For the inaugural episode of The One Away Show, I had the privilege of interviewing Stephen Shedletzky, Head of Brand Experience and Igniter at Simon Sinek, Inc.
Stephen Shedletzky has been an incredible inspiration to me. His mentorship has truly transformed my own career trajectory, and I am so excited to share the life-changing lessons I’ve learned from his wisdom, experience, and unique worldview.
“When we help others, we end up helping ourselves in the process. If we want to feel inspired, safe, and fulfilled by our everyday work and find our place in our communities, the trick is helping others around us feel that way too.”STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY
Top 5 Takeaways from Stephen Shedletzky
- The best-kept secret to finding meaning in your life is to be of service to others
- Facing your deepest fears can yield the biggest rewards; if it doesn’t challenge or even scare you, it’s probably not worth pursuing.
- The only limit to our lives is the legacy we choose to leave behind. If we focus on the long-term and building a better and brighter future for our loved ones and our community, we never truly die.
- Look at the closest people around you and understand the sacrifices they’re making for you. Stephen’s grandfather, a WWII prisoner worked so hard and stood out from the rest so others around him would do the same.
- Stephen has taught me to take a moment before you share something with the world to ask yourself: “What influence will this have on the person across the screen?” This goes deeper than serving itself. The act of sharing inherently puts others first.
These takeaways and Stephen’s philosophies on life are key components that help people feel safe and supported to find fulfillment, and to chart down a more meaningful pathway.
Our Success is Paved by the Service and Sacrifice of Others
I was deeply touched to hear Stephen describe the most important figure in his life, someone to whom he attributes his every success, and who paved the way for him to thrive. As a Holocaust survivor, Stephen’s grandfather Zaidie overcame the gravest of challenges from surviving a POW camp to risking his life to guide strangers to freedom. He never stopped fighting to give his family a bright and hopeful future. In his darkest moments of doubt and fear, Stephen draws hope and strength from the thought of his grandfather, which guides him in the right direction like an eternal beacon of light.
Sharing our Stories Sparks Communities Based on Connection
In our conversation, I was struck by how relatable many of Stephen’s experiences were. Like so many of us, he had a major fear of public speaking until he took a college class with one very special professor that transformed his entire perspective.
The interest this professor took in his students paved the way for a safe and empowering space to share personal and meaningful stories. After pouring blood, sweat, and tears into preparation, Stephen never could have predicted the impact his first five-minute speech would have on his classmates. The bonds they created through sharing these stories forged lifelong friendships he holds dear to this day.
In his professional life, finding a mentor in Simon Sinek mirrored the impact his college professor had. After searching for fulfilment in a corporate career that felt empty and wrong, having the bravery and fortitude to stay true to his core values landed Stephen in a professional space that couldn’t be more right for him. Simon helped Stephen discover his personal “why,” and now Stephen empowers others to achieve similarly profound processes of self-discovery.
How Stephen Shedletzky Found a Place of Belonging Where He Feels Truly Fulfilled
Moving forward, stay tuned to hear from some more incredible minds on the next episodes. One Away isn’t just another business podcast; It’s a raw, unscripted venture into the inner recesses of business leaders’ minds. Listen to episode one here, or read the full transcript below!
Transcript: The One Away Show Featuring Stephen Shedletzky
BRYAN WISH: Hi, everyone. Welcome to the One Away podcast. I’m here with Stephen Shedletzky, Head of Brand Experience for Simon Sinek Inc. His personal “why” is “to engage people in meaningful ways so that we connect with depth and live in a more fulfilled world.”
With a special knack for sharing the right words at the right moment, Stephen delivers evidence-based content in a provocative and humorous way. After years of feeling stifled on a corporate track, Stephen was struck by Simon’s vision of a more inspired and fulfilled world. He joined the company in 2012 in an entry-level position answering fan email. Now, he leads the brand experience team to ensure every product and communication authentically reflects the organization’s most deeply held beliefs. Welcome, Stephen!
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Thanks so much, Bryan. This is a treat.
BRYAN WISH: Speaking of fan emails, thanks for answering mine! I’m glad we connected. The goal of this show is to dive deep into the transformative moments that pass in the blink of an eye, the moments that have catalyzed your growth, and set you on your trajectory. In your research, you talk a lot about your professor Dr. Denis Shackel. Could you talk about how you met him and the impact he had on your life?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Sure. Believe it or not, I got into business school by mistake. After this two-year undergraduate program, a lecturer that I had in my second year really encouraged me to check out the business school program. I was still unsure of what I wanted to do with my career at the time, it was the perfect opportunity for my passions and interests to intersect.
Towards the end of my first year in business school, several of the professors you could choose for elective classes the following year came around to our courses and did a quick five-minute presentation on the courses they had next year.
Suddenly, this guy from New Zealand comes bursting in, full of enthusiasm and energy that just captivated me. He was intensely focused on helping people grow. I went for what’s referred to as the Dr. Denis Shackel trifecta. I signed up for all three of his classes the next year, which focused on the intersection of art and leadership. The class that had the biggest impact on me perhaps was advanced presentation skills. One moment that still stands out so clearly to me was during the very session of that course. It was a double, so it took up a three-hour block in the afternoon.
Professor Shackel ended the first day of class by sharing Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech. He said, “Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to prepare a five-minute talk with as much, if not more passion than Dr. King.” This, of course, was no small order. People prepared remarks about everything from their love of mint chocolate chip ice cream to their passion for curling or favorite sports team.
As I sat in that class, I knew there was only one fact I could really share: that I have overcome a fear of public speaking deeply rooted in a speech impediment. I grew up with a stutter, so I was terrified to be called on in class. I avoided speaking up in front of groups of people, even just three or four, for fear of stammering.
That was the moment I felt called to do something. I put so much blood, sweat, and tears into preparing this five-minute speech. When I presented it the next class, It was the first time I distinctly remember feeling fulfilled.
Now, that’s my number one cause in life. I want everyone to feel fulfilled. Happiness is fleeting, right? Sometimes we’re happy, sometimes we’re not. I’m not as driven by the pursuit of happiness; I’m driven by the pursuit of fulfillment. For me, fulfillment means using our gifts, talents, and strengths, which we can always improve upon, to serve something bigger than ourselves. I gave this talk in front of a room of people who shared that classic common universal fear of public speaking. I helped them experience a story from a new perspective to find more confidence in stepping up in front of people to share something worthwhile.
BRYAN WISH: Wow. So this professor gave you an opportunity to give a speech on something really meaningful. You said that your biggest takeaway was that it was the first time that you felt fulfilled. Why did this opportunity make you feel fulfilled in a way that you had never felt before?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: I think it’s because it was unintentionally very service-oriented. Maybe that was intentional, but I had this notion that I was taking it for myself. The class taught me to think instead, “how can I share something that can help other people in the room?” It wasn’t about me, it was about them.
I was hooked, not due to my performance per se, but because sharing my story empowered others to do so, too. I felt like I really helped my classmates.
There’s a classic Jerry Seinfeld joke that the number one fear in North America is public speaking, and number two is death. Many people would rather be the one in the casket than giving the eulogy. Many people in the room had a fear of public speaking, and others spoke English as a second language. I helped share a perspective, and professor Shackel created an environment in which I could share something for the benefit of others.
BRYAN WISH: That’s so impactful. One more question to dig a little deeper on that: When you shared, what did people say when they came up to you after? Were they like “wow, Stephen, this gave me goosebumps, this changed me?” You’re talking about the servant leadership of sharing something to impact others. How was the speech received, and how did you feel afterward?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: During the speech, it felt like an out-of-body experience. Have you ever had the experience where you’re saying something, and someone says, “Oh, that’s good. Can you say that again?” And you’re like, “nah, it’s gone.” Even though I had rehearsed it and had somewhat of a script prepared, in the moment, I was speaking from my limbic brain. I was speaking from a place of emotion. It felt like time was standing still. I saw how well it was being received on the faces of my peers, and also got some great feedback. People came up to me after to thank me.
From that day on, my relationship with Professor Shakel and a few people in that room deepened and grew. Our mutual sharing helped accelerate those relationships. To this day, I still treasure friendships with people I met that day, which were sparked from the vulnerability of sharing something personal to help other people grow.
BRYAN WISH: I love the quote, “vulnerability builds trust and oftentimes that forms very deep connections.” Let’s backtrack a bit. Before the speech, what was your idea of fulfillment and purpose? Did you even have a concrete conception of what that meant for you?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: I didn’t previously, but I’ve attached a lot of fulfillment to that experience. Retrospectively, I can see that at that moment, I was hooked. When we do our “why” discovery, which you and I have spoken a lot about, we look back to those moments in the past, both the peaks or valleys that stand out. This is one of them for me. I’ve been able to label my “why” as living my purpose and feeling fulfilled, largely because of this experience.
BRYAN WISH: That’s amazing. When I met you a few years ago, you told me about leaving corporate America because you were feeling unfulfilled. It’s so cool to see that what prompted you to seek fulfillment is the very same thing you’re doing today for the vast majority of your new role. What else was it about this teacher, one who took on an influential role in your life beyond giving you the platform to help others?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Every one of us needs a mentor, people we look up to and feel inspired by. We all need people. Some of us are very lucky and are born into wonderful families where we have parents and siblings and aunts and uncles and people around us who inspire us. And sometimes not. Our role models teach us so much, whether we know them personally or not.
Professor Dr. Denis Shackel is one of those people for me. He showed me what a life of meaning looks like, and how to find a valuable career and relationships that give us courage. Seeing those around us grow helps us identify and reach our own potential. Given that same blueprint, how can I create that in my own right — not only for me, but also for the people around me?
Through him, I learned that there’s an obsession in our world about self-help. The funny thing about self-help is that I don’t really think it works. If it did, the industry would stop growing because someone would write a book that would finally work. What the self-help industry is doing is helping itself. I’m a big believer that it’s in our nature as a species to want to help others.
When we help others, we end up helping ourselves in the process. If we want to feel inspired, safe, and fulfilled by our everyday work and find our place in our communities, the trick is helping others around us feel that way too.
When we do that for those around us, we are way more likely to feel that ourselves. When we show up to serve and help others, people are more willing to show up and help us. I’m thinking about you and I, Bryan, and the number of times that you’ve said to me in our relationship, how can I help you? As I keep saying, you should just keep serving others. Fortunately, we’ve had this relationship for five+ years. Now, we’re finally finding ways to collaborate more together. It’s natural and it’s organic; it’s a friendship.
The experiences my professor created for me really paved the way for me to focus on living a life of service, which is the best type of life to live because it makes us feel fulfilled.
BRYAN WISH: I’m getting goosebumps listening to this! Part of the show’s purpose is to go behind the scenes and unveil some of these stories that aren’t told. To your point, we all need a platform. We all need a person to help and guide us. So many people say mentors are overrated, but I disagree. What you’ve been to me and how I’ve been able to help others as a teacher has been incredible. It’s those people in our lives who give us the right platforms to really understand who we are and how we can help the people around us.
I’ve never heard of self-help described in the way that you mentioned, and I find that really interesting. You’re right; when we put ourselves out there to help people, we do feel more fulfilled. Very well put. It’s great to see that your teacher has made such a remarkable difference in your life.
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Yeah, he certainly has.
BRYAN WISH: Great. Let’s switch over to one of the other people in your life who, since I’ve met you, you’ve mentioned has had a remarkable impact in steering you in the right direction. Why don’t you introduce your grandfather to the audience and explain why he’s such an influential figure?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Yeah, for sure. I have pictures of him around me, so I’m looking at him right now: my grandfather on my dad’s side. He was gregarious and full of life, and I look just like him. I’ve taken the biggest risks in my life because of the courage he’s given me. Even during the moments I’ve questioned whether I’m on the right path, I think back to the sacrifices he made to ensure his family, myself included, could have a brighter future with more security and freedom. If he was here, I would tell him “it’s because of you that I’m doing this.”
My grandfather is a Holocaust survivor. He was born in a small town in Poland and fought on the front lines with the Polish army in 1939 when the Germans invaded Poland.
After being held captive in a prisoner of war camp outside of Berlin, Germany for two years, he had the opportunity to join five others and escape. He walked home for six weeks at night only, then married his hometown sweetheart, who had always refused to believe that he had passed away. He and my grandmother Eva ended up leading a group of eight or nine people into hiding for close to three or four years in the countryside. He and his father were butchers. He knew many of the farmers in the area and sometimes stayed with them, either with or without their knowledge.
My grandfather was gregarious, energetic, and outgoing. After he survived the war, he came over to Canada in 1953 with my dad and his older brother, my uncle. He is a man of discipline, honor, and values. Unlike some other survivors, he was always willing to share his stories of surviving. Fortunately, he was never in any of the death camps or concentration camps.
I really began to appreciate that much more when I graduated from college. When I came back, I spent a number of days capturing and recording every moment of the stories he told me. he’s a huge, inspiring figure in my life and someone with him. I really try to uphold and pass on his legacy that he left for us.
BRYAN WISH: My grandfather escaped a POW camp in Poland as well, and came to the States with his sister. I’m sure he told you those stories vividly. He has passed away, but his memory feels almost like a compass in my pocket, guiding me to make the right decisions and pushing me to take risks. What are things that you do because of his influence on your own life?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: I remember sitting in my first job out of school at a large company. I was in their rotational leadership development program. I love the word leadership, but I forgot to ask them how they define the term. It turns out there isn’t a standard definition at the company I joined. Their definition was more about authority, profit, and loss.
It wasn’t about service or taking care of people, which is the definition that I believe in. On my first day at that job, a thousand people were let go. I was a kid just walking in as many more were walking out. It was a tumultuous environment, to say the least. After only a couple of months, I started to get burnt out and depressed. I wasn’t sure if I had a future here, or if I even wanted to.
Eight or nine months in, I remember sitting at my little cubicle just spinning my wheels, feeling anxious, lost, unmotivated, and uninspired. I was 25 at the time, and I thought about what my grandfather had been doing at that point in his life: he was hiding from Nazis in the Polish countryside, just trying to make it to the next day. With that perspective in mind, I knew what I was doing with my life just wasn’t worth it: It wasn’t worth being miserable for the rest of my career, let alone another week. I needed to live a life I was proud of because of how much my grandfather sacrificed, struggled, and suffered to create a brighter future for us.
I ended up leaving that job. Actually, I was asked to leave, which was great. After that, I had another stint at a consulting company. I’m glad I did it because I learned a lot, but it wasn’t for me either. For that one, I chose to quit. My grandfather called me and said, “What are you doing?
I worked so hard to see that you could have a life, and you’re throwing it away.” I said, “no, you never worked a day in your life for somebody else aside from six months. You never had to do things that you didn’t believe in. I need to find a career that I’m proud of, for all that you sacrificed.” I don’t want to waste it on sitting in a job where I’m going to wither away. I used his own words on him.
Our twenties are so fundamental because by the time we’re 16 to 20 years old, our values are fully formed. Science proves this. Our twenties are a time where we are making decisions about where to live, where to work, who to work with, and who to be in relationships with.and if they represent our values, that gives us passion.
And if it doesn’t represent our values and beliefs, it gives us stress and anxiety and apathy and feeling lost. He gave me the courage to take some bold steps early in my career where I felt I was lost.
Looking around, I saw my peers excelling in their paths. I knew I needed to get off the ladder that I was supposed to be climbing on to go on the path less traveled to find what would truly fulfill me and make me feel I proud and that all the sacrifices were worth it.
BRYAN WISH: Absolutely. I can relate to that a lot. In certain ways, that’s what connected us on a deeper level. It’s neat how you were able to use your grandfather’s own story and play it back to him.
You’re in a different time 50 years later and how, where the world works. But, you still kinda take, took the same challenge in a different way. This might be a little off topic but on topic, but diverting from the story, do you believe sacrifice and fulfillment are correlated?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: A couple things come to mind. Part of life is the spectrum and polarity of emotions. So much of meaning is not positive, happy, or peak experiences. We need to have the valleys, too. I don’t think it’s possible to have a life where there isn’t struggle or sacrifice or loss or tragedy. In those moments, we find we either build our character or have an opportunity to grow. If we hide from them, they make us crumble.
The other thing that I’ve been learning a lot more, particularly with Simon’s assignments and acts, upcoming books, the infinite game, that to lead with purpose and values, you need to be pursuing something worthwhile- Something that’s hard.
Martin Luther King’s cause, his “why,” was to live in a more equal world. The work that we’re doing with Simon Sinek, and what you’re a part of too, is contributing toward a world in which the vast majority of people can wake up feeling inspired, feel safe at work and in their communities, and return home fulfilled by the work that they do.
Nothing ever goes perfectly. There’s going to be hiccups and challenges along the way. And sacrifices are simply a must in our lives, as human beings, as adults. But the big thing is that when we have a career and a life that is devoted to something bigger than ourselves in our careers, for me as a parent, right? I have two kids now. it’s not me. I need to think about my decisions for my tribe, for my family. We make sacrifices.
I’ve sacrificed a lot of my free time, money, and independence to do things I would want to do if I didn’t have kids. It’s a sacrifice that I’m willing to make, on the whole. There are times when I don’t feel like it, of course. Similarly, with my career, I travel a lot. but there’s never been one trip that I’ve regretted. I work very hard. I’ve sacrificed things, but feel that they’re worth it.
BRYAN WISH: Well put. I agree that the valleys also inspire growth in individuals for our professional selves. Our 20’s are a very formative time when the decisions we make dictate a lot of the rest of our life, so we must choose wisely using an infinite mindset, not just something that’s going to pay you the bills. Our career should lead to a pursuit of purpose for the long haul.
You talk a lot about what inspires you about your grandfather, is like his vision, the way he describes it and follows it. What was your vision for yourself after you left this role, and how did you act on that vision and execute it to get to where you are now?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: With a lot of help. When I had my first experience in my career, it was a valley. I felt uninspired, unfulfilled, unsafe, and unmotivated. At first I thought something was wrong with me, but it turns out it was the environment that I was in wasn’t a good one for me. It took that experience to realize that was the opposite of how I wanted to feel.
I was very young in my career, and I felt like I had a clear vision. I knew what I wanted and what step 10 would be. I could see the very peak of the mountain, but I was only on step one or two. I had no idea what steps three through nine were.
Some days it felt like I was making progress, but on the other days I felt in the dumps. It was a roller coaster. And I’m sure, do any entrepreneur or anyone who’s trying to make a shift some days feel . Amazing and like you’re making momentum and some days not. but it was really the relationships that I was building that gave me hope. I’ve learned a lot from my grandfather, the power of hope. I can share a bit more of that story after this answer.
I had clarity on what I wanted to be pursuing, but I wasn’t really getting results yet. I still lived at my parents’ house. I was miserable in my career, and thought that if I moved out of my parents’ house, then everything would get better. I’m really glad I didn’t do that because then I would’ve put on the velvet handcuffs by paying rent in an apartment and had to go to another unfulfilling job.
Fortunately, living with my parents enabled me to take risks and go on a new path. I didn’t know exactly what it would be; perhaps coaching and facilitating and consulting and creating content. I knew that I wanted to devote my life and career toward leadership development by engaging with people in meaningful ways. My ideal career would help people build more and better relationships with the people in the world around them, and devote themselves to creating a life and career around fulfillment and service.
I became obsessed with trust. I realized that for all of our successes in our lives and careers, no matter what, there’s a strong correlation with other people’s willingness to take risks on us. I became obsessed with how I could create the conditions in which people I respect and admire are willing to take a risk on me.
That could mean saying yes to a coffee, introducing me to a friend of theirs or someone in their network, or hiring me. It’s still something that drives and guides me today is to find the people that I respect and admire at my level more junior to me and more senior to me, and be obsessed with how can I create the conditions that they’re willing to take a risk on me and willing to take a risk on themselves.
The other thing I did early on (because I wasn’t making money) was starting my own business by default. I couldn’t find a job that I loved, but I knew what I wanted to do. I earned under the poverty line for two years, but again, I, fortunately, had the safety net of being able to live with my parents.
I would often write myself by weekly paychecks, what I would write down. I literally made a template of a paycheck and would write down the conversations, opportunities, and experiences that made me proud or helped me grow. Capturing that helped me realize that I was doing my own version of an MBA without having to pay for it.
Eventually, I met Simon and started building a relationship with him and his team. For a couple of years, they took risks on me, and eight years later, we’re doing all right.
BRYAN WISH: I relate so much in so many ways. I love what you said about the paycheck to yourself of the people you met or what you learned. I’m sure those reflective inward exercises to help continue casting that vision and propelling it the right way. It’s like you knew what the 10,000-foot view looked like, but you didn’t know how to get to the 100-foot mark. Those weekly check-ins are great.
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Yeah. There’s something important there. There’s this movement, which is fantastic, that young people, and increasing more mature people in their career alike, want to be “making a difference” or having an impact.
That’s great, but you need a sense of direction. You need to know the type of impact you wish to make. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in a trap going from one job to the next and saying, “oh, I’m not making an impact” and then leaving to try to find the next one versus actually having those experiences, having the introspection, finding people you admire and interviewing them or taking them out for a coffee and figuring out what type of impact do you care about.
What is it that you wish to contribute toward?
What is it that bugs you?
What is it that you hate?
What is it that you love and admire?
How can you build a definition of the type of impact that matters to you? We all have passion inside us; we just need to find out what it is and then design our lives to fulfill it. That is the proverbial “why” that we’re following.
BRYAN WISH: Very good; I agree wholeheartedly. Let’s back up – You mentioned you wanted to expand a bit more on the story you started.
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: So there’s one moment I remember very specifically. As I was preparing for this show, it really stood out to me. At the time, I was learning and studying under Simon Sinek. That’s the value of vision- looking to a brighter future. Sharing our vision inspires people to join us in creating it.
I distinctly remember driving, I know the intersection where I was at, which is funny because I now drive through that intersection every day when I take my daughter to school and pick her up. I asked my grandfather if, when he was in hiding, guiding that small group of people to survive day in, day out, if he had a vision. Did he envision moving to a country like Canada or having a brighter future for his family?
He said no, which surprised me. He simply wasn’t ready to die. He said he still wanted to see tomorrow, and yet that’s enough. What vision really does is give us hope. I know I’m at my best when I have something to look forward to. It’s simply human. We all want to look ahead at mile markers. There are days or even weeks sometimes when we don’t know when it’s going to happen, but have something to look forward to.
My grandfather’s answer and reading books like Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl have shown me that the most powerful human force is hope, or the belief that tomorrow can be better. He told me a story about how he was secretly hiding in a barn, and the farmer didn’t know. When he was discovered, he fainted from shock.
By the time he came to, the farmer had disappeared. After waiting in suspense for several hours, the farmer returned with tea, bread, and rat poison. He said to them, your life is miserable; end it. “I’m not ready,” he said. He wasn’t ready yet because he still wanted to see tomorrow. Hope is so powerful. That’s taught me a lot. The way you do one thing is the way you do all things in life.
When he was on his deathbed, my wife and I had found out we were pregnant just three weeks earlier. We had just gotten back the positive pregnancy test. It’s customary in our religion and family to keep it quiet until you at least reach week 12, but we figured that if we were going to lose the pregnancy, these were the people we’d want to lean into for support.
My grandfather was literally days from passing away. He was on his deathbed. Before we visited, he had spent two or three days straight without really interacting with anyone. My dad was by his side every single day, and had told my grandfather that my wife Julia and I were coming over to share some good news, that she was pregnant.
We walked in the house, and after two days of not interacting with anyone, my grandfather insisted on being helped up. He sat up and looked us in the eyes, crying, saying congratulations and that he was sorry he wasn’t going to be there for when we had the kid. For my dad to see that all of his physical and emotional labor, to see that he went with dignity, and for my grandfather to have that moment with us, it was really, really special.
BRYAN WISH: Wow, that’s so inspiring. In the barn when the guy said “just end it,” he could have so easily quit, but he kept going to give you a better life. Now you and your kids have that life he envisioned.
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Yeah. It’s really Inspiring. Thank you. I now see it as my responsibility to impart these stories to my kids. Fortunately, in my career or my life, I haven’t had to hide in a barn so that people wouldn’t come after me and kill me.
That’s not something that most of us live right now, but there are people in the world who do; all the displaced people like refugees live that way right now. There are oppressive regimes right now in the world. It’s not something that me or my kids have had to do, but it’s important that they know these stories and where they come from. I hope this helps them establish resilience and have more empathy for people who are suffering.
BRYAN WISH: Well, Stephen, this has been incredible. Are there any last words you want to leave the audience with, in memory of your grandfather?
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: When you live your life, think of it like there’s the sports analogy; in the fourth quarter, you leave it all on the court, right? When you live your life, live it with no regrets. It’s this difference between living life with a finite perspective and an infinite perspective. When you are trying to live life to win for yourself, you end up fighting for the promotion, or the title, or more money, or for the nicer car and the nicer house. These things will never be fulfilling. When you die, you die. You don’t get buried with your money. Even if you do, there’s no value of it in your casket, at least for you. Ask the mummies!
It’s so different if you live life with an infinite perspective, which is what my grandfather did. When you are pursuing something bigger than yourself, you’re trying to make the people around you better and help them grow. You end up living a life where you never die, even when you’re not physically here anymore, because you’ve left a legacy for people to remember you by and to uphold.
When someone asks how I have become the person I am today, my grandfather is always one of the people that I reference. If we all lived our lives from this perspective of how we can help the people around us grow, we will never really die. We’ll always be remembered by the way we’ve impacted people.
BRYAN WISH: Well said. That’s very powerful and a great motto to live by, personally, professionally, and in every area of your life. So Stephen, you’re doing some incredible work. You took me down the same journey four years ago, and I’ve tried to do my best to live the infinite mindset with purpose. Tell us a little bit more about your upcoming book and why it’s such an important piece of work.
STEPHEN SHEDLETZKY: Yes. You can find more about our work at simonsinek.com. For the time being, I’m the only Stephen Shedletzky out there. I’ve tried it out. If you search my last name, you’ll find some other wonderful people out in the world, including my siblings and parents and cousins. But if you search Stephen, you’ll, you’ll definitely find me. You can find me in all the typical places online like LinkedIn and Twitter.
I’m biased, but I think the book that’s coming out in October is Simon’s best piece of work. Simon went through a deep struggle in his career, similarly to mine, and what you’ve experienced as well, Bryan. He knew what he was doing, and that he did it differently and better than his peers, but he didn’t know why. He became obsessed with his “why,” and what inspires him.
When Simon discovered his “why,” it was to inspire people to do what inspires them. Together, each of us can change our world for the better. The book was born very much by accident. He never intended to become an author until after he discovered purpose.
The next big thing was to ask, “What makes organizations tick?”
How do you create these tribes where people are willing to make sacrifices for each other to see that the tribe is better off, both in business and in humanity? This notion is really about servant leadership. The greatest organizations have leaders in which people, these leaders put the people they serve ahead of themselves, and you create a wonderful culture.
There aren’t good people and bad people. There’s only good environments and bad environments. You can put people in either one of those environments, and they will be capable of doing awful and unethical or inspiring and remarkable things. It’s all about the environment and leaders set the tone.
Simon’s first two books were very much focused on the inside of an organization. About seven years ago, he was introduced to James Carson’s work with game theory, finite and infinite games. He began to ponder the question of how to be an idealist in a world that’s trying to make you be a realist. How do you live and lead with purpose and values despite all the pressures inside and outside of the organization trying to make you focus on the short term or what’s in your own best interest.
That’s how the infinite game was born. It takes game theory, this notion of finite and infinite games, to help us realize that we are all unwitting players in many infinite games. Life is infinite, though. Our lives are finite, but this notion of life is infinite. It will go on beyond us when we’re gone. Same with marriage. I can’t say to you that I’m winning marriage. There’s no winning in marriage. There’s only improving and getting better.
Politics is the same, right? There are finite elections; you don’t win global politics. If you win an election or win a war, it keeps going. Similarly, business is an infinite game with both known and unknown players. The rules can change, but the objective is always to keep the game at play. You don’t have a great fiscal year and then say, boom, I won business. It’s all over- everyone else can stop playing. No; it keeps going.
Most leaders use terms like “beat the competition,” “be the best, “or “be number one.” In reality, there’s no such thing. The greatest organizational leaders play the game of longevity, not just to win a single fiscal year. Simon has written this book that’s as much about businesses as it is about having better lives and careers. It’s about how to pursue the infinite game of life of business with an infinite mindset. When we do, we have ever-greater trust, cooperation, and innovation.
BRYAN WISH: Well, I am so excited to read it. The work sounds incredible. It applies, like you said, to the individual, both in and beyond their career. I know I personally pre-ordered it at least six months ago. Stephen, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your stories, ones that are raw, real, deep, and maybe a little less business-y than our audience is used to. I know you’re going to have a huge impact on our listeners. Thank you for your vulnerability in sharing.