Simon Sinek on How Setting Unrealistic Goals Can Serve the Greater Good

In Chapter 4 of 20 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author and leadership expert Simon Sinek learns to set big, often unrealistic goals to advance his ambition to change the world. Similar to Big Hairy Audacious Goals - BHAG - Sinek finds underachieving on large goals to be more rewarding and inspiring than overachieving on small goals. 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: Why do you prioritize serving the greater good in doing what you’re doing?

Simon Sinek:  It’s easy to pull things back; it’s very hard to ramp things up. And I’d rather start with something that’s too big and pull it back into reality, than start with something that’s so easy that you can’t really get it up. For example, you know, don’t set your goals realistically, set them entirely unrealistically. I mean, shoot for 80 and be disappointed when you hit 70. As opposed to shooting for 20 and being ecstatic when you hit 21. “We beat our goal!” Yeah, but it was a low goal. You know? I think, I think to be frustrated and achieving something, rather than ecstatic and achieving less, is a better way to live. Not to mention you achieve more. And so, I’m a great believer in the greater good –like those things, like so big, they’re ridiculous. Like, you know my goal, it’s a hundred year goal, it’s called world peace. Pshhh! You know? So daunting, you know? But that’s the idea. If I fail – and I certainly won’t achieve it in my lifetime – I like to think that what I’ll contribute towards that ridiculous idealistic nonsense goal will be more than if I say, “if I can just be happy by myself in my little house,” you know? Eh, I mean that’s nice and all, but I like the idea of contributing to your neighbor as well.