Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy. Also the audio version has no Minions content, I’m travelling and thought of that after I recorded the audio. Don’t miss those Minions, scroll down to play.
A random platitude generator
I’ve really tried to be a better person since I started this blog. I’ve tried not to criticise the work of others too much, even though it is great fun to write. And even though the brutal posts out-click the happy, positive ones tenfold.
Yet people keep sharing Simon Sinek into my feeds, so fuck it let’s roll. I cannot understand why he is meant to be good. Or why so many hold him up as the Jesus of management wisdom.
He is a random platitude generator. His work is an endless stream of warm-sounding nothingness.
I’ve come up with a new party game. You get a folksy saying on a card, just words without graphics. You have to guess if it’s,
A: a Sinek inspo quote, or:
B: one of your aunt’s Minion meme posts.
Ready to play?
Round 2, even harder now:
Ready to take on your meme-champion aunt yet?
I feel like when Sinek finishes writing each proverb, in his mind he hears a mystic ancient wisdom gong, and he thinks: “oh yeah, that’s one for the ages.”
What does it all mean? Nothing you didn’t know already. He’s saying that good things are good. It’s a daily management horoscope, a blank slate for you to project your own feelings onto and think: wow he really understands me. Here let me post like Sinek.
“The fact that we all find chocolate cake yummy reminds us that we have more in common than sets us apart.”
“We can all learn from puppies that joyful behaviour is its own reward.”
“The leader who cleans the teaspoons from the bottom of the office sink teaches more about leadership than an offsite leadership training course with expensive pastries.”
There’s no harm in reading his daily sayings. But here’s where the harm comes in, or at least the expensive waste of time. You, the manager, take these Sinekisms and quote them to your staff like it’s a treasure map to solid gold success. And they’re thinking: ugh STFU and stop wasting our time, we have work to do.
The things he says are so generalised that they’re of no value to the average person in their job. If playing it safe leads to mediocrity, how does an accounts receivable officer or solar panel sales rep not play it safe?
What exactly do they do? That’s a pretty subjective brief to interpret.
And chances are, if they try something unsafe, they will be punished by the very same boss who thinks Sinek is a genius.
Anecdote Repackager: bathing in the glory of actual achievers
His whole shtick – he calls it the Golden Circle – comes from a TED talk on why leaders must start by asking why. What is this why? I read Start With Why last week as research, in case the books were better than his posts.
Here he is on how Steve Jobs got the jump on Creative Technology, who had released an mp3 player before Apple:
Mate that is just you putting your own label on a nice piece of copywriting from someone who understood the difference between a feature and a customer benefit. Any actuary or operations manager can tell you that basic distinction from the one term of compulsory marketing in their business degree.
Also, it’s not Sinek’s copywriting. The eternal curse of employee life is being sent to training courses, where discount David Brents deliver their nine steps to success through secondhand motivation tales. You know ‘em all.
The number of times Colonel Sanders got rejected in his sixties before someone said yes to his KFC franchise. The reason why Picasso asked for a stack of money for that quick café napkin drawing. Golfer Gary Player’s “the harder I practice the luckier I get” maxim that he probably didn’t say. The number of times publishers rejected Harry Potter.
Spare us, we have all heard those yarns a million times. You nod along, and you do not change your behaviour in any way because you know you aren’t Picasso, Jobs or Rowling.
Nor is that motivator.
Each to their own career goals. But if my life’s work was Anecdote Repackager, no matter how much coin it generated, I would feel pretty dirty facing the bathroom mirror each morning.
And let’s not forget his patronishing damnation of everyone under 30 as entitled phone addicts unable to put in a decent day’s work. Re-posted millions of times on Facebook with lines like “Watch Simon Sinek DESTROY lazy millennials!!!”
You know what’s lazy? Sweeping negative generalisations about whole, large sections of society. And from someone who sells himself as the leadership guy.
Sinek vs Vaynerchuk
Let’s compare Sinek to another motivation kingpin many find irritating: Gary Vaynerchuk. There’s lots to find annoying about Chukky, but I’ll limit it to Vee Friends, his foray into NFTs. And if he wants to scoop up some cash from the monkey picture crowd*, good luck to him, it’s a free world.
But I respect Vee because he’s dragged himself up through real commerce, in the brutal jungle of liquor retail. Using – his words – “pure immigrant energy”. And unlike Sinek, an ex-adman, he actually gives you concrete tips on what to do. I use practical Vee tips every week with the blog, and they work**.
If I was an employee, I would take a Gary V boss over a Sinek boss every time. Vee has done the work and built the businesses. Sinek relates what real achievers have done with this knowing smirk as if he were somehow part of the success of Steve Jobs, Walt Disney, or – heaven help us – Martin Luther King Jr.
The Andre Rieu of leadership
At this point I should note that this will look like sour grapes from me, a mid-level author and medium-business owner in a small country, jealous of Sinek’s platinum global sales. And awkwardly, we share the same publisher. I’ll accept that criticism.
And yet, the indy band in the corner pub with an audience of 80 has a perfect right to criticise Andre Rieu, for that is what Sinek is to the world of management.
A showbiz covers spectacle where all the good bits are other people’s material.
Also, to adapt some philosophy from wrestling great Andre the Giant:
Every so often, it’s good to say “But I must break that rule in this case.”
If you want the management wisdom and insights that Sinek believes he delivers, subscribe to Rishad Tobaccowala’s newsletter or buy his book instead, he is so much better.
* I’ve read this story on NFT bros three times since it came out and it gets funnier each time. You think it can’t get any skeezier. Then they reveal they’ve hired Neil Strauss, author of skeeztastic mega-selling pickup manual The Game, to write the book on their tribe. Pass the Dettol.
** Kindly passed on by friend of the blog, legal social media champ James D’Apice, so I don’t have to watch all the V videos, thank you James.
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