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  • I'm Chris Beier, the executive producer at Inc. Magazine.

  • I'm here with Simon Sinek, a unshakeable optimist and inspirational speaker.

  • Thank you for your time. Thank you for joining us. Thanks for having me.

  • So, let me ask you a broad question before we get into the nitty-gritty.

  • Why are you an optimist? Why do you choose to see the world that way?

  • Yeah, I mean I don't know if optimists choose to see it that way

  • I think, well I guess, you can choose to be an optimist that is a point

  • of view that you can take right you can look for everything bad in the world and

  • think the world is crashing and it will never get better or you can choose to

  • see the good in people and choose to see the good in the world and then that's

  • the direction that that will follow and you know I I tend to believe that

  • there's no finality in anything you know it's not like you know you're even

  • though we our lives are finite life is infinite you know life goes on and and

  • for me the goal is not to produce something that has an end point but to

  • produce something that has momentum that can live on beyond me and so I choose an

  • optimistic path where did you go to college I went to Brandeis University

  • just outside of Boston you go to grad school I have half a law degree oh yeah

  • right right I dropped out of it yeah I dropped out of Law School

  • what what what prompted you to drop out it's not for me and I knew that it

  • wasn't for me yeah you knew that it wasn't for you before

  • you even went to law school oh no I wanted to go yeah but once I was there I

  • realized it wasn't for me and I figured why waste the time yeah so when you when

  • you dropped out of law school and went into the real world so to speak what

  • what were the jobs that you were holding before you went off and started your own

  • thing I was living in England I went to law school in England and I not only

  • made the decision to drop out of law school oh so made the decision to move

  • back to the United States and I happen to be dating a girl who was studying

  • advertising at Syracuse and so she got this idea this bug in my ear about

  • advertising where I could do business and creative stuff all at the same time

  • interests and so I made the decision to go into advertising to go into marketing

  • and so my career started me I started looking for jobs in

  • advertising and I started ad agencies so most of your wisdom is about how to

  • better live in this corporate world yeah how did the corporate world suit you you

  • know I I was still an entrepreneurial I think people misunderstand what the word

  • entrepreneur means listen you know small business owners owned small businesses

  • and entrepreneurs solve problems and there are many many entrepreneurs inside

  • corporations yeah and not all small business owners or entrepreneurs I say

  • so an entrepreneur is somebody who's constantly looking for a better way to

  • do something there's a there's a sort of a mad scientist about them it's not

  • simply you know understanding structure and building business and and that's the

  • way I was in the corporate world which you know depending on my bus was either

  • welcomed or or not oh yeah I used to get in trouble for that's not how we do it

  • around here and really did I break any rules they're like no I'm like did I get

  • it done they're like yes I'm like did it get it done better than you expected

  • they're like yes I'm like so what exactly is the problem you know so I was

  • that yeah I was you know I had good relationship I was very lucky I had some

  • some not-so-great bosses at the beginning of my career which was

  • actually great because I learned I learned about the camaraderie of a team

  • but I had some fantastic bosses middle and later on in my career which was

  • really great and a lot of who I've become as a leader is very much it was

  • very much shaped by those people when did you start developing that first

  • philosophy that you were known for the Golden Circle the concept of the Golden

  • Circle when did that realization start to happen so I quit the ad business and

  • started my own marketing firm already in 2002 and throughout my entire career I

  • was always fascinated why some advertising or some marketing worked and

  • some didn't uh-huh and because having been on the inside I knew that I could

  • have a brilliant team and we could have come up with amazing creative ideas and

  • it would fail or I could have a the same team on a different thing who would come

  • up with equally good ideas and it would succeed mm-hmm and so I would I looked

  • at the great marketers the ones that we admired and the ones that I've written

  • about you know your Southwest Airlines your apples the ones that

  • perennial favorites yeah and I recognized that there was a pattern in

  • the way in which they spoke to us like I literally could look at their ads and

  • like see that there was an organization and I wrote it down and even back then I

  • called it the golden circle and when I when I had my own business I would you

  • it was just basically in powerpoints to explain why some marketing worked and

  • some marketing didn't it wasn't when you were first talking to a client it wasn't

  • a big idea yeah yet it was simply an organizing principle how to organize

  • information for marketing as it turns out there's a pattern as it turns out

  • all the great and inspiring leaders and organizations in the world whether it's

  • Apple or Martin Luther King or the Wright brothers they all think act and

  • communicate the exact same way and it's the complete opposite to everyone else

  • so what is it you then that decided I want to share this with as many people

  • as I can regardless of clients from my from my advertising agency or were

  • people reaching out and saying hey can you talk about this outside of your work

  • it's like so many of these stories it sounds like you know I was a genius but

  • it was much more evolutionary than revolutionary a lot more organic what I

  • was fascinated by this idea and it had a profound impact on my own life and my

  • own view of the world and like anybody when you read a great book you see a

  • great movie you tell your friends to read it or see it and so I would talk

  • about this thing obsessively because it it was like it was you know it's like

  • when you find a new song and all you do is listen to that one oh I've been there

  • it's the same eye it's the same thing you know that's just this obsession for

  • this one thing the difference is it didn't lose steam and my friends were

  • taking it to heart and we're making crazy life changes like I'd really need

  • jobs and starting businesses once they heard this thing because of a talk you

  • had with him at a bar yeah or yeah and Wow and I figured out how to help people

  • find their why and I would I and my friends would invite me to their homes

  • to share with their friends so it all started with me standing in somebody's

  • living room in New York City like you know with one of those those prepared

  • platters that you get at the at the supermarket with the celery and the

  • carrots and you know like one of those in the middle of the room and I would

  • talk about the thing called the Y and people would ask me to help them find

  • their when I used to do it for a hundred bucks on the side

  • it was extremely organic you know I kept I talked about it everywhere when

  • people would tell people about it people would ask me to come talk about it and

  • somebody invited me to come give a talk to a bunch of entrepreneurs and I said

  • yes Wow so what happened when when you gave their first target your first real

  • talk were you like oh my I should maybe this shouldn't just be the sidekick I

  • didn't know that being a speaker was actually a thing weirdly so and this is

  • we're talking 2000s I started giving these talks in 2006 because it was my

  • own discovery of my own why that really generated a passion for this idea and

  • what was your own why to inspire people to do what inspires them so together

  • each of us can change our world for the better which continues to be my passion

  • and my drive and that has not changed it one you only have one why your whole

  • life yeah and the opportunity is to live in balance or out of balance with that

  • with that why I say it's not created in the middle of your life it's created

  • early in your life and if you can figure out what it is you can choose to make

  • decisions to to bring that Y to life and that's that's what I've done as we're

  • here in this sort of 2006-2007 area you have your marketing firm and you're

  • doing this consultation work teaching people how to find their why when did

  • you sort of stop doing the more traditional marketing stuff and just

  • really focus on this is what I'm doing probably a year ish after that mm-hmm it

  • wasn't it was relatively quickly when I realized I wanted to only do spread this

  • message of the Y yeah wasn't sure exactly what form it would take I just

  • knew I wanted to do it and so managed to back out of my lease my back I didn't

  • pay a fine oh my I got out of my lease from my office yeah

  • and started from scratch because I wanted to I had this sort of very

  • scientific approach which is scientific method which is I had a theory I wanted

  • to prove the theory and the best way to prove the theory was to start clean yeah

  • and and I didn't think I was right I just think thought I had an idea and I

  • wanted to test it until it would fail and then I would tweak the idea and so I

  • kept looking for new opportunities big companies small companies different

  • industries public companies private companies government military I just was

  • looking for all the different play that I could try it waiting for it to

  • fail and it kept working Wow it really it was really an amazing experience to

  • see this theory just keep working but I kept the reason I was very honest I was

  • we're honest with people they like have you worked and you know politics before

  • I'm like nope never done it but yeah but I want to give it a try and see this

  • works it may not but I was always very honest about what my pursuits were yeah

  • and people again the early adopters said well let's give it a try so everybody

  • went in with open eyes me and my clients so you continue to do this and you

  • continue to spread this message and it kept working tell me how you got that

  • TED talk in 2009 well as you know I became a champion for this message and a

  • champion for this cause and it was and so when you talk about what you believe

  • people who believe what you believe recommend you or one introduce you to

  • people I see and so the more I talked about it the more somebody would call me

  • and say hey there's someone I think you should meet yeah and people found me I

  • don't know you know from somebody else so you did not seek out I want to do

  • this for know yeah so somebody somebody reached out to me and said you know they

  • got my name yeah and they said we've heard about you we've heard your work

  • we'd like to invite you to do a TEDx talk in Puget Sound in Seattle yeah and

  • I said okay sounds amazing you know TEDx was a there's a relatively new thing

  • back then and it was a big deal you know it still had a lot of real sort of an

  • kind of gravitas to it and so I was very excited and of course of course said yes

  • to the opportunity this little idea explains why some organizations and some

  • leaders are able to inspire where others aren't let me define the terms really

  • quickly every single person every single organization on the planet knows what

  • they do 100% some know how they do it whether you call it your differentiating

  • value proposition or your proprietary process or your USP but very very few

  • people or organizations know why they do what they do

  • there was a talk I'd been giving for three years already this is in 2009 I've

  • been giving this talk for three years I knew my stuff inside and out and so I

  • showed up to give the best talk I could in 18 minutes for me the challenge was

  • the 18 minutes none the talk how long is the talk no it was like an hour

  • laughs yeah I was like I had no idea how to do it in 18 minutes and but I just

  • gave the best talk I could and they put it on YouTube and I didn't expect it to

  • get as many views as it did on YouTube and it did and in a few months the Ted

  • people put it on main Ted calm and then things went silly Wow define things went

  • silly it went from hundreds of thousands of

  • views to millions of views and what happened were you ready for the wave to

  • hit what did you know where you wanted the wave to take you definitely wasn't

  • ready for it because everything was a surprise to me I only found out that

  • they put it on Ted calm the week it happened like there's no advance notice

  • they didn't ask permission was like they just did it and I found out about it I

  • didn't know what it would do it was again I was out spreading a message and

  • it was wonderful for me to have a yet another medium to help me spread this

  • message so I didn't have to be in the room all the time

  • yeah what I didn't expect is it would create more demand for me as a speaker I

  • didn't and and I never set myself on this course to be a public speaker it

  • was it's not really a chosen profession you know if I never give another speech

  • again I'd be fine with that I do it because I believe in the message and I

  • think it's important to go and preach that message and I see and the what the

  • TED talk gave me was the opportunity to spread that message at vastly greater

  • scale you know much bigger audiences yeah

  • and that's that's been a great honor did you ever have moments where you thought

  • wow so many people are listening to me I hope moments of impostor syndrome

  • moments where you doubted yourself I think I would I wouldn't call it

  • impostor syndrome I I was more humbled by the whole thing you know I would

  • catch myself laughing and giggling at myself like I can't believe that they

  • let me in here yeah like that happened more frequently would I stay posture I'm

  • more like I think they're idiots because they don't really know that I am an

  • idiot you know it's it's a hologram marcsa said I would never join a club

  • that would have me as a member it was a little bit of that you know it's like

  • what's wrong with these people that they think that you know it's like that that

  • was the only sort of impostor II thing that that crept in it do you still have

  • that um I yeah I do I I'm sort of I still I'm sort of amazed

  • by it all you know and I'm I there's a you know like when I meet

  • people who I know there's an author or oh I see celebrities I guess I know yeah

  • I know your work yeah you know my work you know yeah that's it's it's it's

  • humbling it's it's like people who whose books I used to read you know when I was

  • in the marketing business like like they're friends now like that's weird to

  • me yeah like that's uh that's very humbling why is there any sort of larger

  • flaw that you had to confront about yourself whether it's a leader or just

  • as a human over these last ten years and rising success

  • there's many mm-hmm the biggest lesson I learned was thank goodness I learned it

  • pretty early on which is and I think a lot of business owners make this mistake

  • which is because I was the boss you know in my own mind yeah I thought I had to

  • know all the answers and if I didn't I thought I had to pretend that I did and

  • that's stupid and what I learned is that just because I may have the the top

  • position in the hierarchy I I'm not expected to know everything and if I

  • pretend to know everything it diminishes the value of all the great ideas and the

  • great intelligence around me and when things got difficult I would never admit

  • it right I would just put on a brave face and show up every day and and the

  • the the biggest lesson I learned was to say I don't know I don't understand or I

  • need help at any level about any subject yeah and

  • amazingly I was always surrounded by people who wanted a help or who knew

  • answers but they never offered to help or offer the answers because they didn't

  • think I needed it because I kept pretending that I knew it all right not

  • to mention the fact that nobody likes a know-it-all

  • so that was huge for me and and when I was willing to ask for help and accept

  • it when it was offered and and sort of accept the humility of the fact that

  • other people know a lot more about a lot of things than I know uh I know one

  • thing you know and they know lots of things that's when things really started

  • to move because we were now a team that we were actually