Talking with Nido Qubein is a highlight here on Straight Talk Radio. Dr. Qubein has achieved much success in life…yet he is so willing to share his insights knowing that many will be touched and have life changing experiences. I was my honor to have Dr. Qubein as my guest and the following is the transcription of the show. Enjoy!
Here’s a link to the show: Nido Qubein on Straight Talk Radio
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Now, here’s your host, Chuck Gallagher.
CHUCK: Well, hi. There has never been a time where change is happening at a more rapid pace than now. Hi, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and today we’re going to spend some time talking about not only change but, more importantly, how we deal with it.
It’s hard for me to comprehend how much change we’ve seen in the past five years and if we go back 10 years, there were so many things we took for granted that today, well, they don’t exist. And in the future? Hm, that seems to be the stuff for science fiction, except science fiction is closer to reality than many of us wish to believe. So, the challenge in dealing with change in many ways is impacted by two things: attitude and education. And there is no one I know of that knows more about attitude and education than my next guest.
I am delighted to have as my guest today Dr. Nido Qubein. Dr. Qubein is the President of High Point University, chairman of the Great Harvest Bread Company, a member of the board of directors of BB&T, a prolific author and world-famous speaker. As a professional speaker, Dr. Qubein has received many distinctions including the Golden Gavel Medal, induction into the International Speakers Hall of Fame and the founder of the National Speakers Association Foundation in Arizona.
Dr. Nido Qubein came to the United States as a teenager with little knowledge of English and only $50 in his pocket. His journey has been an amazing success story. In fact, the Biography Channel and CNBC aired his life story titled A Life of Success and Significance. Dr. Qubein, if you don’t mind, can I call you Nido for the show?
NIDO: Absolutely, Chuck.
CHUCK: Well, great, thank you so much. I am honored to have you as a guest.
NIDO: Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be with you.
CHUCK: Nido, let’s start with your story. Fifty dollars in your pocket and little English. How did that happen and weren’t you a bit intimidated?
NIDO:[laughs] Well, let me tell you. My story is the story of many in America and the world who have a big desire in their heart and a commitment in their soul to make something worthwhile with their life. When you’re focused on doing something good, when you’re focused on having a life that is founded on success but framed with significance, that is you want to make the world a better place, you want to impact it and influence it in a meaningful purposeful way, somehow someway, unbeknownst to me and in ways that I cannot explain eloquently, good things come your way. It’s all that, the more good you do to others, the others do more good to you.
I came to America because I believed this land is laid in streets that are paved with gold. I believed if you worked hard enough and smart enough, you can make something of your life and I understood that I had to speak the English language in a fluid fluency and a flowing manner if I expect to do something with it. I was willing to work hard and smart and I followed the advice of my mother, “Who you spend time with is who you become, so if you want to be of somebody of influence, hang around people of influence. If you want to have a positive attitude, hang around people who have good attitudes. If you want to deal with change confidently and competently, then hang around people who have done exactly that in their own life.” And then she said, “What you choose is what you get so quit blaming the world for your failures or your mishaps along the path and start making choices that take you to places that can give you outcomes that are meaningful and that are consistent with your objectives in life.” So that’s actually the story. Along the path then I took some risks, Chuck. Along the path, I gave it maybe all the work I needed to give it and then some along the path I failed a few times, I succeeded many more times. I learned from my failures, I capitalized on my successes and I always looked onward and forward to the next day and the next opportunity.
CHUCK: I have to say two things that really struck me with what you just said: what you choose is what you get, and I do a lot of ethics presentations and in every presentation I always start with the comment that every choice has a consequence. I think that, in an odd sort of sense, you said exactly the same thing. If you make unsuccessful choices, you’ll be unsuccessful, but if you make those choices that create an empowered position in life, then you can’t help to succeed. What a great mom, to have somebody that is giving you these wonderful programs at such an early age.
NIDO: Well, I was very, very blessed and very fortunate and she only had fourth grade education but she had a post-graduate degree in a discipline you and I would call Uncommon Sense.[Chuck chuckles]
NIDO: And she was left with five children with my father having died when I was only six years of age. She has lost herself in the potential of finding a job and feeding a family and educating them and she did an extraordinary job. Everything I know and everything I’ve talked about or written about really stems to a great extent from the teaching of this modest individual who achieved very immodest things.
CHUCK: Well, certainly the things that she taught you and that you have been able to communicate to the world have been profound. As I mentioned, a minute ago, the Biography Channel and CNBC aired your life story, A Life of Success and Significance. Nido, how do you define success?
NIDO: Well, you know, it’s hard to define success because it’s always in the eyes of the beholder. I think if you were to ask Donald Trump, he’ll say, “Maybe it’s making a lot of money.” If you asked Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, he might have said, “It is building a media empire.” If you ask Hank Evans he might say, “It is beating the record of Babe Ruth.” If you asked Albert Einstein, he might say, “”It’s unraveling the secrets of the universe.” If you ask mother Theresa, I think she would have said, “It’s feeding the hungry and attending to the needs of the poor in the back alleys of Calcutta.”
Here’s my point, I’m not sure I know what success is. Here’s what I am sure of; success is never enough that people who merely experience success do not find the absolute fulfillment for the purpose of their life. That significance, on the other hand, is that channel through which we can influence the processes and the people who cross our path. It is the way that we create impact, we give meaning to our existence, we define the reason that we are involved in the activities that we are involved in.
At the end of the day, each of us, as we grow older and hopefully a bit wiser, we acknowledge that fans, fame and fortune may be nice and enjoyable, but, really, the essence of life lies more in your faith, your family and your friends. And even though that sounds so simple, in reality it is difficult to achieve that level of understanding and that level of awareness but inherent in it there’s this unconscious competence that resoundly says, ”There’s purpose for my life so when I get up in the morning and go to work, I do it because I have a passion for it, because I believe in its purpose, because I know that it guides other people towards a result that can make our world both locally and globally a better place. Maybe in small ways, but small ways compounded together accumulatively can add up to a lot.” That’s kind of my definition of success. I’d rather be successful than not be successful, but I also want to have a degree of significance that frames for my success so that it is sustainable and meaningful.
CHUCK: You’ve had a fascinating career as far. I have to say there are many of us who share the stage at different places around the country and everyone that I’ve ever run into is always in awe of what you’ve been able to create and obviously you’ve received numerous accolades. In your opinion, what are three most significant accomplishments in your life as far?
NIDO: Well, did you say three?
CHUCK: Three or you can make it whatever you want.
NIDO: Well, I’ll give you three. No. 1, of course, it is the notion that if you have an idea for a business and you succeed in that business and you can repeat that idea, you can provide a service or a product and help people and in the process help yourself. I’ve certainly been successful in building a number of businesses and through building those businesses I’ve been able to achieve a level of success and significance both economically and spiritually and that is something that I’m very grateful for.
No. 2, I think, is the notion that I’ve been able to reinvent myself on numerous occasions and for numerous reasons. I was in consulting, and publishing, and banking, and speaking, etc. Then I came to be the President of High Point University and in so doing, I completely recreated and redefined what I do every day. That kind of nimbleness and flexibility and entrepreneurial spirit that allows one to move from one thing to another and yet use the same fundamentals over and over again to succeed and to achieve a level of productive and purposeful results is certainly something that I count among my blessings.
The third one is that through it all, doesn’t matter all the awards I may have done in my life or the success that I had in business and beyond, all of the wonderful people I’ve come to know and learn from, all the books I’ve written, all the CDs translated into multiple languages across the world – all of that is to not– If a person does not have a philanthropic heart and a sense of stewardship, I am very proud that through it all I have been able to maintain a balanced life and to understand and acknowledge whatever the responsibility for my fellow humankind.
Since somebody helped me, as a simple example, when I was in college, anonymously by the way, to give me a scholarship which provided some assistance to me, a partial scholarship to help me go through college, that I made a commitment to God that when I began to work, I would do the same. Over the last 40+ years now we’ve given almost 700 scholarshipsfrom the Qubein Foundation to do just that.
So, for me it’s about succeeding in the primary business that you’re involved in, it is about flexing to change and realign yourself as the world changes. We’re no longer competing on a continental platform or competing on a global stage now that we have to know how to deal with it and live within it. And thirdly, to also have this sense of balance that says, “I must make impact in life,” and in part I do that through my sense of stewardships and through my spirit of philanthropy, and ‘philanthropy’ comes from a Latin derivative which means ‘friend of humanity’. That’s really what it means, to know that, “Yes, you are responsible for your brothers and sisters and yes, you become a better person internally when you reach beyond your self-oriented needs to help others.”
CHUCK: That is so powerful and as we finish this segment, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and my guest is Dr. Nido Qubein, a world-acclaimed businessman, consultant, speaker and author, currently the President of High Point University, and his work has truly impacted lives worldwide. I’m honored to have Dr. Qubein as my guest today. We’ll be back after a short break so stay tuned with us here on Straight Talk Radio.[Commercial break]
CHUCK: Hi, this is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio and several months ago Dr. Nido Qubein and his staff hosted a meeting at the Carolina Chapter of the National Speakers Association at High Point University, where he serves as president. I have to say, everyone in attendance was amazed, just amazed at the quality of what we saw. In fact, I have to say, I had the privilege of speaking at a number of universities on ethics and business ethics and I know that is apparent if I had taken my son to visit High Point University today and he was in school, there would be zero doubt I would have [15:22] find facility.
We were talking about life accomplishments and I have to say that what you’ve done and your role at High Point University is remarkable. So, tell our listeners a little bit about your vision for High Point University.
NIDO: Well, High Point University, Chuck, is a liberal arts institution in High Point, North Carolina. It is today a school of undergraduate and graduate population around 4,500, who come from 38 countries and 47 states. It is a school that offers, of course, baccalaureate degrees, master’s degrees and doctor’s degrees in various disciplines.
I came here about eight years ago and the school was a landlocked school, 92 acres and [16:13] residential area. Today we’re almost 400 acres meant to buy 700, 800 houses are to create the land on which to build about 53 building, including housing facilities, academic buildings, students’ centers, athletic facilities, etc. We invested well over a billion dollars in the school. We’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars from generous donors and wonderful people, and we took our population from 1,450 undergraduate students to more than 4,000. By the way, we did all of that as we moved the ranking of the school from no. 17 to no. 1. In other words, we moved it up to no. 1 among regional colleges in the South and we achieved many, many other accolades and metrics along the way.
The most important thing is that we say at High Point University today, we’re not preparing students for the world as it is but rather for the world as it is going to be. We’re not trying to graduate students who are job takers but rather graduate students who would become job creators. We acknowledge that the average college graduate today may have as many as 45 jobs in their career and not because they’re lazy and they get fired, not because they get bored and choose to leave, and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to work at 45 different organizations. What it does mean is, so many jobs that they would hold would become irrelevant due to global competition, due to technological changes, etc.
So, the one ingredient, the one behavioral tendency that these graduates must possess in ample supply is therefore an entrepreneurial spirit. When you have an entrepreneurial spirit, you are nimble, you adaptable, you can change and switch and feel good about it and perform well in it. The question is how do you teach an entrepreneurial spirit? The answer is you don’t! What you really do is you create in which, through which, by which a person feels the spirit and therefore become part and partial of it. So we say at High Point we don’t really teach values, we live, our students watch and they learn.
We’ve created the zone, it’s hard to explain it in a few minutes, but we’ve created a zone that’s absolutely spectacular, it’s extraordinary. The facilities are to die for, but more importantly, the academic offerings are of the highest standards. The faculty are stellar, the relationship with students and families is beyond reproach and people feel it. It emotes within you, this desire to be excellent, therefore the campus is very, very clean because nobody ever dirties it. People are very nice to each other and caring with each other because the environment is conducive to that and because the environment [19:21] that.
Here’s the small school that swam in an ocean of saneness, that chose to exit that ocean and enter a lake of differentiation and to be different is not always good. The idea is to become better, of course, to differentiation and not just do it for the sake of it. And then, of course, we wanted to swim in the small pool of distinction. You can’t be distinctive in every way but you surely can be distinctive in some ways. In High Point we created value, we interpreted our value, we removed all the irritants from the system and we added wow to the experience and people noticed and they flocked to this school. When the students were here and study and start graduating, the parents are very pleased, the alumni are very pleased and they begin to advocate the school to their friends and their neighbors – and the rest is history.
That’s what happens to you or to me, to any product or service organization, to any institution. When you give people more of what they genuinely want and what they genuinely value, they’re willing to reward you and tell the world about you. And that, my friend, in short is the story of High Point University.
CHUCK: I have to say it is an amazing place. Nido, you have an incredible way with words. I was sitting here listening to you and what you said is absolutely correct. We walked on this campus expecting to have a meeting. We had an experience, we saw the distinction and we were wowed. One of the things that I’ve got to tell you, and it was kind of comical, I thought, although was true, but [21:04] the people that was helping us with the tour said, “Look, you will notice as you see our students here how they dress. Now, we’ll get students that come in, their freshman year, the first two to three weeks, and they’ll have their pants a little lower than their waist, underwear showing. You know, the typical high school,” and he says, “It takes about two to three weeks for them to realize that’s not normal here.” And I looked around and I saw students and I thought to myself, “This is the future and these are the future business leaders that I can see entrusting a wonderful future to.” And you have created that wow factor. It’s really amazing.
NIDO: Well, thank you. And it has to work, it can’t just be wow factor. It has to be practical and pragmatic. Every organization, every individual when they want to achieve something, must follow four steps. First, they must have a clear vision; what it is they really want to accomplish – clarity of vision. Second, they must have a solid strategy; define where are we now, where do we want to go, how do we get there? Third, most importantly, practical systems. No pie in the sky, really practical systems. And four, a consistent execution. When things are not even easy, you must continually be focused on the goal and execute on the goal.
That’s kind of what we did and we stuck to it and by the way, we did all of this smack dab in the eye of storm called “the most destructive economic times in the last 65 years of America’s history” called the great recession. So we did this while ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11 and ’12 were staring us in the face, but we knew we had a good vision, and we understood our strategy carefully, and we knew that it’s practical, and we worked and worked every day.
People are very appreciative of an institution or an organization that renders value that they can use and that they feel and understand its merits. When that happens, people will be [23:21] to do business with you, and more importantly, your brand gets endorsed and promoted and you start going from brand awareness to brand preference to brand insistence to brand advocacy when they’re telling all their friends about you. When that happens, look out because your organization is going to explode in good ways and you just have to make sure you have the infrastructure to support it because success and significance are coming straight at you.
CHUCK: Well, that’s true. We started this whole conversation about the concept of attitude and education. It seems to me that, to be prepared for the fast pace of change we’re facing, it makes sense that education is the key for being prepared for the future. You said you’re not educating people for what’s existing today, for the jobs that exist today but for what’s going to be. How have you been able to really craft that at High Point University when so many other universities just don’t seem to capture that?
NIDO: Well, at High Point University, what we’ve done is we said, “Look, the world is moving on fast.” We said, “Look, change is inevitable.” And we said, “For the timid change is frightening and for the comfortable change is threatening, but for the confident change is opportunity.” So the question is where does that confidence come from? And the answer is confidence comes from competence. When you are competent, you become confident. And we said, “What are those competencies that this generation of college graduates must possess in ample supply so that they can compete in the global platform, so that they can adapt themselves to the changes that may meet them on the pathways of life, so that they can become job creators and have an entrepreneurial spirit that drives them, that [25:23] them, that inspires them, that motivates them?” And we said, “The answer to that are really two things; one is holistic education, what you learn inside of the classroom is important, but it’s also important what you learn outside the classroom. So, we want to create holistic students who are prepared in every way.”
Then we said, “Second one, of course, is experiential learning. In other words, you can’t just study something theoretically. You have to experience it. So whatever your discipline is, we want to create internships, career opportunities, labs, clubs, centers for sales training, for entrepreneurial training and so on so that you really get yourself smack dab into it.” And we said it’s all about values-based living. So, when you have the right values in life, you’re able to do things so much better. You are able to accomplish so much better.
Those are kind of the three things that we really focused on. We ensure that our family of faculty and staff believes in this course and is determined to move in this direction, and as I said, we execute it every day. Sometimes we made mistakes, sometimes we succeeded fantastically well, but when you add it all up, cumulatively and slowly, we are rather a place where parents appreciate what we’re doing, where students acknowledge that they’re learning in significant ways and where employers and partners and entrepreneurs are saying, “You students are indeed distinctive in some very valuable ways and we want to connect with you.”
That, by the way, opened up the opportunity for fund raising, for people who are investing money, philanthropically with us, and opened up the opportunity for parents to become so engaged in the work of the university, without whom we really couldn’t accomplish all of our goals, parents and alumni who stand up and step up and say, “I’m here to support you.”
So, again, it applies to anything, Chuck, really. It applies in new business or in any business that it’s all attitudinal in many ways and you back it up with delivery, and with execution, and with a solid sense of commitment and tenacity, and results begin to come your way.
CHUCK: Dr. Qubein, this has been an incredible conversation and I have to tell you I would welcome the opportunity to have you join me again on this show. I visited High Point University along with a number of people with the National Speakers Association and I know you’re a strong advocate of that organization, but I will tell you, everyone that was there was absolutely amazed at the incredible package that you put together to educate young people.
This is Chuck Gallagher and this is Straight Talk Radio so let me be straight with you, the folks that are listening, if you are considering the possibility of where your son or daughter will be attending an institution of higher learning, let me strongly suggest, check out High Point University in High Point, North Carolina. You may not have heard of it, but the reality is you will be impressed beyond belief at what’s been created.
Dr. Qubein, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us here on Straight Talk Radio. We’ll be back after a short break and we will then continue on our road talking about education and meeting the needs of the future. This is Chuck Gallagher with Straight Talk Radio.[Commercial break]