Simon Sinek on How to Simplify Concepts So You Can Teach Them

In Chapter 3 of 23 in his 2013 Capture Your Flag interview, author and public speaker Simon Sinek answers "How Have You Learned to Better Distill Complex Concepts Into Teachable Moments?" As someone that did not do well in school, Sinek shares how he has learned to make something repeatable. This, in turn, has helped him to make it understandable and to more clearly explain something when teaching others. Simon Sinek teaches leaders and organizations how to inspire people. Sinek is the author of two books, "Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Come Together and Others Don't" and "Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action". He is a public speaker, an adjunct professor at Columbia University and a Brandeis University graduate.


Erik Michielsen: How have you learned to better distill complex concepts into teachable moments?

Simon Sinek: Oh, that’s an easy answer. I’m an idiot. I’m not smart. I didn’t do well in school. I didn’t do well in college. (chuckles) And so, my push to simplify concepts is so that I can understand them. There’s a lot of things I don’t understand, and so I ask a lot of questions, repeating back what I think I’m hearing, because I don’t understand. And so, the desire to simplify concepts is for my own understanding, and if I can understand it, then I can share it with somebody, because now I have an understanding of it.

And the good news is if you make something simple, then it’s repeatable. Whenever you make something repeatable, then it’s understandable. And the best part about that is, at that point, others can share your thinking without you. So many things that were “taught”, whether from a teacher, or somebody in the industry, or sitting down with your financial adviser or whoever, you can understand that, hopefully, maybe, you think you can for the moment that you’re with them, but then try and go to explain what you just learned in the meeting, and you’re like, “I don’t know. That’s what he said. I don’t know.” Right? And so, my desire is to be able to repeat something, which is why I need to dumb them down. (chuckles) It’s no great secret. (chuckles)