Simon Sinek is a renowned leadership expert who teaches leaders and companies how to inspire people. The author of the book Start With Why, he works with the military, politicians, government, entrepreneurs and folks like you and me. Simon is leading a movement to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. He writes, consults, and speaks all over the world about the power of Why – the purpose, cause or belief that drives every one of us. If everyone knew why they do what they do, and if everyone only did the things that inspired them, Simon believes that this world would be an amazing place. For more, visit startwithwhy.com or follow him on twitter @simonsinek.
What is your life motto?
Henry Ford said something that I have written next to my bed, “if you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
When did you start pursuing your career and how long did it take to become successful?
The work that I do now started about 4 years ago. I didn’t plan on doing what I’m doing now, it was an accident. My obsession with the concept of WHY started solely to help myself…to help me re-find my passion – something I had lost. It worked so I started telling others about it…and it worked for them. More people just kept asking me to share it with them and things started to move very quickly after that.
How many hours did you dedicate to pursuing your dream?
If you like what you do, you’ll work 8 hours a day. If you like who you work for, you’ll work 10 hours. But if you feel you are part of something bigger than yourself, you’ll work 24 hours. That’s where I am now. Everything I do is focused on inspiring people to do the things that inspire them. I love it so I do it all the time. I figure I’ll stop when I stop loving it and find a different way to bring my vision to life.
Describe how difficult the business really is?
Passion is nothing without structure. There are those that are good at building structure and they do well in life…but they don’t challenge us, they don’t reinvent, they don’t change the world. I am full of passion, but my challenge has always been and continues to be the structure. The difference between my life now and my life 4 years ago, however, is I no longer beat myself up for it. I embrace that it is my vision of the world and my passion that is my strength and that’s where I should (and want to) focus my time. I rely on people around me to help me with the structure and processes. There are days I wish I was better at it myself…That said, if we were good at everything, we’d have no need for each other.
What is the mistake that taught you an extremely valuable lesson?
Easy question: failure. There is a difference between being successful and feeling successful. I had neither. I got to the point where I was broke and I felt like I would never be able to pick myself up from it. But I did. More importantly, I would never have had to find a solution if I didn’t have a problem to solve. It is that solution – the discovery of WHY- that changed everything.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given to date?
“Three quarters of an answer are better than an answer and a half,” is what one senior partner told me after a meeting in which I was working hard to “contribute” to the conversation. I was young in my career when I was given the advice, but to this day I am happy to leave incomplete answers at the table and save my contributions for another time when they will mean more and have a greater impact.
What is the piece of advice that you weren’t?
You don’t know what you don’t know. No one told me that. It seems obvious enough, but I had to learn the hard way. I had to think I was Superman before I learned I was just a man. Would have saved myself a lot of pain if I had asked more people for help along the way. It’s a lesson I try to pass on to others as often as I can.
In your mind, is formal training essential?
Formal practice is much more important than formal training. Training may help you understand things but you don’t learn anything until you actually do it. The real world is very different from a classroom. I have no training for anything I’m doing today, but I practice everyday to get better and better at it. And it is my desire to practice, not what I learned 10 years ago, that makes me good at what I do.
What are some steps emerging talent can take to start/further their career?
Surround yourself with people you love. The people you work with are more important than the money, the benefits or even the responsibility. If you work with people you love, you will shine and you will grow. They will watch your back and your future. No matter how big the job, if you don’t love the people, you won’t love the work. The only way to decide if you like the people or not is to trust your gut. Your friends can only give you advice based on how a job or opportunity looks, but not how it feels. That’s up to you.
What kept you going when you felt like giving up?
The alternative was worse. Moving forwards into the unknown is a lot better than falling backwards into the abyss.
Do you believe that ‘making it’ is about luck and being in the right place at the right time?
Luck goes to those who show up. If you put yourself out there, say what you believe, ask for more responsibility then luck and opportunity will come your way. If you know what you want and you say what you want, then those around you will know what you want and will help you get it. Sit at your desk and mumble to yourself that “no one gets you” and no one will get you.