There’s a reason why I started this program by asking Simon Sinek to tell you a story about a man you probably never heard of, Samuel Pierpont Langley. It’s because if you understand how two unfunded upstarts beat him to a major technology achievement, you might be able to beat your better-funded rivals.
I’ll let Simon tell you the story. (It’s right at the stat of the program. All you have to do is hit play to hear it.) For now, I’ll just say that it’s one of many examples that he gives of how finding your “why,” and knowing your purpose will make decisions easier and help you get others to join your mission.
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Andrew: Hey everyone it’s Andrew Warner, founder of Mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart, and I’ve got Simon Sinek with me here today. He is the author of ‘Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Every One to Take Action’. Simon I would like everybody in my audience to become not just a great leader, though I have that in mind for them, but I also want them to build great leading companies, because if they do that and they do it because of the work that I’ve done here, and the interviews I’ve done here, think about what that means for me. The credit they will give me, the checks that they will send me after the fact, and more important then all of those, and seriously, the legacy I’ll get to leave if I can help my audience become that kind of successful. So let me ask you this.
Andrew: Why, Actually, instead of asking why, I’d love to start off with a story that I think explains the why. Why did the Wright brothers take off, and why didn’t, as you say in your book, Samuel Pierpont Langley, why didn’t he create the first manned airplane?
Interviewee: Sure, We have assumptions about the world, and we have assumptions about success, and what makes people or companies successful, And what the Wright brothers did, I mean look it was an entrepreneurial venture. That’s what it was, and they defied the common convention, and the assumption about what makes a organization successful was not what they followed. We assume, right, that to be successful you need to have lots of money. That’s normal, and you know whenever an organization fails, when a company fails, they give you the same few reasons, we’re under-capitalized, we had the wrong people, bad market conditions. It’s usually some combination of those few things. And so you go back to the turn of the century, turn of the previous century, the race to be the first in flight, was like the dot com of the day. Every one was doing it. It wasn’t like theses were the only guys tinkering around in the garage. Lots of people doing it. And the leading contender was a man by the name of Samuel Pierpont Langley, as you say.
Now Langley had what most people consider to be the recipe for success. Langley worked at the Smithsonian and held a seat at Harvard. He was extremely well connected. He knew the likes of Andrew Carnegie. He was extremely well funded, so money was not a problem. The war department, which is the precursor to the department of defense, gave him fifty thousand dollars to figure out his flying machine, which was in those days was a lot of money. He hired the best brains he could find. He hired the dream team. I mean he had the best, right? And Every one was rooting for him. The New York Times followed Langley around everywhere. Every one knew Langley and every one was rooting for Langley. He had what we consider the recipe for success. Then how come no one has ever heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley?
A few hundred miles away in Dayton Ohio, we had Orville and Wilbur Wright. Orville and Wilbur Wright had none of what we consider to be the recipe for success. They had no funding. They paid for their dream with the proceeds from their bicycle shop. They didn’t know anybody, and no one knew them, its not like they had tons of connections. Not a single person on the Wight brothers team had a college education, including Orville and Wilbur. Some didn’t even have high school educations. And the New York Times Followed them around nowhere. And so, no one even knew they existed, Right? The difference was, which was so big, which is the wright brothers were motivated by this higher sense of purpose or cause. The Wright brothers had a dream. They believed if they could figure out this flying machine thing, it would change the world. That’s why they woke up every single day. With this sense of being a part of this cause. Langley on the other hand, was motivated by fame and fortune. Langley wanted to be rich and famous. He envied people like Thomas Edison. And he knew Edison became famous because of his inventions, and he saw the airplane as a way he could get famous, and rich. That’s what motivated him every day. One was motivated by the cause and one was motivated by the result. What they were doing was exactly the same, they were in the same industry right? And so we know the history. The people who joined the Wright brother team were inspired by the Wright brothers dream. The people who joined Langley were paid to be there. And I always say, when people believe what you believe. They work for you with blood and sweat and tears. When the don’t believe what you believe they work for your money.
Interviewee: …. work for you with blood and sweat and tears, when they don’t believe what you believe they work for your money. And the people who joined the Wright brothers believe that they tell stories how every time they would go out they would have to take five sets of parts cause that’s how many times they would crash before they came in for supper, you know failure after failure after failure, it’s committment. And low and behold in December 17 1903 the Wright brothers took flight and no one was even there to see it. A few days later the rest of the world found out and, further proof that langly was motivated by the wrong thing that as soon as he found out the Wright brothers beat him to it, he quit. He could have said nice going guys now i’ll approve of hundren technology but he didn’t he quit and there’s are multiple, multiple examples from the the ipod to southwest airlines, to the VHS the DVR there’s many many examples where first mover did not become the main stay and the most successful one even the best product didn’t win out so it was Langly’s motivation by fame and fortune and not by the sense of purpose or cuase which basically sealed his fate.
ANDREW: It’s interesting actually after reading your book I went out and looked up Samuel Langley’s story to find out who he was and he was pretty accomplished in his time and he….
ANDREW: From what I read he also stole some of the credit from what the Wright brothers did and it was only after one of the Wright brothers died the other fought hard that they finally got full credit for what they’re worthed and in today’s school kids don’t even hear about Samuel Langley, but as you were saying the Wright brothers people that they actually themselves would get in the planes and the planes would crash they would risk injury to themselves it’s such a contrast to what I read about Samuel after your book. He didn’t even wanna send a man in his plane he wasn’t sitting in a plane himself he’s idea was to just send these planes up, he had so much money from what I understand that his plan was not to land them perfectly but to allow them to crash into the ocean, and he was in a whole other game he was trying to fight something completely different…..
Interviewee: and as you said he was already a well accomplished guy. I mean he was a guy who was very well connected very well known and reached the highest levels in his own industry and but again, he wanted to be rich and famous its like can u be satiisfied with the life that you live, what are you motivated by why are you getting out of bed every morning? and you’re absolutely right Langley was not an ill accomplished guy just a guy who’s motivated my the wrong things.
ANDREW: It now comes back to what Erin Al in the audience is saying he saying that he saw both types of entrepreneurs on mixagy, and just because you’re only motivatedby money doesn’t mean you’re not going anywhere in life look at a guy like Langley this story exemplifies this story illustrates that you can make something great of yourself. But Simon, are you saying in order to achieve that real greatness you need to have that why, you need to have something bigger than the money like a real purpose? Is that what I’m getting?
Interviewee: 100% you know even people who come to me and say you know you’re wrong you know I’m actually motivated by money i just wanna be reach and that’s why i do what i do. it’s not true, I’ll give you two sides of the answer one is whenever anybody says yes I am motivated by money I always ask so what’s your goal you just want to go home at the end of the day roll around in dollar bills or every night you wanna check your bank account and count your bank accounts that’s all it is about accumulation accounting, accounting, accounting they’re like of course not. I’m like what do you want to make so much money for? like well I don’t want to work for anybody I want to be able to do anything I want on any day I wanna travel when I decide and I don’t want to travel with so many kids in my vacation. and so I say it’s about freedom then they’re like yeah. I’m like so it’s not about money it’s about freedom. Money is always a result and you can only make money by people buying something that you sell them or do for them it’s always a result and if there’s value they will give you money unless you steal it.
If you’re successful
Interviewee: If you’re successful Pete you make lots of money so it’s always a result and when you’re motivated by that it doesn’t come out of Loyalty in other words when you say to somebody, you tell me, put it out there, lets say two sides of the same coin , I wanna be rich who wants to help me? No one else cares but if you say I wanna live a life where I have freedom and don’t go home to anybody and who wants to help me do that? Other poeple will join to help you be free because they desire that ID too. No one will help you if you’re rich because nobody cares. Nobody cares about you, so being motivated soley by the metric won’t inspire people…
ANDREW: And if you go beyond yourself and say not just i want freedom but i want to see a better world by putting man up in here or by creating a product ….
Andrew: Putting man up in the air or by creating
Andrew: a product that hasn’t been created before. Or by opening peoples’ eyes to things that they hadn’t noticed. You get an even bigger crowd. Now here’ a question for you: and first of all, for anyone whose listening, I’m the last person to tell you that money is evil and that you shouldn’t make money. In fact, my
Interviewee: Money is great! Money is a great enabler!
Interviewee: But it’s always the result. But it’s always the result.
Andrew: Okay. So, lets suppose that we wake up everyday saying, ‘ I wanna make money. I wanna make a lot of money.’
Andrew: And you’re opening our eyes to the fact that just making money isn’t, just anything to make money isn’t going, isn’t going to accumulate an impassioned crowd behind you that’s gonna help you get there. So, you say, ‘All right, before I even hear about the golden circle, and the other ideas that Simon is gonna talk to me about, how do I even get to the why? All right. I’m onboard, now how do I find that why? I know, I know to get money; I’ve been trained to do that my whole life. What about how do I get the why?’
Interviewee: Well, what a, how to get to the ‘why.’ We are products are of our own upbringing. And every single person on the planet has a ‘why,’ every single organization has a ‘why.’ Because organizations are products that people make, right? And your ‘why’ is the sum total of who you are, and your upbringing and the way your parents raised you and your experiences at school and your ‘why’ is probably fully formed by the age of twenty, twenty-one, nineteen, twenty, in that area, right? Probably fully formed. And the rest of your life are merely opportunities to keep your ‘why’ present and up ticked. To, to call what I say, ‘ to keep your golden circle in balance or not.’ What I mean by that is every single organization, regardless of their size or industry and every single person, their career, you know, everybody, everybody’s career, and every organization functions on three levels: what you do, how you do it, and why you do it. That’s universal. Right?
Andrew: Hmm, hmm.
Interviewee: The problem is most of us are only even aware of two of those pieces. ‘How’ and ‘What.’ Strategies and tactics. We don’t even have a word in business for ‘Why.’ And so when an organization is out of balance when its only functioning on two pieces of a three piece puzzle, and all organizations and all careers function on all three pieces, when you’re only aware of two of those pieces, you’re inherently out of balance. Examples of being out of balance are things like being forced to play the ‘price’ game. That’s being out of balance. If you are obsessed with what you’re competitors are doing, like peoples’, some people have unbalanced amounts of obsession with what everybody else is doing. Stress. An unbalanced amount of stress. And work is stress and every single day you’re having conversations about work-life balance nonsense, you know? That’s too much stress. Or if you’ve lost your passion and you say to yourself, ‘It’s not like it used to be. I don’t, it doesn’t feel like it used to be.’ These are all symptoms of a system out of balance with the ‘why’ is no longer clear and its now missing. And you’re obsessed with ‘how’ and ‘what,’ strategies and tactics, actions and results, and that sense of purpose or cause is gone. And it’s that sense of purpose or cause that comes from our backgrounds that, that drives all of us. So, it’s, it’s always from your, from yourself, it’s always from your own life and your own background.
Andrew: Okay. Actually, before I continue, I’m seeing from a few people in the audience that they can’t see your eyes sometimes and they’re wondering if you could pick the camera up a little bit, or, or do we need to lower the seat? How’s that guys? I guess, now you can see his eyes.
Interviewee: [inaudible.] Big life [inaudible.]
Andrew: [Laughs.] Okay. All right. Lets give an example of a company that’s, that’s just focusing, that’s, so that’s a golden circle, right? The golden circle is?
Interviewee: Why, How, What. It’s a bulls-eye.
Andrew: ‘Why’ is in, is in the center and from the ‘why’ you get the ‘how’ and from the ‘how’ you get the ‘what’ you create, ‘why’ you’re creating it, ‘how you’re creating it, ‘what’ you’re creating. In fact,
Interviewee: Why, How, What.
Andrew: There you go. For people in the audience who are just listening, he’s got the circle in his hand. Maybe we should start off with an example of a company that’s doing this well so we can understand all three layers.
Interviewee: Sure. Any company that ‘we love,’ not like, ‘we love to do business with,’ their golden circle is probably in balance. Apple, Harley Davidson, SouthWest Airlines, [inaudible] store, you know, there, there are few examples. I love to use Apple because everyone gets it and they’re easy, they’re an easy example. So, I’ll give you an example of, of that. Again, the golden circle is, is a bulls eye. In the center is the word ‘Why.’ In the middle ring is the word ‘How.’ And in the outside ring is the word ‘What.’ To define the terms, every single organization on the planet knows ‘what’ they do. These are the products you sell, the services you sell, everything, everybody knows what they do.
Andrew: Okay, another [inaudible] before I read starting with ‘Why?’ I would of thought,
Andrew: ‘Apple’s mission is to create beautiful, inspiring products.’
Interviewee: You know, that’s, and that’s a part of it.
Interviewee: That’s sort of, that’s sort of what they do. Yeah. Some, some know ‘how’ they do it. What you call your differenting value proposition, your proprietary process, your USP, whatever you wanna call it. But again,
Interviewee: But again, very very few organizations can clearly state why they do what they do. And by why I don’t mean to make money, that is a result. By why I mean what is your purpose, what is your cause, what is your belief, why does your organization exist, why did you get out of bed this morning and why should anyone care? as a result, the way we think, the way we act, the way we communicate is from the outside in – we tell people what we do, we tell them how we do it, how we’re different, how we’re better, and we expect some sort of behavior and in business that’s usually a purchase, right? But the great and inspiring leaders, the great and inspiring organizations, they do it from the inside out, they all start with why… so you you wanted an example, here’s here’s the “Apple” example, and again it’s a simple marketing example. If “Apple” were like everyone else, a marketing example would sound like this – they would start with what they do “we make great computers”, as you’ve seen, beautifully designed product, you make great computers, it’s what they do. How do they do that? They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Wanna buy one?
Andrew: mmmm, yeaaah yeahh… and most of the companies, that’s what they would do?
Interviewee: That’s how most most most happens, you know, here’s our law firm, we have the best lawyers, we went to the best schools, we win all of our cases ñ hire us. Here’s our, you know, new car, it’s got tinted windows, leather seats, great gas mileage, buy it. Here’s how, here’s what we do, here’s how we’re different, we’re better, features and benefits, choose us. That’s the norm. Here’s how ‘Apple’ actually does it. They start with ëwhy?’ Everything we do, they say, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly, we just happen to make great computers, wanna buy one? Totally different, totally different, no intriguery, no celebrity endorsements, no promotions, no sales, all I did is reverse the order of information and the impact of feeling was astoundingly different, and so proves to us that people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, it’s not what you do that matters, it’s why you do it, and what you do serves as a tangible proof of what you believe. But if you don’t know why you do what you do, then /missing part/ when how would anyone else?
Andrew: All right, I could see that. And the companies that are most inspired by do have that mission, do have that reason, the writers that are most inspired by do have that mission and you could feel it from them, what happens if you already have a business? It’s either a start of that’s now struggling to to get it’s legs, to make the next round of funding, or to bring in customers, or maybe it’s even an established publicly traded company that has to make its’ sales, to hit its’ numbers because every quarter it’s being evaluated, there’s so much going on Ö How do they stop and find the ëwhy’ at that point, now that they got so much ëhow’ and ëwhat’ already built in?
Interviewee: Well, well the ëwhy’, the ëwhy’ is there, it was there at the founding of the company, and if it is, if it was, you know, if it was, it was a good company, it was founded because of the ëwhy’. You know, market opportunities are a funny thing, if you wake up every day and just chase market opportunities, that like trying just make it back, and it’s hard to make people join your cause, and work for you blood, sweats and tears. I always joke, people believe what you believe, you’ve heard me say, you know, they work for you blood, sweat and tears, when they don’t believe what you believe they work for your money, and so you’ll find it, what real entrepreneurs do, what great entrepreneurs do is they don’t chase market opportunities, they’re trying to solve problems. Every great company started with a problem that somebody couldn’t find the solution and so they made it themselves. You know, your parents were in the nursing home, you hated meeting them there, you’re embarrassed, it’s hard, you couldn’t find a good nursing home so you started your own nursing home company and you provided the service that you wanted to give your parents, you know? This is, this is how great ideas, this is how all the adventures happen, and so they all start with the sense of purpose or cause, they all start with a solution to a problem, and and later on, in the course of time, you know, the greatest challenge any small company has is a success. Because as you become more successful, necessarily you have to hire people who hire people who hire people, it’s not the one person running off of their passion, and anymore they’re not making all the gut decisions every day, and slowly it starts to disobey, so regardless of the size of your organization, every organization started with ëwhy’, the question is if they were able to retain it and keep it front in center..
Andrew: I see it, that’s something that you said earlier that even individuals have the sense of ëwhy’ early on. It’s not about going on hunting for ëwhy’, or putting all committee together or finding what ëwhy’ is the best in the market today..
Andrew: … it’s about going back and …
And getting in touch with your why. What was it?
Interviewee: A why is a discovery, not an invention.
Andrew: I see.
Interviewee: It is always a discovery and not an invention. And it either…
Andrew: What’s your why?
Interviewee: …separate. To inspire people to do the things that inspire them. And I wake up every single day with that sense of purpose and cause to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. And for me the fun is trying to come up with all the new and different ways, what I can do to bring that to life. Whether it’s writing a book or giving a podcast or going on TV or writing an article or speaking or anything else that probably hasn’t been thought of yet. For me the goal is to come up with all the different ways I can share my why, spread my why. But the thing that motivates me every day is not to write a book. Ugh. That’s a horrible experience. The thing that motivates me every day is to, is to give, is to share the why to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. And those who believe what I believe help me. Those who believe what I believe call me up and say, “Can’t you come and speak at our organization?” Or, you know, we do no outbound marketing because we’re not interested in, in just shoveling stuff. We’re interested in people who believe. And those who believe come to us and ask, “How can I help?” And then, then they help us find, find things.
Andrew: Alright. And I can…
Andrew: Sorry, go ahead.
Interviewee: No, no.
Andrew: I was gonna say, I can see that you’re a different author than most authors, and I’ll tell you why. Your publishing company sent me a copy of your book months ago. I, so long ago I was still living in Santa Monica. And for some reason we didn’t get a chance to interview you. I didn’t get chance to interview you. Usually, after the, after a month that the book’s been out, the author knows whatever pop he’s gonna get, whatever charts he’s gonna hit have been hit. And whatever aren’t gonna be hit that’s it. The last thing they want to do is talk about the book they spent so long working on up until then. And so long talking about since then. They just want to be done.
Andrew: They don’t want to talk to me about the book they wrote and published and pro-, and produced and, and promoted for so long.
Andrew: And, and when I was an early interviewer, I would just stop asking, I would ask incessantly about the book that they wrote five years ago, the book they wrote one year ago, and I wouldn’t get a response.
Andrew: Now I know to stop. You are here with me, and I was so surprised that you were still interested in talking about this book long after. I had, I, I left your book even back in Santa Monica, in storage somewhere. I had to buy it again on my iPhone just so I could re-read it and get connected with those ideas. But I, I know because of that that this is real.
Interviewee: This isn’t an author trying to hit the best seller list or finding out that bloggers are the way to go today and not, not Oprah anymore. And so you’re coming and doing all the bloggers. This is impressive.
Interviewee: Yeah. Thank you.
Andrew: Alright, let’s… Well, thank you for doing this.
Interviewee: Again, for me, the, the, for me, the book is one of the things I’ve done. I don’t define myself an author. I wrote a book. I don’t define myself as a speaker. I, I speak because people invite me to speak, and when they stop inviting me, I’ll stop speaking. But it’s this cause, it’s the idea, it’s spreading the why to me that matters the most. And so, you think we’re talking about a book. I think we’re talking about an idea. And if it happens to be in a book, that means people can get all the details from the book, and you can get it without me. That, for me, is the joy of having a book. Which is I can spread the idea to more people than I could ever speak to. So, thank you for that. Thanks for helping.
Andrew: But, you know, how do I help you? How do we inspire the audience that’s listening to us right now. We’ve got a live audience here and on Justin.tv and on a couple of other sites. And people are gonna be downloading this and putting this on their iPod. And they’ve got all kinds of music and TV to watch and at this point, if we could inspire them, we could change them. We can improve their lives. We can help them out. We could be memorable.
Andrew: How do we capture this moment? And what do we do in this moment?
Interviewee: Well, well the, there, there’s a fact, which is, our, we live in leader, leaderless times. There was a time, not that long ago, where you could rattle of the names of great leaders in business or in politics. You know, Margret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Lek Valenza, V·clav Havel, Margret, Lee Iacocca, Jack Welch, you know, Lou Gerstner. By the way, these guys were all contemporaries. These guys were all living and leading in exactly the same time, right. Now, give me five. Name five great leaders of our day in business or in politics total. You can’t do it, you know. Steve Jobs, okay you got that one. You know, maybe Obama. Except he’s on the shelf these days, you know, or on the fence these days. You can’t do it. You can’t do it. Yet we have, we have no shortage of causes, we have a shortage of leaders. And when there are, when, when we have a lack of leadership in the world, in business, in politics, in big business, in small business, in our communities. When there’s a lack of leadership, what happens is, is we, we are lost. We don’t, we have nothing to, to look forward to. Right? And so all we can respond to with, is to things that are wrong. I mean, Kennedy asked us, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Ronald Reagan talked about morning in America. They all gave us something to believe in. Not to fight against. Right? And that’s inspiring. And when that happens innovation goes up. Productivity goes up. Our own sense of happiness and fulfillment goes up. Because we feel like we have a direction.
feel like we’re a part of something. The most basic human desire is to feel like you belong. That’s what we do with clubs and sports teams, even gangs. When you go into a neighborhood where they don’t have a family and they don’t have a school and all of those things that we feel like we belong, we seek it out. We join a gang. That’s a basic human desire.
And so, we are disconnected in this world today. Stress is at an all-time high. Heart disease is at an all-time high. Cancer is at an all-time high. All of these things is because we don’t feel fulfilled in life, and so what I’m looking for is to find and celebrate and build the leaders that we need anywhere, business or in politics. For me, it’s about efficiency.
If people are going to build businesses, start with Why, build your business based on Why and that way the people who come to work for you will be inspired to come to work. They will love to come to work for you. You’ll make more money. You’ll be more productive. You’ll be more innovative, but they will love their jobs. This is the world I want to live in.
And so, I am looking for volunteers. Who wants to join? Who wants to either be one of those leaders, or who wants to follow and work for a company that is run by one of those leaders? If you do, if you meet one of those two criteria, then we have to share the Why.
Every single organization career exists on three levels: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. The problem is most people don’t even know the Why exists. And so, the more we can tell people that simply that the Why exists, then the world that I imagine will happen, but we have to do it together.
And so, whether it’s buying a book, or more importantly, giving a book away, whether it’s sharing a link of an interview or a talk I’ve done or if it’s just you drawing a Golden Circle on the back of a napkin. All anything we can do and all the creative ways that I don’t even have a clue about. The more people who want to join this movement the better things will be. And so, that’s the way to do it. Just stand up, volunteer, join and say, “How do I share the Why?”
Andrew: How do people, once they come up with their Why, how do they get others to follow them and help them out? Let’s say, Ryan, here who’s listening, and Todd and Crystal and Chris and Daniel, all these guys. They say, “I now know what my Why is. Simon’s given me freedom to express that Why. I don’t have to wait until I make a lot of money and then go after my Why purpose reason for being on earth here. How do I now get other people to join in? I can barely get customers to my web site. I can barely get money from my customers or investors. Now, how do I get people to, at least, join me in my Why so that we can get all of those things?”
Interviewee: Very simple. Talk about it. Talk about it obsessively. It’s not what you do that matters; it’s why you do it. And the more you talk about what you believe, the more you talk about why you do what you do, those who believe what you believe will be attracted to you. You know how buzz marketing works? People, people talking; not people who are paid but people who just spontaneously say things, talk things, share ideas with their friends, share things with people who believe what they believe. That’s what a friend is, right?
What’s a community? What’s a culture? It’s a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs. We share ideas with people who we believe in because it’s good for the community. And so, the more you talk about it, the more people will be drawn to you. I’m, like I said, I’m notÖ
I’ll tell you my story. It’s buried in the back of the book. There’s a section at the back of the book called “I Am a Failure”, and this is a realization that I made before this whole Golden Circle thing even happened, long before the book.
Andrew: I want to let people clip this if they want to because I’m noticing that people are clipping the videos and posting it. So, I want to let the video catch up here so that we get your video and the audio together when you say it. Then, they can clip it. All right, guys.
Andrew: Go for it, Simon, and guys, clip away if you want. You don’t even need my permission to do it.
Interviewee: So, my story is not any different than anyone else’s. I started a business. I thought I had a better mouse trap, you know, and off I went into the marketplace. When you first start a business, you’re full of passion and excitement, and it’s your passion that’s driving everything because, you know, you don’t what the hell you’re doing. And that’s not a bad thing. You quit your good job and your good benefits, and you make a third of a salary to work in your mother’s basement, and it’s fantastic, right? Your energy and passion inspires your crazy friends to quit their jobs and come and join you to do the same, and it’s wonderful.
So, my story is no different. That’s exactly how I started my company. The problem is after a few months, about a year, the novelty of starting a business wears off, right? And you no longer say, “I’m an entrepreneur”. You know, you say, “Oh, I have a business. We do corporate marketing and consulting” and it loses its luster.
Interviewee: It loses its luster, but then you have this other thing that hangs over your head and I was no different, that over 90% or 95% of all small businesses fail in the first three years, you know. Statistically, you’re nuts to ever want to start a business, but it’s exciting if you’re just a little bit competitive.
And so, my first year we did well. My second year we did OK. I mean, we were never a runaway success. We made a living. My third year, still in business, made a living again; great clients, good work, never made a ton of money, but we made a living and we were happy.
And my fourth year was totally different because I got used to the idea of being an entrepreneur, and I had survived three years. I was now a member of a very small group in America. And in my fourth year I couldn’t tell you when I was getting out of bed. I completely lost my passion, and I know the dates. They’re indelibly imprinted in my mind. From September ’05 to December ’05 I hit rock bottom. I came the closest I’ve ever come, if I wasn’t completely depressed.
As an entrepreneur, I had thoughts that were worse than suicide. I was thinking about getting a job–rock bottom. Again, I knew what I did. I knew how I did it. We did good work. We were trying to tell people and explain why you’re better. I mean, it became hard work, and I didn’t want to get out of bed anymore.
I had been tinkering around with this thing I called the Golden Circle. I called it the Golden Circle back then simply to explain why some marketing worked and some marketing didn’t. It was an academic exercise. That was my background and I was always fascinated how companies with equal resources why some marketing worked and some marketing didn’t. Apple, Harley-Davidson, Southwest Airlines are some examples.
And it wasn’t until I met somebody by the name of Victoria Hopper [sp] who started asking me, “Do you know how the human brain works? The limpid brain and the neo-cortex which, of course, I didn’t. I started reading, and the more I started to read the more I started to realize that the way the human brain physically makes decisions, the way our behavior is controlled, perfectly overlapped with this thing that I had sitting on a shelf called the Golden Circle. In other words, I made this remarkable discovery. I hadn’t figured out why marketing works. I discovered why people do what they do, and I knew what I did and I knew how I did it, but I didn’t know why.
I became obsessed with understanding my Why. Once I gained a clarity of Why, I used to call myself–the way you ask me how I define myself, I used to say, “I’m either an entrepreneur or I’m a strategic marketing consultant”. Talk about boring, right? Strategic communication consultant, blah. Then, once I realized my Why, I just started talking about it to inspire people to do the things that inspire them. That’s why I woke up every day, and all of a sudden my passion was restored. I loved waking up every day now. And for me, January became exciting to share this, and it worked for me. And I showed the Golden Circle to friends, and it worked for them.
My friends said, “Will you show it to our friends?” And I said, “Sure”. And I’d go to somebody’s house. They’d have a few friends sitting around in their apartment, and I’d talk about this little discovery that changed my life. And it worked for them. Then, people started asking me, “Would you help me find my Why?” I said, “Sure”. And I’d charge people a hundred bucks to help them find their Why. Everyone I felt, I would share this experience and share this idea. More and more people just kept asking me would I share with somebody else. Would I show it to them? Would I show it to their boss?
And then, all of a sudden, strange things started to happen. Somebody said, “Would this work in the military?” I said, “Sure, I guess. It’s people, right?” I don’t know, yes. So, all of a sudden, I find myself, within one year; I had an invitation to speak at the Pentagon to the Chief of Staff and the Secretary of the Air Force, the two highest ranking people in the Air Force.
Prior to three and a half years ago, prior to the discovery the amount of people I knew in the military was zero, right? I get asked to do now 40 or 50 speaking engagements a year all over the world. Do you know how many paid public speaking engagements I did before the Golden Circle? One. I go on TV all the time now. Prior to three and a half years ago, the amount of times I was on television my whole life, zero.
I write articles now for magazines. How many times did I write for anybody prior to three and a half years ago? Zero. I advise members of Congress now. How many people did I know in local politics prior to three and a half years ago? Zero. I’m the same idiot now that I was then. I know no more about how to do these things than I did then. The only difference is I stopped talking about and defining myself by what I do, and I started talking about what I believe. And the things that I did were the proof. The things that I did brought it to light; the consulting, the speaking, the writing of the book. Anything you read by me or hear me talk about, it’ll always have this sense of inspired or inspiration in it some way, shape or form, always. And the more I talked about it, people just kept showing up and saying, “Can you help us? Can you help me?
Andrew:…showing up and saying, “Can you help us, can you help me, can I introduce you to somebody?” And I just kept saying yes, and so buzz is created, and, and champions will be found if you believe in something and you talk about it, and those who believe what you believe will volunteer to help you for no other reason than they believe it themselves, they don’t actually care about you, they just need you to help them. It’s the same reason I help people, it’s because they inspire me. “What can I do for you”? Anything! You inspire me! So the way you get it going is not so sophisticated, you just start talking about it, and eventually as it starts to get scale you’ll need some proper structure, and that’s where other people can help you too, if you kind of build it yourself, which is me.
Andrew: Meaning I don’t build the structure, I ask other people for help on that one. I’m very bad at building structure.
Interviewee: What happens when you’re doing this? You’re going and pursuing your mission and you’re doing something you’re passionate about, but then you see someone else, maybe it’s the Google guy, the Youtube guys, guys create video websites, they get backing, they overnight sell it for a ton of cash, and you’re sitting there saying, “I’m pursuing my passion for what?”, I should be pursuing whatever the latest hottest thing is!
Interviewee: Maybe it’s social video today, maybe its 3-d Youtube I should be building.
Andrew: Yeah! Yeah. Well, remember what we talked about before, about chasing market opportunities? Okay? Let’s look at the history of Facebook. How was Facebook invented? Guy at college wanted to take the physical “Facebook” that we got at college and put it online and when Facebook was invented in the beginning you had to go to college to even be a member! You had to prove that you were in college to even be a member of Facebook! How did Craig’s List get started? Craig’s was a guy at work who used to put up what was going on that evening around San Francisco for his friends! These were all solutions to problems in their own lives. That’s why they worked, because they are genuine, because they are real, and here’s that word! Authentic. Okay? I am tired of hearing people saying you have to be authentic, it is an un-actionable command, go be authentic. What do you do? What authenticity means is the things you say and the things you do you actually believe, it means the things you’re selling, the things you’re trying to get people involved in, actually help solve a real problem or enhanced your own life! You don’t just think its a clever market opportunity, based on some sound market research or some stuff I looked up on the internet, and those ideas, it does not mean that it does not work, those chasing market opportunities, but they won’t last. At best you’ll have a fad if you’re super lucky, but it does not work, because we are social animals, we can resonate, we can tell if somebody believes their own stuff because they have passion, when you have passion for something it means that it’s personal, that’s what passion is, it’s personal belief, and so if you’re obsessed with the success that Facebook has had or twitter has had, or all these other things, and you’re sitting there saying, Well, that’s so unfair, why aren’t I successful?”, the odds are your “Why” is missing, because people who’s “Why” is missing, remember what I said, are most obsessed with what everyb
ody else is doing and not obsessed with what they are doing. I’ve been through it. You know the first thing I did after I discovered my “Why”? I cancelled all of my subscriptions to all of my industry trades, all the trade magazines for my industry, cancelled them because I realized all I was doing was making myself feel bad for seeing all the ideas that everybody else in my industry was doing before me, or things that I didn’t think of. So, I could only either react, or be second, or feel stupid. So I cancelled them all. And now I read things that are not in my industry because I am more interested in what everybody else is doing because that gives me ideas.
Interviewee: Alright, so let’s look at what people say who are in the audience.
David: [Interrupting] You’re worried about Mark Zuckerberg not selling his business for billions. Start worrying about what you are doing!
Interviewee: Mariano in the audience said his book is now on my wish list, Pedro just linked to your website which is startwithwhy.com, thank you for linking.
David: Thank you. And the blog is simonsinek.com
Interviewee: [Spells simonsinek.com letter by letter] Aaron is saying hence Paul Graham’s “solve a real problem mantra”.
Interviewee: Paul Graham, the investor who keeps telling the entrepreneurs he backs [xx]…
David: There you go! Solve a real problem! And again don’t look for a problem, you have your own, weather its something that could be better, or easier, or simpler, or something there is no response to, i’ll give you a great example. I had coffee just yesterday, with a just recently retired CEO of a very big company, really amazing guy. And we were talking about just this, which is, it all comes from real problems and real solutions. And the the example he gave me he said, “Many years ago he would be on business trips all the time, when…
Interviewee: He had one of the first laptops, you know, that probably looks like our desktops these days. He had one of the first laptops and it was in his bag, and his back was killing him and he’s got his luggage and he walking through the airport, and this was his life. You know? This was his life for years! And then all of a sudden, years after lugging this thing, somebody walked past him, and they found a bag that had wheels built into it. We saw these luggage carts first, but nobody put the wheels in the bag. Some brilliant businessman, whose back was killing him, probably decided to put the wheels in the bag, and boom, problem solved, and now those little wheelie bags are the norm. I mean, I don’t think suitcases exist without wheels anymore. Now they make backpacks with wheels. I remember when I was a kid I used to have to carry my own books on my back. God forbid kids should have to carry books anymore. But why should little kids have lower back pain? Only adults should have lower back pain.
Andrew: I want to read more of what’s going on here in the live audience for people who are listening to the recorded version of the interview, but I think I’m just going to recommend if you want to read everything that they’re saying here in the live audience, come and watch us live, every day, 11 a.m. Pacific. It’s free, it’s easy, you don’t need to download anything and you get to join the conversation. And for the people who are chatting, and are linking away, thank you. Especially you Pedro with the exact links, he’s linking to one of your past blog posts, even. Alright, now I want to bring up another potential problem, then use an example from your story to address the problem and then ask you for a solution.
Andrew: The problem is, you feel like you’ve hit a ceiling. You’ve gotten as big as you think you could get with your Y with the pond that you’re playing in and you want to go and be in a bigger arena. And the example is Volkswagen. I’m hoping you can talk about what Volkswagen was good for, what they’re Y was, where they made the mistake, and then I’d like to ask you what you would do if you were in Volkswagen’s place back then.
Interviewee: You’re talking about the Faeton.
Interviewee: The famous mistake they made. So, it’s not how big a Y can get. A Y can get infinitely big. It’s how big what you’re doing can get. You know? Take me for example. My Y can inspire people to do the things that inspire them. So if I decide the only way I’m that going to bring that to light is to be a public speaker, right, and I do a lot of speaking, and I’m always looking for more speaking engagements, the more I can share the Y, the better, right? So if anybody knows a place I can speak, I’ll always show up. So for me, that’s what I decided. There is a finite amount of growth, I can have there, because I can only be there physically a certain amount of times a year. I will max out, and that’s as big as I can get. And then you look for other ways to grow it bigger. So just to correct one thing, the Y is not a limiting factor, it’s what you’re doing that’s are limiting factors.
Andrew: I see.
Interviewee: So books and things like that create scale, because I don’t have to be in the room. So that’s really important. Y’s are unlimited, the potential for a Y is unlimited. So you’re example about Volkswagen. Volkswagen is such a lovely example because their Y is crystal clear, it’s in their name. They’re the “Volks wagen,” they’re “the people’s car.” That’s what their name is, it’s the people’s car. And they made a reputation, we all know about German engineering and the wonders of German engineering. You pay for that wonderful German engineering, whether it’s a BMW or a Mercedes, these are expensive cars. And Volkswagen really found a way to bring this great German engineering, these quality, quality automobiles to the average person; the people’s car. And that’s how they made their reputation. Really, really high quality for everybody else. There’s no question they’re smart people, they’re brilliant engineers, but their Y had to be about the average man, not about the executives. And a few years ago they came out with a car called the Faeton, which was a $70,000 Volkswagen, and all of the motor journalists in the motor industry hailed this car. It was a marvel of modern engineering. This thing was fast, it was safe, the technology inside of it blew was, it blew BMW and Mercedes away. It failed. Who is going to spend $70,000 to have a Volkswagen logo on the front of their car. I don’t care how good it is. Again, it doesn’t matter what you do. You could have the best product in the world, but if the what you do and why you do it are not in balance, then it doesn’t make sense to people, because we’re drawn to Volkswagen for something specific, and they offered something out there. Now that’s not to say they can’t go into those other categories. They could either buy other brands, which they do. Don’t they own Bugatti? I think they own Bugatti, which is the most expensive car there is. Honda has Acura, Toyota has Lexus, because we know that nobody is going to
buy a $90,000 Toyota, but they would buy a $90,000 Lexus.
Interviewee: Toyota has Lexus, because we know that nobody is going to buy a $90,000 Toyota. But they would buy a $90,000 Lexus. So it’s not that they can’t leverage the things they know, it’s that what they do has to be consistent with what we expect, what they believe. And the clearer you are about what you believe, the clearer people’s expectations will be about what you deliver. And those things have to match. That’s what authenticity is. That your beliefs and my expectations are in line.
Andrew: So you’re saying create a different brand or use one of your other brands that has a different Y and let this new car express that Y, and reach that new audience.
Interviewee: The Y is still there, the Y is stiller there, it’s two different audiences. Like Disney. Disney is about good clean family fun, right?
Andrew: But then they own Miramax. And Miramax isn’t about good clean fun.
Interviewee: They own Miramax, they own Buena Vista. There are adult themes, and I don’t mean porno, I mean like bang-bang shoot-em-up; you’ll never see Disney produce “Predator.” You know? But they have Buena Vista, or the other studio names. So, it’s about expectations. That’s really important. If you remember the celery test, the celery test is a way to manage that. It’s just a metaphor, and like I said, we’re always tuning into podcasts, or reading books or seeing speakers or asking friends, we’re always looking for advice about what to do, or how to do things better, how to improve our businesses, right? What should you do, how do you do it?
The problem is, which advice do you follow? And so, like again, I just said, it’s a metaphor, it’s called the celery test. It’s as if you go to a dinner party and someone says to you, “You know what you need in your business? Oreo cookies. If you’re not implementing Oreo cookies in your business, I’m telling you, you’re leaving money on the table.” Somebody else tells you: “Rice milk. In this economy? You have to be using rice milk.” Somebody else says to you: “M&Ms. We used M&Ms in our business, and we made millions! Facebook uses M&Ms. You’ve gotta do it.” Somebody else says to you, “Celery. It’s all about celery.” So what do you do? Which one do you follow? Which item do you buy? It’s all perfectly good advice from perfectly good people with perfectly good evidence. Which products do you buy? So we go to the supermarket and we buy them all. We buy celery and rice milk and Oreos and M&Ms. You may or may not get value out of all of these products, there’s no guarantee. You spend a lot of time at the supermarket, you spend a lot of money at the supermarket, and worse, when you’re standing in line in the supermarket with all of your products in your arms, your celery, your rice milk, your Oreos, your M&Ms, nobody can see what you believe.
Because what you bought didn’t necessarily correspond to anything you believe. Nobody can see what you believe. So people will walk past you and ignore you. Imagine if you knew your Y. Imagine if your Y was clear. Imagine if your Y was to always be healthy and only do things that protect the integrity of your body. You will get all the same advice from all of the exact same smart people. The difference is, when you go to the supermarket, you’re only going to buy celery and rice milk. Those are the only two products that make sense. Right? You’re guaranteed to get value out of those products. You spend less time at the supermarket, you spend less money at the supermarket, so there’s and efficiency play, and when you’re standing in line at the supermarket holding your celery and holding your rice milk, everyone can see what you believe. Authenticity, right? So somebody walking past can see, just by looking at your celery and your rice milk, they can look at you and say, “Hey, you’re healthy, you believe in being healthy? Me too.” Congratulations, you just attracted a customer, you just attracted a referral, an employee, an article, a blog, buzz. Somebody says, “Hey, can you give some advice to me?” You just created that sense of cause in somebody else, simply because you said and did the things you actually believe. Here’s the best part: as soon as I said the Y, before I even said we’re going to buy celery and rice milk only, as soon as I said the Y “to be healthy,” every single person listening to this knew we were only going to buy celery and rice milk before I said it. That’s called scale.
The more you talk about why you do what you do, those who work with you, those who work for you, those who work around you all know what you need and what the right decisions are, not because they’re trusting your gut, and not because you laid out some set of criteria. It’s because they know why you do what you do, and there are some decisions that are just obvious. They either make sense, or they don’t. And that’s the power of Y. It is absolutely scalable.
Andrew: I hope somebody takes this and clips it out and post that. Again, I’m telling you guys you don’t need my permission, go ahead and do it. I’m watching now lately, by the way, these gems in my interview and some people will just clip them or just copy the text and post them up on their website and suddenly they get traffic. More traffic than I got in the early days. Some guy took a copy of…
Andrew: So do it. I don’t even need the link back to my site. You don’t need to include Andrew Warner. If you want to include Simon I think he’d appreciate it. I think that’s the right thing to do but, you don’t even need to give me credit. You don’t need to ask me, go for it.
Simon: I don’t care.
Simon: And by the way, I leave that for WHY content. You can go to my blog and I don’t care if you steal articles. You can find any video. For me it’s the spreading of the idea that matters. The more people that learn about why, that means the more people that build organizations and build careers that are in balance,and the better world gets so you don’t need my permission. You can take…take anything from any of my websites and re-post them, have a field day.
Andrew: And here’s too another benefit, you go and you tell other people about this without noticing it it’s going to start becoming apart of who you are. If you take these ideas and you write them down, you copy and paste them on your website you’re going to start to recognize that these ideas become a part of you in a way that you couldn’t if you were just listening to this while you were driving across country. Or, just listening to this as you were getting to work on your commute. You tell people, just take this stuff and run with it,do it. Copy it, write it, do what you can but, don’t just absorb it in your head and expect it to do something. Go and do something and it’ll really get in there.
Simon: And what we’re talking about you’re capturing something which is very profound, which is great businesses big or small. Functional like social movements, you know. People love being apart of it, they want to be a part of it. They do it because they believe in it and that’s like a social movement. So great businesses really do function the same way.
Andrew: And you know, here’s another thing that the supermarket analogy that Aaron [undiscerning] and the audience loved. That a lot of interviews I do here are all over the place. If you just listen to them all it just seems like they’re just endless advice being flung at you and endless possibilities. If you know what you’re WHY is you’re right, you know what to pick out of these interviews, you know what to learn from all these programs, you know what’s going to make sense for you and what you should use.
Simon: The more clarity of WHY you have the more easier it is to weed through the morass, the things that are right for you. And quite frankly, it’s also easier to hear criticism, you know. If somebody calls you and idiot because of what you did wrong, you can smile and say, “Clearly that guy sees the world a little different than me”, you know. If somebody says to you, “You’re so stupid. I made so many millions with M&M, why wouldn’t you use them. You’ve got to be the worst businessman in the world”. You shrug your shoulders, “I guess I’m the worst businessman in the world”. Where before that would have been like…I would have had sleepless nights because of criticism like that. Now I think it’s funny.
Andrew: All right. Thank you. Thanks for doing this interview with me. If people want to connect with you how can they do that? We talked about a lot of different ways they could read more from you,maybe we could summarize it here.
Simon: Sure, if you’re interested in more of my musings you can follow me on Twitter at Simon [undiscerning]. And the way I use Twitter is I just put up crazy little ideas I have throughout the day so you might get one, you might get 50, I don’t know. Still at Simon [undiscerning] on Twitter, my blog is Simon [undiscerning].com. And if you’re interested in learning more about WHY or maybe even learning your WHY, you go to startwithwhy.com. And we have a WHY University on there as well. It’s a self-guided course where you can learn your WHY. And of course, the whole idea of the whole concept and all the theory about how to keep it in balance and what it looks like can be found in my book, “Start With WHY”, available at all book stores. And most importantly, if you do buy a book please give it to somebody that you want to inspire when you’re done with it.
Andrew: Well, right on. Well, thank you for doing this interview with me. Guys in live audience, Thank you. You guys have been terrific today. Not just today, especially today. And for anyone who didn’t make it into live audience come in the future, be apart of this. Or, shoot me your email afterward. I’m curious to see what you guys think of this program. I want to hear your feedback. I get better because of your feedback and more importantly, I really get to connect with smart people because of it. Interviews like draw a certain kind of person and I want to get to know that person so come back in and give me your feedback. I’m Andrew Warner, thanks for watching. I’ll see you in the comments.