When running an institution, it is ideal to ask the question, “Why should someone do business with us?” In this episode, Jesse Cole chats with Dr. Nido Qubein, an International Speaker Hall of Famer and someone who serves on the board of Fortune 500 companies. As the President of High Point University, Dr. Qubein has helped resurrect the school with his vision and ability to create wow moments for students and teachers. By emphasizing the importance of visually appealing environment and compelling craft messages, Dr. Qubein was able to sell his ideas and solve problems. He imparts his strategies on creating your business wow factor and discusses some useful concepts such as productive failure and success.
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Creating Your Business Wow Factor With Dr. Nido Qubein
Of my hundred plus episodes of Business Done Differently, I’m not sure if anyone’s story of success, significance and standing out can compare with our guest. His story has been featured on The Biography Channel and CNBC. He is a best-selling author of two dozen books. He is an International Speaker Hall of Fame and serves on the board of Fortune 500 companies. As the President of High Point University, he has helped resurrect the school with his vision and ability to create wow moments for students and teachers. Dr. Nido Qubein has been an inspiration for me for years. I’m absolutely honored and thrilled to have him with me. Dr. Qubein, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much, Jesse. I’m glad to be with you.
I’m glad we connected. I wrote a letter a few years ago and Mark Sanborn connected us. I want to open with something that was personal to me that hit home with you and what we’ve been able to do here with the Bananas. You said in an interview, “You can’t make incremental change and transform culture. I had to create wow changes fast and continually.” I’m fascinated by that. I’d love to know when you came to High Point, take me back. What were some of those things that you did to create wow right away?
Number one, in an ever-changing, ever-competitive marketplace, you cannot make incremental changes. You do make incremental changes, but you cannot focus on that as a strategy because the marketplace is too impatient. It is too demanding. Because of your competitors, whoever they may be, in whatever sector you’re in, are moving forward and fast, vertically and horizontally. If you are not going at it completely, then you are going to miss out on lots of opportunities. When I came to High Point University, it’s an institution that’s been here since 1924. It was a fine institution of higher learning. I went to school here as an undergrad. I know right away that in any business, it doesn’t matter what you do. The most important question always is, why should someone do business with me? Why should someone do business with us?
I don’t care if it’s attendance at a baseball game or at a seminar or it is enrolling in a university. The question is the same. In other words, given choices. The New York Times suggests that the average American gets something like 5,000 invitations to buy per week. Imagine that. You can’t go anywhere. You can’t use a newspaper, go through an airport or watch television without seeing a ton of invitations to buy something. The marketplace has become skeptical and inundated. The question is, how do you exit an ocean of sameness and enter a little pool of distinction?
The second most important question is, how easily for somebody else to imitate what I do? Why should someone do business with me, but of equal importance is, how easily can someone else imitate what we do? The easier it is for someone else to imitate what you do, the less valuable, by definition, you have become. The idea is to focus on value, but more importantly, to focus on relevance. Why should someone exchange the resources, time, energy, and money for something that I offer? There has to be something in it for them. It has to be valuable. Value is always determined by relevance. What is valuable to you? The sellable idea, product and services may or may not be relevant to me at this point in my life. When I came to High Point University, I recognized very quickly that you have an audience and you have a market. The audience is your student and the market is the parent, who more often, “I was going to pay the bills for the student.”
I asked a simple question, why would someone come to High Point University given that there are some 6,000 colleges and universities in America? We began to define what that is. We realize that first impressions are lasting impressions. Young people, especially who have grown up with technology, who have been covered under with their iPad, iPhone and all else, they’re going to make a decision in the first 30 seconds being on this campus whether they like it or not. We all do that. You walk to a restaurant and make a decision. You look at a plate of food and you make a decision. I realize that the physical plant is very important. In other words, what I experienced visually is very important. I went about to make the place look beautiful. There are landscaping, flags everywhere, classical music down and up, the prominent art, quotations in the grounds, benches, fountains and understanding this is an institution of higher learning. I wasn’t suggesting that this is going to make it a great university. I was simply suggesting that when you receive a gift, you look at the wrapping of the gift. When the wrapping is appealing, you’re more excited about looking at what’s inside of it.
Number two was to craft messages that are compelling to the recipient. In other words, in your business, any business, people like to know that you’re going to save them money. You’re going to help them and you’re going to give them a great service. What is it for university? For us, it was about premier life skills that you can go to university, get a degree and not know the first thing about starting a business and being a truly valuable contributor to an institution, a company or organization. What we need to do is take the academic offerings of the university, which is the heart of the knowledge base, but knowledge does not equal understanding. You can have all the knowledge in the world and have zero comprehension about the application of that knowledge in your life. How do we create an understanding out of this knowledge that we’re offering on a daily basis?[bctt tweet=”Make the distinction between an idea that has a purpose and an idea that is casual. ” username=””]
The answer was premium life skills. If I can arm you with the knowledge in your sector, whether you are an engineer or a physical therapist, whatever you might be, and also teach you about life. How do you communicate? How do you sell your idea? How do you solve a problem? How do you not give up in the face of adversity? How do you lead? How do you make the world a better place? As we refined that concept in the world made of that and right away, they knew that High Point University is differentiated. Given my own background, it’s an unusual college president. I’ve done it. I’ve built businesses and been around the world. I’ve spoken to everybody. I’ve seen a lot in my lifetime. It was an authentic message. I came with some gravitas and here it is. I speak the real language. It’s real life. It’s not pie in the sky. People believe that and they began to experience it and the rest is history.
You looked at the friction points to it and evaluating what a school is, how you make it better. Our president here with the Savannah Bananas, his wife went to High Point University and she said, “It was an amazing experience.” She vividly remembers going on Halloween and Valentine’s Day, you with the big Hershey bars, passing them out and wanting to connect. That was such a little touchpoint. That is a wow point. I pride myself as the owner of the team here to go around with the fans and taking selfies and giving out gifts. It’s such a little thing, but I’d love to go back to some of those wow moments. We call them here, “You wouldn’t believe moments,” because we want our fans to say, “You wouldn’t believe what happened in the ballpark.” We believe that’s the next level. I’ve heard about the valet parking, the ice cream trucks and the steakhouses. Tell me about some of those that first started that maybe you don’t do anymore, but they got people talking.
It’s very important that I make the distinction between an idea that has a purpose and an idea that is casual. For example, on Halloween and Valentine’s Day, I go around campus for 3 to 4 hours, give out several thousand big chocolate bars. I do it not because of the chocolate. Anyone of those students can afford to go to 7-Eleven and buy a $1 chocolate bar. I do it because it is unusual for the president to walk around and give chocolate bars. Therefore, what happens is the by-product is every student wants to take a picture with me. They’ll put these pictures everywhere, Instagram, Facebook, etc. It’s what they say and it’s how they feel. In all of the communication, we say the most important question is, how must this person feel first so this person will do business with me again? When I go to the ballpark and I feel like I’ve had fun, it was enjoyable, I saw my friends, brought all my family, ate and all of that is great, then I want to do it again because it’s a good feeling.
Everything we do here has a purpose. You mentioned the valet park. We don’t do that anymore, but we did it. When I first came here, we started completely revamping the campus. Remember, the campus was 92 acres and it’s already 500. We had a total of 1,400 students in all and we already have 5,400 students. We had 100 faculty members and we already have almost 400. We had three academic schools and we already have nine. The university is completely different than it was a dozen years ago. I know it’s not lost on you or your readers that we did all this, between 2005 and 2020 and between 2008 and 2012. We had a great recession, the most disrupted economic times the last several years of our history. We, in spite of that, get moving onwards enough. We were building so much in the center of campus as we were buying land and so on, we disrupted the life of the students who are enrolled at the time. We do not necessarily immediately acknowledge the value of what we were doing for them because they’re going to graduate a year or two. Those buildings won’t be finished for a year or two.
The cars were dusty, the noise was everywhere. I decided that at the very minimum we owe people respect. Part of that respect is we washed their cars. I got the clubs on campus who want to make money and raise money to wash cars. Because we were building in the middle of the campus, we took away the parking. The parking was far away. I have four children myself. I start imagining a young lady coming back from work or from somewhere or midnight, she has to walk across this campus to go to her dorm. I said, “That’s not cool. Why don’t we drive her to her dorm and then park her car for her?” Those are the things. I would come here at 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning and walk like a student. I would walk to the parking, to a place and I would say, “Do I feel safe? Is the place lit up?” High Point University is completely lit up. Every square foot is safe. It all comes back to that primary point, how must your customer feel first so they will do business with you? If they don’t feel good about it, they won’t do business with you and they won’t tell their friends about you. You lose both pieces. Sustainability becomes impossible.
You have to put yourself in their shoes. What you were doing walking at night, we do it at our ballpark. Every single night, someone on our staff goes undercover as a fan. We parked with cars. We sit with the fans. We write down notes every time. You have to do that. You made a great point there. You said, “Do you feel safe?” You’ve talked about how you got to eliminate the un-wow first to go to the wow. Have you seen either at High Point or businesses that you can find the un-wow and turn it to wow?
I am speaking to 7,000 people 500 times over the years. As I speak to CEOs, especially audiences of CEOs, I ask them to pick out a pencil and write down a piece of paper in front of them the three most important wows that people experience when they do business. People would write down all kinds of stuff. I have wonderful people, great products and a great location. I ask them to take 30 seconds to write down the un-wows. They struggle with that. It takes them longer to write that. There’s a point there. The point is the focus is more important than intelligence. You could be brilliant. You could have a perfect IQ, but if you’re not focused on the elements that contribute measurably and directly to the experience of your customer, you’re a fool. You’re not going to survive and thrive. I said, “There are four things we must follow as true of any business.”
Number one, we must create value. If there is no value, forget about it. Number two, we must interpret the value. That’s a completely different point. You can provide tremendous value. For example, you go to a steakhouse and you see a steak for $50 and you’re like, “That’s an expensive steak.” If the server comes in and explains to you what this beef is, where it grew, how they bought it, how it is the finest this or that, you begin to acknowledge this is different. This is more relevant. This is more valuable. A glass of wine, there’s a difference between a $200 a bottle and a $20 bottle of wine. Someone is going to explain that to you and interpret it in a way that you can’t find usefulness in it, then you’re more likely to believe it.
Number three, we remove all the irritants. Whatever the irritants are, get them out of the system. If I come to your ballpark and buy a beer and the beer is in a cup that smashes away or it doesn’t hold upright or if I come to put it in the little cup holder in front of me, it doesn’t fit. I will be irritated. We have to remove those irritants. In our case, for example, we changed from the normal school thing, which is bill students for everything. You are sending payment bills all the time. I change all that to one price. You paid once in the fall and once in the spring and everything is included. Therefore, you are not bothered every time. Every communication for me is upsetting you. All of a sudden, people were willing to pay more and feel better. The last one is to add wow to the experience, not just to create a wow. Creating wow is a minimum requirement, but to add wow is exactly what you just said. It’s walking around, seeing what’s going on and add, improve, increase and enhance.
I love this so much because the all-inclusive snack for you, it includes all the food, the room, the board, everything.
It also includes transportation to the airport and all that.
We did the same thing with the first ballpark years ago. We made every ticket all-inclusive. It includes all your burgers, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, soda or water, popcorn, dessert, everything. We said, “In all your entertainment.” That’s our specialty because people don’t like it nickeled and dimed. That’s an irritant. Why are companies still sending bills, invoices and lawyers charging by the hour? No one likes that. You remove that. I’m a parallel thinker and a lot of the readers are. You take something from one industry and you move it to others. Can you give some other examples of some of these wow things that you have done that is different? You always talk about extraordinary means, not ordinary. It means being distinctive and differentiated. You don’t have to be better, but you have to be different. I would love to know a few more of these examples because they are fascinating to me.
Jesse, we are a university. Our number one business is education. We’ve done a lot of wows on the educational side. For example, we added success coaches. We’ve assigned every single freshman coming to our institution. They come in August but January, February, they commit to coming to school. We assign them on the way to a success coach who calls them, writes them, helps them register for classes, and helps them get settled in their dorm, all of them. You’ll be shocked. This is expensive to do in the short-term. It is very smarter than the long-term because you get the payback on retention. Students like it and they stay with you. We have done an enormous amount with technology. These are all wows. For example, if you go to our Wanek School of Natural Sciences, you will see one of the most beautiful planetariums you’ve ever seen. It’s not the largest, but it seats about 120 people. It has the latest in software technology.
We can use the planetarium, not just to look at the stars, but we can take an anatomy course. It’s 360 around you, you’re watching going into your stomach or going into your brain. We call it interdisciplinary wow. We’d be able to take almost any subject and use technology to enhance it, make it more appealing and therefore for young people, much more congruent to the world that they are familiar with. We use all kinds of technology on your iPhone. Everything from registering to accessing. Here’s a wow for you. The language you use makes a big difference with the impression you leave. Most universities call it food service, we call it hospitality. Most universities would call landscaping, maintenance, electrical, cleaning and so on. We call it the campus enhancement. In most places, they call their people employees. We call them ambassadors.
The language enhances the way you think and the way you dialogue with people. If you feel more important, you will act more important, you’re going to be hospitable with our guests. We have fourteen restaurants on campus. We don’t call them cafeteria and all that. We call them restaurants. These restaurants, you can sit down and eat. One of the main restaurants, we have music every day from 11:00 to 2:00. Those are professional musicians. At face value you say, “What is that all about?” Music is always beautiful in any form. We did studies and people were coming in, students getting their food, gobbling down 10 to 11 minutes and leaving. I said, “The whole concept of a residential university is that you fellowship with people. You build relationships, you communicate and you create peer groups. We’ve got to figure this thing out.” We did.
We put all these different stations in different places. We made food unlimited. You can come in. You can eat all you want. If you want to take ten cookies with you, you can take it and we refill a drink. We said, “The music is creating the atmosphere.” The average students sit there for about 40 minutes. They’re engaging in conversation. They’re talking about things. They’re owning this as their university campus. Does it cost money? Yes, it costs money, but you’ve got to spend some money to make some money. That’s a tiny little thing. We have a steakhouse on campus. The casual observer never understands what you are trying to do. Maybe the observer thinks, “They have a steakhouse. They are pampering students.” We say, “We don’t pamper them. We are preparing our students.”[bctt tweet=”Creating “wow” is walking around, seeing what’s going on, and adding, improving, and enhancing details. ” username=””]
Here is another example. A steakhouse is not about steak. A steakhouse is about learning etiquette, what fork to hold and how to hold it. It is about international understanding. Every month, we change the menu to fit a certain part of the world. It could be Australia, South Africa, Russia, China, whatever. With that comes interpretations. The menu would have pieces of information about that country. Maybe we might have music that fits that country or someone who comes to lecture about that country. Parents love it because in most jobs, when you graduate from college and go to a job somewhere, what they do in the interview is take you to a restaurant for a meal. They watch how you engage in conversation. They watch how you eat and how you hold a plate. I tell people when you go for an interview and they take you through a buffet, don’t load up your plate because you’re sending the wrong message.
The message is, “I’m here to eat. I’m not here to talk with you, the employer.” You may want to eat something simple and focus on the purpose of the moment. Afterward, eat all you want to eat. These are lessons. You can’t bring your iPhone to the restaurant. For an hour and a half in the restaurant, you cannot use an iPhone. All of our servers are instructors about protocol, etiquette and global manners. That’s a wow. While that costs money, people end up giving us a lot of money because they love what we’re doing with their kids. I want to emphasize this point, wows for the sake of wows are too expensive and do not ignore the results you want. Remember, an effort is nice, but results rule. If you know what outcomes you want and you could measure the metrics accordingly, then everything you’re doing is by design, not by default on purpose, not by accident.
Your whole purpose of your wow is for them to grab an extraordinary education and an inspiring environment with caring people.
You know our promise well. That’s it. Why did I come up with that statement? I have 2,000 employees. When I came here, we had 300 or 500 employees. How do you create a culture in an organization? Create a culture that is consistent and congruent. Consistent over time, congruent with your values. The answer is you can’t write two pages about what your purpose, mission, or values are. Nobody is going to remember that. I said, “How can I explain it simply? How can I make sure they remember it?” I came out of those three categories. Extraordinary education, that’s our cornerstone benefit. You come here to get an extraordinary education, not training, but holistic education.
Under the extraordinary education, we have 15 to 20 by-products, semi points. Our inspiring environment explains to you why our campus looks the way it does. Our campus is gorgeous. It is truly inspiring. Wherever you go, you see art, fountains, smiling people and caring people. Instead of lecturing our people, “Be nice to our guests and to students. Listen to each other. Open the door for the person behind you,” all of that stuff. If you’re a caring person, you will do this naturally and you feel better about it because nobody’s telling you how to behave, rather we’re creating this notion that, “I am a caring person. I do care about my brothers and sisters. Therefore, I will do this naturally.”
Something I’m curious about and you’ve grown so much with what you’ve done. It’s unbelievable what High Point is, where it is from where it was before. You talk about relevancy and excellence. You talk about sometimes being a paranoid optimist. It keeps me up at night thinking, “How do we stay relevant? What are these new things we’re doing?” What do you do from a leader and a team standpoint to continue to come up with ideas, to do new things, to be relative?
There are four steps to that. Number one is you have to have clarity on who you are. In other words, what are your values, what are your principles, what are your guiding tenants for your organization? Number two, you’ve got to know your why. Why are you doing what you’re doing? If you’re doing it to make money, that’s short-term. If you’re doing it to truly create an inspiring experience for all those people who come to the baseball park, you’re going to grow. You will also make money because it is a by-product of what you are doing. Those are important points. The third one is you’ve got to be a lifelong learner. You cannot ever say, “I’ve got this. I know what to do. Don’t tell me what to do. I know the answer.” That is the surest way to fail.
Here’s what I do. I wake up every morning between 3:00 to 4:00. I go to sleep by 9:00. I wake up and I make some coffee and then I’ve got a stack of reading materials. I go through some paper reading and I go online. I read 4 or 5 trade journals in the morning, five minutes each of the articles I want to read, plus all the reports I have with me. I make a distinction between active time and passive time. Active time is the only time that you invest with another individual that propels your business forward. A salesperson defines active time as that time he or she is in front of a customer. Filling out the forms, filling out the reports, driving to a place, preparing for the sales call and assembling samples, that’s passive. That’s not bringing you an order. I don’t do anything in the office except active stuff. I do have reading stuff and I’ll read it in the morning. Every single morning, I’m going to study for at least two hours. All the time, I’ve got stuff coming my way.
If I’m sitting in a meeting, I’m listening to what the meeting is about, but I’m also making notes, to-do lists all the time. If I hear a term that I liked, for example, I’m going to write it down because I can use that somewhere or that will inspire me to think of something else. If some of my team members come to me with an idea, “How about we do this? We should buy that. We should expand in this way.” My student Peter Drucker, he always said, “What business are we in and who is our customer, that’s how we make decisions.” If you come to me and say, “I’m going to buy a shopping center,” I go, “We’re not in that business, but there is a shopping center across the street from us.” In case we need land, we might do something else with the shopping center. That’s been very important to me in my life.
The other important point is you call it a paranoid optimist. One of the greatest mishaps I think that entrepreneurs or business people commit is that they’re not risk managers. Either they take risks irresponsibly. You don’t do your homework. You don’t have all the facts. You haven’t counseled with people you’ve trust or they don’t take your risk at all. It’s like, “I might fail. This might cost too much. This might not work.” They disappear. It is no good. I’m going to give you a very valuable formula that I use in my life. This is going to make it work for anybody reading. This one little thing is going to make this time worthwhile for them. Any decision I make of any consequence, I ask these questions. What is the best thing that can happen as a result of taking this action? That’s easy. Life is mostly lived in the most likely zone. It’s not one and/or the other. It’s not all or none.
What is the most likely thing to have? The most important question of all, what is the worst thing that can happen? This is how I make my decision. If the most likely thing to happen gets me closer to my goals, because if it doesn’t, why am I doing that? That’s why we have to know what goals we want and what outcomes. If I’m willing to deal with the worst thing that can happen, I go for it. I’m not willing to deal with the worst thing that can happen either emotionally, financially or reputationally. I run faster than someone that attracts me. That saved me so much in life from getting into emotional decisions, quick decisions, uninformed decisions or falling for someone’s great sales pitch that in the end didn’t work.
You run your ideas through that formula. In regards to a team, I get asked this when I’m speaking, how do you come up with your ideas? We’ve been working on this and we do what we call idea paloozas. Every single month, we bring the whole staff together. They each bring three ideas on a theme and it’s helped a lot. I’d love to know, are you constantly thinking how to create wow and create these moments, this extraordinary education? How are you getting your team to bring these ideas and come together with, “This is going to keep us relevant moving forward in the years to come?”
I have 22 people on my team. These are the levers of my organization. These are vice presidents and deans. You will find that not every one of them is an idea person. Some are managers, innovative ideas people and financial people. We do it several ways. Number one, we have annual strategic planning. For three days, we go offsite, we sit down, no idea is a bad idea. You can’t judge anybody’s point. Within parameters, we talk about where we all are, where we want to go and how we’re going to get there. Throughout the year, we have meetings in which we talk about different things. Every single day, I encourage everyone to read, to study, and to question, “Is this idea working? Can we do better? How do you know if you can do it?” You ask people.
I walk on across campus and I’ll say to students, “How are you doing?” “I’m doing great.” “What do you like most and least about High Point? How can we make your life better? Give me an idea that would make our campus fabulous.” When you do it with a faculty, they are your most learning people. The faculty are empowered to be innovative and creative. It’s amazing what they come up with. They can do it all because it costs a lot of money, but you’ve completely expanded your horizons of thought and analytics. The most important thing about ideas is to encourage people, to reward people. Even when someone has an idea, applies it and it fails, that person should be rewarded for taking the step in the first place, to learn something.
I make a distinction between productive failures and unproductive successes. With productive failure, you fail at something, analyze it, learn from it and correct it the next time. On productive success, you succeed. You have no idea what works. You have no idea what it is that caused that success, therefore you can’t replicate. It’s guesswork. We like the notion that I’m not an optimist and I’m not a pessimist, but I am a paranoid optimist. In other words, when I am moving forward, I keep my eye on the sidelines saying, “Whatever is coming and hit me from the side I have thought about it. What are those things? External or internal? How are we mitigating that risk? We can’t mitigate all of it, but how do we mitigate in a way that doesn’t spell major failure for us?”
I also love to celebrate even if they fail. They’re implementing ideas. I say ideas are currency, but the implementation will make you rich and taking action on the ideas is what we look for. I want to finish with some rapid-fire games. We will have some little fun here if you’re ready for it. Deets about the tweet. You did Q-tips for a long time on Twitter in these great quotes. One you said, “The more you celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” I want to know about some ways you celebrate at High Point, whether it’s your faculty or your students. What are some cool, unique celebrations you do? You do celebrations everywhere.[bctt tweet=”Wows for the sake of wows are too expensive and do not ignore the results you want. ” username=””]
One of them is that we have a staff meeting every month. Everybody comes into the big theater. That meeting is intended to keep you informed about what’s going on. I’ll give you some ideas about what we’re headed and answering the questions. At that meeting, we always have an acknowledgment session. Anybody that read, there is no rule. Anybody can stand up and say, “I want to acknowledge Jesse Cole because I had this problem and Jesse stepped in and helped me.” “I want to tell you about a paramedic who called and said my daughter was sick. She chose to be with her when I’m on my way to pick some soup in a room.” Everybody acknowledges, applauds and I give them a gift. The gift is a big High Point University blanket because it’s symbolic that a blanket covers you up, warms you up.
When you do something good, that’s what you’re doing. You’re reaching out and touching someone in a loving, kind way. That’s one way we do. Another way we celebrate is that every single day, if it’s your birthday, you’ve got an email from me saying, “Happy Birthday, Jesse.” If God forbid, you lose someone you love in your family or you’re sick or whatever, I’m going to call you. I’m going to send you love. I send you flowers, etc. If you’re a student, when it’s your birthday, someone brings a card for me to your room with a balloon and a Starbucks gift card. The idea is to say, “Happy Birthday. I’m thinking of you.” These are simple things that we do, but we celebrate life. If you go across campus or certain places with big signs that say all kinds of motivational things, you can take a picture with it and we’ll put an Instagram and all that. Sometimes it doesn’t take a big idea to create moments of celebration.
Serendipities are everywhere on the horizon. You must reach out and grab it and make it a part of your being. At the end of the day, it’s not what you do that matters, it’s how you be that matters. You’ve got two kinds of people. You have some people who live their life by to-do this. “I’ve got to do this. I’ve got to call this. I’ve got to make this.” We need a to-do list from the transactional, but the transformational resides in a different zone. It’s called the to-be list. Few people you’ve ever meet have a to-be list. “I want to be more financially independent. I want to be more patient. I want to be a better listener. I want to be kind to people.” One of my good friends is a guy called Daniel Lubetzky. You may not know the name, but you know the product. He’s the one who invented the KIND bars. I said, “Daniel, why did you do that?” He said, “I wanted people to be more kind with each other, to be more civil.” Little did you know that it would become a $2 billion business and it goes over the world.
You’ve got to celebrate a great life. Authenticity above charisma any day of the week. We must be authentic. When you’re talking to somebody who’s authentic and you know when somebody’s putting you off and so does everyone else. We have an innate ability to feel that and sense that. It has to be authentic. The only way it can be authentic is for you to live it. If you’re a happy, smiley, enthusiastic, high energy person, people around you are going to be touched by that without you taking a proactive step to do that. I want to be in your midst. I feel it. It creates this atmosphere that is delightful and special.
Every day we try to create fun and it’s who you want to be. I’ve got one more Q-tip. “The person who can laugh off and who finds humor in even the most stressful events can keep going with others falling by the wayside. Learn to look for the humor in every situation. You’ll live longer and have a lot more fun.” I’m all about fun and I love it if there’s something that has made you laugh, some funny little thing that’s happened at High Point that you may talk about or celebrate. There’s a lot to be having fun with what you’re doing at High Point.
Good habits are hard to develop, but they’re easy to live with. Bad habits are easy to develop, but they’re hard to live with. Sense of humor is not just being funny, but being in fun. Acknowledging fun and humor for what it is. Here’s a habit I’ve developed, about 3 to 4 times a week, when I have 20 to 30 minutes in the morning or an evening, I go online and find funny stuff. I’ll watch a comedian or I’ll watch those people in real life, they walk around and they ask people stuff or they do it on college campuses. I forgot what they call these, but I watch 20 to 30 minutes a day of that and laughed my head off. You have to create for yourself at that moment. I call it to take a recess to reassess. If you had a stressful day, let’s stop and reassess. Your health is good. Your family loves you. You’ve got money to live on, shake it off.
One of the best ways to do this is to be funny. I’m known for funny stuff. They’ll do the things I have. For example, one time, I went home at night. I came back the next morning, I found the students did all night long in my parking spot drawing with chalk, the most beautiful big sketch signs of a car telling me that they love me and why they love me. Literally for a week, I could not park my car in there. They said, “Why didn’t you park there?” I said, “It is too beautiful for me to park on it.” It was until the rain came one day and destroyed it. I think you have to walk around, smile, laugh and model that behavior. If someone says something funny, celebrate the moment for them and laugh right along with them. Don’t laugh at them but laugh with them.
Our mutual friend, Mark Sanborn, when he came to a game, he said, “Jesse, it’s simple to watch. When you give fun, you have fun.” It is important when you’re giving fun. I’ve heard it again from our president’s wife and I met a few High Point students at speaking visit when I was in Vegas. They said, “They have so much fun at your university. What’s a better brand ambassador than someone that’s having fun doing something that’s helping themselves?”
The word fun was being misinterpreted. They think of it as frivolous or devoid of meaning or purpose. That’s not true. You can have fun with your child. You can have fun on a bicycle. You can have fun skiing somewhere. You can have fun watching a movie and eating popcorn. Fun comes in all shapes and sizes based on who’s enjoying the moment. My life is filled with fun and serious moments. Maturity is defined as the person who knows, which is which, and who allows the energy of time for each inappropriate waiting and appropriate songs.
I want to leave it with this. If you could give advice to someone to be different and stand out, maybe have more fun, create wow, what would you suggest on how they could do that more in their life?
There’s a term in mathematics, vector, which means a direction with force. The happiest people I’ve ever met and therefore to a great extent the most successful people I have ever met. Success is not defined by fame or fortune. Success is defined by your faith, your family and your friends. I would suggest to you that those people are not autovector. Autovector means me first, self-oriented. Being self-oriented is not that bad as long as it is enlightened self-interest. Enlightened self-interest is you’re interviewing me. It is important for me to give you the best interview I can because enlightened self-interest says, “When I give you something that you like, you’re better at it. You’ll use it more often. People over here will benefit from it and gain from that.” I gained from that satisfaction that together we did something important.
The opposite of autovector is it’s all about me. I win, you lose, is allovector, which is outward direction. I like a win-win relationship. I want to win, but I want you to win too. In sports, it goes you have one winner and one loser, but I don’t mean it in that context. I mean it in a relationship. Let’s say, “I don’t want to win if you lose because you’ll never do business with me again. I want you to win.” If together, we can come to a partnership that allows each of us to win, we’re going to do business again. The most successful people I know are people who are always asking the question, “How can I bring value to every relationship? How can I serve you first? What can I do for you?”
The amazing thing is that when you give, not when you give back, there’s a measurable difference between giving back as if you owe the bank alone and you have to give it back. That’s the beauty you have. When you give for the sake of giving, it’s amazing. The giving might be a smile. It might be an expensive baseball park. It might be doing someone a favor, writing someone a reference letter. I love the words of William Barclay, the Scottish theologian who said, “Always give without remembering. Always receive without forgetting.” The happiest people I’ve ever met, my heroes, my models, and mentors live in that sphere.
We are speaking the same language, Dr. Qubein. On the back of our Fans First playbook that we share with our entire staff, our players, our coaches, it says, “Be patient in what you want for yourself, but be impatient in how much you give to others.” It’s all about giving and you’ve given so much to us. How to create wow and give more to others. How to have fun and give more to others. All of this comes back into giving mindset and purpose. I can’t thank you so much for what you have given us, the books, the speeches. I’ve been listening to you for a long time and thank you so much for being with us.
My privilege being with you. I celebrate you and congratulate you for all the success you’re having, for all the wonderful experiences that you are bringing in to your fans, for the wonderful strategic planning that you bring into your team and your organization. May you always prosper in every way. It’s a delight to be with you. Thank you for inviting me.
Thanks a lot. I appreciate you.
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