Some people see the thing that they want and some people see the thing that prevents them from getting the thing that they want.
It’s as if an entire generation is standing at the foot of a mountain, they know exactly what they want, they can see the summit, what they can’t see is the mountain.
People put Harley Davidson logos on their body to say something about who they are, corporate logo. Ain’t not Proctor and Gambles tattooed on anybody’s arm.
Passion is the feeling you have that you would probably do this for free, you know, and you can’t believe somebody pays you to do it.
Simon Sinek’s Top 10 Rules For Success
Evan: He’s an author, speaker, and consultant who writes on leadership and management.
He joined the Rand Corporation in 2010 where he advises our military innovation and planning.
He’s known for popularizing the concepts of the golden circle, and to start with why.
He’s Simon Sinek, and here’s my take on his top 10 rules for success.
Rule number six is my personal favorite, and make sure to stick around all the way to the end for some special bonus clips, and as always, if Simon says something that really, really resonates with you, please leave it in the comments below and put quotes around it so other people can be inspired as well.
Simon Sinek’s Rules
- Break the rules
- Train your mind
- Be patient
- Take accountability
- Outdo yourself
- Stack the deck
- Be the last to speak
- Be authentic
- Find your passion
- Start with Why
Rule #1. Break The Rules
Let me tell you a story. So a friend of mine and I, we went for a run in Central Park. The Road Runner’s Organization, on the weekends they host races. And it’s very common, at the end of the race they’ll have a sponsor who will give away something, apples or bagels, or something. And on this particular day when we got to the end of the run there were some free bagels, and they had picnic tables set up, and on one side was a group of volunteers.
On the table were boxes of bagels, and on the other side was a long line of runners waiting to get their free bagel. So I said to my friend, “Let’s get a bagel.” And he looked at me and said, “Nah, that line’s too long.”
And I said, “Free bagel.” And he said, “I don’t want to wait in line.” And I was like, “Free bagel.” And he said, “Nah, it’s too long!” And that’s when I realized that there’s two ways to see the world. Some people see the thing that they want, and some people see the thing that prevents them from getting the thing that they want. I could only see the bagels. He could only see the line.
And so I walked up to the line, I leaned in between two people, put my hand in the box, and pulled out two bagels. And no one got mad at me, because the rule is you can go after whatever you want, you just cannot deny anyone else to go after whatever they want. Now I had to sacrifice choice, I didn’t get to choose which bagel I got, I got whatever I pulled out, but I didn’t have to wait in line. So the point is, you don’t have to wait in line.
You don’t have to do it the way everybody else has done it. You can do it your way, you can break the rules, you just can’t get in the way of somebody else getting what they want. That’s rule number one.
Rule #2. Train Your Mind
Performing under pressure, whether it’s me, or anybody else is, is the same. You know, I have the same pressures as anyone else, there’s time, there’s performance, there’s financial, I mean, there are, you know, there’s deadlines. My pressures are not unique. The situations may be different, or, you know, but everybody has the same kinds of pressures.
But what I found, or what I find fascinating, is the interpretation for the stimuli, if, let me explain. So I was watching the Olympics, this last summer Olympics, and I was amazed at how bad the questions were that the reporters would ask all the athletes. And almost always they would ask the same question, whether they were about to compete, or after they competed: “Were you nervous?” Right? And to a T, all the athletes went, “No.” Right?
And what I realized, is it’s not that they’re not nervous, it’s their interpretation of what’s happening in their bodies, I mean, what happens when you’re nervous? Right? Your heart rate starts to go, you’re, you know, you sort of get a little tense, you get a little sweaty, right? You have expectation of what’s coming, and we interpret that as “I’m nervous.” Now what’s the interpretation of excited?
Your heart rate starts to go, you become, you’re anticipating what’s coming, right? You get a little sort of like, tense, it’s all the same thing, it’s the same stimuli. Except these athletes, these Olympic quality athletes have learned to interpret the stimuli that the rest of us would say is “nervous” as “excited.” They all said the same thing, “No, I’m not nervous, I’m excited.” And so I’ve actually practiced it just to tell myself when I start to get nervous, that this is excitement.
You know? And so where when you-
I used to speak in front of a large audience, and somebody would say, “How do you feel?” And I used to say, “A little nervous.” Now when somebody says, “How do you feel?” I’m like, “Pretty excited, actually!”
And it came from just sort of telling myself, “No, no, no, this is excitement.” And it becomes a little bit automatic later on. But it’s kind of a remarkable thing, to deal with pressure by interpreting what your body is experiencing as excitement rather than nerves. And it’s really kind of effective, it makes you want to rush forward rather than pull back, and yet it’s the same experience.
Rule #3. Be Patient
I talk to so many smart, fantastic, ambitious, idealistic, hardworking kids, and they’re right out of college, they’re in their entry-level jobs, and I’ll ask them, “How’s it goin’?” And they’ll say, “I think I’m going to quit.” And I’m like, “Why?” And they say to me, “I’m not making an impact.” I’m like, “You know you’ve been here eight months, right?”
They treat the sense of fulfillment, or even love, like it’s a scavenger hunt, like it’s something you look for. My millennial friends, they’ve gone through so many jobs, they’re either getting fired, I mean, it was mutual. Or they’re quitting because they’re not making an impact, or they’re not finding the thing they’re looking for, they’re not feeling fulfilled, as if it’s a scavenger hunt. Love, a job you find joy from, is not something you discover! It’s not like, “I found love!” Here it is. “I found a job I love”, that’s not how it works.
Both of those things require hard work, you are in love because you work very hard every single day of your life to stay in love. You find a job that brings you ultimate joy because you work hard every single day to serve those around you, and you maintain that joy, it’s not a discovery! But the problem is the sense of impatience! It’s as if an entire generation is standing at the foot of a mountain, they know exactly what they want, they can see the summit, what they can’t see is the mountain. This large, immovable object.
That doesn’t mean you have to do your time, that’s not what I’m talking about. Take a helicopter, climb, I don’t care, but there’s still a mountain. Life, career fulfillment, relationships, are journeys. The problem is, this entire generation has an institutionalized sense of impatience, and do they have the patience to go on the journey to maintain love, to feel fulfilled, or do they just quit, and on to the next, dump, and on to the next? Ghost, and on to the next.
Rule #4. Take Accountability
In the eighteenth century there was something that spread across Europe and eventually made it’s way to America, called Puerperal fever, also known as the ‘black death of childbed’. Basically what was happening is women were giving birth and they would die within 48 hours after giving birth. This black death of childbirth was the ravage of Europe and it got worse, and worse, and worse over the course of over a century. In some hospitals it was high as 70% of women who gave birth who would die as a result of giving birth.
But this was the Renaissance, this was the time of empirical data and science, and we had thrown away things like tradition and mysticism. These were men of science, these were doctors. And these doctors and men of science wanted to study and try and find the reason for this black death of childbed, and so they got to work studying. They would study the corpses of the women who had died, and in the morning they would conduct autopsies, and then in the afternoon they would go and deliver babies and finish their rounds.
And it wasn’t until somewhere in the mid 1800’s that Doctor Oliver Wendell Holmes, father of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, realized, that all of these doctors who were conducting autopsies in the morning weren’t washing their hands before they delivered babies in the afternoon. And he pointed it out, and said, “Guys, you’re the problem.”
And they ignored him, and called him crazy, for 30 years. Until finally somebody realized that if they simply washed their hands, it would go away. And that’s exactly what happened. When they started sterilizing their instruments and washing their hands, the black death of childbed disappeared. My point is, the lesson here is, sometimes, you’re the problem.
We’ve seen this happen all too recently with our new men of science and empirical studiers, and these men of finance, who are smarter than the rest of us until the thing collapsed. And they blamed everything else except themselves. And my point is take accountability for your actions. You can take all the credit in the world for the things that you do right, as long as you also take responsibility for the things you do wrong, it must be a balanced equation. You don’t get it one way and not the other, you get to take credit when you also take accountability.
Rule #5. Outdo Yourself
I spoke at an education summit for Microsoft, I also spoke at an education summit for Apple. At the education summit for Microsoft, I would say that 70% of the executives spent about 70% of their presentations talking about how to beat Apple. At the Apple education summit 100% of the executives spent 100% of their presentations talking about how to help teachers teach, and how to help students learn.
One is playing this way, and one is playing that way. One is playing finite, and the other is playing infinite. Guess which one gets frustrated? So at the end of my talk at Microsoft they gave me a gift, they gave me the new Zune, when it was a thing. And let me tell ya, this thing was spectacular. It was the most elegant piece of technology I’ve ever used.
The user interface was incredible, the design was spectacular, I absolutely loved it. It was easy to use, and it was bright, and gorgeous, and fantastic, it didn’t work on iTunes, which is a different problem, so I couldn’t use it, but it was amazing. And elegant, my God, it was elegant. So I’m sitting in the back of the taxi with a very senior Apple executive, sort of employee number 12 kind of guy, and you know, I like to stir pots, so I turn to him, I said, “You know, “Microsoft gave me their new Zune, “and it is so much better than your iPod touch.”
And he turned to me and he said, “I have no doubt.” Conversation over. Because the infinite player understands, sometimes you’re ahead, and sometimes you’re behind. Sometimes your product is better, and sometimes it’s worse. The goal isn’t to be the best every day, the goal isn’t to outdo your competition every day, that’s a finite construction.
If I had said to Microsoft, “I’ve got the new iPod Touch “and it’s so much better than your Zune”, they would have said, “Can we see it, what does it do?” React, react, react, react. Finite players play to beat the people around them. Infinite players play to be better than themselves. To wake up every single day and say, how can we make our company a better version of itself today than it was yesterday?
How can we create a product this week that’s better than the product we created last week? We also have to play the infinite game. It’s not about being ranked number one, it’s not about having more followers on Twitter than your friends, it’s not about outdoing anyone. It’s about how to outdo yourself. It’s not about selling more books, or getting more TED views than somebody else, it’s about how to make sure that the work that you’re producing is better than the work you produced before.
You are your competition. And that is what ensures you stay in the game the longest, and that is what ensures you find joy. Because the joy comes not from comparison, but from advancement.
Rule #6. Stack The Decka
When are you at your best?
I’m at my best when I’m around people who believe what I believe. I know it seems silly, but I try very, very hard to sort of stack the deck. You know, to put myself in a position of strength.
So for example, you know, somebody asked me just yesterday, have you ever had sort of a bad, you know, engagement? And I was thinking to myself, and I’m like, not really. But it’s not because I’m some sort of, sort of genius or anything, anything like that, it’s because I stack the deck. It’s because I want to be there, I want to be around people who want me there.
In other words, if I’m somebody’s tenth choice, and like, you know, I’ll probably turn it down. Whereas if I’m their first choice, they really want me there and so I’m more likely to have a good engagement, they’re supportive of me, and I’m supportive of them. And so yeah, I’m at my best when I stack the deck, when I choose to be in an environment where my strengths are there.
Rule #7. Be The Last To Speak
Nelson Mandela is a particularly special case study in the leadership world, because he is universally regarded as a great leader. You can take other personalities and depending on the nation you go to, we have different opinions about other personalities, but Nelson Mandela, across the world, is universally regarded as a great leader.
He was actually the son of a tribal chief, and he was asked one day, “How did you learn to be a great leader?” And he responded that he would go with his father to tribal meetings, and he remembers two things when his father would meet with other elders. One, they would always sit in a circle. And two, his father was always the last to speak.
You will be told your whole life that you need to learn to listen, I would say that you need to learn to be the last to speak. I see it in boardrooms every day of the week. Even people who consider themselves good leaders, who may actually be decent leaders, will walk into a room and say, “Here’s the problem, “here’s what I think, but I’m interested in your opinion, “let’s go around the room.” It’s too late.
The skill to hold your opinions to yourself until everyone has spoken does two things. One, it gives everybody else the feeling that they have been heard, it gives everyone else the ability to feel that they have contributed. And two, you get the benefit of hearing what everybody else has to think before you render your opinion. The skill is really to keep your opinions to yourself.
If you agree with somebody, don’t nod yes. If you disagree with somebody, don’t nod no. Simply sit there, take it all in, and the only thing you’re allowed to do is ask questions, so that you can understand what they mean, and why they have the opinion that they have, you must understand from where they are speaking. Why they have the opinion they have, not just what they are saying. And at the end, you will get your turn. It sounds easy, it’s not. Practice being the last to speak, that’s what Nelson Mandela did.
Rule #8. Be Authentic
Every decision we make in our lives as individuals or as organizations, is a piece of communication, it’s our way of saying something about who we are, and what we believe. This is why authenticity matters. This is why you have to say and do the things you actually believe. Because the things you say and do are symbols of who you are.
And we look for those symbols so we can find people who believe what we believe, our very survival depends on it. So if you’re putting out false symbols, you will attract people to those symbols, but you won’t be able to form trust with them. This is what Tiger Woods did to us, he lied! He lied. He told us what he thought we wanted to hear, and it was great, and we were drawn to it, and all of us who kind of like that idea of the, sort of the good guy, were drawn to it.
Until we found out it was a lie. He could have been the bad boy of golf, he could have had all the same endorsements, and had a fantastic career, and still been hailed as one of the great athletes of our day. But he didn’t, he chose to lie. Good luck forming trust again, Tiger. We don’t believe you. We don’t trust you. The goal of putting something out there, if you say what you believe, and you do what you believe, you will attract people who believe what you believe.
If you go to one of your friends, and you say to one of your friends, “How would you like me to dress “so that you’ll like me better?” How would you want me to address you, how do you want me to speak, so that you’ll like me more? Right? Your friends are going to look at you and be like, what the, what are you talking about? You’re like, “Come on, come on, come on, “what should I wear, so that you’ll find me more appealing, “and how would you like me to speak to you “so that you’ll like me more?”
And your friends are going to tell you, “Just be yourself, that’s why I like you, “I don’t care, just be yourself.” Now think about what we do in industry. What do we do? We do market research, and we go up and we ask the customers, “What kind of things, “what style should we speak to you? “How should we decorate ourselves, “what kind of things are you drawn to, “so that we can do those things “so that you’ll like us more?” It’s just as ridiculous.
It’s just as ridiculous. Organizations should say and do the things they actually believe, and they will attract people who believe what they believe. Or, they can choose to lie, and at the slightest hint that they might be lying, cynicism sets in. And people start saying, I’m not sure I can trust these guys because there’s not a lot of consistency in all the things they say and do, which means they can’t have a very strong belief set, or they’re lying to me.
And we call them inauthentic. The entire process of asking other people who we should be is inauthentic, that’s hilarious to me! All these positioning studies we do are inherently-
We’re going to do a study to find out from people so we can be more authentic, that’s hilarious. Say and do what you actually believe and the symbols you put out there, the things you say and the things you do, those red hats are ways that people can find you. What you have the ability to do as designers, is create those symbols, and allow people to use those things to say something about who they are.
Work for companies, work for clients, work for people who you believe what they believe. Show up and feel a part of something bigger than yourself. And your part is to put what they believe into pictures, and words, and symbols, and graphics, so that other people can use those things to say something about who they are. People put Harley Davidson logos on their body to say something about who they are, corporate logo.
Ain’t no Procter and Gambles tattooed on anybody’s arm. Because Harley means something, they stand for something. People put that tattoo on there not to tell you that they own a motorcycle, they put that tattoo there to tell you something about themselves. Do you ever see anybody with a Mac laptop put a sticker over that beautiful shining apple? Ain’t never going to happen!
Then how will you know who I am? Did you ever see anybody with a PC break out the Windex to clean out their computer? Mac people? Have you ever seen a dirty Mac? Doesn’t exist. Does not exist. Why? Because it’s who I am. These are symbols we use. The companies that are crystal clear on what they believe, and they’re disciplined in how they do it, and they’re consistent in what they do, and everything they say, and everything they do serves as a symbol of the set of values and beliefs, we use those symbols to say something about who we are.
We surround ourselves with the people, and the products, and the brands, that say something about who we are. And when we can find the people who believe what we believe, we’re weirdly drawn to them, because our very survival depends on it. We need it. And so the more you can give of yourself, the more you can give of what you believe, the more you can discipline, with discipline, say and do the things you actually believe, strange things start to happen.
Rule #9. Find Your Passion
What are your thoughts, and what’s your approach on finding, and building upon passions?
Passion is not an actionable word. It’s correct, you know, that those who do the things that they’re passionate about do better, but it’s not helpful advice. And so the question is, where does passion come from? Passion is a result, passion is an energy, passion is the feeling you have when you’re engaged in something that you love. Passion is the feeling you have that you would probably do this for free, you know?
And you can’t believe somebody pays you to do it. You know? And I think we mistake that passion is something we do in our private lives, but it shouldn’t be done, you know, in our careers, for example. And I’m a firm believer that you are who you are, and anybody who says, I’m different at home than I am at work, and one of those two places you’re lying.
And the goal is to make everything you do, at home and at work, something that you have excitement to do. So how do you find the things that you’re excited to do? Well it’s actually easier than you think. What are the things that you love to do? What are the things that you would do for free? You know? How can you recreate that feeling, and paid for it? So what are the things that I do on the weekend, right?
I love, I’m very involved in the art world. I love to go to museums and galleries, but I love to go see dance and performances, because I want to see how others are interpreting the world. So that inspires me. New ideas, new thoughts, new ways of looking at the world are the things that interest me, privately, and I seek it out and pay money for it. Right?
So does that mean that I have to have a career in the arts? No. It means I have to have a career where new ideas are explored, where people are experimenting and trying things out, and I have to explore new ideas and try things out, and I’m just as excited to go to work every day as I am to go do something on a Saturday night.
And so the idea of finding your passion is ironically simple because you should be doing stuff that you enjoy sometimes, what is the stuff that you enjoy, and then what is the stuff that you love? Who are the people that you love, and what do they all have in common?
Rule #10. Start With Why
And how do you explain when things don’t go as we assume? Or better, how do you explain when others are able to achieve things that seem to defy all of the assumptions? For example, why is Apple so innovative? Year, after year, after year, after year, they’re more innovative than all their competition. And yet they’re just a computer company, they’re just like everyone else.
They have the same access to the same talent, the same agencies, the same consultants, the same media. Then why is it that they seem to have something different? Why is it that Martin Luther King led the civil rights movement? He wasn’t the only man who suffered in a pre-civil rights America, and he certainly wasn’t the only great orator of the day, why him?
And why is it that the Wright brothers were able to figure out control powered man flight when there were certainly other teams who were better qualified, better funded, and they didn’t achieve powered man flight, and the Wright brothers beat them to it? There’s something else at play here. About three and a half years ago I made a discovery. And this discovery profoundly changed my view on how I though the world worked, and it even profoundly changed the way in which I operate in it. 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. All I did was codify it. And it’s probably the world’s simplest idea. I call it the golden circle.
Why, how, what. 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 proprietary process, or your USP, but very, very few people or organizations know why they do what they do. And by why I don’t mean to make a profit. That’s a result, it’s always a result.
By why, I mean what’s your purpose, what’s your cause, what’s your belief. Why does your organization exist? Why do you get out of bed in the morning? And why should anyone care? Well as a result, the way that we think, the way we act, the way we communicate, is from the outside it, it’s obvious. We go from the clearest thing to the fuzziest thing. But the inspired leaders and the inspired organizations, regardless of their size, regardless of their industry, all think, act, and communicate from the inside out.
Let me give you an example. I use Apple because they’re easy to understand and everybody gets it. If Apple were like everyone else, a marketing message from them might sound like this: We make great computers, they’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Want to buy one? Meh. And that’s how most of communicate, that’s how most marketing is done, that’s how most sales is done, and that’s how most of us communicate interpersonally. We say what we do, we say how we’re different, or how we’re better, and we expect some sort of behavior, or purchase, or vote, something like that.
Here’s our new law firm, we have the best lawyers with the biggest clients, we have, you know, we always perform for our clients, do business with us. Here’s our new car, it gets great gas mileage, it has, you know, leather seats, buy our car. But it’s uninspiring. Here’s how Apple actually communicates: Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, we believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is buy making our products beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly.
We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one? Totally different, right? You’re ready to buy a computer from me. All I did was reverse the order of the information. What it proves to us is that people don’t buy what you do, people buy why you do it. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. This explains why every single person in this room is perfectly comfortable buying a computer from Apple. But we’re also perfectly comfortable buying an MP3 player from Apple, or a phone from Apple, or a DVR from Apple.
But as I said before, Apple’s just a computer company, there’s nothing that distinguishes them structurally from any of their competitors. Their competitors are all equally qualified to make all of these products. In fact, they tried a few years ago, Gateway came out with flat screen TV’s. They’re imminently qualified to make flat screen TV’s, they’ve been making flat screen monitors for years.
Nobody bought one. And Dell, Dell came out with MP3 players and PDA’s, and they make great quality products, and they can make perfectly well-designed products, and nobody bought one. In fact talking about it now, we can’t even imagine buying an MP3 player from Dell, why would you buy an MP3 player from a computer company? But we do it every day.
People don’t what you do, they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have, the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe. Here’s the best part, none of what I’m telling you is my opinion. It’s all grounded in the tenants of biology. Not psychology, biology. If you look at a cross section of the human brain looking from the top down, what you see is that the human brain is actually broken into three major components that correlate perfectly with the golden circle.
Our newest brain, our homo sapien brain, our neocortex, corresponds with the what level. The neocortex is responsible for all of our rational, and analytical thought, and language. The middle two sections make up our limbic brains, and our limbic brains are responsible for all of our feelings, like trust, and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behavior, all decision making, and it has no capacity for language.
In other words, when we communicate from the outside in, yes, people can understand vast amounts of complicated information like features, and benefits, and facts, and figures, it just doesn’t drive behavior. When we communicate from the inside out, we’re talking directly to the part of the brain that controls behavior, and then we allow people to rationalize it with the tangible things we say and do.
This is where gut decisions come from. You know, sometimes you can give somebody all the facts and the figures, and they say, I know what all the facts and details say, but it just doesn’t feel right. Why would we use that verb, it doesn’t feel right? Because the part of the brain that controls decision making doesn’t control language, and the best we can muster up is, I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel right.
Or sometimes you say you’re leading with your heart, or you’re leading with your soul. Well I hate to break it to you, those aren’t other body parts controlling your behavior, it’s all happening here in your limbic brain, the part of the brain that controls decision making and not language. But if you don’t know why you do what you do, and people respond to why you do what you do, then how will anybody, how will you ever get people to get vote for you, or buy something from you, or more importantly, be loyal, and want to be a part of what it is that you do? Again, the goal is not just to sell people who need what you have, the goal is to sell to people who believe what you believe.
The goal is not just to hire people who need a job, it’s to hire people who believe what you believe. I always say that you know, there’s, if you hire people just because they can do a job they’ll work for your money, but if you hire people who believe what you believe, they’ll work for you with blood, and sweat, and tears. And nowhere else is there a better example of this than with the Wright brothers. Most people don’t know about Samuel Pierpont Langley. And back in the early 20th Century, the pursuit of powered man flight was like the dot com of the day, everybody was trying it.
And Samuel Pierpont Langley had what we assume to be the recipe for success, I mean, even now when you ask people, why did your product, or why did your company fail, and people always give you the same permutation of the same three things. Unde capitalized, the wrong people, bad market conditions, it’s always the same three things. So let’s explore that.
Samuel Pierpont Langley was given $50,000 dollars by the War Department to figure out this “flying machine.” Money was no problem. He held a seat at Harvard and worked at the Smithsonian, and was extremely well connected. He knew all the big minds of the day. He hired the best minds money could find, and the market conditions were fantastic. The New York Times followed him around everywhere, and everyone was rooting for Langley. Then how come we’ve never heard of Samuel Pierpont Langley? A few hundred miles away in Dayton, Ohio, Orville and Wilber Wright, they had none of what we consider the recipe for success.
They had no money, they paid for their dream with the proceeds from their bicycle shop. Not a single person on the Wright brother’s team had a college education, not even Orville or Wilbur. And the New York Times followed them around nowhere. The difference was, Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief.
They believed that if they could figure out this flying machine, it’ll changed the course of the world. Samuel Pierpont Langley was different. He wanted to rich, and he wanted to be famous. He was in pursuit of the result. He was in pursuit of the riches. And low and behold look what happened. The people who believed in the Wright brothers dream worked with them with blood, and sweat, and tears.
The others just worked for the paycheck. And they tell stories of how every time the Wright Brothers went out they would have to take five sets of parts because that’s how many times they would crash before they came in for supper. And eventually, on December 17th, 1903 the Wright brothers took flight. And no one was there to even experience it. We found out about it a few days later.
And further proof that Langley was motivated by the wrong thing, the day the Wright brothers took flight, he quit. He could have said, that’s an amazing discovery, guys, and I will improve upon your technology. But he didn’t. He wasn’t first, he didn’t get rich, he didn’t get famous, so he quit. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.
And if you talk about what you believe you will attract those who believe what you believe. Well why is it important to attract those who believe what you believe? Something called the law of diffusion of innovation. And if you don’t know the law, you definitely know the terminology. The first two and a half percent of our population are our innovators.
The next 13 and a half percent of our population are our early adopters, the next 34 percent are your early majority, your late majority, and your laggards. The only reason these people by touch tone phones is because you can’t buy rotatory phones anymore. We all sit at various places at various times on the scale, but what the law of diffusion of innovation tell us is that if you want mass market success, or mass market acceptance of an idea, you cannot have it until you achieve this tipping point between 15 and 18 percent market penetration.
And then the system tips. And I love asking businesses, what’s your conversion on new business? And they love tell you, “Oh, it’s about 10 percent”, proudly. Well you can trip over 10 percent of the customers. We all have about 10 percent who just “get it”, that’s how we describe them, right? That’s like that gut feeling, oh, they just “get it.”
The problem is, how do you find the ones that just get it before you’re doing business with them, versus the ones who don’t get it. So it’s this here, this little gap, that you have to close, as Jefferey Moore calls it, crossing the chasm. Because you see, the early majority will not try something until someone else has tried it first. And these guys, the innovators, and the early adopters, they’re comfortable making those gut decisions.
They’re more comfortable making those intuitive decisions that are driven by what they believe about the world, and not just what product is available. These are the people who stood in line for six hours to buy an iPhone when they first came out, when you could have just walked into the store the next week and bought one off the shelf.
These are the people who spent $40,000 dollars on flat screen TV’s when they first came out, even though the technology was substandard. And by the way, they didn’t do it because the technology was so great, they did it for themselves. It’s because they wanted to be first. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and what you do simply proves what you believe.
In fact, people will do the things that prove what they believe. The reason that person bought the iPhone in the first six hours, and stood in line for six hours, was because of what they believed about the world, and how they wanted everybody to see them. They were first. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. So let me give you a famous example, a famous failure, and a famous success of the law of diffusion of innovation. First the famous failure.
It’s a commercial example. As we said before a second ago, the recipe for success is money, and the right people, and the right marketing conditions, right? You should have success then. Look at TiVo. From the time TiVo came out about eight or nine years ago, to this current day, they are the single highest quality product on the market. Hands down, there is no dispute.
They were extremely well funded, market conditions were fantastic, I mean we used TiVo as a verb. I TiVo’d stuff on my piece of junk Time Warner DVR all the time! But TiVo is a commercial failure. They’ve never made money. And when they went IPO, their stock was at about $30 or $40 dollars, and then plummeted, and it’s never traded above $10.
In fact, I don’t think it’s even traded above six, except for a couple of little spikes. Because you see, when TiVo launched their product, they told us all what they had. They said, “We have a product that pauses live TV, “skips commercials, rewinds live TV, “and memorizes your viewing habits without you even asking.” And the cynical majority said, “We don’t believe you, “we don’t need it, we don’t like it, you’re scaring us.”
What if they had said, “If you’re the kind of person “who likes to have total control “over every aspect of your life, “boy, do we have a product for you.” That pauses live TV, skips commercials, memorizes your viewing habits, et cetera, et cetera. People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it, and what you do simple serves as the proof of what you believe.
Now let me give you a successful example of the law of diffusion of innovation. In the summer of 1963, 250,000 people showed up on the Mall in Washington to hear Dr. King speak. They sent out no invitations, and there was no website to check the date. How do you do that? Well, Dr. King wasn’t the only man in America who was a great orator, he wasn’t the only man in America who suffered in a pre-civil rights America, in fact, some of his ideas were bad!
But he had a gift. He didn’t go around telling people what needed to change in America, he went around and told people what he believed. I believe, I believe, I believe, he told people. And people who believed what he believed took his cause and they made it their own, and they told people. And some of those people created structures to get the word out to even more people, and lo and behold, 250,000 people showed up on the right day, on the right time, to hear him speak.
How many of them showed up for him? Zero. They showed up for themselves. It’s what they believed about America that got them to travel on a bus for eight hours to stand in the sun in Washington in the middle of August. It’s what they believed, and it wasn’t about black versus white, 25 percent of the audience was white! Dr. King believed that there were two types of laws in this world, those that are made by a higher authority, and those that are made by man.
And not until all the laws that are made by man are consistent with the laws that are made by the higher authority will we live in a just world. It just so happens that the civil rights movement was the perfect thing to help him bring his cause to life. We followed him not for him, but for ourselves. And by the way, he gave the I Have A Dream speech, not the I Have A Plan Speech.
I listen to politicians now with their comprehensive 12 point plans, they’re not inspiring anybody. Because there are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power, or authority, but those who lead, inspire us. Whether they’re individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to.
We follow those who lead not for them, but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them, or find others who inspire them. Thank you very much.
Thank you guys so much for watching, I made this video because Lex van den Herik asked me to. So if there’s a famous entrepreneur that you would like me to profile next, please leave it down in the comments below and I’ll see what I can do. I’d also love to know which clip resonated the most with you today, what did Simon say that had the biggest impact, what change are you going to make to your life or business after watching this video? Please leave it down in the comments below, and I’m going to join in the discussion. Thank you so much for watching, I believe in you, I hope you continue to believe in yourself, and whatever your one word is. Much love, I’ll see ya soon.
Make the Right Decision
Decision making is a process, right? The question is, what filters are you using to make decisions? Are you making decisions based on the financial rewards, are you making decisions based on how easy the work will be? I mean, I remember in college, you know, they would give you this book, where all the students would rate the classes, and they would rate things like how easy the class was, and how, you know, how much do they like professor.
And you know, the first year I picked all my classes based on workload, and I pick everything a low workload. You know? And, pretty bored, didn’t work very hard, which is fine, but nothing was dynamic and nothing really excited me. And I, thank goodness, learned that, and so the second year I picked all my classes by professor rating, regardless of the workload.
So every class I had, I had these dynamic, amazing, incredible human beings passing on their knowledge, and you were excited to work hard for them. You know? And so again, the question is, what are the filters we’re using? And so if you’re only chasing the mighty dollar, then you will have jobs that’ll pay you a little more than the last, but are you enjoying yourself?
And I talked to a guy recently, who was in, he’s in bad shape, like, he really hates his life, and he’s really depressed, and he doesn’t know what to do. And so we were going through all his old jobs, you know, and I said, give me a job that you’ve loved. And he hadn’t! Every single job he’s chosen out of college he picked because of the money, and if something offered him more somewhere else, he took it.
You know? Regardless. And the amazing thing is, he plateaued, because if you’re only chasing the result, if you’re only chasing the thing that makes it easy, right? Then eventually you will get bored, or they’ll get bored of you, right? And you plateau. In other words, chasing the almighty dollar, if that’s your only thing, it eventually flattens out. Whereas if you’re chasing the thing that excites you, the human beings to be around, the work that excites you, the stuff that you know, you can get passionate about, you know?
The irony is, is that you’ll actually make way, way more! Right? Because you’re excited, and they appreciate your excitement, and they reward your excitement, and you’re better at your work because you want to work harder, and all of that stuff, you don’t have to strain to work harder. So decision making is simply a matter of filters, you know? And so I’ve made decisions in my life that I would rather be happy than right, I’d rather do good than get rich, and so the decisions I make put me in positions where when I leave any engagement, when I leave any meeting, I feel that I’ve contributed. Right?
Rare are the times anymore where you walk away going, just think of the money, just think of the money, think of the money, you know? ‘Cause that doesn’t feel nice. And the experience I have, I don’t enjoy traveling to them, and I don’t enjoy traveling home. Where if I have an amazing experience, I am looking forward to getting there and I’m excited when I leave!
You know, so it’s just decision making, decision making is just a matter of what filters you use, and if you’re good about keeping those filters up and clear, then make your decision. I don’t judge anybody by how, if they choose to use different filters, these are just the filters I choose to live my life, you know? Not right or wrong, just those are my decisions. You know, that’s my filter.
Surround Yourself With Greatness
How can you help the human race? How can you help the human race, the human species, progress? I’m not joking, either, this is something we all have to be aware of. At the end of the day, the human animal is a social animal. And our very survival depends on our ability to form communities, to form cultures. What’s a community, what’s a culture? It’s a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs, right? What’s a country? It’s a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs. What’s a company?
It should be a group of people with a common set of values and beliefs. When we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe, something remarkable happens. Trust emerges. And make no mistake of it, trust is a feeling, and distinctly human feeling. You know, we all have friends who are total screw ups, and yet we still trust them, right?
Trust is not a checklist, simply doing everything you say you’re going to do does not mean people will inherently trust you, it just means you’re reliable. We need trust. Right? We need trust. When we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe, and trust starts emerging, when we trust them, and they trust us, we’re more willing to take risks, we’re more willing to experiment, which requires failure, we’re more willing to explore and go somewhere that no one has ever gone before with the confidence that if we fail, if we trip over, if we turn our backs, that those within our community, those who we trust, and who trust us, will look after us while we’re gone, will pick us up when we fall over, will help us when we’re hurt.
Our very survival depends on it. We’re not good at everything, we’re not good by ourselves. You know, if I send you out to go fight a sabertooth tiger by yourself, odds are tiger one, you zero. It’s not going to go very well. But if you go out as a group, we’re pretty damn amazing. And the reason is, is because we all have our own strengths, and we all have our certain weaknesses. And the goal is not to fix your weaknesses, the goal is to amplify your strengths, and surround yourself with the people who can do what you can’t do.
But it’s not just based on skills, and application, and experience, it’s based on what you believe, it’s based on what you believe. You see, simply being good at something, and having somebody else be good at what you’re no good at does not mean you will trust each other. Trust, the sense of trust, comes from the sense of common values and common beliefs. And I’ll prove it.
How many of you are from New York? Okay, a bunch of you. Are you friends with everybody in New York? Why not? Why not? But when you go to Los Angeles, and you meet somebody from New York, you’re like “Hey, I’m from New York!” And you’re best friends. Right? And when you go to France, there you are on the Paris metro minding your own business, and you hear an American accent behind you, and you turn around, and you say, “Hey, where you from?” They say, “Los Angeles.” You’re like, “Hey, I’m from New York!” And you’re best friends.
Because you’re surrounded by people who don’t believe what you believe, when you’re in a strange environment where you don’t feel comfortable, you look for anyone who may share some of the same values and beliefs that you have and you start to form a very real and very intense bond with them, simply because you know that they have a basic understanding of how you grew up, of the things that you care about, of the live that you lived back home.
Well the same is true when we go to work. Do we want to go to work with people who understand us, who believe what we believe, who have a similar view of the world that has nothing to do with their opinions and the differences that we share, that’s good, that’s called diversity, that’s called advantages to problem solving, which is we can all look at the same thing from a different angle and come up with solutions.
What I’m talking about is why should you help each other in the first place? What are you in pursuit of? Now the question is, is what creates that sense of values and beliefs? What creates that sense of trust? Right? Our very human instinct, we know how to find people who believe what we believe, our survival depends on it. We’re biologically gifted with this idea.
If I ask you to go out in the street and find all the people who believe what you believe, you know exactly what to do. You’re going to strike up conversations, you’re going to start talking to people, and either you’ll have a good feeling about them, or you won’t. Either you’ll have “chemistry”, whatever that means, or you don’t. Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s slow, but we know how to do it. It’s called making friends, it’s called dating, it’s called networking. We have the innate ability to do it.
True story. There was a former Under Secretary of Defense who was invited to give a speech at a large conference, about a thousand people. And he was standing on the stage with his cup of coffee, in a styrofoam cup, giving his prepared remarks with his PowerPoint behind him. And he took a sip of his coffee, and he smiled, and he looked down at the coffee, and then he went off script.
And he said, “You know, last year I spoke “at this exact same conference. “Last year I was still the Under Secretary. “And when I spoke here last year, “they flew me here business class, “and when I arrived at the airport “there was somebody waiting for me to take me to my hotel. “And they took me to my hotel, “and they had already checked me in, “and they just took me up to my room. “And the next morning I came downstairs “and there was someone waiting in the lobby to greet me, “and they drove me to this here same venue. “They took me through the back entrance “and took me into the green room “and handed me a cup of coffee “in a beautiful ceramic cup.”
He says, “I’m no longer the Under Secretary, “I flew here coach. “I took a taxi to my hotel and I checked myself in. “When I came down to the lobby this morning “I took another taxi to this venue. “I came in the front door and found my way backstage, “and when I asked someone, ‘Do you have any coffee?’ “he pointed to the coffee machine in the corner, “and I poured myself a cup of coffee “into this here styrofoam cup.” He says, “The lesson is, the ceramic cup was never “meant for me, it was meant for the position I held. “I deserve a styrofoam cup.”
Remember this. As you gain fame, as you gain fortune, as you gain position and seniority, people will treat you better. They will hold doors open for you, they will get you a cup of tea and coffee without you even asking. They will call you “sir”, and “ma’am”, and they will give you stuff. None of that stuff is meant for you. That stuff is meant for the position you hold.
It is meant for the level that you have achieved of leader, or success, or whatever you want to call it. But you will always deserve the styrofoam cup. Remember that, remember that lesson of humility and gratitude. You can accept all the free stuff, you can accept all the perks, absolutely you can enjoy them. But just be grateful for them, and know that they’re not for you.
I remember getting off the Acela, I took the Acela from New York to Washington DC, and I got off the train like everybody else, and I was walking down the platform like everyone else, and I walked past General Norty Schwartz, who used to be the chief of staff of the United States Air Force, the head of the Air Force. And here I did, you know, see a guy, in a suit, schlepping his own suitcase down the platform just like me, and just a couple months ago he was flying on private jets, and he had an entourage, and other people carried his luggage.
But he no longer held the position, and so now he got to drag his own suitcase. And never did it, sort of remind me more, that none of us deserve the perks that we get, we all deserve a styrofoam cup.