Simon Sinek on Leaving Consulting to Write "Start With Why" and Inspire the World

In Chapter 2 of 16 of his 2009 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author Simon Sinek talks about his career transition from marketing consultant to author and inspirational speaker. It began by asking "Why Do People Do the Things They Do?". Sinek's direction then evolved beyond anthropology and marketing consulting into behavioral science - studying the brain, namely the Neo-Cortex and Limbic Brain. This inspires him to a decision framework called "The Golden Circle" that shapes his transition into writing, blogging, and, ultimately, authoring his first book , "Start With Why." 

Simon Sinek is a trained ethnographer who applies his curiosity around why people do what they do to teach leaders and companies how to inspire people. He is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". Sinek holds a BA degree in cultural anthropology from Brandeis University.


Erik Michielsen: In 2005, you ran into some challenges, after you had been consulting for a number of years.  That put you at a career transition point.  Explain what happened there and what were the lessons learned in the business that failed?

Simon Sinek: In late 2005, September 2005 to December 2005, I hit rock bottom.  I was the closest to I have ever come to if not completely depressed.  I didn't enjoy going to work every day.  I didn't enjoy socializing with anybody.  I couldn't see a positive direction for my future.  Life wasn't fun.  I had developed this thing named the Golden Circle, which was only designed to understand why some marketing works and some marketing doesn't.  A woman I met by name of Victoria Hopper started asking if I knew how the human brain works, and I didn't.  I started looking into it and realized how the human brain works, the limbic brain versus the neocortex, overlapped perfectly with my model.  So I hadn't discovered if some marketing works, I discovered why people do what they do.  I became obsessed with understanding why I do what I do.  I stopped talking about what I do, I stopped saying I was a consultant, I stopped saying how I was different than my competition.   I started talking about why I do the things I do, to inspire people to do the things that inspire them.  It worked.  I started feeling better.  Strange things started to happen.  The more I talked about why I do the things I do, people kept on inviting me to speak.  I get 30 to 40 invitations a year to speak around the world about this concept.  Prior to three and half years ago the amount of public speaking I had done was one.