory or deleterious.
Simon Sinek: [00:23:09] Let’s go back to when we were younger and all of our careers. And you heard about one of your colleagues that got a promotion. Were you angry or happy for them?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:17] Me personally?
Simon Sinek: [00:23:18] Or did you publicly say congratulations then you closed the door and be like, “Oh! that is so unfair!” You know.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:25] Truth be told, I didn’t care about my career as an attorney so I’m a terrible example because I was always like, “Well good for him. I’m out of here pretty soon anyway because I hate this.” But I think if I didn’t give up my career now, if somebody gets wrecked, you know, it depends. If I like the person and I feel like they’re a helpful, great producer, I go, “Wow! That’s great. Best of iTunes.” If I think they didn’t deserve it for some reason, I just go, “Well that sucks.” But I very rarely go, “It should have been me, that son of a bitch!” That almost never happens.
Simon Sinek: [00:23:57] It happens all the time. And I think when you start getting angry at someone for getting the promotion that you deserve, I can guarantee you that all of us have been given promotions that probably was better deserved by somebody else.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:24:08] Sure. Story of my life.
Simon Sinek: [00:24:10] Right, and so gratitude, you know, being grateful for every promotion that we get or every recognition that we get is probably a good place to start. And understanding that, you know, there’s no winning, there’s no winning business, there’s no such thing as winning life, right? There was only ahead and behind and sometimes we’re ahead and sometimes we’re behind. And amazingly the best way to stay ahead is if we allow others to help us and we’re willing to help others. It is the best way. I think we apply finite constructions to what is basically an infinite game. Like I said, there’s no such thing as winning life. You can be the most powerful person in the world with more money than anybody else and when you die, you just die and you leave it all behind. Like there’s no, you didn’t win life.
Simon Sinek: [00:24:51] It just continues without you. And the same as in business, like how many companies do we miss it? You’re like, does anybody miss Circuit City? Like, who cares? They went bankrupt. And we went on with our lives, you know, like who actually cares?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:05] I found a gift card for Circuit City and then I missed it because I was like, “Shit! There’s probably like a hundred dollars on here. What can I do with this?”
Simon Sinek: [00:25:12] You didn’t spend it in time.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:13] Now, it still burns. Still burns. The whole idea of forming or discovering our why is something that like we discussed earlier, kind of comes late for a lot of us or we’d take it for granted at first or we don’t verbalize it or we don’t — what am I looking for here? It’s not like a conscious process. We just think, “Look, my business is working.
[00:25:34] I read this great book, Start With Why, all my employees should go through it. Okay, I’m done. I did my part, I read it and handed it. I gave a stack of it away to my staff. In fact, that’s where I got mine. Admittedly, I was doing a tour of Zappos and there was a big stack of them and I was like, “I’m going to take one of these unless I can’t.”
Simon Sinek: [00:25:51] That was nice of them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:25:52] I was like, Tony Shay giving a high five over here to Simon Sinek, find a few thousand copies of this book. Yeah, not bad. I may now have to remember that for when I write a book. Get on Tony’s good side. But one of the main concepts that I took away that I remembered just for years after that was why and how trust is influenced by shared values and culture and the role that trust plays in groups. And I would love it if we could go over this a little bit because I’ve always noticed this concept in some manner. And the example you give in in Find Your Why was how you run into Americans overseas and you’re like, “Oh, Hey man, you’re from New York? I’m from Michigan. We should totally hang out for the day and go to this museum.” Whereas if I met somebody from New York here in Silicon Valley, I would not care at all. And that concept of sort of extrapolated through business
[00:26:44] and life is so interesting. And the role that you’ve discovered that it plays, I find it fascinating.
Simon Sinek: [00:26:48] Yeah. So let’s be clear. The why is a starting point. I wrote a book called Start With Why, right? And it’s really about leadership, right? If you want to individually lead and that can come in any form. You can be a leader in the family, you can be a leader in your community, you know, and good leadership is not about being in charge. It’s about taking care of those in your charge. Leadership has nothing to do with rank. It is about the willingness, the profound responsibility of taking care of those in your charge. That’s what leadership is, right? So a good parent is a leader, a good friend is a leader and sometimes they have rank and sometimes they don’t. What rank affords them is the ability to lead at greater scale.
[00:27:30] And if you choose to be a leader, as an individual or as an organization, you have to start with why, right? But then there are many, many other steps and becoming a leader, of which the second would be understanding the value of the group and the circle of safety that I’ve written about. What I’m doing is. On my own journey, writing about the journey that I’m on, right? So when you talk about that sense of trust, trust is essential because we want to know that somebody has got our backs. Like how do you know your friends are your friends? It’s really just a feeling, right? It’s a feeling with a bit of — because sometimes that they’ll be there for us is some empirical evidence for sure. But sometimes there are people who are there from us because they want something from us and they’re just gaming the system and working us until they need a favor back. [00:28:17] We know those people and we have an odd feeling about them. We get a sense that their being there for us is not necessarily genuine. We feel that they want something from us. The funny thing is love and trust and all of these things, they’re feelings. They’re not instructions. You can’t tell someone to trust you. You cannot order people to trust each other. They’re feelings and, they’re feelings born out of the environment and the environment comes from shared values and shared belonging. As you said, I live in New York, but I don’t like everybody in New York. I’m not friends with everybody in New York. Somebody comes up to me and says, “I’m from New York, too. We should be friends.” I’m like, “You’re weird. Excuse me. I have to go in the other direction.” But if I’m standing in Paris where I don’t feel like I belong and I hear an American accent on that Paris underground on the Paris Metro, I’m going to walk up and say, “Where are you guys from? You’re from Alabama? I’m from New York!” and we’re literally going to be friends because neither of us feel like we belong and simply hearing an accent or sharing with, knowing that these people have at least a common sense of what we stand for and the experiences we’ve had because we’re from the same nation, creates a sense of camaraderie amongst us in this world in which we don’t feel like we belong. It’s tribalism. It’s what it is and the modern day tribe is the company. And so the best companies are values-based. They have a sense of purpose and cause, and when we work there we feel like we can be ourselves. Trust is a biological construction born out of the environments we’re in.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:29:49] How can we foster this in a way that maybe not just in our companies, but it seems like this is all something that can apply within circles of friends, within families.
[00:29:59] I mean, do you find yourself applying these kinds of things in your personal life outside of work? It seems like you would have to.
Simon Sinek: [00:30:05] Of course, of course. Human beings are human beings, right? The only difference between work and home are the clothes we wear and the tables we sit at. I am who I am and the reason my friends love me is the same reason my colleagues love me, it’s me. And if I’m different in one of those two places, then in one of those two places I’m lying. Right? So this is what authenticity means. It’s a word that is thrown about a little too loosely. Authenticity means that you say and do the things you actually believe. And if others believe what you believe, they will be drawn and attracted to you, drawn to you and attracted to you. And if they don’t believe what you believe, they will be repelled by you.
[00:30:43] Right. That doesn’t, it’s not good or bad. We don’t have to hate people who have different beliefs, but we don’t have to be friends with everybody either. But we do have to respect other beliefs. We would have to respect things that are not our own. And what you do is you find your tribe and sometimes it’s silly. You know, that when you’re going to a game and you see somebody wearing the same jersey as you because of the same team, you say hi to them. These are total strangers. You just happened to like the same team. Like there’s intense camaraderie at a finals game of something between the fans of one team and the fans of the other team. We’re tribal. We want to feel safe amongst our own. We know that somebody in that jersey will probably defend us if somebody attacks us. If somebody from the other team attacks us.[00:31:21] And so when we seek to trust others and we want others to trust us, we have to act first. Somebody has to go first. And it’s the leader who takes the risk to trust first. I’ve never, in my life, heard a great leader say, “Give me a reason why I should trust you.” They simply bestow trust. I’ve never, in my life, heard a great leader that says, “Prove why I should give you more responsibility.” They assess someone’s skills and talents and abilities and potential and take the risk to give them more responsibility. And sometimes they get it right and that person may discover that they’re capable of more than they thought or they get a wrong, which is they give them more responsibility a little too soon. But it’s like being a parent, which is we want to see our kids grow. [00:32:05] And sometimes we give them a long leash and sometimes we keep them on a short leash. And sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong and it’s a dance. But the kid knows if it’s a healthy relationship at home, that it’s always based in love. And good leadership is the same thing. And so when we’re building friendships, it’s a dance. We start slowly, you know, we take little risks, we open up ourselves a little bit, we put in a little bit of effort. You make a call, you try and make a plan as opposed to waiting for the other person to do the things all the time and they reciprocate and then you do a little more and then they reciprocate and then they take a risk and then you reciprocate. And eventually at some point, I’m not sure exactly when you wake up in the morning, you’d be like, “Oh my God, I totally trust them.” [00:32:43] And you trust them because you feel like you can be yourself around them. You feel that you can be completely yourself and fully expressed. Again, sounds ooey-gooey but it means you can express your values, desires, comforts and discomforts. And even though they may disagree, they won’t judge you and you will never feel like you are being judged. And this is what we all seek as human beings. This is what we all desire. We want this in our relationships, we want this in our friendships. And frankly we wanted it at work too.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:10] So in this way, we’re sort of shaping each other with our expectations, right? We give each other a little bit of responsibility. You either meet that challenge or you fail one which builds trust the other, which I guess erodes it. And I love the idea that we do this with people we don’t even know.
[00:33:27] You didn’t really touch on this just now, but I saw this in your work. And also in Find Your Why, that if we say what we believe and we do what we believe, we will attract people who believe what we believe. And that was actually, it comes into play with how I met my wife. She used to listen to the show all the time. And when we started talking online, which was just kind of a weird Twitter fluke, she was really curious if I was actually the person that she had heard all these years on the Podcast. And so that was probably one of the primary drivers was, “Okay, is this guy going to be like he is on the show or is he just this total D bag that’s going to be totally fake and Hollywood, I’m curious enough to go out with him at least once and figure it out.” [00:34:11] And now we’re married.
Simon Sinek: [00:34:12] Yeah, that’s a 100 percent right. And some people, and you and I both know them, unfortunately doozie come and become affected by the recognition or anything that comes their way. It does affect them and they aren’t the people who they portray themselves to be. And we’re always disappointed. It’s like the rule — Never meet your heroes, right? Because what if you’re disappointed? It reminds me of one of my favorite stories which I wrote about in Leaders Eat Last of a former under secretary of defense who is giving a presentation with a large conference about a thousand people. He’s giving his prepared remarks and in the middle of his remarks, he interrupts himself and smiles and says, “You know, last year I was still the undersecretary and I spoke at this exact same conference. And last year I flew here business class and there was somebody waiting for me at the airport to take me to the hotel and they took me to the hotel and somebody had already checked me in and they simply took me up to my room and the next morning I came down and somebody was waiting for me in the lobby and they brought me to the same venue.
[00:35:15] They took me in the back entrance. They took me into the green room and handed me a cup of coffee in a beautiful ceramic cup.” He says, “I’m no longer the under secretary, and I flew here coach, I took a taxi to the hotel, I checked myself in. This morning, I came down and took another taxi to the venue. I walked through the front doors, found my way backstage and when I asked somebody, “Do you have any coffee?” He pointed to the coffee machine and I poured myself a cup of coffee into this here, a styrofoam cup.” He says, “The lesson is, the ceramic cup was never meant for me. It was meant for the position I held. I deserve a styrofoam cup.” And that’s the point. We all only deserve a styrofoam cup and many of the perks that we are given come as a result of the position [00:36:02] we hold, but not based on who we are, you know? And as you gain fame or as you gain rank, people do treat you differently. They respect the rank, they respect the alpha status. If you want to use anthropological terms, right? And they hold doors open for you, they send you gifts, they call you Sir or Ma’am, they bring you tea or coffee without asking. If you’re senior and you left your coat in the other room, someone will get your coat for you. If you’re a junior and you left your coat in the other room, you get your own coat, right? The point is, is there are perks that come with rising in the social hierarchy. And the great leaders are the ones who understand that those perks are afforded to them. And some of those perks include money, right? You paid more when you’re senior, you’re paid less when you’re junior. The great leaders understand that the perks that are afforded to them, our gifts are being given to their rank, not to them. And the ones that disappoint us are the ones that believe that they’re entitled to those perks, that they think that they deserve this, the ceramic cup.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:05] This episode is sponsored in part by MeUndies. Like you’ve heard me talk about MeUndies a bunch. I even have people writing in from other countries that are like, “Ah, I’m spending the extra on shipping because this underwear’s amazing.” So look, you know, I’m a big believer in the product. They’re the perfect balance, in my opinion, of comfy fit. Every month they give you something new. I love how they say they give you new prints every month. Guys don’t care about prints, but we still need new underwear every month, if you know what I’m saying. And it’s funny, I didn’t think about this until a couple of listeners wrote in and when they were like, “I love MeUndies. I love that they send me a new one each month.” I was like, “Really? You care about variety in your underwear?” And he’s like, “uh..” and I was like, “Oh nevermind.”
[00:37:41] So maybe a little TMI, but I still think it’s a really good idea to have an underwear subscription here. So yeah, they got adventurous prints and designs that are all limited edition. And look, you know, fresh underwear never hurt anyone. 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. MeUndies guarantees you will love their undies, or you get your money back. And they’ve got a great offer for my listeners here, for any first time purchasers, when you purchase any MeUndies, you get 20 percent off and free shipping. So they’re so sure you’re going to love it, they offer 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. You can return used underwear for a refund. That’s how you do it. So to get 20 percent off your first pair of free shipping and 100 percent satisfaction guarantee. Go to MeUndies.com/Jordan. That’s MeUndies.com/Jordan. This episode is also sponsored by HostGator. It’s a new year, a new you and you need a new website or just a website in general, but if you have no idea what an HTML or a CSS is, that’s okay and WordPress sounds like something your grandfather used to flatten his books. [00:38:38] I get it. You really need a great website. You don’t want to spend a ton of cash. We recommend HostGator’s website builder which basically lets you create professional looking feature-packed functional, reliable websites and there’s no coding involved so you can get your workup online. You can get your stuff for sale online. You can choose from over a hundred mobile friendly templates right out of the gate, which is awesome and they’ve got an incredible selection to choose from. Doesn’t matter what your niche is, your industry, you’re going to find something that matches. It looks professional or zany or fun, whatever, and the site will look good on any device. This is something you might not realize if you don’t use the web a lot on your phone or if you only use your phone, smart phones, tablets, desktops, these sites all look different. You really need something that’s mobile responsive. [00:39:20] So from architects to zookeepers, here at HostGator, they’ve got you covered and I’ll give you a ton of add-ons to create a successful website. And of course, last but not least, they’re giving you guys and gals up to 62 percent, I’m not sure how they came up with that number, off all of their packages for new users. So go to hostgator.com/jordan right now to sign up. That’s hostgator.com/jordan. How do we get in there before we start conflating our position with our identity? Because I know this from personal experience, I didn’t have a downfall from under-secretary to a styrofoam cup directly, but I’d certainly had a position where I was looking ahead to the future and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is so great. This is so shiny and bright.” And I still feel that way. But there was a dip where I went, “Oh my God, I’m just — I’m nobody again. [00:40:13] I got to start over. This is terrible.” And thankfully, it didn’t last weeks it was only a few days, but my producer Jason and my wife are both like, “Hey, get out of bed, jerk! We’ve got work to do.” And it was tough because it just seemed so impossible because I had wrapped my status around my identity so tightly that I couldn’t breathe anymore. And once it came off, I was a bucket of Jell-o.
Simon Sinek: [00:40:37] You answered the question yourself. You just answered the question, right? Which is when my producer Jason and my wife — other people. Somebody to remind you that you’re wonderful. Somebody to tell you to get over yourself.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:40:50] That was more of it. Yeah.
Simon Sinek: [00:40:51] Yeah. And whoever thinks they can do this thing called life by themselves is kidding themselves. Life is really difficult and it takes a lot of help. And anybody who thinks they can do this thing called career by themselves is nuts. And anyone who thinks they can do this thing called business, you know, without any support, everybody’s living a lie. Life and business, career, profession, parenting, all of these things, all of these things are incredibly, incredibly, incredibly difficult. And it requires help. It requires advice, it requires emotional support, it requires a mentorship and it requires friendship and it requires delegation. And it requires all of those things. The ability to ask for and receive help. You know,
[00:41:34] you had other people in your life. Yeah, that’s a very good thing. And one of the things that I think is really significant in this modern day and age, which is we’re also reliant upon our devices and having devices in our lives too much that many of us are either not learning or forgetting social skills. How to interact with human beings and how to ask for help and rely on people. And what ends up happening is when we don’t ask for help or there aren’t others there for us. And I don’t mean in an online chat room, I mean a physical human being, we become lonelier and lonelier and lonelier and the situation becomes more and more desperate. And had your producer and your wife not been there for you, you would’ve spiraled, continued to spiral down and it would have taken some sort of significant act to get you out of it or something horrible would have happened. [00:42:26] I think we undervalue the importance of social skills, and social skills – it’s not something you take a class for it. Something it takes years to practice. Crying with a friend, asking for help, expressing yourself, expressing anger in a healthy way. All of these things, that we brush off and call being human. I cannot stand the term soft skills, you know, hard skills and soft skills. It’s hard skills and human skills. And we have to learn both. Both require education and both require practice. You know, I think that too many of us take it for granted that we’re born with these skills and aid. We’re not. It’s our upbringing and the way we choose to live our lives that make us good and healthy and able to apply these skills when necessary. But if you don’t practice them, you lose them.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:43:14] What would you, I say, tell a friend, but I don’t know if this example is going to work if I say tell a friend, what would you tell someone who you see is excelling, getting to the top, but has sacrificed a lot of their relationships, friendships, personal and otherwise. Is this something that you’ve ever noticed or is this something that people have to notice themselves? Because I feel like if someone gets to the top of a ladder and you say, “Hey man, you’re kind of neglecting your network or your friends,” they might say, “Scoreboard, dude! I’m the CEO of this company. I don’t need these other people.” It seems like that’s the only way for them to learn is going to be the hard way, which is a shame. Is there any way you can get someone to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that at some point, they’re headed for disaster because as soon as they hit a stumbling block, they don’t have a network. They don’t have a support group around them.
Simon Sinek: [00:44:00] I think you just summed up the problem in our country today — Too much telling and not enough listening. The left is trying to tell the right, the right’s trying to tell the left. The pro gun lobby is trying to tell the gun control lobby and the gun control lobby is trying to tell the pro gun lobby. Like everybody’s telling everybody what it should be and what they should do and nobody listens. My friend, William Ury, who wrote Getting To Yes, he says it best. He says, “We have talk shows but we don’t have listens shows. We have peace talks, but we don’t have peace listens.” And so if I had a friend in that position, I wouldn’t tell him anything. I would ask, “Are you happy? How are you? What’s going on?” And I would shut up and listen. I think this is one of the most essential skills in life that is almost completely fallen by the wayside in our modern country and our modern America, which is the art of listening. The skill of listening — a very difficult skill that requires education and tons of practice active listening that if you do it right, you’re exhausted at the end of it because it takes so much energy.
[00:45:08] Well you don’t just hear the words that are spoken, but you understand the meaning behind those words. Where you seek out common ground to try and find whether there’s common values and only then can you actually start to have discussion? This story is that, I think the lesson is best captured by a story that Nelson Mandela used to tell. Nelson Mandela is important because he’s universally regarded as a great leader. Different people are regarded in different nations, different ways. Mandela is universally regarded as a great leader wherever you go, and he was asked once, “How did you learn to become a great leader?” What people don’t realize is he was actually born the son of a tribal chief, right? And he said, “When I was a boy, I remember going to tribal meetings with my father. [00:45:57] And I remember two things, but they always sat in a circle and my father was always the last to speak.” So even though his father had rank, he paid everyone respect and treated them with equality by sitting in a circle. He didn’t sit at the head of the table per se. And instead of speaking first, he chose to speak last. So we’re always telling each other, you have to learn to listen. You have to learn to listen. But I think it’s a lesson best captured with the advice — Practice being the last to speak, right? Because think about how we start meetings, even well intentioned. A leader walks into a room and say, “Okay guys, here’s the problem and here’s what I think we should do. And I really want to know what you think.” Well, it’s too late. [00:46:36] You’ve either biased the room or you’ve made people think or feel, more importantly, that their thoughts or opinions don’t matter. And strong are the leaders who say, “Here’s the problem. Tell me what you think,” and do so with such a poker face that as you’re speaking, you don’t know if they agree or disagree with you, but rather they’re trying to take in all the counsel from everyone, truly understand the meaning of why you have that opinion and what’s driving and motivating that opinion. And then they will assess and draw their own conclusions and make their own opinions. And even if the leader makes a decision that is opposite to the one that you are recommending, you feel heard, you feel like your opinion matters. And so I think instead of just telling people, become a better listener, I think we can all practice being the last to speak. [00:47:25] And in those cases, I think we’re all too dogmatic, you know, which is we have our high falutin opinions and we’re going to tell people what we think we’re going to tell people what they should do or how it should be. And we have this twisted notion of right and wrong, especially in politics. You know, only politicians think that they’re 100 percent right and the other side is 100 percent wrong. You know? And unfortunately I think it bleeds into society. We now have opinions where we think we are 100 percent left and right. We’re both to blame that we think we’re 100 percent right and the other side is 100 percent wrong. And I can’t think of anything in life or few of the things in life where that that’s truly the case. Especially not human things, especially not values-based things, especially things that are based in our world-view rather than, you know, the laws of physics or something.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:18] Maybe we’re so blinded by this because we’re so self-centric and there’s an experiment. I don’t know if you ran this or if this was something you just wrote about that someone else ran, but it was this, the homeless lady sign experiment is what I called it. You know what I’m talking about?
Simon Sinek: [00:48:32] Oh yeah, that was something I did.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:35] Let’s talk about this, because this is so wild and it really does kind of highlight, well I’m thinking about myself and my own feelings and kind of what you just described.
Simon Sinek: [00:48:44] Yeah. So this is something, I wanted to prove that everything in this world is marketing, and all marketing works the same way that when it’s about you, nobody cares. And when you make it about the other people, everybody cares. I mean that was the point I was trying to make and I was looking at the marketing that was going on where companies tell you all about their product.
[00:49:08] It’s better, it’s faster, it’s you know, cheaper. It’s higher quality. It’s made with this, it’s made with that, you know, it’s all about them. It’s an incredibly egocentric perspective. And so the funny test I did on this hunch was with a homeless person. Because if you think about it, what somebody homeless is doing is they’re selling goodbwill, right? Which is if you put money in their cup, you feel good. And if you give them no money, you feel nothing or you feel bad. In other words, you paid for the feeling of good will. That’s what you did. And they’re selling Goodwill with advertising. They have a little billboard, little outdoor advertising that they hold right there with them. And it’s attempting to make the case as to why you should give to them — Homeless. I’m hungry. I’ve got six kids. I’ve got pets. You know, whatever it is, God bless, you know, they throw everything in there hoping that it’ll work, right? [00:50:03] And that’s what they’re attempting to do. It’s marketing. And the problem is it’s all about them. Me, me, me, me, me, I’m this, I’m that, I’m this, I’m that. And so begging is hard. And so I found a homeless woman on the streets of New York who is willing to let me change her sign for her. And her sign was pretty traditional. I’m homeless, I’m hungry and alert and et cetera. And she told me she makes between $20 and $30 a day for eight to 10 hours worth of selling good will, right? $30 would be considered a good day. So we changed out her sign and she made $40 in two hours.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:37] Wow! What did she do? Did she keep working or was she like, “I’m done now.”
Simon Sinek: [00:50:41] She left. And that’s unfortunate. And I think that’s one of the reasons she’s homelessness, you know, which is, you see this in business people as well, which is she decided that she only needs $20 to $30 a day to live. So once she got the money, she left, you know?
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:54] Yes. Speaking of ambition, not really present here.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:56] Yeah, exactly. You see this in sales people as well sometimes where no matter what size territory they get, they’ll always just make the minimum number that they need to survive, you know? So it’s not a homeless issue. It’s a people issue. Anyway. Yeah. She made a $40 in two hours and the sign that I gave her went like this. It said, “If you only give once a month, please think of me next time.” And the reason was is because we asked people why they give or don’t give and people told us overwhelmingly two things, I can’t give to everyone and how do I know she’s genuine? So we simply answered the question, and if you can only give once a month, I know you can’t give to everyone. Please think of me next time. My cause is genuine. I still be here, right? But it was about the giver, not about the taker. It was about the person buying, not the person selling and it works. And so whether it’s Microsoft or someone homeless, whether it’s a car company or somebody on the street, it’s all the same. The way we message is based on listening, not based on talking.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:51:58] It also seems like a very cleverly acknowledging people’s situation and maybe triggering a little bit of guilt. Like, “Hey look, I understand that you only have a limited resource. I don’t want to feel, I don’t want to show that I’m entitled. I wanted to do the opposite, so please think of me.” And then people are like, “Oh, all right, well I haven’t given recently or I have, and this is sort of an unusual situation,” I mean even hearing this makes me feel like, “Man, should I have given to these ladies that we’re collecting? As I went for a walk this morning for their supposedly for somebody who is sick and I’m always so suspicious of those people. So the level of authenticity and her sign, which is, look, I just need the money, but I understand that I’m not really entitled to it.
[00:52:43] Please think of me next time you’re feeling generous. That kind of situation, that would work on me as well. And I feel like if we encapsulate this a little bit, we can use this principle in our own lives. Not just to sell things, but to perhaps motivate others. So how would you structure this if you were trying to teach the idea that you need to make it about, let’s say the giver make it about the other person. Is there a formula for this that you can point out that sort of a step-by-step.
Simon Sinek: [00:53:13] Yeah, it’s called empathy. It’s called
[00:53:17] what do they really want and how can I help them solve their problem versus what do I have and how do I get them to want it? Because of us start with something and say, “How do I make sure people get what I have,” versus hearing what they need and saying, “how does what I have helped people fulfill some sort of want, need or desire that they already have.” It’s a big difference. It sounds nuanced, but it’s pretty significant. And I mean just think about it in terms of friendship, which is men are bad at this. Men are bad at this. All we want to do is fix problems. So somebody says, “Oh, I’ve got this going on.” And we go, “Oh, you know what you should do, you should do this. You should totally do this. This will totally fail, right?”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:53:58] I hate that by the way.
Simon Sinek: [00:53:00] Right? But we all do it, right? And men are particularly bad at it and sometimes all people want is just to feel heard. So when somebody says, “Oh, my boss is driving me crazy,” and instead of offering them a bunch of solutions, we can simply say, “Wow, that sucks. Tell me more.” And they go, “Yeah, this is what happened today.” And you go, “Go on.” Right? In other words, we think they want a solution. What they want is somebody to listen. We’re trying to offer our expertise because it’s all well intentioned. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not malicious. You know? And sometimes sales or marketing is well intentioned as well. It’s not malicious because we know we have stuff. We want to be able to give it away. But the reality is you have to win. If they want advice, let them ask for it.
[00:54:40] Let them say, what would you do? Then we can give them the advice. And I think it’s the same in successful sales and marketing, you know, invite people. [00:54:47] Unfortunately that’s not how it is. Everybody has this sense of intense urgency. And this is what I learned with Start With Why. I mean in the early days, you know, people accused me now like, Whoa, you know, I always say, do business with people who believe what you believe and avoid people who don’t. And people said, “Well, you can afford to do that.” And I’ve been doing that when I couldn’t afford it. When I had a total of $10,000 in the corporate account that was supposed to pay two people salaries and all of our expenses and like we could barely scrape by. I remember getting a phone call from somebody that says, you know, “I’ve heard about you.”[00:55:21] And then he said, “Convince me why I should hire you.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:23] Oh God, no pressure.
Simon Sinek: [00:55:25] And my, no, my answer was, don’t. Because for me, the law of diffusion of innovations, which I wrote about in Start With Why is religion for me, which is I want to work with the early adopters. I want to work with the people who are willing to suffer a little, pay a premium or suffers, you know, a little put more energy or understand that what I’m doing is imperfect, but they want to be a part of it, right? They believe in it. And it’s not that they pay a premium, it’s that they believe something has value, right? I want the early adopters. The people think, “Huh, it’s not perfect, but I think you’re onto something.” Versus somebody who says, “Well, what guarantee will I have if this won’t work?” Basically that mentality tells me that they’re not early adopters.
[00:56:08] And so when somebody has convinced me why I should hire you, basically what he’s saying is that I have to offer him all these guarantees and points of proof. He wants it to be rational, right? And so I’ve been very disciplined ever since I started with why since I learned this concept of working very, very hard to surround myself with people who believe what I believe. And the result is that the reason my work spreads is not because of me or some fancy marketing campaign. It’s because of other people. Most people who have seen my Tedtalk, not because they’re Tedsters, but because somebody sent it to them. Most people found out about my books because somebody told them about it. None of my books, absolutely zero, have ever been reviewed by a major newspaper or major media outlet. None. None. No significant magazine, no major magazine has ever done a profile on me except for one very, very recently, like a few months ago. [00:57:02] And they’ve since gone bankrupt.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:05] Yeah, that’s a bad luck right there.
Simon Sinek: [00:57:07] Yeah. So don’t do a profile on me because your company will go bankrupt. So it’s not marketing. It’s because I’ve been really, really disciplined about following the law of innovations, looking for learning to assess who the early adopters are, working with the early adopters because they made me better. They pushed me. They were willing to stand with me when I made missteps or if things weren’t perfect, and most importantly, they, without any incentive program or kickback or referral or anything, told people about me. We’ve never done referrals either. We never did a referral program because it felt disingenuous to me to pay somebody to tell somebody about my work.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:43] I can understand that.
Simon Sinek: [00:57:44] And to feel that I had to tell somebody about their work to make a buck. It felt disingenuous to me.
[00:57:50] And at the end of the day, I’ve used my career as a big experiment, which is when I discovered this thing called the why and all of the theories that surrounded like the law of diffusion of innovation, and I believe in the scientific method. I said, “Okay, well I’ll be the Guinea pig to prove that this thing works.” I’ve learned, I’ve become a student of this concept simply to prove that the concept works.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:09] How do you, in the moment, when you have 10 grand in the bank and your wife is looking at you like, “Okay, how are you going to pay for your staff and our mortgage?” And I don’t know if you have kids or had kids at that time, you know, that’s a lot of pressure. How do you in the moment go, “You know what, don’t work with me.” I mean the internally where you like, “Please work with me.”
[00:58:29] I feel like it would be very tough to genuinely say, “You know what? If you don’t already believe it, I believe then,” then fly a kite and you’re thinking, “But I really hope you believe what I believe because I could use the money.”
Simon Sinek: [00:58:41] Remember I was never mean about it.
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:42] Of course. Of course, I’m exaggerating.
Simon Sinek: [00:58:45] If I said somebody was a bad fit, I’d say things like, “I think I’m the wrong person for you.”
Jordan Harbinger: [00:58:49] That’s how you break up with anybody. Yeah. It’s not you, it’s me.
Simon Sinek: [00:58:52] It’s not you. It’s me. Right? I mean, if you have someone significant in your life, a spouse or you know, or a long-term boyfriend-girlfriend, I think it’s difficult to take those kinds of risks without their support. You know, I think people who truly make it, will talk of the love and support they had of the person closest to them.
[00:59:10] I think that’s essential and it’s a difficult situation for somebody who has entrepreneurial ambitions. When somebody else says, “Don’t do it, I don’t support you.” That’s a difficult situation to be in because as I said before, this stuff is too difficult to do alone and don’t get me wrong, I knew what I had to do. It doesn’t make it stress-free. The more I did it, strange things started to happen. So one of my only employee came to work one day and she said to me, “I’m cutting my salary.” I said, “no, you’re not.” She said, “yes, I am because you can’t afford to pay me my salary. And so I’m going to cut it.” That’s what Jason did. It was her love for me and her belief in me that she volunteered to cut her own salary because for two reasons, she wanted to see it succeed and she wanted to be a part of it.
[00:59:59] And 10 years later we’re still working together and she runs the whole organization and I have undying love for her and she has undying love for me. I mean it’s a very special close friendship. Because we went through it together at the time I wasn’t dating anyone significantly and obviously I wasn’t married, it was this relationship. And so it’s the same thing. A spouse would say something else, would say something like, “We’ll buy generic brand Cheerios instead of name brand Cheerios because I’m going to do this with you. I’m going to sacrifice with you. I’ll do the accounting for you because I’m better at numbers than you are. I’ll help you out. You know, you don’t have to pay me because I have a job. I’ll do it on the weekends.” You know, it requires partnership. I think I’ll go back to what I said before.
[01:00:37] Anybody who thinks they can do any of this stuff by themselves as is kidding themselves and the reason to find the early adopters is they’re more likely to want to help you. The majority are laggards. They just want to know what’s in it for them or what guarantees they’re going to get if it doesn’t work, which only increases your stress. It helps your stress immediately when you have a paying client that says, “All right, well let’s figure it out.” That helps reduce stress load, as opposed to a client who says, “You better not screw this up otherwise I’m going to fire you.” Who wants to work with people like that? There’s an old Zen Buddhist saying — How you do anything is how you do everything.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:11] I love that one.
Simon Sinek: [01:01:12] So we would pay close attention to the courtship. So when you’re courting a client and you’re getting to know them and hoping to land a piece of business, especially when you’re in the point of negotiation, if everything they did was squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, or they disagreed with everything that you’ve said, “You’re like, hold on.
[01:01:30] If this is how you’re treating me, when we’re getting to know each other, how are you going to treat me once we’re in the relationship?”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:01:37] Yeah, once that check clears, you’re going to be a slave.
Simon Sinek: [01:01:40] The answers, it’s going to be the same. Proved it when the guy said, “Convince me why I should hire you,” I just flash forward and think that every piece of advice I give him is going to say, convince me why I should do this. Convince me why your right. Convince, you know, I’m like, “Ugh, that sounds like a horrible client relationship.” So let’s just walk away from it at the beginning because it’s not going to be worth the money. I’m going to be incredibly stressed and I’m going to be taking time and energy away from looking for the right kind of clients or the short term squeeze I’ll feel ultimately works out better because the clients I will eventually land will be better clients.
[01:02:13] Whereas people say, “Well, I got to pay the bills,” you know? Yes, sometimes it is dire and you have to take one of those clients. I understand, I understand reality, but don’t kid yourself and think that this is going to advance your company or advance you. It’s literally just to pay the bills. You just don’t want too many of those because those will suck the passion out of you.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:29] Speaking of passion, I got to say, you’ve mentioned earlier, “Nobody has reviewed my book and no major publication.” Somehow you still have these videos online and I’m sure they probably even pop up in your news feed where it’s like Simon Sinek Ranting on Millennials. Simon Sinek: Thoughts on Why Trump Won. Are you crafting these rants or these soundbites deliberately or do you think they’re just resonating really well and are you surprised that that’s the clip that they took?
Simon Sinek: [01:03:01] I’m surprised every time.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:02] Really? Okay.
Simon Sinek: [01:03:04] The millennial one caught me by surprise like somebody put it online and somebody cut it up and put it on Facebook and I remember when it happened and it got something like 80 million views on Facebook and in one week, right? I mean, like it caught us totally by surprise. We found out about it because everybody was emailing and texting us like that was filling up, blowing up their Facebook. It continues to be insanity, an insane ride. I knew that it resonated because I got asked the question, the millennial question, 100 percent of the speaking engagements I gave and 100 percent of the meetings I had literally 100 percent somebody would ask me the millennial question, which means that people were perceiving that millennials were unleadable. Right? Which can be true.
[01:03:53] So as I do sort of, I take this anthropological approach and I say, well let’s try and understand where that comes from. Right? Let’s try and understand what’s being understood or misunderstood here. And what I attempt to do is try and explain how a generation grew up and how it’s going to affect their world worldview. And one of the biggest criticisms I get on that video is, well you can’t make generalizations about an entire generation to which I say, “Of course you can.” Of course you can because we are all products of the events that happened when we came of age. So many of our grandparents are frugal and miserly because they grew up during the Great Depression in the Second World War. Now there’s nothing wrong with them. It’s just that their worldview was formed by the events of the day when they were coming of age. [01:04:37] Now is that every person of that generation? Of course not. But is it at least disproportionately high that you can make a generalization? Of course. And baby boomers, you know, seem to be really cynical of authority figures. Well, it’s because they grew up during Vietnam and Richard Nixon, that’s when they came of age. So this millennial generation, they came of age at the millennium and the first generation to have social media and cell phones ubiquitous in their lives. And what I attempted to do was simply break down where they come from to exercise a little empathy. So those who falsely believe that they’re “unleadable,” will just have a little empathy and understand where they come from. And from millennials themselves who may be harsh on themselves or are [01:05:17] struggling and everybody around them is dumping on them and telling that they’re snowflakes, to even have a little appreciation themselves where they come from that they’re not alone. And we were overwhelmed with the number of positive responses from millennials themselves. Millennials themselves saying, “Thank you, I don’t feel alone anymore.” And I was so excited from the number of parents who said that we sat down and watched the talk with our children as opposed to what usually happens is we emailed this and said, tell people you should watch this. I was really proud of that.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:05:49] You’ve really accidentally hit the jackpot with that. Although I talked with Tom Bilyeu, whose show you are on, which used to be called The Inside Quest now called Impact Theory, it’s a great podcast, great YouTube channel. And I said, “Man, you must be getting so much traffic from this.”
[01:06:03] And he goes, “Nope, not at all.” Because I guess somebody ripped it and pulled it so it worked out for you. But unfortunately it didn’t work out for him at all. In a way I disagree because I think anytime anybody on your platform wins, you win too. It’s just not as direct as it is you might like.
Simon Sinek: [01:06:19] Yeah. I disagree with Tom as well because almost everybody comes to me and says, “I saw you on IQ and I saw you on Inside Quest,” so his brand recognition has skyrocketed because of that thing, but then he changed the name of his show.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:33] He had to. Yeah, that was a thing he didn’t have much control over, unfortunately. I understand that.
Simon Sinek: [01:06:38] You know, it was sort of like good news, bad news, right? There absolutely was a positive impact for Inside Quest because everybody remembered the name of the show when they bring it up to me.
[01:06:49] “I saw you on IQ. I saw you on Inside Quest.”
Jordan Harbinger: [01:06:52] Yeah. Not bad. Not bad. I think that illustrates in many ways perfectly. It’s sort of the cooperative nature of what you try to communicate in your work because I think of course it was a happy accident in the way that it worked out but it definitely illustrates the type of thing that you talk about in your work and having your why aligned with other people that you work with. If you were on a show where his chief desire was to sell a certain type of clothing, he would be really pissed that he didn’t make any more jacket sales as a result of your millennials rant. But since his idea is to bring great ideas to other people by having the best — yeah, jackpot. Because you nailed it and it doesn’t matter who really gets credit for it in the end.
[01:07:38] Even though you both got plenty of credit for it, it worked out because you’re wise in that way we’re aligned. Well perfect, Simon, thank you very much. This is as always a really great chat. The book of course, Find Your Why. It’s a workbook really. I did. I always say this, I read audio books. This is one where I would say go ahead and get the paper because listening to somebody read exercises in a book was far less practical than you might think.
Simon Sinek: [01:08:09] So yeah. It’s funny, you know, the biggest criticism I get for Start With Why, which came out — if you can believe it, nine years ago. The biggest criticism I get with Start With Why is totally got it, totally buying to the case you made for the existence of this thing called The Why, but you didn’t tell us how to do it.
[01:08:26] So, you know, eight years later I wrote the book to answer that question.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:32] Only took eight years. Yeah, I suppose it was a lot of time flying around on planes, giving comments and writing this into a workbook.
Simon Sinek: [01:08:39] Yeah. Really proud of it.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:08:38] I think you should be proud of it. I was going to say, I think your work is great and I think that was something that’s a criticism I have with a lot of books which have really great ideas, which is cool. That was so enlightening. I have no freaking clue how to actually implement it. Maybe you’ll come back with something else and you did. So I appreciate that coming back with the new work and coming back here on the Jordan Harbinger Show, it’s always a pleasure.
Simon Sinek: [01:09:03] Nice to be back. Thanks for having me.
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:05] Well Jason, that was an interesting show.
[01:09:08] I feel like he’s been riding the why train for a decade, but that’s because it’s an important topic, right? It’s obviously got a lot of impact.
Jason DeFillippo: [01:09:15] Yeah. And it helps that, you know, he finally did the how-to book after giving us the other book and well you know, years and years ago now. So..
Jordan Harbinger: [01:09:22] Yeah, I felt like saying what took you so long, man? Come on. Yeah, seriously. Yeah, it’s not something I felt like needed to get discussed on the show, but I do wonder why the workbook took eight years. That’s my main… that’s a question for next time. So great big thank you to Simon Sinek. The new book is called Find Your Why. Don’t get it in audio, get it in paper because it’s a workbook and it will help you implement Start With Why if you’ve already read that. If you haven’t, I recommend that as well.
[01:09:46] If you enjoyed this one, don’t forget to thank Simon on Twitter. We’d love to hear from you via email on firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram, I’m @jordanharbinger. I’ve also got a new Twitter which is @jordanharbinger and that’ll all be linked up in the show notes for this episode, which can be found at jordanharbinger.com so if you can remember my name, you’ve got all the contact info that you could possibly need for me and for the team. This episode of the Jordan Harbinger Show was produced and edited by Jason DeFillippo, show notes are by Robert Fogarty, booking back office and last minute miracles by Jen Harbinger and I’m your host, Jordan Harbinger. We are a brand new show as you may or may not have noticed. If you’re a fan of the old stuff, I appreciate that we could use some share of ears to spread the word and rate and review the show in iTunes.
[01:10:32] Hey, I also want to give a special shout out/warm welcome home to everybody who came over from Mind Pump. I did the Mind Pump Show. Love those guys, so so fun and so awesome. Really good friends of mine. I did the Mind Pump Show recently and I know we have a lot of overlapping fans from that show who found their way to the Jordan Harbinger Show via those guys. I really appreciate you guys coming home. I really appreciate you guys sharing the Jordan Harbinger Show with your tribes because that’s how we’re going to rebuild this thing. I am really, am humbled by that and I’m really glad to have all you all back. And if you’re new to the show, hopefully we warrant a rating and review and a share as well. Please do share the show with those you love and even those you don’t. We’ve got a lot more in the pipeline. We’re very excited to bring it to you. And in the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on this show so that you can live what you listen and we’ll see you next time.
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