A great mountaineer, Edmund Hillary, once said, “People do not decide to become extraordinary — they decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” And writer Robert Louis Stevenson also said, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”
Great accomplishments start with small tasks, and what you do today can make a significant difference in the future. Just because things aren’t doing well today doesn’t mean your business could no longer become successful. As long as you keep working on the foundation for your future, you will soon build a masterpiece.
Our guest today is a billionaire investor and philanthropist, David Rubenstein. He was an original signer on the Giving Pledge, an organization of the world’s wealthiest individuals on a mission of dedicating the majority of their wealth to giving back to the world. David is also instrumental in the transformative restoration of several key cultural heritage landmarks and monuments in the US, such as the Washington Monument, Arlington House, Monticello, the National Zoo, Mount Vernon, Montpelier, Iwo Jima Memorial, the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, the National Archives, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and the Library of Congress.
In this episode, David will talk about having the right leadership skills amidst the challenging times of chaos, the importance of branding and reputation in the success of the business, and the things you can do today to become more successful. This is an exciting episode on leadership and success, and I am honored to have David Rubenstein with us to share his insights and success stories.
David Rubenstein is a billionaire entrepreneur, lawyer, political adviser, host, author, and leader in Patriotic Philanthropy. As an entrepreneur, David M. Rubenstein co-founded and served as a Co-Chairman of The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s most successful and largest private investment firms with more than $230 billion in managed assets today from 30 offices across the globe. He is also the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Council on Foreign Relations, the Chairman of the Madison Council of the Library of Congress, and the Chairman of the Harvard Global Advisory Council. David also served as a former Chairman of the Advisory Board of the School of Economics and Management at Tsinghua University and a member of the Board of the World Economic Forum Global Shapers Community.
During the Carter Administration, David M. Rubenstein served as a Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy from 1977 to 1981. He is also the former Chief Counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments from 1973 to 1975.
Today, David Rubenstein is the Bloomberg TV and PBS host of The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer, as well as Bloomberg host of the Leadership Live with David Rubenstein, where he investigates how business leaders are mitigating the extraordinary challenges of the coronavirus and moving their companies forward. He is the author of the popular book, How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEOs, Founders, and Game Changers. Another book David authored is The American Story: Conversations with Master Historians. His books are available on Amazon.
David believes that building meaningful relationships and connections can transform your life and business, and there is a difference between the mindset of the rich and poor. He will talk more about his beliefs and leadership principles in our conversation, so buckle up for another exciting episode of The School of Greatness.
I’ve seen David having conversations with the most powerful leaders and successful entrepreneurs of our time, so I asked him who his ultimate role model is when it comes to leadership.
“Abraham Lincoln — he held the country together in a way that I don’t think anybody else could have or would have even tried. … In the business world, … Jeff Bezos [and] Bill Gates … they’ve built incredible businesses and in a relatively short period of time.” – David Rubenstein
If you want to be successful in life, then you need to have some role models for the success you are aiming for. Since David Rubenstein is an entrepreneur, his role models are also those who are the most successful in the business and corporate worlds, like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates. Both are on the Forbes list of the richest billionaires. Jeff Bezos is the founder and CEO of Amazon, a multinational technology company that brought online shopping to the limelight.
For David, Jeff is the perfect role model because of his far-sighted leadership. I asked David to elaborate more on the meaning of far-sighted leadership and its implications to the success of businesses.
“Far-sighted leadership is [about] people who are taking a look at things that are way down the road. A good example of that is Jeff Bezos. When his company went public at one point, the stock really went down to about $6 a share after the internet bubble burst in 1999 and 2000. And he didn’t pay attention to Wall Street, which said, … ‘You’re not earning anything.’ He said, ‘No, …. I’m building the customer base. I’m building the brand. And I don’t care about earnings — earnings will come later.’” – David Rubenstein
It takes a good leader with a far-sighted vision of the future to stand firm on the ground amidst the chaos in the business. While the figures were overwhelmingly negative on Wall Street and investors were in a panic, Jeff Bezos was calmly focused on building the foundation for the future and creating a brand with an impact — and he was right. His company took off a few years later to become one of the most successful businesses shaping the e-commerce world today.
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon is now a highly-respected brand name in e-commerce, almost synonymous with online shopping. His far-sighted vision showed us the importance of branding in the long-term perspective as opposed to generating short-term revenues.
“Brand is really important. And revenue will follow if you develop a brand. The key thing is it takes a long time to develop it, and it can be a short period of time to destroy it.” – David Rubenstein
Branding is critical to the success of any business because it translates to trust. When customers no longer trust your brand, failure becomes inevitable. It’s a fragile aspect of the business that must be given utmost importance because it takes years to build but could be destroyed within a few minutes of misdeeds. So don’t do anything unethical or improper that could tarnish the brand image that you have built over the years. It’s no wonder why many companies have added integrity into their corporate values or culture. Integrity in all aspects of the business can help preserve and boost the brand image.
The same thing applies to your reputation. If you’re a practicing professional like a lawyer, an engineer, a doctor, or an accountant, your success depends on your reputation. So, build a reputation of trust and reliability, and you are surely on the right track to success.
Aside from reputation and branding, relationships and connections are equally important in business and in personal relationships — connections with the right people are essential. Bill Gates did not build Microsoft on his own. He had a partner — Paul Allen. Likewise, Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook with his college roommates at Harvard University, while David Rubenstein co-founded and co-chaired The Carlyle Group with William Conway. The success stories of these entrepreneurs were founded on relationships with business partners and connections with the right people.
“You have people who are leaders [and] people [who] are followers. But in the end, the only way that something gets done is when somebody does something that somebody else asks them to do or requires them to do. … And whatever you’re trying to do, you have to convince people because you can’t do anything by yourself. You can’t build an airplane by yourself. You can’t play football by yourself. You need to have teammates. … You lead by example. So you have to figure out how to communicate with people. Everything is communication. You can’t do anything by yourself.” – David Rubenstein
To expand his connections, David Rubenstein joined several boards as a chairman, a co-chairman, or even just a board member. It’s all about connections. The more connections he has, the more opportunities will come for future businesses or partnerships with his contacts. But once the connection is established, it has to be followed by building harmonious relationships with them. David Rubenstein traveled across continents just to connect with key figures and establish connections with different personalities, which allowed him to grow his network and do business with his contacts.
“And as a general rule of thumb, … being polite to people is helpful. … Common courtesies are useful. … You never know how you’re going to meet somebody.” – David Rubenstein
If you want to make your business successful, you have to build a good brand image but at the same time connect with the right people. They can be your business partners or your loyal customers. Once people start to trust in your business, your relationship with them matters a lot in solidifying their trust in your brand, which is a crucial success ingredient.
Since David Rubenstein has vast connections with the most influential and wealthy people, he has had conversions with them and talked about their successes in business and personal lives. I asked David about the difference between the habits of a rich mindset versus the poor mindset and how the people with a positive mindset attract more abundance in life.
“Wealthy people … tend to be very focused, hardworking, reasonably intelligent, very persistent and, and have some work habits that got them to the top. People that are not in that category tend to be people that are not as focused, not as hardworking, not as driven to achieve something in life. And that there’s nothing wrong with that. … Happiness is the most important thing. You can be very happy not being wealthy, not being a successful business person, just being a modest person.” – David Rubenstein
Success is not measured financially but by happiness. You can become very successful financially, but if you are still unhappy and feel something is missing, then you are not truly successful at all.
On the other hand, you may not be financially well off, but if you are happy with your work and modest earnings and you find happiness in simple things like being with your loved ones, then you are already successful in life. But if you want to aim for financial success, you need to focus and pursue your goals.
“The people who are the wealthiest people tend to be really heavily focused on one or two business objectives. They have a goal. They have an idea. They want to pursue it. And the money is a side product. Most people that I know are very wealthy. They got there not by saying, ‘I got to be rich,’ but by saying that, ‘I want to prove my idea works, and I’m going to work hard to prove it.’” – David Rubenstein
It’s not about the money. It’s about proving your ideas — implementing your ideas to prove they work. The money part will eventually come when you are successful with your ideas.
How about you? What are your goals? Have you started working on your ideas and remained focused on your goals, or were you side-tracked by distractions? People with a rich mindset start the day focusing on their goals, what things need to be done to get closer to their visions, and finding new ways to get an inch closer to their objectives. They make it a habit, which allows them to become successful.
What an inspiring conversation with David Rubenstein about success and happiness. Listen to the full episode for more insights from one of the most successful entrepreneurs today, and don’t forget to share the episode with someone who needs to hear it.
To know more about David Rubenstein and his works, visit his official website. He serves as the president of The Economic Club, which is a popular forum that supports the educational opportunities for Washington, D.C. students, including the other area initiatives that benefit the greater good of the region. Subscribe to David’s YouTube channel for more full shows of peer-to-peer conversations with key personalities like Jeff Bezos.
I’m going to leave you with this quote from my entrepreneur friend, Sara Blakely, who said, “Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t know. That can be your greatest strength and ensure that you do things differently from everyone else.” Stay focused on your dreams even if circumstances are unwelcoming. As long as you keep on building the foundation of your future, you’ll soon achieve the success you want in life.
Go out there and do something great!