The Power of Asking: The Simon Sinek Story.

Photo credit: Pach Adams

Read Time: 6 min.  Speed Read: 1 min.

I couldn’t believe it. I was bumping elbows with hundreds of top CEO’s that gathered for an exclusive event in Gainesville, FL. Many emotions were floating around the room- excitement, anxiety, even fear. Looking over, I saw Simon Sinek’s name printed in bold across a banner as the honored (and world famous) speaker for the seminar. What made my current situation even sweeter was the fact that I had gotten my twin brother and I in for free, along with VIP access to hang with Simon, the author of “Start With Why“, before and after his presentation.

Yes, it’s undeniably true: God loves me.

My journey to this moment started a couple years back when I first watched Simon’s T.E.D. talk. 

For those of you that have yet to discover T.E.D.,  it’s a collection of speeches,  perspectives, and ideas that are inspiring as they are fascinating; all presented in a short video clip format.

Simon’s speech titled, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action,” can be found here.

 

Start With Why

 
Great leaders know the reason they exist, and why they do what they do. It’s this overwhelmingly clear and consistent knowledge of their purpose that makes great leaders great, according to Sinek. He argues that there are 3 dimensions of communication: What, How, and Why.

Most people communicate in that order, especially businesses. They tell you what their product does, how they are different, then expect some sort of result from the potential customer.

Very effective, inspired leaders communicate totally differently. They tell you why they exist and what their underlying belief is, how they act congruently with that belief, then finally what their product does.

Simon uses the real world example of Apple frequently.

A bad marketing message from Apple would be:

“We make great computers. They’re beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. Want to buy one?”

What a marketing message from Apple actually sounds like:

“Everything we do, we believe in upsetting the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making products that are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user-friendly. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”

The former is lackluster, the latter is inspiring.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”  -Simon Sinek

 

My Grande Evolution

 
While Simon focused his idea on mostly businesses, when I came out of high school I used this technique of asking what my why was to change my entire life.

After a mediocre performance in high school finishing out with a 3.3 GPA, I ended my first semester in college by making a 4.0… and my second semester… and my third. I still have that 4.0, and it’s not going anywhere.

Right after graduating my senior year (and buying and devouring Simon’s book in a matter of days), I thought long and hard about why I got out of bed in the morning. I really meditated on what I stood for and believed.

I decided upon these things:

  1. I believe in learning every day, and improving myself. I believe that there isn’t anything that someone can’t learn given enough time.
  2. I believe in conquering my fears one by one.
  3. I believe that life isn’t about resources, it’s about resourcefulness.
  4. I believe in improving others, loving others, and finding the good in every person.
  5. I believe in respecting my body, because it’s the only one God gave me.

 

From that point forward, I started finding meaning in exams, as they became a threat to my beliefs.

You don’t believe that I can learn this material? I believe there isn’t anything I can’t learn. Let me eviscerate this test, then we’ll see what you think.

I found a drive I’d never experienced before, a spark turned into an inferno. In my desire and passion to prove these beliefs in all circumstances, I chewed up and spit out whatever life confronted me with.

One of the biggest mistakes people make, ages 15 to 105, is not reflecting enough on this question. I firmly believe that if you know who you are and what you believe, then regardless of whatever situation life puts you in, you’ll be able to not just handle it, but prosper from it. If you fail to see the importance of this, you very well may be sentenced to wandering life aimlessly and waiting on lady luck to come your way. Unfortunately, most wait much too long.

 

Ask

 
After this simple life redesign and how much it had improved upon my person ubiquitously, you could say I was a fan of Simon’s perspective.

When I heard he was going to speak just miles from where I lived, I couldn’t believe it. After I’d changed into a new pair of shorts, I found myself looking up every detail of the event and how I could attend.

That is until I came across the hefty event fee. While $200 may not seem like a lot, to a college student who has budgeted his life for the daily food volume of a starving African villager, it might as well been $200,000. I was out. So close, yet so far away. There was no way I would even be able to get in the door.

Then I took one very important action, that most people neglect as an option: I asked.

I found Simon’s email, and shot him a desperate plea:

Hey, I live in Gainesville and I’m currently a student going to Santa Fe College. I’ve read your book and I’ve employed the whole “Start With Why” format to my public speaking class, helping me get a 99% A, and essentially landing me an invitation to speak at a World Humanities Expo.

To the point: I really want to attend your speech at the Hilton with my twin brother, Gavin, but as a college student I’m severely limited in funds even with the discount Joe is helping me with.

Is there any way you can help us get into your conference at the Hilton? I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask…

Thanks for inspiring us!
Chase

There are many reasons why it shouldn’t have worked. This guy is very well known and has hundreds of thousands of people who have read or listened to his work. I was not a CEO. I did not have the money and Simon should not have had time to respond, let alone give me VIP treatment.

But he did.

He forwarded my email to the event host and before I knew it, my brother and I were talking to various business leaders in a fancy lobby. When I saw Simon coming down the buffet line, many smiled, but most avoided conversation out of fear or not wanting to look unprofessional and super interested. I’m not that guy. He recognized my brother and I, and after a short round of introductions, a long round of child-like excitement between the three of us lead into many dynamic conversations.

Simon was 100% genuine and down to earth. He even ended up giving my brother and I a literal token of inspiration for inspiring him to pursue his own why. I couldn’t believe that just the simple act of asking for what you want could lead to such a fantastic conversation and experience.

 

Long story made bearable, people will convince themselves out of great opportunities because of silly limiting beliefs that arise from fear of failure, social embarrassment, or simply fear of the unknown. Once you take a good look at these fears, you realize that most are unjustified, and that achieving your goals merely requires you getting out of your own way.

Want to learn photography? Do something incredibly life threatening and dangerous: Shoot your favorite photographer an email and ask to meet with them for coffee. Life is all about communication. If you can effectively communicate and ask for what you want from people, chances are they aren’t going to be a Scrooge about it, and they’ll help you out.

 

Reflect…

 
Start with why, and don’t’ be afraid to ask for what you want- you’ll be surprised by your success.

For those of you that want a little homework, ask yourself:

Why do you get out of bed in the morning, and why should anyone care?

 


Updates:

-If you’re anything like me, you ate yourself into a coma then went and hibernated for a day or two over the holiday. Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

-I’m well on my way to having my first business up and running! Be on the look out for a sneak peak.

Much more to come…

Posted on November 30th, 2011

7 People have left comments on this post



» Gavin said: { Nov 30, 2011 - 04:11:40 }

Awesome and inspiring blog! Great work!

» kedar said: { Nov 30, 2011 - 09:11:45 }

Hey Chase… so you have come up with a set of beliefs that you live your life by.
how frequently do you go back and review those beliefs?

» Chase Doran said: { Nov 30, 2011 - 10:11:17 }

Those 5 beliefs are always constant. They are the laws of “Chase’s Universe.” Like gravity, they are always being tested, however they always remain. At some point in life, you have to decide what you want to stand for. You can stand for many different things, but at some point you have to say “THESE beliefs are who I am,” then stick with them. If those beliefs are constantly changing, you stand for nothing and wander through life aimlessly without purpose. At that point, If you don’t decide what you stand for, someone else will.

If your beliefs are constantly failing you, then you need to find the beliefs that are congruent with your life, purpose and who you are.
Thanks for the comment!
-Chase

» kedar said: { Dec 1, 2011 - 12:12:31 }

I agree that you have to decide what beliefs you stand for… but feel that you should take a long hard look at them regularly to make sure you’re on the right track.. what do you think?

» Chase Doran said: { Dec 1, 2011 - 02:12:10 }

I don’t think you necessarily have to go back >often< to review what you already know you stand for.

For me, that seems redundant. The point of analysis isn’t to keep analyzing- It’s to form a conclusion.

If you’ve decided that, for you, 1+1= 2, it’s not necessary to constantly make sure it’s right for you. If it’s not, you’ll be using that equation sometime in your life and something will come out very wrong. I believe that if you’re happy with who you are, and what you stand for, and what you believe, then there is no reason to continually go back and check. Decide who you want to be, let it be, and move forward and progress with those values.

Perspectives however, I do believe are great to challenge many times over. If I see spinach as the worst thing mother earth has every cursed the world with, but I’m in a different country and they have a spinach dish, I just might try it to challenge my previous assumptions. That type of continuous reflection is powerful and very healthy.

» Jonathan Bennett said: { Dec 7, 2011 - 12:12:35 }

Hey Chase, awesome post man. Great story! Ya know, I’ve been here for years and still haven’t even stepped into that Hilton yet. :D

Kedar, I think some beliefs are worth revisiting occasionally, but many are not. For example, the belief of “murdering a child is wrong.” I don’t think I ever need to revisit that belief. Murdering a child will always be wrong, in my view.

That’s an easy one, I admit. I do agree that some things we believe may be worth thinking about, just so we don’t get stuck onto a path that may be limiting us. I think that’s your point, yeah?

» H said: { Dec 15, 2011 - 09:12:26 }

Hey Chase,

Very inspiring. Here’s my contribution to the story. Years ago I got accepted to a prestigious writer’s retreat. The solitude and pampering were awesome. They made all our food for us, gave us each a private writing space, provided internet and free printing, and they even had perfect bikes ready in case we needed a break. All in all, a hugely enriching experience.

The last night I was there another woman asked, “So, what will you do with this experience?” I thought being there was what was important, but she explained that if I didn’t parlay the experience into even better experiences that I would be wasting a valuable asset.

She asked me to give her an overly ambitious goal for myself and to use “bragging about the honor” as a way to get it. I said that I would be thrilled to meet my writing hero. She replied, “Not a big enough goal!”. I thought about it some more and said that I’l like to be able to study with him for several weeks.

I wrote to him, explained my situation and a month later got an invitation to do exactly what I had requested. When I was there I met other writers who had come to pay homage to him by shaking his hand (which is the equivalent of my 1st anemic idea). They all expressed disbelief that I had been able to do what I did. When I told them I had simply asked they all told me that it had never occurred to them that he would say yes, so they never even thought to ask.

H