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This article was published on May 5, 2011

Why the Human is a Social Animal [Report from the 99% Conference]

Why the Human is a Social Animal [Report from the 99% Conference]
Courtney Boyd Myers
Story by

Courtney Boyd Myers

Courtney Boyd Myers is the founder of, a transatlantic company designed to help New York and London based technology startups gr Courtney Boyd Myers is the founder of, a transatlantic company designed to help New York and London based technology startups grow internationally. Previously, she was the Features Editor and East Coast Editor of TNW covering New York City startups and digital innovation. She loves magnets + reading on a Kindle. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter @CBM and .

Today, at the 3rd annual 99% Conference in New York City, which sold out 5 months in advance, 380 advertising, design and related creative professionals and enthusiasts gathered for the first of 2 days of quality speakers and potential industry connections.

This year, The 99%, a part of the Behance Network, received the Webby award for best cultural blog. The ideas and trends site was named after the famous Thomas Edison quote: “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.” In somewhat of a paradigm, the conference’s first speaker, Simon Sinek was 99% inspiration, and 1% watery eyes.

Sinek, a Leadership Expert and Author of Start With Why, revealed a fresh way to look at fulfillment, communities and trust that seems as natural as sex itself, but is unfortunately ignored by most modern professionals, companies and particularly big brands.

The human is a social animal, dependent on trust. And trust comes from a sense of common values and beliefs. We seek commonality, which is why we love social networks; the immediate friendships on Facebook and the instantaneous connections on Twitter. It’s why when we’re riding the Paris Metro, and we hear an American accent, we say ‘Hello.’

If a country is a community with a common set of values and beliefs, a company should be the same thing because it is community that allows trust to emerge, says Sinek.

“When we trust, we’re more willing to experiment. We have the confidence that if we fail or trip over, that those who trust us will look after us. Our very survival depends on this. We’re not good at everything and we’re not good by ourselves… The goal is to amplify your strength and surround yourself with people who can do what you can’t do…”

-Simon Sinek

Every decision we make in our lives is a piece of communication. It’s our way of saying what we believe in. If you do what you say and what you believe, you will attract people who believe what you believe because, as human beings, we naturally surround ourselves with the people, products and brands that say something about who we are. “So screw market research. Your customers don’t want to tell you how to act,” he says.

In the work place, how do human beings really reach fulfillment? “It’s all about helping inspire people to do the things that inspire them,” says Sinek. It’s the ‘spirit of generosity‘ that illuminates this idea. “If we’re willing to give to the person next to us, it’s amazing what they’ll be willing to give back to you,” he says.

“Screw self-help. What about helping the person next to you?” he asks. You can be happy because you did some great things at work, but do you know how you feel fulfilled at work? It’s when you do something for someone else. So why do 90% of people not feel fulfilled from their jobs? It’s because nobody helps anybody anymore, he says.

Generosity is doing something for someone else and expecting nothing in return, ever. Giving isn’t an equation. It’s designed to help you feel good. Sex feels good because it was designed to feel good so that we will continue to procreate. When we inspire those around us, it feels good because it’s supposed to feel good. That sense of fulfillment that we get was designed so that we’ll do it more. It’s how the human species progresses.

Today, brands are like homeless people. It’s all “me, me, me!” in an attempt to get something from someone. Brands are takers, not givers: We’re #1. We’re the best, the biggest, the most efficient. In an experiment to prove his point, Sinek asked a homeless person who makes an average of $20-$30 per day if he could just change her sign. In under two hours, she made $40 (so she decided to go home, er leave to go wherever). What did the sign say?

“If you only give once a month, please think of me next time.”

“Make the message about them, not about you. 100% of customers are people. 100% of clients are people. 100% of employees are people. I don’t care how good your design is, your marketing, etc. We are social animals…If you don’t understand people, you don’t understand business,” said Simon Sinek, closing out his speech today to a room ready to do nearly anything for the person sitting next to them.