The Most Powerful Business Success Strategies That Make All the Difference – Subir Chowdhury – #419
By: Dave Asprey
Why you should listen –
Subir Chowdhury, one of the world’s leading management thinkers and consultants, a prolific author, and the CEO of ASI Consulting Group, joins Dave to discuss his latest book, “The Difference”. From the lessons learned when you fail, to the meaning and power of Subir’s “STAR” principles, to why attitude is everything, Dave finds out how Subir saves his clients billions of dollars with his process improvement methodologies. You won’t want to miss this incredible conversation with the best-selling author of “The Power of Six Sigma” and “The Ice Cream Maker”, who shares some amazing stories with Dave!
Enjoy the show!
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If you like today’s episode, the thing to do is head on over to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. In fact, you can hold off on doing that until the end of the show, because today’s show is going to be amazing.
Today’s guest has written 15 books. He’s one of the world’s leading management thinkers and consultants, works with Fortune 500 companies to improve their processes, their operations, their quality and performance. You might say, “Dave, this is a show about bio-hacking human performance. Why do you have a leading management thinker on the show?” I’ll tell you, because if you want to improve your performance, there’s probably no better way than to pay attention to what this man has to say. I’m not alone in that, because … you might’ve heard of some of his books, but guys like Tony Robbins just endorsed his last book called “The Difference” and says, “If you’re looking to create breakthroughs in your business and your life, this book is for you.”
So, this is a guy who’s spent an incredible amount of time just being aware and seeing how things work and doing it better. His name is Subir Chowdhury. He is most known for writing a book called the “Power of Six Sigma”. I was really touched by a book called “The Ice Cream Maker”, which is a very … you look at it, it’s a very thin book without a wasted word that is easy to read. It just tells you about how things actually work in companies and most of us spend our lives working in companies, not just as CEOs or entrepreneurs, but wherever they are. I was just really blown away. This is profoundly cool stuff. We’re gonna be talking about that today.
So, thanks for being on the show today, Subir.
Subir: Thank you so much for featuring me, finally.
Dave: Oh yeah, we’ve been working, by the way … I think I finally found someone with a travel schedule at least as aggressive as mine. So, by the time we could line up some time … Your book’s been out for about two months, hit the USA Today Best-Selling List in both India and the US, and is widely acknowledged. It’s your 15th one, for goodness’ sake.
For people who aren’t familiar with your body of work around “Six Sigma”, and around just improving the way people think about what they’re doing at work, how did you get to the point of writing your latest book, “The Difference”. Just kind of walk me through your path here.
Subir: Okay, as you know … First of all, thank you so much for featuring me. I really appreciate it. As you mentioned, this is my 15th book, “The Difference”. It came out, I believe in February 21st of this year.
The reason I wrote this book is about, as you mentioned, that I’ve been doing the process improvement consulting for last 20 years, and been working with mostly Fortune 500 companies globally. What happened is, normally by doing the process improvement, what I do is literally make the companies more efficient. What I mean by that is literally saving billions of dollars. Recently one of the US auto maker, I save almost three billion dollars in 16 months; three billion, by doing the process improvement.
Dave: I think half of the audience just heard management consultant and their eyes glazed over. You’re about the opposite of that. You are probably the most ass-kicking, most acknowledged expert in the field about going into big companies and making billion dollar changes. It’s not a small thing.
It’s also worth noting, too, that we got introduced from Jay Abraham, who’s also been a guest on BulletProof Radio, whose one of the world’s foremost marketing experts who connected us and was like, “You guys have to talk!”
But anyway, you’re about the opposite of the boring management consulting suit. You go in at the CEO level and shake things up in a way that’s remarkable and repeatable. You started out on process improvement, but “The Difference” was actually not about process improvement. What made you change from writing about processes, which is frankly impactful but boring. What happened?
Subir: What happened was, after doing it for almost for 15 years, around five years back, I hit a wall. One of my client is getting 10-X return, another of my client is 100-X return. So, think about this way, same size companies, similar revenue, for the same industry. For the sake of discussion, maybe GM and Ford, or maybe Boeing and Airbus. Suppose both of them hired me as a consultant, and I’ve been working with both of them, for GM and Ford, for the sake of discussion. They’re also using my process. Then one company is getting only 10-X return, and other one is getting 100-X return. So, I was puzzled by that.
Initially, my initial reaction was, “Maybe I’m not a good consultant. Maybe my teachings are flawed. Maybe the processes are not correct.” Initially, I was kind of blaming myself and my team. Then after a lot of research and everything else, and discussion with my colleagues and everything, what we found, no, the one process is giving 100-X return, maybe we should started these climbs.
Then what we find out, we thought, “Okay, who’s using the process? Maybe the people who are using the process, there might be flaw may be there.” At the end of the day, what I’ve done, I have done completely concentrating on 15 or 20 years on processes, rather than the people. So, the question is that, “What is the people? Who are the people in one organization?”
We started companies that are getting 100-X return, how is there people versus … When I say people, I’m talking about absolutely on the assembly line worker to all the way to the CEO level. What I find out is at the end of the day, one of the company which is getting the 10-X return, they don’t have the caring mindset. The companies who are into the 100-X return, they’re what I call as majority of the people has a caring mindset.
Then the question comes to, “What is caring mindset?” This book is all about: How can I teach an individual at any level in a company? Either can be an assembly line worker, or a janitor, to all the way to a CEO or Vice President of Engineering, whoever the person is, how can I teach them to double up their caring mindset? Because without the caring mindset, you may not get the best results from the process.
That’s what this book is all about, how anyone of us can make a difference, either our organization, or in our society, or in our community, or at your home. That’s what this book is all about.
Dave: Leaders of companies might obviously read this book, but this is written for people who also work at companies. You really kinda lay yourself bare in the book about how, “I’ve been phenomenally successful, but I hit a wall.” Sort of feeling like you failed a little bit. Then digging in on that saying, “All right. What’s going on here?” And you found out it wasn’t the process, it was actually the attitude and the energy of the people in the company that makes a company grow 100-X. And that it’s not just leadership, it’s everyone in the company, which means for everyone listening, you have a job, or maybe you don’t have a job, but you want a job, or you’re working in a volunteer organization, it doesn’t really matter.
Your attitude, which is something that you can directly control, something that you can directly hack, something that leaders of companies can also help to influence, that is the biggest variable. It’s not about did you follow a tip and a trick from a billionaire somewhere, although that might be helpful. It’s actually, did you have the right attitude when you approached the problem, when you approached the day. If you do what I did, people don’t know this, I used to put auto parts in boxes for a living. I’ve welded Toyota truck frames that were shipped to the same plant that today makes Tesla’s. They used to make Toyota trucks there, the Newman Plant in Fremont, I used to work in Central Valley.
Subir: Oh really?
Subir: Oh wow.
Dave: I don’t have any burns from that, in fact, I was a crappy welder. You should never drive a Toyota truck that I ever welded on, I’ll just tell you that. Not my secrete sauce.
In the book though, you discover this after many years of just kinda grinding on the variables to make this efficiency emerge when, okay, you’re efficient but people don’t care, it doesn’t matter.
Dave: You came up with an acronym called STAR in the book that I think listeners would care about. Can you walk us through what STAR is?
Subir: Yeah. STAR is basically that if somebody wants to double up a caring mindset, what are the human attributes that they really need? STAR is stand for Straightforward Thoughtful Accountable Result. Straightforward Thoughtful Accountable Result. If you really think about it, take a moment and think about it, each of this human attributes, like you yourself, as an individual, can these four things can be applied at your home, or at your community, or at your workplace? It can. Question is, some of these steps you have to practice, like each of us … Maybe I might be very good at accountable, or I might be very good with straightforwardness, but maybe I’m not good in thoughtfulness. Maybe I should demonstrate more thoughtfulness. Each of us have some strength and weaknesses, each of these four attributes. The book is all about how can these four elements, if any individual at any level can practice and double up these four elements, they can automatically double up their caring mindset.
Now, let me little bit digging into what is that straightforwardness? Right?
Subir: The reason we just kind of … You really enjoy that story, in fact in the book you might’ve been already read it. One day one of my client … I showed up in a client, it was in Michigan, the client was in Michigan. It was a very winter storm going on. I thought that I might be delayed because I was stuck with the traffic because of the winter storm. Finally, I arrived on time, because I’m into quality, I always try to, everything I do, try to do it on time. It’s very important.
Dave: That’s why … I just have to point out that I kept you waiting for 15 minutes to start this episode, and I knew that. I was like, “I feel like such a jerk.” But I was recording another episode and I couldn’t hang up in the middle. So, anyway, apologies.
Subir: No, no, no. Not that, but the good thing is this though, when you have done that, immediately your assistant also immediately texted me and made sure that you’re running 10 minutes late, which is very good. That shows you care. They contacted me on time, giving me the heads up you are finishing another interview. That’s great.
Dave: Awesome. Awesome.
Subir: Anyways, I showed up in his room. As soon as I showed up in his room, he is the vice president of quality of a Fortune Hundred Company. As soon as I walked in, he was kind of a little bit down.
He looked at me and he said, “Subir, what would you do after using a ‘you’re stupid?'”
So I looked at him, I said, “Steve, what’s going on?”
And he said, “No, no, no. I asked you a question. Can you please answer?”
I said, “What kind of question is that? What do I do after using a ‘You’re stupid?’ What I do with it?”
And he said, “Yes.”
I said, “Hey, look, before I respond …” I tried to talk him out of it. I said, “Look, before I respond, I understand that JD Power Report came out, you guys did not do as good in the JD Power Report, is your boss is upset? Is your boss is upset? Are you having a bad day? Is already the winter storm?”
He looked at me, he said, “Subir, forget about everything. I asked you a question. Answer the question.”
These are clients, so that means he means business. I said, “Steve, you really want the answer?”
He said, “Yes.”
So, I said, “If I use a toothpick. Automatically after using it, I throw it in the dustbin.”
So he looked at me and he said, “You don’t throw it anywhere in the floor?”
I said, “No. Why you asking this question?”
He said “Subir, I ask this question to the morning to my secretary, all my direct report, one by one, they thought I was asking a stupid question, but it still, I demanded an answer and everybody said they throw it on the dustbin. Now, here I am Vice President of Quality of a Fortune 100 company, and you are helping me on this quality process improvement, and I showed up in the 6 in the morning, in my boss’ office, CEO’s office, when I’m coming out of the office, you expect that my meaning is bad or good. I found that used toothpick on the floor.
So I said “So, what do you do with it?”
“I picked it up and throw it in the dustbin. But the point is this, point is, if I can find a used toothpick on the floor, in front of my CEO’s office, that tells me, you may find hundreds of toothpicks across the department, in any of our department. So you know what Subir? I don’t think people care.”
Right? That’s the way it started. He said, “That is the reason our JD Power Report is bad. Because in the meantime you are helping us in the process, but if our people does not care, this process doesn’t make any sense.”
So, I said, okay so he is the one, kind of gave me the idea about this book about this caring. The reason I mention this to you is, I kind of feel in America I think, it is not only in an organization in a work place, but also if you go to the churches or in your community, or even in politics, I think we are not as straightforward anymore. We are not open to each other. We are not honest with each other. There is a lot of fake culture going on, right? I’m very honest with you because of that, we as a country is giving the price.
Think of a company like Volkswagen. Volkswagen, it cost them billions of dollars recently because they intentionally installed a faulty software, intentionally. To tell the government, because mindset that government may not be able to catch them, we are German engineers or whatever, and ultimately, they get caught, right?
Subir: It’s not only Volkswagen. There’s 11 million diesel cars they deliberately installed the software to show their emission is doing good. Can you imagine that? Intentionally, intentionally! Think about the loss to the environment. They didn’t care, right?
Subir: The point is that, but I’m not suggesting. Every single employee of Volkswagen did something wrong. But the question is that there’s a lot of people out there who are making this type of decision, or hiding the information under the rug. Ultimately that surface.
Cornell University did a study. White collar crime in America costs annually $300 billion dollars. Billion. White collar crime, okay? So think about, this is not a blue collar, I’m talking about white collar crime, right. Think about the purpose of education. You are a white-collar executive, and you’re doing the crime and you’re graduating from Harvard or MIT and all of this. You know it’s sad. You know? I think there is the part, unless we become a straightforward to each other, unless we become honest with each other, and practice it.
Lot of the time people tell me, “Oh Subir, my colleague is …”
I say, “Look don’t blame on anybody else. Blame on yourself.” If there’s a problem, I blame to myself first. I try to see, “Okay, what are the things I’m doing, my action, so that my lower level is not as straightforward with me? Maybe I’m creating fear. Maybe I’m creating too much of pride. How can I make sure I create a culture?” Because if the reason people don’t become a straightforward, two reasons: Number one is the fear. Number two is the pride.
Lot of the time, fear means when you go straight the top of the top of the position of an organization, we create a culture as if, somebody lower level, we forget about our past because we don’t remember one time point of time in our life, we are in the lower level. We create a culture of the fear culture. I’m not suggesting that every company has that, but lot of company has that fear culture, from the bottom to the top, or middle, right?
The other issue is pride. Lot of the time we as an executive, we think we have all of the answer. Every day when I wake up, I think I’m the dumbest guy in the room. I feel that how do I know? How can I learn something from, even I’m coming over here, I wanted to hear your story, so I can learn something from Dave because I heard so many great things about you from Jay.
So life is all about the learning thing. I should not come over here to portray to you, “I’m THE expert of quality.” No, I’m trying to learn still quality.
Dave: I was intrigued when I read “The Difference” because you talk about pride negatively there. So many people tell their kids they’re proud of them, or there’s slogans for companies that are based on pride. Yet, you’re saying that culturally pride may not work as well?
Dave: How does that work?
Subir: So, think about that. There are two connotations of pride. One pride, one you described is a positive connotation. The negative connotation, what I’m talking about, I’m talking about suppose a lot of the senior level leadership, they feel that if they don’t know something, they should go directly to their colleague and say, “Look, I don’t know this. Can you please teach me this?”
Dave: Right, right.
Subir: They don’t do that! I ask those executives, “Why you don’t do that? Why you pretend that you know?” Suppose there’s a presentation going on, and they’re not getting the point. They pretend they’re getting the point. They ask some vague question, rather than not pretending it, asking a simple question, “Hey, I didn’t understand it. I don’t have that background. Can you little bit explain to me?” Right? When I’m setting this up in a Skype it took me little bit time okay? I’m not a technology savvy, or I’m not technological expert. You were trying to help me out. You were telling your colleague to help me out, so it took us couple of minutes to figure this out, right? I don’t have any problem to tell you if you say, “Subir, you dumb guy, you don’t know how to use the Skype.” That’s okay with me. That does not hurt my ego.
Subir: Because I do not want to position to you, “Oh my god, I have to show it to him. I know everything.” No. Some of this stuff can happen. I send the other audio stuff you have, it took me some time because it’s not working properly. So, I sent a couple of email, “Hey, it’s not working. I cannot still connect.” Right? There is nothing wrong with it because I don’t know, I should be straightforward about it. Even if you think, “I don’t know”, that’s okay. That pride I’m talking about.
Dave: So, it’s okay to not know something and something I’ve worked on at Bulletproof is creating a culture where it’s okay to fail.
Subir: Yes. Yes.
Dave: It’s not okay to fail the same way twice, because that means you weren’t paying attention.
Dave: But the first time when you’re trying something new.
Dave: Or you’re pushing your limits, I praise my kids for failing every day. If they didn’t fail, it wasn’t a good day.
Subir: Absolutely, right.
Dave: My employees are very far from my kids. They’re my partners and they support all that we do, at the same time, if they don’t feel safe failing, it comes down to that ego, and pride, and fear thing that you’re talking about.
Subir: No, the other thing what happen that even in the large corporation, lot of the time some of the leaders I find, or some of the managers, just to get the highest position, they do certain thing and kind of deceitful, or dishonest to the other colleagues to get to the top position, which is not good. I gave an example of, I talk about the story, in the story I talk about a gentleman named Nick. He was an executive. When I met him first time, he was a middle manager level. By the time he passed day job 51, 52, suddenly diagnosed with cancer, and now this gentleman, think about this. His whole life he led his life at any cost, at any cost, he wants to win, right?
Subir: So, he took all the credit for all of his colleague’s works and presented to his boss, and made sure those colleagues doesn’t get any of those credits, right? He had the guy … he ultimately got to the top position, no doubt about it. He got to the Chief Purchasing Officer whatever, suddenly he diagnosed with cancer, right? At the age of 51, right? Then he invited me, when he broke the story privately saying that doctor told him he had only two weeks to live, he’s asking me he said, “Subir, you have been mentoring me for so long. Can you teach me how to earn forgiveness?”
Dave: That’s amazing.
Subir: I said, “What do you mean by that?”
He said, “Subir, you need to teach me. I have only two weeks left. Can you teach me how to earn forgiveness?”
I said, “Forgiveness from who?”
He said, “Subir, you know how I earn this chair. You used to come to me, I never listen to you. You used to tell me all the great thing, hey no, you should not be hurtful to this person. Do you remember this Audrey? She left the job. She now work for my competition, and that whole particular product was completely done by her. I took all the credit. I got to the top position, and ultimately Audrey felt that I was stealing her ideas, and ultimately she could not do anything, and then she left the company. Now, I cannot die, I cannot die with peacefulness. Can I call her? What should I do? Do you think that she will forgive me?”
I said, “Why don’t you call Audrey?”
Ultimately, he called Audrey and Nick and Audrey talk. I don’t know what the part, ultimately what the conversation took place, but the bottom line is that I saw Audrey came to his funeral and was crying like a baby. The point is, what this gentleman did, he ultimately survives six months instead of two weeks. But ultimately, he tried his level best to lead a straightforward life. To lead an honest life. There is a gentleman named Randy Pausch, he’s the author of the book called “The Last Lecture”.
Subir: He’s a Carnegie Mellon Professor. Right? You remember?
Subir: He said something very profound. He said, “It is interesting the secrets you decide to reveal at the end of your life.” Right? That means when our days are numbered, we tend to become straightforward. My argument over here is that, these are one life. Try to be honest to each other. That’s it. There is the first element of the STAR.
Whatever we do, let us be honest with each other. Like, even in the … right now everything going on in America about the political situation, with Democrat and they hate Republicans, Republicans hate Democrats and all this stuff. Everything they talk about bad. Like when Obama was president, you know? Republicans are talking about how bad he, like Obama is. Now Trump is the president. Ultimately, the country is paying the price. Ultimately, the country is suffering. A lot of the fakeness coming out of it because our goal is to … how to put somebody else down. Rather than not thinking about how we can be honest with each other. That’s what that straightforwardness is all about.
Dave: Now people who are listening are getting a sense of why I think that it’s worth their time to read “The Difference”, because you tell stories like this that can almost bring a tear to your eye. This is a book about corporate leadership.
Dave: And about culture, but the stories are real. These are from very powerful executives, CEO’s of Ford and companies like that. But this is something that everyone listening can pay attention to, which is, if you’re holding a grudge, or you wronged someone and benefited from it. You think it’s not costing you? No, it does cost you. Every time you troll someone on the internet, every time you waste your energy hating some person in some political office, I don’t even care which party it is. That energy is coming back to you.
Subir: Exactly. Exactly, yes Dave. That is so critical. Then my next point within the STAR, like straightforward and the thoughtful. Thoughtful is all about … my goal, even the thoughtful in my viewpoint is much more attentive to others, considerate to others, unselfish, helpful to others. It’s not my intent, it’s not like to pretend that I can transform the whole human race or everybody to become, act like a Mother Theresa. That is not my goal, right?
Subir: That is not my goal, right? But my goal is that if you … when is the last time you go to your colleague and say, and put your hand on their shoulder and say, “Hey buddy, you look like you a little bit down. Hey, can I help you? You look a little bit down. Normally, you’re a cheerful guy, and today you are down. What’s happening buddy? Is there any way can I take you for lunch?” or, “Can I have a coffee?”.
Now what we do, when there is a … in corporation, now you go around during lunchtime, we are looking at our iPhone like this. We are sitting having lunch, and iPhone like this right? Not thinking about that, should we be thoughtful to each other, right? One of the story I talk about in the book about the thoughtfulness, I was taking a flight from Los Angeles to Detroit and obviously, I feel very lucky. My air travel, or the travel expenses always paid by client, and I normally get first-class cabin.
Subir: I get into the flight. I was on the aisle seat, and everybody is getting into the flight, and then in the first-class cabin they’re serving the drinks, right as you know. They’re serving the drinks. Now, there is an older gentleman, like maybe 75, 80 years old gentleman. He took the seat on the first row on the economy, right? He noticed that we have been served drinks, so he asked the flight attendant for a glass of water.
He said, “Can I get a glass of water?”
Flight attendant looked at him and said, “Look, we don’t serve any drink to the economy class passengers until the flight takes off.”
He looked at her again and said, “Ma’am, I understand. I’m looking for a glass of water. I’m very thirsty. It took me so long to walk over here. Can I just get a glass of water?”
She just gave a look saying, “I already told you.”
Now, there is a gentleman, young gentleman, just sitting another aisle chair in the first-class cabin. What he did, he immediately went in and poured a glass of water, and then served to that person. The reason I tell that story, it’s not about that, okay, the stewardess is not thoughtful and did not serve them. That is one part of the story. Second part of the story, I was blaming myself why I did not become that young man who served that glass of water, right?
Subir: So, I was blaming myself, why in my brain I did not take that chance and take that step. I think that’s very, very important because in this process, the reason I’m explaining this to you, because being thoughtful is a two-step process. First step is listening, okay? I did not listen. I hear what he was saying, but in my brain I did not adopt it as listening. Most of the time when you’re talking, you’re continuously hearing each other, but you’re not listening.
When we truly listen, that means we are putting ourself in somebody else’s shoes. Then you will listen, right?
Subir: As soon as you are putting yourself in somebody else’s shoe, that means you are listening to that person. I did not listen, right? Think about that part. This incident happened almost two years ago, and you know that recent story about United and all this right, dragging the passenger and all this stuff, right? That even validated more about my book, because I didn’t even talk about that side of the story. That is even worse! But even thinking about not serving that, do you think that particular airline fired that flight attendant if she served that drink of water to a 75-year old? No. But the problem in our society now, we don’t care anymore.
So, every single day when I wake up, every single day when I wake up, I just ask myself only one thing: what is the one thing I can do to another human being? What is the one thing positive I can do to another human being? Think about that way. Think about any of your listener, they think anything, so even … What happens is when I do that, lot of the time I might be driving in the street and suddenly I saw the cops, right? I just stop by, introduce myself and said, “Sir, thank you so much for serving in our community. I really appreciate it.” This guy thought I’m a crazy guy, but I still wanted to give my positive energy to this person, and since every minute. You know, every single day if you think about what is the one thing you can do better for another human being, life would be good, you know?
Dave: That reminds me of two things, Subir. One is, when I interviewed Jay Abraham on Bulletproof Radio, he talked about how when he goes to Japan, or to China, he’ll go to every floor and meet the maids, and just say thank you. Even though they don’t necessarily understand the same language, and how it completely gives him energy, but also how it makes their day as well, just by being aware and thoughtful like that.
The other thing is, when I taught my kids, “Name three things you’re grateful for, one thing you failed at, which I praise greatly, one thing you won at, and then one act of kindness for another person.” They list that every single night. It’s that act of kindness that’s a part of our bedtime ritual, that I’m working to instill that in them, because I think it matters.
Subir: It matters yes.
Dave: Just being aware that you did something. If they go through and say, “I didn’t do anything nice for another person.” When you’re seven, you can always find something, “I did the dishes!” But it gets more complex as they grow, and I would like to see more of that in our society. I fundamentally believe that if you’re stressed out and hungry and you’re eating crap, and you’re in pollution, it’s very hard to be kind to others because you’re just too tired. That’s part of my mission is to fix that.
Subir: Right. So, there is the thing like when you go to a large organization, you may not find that.
Subir: Lot of the time you don’t find that thoughtfulness, so if you can really bring them in. Then you will find, “wow”. The thing is, it is not … you cannot be like point fingering each other, rather than you point finger at yourself and you say, “Look, what can I do? I don’t need somebody else to teach me about thoughtfulness.” It can be, a very small gesture matter, you know?
Subir: That is the whole point. After reading “The Manuscript”, one of the executive of a Fortune 100 company invited me to discuss about the difference. I said okay, so I showed up in his office, and I asked, and he was praising about the book. I said, “Hey look, praising about the book a lot made me happy. Tell me what is the one or two things you have done by reading the book that you practice, or you wanted to discuss with me.” He said, “Subir, to be very honest with you” … out of the four element I talk about straightforward, thoughtful, accountable, and the result. Out of these four, tell me one area you are doing pretty good, I asked him. That you are very proud about yourself.
He said, “Very honest with you, I go to church every week and I think everybody tells me I’m a very thoughtful guy.”
I said, “Okay. Should I take your test?”
He said, “Sure.” He said, “Sure!”
I said, “Okay, I’m going to take your test on thoughtfulness.”
He said, “Okay.”
I just generally, I said, “Hey you know you work very hard. I know you for a long time. Last time when I engaged with you for almost two years, I didn’t see you a single day you took a vacation. Are you still working hard like that?”
He said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
So I said, “When is the last time you took a vacation?”
He said, “Believe it or not, I finally took a vacation about two weeks ago.”
I said, “Okay, tell me about your vacation.” What he did Dave, he talked for 15 minutes non-stop about his vacation and so excited and everything else. After I listened to all of this, I said, “Thank you so much for sharing your positive energy with me. I’m so pleased to know you had a blast on your vacation.”
I said, “Look, you booked me for one hour. I ask you a simple question, “Hey what did you do on your vacation?” You non-stop talk for 15 minutes about your vacation. Thank you. You gave me some positive energy, but 15 minutes gone. Let me ask you this, “what person think, or how many minutes you spend talking about this vacation stories, your vacation positive energy, you gave it to your direct reports.”
He looked at me and he said, “Subir, you know our company culture.”
I said, “Excuse me, what do you mean by your company culture?”
He said, “Subir, we don’t talk like that way. I cannot, I’m the executive in this level. I cannot talk to my direct reports about my vacation.”
I said, “Why not?” I said, “Let me ask you another question. If I died today, are you going to fly from Detroit to Los Angeles to attend my funeral?”
He said, “I don’t think so. If I have a job and I don’t have that kind of relation, I want to be honest with you.”
I said, “You know what, I appreciate your honesty. I may not also come to your funeral because if I have another consult or engagement because we are not that close, but let me ask you this. If you died today, do you think your direct reports would go to your funeral?” I asked him.
He said, “Subir, I think so.”
I said, “Think about this. Here I am, you share your positive energy for 15 minutes talking to me and giving your positive energy where you know in your heart I’m not even attend your funeral, and the people that work every single day, giving their 110% to make you successful, and you are not sharing your positive energy, or your vacation with them. What is wrong with you?”
He said, “Subir, what should I do?”
I said, “You change the system. You become your own self, the change. So you change the system.” Believe it or not Dave, last six months, he’s trying to do that; continuously trying to do his level best. Do you know what I’m saying?
Dave: I do. I’m going to blatantly ask you for some free consulting now.
Dave: I’ve been working on that at Bulletproof as well, and one of the things we do, when the senior leadership team gets together on our weekly call, we spend the first few minutes where everyone on the team talks about something they’re grateful for. Meetings are usually on a Monday or Friday. It can be, “I’m grateful we had the best week ever at work.” But it’s quite often, “My daughter graduated from high school or got married” or “It was sunny this weekend and just went out with the family.”
We talk about stuff like that. It actually changes the tone of the meetings. It’s really powerful and all that, at the same time sometimes you only have an hour and you’ve already spent 15 minutes of the hour with people sharing their gratitude, and then you don’t get the work done. So, how do you balance that out when you have a group of people like that? The energy is valuable, but getting the meeting done is valuable as well.
Subir: See, a lot of the time it depends on the situation. So, the question will be, a lot of the time what you have to do is that depending on your organization, if you’re the CEO, you may not have to do it every single day or every single week, but what you do is even when you come out of the vacation or something you did significantly good outside of your work, you coming in and you calling everybody saying, “Hey buddies, I miss you guys for last two weeks I was on vacation. I went to Europe, come over. I want to talk with all of you.” Then you share your story; what you have done that excited you. Tell them you genuinely miss them if you did miss them, or your work.
If it is not, then you don’t tell them. Then you tell them, “You know what, I had a miserable day at that time over there on this assignment, and I wanted to share with you guys, I’m already stressed out. I want to be very blunt with you, so what I expect from you guys, I might be screaming at all of you, I might be ride to all of you. Don’t be pissed off or anything like that, because I’m in a bad state of mind. I wanted you guys. I still love you guys, but I need to share with you because I had a bad time with that two weeks.”
So, be honest and I think because you are demonstrating your authenticity, and without any warning, without any formal way. If you do it in a formal way, you may not get that information because what will happen will be, when you put as a system that every time, or every day, or every week, they have to report. What happens? “Oh my god, today we have to go to the meeting.” These people will be talking about, “He is going to ask what I’m grateful for,”
No. Rather than, without any preparation, suddenly you ask them or you go for a walk. Lot of the time what I did in lot of the very large corporation, I even push the senior leadership, push them out of their office and told them to go for a walk on their department. They don’t know how to react! I told them, “Be human. Just go there and put your hand to a guy.”
“They’ll be shaking up.”
I said, “That’s okay. If they shake up say ‘buddy, why you shaken up?'”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah I’m this. I’m Vice President of this, and you’re an engineer.”
“So what buddy. Let’s talk about it.”
Treat them as a human. The problem is that the more, more I feel the CEO’s or Chief Financial Officer, any of the senior leaders, more they can bring their human perspective to the work place, they’ll be better. Like Mother Theresa think about that. She never, even when she went to Nobel Prize Ceremony, she was still talking from her heart that she didn’t do anything. She did nothing. She is still in pain because there are still so many people are dying in the street of Calcutta. That is bothering her, you know what I’m saying?
So, anyway the next point I wanted to talk with you about the accountable.
Dave: Yeah, let’s talk about accountability.
Subir: Accountable is much more like taking a personal responsibility, right? Traditionally, especially in a large company or a small company, when the problem happened, our mentality is, “It’s not my problem. It’s all somebody else’s problem, right?” Then you come up with your stories, how you can get out of it. Rather than we never say, “Hey, this is an organization I’m working for, even if my colleague screwed up, you know what my paycheck is coming from this company. I think I should go there and I should defense … no no no. Problem also belong to me.” Question is that we don’t feel that we are accountable enough. I wanted to mention to you, a quote Mother Theresa said, amazing quote. She said, “Do not wait for leaders, do it alone.” Do not wait for leaders, do it alone.
When Mother Theresa did what she did, we made her a saint later, after she died, right?
Dave: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Subir: But, she never went to Catholic church or pope, or whatever to ask them, “Pope, I want to save some lives, and then I want to be a nun.” She didn’t say any of that. She just went there and she found some people are dying and she wants to give them the food, and try to give them a hand. That’s it. One at a time, right? So I think the real question would be any problem you see, if you always think you are personally responsible, personally accountable, you can make a difference.
Let me give you a phenomenal story, in fact you would be surprised. She is one of my hero, and she’s only 13 years old. Thirteen year old. A 13-year old Chicago girl, her name is Trisha Prabhu, Chicago girl she might be 16, 17 now. She one day coming from school, and she found out an 11-year old girl died, committed suicide because of cyber bullying. She read that. As soon as Trisha read that, a 13-year old girl read that in another state an 11-year old girl died because of cyber bullying, she basically said enough is enough.
She said, “I don’t care. That means my parents, it doesn’t matter what they say. They cannot help me.” All of these adults, she gave up. She said, “I’m have to go to the front line. I’m going to solve the problem.” Then what she did she started researching, researching, researching, long story short she came up with an app called Rethink and you can check this out, Rethink, okay? What it did is that, what she found out the adolescent brain when they’re trying to do something if you put a wall in front of them, 90% of the time they will stop. They will not do it. Rethink what it does, anytime you use social media you are typing something negative, which might be a heartfelt message to somebody, if you have a Rethink app, Rethink app will come to you and say, “Are you sure you want to put this message and it will harm somebody else?”
Do you know what is the result? Ninety-three percent of person who use this app decided not to post harmful message. Think about that.
Dave: That is … that is huge. Wow.
Subir: That is huge, right? And now Facebook, Google, and everybody is promoting. Trisha became big hero into this community. She is giving speeches all over the world. Now, think about that. A 13-year old girl wants to take the personal responsibility in their hand. “I’m accountable for it.” If you ask me today, am I optimistic about America, everything going up, I say, “Absolutely, 110% I’m optimistic.” Why? Subir Why? Even this Paris deal didn’t go through, this that everything still I’m optimistic.
Subir: Because if you every single day when you wake up and you think that you can make a difference, and if there is a problem I kind of feel that how I can make a difference myself. I wanted to reach out. For example right now, one of the thing I wanted, because the current U.S. president I know him very well, we did some … we had a business relationship in the past. I’m trying to talk with them, if there’s any one particular department in federal government I can make a difference for process improvement. Because you know, their process is broken. I passionately believed in it, and I wanted to make a difference. Do you know what I’m saying?
Subir: I think personal accountability always comes to, you know I talk about five things. Being aware of something needs to be done. That is number one. Number two is the taking the personal responsibility. Number three would be you have to make a choice or a decision to act on it, and number three would be you have to think about very deeply, what is the consequences of your action? Lot of the time, we come up with something. Like if I know my message might be hurtful to you, am I pausing and thinking, “You know what I don’t want to offend Dave. This may not be the right thing to do.” Do you know what I’m saying? We don’t take that time. So even, suppose you are even a different political party, I’m a different political party and we have a big fight. I should not offend you in any way. We should have a different viewpoint, but that doesn’t mean that we have to offend each other. Do you know what I’m saying?
Subir: But that’s what is going on in society right now. The fifth thing is that, when you take the personal accountability you always have to set the high expectation.
Dave: The idea of being accountable for what your words do, it’s entirely possible to disagree. I see this all of the time in the world of nutrition and bio-hacking. Where someone who disagrees with you immediately gets attacked, and it’s like, “No. We might disagree on science, but I’ve had people on who promote Whole Food veganism and things that I know biologically don’t work for many people.”
Dave: But I’m happy to have the conversation to disagree, and to be cordial and respectful.
Subir: Yes, yes.
Dave: And that’s how science happens. As soon as you get the tribal stuff, which is funny because your first thing about being straightforward, you can be straightforward in a non-aggressive, non-harmful way and still get things done.
Subir: Yes, yes.
Dave: And what you’re talking about accountability here, if your straightforward and you’re a total jerk, you didn’t do it right.
Subir: You are absolutely right.
Dave: You didn’t hit it.
Subir: Yes, yes, yes, yes. They are kind of interconnected too.
Subir: And that’s why when Jay read the book or Tony read the book, they felt every one of those element is also kind of dependent on each other. They have a symbiotic relationship, you know?
Dave: They do have a symbiotic relationship. That’s why I think it’s a profound book that goes far beyond leadership, and that’s why it’s a Best Seller. Also, I probably didn’t give you the best introduction here because something else that you write about, you’re very humble in your writing. You talk about how in 1991, you came to the U.S. to attend graduate school.
Dave: You flew for 56 hours from Bangladesh, which is one of the poorest countries in the world, and you’re looking to save money. What happened when you got here? The reason you know you are the way you are, it’s an amazing almost unbelievable story, but it’s real. So, what happened when you landed?
Subir: Yeah. Right, so that is my story about resolve. You know, the last part of the book.
Dave: Yeah, yeah.
Subir: Think about this. I came over there and my professor told me that, “If you come to America, if you come to the college at least two weeks prior, then you have a very high chance of getting the scholarship because I wanted to work with you, and then you don’t have to worry about your tuition, nothing.”
I said, “Okay.” So I trusted him. I declined all the other schools, and I came over there with the professor. As soon as I walked in, I came three weeks early, instead of two weeks because I wanted to impress him. I wanted to work for free for three weeks.
As soon as I walked into his office he looked at me and he said, “Hey, you supposed to come next week. Why you come one week early?”
I said, “Sir, you told me two weeks early. I came three weeks early because I wanted to work more for you, so that you might get to know me even better, and you are not paying me the scholarship. It will start three weeks from now.”
He said, “Hey. I need to tell you something. Unfortunately, the scholarship was given to somebody else.”
This is my first day in America. First day in America! I’m the first generation from both my parents side. The first person who came to U.S. in 1991, right?
Subir: I don’t have any other relatives so nobody. Later on my sister migrated after I came, but nobody. Of course, I know some college friends or whatever. They came a little bit before me. But, here I am and I was declined and you would think … so I cried, I did everything possible to convince the professor that “Sir, you cannot do that. I don’t have any money.”
He said, “Sorry. I’m so sorry it did not work out.”
I came to my room, and I felt that this is not the reason that I came to America. I said, “Maybe I have a choice.” A lot of the other international students I talked with. Some Indians, and Bangladeshis they come to me and they say, “Subir don’t worry about it. You can work illegally. You can …”
I said, “Nope! I don’t want to be illegal.”
“You can make some money.”
I said, “Nope! I don’t want to be illegal.”
Then what I did, I went in and I kind of meditate myself, and then I thought, “I’m going to go after this myself, and resolve this.” I challenged to myself, saying that I’m going to resolve it, because this is America. Everything I read in the book. Everything I see in the television and everything else, this is America. There is no way so many people in the world talk about the American Dream, and it’s unreal. I said, “That cannot be true. I have to resolve it. Maybe it is a test I have to go through.”
What I did, I went to every single department, every single department I think it’s like 23 or 24 department I went. Trying to convince them, what can I do for them? Ultimately, after the 22nd or 23rd department, mathematics department the head chairman. I was humiliated within that process. I went to English department, Journalism department, and I had a degree in Aerospace Engineering when I came, right? I’m trying to convince all of them, and I was rejected, rejected, rejected. Some professors say, “Are you out of your mind? Just don’t waste my time. Get lost.” Like that. Went to all these. Ultimately, still I didn’t give up. Mathematics department chair listen to me and he said, “Wow. You went to 22 department? You badly needed the money.”
I said, “Sir, yes sir.”
He said, “How about this? I’ll give you some loan.”
I said, “No sir. I have to earn on my own. I graduated from one of the top schools in India called II. I need to …”
He said, “Okay, look. I’m going to introduce you to faculty. There’s no guarantee. Right now there is a fellowship that will be given, but they are interviewing a lot of candidates, but it might be too late, but we may still give you a chance. Looks like let us discuss.”
Okay. Long story short, is that he introduced me a professor, then I went to the interview process for three or four interview processes. Ultimately, only one student has to be selected, and I got selected by Dow Chemical. It is the Dow Chemical Fellowship. Dow paid for my whole Master’s degree.
Dave: Is that why they call it an endowment?
Subir: Yeah, yeah, yeah, right right.
Subir: It is a fellowship on doing the research on polymer. On polymer!
Dave: Okay, wow. As an aerospace engineer, which is not even your … yeah.
Subir: You know what I did after I met with the professor one I find out what is the topic of the research? From that professor’s room, three days later I’m supposed to have an interview with the Dow researcher. Non-stop for two days I was in the library, constantly reading and started teaching myself preparing for the interview on the polymer research on polymer. Ultimately, the point is, not only it helped me, plus that research, that graduate research got the Best Thesis Award for the university when I graduated.
Then one after another came, but the point is that think about at that moment. Even at that time, I was shortage of $200 before the fellowship kicks in. I was shortage of $200. I went to a bank. Bank rejected, rejected, right? Then, I tried my level best so I told this manager looking at her and said, “Ma’am.”
She said, “Do you have a collateral?”
I said, “Ma’am, I just landed in America. I don’t know anybody. What do you mean by collateral? How about you? You become my collateral.”
She said, “I’m the bank manager.”
I said, “So what? If I’m your brother, do you think that you’ll not become …”
She looked at me and she said she remembered.
I said, “Ma’am if you ever change your mind, why don’t you call me.” I left that.
Next, she could not sleep whole night. She remembers because I told her that, “If I’m your brother, are you going to decline me, you loan me my collateral? Why do you think that I’m not your brother?” And she’s a white, Michigan lady, right, American lady and here I am landed in America. She’s the first person I invited for my graduation ceremony.
Subir: Think about that when I graduated, because that $200 in my viewpoint is much more needed, I’m much more desperate for that then even right now for like $20,000. You know what I’m saying?
Dave: Oh yeah. I know exactly what you’re saying. Here’s a question though. I run a very, high-end executive branch training facility. Your story reminds me a lot of Vishen Lakhiani, who’s run Mindvalley, who’s the largest online meditation thing. Tens of millions of people look at his stuff. He’s a friend. And I’ve looked at the brain of other people who’ve been able to enact change, even in somewhat desperate circumstances, like that, and there are common things in those people’s brains. They have the ability to just make it happen, in a way that it is non-linear, and it is non-obviously, but it’s a predictable brain pattern. You probably have that. I would bet a substantial sum that if we looked at your brain waves, that I could predict at least a directional thing there.
Subir: Maybe, yeah.
Dave: Do you think that everyone out there with resolve will get similar results? Was it just resolve, or that you have an innate ability to make stuff happen that’s unique.
Subir: That’s an excellent question. I obviously, I’m not the scientific researcher, and obviously there is a Carol Dweck wrote a book called “The Mindset”.
Subir: A Stanford University professor, which kind of inspired me to write this difference as well. Carol said something very profound after the research and doing all of this research. What she said is that, “You can change your mind. You can do it, if you have the attitude.”
Subir: That convince me. That convince me. One of the thing I always talk about, if you ask me who is my leadership guru, or who is the people I admire the most, or who taught me on leadership. Honestly it was very tough question because when I was finishing my manuscript, after I finished the manuscript after writing the first five chapters of “The Difference”, when I sent it to my editor at Random House, after he read it, Roger came back to me and said that, “Subir, I love it. Everything is great after the fifth chapter, but you have to double up another chapter.”
I said, “For what?”
He said, “Rita wants to know about your own story. Who taught you this STAR principle. Can you share that?”
I said, “That is a good question.”
He said, “You’ll figure it out.”
I said, “Oh my god.” Then I went in and I tried to figure it out. Who is the foundation? Do you know what? There is only three people came out: My father, my mother, and my grandfather. None of the leadership guru, none of the Jack Welch, or Marshal [inaudible 01:00:00], nobody. Why them, right? The reason is that what I felt some of the ingredient or games my grandfather played, in fact in the book I talk about my grandfather used to give me a coin and a pen. He said, “Subir, choose one of the two.” Every time I choose the coin, he said “Subir, never choose coin. Always choose pen.”
I said, “Why?”
“Because once you choose the coin, whatever the purchase you make, after that is done. But in pen, if you choose the pen, it continues to create. Your pen you are writing, first be an example, you can write all the way up to your graduate program exam. Same pen.”
At that time, I didn’t understand the details of it. But what he also said, he said “Pen also create, so think about this way. If you read a book, it’s written by somebody. What do you do? You as a reader, if you read the book, if you don’t like the book you write to the author why you didn’t like. If you like it, you also tell them what you like. If you dislike, you also tell them what you dislike.
I said, “Grandpa, I’m 7-year old, I’m 8-year old. If I write to them, they may not reply to me.”
He said, “Subir, if they don’t reply. Write it again.”
I said, “Grandpa, if I write to hundred letters, they don’t reply.”
He said, “Write hundred and first letter.”
I said, “Grandpa, why you say that? Do you really …”
He said, “Subir, miracle will happen. Always remember any human being is achievable. Like reachable. So, what you do? You start writing.”
Guess what happened? By the time I was only 12-years old, 12-years old okay, when I was 12-years old I was dining with some of India’s top [inaudible 01:01:53], some fantastic fiction writing authors. I was dining with some actor and some actress. All type of people became my friend. Musician, brilliant painter, because what happened? Power of the pen. I used to write to them.
Now, when I came to America, when I wrote my first book I used the same my grandfather principle. At that time, I was not a known name equality. I was 26 years old. My first book came out called “The Cure is 9,000 Pioneers”, but my determination was, every single living quality gurus, Dr. Taguchi, Phil Crosby, JD Power, I wanted them to read the manuscript. So, I wrote to them. Nobody replied. Wrote to them again, nobody replied. I wrote them 20 times, they replied. Ultimately, every one of them came to my book launching ceremony.
Subir: Now, think about that. I was 26 years old. All of the world’s top-quality giant came. Another thing my grandfather used to say, “Always remember if you hang around with the pigs, you will smell like a pig. If hang around with some good people, you will be smelling like a good people.” He used to tell me.
The power in that was, because of that manuscript think about how it came. A lot of the people that started thinking, “Oh my god. All the world’s top-quality gurus now come in and launch Subir’s book, maybe this guy will be the future quality genius.” At that time I was not a quality gurus. People were already thinking about it. By the time I was 30, I was already became a quality guru. It’s not that my brain became suddenly more powerful, seriously. It is the same principle.
I think to answer your question, can it be done? I think if you have the perseverance, if you have the passion of what you do. Think about you can automatically figure it out. This is the first time you’re talking that, “I’m very passionate of what I do. Everything I’ve done is based on that passion.” Ultimately, result came. I never … I always followed the pen, and coins followed me. You know what I’m saying?
Dave: Right, right.
Subir: Right, that’s something that grandfather taught me. If you have the determination, I think any human being can do. Question is that, is most of the people take themselves that seriously and go for it. That is the real issue.
Dave: When you wrote these letters, you actually wrote letter, not emails? You probably hand-wrote them.
Subir: No, no, no, 1991 there is no email. You know what I’m saying?
Dave: Ah, fair point.
Subir: Even 1998, there is no email. I mean it’s not that popular, right? Even Dr. Taguchi in Japan, he was like 70 years old. I directly wrote. Now, there is another book I did, and at that time internet was not even invented. It was 1999, there is a book called “The Management 21C”. I worked with world’s Top-25 management thinkers around the world; London Business School, Harvard, Sloan School of Management- all the world’s top gurus, just to challenge myself. And led a group of 26 people, world’s top management thinker. That one a lot of the stuff at that time, just email, just invented. I started email at that time.
Dave: You [crosstalk 01:05:04] started email at that time.
Subir: But now it is much easier, you know? Now it’s much easier.
Dave: It’s easier. I’m finding that there’s a bunch of people that use automated software to do that. You know, the sales automation software.
Subir: Oh no.
Dave: You know what, it’s such crap. I get those all the time and I actually block those senders the first time.
Dave: Because you can always tell.
Dave: What you’re talking about is that you’re actually writing to the person.
Dave: There’s nothing like the power of a hand-written letter.
Subir: Even think, Dave today even right now I still take the time and I write some private hand-written letter to some of the top executives. Private, right?
Subir: If I read something in The Wall Street Journal, and I stick to the timeline rather than send an email, and they take it so serious because it’s so out of the box. It matters.
Dave: I met a guy incredibly, powerful TV guy, he knows who he is, but I don’t want to gratuitously drop his name, he’s the president of one of the major studio pictures. I speak on Tony Robbins main stage this year at Unleash the Power Within, which is an incredible honor for me. This guy walked up afterward like, “I love what you’re doing. I drink your coffee, and can I send you some stuff?”
I’m like, “Okay” but I didn’t know who he was.
Subir: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dave: And I got a hand-written letter from like this incredibly, compassionate, humble, but also very powerful guy, who took the time to do that.
Dave: I’ll never forget that. It was so powerful. I get them from people where my work in Bulletproof is, has changed their lives, where they take the time to write. So, I just offer that to listeners. If you really want to do what Mr. Subir is talking about, you actually do pick up a pen, and if you plug it into your automated “scam them quick” sales software, it doesn’t work. It never will.
Dave: I don’t know why it doesn’t work, but there’s a difference.
Subir: There’s a difference. Absolutely. There’s no doubt about it.
Subir: And if you, next time you visiting Los Angeles, you let me know. I’d be delighted to meet with you.
Dave: Oh, I would be more than honored. Maybe we can get Jay and the three of us can have lunch together.
Subir: Yeah. Wonderful. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You are still in Vancouver, right? You are in Vancouver, right?
Dave: Yeah, Vancouver Island, right across from Vancouver. I come down a lot. We have a coffee shop in L.A.
Subir: Right, right.
Dave: So, I’m there frequently. It would be a great honor to have lunch with you. I can tell from reading both “The Ice Cream Maker” and “The Difference”, what you’re talking about here goes a lot deeper than process management.
Dave: And things like that. That’s where you started, but from telling your story in “The Difference”, it’s one of the more impactful business moves, but also just personal development books that I think people could read. And the reason it’s so impactful, is that you tell your story and how you got to where you are, and the story about your grandfather with the pen, and that level of resolve and resilience that frankly, most entrepreneurs could really take a lesson from.
Dave: Where you’re going to find a way. It doesn’t matter if you’re not supposed to, it doesn’t matter if it’s impossible. That’s what makes Elon Musk do what Elon Musk does too. “I don’t care if there’s no way, then let’s invent one!” Right?
Dave: Mind sight is very rare and very special and I think you tell the story in a way that, it’s almost, it’s accessible in a way that Paulo Coelho books. You read them and you’re like, “There’s no sentence longer than five words.” It’s written for like a first-grader, and you’re like, “That was cool!” But you kind of go there on some really tough stuff. So, I admire your writing, the topic, and just the perspective there.
Subir: Thank you so much.
Dave: I think that it’s really worth it, if you’re listening to the show, just trust me. Read “The Difference” because it will make a difference.
Now, I have one more question for you. Actually, I have two questions for you. The first one is more self-serving. So, you work with these giant, multi-billion dollar companies and you coach these big CEOs. Do you work with smaller entrepreneurs as well?
Subir: Sure, absolutely. Yes.
Dave: You do? Absolutely, alright. So, I’m not going to ask you on the air what your price tag is, but maybe I need to spend a couple hours with you. I’m sure there’s more I could learn.
Subir: Sure, absolutely.
Dave: I’ll ask after.
Then the other question is one that I’ve asked every guest on more than 420 episodes now. If someone came to you tomorrow Subir, and they said, “Look, I want to be a better performer. I want to perform better at everything I do as a human being. Not just at my work, or at my sport or whatever, but all in. What are the three most important pieces of advice you’d have for me? What would you offer them?
Subir: I think as you know I’m very … I try to simplify as much as possible because then it can be very easily, easily it can be done. First thing is, I kind of felt the self-respect. I think majority of people, they don’t know, whatever the god is, whatever the super power is, right? Created us, right? Give some insight power, each human being. It can be the person who can be the homeless person on the street.
Subir: Versus myself, or you, or anybody, right? We have that within. So, that self-respect part is very important. The question is that, if you truly self-respect yourself, then your action will change. But, unless you have that self-respect, your action will be shitty, because you don’t have the self-respect, right?
Subir: Then you will lie, you will do this, you will fake, you do this and that. The real question … so to do that, you have to also kind of … sounds little bit philosophical, but I think lot of the time, because I’m very lucky, I like very close to Pacific Ocean so, I go in front of the ocean and I try to look at the ocean. I kind of felt how little I know compared to the ocean. I’m nothing, nobody, right?
Subir: There is the one part. The first part would be developing the self-respect. The second thing would be, second advice I’m going to give is that you always think … I always talk about this is another example my grandfather taught me. He used to ask me a question when I was a child, “Between the numbers zero and nine, what is more powerful?” Between the question zero and nine, what is more powerful?
Every time I used to say nine, he said, “No. Zero is more powerful.”
I said, “Grandfather, why?”
He said, “Because zero on its own doesn’t have any value. Nine on its own has some value. Zero on its own doesn’t have any value, but as soon as you put the zero beside a number, it became very powerful.” But there is not even a single other number you can find, which doesn’t have any value on its own.
So, then he told me, “You always think in your life you are a zero.”
I said, “Grandpa, what do you mean by that?”
He said, “One day will come Subir, you will be so successful, but at that time you always will find saying that who defined the success? Those nine other people.”
He said if you go to a room. Think about this Dave. You sitting in your room. Nobody is around you. You are on your own. Are you a successful Dave guy? No. But as soon as you go in front of the other people, they say, “Oh this is Dave, you know from Bulletproof! Oh my god!” They’re the one who [inaudible 01:12:19]. Make it what you are. Always think about you yourself is nobody unless another human being. They’re the one who are standing. You are telling me, “Oh Subir wrote this book. Oh Subir, did this. Oh Subir is the world’s top management guru. He did this. He consulted all these people.” You are the one who’s giving me the credit, right?
Subir: But own my own, suppose if I’m on my own in my own room, there is nobody’s telling me that. So I am zero. Without you, without Jay, without Tony, without my clients, I am nobody. Without my reader, I am nobody. That is the second thing, right? So the first thing is the self-respect. Second thing you have to think about … now you can talk about there is your humble as a whatever, but this is a much more very easily quantifiable, like zero. I am zero. I’m nobody, right? Without somebody, so because of that I have to respect somebody because without them, I cannot become what I became today, right?
Subir: So, that is the second element I think. The third element, I think is, that is a much more actionable item which is, I think, every day when you wake up, you’re brushing your teeth, you try to ask yourself, “What is the one action I can take, one action I can take for another human being who made me to nine or seven from zero, right?” So, that my self-respect element will also give me more joy.
Those are the three things I’ll suggest.
Dave: That is a powerful list and it’s surprisingly even after hundreds of episodes, that’s very different than the answers I’ve heard before so, it shows. You’re an original thinker and I’m grateful you were on Bulletproof Radio today! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, your knowledge, and all of your books. And for people listening, what a cool interview. You wouldn’t probably have thought from a process management guru, that we’d be talking about that. That’s why we did this interview, and the book is called “The Difference”, and I spend a lot of time reading books, and it helps me to learn and to be a better CEO, and just a better person. This is a book that’s totally worth your time. Part of that is, it doesn’t take long to read. It’s a short book, but it’s full of the good stuff. So, I unreservedly recommend it.
Subir: Thank you so much for featuring me.
Dave: Of course. Have an awesome day.
Subir: Thank you.
Dave: And people can find out, I supposed I should ask, where can people find out more about your book other than obviously if you know the name you can find it. Is there a URL they should go to?
Subir: It’ll be in Amazon or any of the bookstores, it’s available.
Dave: Okay, cool. Cool.
Subir: Plus it’s also, if they Google my name Subir Chowdhury, then they will pretty much find it so.
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- 03:32 — If you like this episode and our show, leave us a 5-star rating iTunes!
- 03:44 — Dave introduces leading management thinker and consultant, Subir Chowdhury, author of “The Difference”. *More of Subir’s books to check out: “The Power Six Sigma”; “The Ice Cream Maker”
- 05:24 – Subir discusses his body of work as a management consultant, and what motivated him to write “The Difference”
- 10:05 – Subir and Dave discuss how attitude is everything when it comes to a company’s success
- 11:45 – Subir discusses his acronym STAR – Straightforward, Thoughtful, Accountable, Results. Why these elements are integral to success, and why continued learning is key
- 22:32 – Creating a business culture where it’s ok to fail, learning from mistakes
- 26:12 – Subir recommends “The Last Lecture”, by Randy Pausch
- 28:15 – Subir explains the “T” in STAR – Thoughtful + stories about this positive energy
- 39:26 – The importance gratitude, and how to incorporate it
- 43:22 – Subir explains the “A” in STAR – Accountability + stories…
- 50:19 – Subir talks about his journey from India to America
- 57:22 – Is a strong resolve enough to be successful — or is success innate? + Subir mentions “The Mindset”, by Carol Dweck, PhD
- 1:05:00 – The power of a hand-written letter
- 1:08:25 – Subir’s three most important pieces of advice for performing better in all aspects of life
- 1:14:00 – Pick up Subir’s book, “The Difference”, and visit him online at his website, SubirChowdhury.com