Simon Sinek on How Verbs are Useful When Setting Measurable Goals

In Chapter 10 of 16 of his 2009 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, "Start With Why" author Simon Sinek shares why he uses verbs, not nouns, to create stronger, more measurable life goals and personal values. Sinek builds on this by sharing his own "take an unconventional perspective", "keep it simple", "share", "silver line it", and "make long term progress". 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 describing your values you prefer to use verbs over nouns.  Why is this the case and what verbs do you use to describe yourself?

Simon Sinek: Values have to be verbs.  It is not that I like them to be verbs.  The reason is that values are things you do.  Values are things you live by.  You cannot "do" nouns.  You can only "do" verbs.  If you look at organizations you see that they have their corporate values on the wall and it says, "innovation, respect, honesty."  

Erik Michielsen:  Nice posters. 

Simon Sinek:  Beautiful posters.  If you have to write honesty on the wall you have bigger problems.  You can't do innovation.  You can't walk into someone's office and say "from now on please, a little more innovation."   You can say look at the world from a different perspective instead of innovation.  Instead of honesty you can say "do the right thing."  You can hold people accountable to that, you can build measurements around that.  When someone says "where you honest?" and you reply "well, yeah, but it was more profitable", you can sneak around it, whereas when someone says "did you do the right thing?" it is a higher standard.  You have to have verbs if you want to do them.  My values are "take an unconventional perspective", "keep it simple", "share".  I believe in sharing everything, sharing ideas, sharing experiences, "silver line it".  What I mean by that is I find the silver lining in every cloud.  The goal is not to fix the things that are broken.  The goal is to amplify the things that work.  And ultimately one of the long-term goals is "make long term progress."  Because it is a stated value and stated way of operating, and it is a verb, I focus on measuring the long term value I can create in the world and not just the short term gains.