In Chapter 11 of 16 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers "How Are You Learning to Make Better Decisions?" To Sinek, decision making comes down to using personalized filters that help him achieve outcomes in line with his purpose. He shares an example from choosing classes in college and how the outcome - good class vs. bad class, engaged learning vs. boredom - helped him start to shape his approach. Simon Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. His goal is to "inspire people to do the things that inspire them" and help others find fulfillment in their work. Sinek is the author of "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". He works regularly with the United States Military, United States Congress, and many organizations, agencies and entrepreneurs. Sinek is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and an adjunct staff member at the think tank RAND Corporation. Sinek earned a BA in Cultural Anthropology from Brandeis University.
Erik Michielsen: How are you learning to make better decisions?
Simon Sinek: Decision-making is a process. The question is what filters are you using to make decisions? Are you making decisions based on the financial rewards? Are you making decisions based on how easy the work will be? I remember in college, they would give you this book where they –all the students would rate the classes and they would rate things like how easy the class was and how much they liked the professor. And, you know, the first year, I picked all my classes based on workload, and I picked everything a low workload, you know? And pretty bored, didn’t work very hard, which was fine, but nothing was dynamic, and nothing really excited me, and I, thank goodness, learned that. And so the second year, I picked all my classes by professor rating, regardless of the workload, so every class I had, I had these dynamic amazing incredible human beings passing on their knowledge and you were excited to work hard for them.
And so again, the question is what are the filters we’re using, and so if you’re only chasing the mighty dollar, then you’ll have jobs that’ll pay you a little more than the last but are you enjoying yourself? And I talked to a guy recently who was in a—he’s in bad shape like he really hates his life and he’s really depressed, and he doesn’t know what to do. And so we’re going through all his old jobs, you know, and I said, give me a job that you’ve loved, and he hadn’t, every single job he’s chosen out of college, he picked because of the money, and if something offered him more somewhere else, he took it. You know? Regardless. And the amazing thing is he plateaued because if you’re only chasing the result, if you’re only chasing the thing that makes it easy, right? Then eventually you will get bored, or they’ll get bored of you, right? And you plateau. In other words, chasing the almighty dollar, if that’s your only thing, it eventually flattens out, whereas if you’re chasing the thing that excites you, the human beings to be around, the work that excites you, the stuff that you know, you can get passionate about, the irony is, is you’ll actually make way, way more, right?
Because you’re excited and they appreciate your excitement and they reward your excitement, and you’re better at your work because you wanna work harder and all of that stuff. You don’t have the strain to work harder. So decision-making is simply a matter of filters. And so I’ve made decisions in my life that I would rather be happy than right, I’d rather do good than get rich. And so the decisions I make put me in positions where when I leave any engagement, when I leave any meeting, I feel that I’ve contributed, right? Rare are the times any more where you walk around going, just think of the money, just think of the money, think of the money, because it doesn’t feel nice. And the experience I have I don’t enjoy traveling to them and I don’t enjoy traveling home, where if I have an amazing experience, I’m looking forward to getting there and I’m excited when I leave. So it’s just decision—decision-making is just a matter of what filters you use, and if you’re good about keeping those filters up and clear then make your decision. I don’t judge anybody by how—if they choose to use different filters, these are just the filters I choose to live my life. Not right or wrong, just those are my decisions. That’s my filter.