Simon Sinek on When to Risk Something You Cannot Afford to Lose

In Chapter 16 of 20 in his 2011 Capture Your Flag interview with host Erik Michielsen, author and leadership expert Simon Sinek shares why risk sharing is so important to a successful partnership. First, Simon differentiates between a vendor and a partner. He then notes a partnership - whether it be a personal relationship, a marriage, or a business relationship - requires risk. He offers that if you are starting something new, to do so in a way where all partners invest in something they cannot afford to lose, whether it be time, energy, financial, or beliefs. The more people willing to share in that risk allows for greater potential in the endeavor. 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 is risk-sharing so important to a successful partnership?

Simon Sinek: People who don’t put skin in the game, aren’t taking risks. Um, you know, when somebody, refuses to put skin in the game but wants a reward, that’s not a partnership, that’s a vendor. You know, somebody who says, “We want to be your partner, now pay us,” that’s fine; that’s a vendor relationship, that’s not a partnership. Partnerships require shared risk; that is what a partnership means. And that could be a personal relationship, a marriage or, more importantly, a business relationship. Business relationships require risk. 

It’s one of the old, you know, small business maxims, which is “never go into business with a millionaire” because the reason is, cause they’re not hungry, you know? You want to go into business with somebody who if they don’t work hard, it’s all over. And that’s not to say you shouldn’t accept money from millionaires, that’s fine, but risk –it’s the investing proverb, which is never invest more money than you can afford to lose, but if you’re gonna start something entirely new, you want everybody to invest in something that they can’t afford to lose. 

You gotta make this work, whether it’s financial, or time, or energy, or belief, or the problem you’re trying to solve … “We have to solve this problem, otherwise bad things happen,” or, we can make the world a better place.” I think, you know, and the more people who are willing to share in that risk, the results can only be good. If only one person is only  is willing to take a risk, then the other people will leave him high and dry. There’s no reason to go the extra mile, right?