Look for People Who Believe What You Believe

[Update: The discussion in the comments—on this site and on some of my other profiles—has made me realize that my post title, “Look for People Who Believe What You Believe,” is misleading and unintentionally provocative. It isn’t meant to be a blanket statement about how to live life. Rather, it’s about how we develop meaningful relationships—and come to trust others—in particular contexts. I hope watching the video will reveal how Sinek’s message is far more complex and nuanced than my unhelpful and simplistic title summary!]

I’ve loved Simon Sinek ever since I heard his TED talk, Start With Why.

The 99 Percent has now made his more recent talk available, “If You Don’t Understand People, You Don’t Understand Business.” It’s a half-hour talk, and it’s worth every minute of your time.

But if you don’t have time, here are a few important soundbites. For anyone concerned about being more human in marketing and social media (as well as everyday life!), this is a must-watch. If you read my post yesterday, then you know the importance of building community. But your question might be: How do I find my community?

That’s what this is all about—from a big-picture perspective.

When we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe, trust emerges. … We need trust. When we’re surrounded by people who believe what we believe … we’re more willing to take risks, we’re more willing to experiment (which requires failure), we’re more willing to explore and go somewhere that no one has ever gone before, with the confidence that if we fail, if we trip over, if we turn our backs, that those within our community … will look after us while we’re gone, will pick us up when we fall over … Our very survival depends on it.

We’re not good at everything. We’re not good by ourselves. … We all have our certain strengths and our certain weaknesses, and the goal isn’t to fix your weaknesses, the goal is to amplify your strengths, and to surround yourself with people who can do what you can’t do.

But it’s just not based on skills and application and experience; it’s based on what you believe. Simply being good at something and having somebody else being good at what you’re no good at doesn’t mean you will trust each other. Trust comes from the sense of common values and common beliefs.

If I ask you to go out on the street and find all the people who believe what you believe, you know exactly what to do. You’re going to strike up conversations, you’re going to start talking to people. Either you’ll have a good feeling about them, or you won’t. … Sometimes it’s quick, sometimes it’s slow. But we know how to do it. It’s called making friends, it’s called dating, it’s called networking. We have the innate ability to do it.

The problem is it’s not scalable. The problem is you’re the only one who had that gut feeling.

But if you know the symbols to look for, if you know how to see the things that people are doing and you can find them … [If they have a symbol], if they have something they’re giving off that says something about who they are and what they believe … [then you trust them].

We don’t trust everyone. We trust people within our community. But you have to know what to look for. Every decision we make in our lives is a piece of communication. It’s our way of saying something about who we are and what we believe. This is why authenticity matters. This is why you have to say and do the things you actually believe. Because the things you say and do are symbols of who you are. And we look for those symbols so we can find people who believe what we believe. … So if you’re putting out false symbols, you will attract people to those symbols but you won’t be able to form trust with them.

The goal of putting something out there: If you say what you believe and you do what you believe, you will attract people who believe what you believe.

The more you can give of yourself, the more you can give of what you believe, the more you can with discipline say and do the things you actually believe, strange things start to happen … Simply because of one tiny little symbol that was put out there that we are from the same place, we may have the same values, we may have the same beliefs, we’re drawn to each other, and [then] we legitimately trust each other and more importantly, will look out for each other.

You’ll have to watch the video to find out how Simon earned a homeless person more money in 2 hours than in a full day of begging. And I hope you do watch. The real impact of this video (and his message) comes from his anecdotes/examples, and in the genuineness of his delivery. He is a joy to listen to.

As a P.S., anyone not feeling fulfilled in their work ought to watch RIGHT NOW.

Posted in Life Philosophy, Marketing & Promotion, Work-Life.

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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Great video, Jane. I watched it last night. Thanks for sharing!

John Carpenter

I’ve learned quickly this past year that not everyone who shares my profession or my desire to grow in that profession via social media necessarily shares my values about the work we do or how to do it.  It’s created a tricky road to negotiate as I make new connections, but the connections are still worth it.  The important thing is for me to be really clear about what I stand for, and making sure that what I do online reinforces that.  
Good post, Jane.  Thanks!

Carley Centen

Why should trust require shared values and beliefs? Further, is this even a desirable goal to pursue? He’s a good speaker, but after 10 minutes of little real substance I tuned out..  If we’re surrounded by people who simply validate our own beliefs, I don’t know why it would follow that we’re more likely to take risks and experiment. It would seem intuitive that the opposite would just as easily hold sway – we would be less likely to question, less likely to explore, because we would be exposed to less new ideas and would not seek to go against… Read more »

Good points, Carley. I think the “shared values” message and the “trust” message need to be distinguished more clearly. I, for instance, trust a lot of people (on my local volunteer dept, in my academic dept, etc) who stand by ideologies that are radically different from mine. Sinek does mention the importance of diversity within organizations — and how it challenges us to think more creatively — but he doesn’t explore this in detail, at least not in this talk.

P.S. “Local volunteer dept” should have read “local volunteer fire dept.” Amazing how my proofreading improves right after I hit “send” or “submit.”


I love the post and the angle that Sinek speaks from. I think I have quite a few things to say on this subject. Going to read through the comments so I can return and participate in a better capacity.

Glen C Strathy

The downside is that you see people splitting into groups that stridently believe certain things (about politics, religion, ethics, etc.) and cutting themselves off from groups that believe differently. Yes, you get trust and support within a group, but if you only talk to people who believe what you believe you also lose broader perspective and create a lot of friction between groups. Perhaps, as Marshall McLuhan might say, the old conflicts between the individual and society are being replaced with conflicts between tribes. And just as there have been always people who didn’t fit with society, now there are… Read more »


Inner belief is the best way of living sometimes thinking outside the box is the best way of thinking sometimes we all sit on the fence at some stage or another . At the end of the day we all make our mistakes and learn from them ,some of us are very vocal and others are quietly confidenent . Trust is a very hard thing in todays world but has to be done in everyday life no matter what the out come . Very good speaker but at the end of the day confidence in ourselves and others isnt always… Read more »


Look for People Who Believe What You Believe | Jane Friedman:I have enjoyed this immensely. I feel that ‘Empathy can be brought to bear toward many engagements and that is where my best personal communication success shows itself. The statement of ‘hey I can work with anyone, comes to mind.  The Experience of empathy with another in spite of all that is presented speaks of hard work indeed, more than just an intellectual exercise or a gap filler.

Dawn Allen

Wow! This guy was amazing.

Peter Ramirez

Thanks for the post! When we are trying to build community as writers, for example, it makes good business sense to seek those who share a common culture. The truth is we all have cultures that we identify with, those we don’t. It is a fact of life, is it not? It is a product of our race, ethnicity, gender, geography, religious beliefs, even the football team we cheer for.So, won’t it take less energy (and if you’re your own business manager, agent, etc. how you use your energy is important) to build a fledgling community with those who believe… Read more »

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