Simon Sinek, subconscious and story-telling

I was sat on the front row of a Q& A lunch for a couple of hundred people this week in London. Simon Sinek was the guest. We could ask him anything we wanted. So I asked him “When was the moment you said “This is me” and can you talk about it”? He is incredible at giving his audience attention and for the next three minutes he looked directly at me in the eye and told me his story.

We may all know it, but a story plays to different everytime it is told. This is what I got from it – he hit a dark patch in his career, found a way of discovering the “Why” of work life, started telling people who wanted to know about it in his flat, more people wanted to know and started paying him $100 here and there, he got asked to write a book, he did a TED talk, it went viral and now he spends his life living this message and helping people to live it out to – the movement he refers to it. “I never set out to be an author or speaker”. Incredibly honest words in the “how many followers can we get, how much business can we win” world I am exposed and fall prey to far too often.

When you hear a story like that, you really want to go back and look at everything he said, hear his wisdom and act upon it. It comes from him, the guy who is the same off-stage and on-stage (in his own words), who lives out his principles, unapologetically, for the entire world to see. So, before his TED talk tonight here is some stuff I am reflecting on, and wanted to share.

Subconscious is KING. According to Sinek, the conscious brain has around 2 feet of information available to it at any time, that it can take in and use. The subconscious brain has 10 ACRES of information! That is a lot and cannot be accessed by sitting down, staring at a screen, or checking how many likes my Instagram picture has. It can only be accessed by space – taking a walk, doing sport, doing nothing that involves the conscious. That is where the genius lies, where all the best ideas are formulated as they piece together, like an intricate spider’s web – our impressions, half-baked dreams. For me, a lightbulb was switched on. It was like I had permission – to spend some of my days walking, to run and just … not think. It has literally lit a fire in my belly for rest, recreation and remembering. My best ideas happen when I am in the moment – they are happy accidents that I have nearly said ‘no, that can’t happen’ to. Infact, Amplify is a happy accident, a thought in a shower that I am SO glad I paid attention to.

Stories are everything. It is stories that turn complex ideas into something that I, the speaker can understand and that people, the hearer can understand. It is that simple. The stories that Jesus Christ told are timeless, unforgettable and often were told as an answer to a question. Instead of coming up with complex theological treaties he told the story of the Prodigal son to open up his hearers’ hearts and minds to the possibility that far from being distant and unreachabale, God is a love-sick father wanting his children to come home to him. Ghandi, Martin Luther King, the greatest leaders have always told stories. We are in good company here – we should take a leaf out of their book.

Empathy is the only way forward. Sinek’s interview on Millenials went viral. In the Q&A he was saying that what is true of Millenials is true of any generation – they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what it is like to have rations like in world war 2 (neither do I), they have never known what it is to NOT know Facebook (I do), so how can we expect them to suddenly live like the previous generation, sharing values they were never exposed to? They only know a culture that offers instant gratification – it is not their fault, it is the world they live in. So instead of saying “These Millenials don’t get commitment”, let’s commit to getting these millennials, empathising with their journey, trusting they are people who want to be committed to causes they care about and let’s create a work culture they can own.

One of my favourite take aways from the Q&A time was this – as a leader, I give my people, my employees my trust every day, but I have to earn theirs. It is not a given. That is where Empathy finds it home – in realising it is your job to “get” your workforce and your client, to constantly give, to show and live out the person you are and the culture you want to be driving. Let’s do this and let’s do this NOW.

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