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  • Hey, it’s Marie Forleo and you are watching MarieTV, the place to be to create a business

  • and life that you love. If youve ever wondered what it takes to inspire greatness not only

  • in yourself but in those around you, then today’s show is a must watch.

  • Simon Sinek believes in a bright future and our ability to build it together. Described

  • as a visionary thinker with a rare intellect, Simon’s goal is to help build a world in

  • which the vast majority of people go home every day feeling fulfilled by their work.

  • He is the author of two bestselling books: Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire

  • Everyone to Take Action and Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.

  • He’s best known for popularizing the concept of why, which is the third most watched TED

  • talk of all time. He speaks around the globe and has commented for local and national press,

  • including the New York Times, Inc. Magazine, NPR, and Businessweek.

  • Simon, thank you so much for being here.

  • Youre welcome. Thanks for having me.

  • So weve known each other for years and I just wanna thank you for your work because

  • I’ve shared Start With Why countless times on MarieTV before and with our B-Schoolers,

  • so it’s great to finally have you in the chair.

  • Thank you. I really appreciate you having me spread the message.

  • Yeah, of course. So I want to take you back to when you had your own business and you

  • lost your passion for what you were doing. And I was wondering if you could speak a little

  • bit to how that experience led to your understanding and the whole concept of starting with why.

  • So a lot of people think that this concept of why was some sort of academic exercise

  • that I went out and studied it, and I didn't. That’s not how it began. As you said, it

  • began out of pain. I owned my own small business, it was a strategic marketing consultancy,

  • and superficially my life looked pretty good. I owned my own business, I made a decent living,

  • we had incredible clients, and we did incredible work. Except after a few years of doing that,

  • I sort of lost my passion for it. I didn't want to wake up and do it again and I was

  • actually very embarrassed by that because there are people who had real problems. Like,

  • poor me. You know? And so I kept it to myself and I pretended. All of my energy went into

  • pretending that I was more successful, happier, and more in control than I felt. And it wasn’t

  • until a friend of mine came to me and sort of expressed concern like, “Youre different.

  • Is everything ok?” And it wasn't until I had sort of that safety net of someone close

  • by that I had the courage to sort of not only face the problem but really confront it. And

  • it was that that was the birth of this concept of why. There was a confluence of events.

  • And I realized that every single organization, including my own career, functioned on 3 levels:

  • what I did, how I did it, and why I did it. I knew what I did, that was easy to explain.

  • How I did it was also pretty good. I was good at explaining what made me different or special

  • than others. But I couldn't tell you why I was doing it, and it was that missing piece

  • that I became obsessed with. And once I found my why not only was my passion restored to

  • levels that I’d never experienced before, but it put me on a trajectory that I couldn’t

  • have been on without it. And I learned a lot of things from that experience. A lot.

  • Well, I know whenever I have mentioned your work or, you know, you spoke at one of our

  • live events and well often share your TED talk, it literally brings people to tears

  • because there’s such a sense of alignment. And then, of course, naturally they want to

  • focus their energy on why am I doing it? And I just think it’s so important and it feels

  • like it was the perfect jump off point for your latest book. You know, and I know youve

  • spent a lot of time with men and women in uniform, traveled around to military bases,

  • and had a profound experience in Afghanistan. I was wondering if you can share some of that

  • and how it led to Leaders Eat Last.

  • Yeah, I thought I was a one trick pony. You know, I thought this why thingit was a

  • good trick, I mean, don't get me wrong, but

  • It’s… are you kidding me? It’s an amazing trick. But I even love that you said that,

  • I just want to interrupt that for a second because so many people have a great idea or

  • we hear from folks in our audience who are like, “That’s it. I’m done. I don't

  • have any other good ideas. My creativity, out the window.”

  • That’s, you know, I was at peace with that. You know, and people would always ask me what’s

  • next and I’m like, “I don't know.” You know, it’s like the first thing was born

  • out of pain. I was like, “I have no idea what’s gonna happen next.” And I was ok,

  • like I said, it wasit is a good trick. But it was an experience that I had in Afghanistan

  • that set into motion what became Leaders Eat Last. I did a lot of work with the mobility

  • forces, which is a branch of the Air Force responsible for all of the big planes like

  • the tankers and the cargo planes, even Air Force One. And the general who ran the mobility

  • forces at the time said, you know, youve gotten to know us quite well. Would you be

  • willing to go to Iraq or Afghanistan to see our men and women perform their duty in theatre?

  • So I agreed and they decided to send me to Afghanistan. I didn't tell my family because

  • I didn't want them to worry. I told them I was going to Germany, true. I told them I’d

  • be out of touch, true. I told them I’d be on a lot of planes, true. I just didn't tell

  • them I was going on to Afghanistan. So I had 2 escorts, it was me and 2 officers who went

  • with me, the three of us. And we left as basic strangers and we came back as brothers. It

  • was a… everything on our trip basically went wrong. 10 minutes after we landed in

  • Bagram in the middle of the night the base came under rocket attack. 3 rockets… I heard

  • the first one come in. 3 rockets landed about 100 yards off our nose. So the sirens are

  • blaring and the, you know, the calls for everyone to go to a safe place. I mean, that was how

  • my trip began. Strangely I was relaxed. I mean, for anyone who has ever been in a war

  • zone will know, you have all the feelings you would expect to have, you just don't have

  • them at the right times. Anyway, finally the all clear was given and, you know, we went

  • to bed. The goal was to go on an air drop and we found out that there was an airdrop

  • early, early the next morning. And so we got about 2 and a half hours, 3 hours of sleep,

  • woke up, and went to do this airdrop mission, which was incredible. We basically got on

  • a big C17 cargo plane, flew out about an hour and a half, 2 hours to the middle of the country,

  • dropped down to 2 thousand feet, the back cargo bay door opened, and we sat there and

  • watched as all this cargo slid out the back and was parachuted down to resupply an army

  • forward operating base. Incredible experience. Then we came back. Now the goal is to get

  • out of dodge. Now the goal is to find a flight home. There’s nothing that’s regularly

  • scheduled and any plane you get on is at the discretion of the pilots anyway. So we found

  • an outbound aeromedical mission, which is taking wounded warriors out of theatre. And

  • we asked the pilots can we get on, and they said sure. And we waited and waited and waited

  • and waited. And were all strapped in about 5 minutes before about to take off, they came

  • up to us and they said, “We need to bump you off the plane because we need more room

  • for stretchers.” And if there’s ever a good reason to get off a plane, that’s it.

  • So that’s when we went to look for another flight and that’s when we found out there

  • wasn’t one and there wasn’t going to be one until Tuesday. It was only Saturday. So

  • at the very minimum I’m gonna be home 4 days late, my parents… I have no way of

  • getting a hold of my family, they don't know where I am, and there’s no guarantee were

  • getting on that plane. And I just remember every fiber of my being sort of dropping down.

  • I remember all the energy just leaving me and I remember becoming completely obsessed

  • with one thing and only thing only, which was myself. I became obsessed with my safety,

  • my happiness, my security, and I didn't care who had to go out of their way to get me what

  • I wanted. There was a public affairs officer there who said I can get you on a flight to

  • Kyrgyzstan but you don't have the right visa, to which I said, “You get me on that plane.”

  • I don't talk to people that way and I could feel myself becoming this person I hated,

  • becoming this boss that at some point weve all worked for who only wants their own promotion

  • and doesn't care who has to twist themselves in knots so they can get what they want. I

  • was now becoming that person. We went back to theto our housing, to our quarters,

  • and I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes but I couldn’t sleep, my mind was racing.

  • I also became paranoid. I was convinced there was going to be another rocket attack and

  • I was convinced, absolutely convinced, it was going to land on me. I was convinced this

  • is how my parents would find out that I was in Afghanistan. One of the officers said he

  • was going to look for another flight and he left. And the other one said, “Well, I’m

  • going to the gym then,” and he left. And on his way out, because my eyes were closed,

  • he thought I was sleeping and he turned out the light. I was in this room by myself in

  • the dark, my mind racing, completely paranoid. And I realized that what I was experiencing

  • was an unfulfilled career or an unfulfilled life compressed and exaggerated into a 24

  • hour period. Because I had an amazing day. I had an incredibly exciting experience. I

  • didn't want to wake up and do it again. I was full of regret, I didn't… I regretting

  • saying yes to this, I didn't want to be there, I felt totally out of control. And I realized,

  • you know, a lot of people confused excitement with joy or they confused happiness with fulfilment.

  • You know, our careers and our jobs can be exciting and fun and winning the new client

  • and making a big sale, but that doesn't mean were fulfilled, that doesn't mean were

  • inspired, that doesn't mean we have joy in our lives. And I realized this was the mistake

  • I had made. And so I’m in the purpose business, you know. I realize that I felt this way because

  • I didn't have a sense of purpose. And so I try to invent one. Youre here to tell their

  • story and come back and it worked for, like, a minute and then it would wear off. And I

  • had… I ran out of solutions. I was paranoid, I was scared, I was depressed, I was out of

  • control, and I had no solution. And so I lay in that bed and I gave up. I just… I gave

  • up. I had… I had nothing else. And having given up I decided that if I was gonna get

  • stuck here, I might as well make myself useful. And so I was going to volunteer to speak anywhere

  • and as often as they wanted me to to help out some of the amazing people that I’d

  • met. I don't care if I had to carry heavy boxes or sweep floors. It didn't matter how

  • menial, I wanted to serve those who served others. And upon making that decision, this

  • amazing calm came over me, an excitement even. I was excited to now be there and I couldn't

  • wait to get to work. As if it were a movie, it was eerie the timing, coming to this conclusion

  • the door flies open, it’s Major Throckmorton, one of the guys I’m flying with. And he

  • says, “There’s been a flight that’s been redirected. We can get on it if we leave

  • now. Weve gotta leave now. If we don't leave now we're gonna miss it, theyre gonna

  • leave without us. Weve gotta go now. Where’s Matt?” I’m like, “He’s at the gym.”

  • So we run to the gym, we get Matt off the treadmill, he comes back, no time to shower,

  • puts his uniform back on, we grab all our stuff, and we run out to the flight line.

  • As soon as we get to the flight line we can see the plane were gonna get on, it’s

  • a big C17 again, and as soon as we get there there’s a security curtain that comes down

  • and won’t let us out to the plane. And the reason is is because somewhere else on base

  • theyre having a fallen soldier ceremony and out of respect when that’s happening,

  • everything stops on base. And so we just sat on the curb and waited and I told the guys

  • what I went through just a few moments ago, and I cried like a baby as I told them the

  • story. And one thing most people don't realize about the military, which is crying is just

  • fine. Finally the security curtain came up and we walked out to our aircraft, we got

  • on board, we would be the only 3 passengers aboard this aircraft. What I haven't told

  • you is the reason this flight was redirected is that we would be carrying home the soldier

  • for whom they just had the fallen soldier ceremony. So at the right time when the Army

  • brought the casket, we all stood at attention at the end of the plane and the soldiers brought

  • the flag draped casket, they placed it in the middle of the aircraft, they gave a slow

  • 8 count salute, they walked off the aircraft, and we could see them crying and hugging each

  • other as they walked away out of sight as the Air Force crew got to work and strapped

  • down our precious cargo. It would be a 9 and a half hour flight overnight back to Germany.

  • We all sort of sat there, the casket was over there as we just sat on the side of the plane

  • to take off. As soon as we got into the air we all staked out a piece of real estate somewhere

  • on the floor, pulled out our sleeping bags to try and get some sleep. On every other

  • flight we talked, we joked. Barely a word was spoken in close to 10 hours. On every

  • other flight I hung out in the flight deck on the cockpit and talked to the crew. I didn't

  • visit the cockpit once on this flight. And I’ll tell you, it was one of the most rewarding,

  • profound experiences of my life. That having gone through what I went through on the ground

  • just before over the course of those 24 hours, I had now had the opportunity to bring home

  • someone who knows a lot more about service than I ever will. Our last flight home was

  • inwe were bringing home wounded warriors from Germany back home to America, it was

  • about 30 something wounded. And there was one Marine in what they call CCAT at the back

  • of the plane. His wounds were very severe and he was kept in an artificial coma. I finally

  • mustered the courage to go talk to the docs who were assigned to take care of him. He

  • had 2 broken legs, 2 broken arms, shrapnel in the chest, a broken eye socket, a punctured

  • eyeball. He was in bad shape. And they walked me through his wounds and all of the innovations

  • that are taking place in trauma care that are making their way down into civilian hospitals,

  • which is amazing unto itself because even when theyre injured they're still giving

  • back to us. You know? And the doc was a reservist out of Austin, Texas who works in an ER back

  • home. And I asked him a question I don't think I would ever have asked him had I not just

  • gone through what I just went through. I said, “On these missions, do you have a greater

  • sense of fulfilment than you do back home?” I said, “Youre a good guy, youre

  • you save lives for a living.” And he looked at me and said, “There’s no comparison.”

  • He said 90 to 95 percent of the people in the ER are either drunks or idiots. That’s

  • what lands them in the ER. He says, “There’s not a single drunk or idiot here.” And so

  • when I came home it shook me for a while and I really started to question the environments

  • in which we work. You know, we work with people that we call colleagues or coworkers. They

  • work with people that they call brother and sister. There’s a deep sense of trust and

  • love that they have for each other that we just don't have, and I want to work with people

  • like that. And so my original conclusion was that theyre just better people, but I wanted

  • to learn where trust and cooperation comes from mainly because I want to work with people

  • in environments like that. And I learned it’s not the people, it’s the environment. And

  • this is why leadership is so important, because leadership will create an environment that

  • can create relationships like that, and that’s where Leaders Eat Last came from. That’s

  • where that book came from.

  • Which leads us perfectly in what I wanted to unpeel and dive into deeper next, which

  • is the power of environment. And you wrote in Leaders Eat Last, and I so believe this

  • with my heart. How when we get the environment right, that humans will do remarkable things.

  • And that really is true that it’s not just that theyre better. That we all have that

  • capacity, and I was wondering if you could speak to that.

  • Yeah. It’s a very basic idea, you know. Were social animals. Our happiness, our

  • joy, our success, everything is dependent on our relationships. And we respond to the

  • environments were in. You can take a good person and put them in a bad environment and

  • theyre capable of doing bad things. Likewise, you can take a person that the group or even

  • society has given up on and you put them in a good environment and theyre capable of

  • turning their lives around and really making something remarkable out of themselves. We

  • are social animals and we respond to the environments were in and leaders are responsible for

  • building that environment. If you create an environment in which people feel safe amongst

  • their own, we will naturally, the natural human response to those conditions is trust

  • and cooperation. Remember, trust and cooperation are feelings, theyre not instructions.

  • There's no PowerPoint or pitch that you can give upon the end that someone will trust

  • you. You can’t tell somebody, “Trust me.” It doesn't work that way. Theyre feelings.

  • Likewise, if you create an environment where we actually fear each other, fear the people

  • with whom we work, the natural human reaction to that environment is paranoia, cynicism,

  • mistrust, and self-interest. That’s what happens. There’s enough danger outside the

  • organization, there’s enough stuff going on outside that we shouldn't have to fear

  • the people we work with or fear our own leaders. And most leaders don't get this. Most leaders

  • think leadership is about being in charge. No, it’s not. It’s about taking care of

  • those in your charge. Most leaders think everybody works for them. No, you work for the people

  • in your organization. It’s your responsibility to take care of them, make them feel safe,

  • and they will naturally want to cooperate and work hard and give you their blood and

  • sweat and tears to advance your vision. All they ask is you take care of them, make them