Marie Forleo: Hey, it’s Marie Forleo, and you are watching MarieTV. The place to be to create a business and life you love. And you know, if you really want a business and life you love, my brilliant guest today has a new book that will help you create just that. Simon Sinek has a bold goal to help build a world in which the vast majority of people wake up every single day feeling inspired, safe at work, and fulfilled at the end of the day. His first TED Talk in 2009 rose to become one of the most watched TED Talks of all time, with over 43 million views and subtitled in 48 languages. Simon is the New York Times bestselling author of Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, Together Is Better, Find Your Why, and his latest book, The Infinite Game, which is available now.
Simon, thank you so much for coming back on the show.
Simon Sinek: It’s nice to be back.
Marie Forleo: Congratulations on The Infinite Game. As I texted you, I absolutely loved it. It’s brilliant. I’m curious, what was the inspiration to write this one?
Simon Sinek: So all of my work is semi-autobiographical. It’s my own journey. Start With Why was born out of the loss of my own passion for the work that I did, and the rediscovery of it. And I simply shared what worked for me with my friends, and my friends had me share it with their friends. And before you know it, it took on a life of its own and culminated in a book and a TED Talk. Leaders Eat Last was born out of, as my career started to grow, I started having trust issues with people. Simultaneously I was spending time with folks in the military, and kept meeting people who, they trusted each other with their lives. You know, we have colleagues and coworkers, they have brothers and sisters, and I wanted what they had. And I went to learn about them, wanting what they had, and realized it wasn’t the people, it was the environment. It wasn’t supposed to be a book.
And this new book, The Infinite Game, my entire life I’ve been preaching a version of work, or even just the way we live our lives in which we can wake up every morning inspired, we can feel safe at work, and we can return home fulfilled at the end of the day. And quite frankly, it gets tiring when those in positions of authority or power or wealth keep telling me I’m naive or stupid or that I don’t understand how business works. And when I discovered this little book called Finite and Infinite Games by James Carse, it completely… It was a world is flat moment. I realized, oh my God, the whole world is walking around thinking the world is flat, and it’s not, it’s round. You know? And I realized I’m not the naive one who doesn’t understand how business works, they are. And it gave me this wonderful confidence that I’m seeing the world through this infinite lens. And so it ended up becoming a another book. It’s just the journey.
Marie Forleo: So what I thought was interesting, because I have read all of your books and I’ve really appreciated and gotten so much benefit out of all of them. When I was reading this one, I was like, oh, this is a new different version of Simon that I haven’t recognized in his writing before. And the tone, you’re always brilliant, always so smart, but there was an incisiveness and there was a bit of like a little fire and spunk. I was like, this feels different. Did you notice that while you were writing it?
Simon Sinek: Oh yeah. I actually had to tone it down a bit.
Marie Forleo: Did you?
Simon Sinek: You know, I think what’s so different about this book compared to the others is the first two books I was making a case. I made a case for this thing called the why, and I made a case for this thing called the circle of safety. I made this case that trust is environmental. Here I’m not making a case for the existence of the infinite game, James Carse did that.
You know, I explained the infinite game in the first couple of pages, and it’s understood. But it raises this interesting point, which is we live in a world in which we are players in infinite games. There’s no such thing as winning marriage. Nobody in the marriage is declared the winner. And there’s no winning in friendship, and there’s no winning global politics, and there’s definitely no such thing as winning business, right? But when we listen to the language of too many leaders, they talk about being number one, being the best, or beating the competition. But there’s no such thing. There’s no such thing because we don’t have an agreed upon timeframe, and we don’t have agreed upon metrics. We get to decide the timeframes and the metrics. So there cannot be winners.
And so when we play with a finite mindset in the infinite game, there’s a few very consistent and predictable things that happen. The decline of trust, the decline of cooperation, the decline of innovation, and the eventual demise of the organization. And so I wasn’t trying to convince people of the infinite game, it simply answered the very obvious question, okay, if we’re players in the infinite game, and my entire life I’ve been taught to play the finite game, and all of the pressures and standard business practices reinforce the finite game, then how do we lead in the infinite game? And that’s what I wrote.
And it’s not supposed to convince the people who think I’m naive or think I’m stupid or don’t understand how business works, it’s supposed to be a rallying cry for all of us who feel uncomfortable the way business is working. Yet we keep our opinions to ourselves, because there are people who are way more senior and way wealthier than we are, so they must know something. But it still feels uncomfortable. And so I wanted it to be a rallying cry for all the people who just don’t like the way it works. They can’t put their finger on it, they don’t have the words for it, but they know something’s wrong. This can’t be the way business should work.
And it’s also to help us recognize who the finite players are, because we have the right to know who is playing and using our lives and our livelihoods to manage their books. We have the right to know. And so it exists for two reasons. One is to be a rallying cry for those who think there’s a different or a better way, and a filter so that we can recognize who the finite players are so we can change our behavior or at least keep our guard up when we do business with them.
Marie Forleo: Yeah. I thought another kind of frame that was so interesting was just as a self correcting mechanism for ourselves, you know, because so much of society, as you shared, has kind of taught us we’re playing an infinite game, but we’re really not. And so if we find ourselves veering off into that realm or finding ourselves feeling uncomfortable or running our business where it’s like we must be the best, it’s like, oh, we can kind of do the check yourself before you wreck yourself thing and get back into another entire frame of seeing the world and of behaving.
I thought one of the stories that was so illustrative, and I was wondering if you could share it here, was when you were speaking at an educational event for Microsoft, and then speaking at an educational event for Apple, because it so beautifully illustrated this incredible contrast.
Simon Sinek: I didn’t know it at the time, but in hindsight I see the difference in mindsets. And basically, I spoke at an education summit for Microsoft and Apple a few months apart. And as I sat in the audience for the Microsoft event, the vast majority of the executives spent the vast majority of their presentations talking about how to beat Apple. At the Apple summit, 100% of the executives spent 100% of their presentations talking about how to help teachers teach and how to help students learn. One was obsessed with where they were going. The other one was obsessed with beating the competition.
At the end of my Microsoft talk, they gave me a gift. They gave me the new Zune, when it was a thing. This was Microsoft’s response to the iPod. And this little piece of technology that they gave me was fantastic. I mean it was really brilliant. It was beautifully designed, it worked flawlessly. The user interface was simple and intuitive. It was really well done. Anyway, at the end of my Apple talk, I was sharing a taxi with a senior Apple executive, and of course I couldn’t help myself, I had to stir the pot. And I turned to him and I said, you know, Microsoft gave me their new Zune, and it is so much better than your iPod touch. And he looks at me and he says, I have no doubt. And the conversation was over.
And basically the infinite minded player understands that sometimes your product is better and sometimes their product is better, and there’s no such thing as best, you know? There’s ahead and behind. And the goal is not to beat your competition, the goal is to outlast your competition, and the only true competitor in the infinite game is yourself. How do we make our products better this year than they were last year? How do we make our culture stronger this year than it was last year? How do we improve the quality of our leadership training and make it better this year than it was last year? And we use the other players in the game as benchmarks, for sure, as worthy rivals, but we’re not out to beat them or compete against them. We’re simply competing against ourselves, which is an entirely new way to understand our place in the game.
Marie Forleo: It feels so much more free. It feels healthier. It feels more exciting. When I was reading the book, those were all of the emotions that filled me up when I was imagining into an infinite game. And also recognizing in myself where in the past like, oh, here’s where I was playing a finite game, and here’s why that felt really shitty. Here’s why. You know? And just going like, wow, I could look at this wonderful framework. Again, relationships, like even outside of business. Obviously our careers and businesses, where many of us spend the vast majority of our waking time. But you can see it everywhere. And that’s why I think this is just so useful because it’s so brilliant, but we can use it in every facet of our existence.
You shared in the book, when we play with a finite mindset in the infinite game, we will continue to make decisions that sabotage our own ambitions.
Simon Sinek: True.
Marie Forleo: Can you speak into that a little more?
Simon Sinek: Sure. So, you know, every business has a vision. Hopefully it’s a proper vision, and not just some goal. You know, to increase top line revenues by X is not a vision, it’s just a goal. A vision is something distant and idealized and something that’s ostensibly unachievable. We devote our entire lives to working towards it, to making progress towards it.
And the problem is when we play within a finite mindset, we become so obsessed with the short term, and we become so obsessed with what everybody else is doing. And we sometimes change the course of our own strategy to respond to what one of the other players has done. Sometimes getting angry when they have success. And it makes us really, really myopic in our view of how to build a business. And in the course of time, we will both waste the will and resources that are required to stay in the game. The resources, because we’re gonna spend money needlessly on things that don’t matter. And the will, because it takes its toll on us and on the people who work with us. It’s tiring to work with people like that, and good people leave.
And so when you exhaust the willing resources of your own organization, necessarily you sabotage your own ambitions. I believe that for the most part, not always, but for the most part, bankruptcy is usually an act of suicide. It’s an inability to build structures, it’s an inability to think long term, it’s an inability to know how to build teams. And for so many organizations, especially big ones, successful ones that go bankrupt, they love to blame the market or disruption, but it was their inability to foresee that these things were going to happen, because other people foresaw.
For example, look at the struggles that the music industry is having these days with the rise of the internet, and yet it was a computer company that invented iTunes. Why not the music industry? It was Amazon that invented Amazon and the e-reader. Why not anyone from the publishing industry? Like they didn’t even invent the Kindle. You know? Why is it that Netflix showed up? And how come the movie and television industry didn’t invent Netflix? And it’s because they were so busy protecting their existing business models that they failed to see that the world was changing around them. It was a lack of foresight. Now they’re forced to change, which is different. That’s defensive versus offensive.
A fun little story is as Netflix was this little small company, it was experimenting with subscriptions, and you remember we used to get DVDs in the mail.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: And we knew streaming was on its way, but the technology wasn’t there quite yet, but they were preparing with this subscription model. And Blockbuster, which was the 800 pound gorilla. If you wanted to rent a DVD in those days, pretty much we all went to Blockbuster. It was the only national chain of any worth. And the CEO of Blockbuster went to the board and said, I think we really should experiment and start looking into the subscription model. And the board would not allow him to change the pricing models because the company made 12% of its revenues from late fees. Now, Blockbuster doesn’t exist, and Netflix basically dominates the industry. That’s why I call it an act of suicide.
Now, the people at Blockbuster will say it was disruption in the internet, but it was their own foolishness and blindness…
Marie Forleo: Playing a finite game.
Simon Sinek: Playing a fighting game. Actually, they weren’t blind. They were actually fully aware. They chose to ignore. They were playing a finite game. They couldn’t bear the thought of letting go of 12% of revenues in the short term to live on forever, and so it cost them the whole company.
Marie Forleo: I thought there was another brilliant distinction, excuse me, between building a company for stability versus building a company for resilience.
Simon Sinek: Yeah. You know, because I struggled with this as I was writing, which is an infinite minded organization, and infinite minded leaders, they’re more than stable. Because the word stability and stable is already used in business. You know, is this a fast growth high risk company, or is this a more stable investment? And stability is the ability to weather a storm. But the way you weather it is you come out basically looking the way you did when you went in.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: That’s stability. You know, there’s a building. There’s a storm. The building’s still there. Resilience, to me, is something more profound, which is the ability to adapt with change. And you may come out a completely different organization as a result of changing. And I think that adaptability is way more important in the infinite game, because stability eventually runs out of steam, and we’ve seen stable companies go belly up all the time. Resilience is adaptability.
One of the best examples, I think, is the company Victorinox. You remember the Swiss Army Knife?
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: This was the favorite gift with with your company’s logo on it. Every single goodie bag for years. And something happened to their company, which was September 11th. And literally overnight, we used to carry pocket knives in our pockets, in our hand luggage, overnight, they were banned. And so almost instantaneously that entire business evaporated because nobody would give out a knife as a gift anymore. Why would we? It even sounds ridiculous talking about it now.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: And the company was built for resilience, however. The people who lead Victorinox are infinite minded. And so in good times, where most companies distribute all the wealth, they would save their money so that they had money to deal with hard times. They had plans in place for something that they couldn’t predict. And they laid off no one. They loaned some of their employees to other local businesses, but they stayed on their own payroll, which was amazing. And they challenged their people to come up with a new way to leverage the talents and gifts and brand strength that they have.
And to this day, they’re very successful, and we wear Victorinox watches, and we carry Victorinox luggage, and we wear Victorinox clothes. And they still have a much, much, much smaller percentage of their business in Swiss Army Knives, but they are much bigger and more successful company. Whereas other companies would have hunkered down and tried to figure out new markets for Swiss Army Knives. And how do we change the Swiss Army Knife? And maybe we can make them dull for TSA. And like all of these, that’s what they would’ve done, they would’ve tried to protect what they had. Victorinox completely reinvented themselves, which I think is such a great example of what resilience versus stability looks like.
Marie Forleo: You share that any leader who wants to adopt an infinite mindset must follow five essential practices. I’d love to dive into the idea of advancing a just cause. How do you define what you call a just cause?
Simon Sinek: A just cause is… So a just cause is so just that we would be willing to sacrifice for it. It’s something we believe in, an idealized version of the future. Something that for all intents and purposes is something we cannot achieve but we’ll devote our lives and our work to help advance it. We see good examples of sacrifice in organizations all the time, where someone would turn down a better paying job offer because they want to stay here because they believe in this organization and they believe in the cause.
Frequent business trips, or working late hours away from our families. We don’t like these things. We’d prefer not to do these things, but we do them and they feel worth it. Like we feel like the sacrifice is worth it. And if we’re doing all of these things and it starts to really not feel worth it, then I would start to question what is the ambition of the organization?
And I’ve talked about this in the past, when we work hard for something we don’t believe in, it’s called stress. When we work hard for something we do believe in, it’s called passion.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: It’s nothing to do with how many hours we’re working. It’s to do with whether we believe in the thing we are working to advance or not. So any organization or leader that has any ambition of playing with an infinite mindset, they have to offer themselves and their people a cause so just that their people would want to join.
Marie Forleo: I thought it was great, too, you made the distinction around it’s not something we oppose, it’s something that we’re moving towards. And I think it was so helpful in terms of languaging, because you also emphasized once you can identify it and articulate it, write it down. Write it down. So I want to talk just for a little bit about, instead of fighting against poverty, your example, we fight for the right of every human to provide for their own family.
Did you look at organizations, or just in your work throughout these many, many years of encountering people who are like, we’re fighting against, and you’re like, wait, wait, wait, maybe we can see this from a new frame?
Simon Sinek: Yeah. It’s not inspiring to fight against something, and it creates division and it creates an us and them, and it creates, you know, even those who are nobly fighting against poverty, all they’re doing is reminding the people who don’t have resources that they’re poor. Like they keep telling them that they’re poor, as opposed to saying to fight for the right of every individual to provide for themselves and their families. Now we’re telling them, hey, you’re just like us and you have opportunity.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: For example, we talk about getting the unemployment numbers down. Nobody wants to work to get something down. We want to work to get some things up. Let’s work to get the employment number up.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: We have 96% employment, let’s get it closer to 100. As opposed to we have 4% unemployment, let’s get it down to zero. Like, nobody wants to work to eliminate things. We want to work to build things.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: You know, it’s a basic human instinct to like to build.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: You know? And to look at the fruits of our labor, and look up and say, look what we built. You know? Nobody wants to look at the destruction that they wrought. So, yeah, I think one of the ways in which we frame a just cause is it must be affirmative. It must be for something rather than against something.
Marie Forleo: I also love, too, the qualities of a just cause. Again, I just kind of highlighted some of my favorite pieces. Must paint a specific tangible picture of the kind of impact we would like to make or exactly what our better world will look like. And you shared the example of Sweetgreen. I loved it. To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food. Like such a simple statement, but you get it, it’s clear. You also share…
Simon Sinek: And it has nothing to do with a salad bar.
Marie Forleo: Yeah. That’s true. That’s very, very true.
Simon Sinek: It was very important about a just cause, is that idealized vision of the future does not include your product or your service. Your product and your service is the mechanism you use to advance the just cause. And you’re not the only one. You’re just one of the players working to advance the cause. You know, though we all have our own individual why. Our why comes from our past. It’s an origin story. It’s our birthright. It’s unique to us. A just cause is shared.
And I think in this modern day in society, there’s a lot of pressure put on, especially young people, to have a vision. What’s your vision? It’s unfair. We’re not all visionaries. We’re not all Steve Jobs. You know, we don’t all have these big, sort of Thomas Jefferson visions of the world. We’re not all Martin Luther King. But we can find a vision, and that’s what’s important. Which is, if another leader or another organization has painted a picture of a world that we want to live in, we can say that’s my vision, and we can make it our own.
And by the way, you can have multiple just causes. You can have one for your family, you can have one for your work, you can have one for your church. There’s many, you don’t have to have one. You only have one why, but you can have multiple just causes. The why comes from the past. It’s tells us who we are. It’s the foundation. And the just cause tells us where we’re going.
So it is the responsibility of leaders and organizations to communicate their just cause. And it is our responsibility to find one that inspires us that we want to help build.
Marie Forleo: I loved some of the examples throughout the book. One particular one I’d love to highlight is companies out there that we kind of all know playing the finite game versus one playing the infinite game. And I loved, is it Mylan? Mylan and their EpiPen versus Patagonia, and don’t buy this jacket. Can we talk about that a little bit?
Simon Sinek: Yeah.
Marie Forleo: And I don’t know if you did this in your other book, Simon. Were you like calling people out and companies out in the other books?
Simon Sinek: Yeah.
Marie Forleo: You were.
Simon Sinek: In Leaders Eat Last I took a few people to task.
Marie Forleo: Yeah. This one I was like, okay, here we go.
Simon Sinek: Yeah. I mean, these organizations make us uncomfortable.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: Mylan is a good example. Mylan bought the rights to the brand EpiPen. EpiPen has an almost monopoly status in that epinephrine sort of delivery system market. They’ve like 90 something percent market share, that brand. And they started steadily raising their prices. And remember it’s a product that expires after a year. So if you don’t use them, you still have to throw them out and buy new ones. Right? So it’s a good business model, you know, that people have to throw out your product if they don’t use it and buy another one.
And based on their own finite ambitions, in other words, the bonus structures that the board had offered the senior executives, they just started raising the prices for their own benefit. And we expect companies to raise prices a little bit. I don’t think anybody’s offended by that. But they started raising the prices to such ridiculous levels, and such a faster pace, hundreds of percents over the course of just a few years, that it actually ended up getting them dragged in front of Congress to account.
And this is what I mean. They did nothing illegal. There’s nothing illegal about a company having the right to price their own product. But it’s unethical, right? That people who rely on an EpiPen and the price keeps going higher and higher and higher and higher, and they have to buy a new one. If a kid has a peanut allergy, you basically don’t have a choice. It’s just highly unethical. In other words, it makes us uncomfortable.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: And there’s a concept in psychology called ethical fading. And ethical fading is when people make unethical decisions, believing that they’re well within the framework of their own ethics. In other words, they don’t think they’ve done anything wrong. Because we say things like, you know, how do you wake up and look at yourself in the morning in the mirror. Like, well just fine. Because that’s what ethical fading does. And there’s a few things. Ethical fading is a result of self deception, and there are many things that we do in business that contribute to self deception. A finite mindset… And an organization that operates with a finite mindset is more likely to go through these things. Where an organization that operates with an infinite mindset is less likely to go through through these things. Infinite mindset is a bit of an insurance policy against ethical fading.
So some of those delusions, some of those self deceptions, include things like the overuse of euphemisms, right? So for example, we would never spy on our customers, but we do data mining, right?
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: It’s like torture is something that makes America very uncomfortable, but enhanced interrogation, that’s what we need to do to fight terrorism. You know? We never talk about the damage that our manufacturing processes causes the people in our factories and the communities in which those factories exist. We just like to manage the externalities. And we create language that helps us stay just a little bit distant.
Marie Forleo: Softeners.
Simon Sinek: Softeners, right. It makes us feel okay, because nobody wants to talk about the cancerous ingredients. We talk about them in terms of other ways, you know? And so that happens. Then there’s the old fashioned slippery slope. You know, somebody does it a little bit, and then they do it a little more, and that’s exactly what happened at Mylan. Which is they did it a little bit, they got away with it, and a little bit, and then all of a sudden, the speed and the pace started to expedite. It got faster and faster.
And then there’s the old rationalization. You know, human beings are gifted with the ability to rationalize. Everybody else is doing it. It’s just the way the market works.
Marie Forleo: It’s legal.
Simon Sinek: It’s legal. I didn’t do anything illegal. It’s what my boss wants. I mean, I’ve got to put food on the table. What choice do I have? You know? And we say these things to ourselves to help us get okay with the fact that we’re doing things that we kind of deep down know is probably unethical, right? But if you put all these things together, you get full blown ethical fading, where an entire organization happily does things. And we saw it happen in 2008. It was a manmade stock market crash, a manmade recession, that was basically brought on by very, very broken cultures that practiced ethical fading. And to this day, don’t know that they did anything wrong.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: Because they all say the same thing. I didn’t do anything illegal. Which is true. But the law is a very low standard. You know? Most ethical violations are legal, you know? However, you compared it to Patagonia.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: Patagonia, because of their infinite mindset, they are brutally honest. They don’t use euphemisms. They talk about the actual damage that their products do in their manufacturer, and it makes them feel guilty, and they work very hard to work around it and have recycling programs. And they go deeper than most organizations to the manufacturing process to make sure that there’s ethical behavior, not just from the manufacturing, but even from the the sourcing of the material, which most companies don’t go that deep.
They actually took out a serious ad campaign, I think some skeptics viewed it as a stunt, but it was serious, where they took their most popular jacket and said, don’t buy this. Basically saying, don’t buy it unless you absolutely need it, because we don’t need more excess in the market. But if you’re going to buy it, thank you. And when you’re done with it, we’ll take it back and recycle it. I mean, there was a whole system.
And infinite minded organizations, ethical organizations, still have ethical lapses. Of course they do. We’re human. We all do things that are unethical.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: The difference is they either take accountability when it happens, or if somebody raises their hand and proposes something unethical, there’s a system that goes, we’re not going to do that no matter how much money it’s going to make us. There’s systems in place to guard against it, protect it, block and tackle.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: It’s not the absence of ethical lapses. It’s a system to react to and guard against it. Ethical fading, they have the ethical lapses, but there’s no system to guard against it, and so they compound and compound and compound, especially when they’re profitable. And before you know it, you know? The exaggerated cases are the ones we know about. Like Mylan, like Wells Fargo opening up millions of fake bank accounts. We know the big ones. But the reality is there are many, many organizations whose ethical lapses and ethical fading will never get to the point of such dramatic scandal, but we all go to work everyday like with this horrible discomfort of the pressure that is on us to do things that we know is just not right.
Marie Forleo: Right.
Simon Sinek: Like telling, if you’re a financial adviser and you’re recommending a product, not because it’s good for your client, because you make a higher commission on it. It’s a little bit dirty.
Marie Forleo: It’s a lot dirty.
Simon Sinek: Not illegal, but it’s happening, and there won’t be a scandal. There won’t be a scandal. But it’s gonna keep happening and happening. Oh, I’ve got to put food on the table. That’s the system. That’s how it works. Well, it’s not my choice. It’s what my boss wants. You get the point.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: And so what I’ve learned is that the companies and the leaders that operate with an infinite mindset, it serves as an insurance policy against ethical fading.
Marie Forleo: Which brings me to one of my other favorite pieces, the courage to lead. Another practice. And I loved the story you told about CVS, and they stepped up and had the courage to lead.
Simon Sinek: It’s a great story. So CVS has a mission statement on their website, which is something to the effect of protect the health of all of our customers, et cetera, et cetera. And they kept having this experience where they would, in an attempt to advance their mission, they would have meetings with doctors and healthcare professionals and hospitals to talk about how they could better partner with them in this healthcare world. And invariably at the end of the meeting, someone would ask an uncomfortable question, which is if you care so much about healthcare, don’t you guys sell cigarettes? And they didn’t have an answer. And so they made a unilateral decision to stop selling cigarettes in all of their stores. This is billions of dollars off the bottom line. Billions. Billions with a B, right? Just poof. Right?
So when they made the announcement based on an ethical standard, of course Wall Street reacted negatively, and Wall Street commentators said, now all those cigarette sales will go to other people, and they won’t get the benefit. And their stock price went down. Right? As always happens, the stock price rebounded. But what ended up happening was not that those cigarette sales just went to other stores. It’s actually that in the places where CVS has existed, the number of people who stopped smoking actually went up. In other words, more people stopped smoking.
Marie Forleo: Yes.
Simon Sinek: Right? And the irony is is their competitors, Walgreens and Rite Aid, also have similar mission statements to protect the health, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. They still sell cigarettes. And when questioned by the press about it, when CVS took the lead, one CEO said, we continue to examine it. Well, thanks. And the other one said, we are selling cigarettes within the bounds of the law. Like yeah, we know that. We know it’s not illegal to sell cigarettes. It’s just really weird that you would sell the cigarette next to the nicotine patch.
Simon Sinek: So the courage to lead, it’s… You know, everything that I write about in this book, leading with a just cause, building trusting teams, learning to see our competitors rather as as worthy rivals, building the capacity for existential flexibility, though I simplify them and make them really easy to understand in the book, the last chapter really is just a reminder that all of these things are unbelievably difficult to do.
Marie Forleo: Yeah.
Simon Sinek: Because to build a business based on a cause is really hard. It’s much easier to build a business based on short term goals. It just is. And who cares if the company survives me or not? It’s the next person’s problem, right? It’s the next group of employees problem. It’s not my problem. But imagine if we built governments that way. Imagine if we raised our children that way. That just get them A’s when they get through school, and then who cares what happens when they get into life. Like we don’t need to teach them how to treat other people. As long as they get A’s, who cares? I mean, it’s the same mentality. We have to think about this stuff.
And so it’s really, really hard. Especially when all of the pressures, both the incentive structures and the pressures from Wall Street, if you work for a public company, or the pressures we put on ourselves, or the standard business practices of the day, the way we’re taught how to build businesses, blah, blah, blah, everything we’re taught in business school, everything is pushing us towards the finite.
And so to say, no, I’m going to resist, and I’m going to do the the right thing, and I’m going to take the infinite steps here. Take an infinite minded point of view. It takes a lot of courage, and that courage, I believe, comes from being surrounded by people who believe what we believe. There’s too few people have the the true internal fortitude to do it, because we doubt ourselves, sometimes we do see the stock price go down. We do see revenues go down. We do see profit go down in the short term. We see these things happen. We can see the results of our actions that are seemingly detrimental to our organization. But only in the short term.
And it takes someone who loves us and cares about us and believes in our cause to stand by us and say, good, nice job. I believe in you. Don’t worry. We’ll get through this together. I got your back. That’s where our courage comes from. Our courage comes from knowing that we’re doing the right thing, and there’s someone there to help me when I start being filled with self-doubt. Because I will be filled with self-doubt, especially when I start to see the numbers go down. You know?
Blockbuster would have lost money if they went to a subscription model, but they would survive. They might be the Netflix today. You know? So it is unbelievably, unbelievably difficult to do the right thing.
Marie Forleo: But so worth it.
Simon Sinek: So worth it.
Marie Forleo: Worth everything.
Simon Sinek: Worth it.
Marie Forleo: I’m wondering, and I know this isn’t your favorite thing to do, but if you’d be willing to just read a few passages from the end.
Simon Sinek: Sure.
Marie Forleo: I circled them, and I loved them, and I think it’s the perfect way to end this beautiful conversation.
Simon Sinek: Sure.
Marie Forleo: It starts right over there.
Simon Sinek: Our lives are finite, but life is infinite. We are the finite players in the infinite game of life. We come, we go, we’re born, we die, and life still continues with us or without us. There are other players. Some of them are rivals. We enjoy wins and suffer losses. But we can always keep playing tomorrow, until we run out of the ability to stay in the game. And no matter how much money we make, no matter how much power we accumulate, no matter how many promotions we’re given, none of us will ever be declared the winner of life.
In any other game, we get two choices. Though we do not get to choose the rules of the game, we do get to choose if we want to play, and we do get to choose how we want play. The game of life is a little different, however. In this game, we only get one choice. We are born and we are players. The only choice we get is if we want to play with an infinite mindset or a finite mindset.
If we choose to live our lives with a finite mindset, it means we make our primary purpose to get richer or promoted faster than others. To live our lives with an infinite mindset means that we are driven to advance a cause bigger than ourselves. We see those who share our vision as partners in the cause and we work to build trusting relationships with them so that we may advance the common good together. We are grateful for the success we enjoy, and as we advance, we work to help those around us rise. To live our lives with an infinite mindset is to live a life of service.
Marie Forleo: Amazing. Simon, thank you so much for this brilliant new book, The Infinite Game, which everyone here needs to get a copy of for yourself, for your families, and for your team. It’s awesome. And thank you for coming on the show again.
Simon Sinek: Thanks so much for having me, Marie. I really appreciate it.
Marie Forleo: Now, Simon and I would love to hear from you. So we’ve got a two-parter today. First, what is the just cause that you and your team are working to bring to life in our world? And second, was there a particular insight or aha that you’re taking away from this conversation? And most importantly, how can you turn that insight into action starting right now? Leave a comment below and let us know.
Now, as always, the best conversations really do happen over at marieforleo.com, so head on over there and leave a comment now. While you’re there, be sure to subscribe to our email list so you can become an MF Insider. You’ll get instant access to an audio I created called How To Get Anything You Want. It’s so very good. You’ll also get some exclusive content, special giveaways, and personal updates for me that I just don’t share anywhere else.
Stay on your game and keep going for your dreams, because the world really does need that special gift that only you have. Thank you so much for watching, and we’ll catch you next time on MarieTV.
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Simon: When we work hard for something we don’t believe in, it’s called stress.
Simon: When we work hard for something we do believe in, it’s called passion. It has nothing to do with how hard we’re working and everything to do with whether we believe in the thing we’re trying to advance or not.