Recently, Kiwi Gray went to hear Simon Sinek speak on some world topics that inspired him to write his latest book, ‘Together is better’. He addresses the ‘Millenials’ (generally described as those born in between 1984 – 2004) who many have described as a “generation of narcissistic, lazy and unleadable people” but he thinks this label is completely unfair and denounces – “parenting, technology, impatience and the environment”.
He starts by acknowledging the downfall in parenting whereby kids grow up being mollycoddled and unprepared for the real world so when they do venture out to find jobs and love, the harsh reality means they develop very low self-esteem. One of his first topics was coincidentally something I had been speaking to my sister about recently, as Sinek explained “Milennials have grown up in an era where, through social media, they have created a fake view of themselves to appear confident.” There are now growing concerns over the addiction to social media and the damage it is having on the social skills they need to deal with life. They are constantly curating their lives through a fake lens rather than living it.
Sinek highlighted how all addictive things such as drugs and alcohol create dopamine in our bodies and that social media is no different. Dopamine helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers and more is being released when millennials are Snapchatting, on Instagram, Facebook posting etc.
However, unlike alcohol and drugs, we have no age restrictions or ban on social media, so Sinek likened this to throwing the doors open to the liquor cabinet and saying, “here kids, drink as much as you’d like!”. This is why, when people feel stressed or anxious, they turn to ‘the bottle’ because throughout their lives they have programmed the brain to associate drink with the ability to suppress these feelings. Social media is no different. When millennials have anxiety, instead of turning to their family and friends for support, they are turning to their social feeds for the addiction, the suppression, the answers; but really they are making the matter worse.
Sinek explains it is our duty to “teach the next generation how to manage their social skills” but we’re not doing enough to support this generation and explain that the world isn’t about instant gratification! “People look for jobs and love like they should be found under a rock”. There seems to be a lack of willingness to work hard towards a vision and believe that one day you can be something or create something, which is your stamp on the world. Instead it appears, likes and views are replacing genuine human interaction, which offers support, guidance, empathy, trust, loyalty, love etc. They are justifying dealing with their negative emotions with no more than a digital transaction and then creating a need state that, in order to not feel this way, they need more.
Sinek then goes on to highlight how many of the large organisations we know today are largely built on ‘theories’ developed in the 70s - 90s around ‘shareholder supremacy’ and likens this to a sports team “giving the fans the ability to make decisions over that of the players”. We’ve grown up in a time where “redundancies mean we care more about money than we do about people”… we care more about the contract than we do about the handshake… Business has lost its values - its personal touch and we aren’t helping each other. Many of us have heard board level exec’s saying something like “How do we get more out of our people?” Like they’re ringing out a towel! When they should be saying, “how do we help our people perform at their natural best?” It appears the desire for instant gratification, whether it be a ‘like’ or a sharp increase in sales, has bled into our culture, leaving little room for empathy.
Today’s culture is too focused around intensity, when it should be about consistency. Executives like intensity because it’s easy to measure i.e. sales, productivity, costs but these things are all short lived. Great culture is about consistency, “it’s the accumulation of doing things repeatedly over time that changes things. For example, cleaning your teeth for two minutes a day will do nothing, but doing it every day for a lifetime will”.
Together is Better
So Sinek comes on to talk about his book and why it’s called, ‘Together is Better’. He said “It all starts with empathy”. We need to “help the next generation feel understood”. They need the confidence to be vulnerable and “be willing to raise their hand and say I made a mistake, I'm scared. I need help”.
There is a real difference between being a CEO and a leader and the latter is much more than a job title. “We can all be leaders by helping other people achieve what they want”. Sinek references a great story from when he spoke to a Navy Seals commander who he asked, “which recruits manage to finish this gruelling assault course?”, to which he got the response, “it’s not the toughest, the muscly ones or the confident ones; it’s the ones, who even when they are struggling with no more energy and strength and they have literally nothing else to give, they dig really deep and they turn to the guy next to him to offer their help”.
Courage comes directly from the feeling that somebody ‘has our back’ and our strongest leaders are those that demonstrate the most empathy.
Sinek remarks “We have an entire book section on 'self-help' but we don't have one book on how we can help others”.
It was incredibly motivating to hear him talk in this way and reflect on society with such honesty and integrity and knowing we all have the skills he is referring to. We can all do more to help others. But then why, as a society, do we act so selfishly and scared to stand up for what we believe in and know is right? Why do we always do what we’re told? And when we behave like this, how can we possibly help the next generation?