Glenn Beck on Tuesday spent the full three hours of his radio broadcast with author Simon Sinek, saying he believes the man’s ideas are truly “life-changing.” Beck jokingly refers to Sinek, the author of “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action” and “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t,” as the “why guy.”
When asked to explain his philosophy, Sinek began: “Every single organization on the planet, even our own careers, always function on three levels: what we do, how we do it, and why we do it.”
“Everybody knows what they do. This is the job we do, the service we offer. Some people can articulate how they do it. These the are the things they think make them different or special. … But very few people can clearly articulate why they do what they do,” Sinek continued. “And by ‘why,’ I don’t mean to make money. That’s a result. By why, I mean, what’s your purpose? What’s your cause? What’s your belief? Why does your organization exist? Why did you get out of bed this morning, and why should anyone care?”
“What I learned is, unless we know all those things — unless we can clearly articulate why we do what we do — the rest is more difficult,” Sinek said. “If you look at the most inspiring organizations, the most inspiring leaders in the world — everything from Apple computers to Martin Luther King to Ronald Reagan — every single one of them starts with why. In other words, they tell us what they believe and the things they do, the decisions they make, actually fit into that context, and not the other way around. So when all those three things are in balance, we are more successful. We live happier, more fulfilled lives. We get along better.”
‘It Can’t Be Faked’
Sinek said companies and individuals cannot “fake” their “why” in order to be more successful.
“The reason it works is based on the way the biology of the brain works,” he explained. “It’s the way the human brain makes decisions. The limbic part of the brain, which is the part of the brain responsible for all of our feelings, is also responsible for all of our decision-making, but it has no capacity for language. Whereas, the neocortex, which is responsible for rational and analytical thought, is responsible for all the language, but not the feelings, not the decision-making.”
Sinek said that by being able to articulate a “why,” we are “speaking right to the decision, ‘feeling’ part of the brain.”
‘Does America Have a Why?”
At one point in the discussion, Beck asked Sinek: “Does America have a ‘why’?”
Sinek responded that America absolutely has a “why,” and it was written in the Declaration of Independence.
“Our country exists because we believe that all men are created equal,” Sinek said. “We believe that this country of equal men and women was endowed with certain inalienable rights … life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s why this country exists.”
“Do you believe we still even know that?” Beck asked.
“As a nation, I think it’s gone fuzzy,” Sinek responded. “And because that belief has gotten fuzzy, we’ve ended up fighting about the ‘whats,’ the details, and we’ve forgotten the context within which those details are supposed to exist. The debate is fine, as long as we agree on why we’re here.”
‘System of Chemical Rewards’
Sinek said there is a “system of chemical rewards” within the human body that “[rewards] behavior that is in our best interest.”
“There are four chemicals that are mainly responsible for all the good feelings that we have,” he said. “Any kinds of feelings of happiness, joy, success, friendship, trust, love, loyalty can basically be boiled down to endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.”
Sinek said that being kind to one another releases “feel-good” chemicals in the brain, and that if you are charitable once, you are more likely to continue being charitable.
As an example, Sinek spoke about a man walking on the street who dropped a number of papers. Sinek bent down and helped him pick them up.
“A small act of generosity, it felt nice,” Sinek said. “So, the person who performs the act of generosity gets oxytocin. He felt good. ‘Thank you,’ he said. So the person on the receiving end of the generosity they also get a shot of oxytocin. This is the best part … I get to the end of the block and, while waiting for the light to change, a total stranger standing in front of me says, ‘I saw what you did back there, that was really cool.’ As it turns out, witnessing an act of human generosity, human kindness releases oxytocin. And the more oxytocin we have in our body, the more we actually want to do good.”
“What the human body is trying to do — and this goes to your point of the beautiful design of this beautiful system — the human body is trying desperately to get us to look after each other,” Sinek said. “And reason is very simple: by ourselves, we’re junk. Right? But in groups, we are remarkable.”
‘To Gain Our Trust, You Don’t Have to Be Right’
Sinek spoke about a time he went to Quantico Marine Base, and the colonel he was scheduled to meet with apologized for being late, saying: “We’ve had an incident where we’re considering throwing a Marine out of the Marine Corps.”
Sink expected the Marine to have committed a horrible crime, but when he asked what he had done, the colonel responded: “He fell asleep on watch.”
“And I said, ‘That’s it? He fell asleep on watch in Virginia?” Sinek continued. “And [the colonel] said, ‘No, no, you don’t understand. When we asked him about it, he denied it. … Only when we gave him proof did he say, ‘I want to take responsibility for my actions.’”
The colonel explained that he could never put this Marine in a leadership position, or a combat situation where his men could doubt the words coming out of his mouth, even “for a second.”
“Good news or bad news, I have to have somebody who will take responsibility,” the colonel said.
Sinek explained: “The irony is, to gain our trust, you don’t to have be right. To gain our trust, we don’t have to agree with you. You just have to tell us the truth.”
Social Media and School Shootings
Sinek expressed concern that social media tools have the same “addictive qualities” that alcoholism or gambling have. In moderation, they are fine, but in excess, they can become dangerous.
“The concern is that as teenagers go through adolescence … they have social media and they have their phones, and they are accidentally forming neural connections, where — when they’re going through times of stress and they should be relying on each other — they are turning to machines,” Sinek said. “The fear is that that will develop to addictions and it will exaggerate as we move forward into time.”
Sinek said that an over-reliance on machines has led to “a rise of loneliness and isolation.”
“No one kills themselves when they are hungry. We kill ourselves when we’re lonely,” he said. “In the 1960s, there were one school shooting. In the 1980s, there were 27. In the 1990s, there were 58. In the past decade, there have been over 100. It has nothing to do with guns. It has to do with people feeling lonely.”
“I may hug you,” Beck said. “Thank you for actually saying that. Something is missing in us. There have been guns forever. A kid in the 1960s could go and buy a gun, they didn’t use it.”
Sinek said that “instead of throwing rocks at each other” in the wake of a tragedy, we would be better off if we “sat down together” and tried to figure out, “how do we combat the loneliness that people are feeling?”
‘The Responsibility of Leadership’
Beck also invited Sinek on his television program Tuesday, where the two spoke about “the responsibility of leadership” and why there is such animosity towards some banking CEOs.
“We’re hierarchical animals, naturally,” Sinek began. “And there’s basis for this. We used to live in populations no bigger than 150 people. This presents a bit of a problem. These austere times — someone brings back food, we all rush in to eat. If you’re lucky enough to be built like a linebacker, you shove your way to the front. If you’re the ‘artist’ of the family, you get an elbow in the face. This is a bad system for cooperation because odds are, I’m not going to alert the person who punched me in the face this afternoon [to] danger this evening when they’re sleeping. I’m just going to leave them.”
Sinek said a different system had to evolve.
“We’re constantly assessing and judging each other, who’s alpha, who’s beta. And when we assess that someone is alpha to us — and sometimes it’s a formal hierarchy … and sometimes it’s an informal thing … when we assess that someone is alpha, we voluntarily step back and allow our alphas to eat first,” Sinek said. “Alphas get first choice of meat and first choice of mate. And so though we may not get the best choice of meat, we get to eat eventually and we don’t get an elbow in the face. Good system.”
Sinek said nobody has a problem with somebody more senior in the company making a higher salary, unless they violate the fundamental definition of what it means to be a leader.
“We are okay with our leaders being given preferential treatment and having the trappings and the perks if they’re willing to uphold their responsibilities as a leader,” he said. “It doesn’t come for free. The group isn’t stupid. We expect that when danger threatens the tribe, when danger threatens the group, that it’ll be the guy who is stronger, better fed, with all that confidence, who will rush towards the danger to protect us.”
But Beck said that in recent years, “the big guys got the bailouts, they all kept their jobs, nobody paid the price, but when there was trouble, they cut all of those jobs down there.”
“This is why we have visceral contempt for some of the banking CEOs and their disproportionate salaries and perks,” Sinek agreed. “It’s not the numbers. It’s that they have violated the very human definition of what it means to be a leader.”
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