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Simon Sinek

January 10, 2013 by Speakers' Spotlight

Simon Sinek on Lessons from Afghanistan

Recently we had the honour of welcoming Simon Sinek to the office.  Simon is the author of Start With Why which, for all intents and purposes, isn’t a business book―it’s a philosophy book.  Simon very clearly crystallizes why some leaders and organizations have become runaway successes and why some, with the same access to talent and resources, struggle.  This is because the former have a sense of their “why” ―why they exist: why they get up in the morning to do what they do.  Simon has been sharing his message and helping people to examine and uncover their “why” for the past three years, and in doing so, he’s been inspiring change all over the world.

Simon shared the other half of his philosophy he’s recently discovered―the half he didn’t know was missing until he was invited by the US Air Force to travel to Afghanistan.  While in Afghanistan, after experiencing a night filled with fear, panic, and dread, he realized that he was completely out of place there, as he was only on the base as an observer, and because of that, he felt that he had no purpose, no reason, to be there.

Suddenly, he had an epiphany. When he woke up the next morning, he was going to help.  He was going to sweep floors, carry boxes―whatever needed to be done to help those who were sacrificing so much for their country, for the Afghan people, and for one another.  As soon as he resolved to help, he felt a profound sense of inner peace come over him.

Simon realized that what was missing for him in Afghanistan, and what is often missing in our daily lives, is a sense of purpose that is connected with helping others.  As human beings, we rely on each other, and we have since our very beginnings.  It feels very natural and very good for us to be able to help each other.  We may not always be directly involved in helping people in ways we typically think of, like doctors or firefighters, but we are always in roles where we help people.

Simon inspired everyone at Speakers’ Spotlight to focus on how we can help each other more, and how we can be kinder to each other.  He challenged us to stop sending emails internally (for instance), and instead to talk to each other face-to-face.  And to do little things for each other, like if we’re going to get a glass of water, get one for someone else, too.  Of course this requires a bit more effort on our part―but that’s the point, and the payoff is worth it.

All of these ideas are encapsulated in Simon’s new talk that he’s begun to deliver and in his book that will be released next year.  We hope that his new focus will inspire even more people to the same degree that he’s inspired us.