Suneel Gupta is the founder of RISE and is on faculty at Harvard University. Using the seven steps inside his latest book, Suneel went from being the face of failure for the New York Times to being the “New Face of Innovation” for the New York Stock Exchange. His ideas have been backed by firms like Greylock and Google Ventures, and he has invested in startups including Airbnb, Calm, and SpaceX. Suneel also serves as an emissary for Gross National Happiness between the United States and the Kingdom of Bhutan. He is the author of Backable. 

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  • Let’s start with the obvious — when lots of people are applying for the same spot, you have to find a way to stand out. You can’t just check a box, you have to leave an impression.  (But backable people “go beyond Google” and dig for insights that other people interviewing for the job may not find. They talk to customers, they attend shareholder meetings, they test-drive the product. (But backable people “go beyond Google” and dig for insights that other people interviewing for the job may not find. They talk to customers, they attend shareholder meetings, they test-drive the product. )
  • Suneel comes from a family of highly backable people—including his mother, Damyanti Hingorani, the first woman engineer for Ford Motor Company, and his brother Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent for CNN.
  • Reid Hoffman recruited Suneel to Mozilla…
    • Name someone early in your life who backed you. Call them and say ‘thank you.’
  • Hire “high ceiling” leaders:
    • Suneel was a speechwriter in 2004. He was backstage at the Democratic National Convention. There was a State Senator from Illinois. Suneel watched him speak from behind the curtain. “He created an electric wave of energy when he spoke.” It was President Barack Obama.
      • After that, Suneel became obsessed with following the work of the State Senator.
      • He studied President Obama’s history and learned that he went from a dry speaker to inspiring through preparation and practice. He worked on his skill to communicate and got better.
  • The “It” quality — People get a job because others want to take a chance on them. They’re backable.
  • Specifics to make this happen:
    • Play exhibition matches — Prepare, practice, rehearse
    • They develop a level of mastery so that they don’t have to think when it’s time to perform. Their preparation allows them to flow
    • Ella Fitzgerald performed in Berlin… She forgot the lyrics and improvised the words for the next half of the song. She rehearsed a lot. That allowed her to perform even when she forgot the words.
  • Confidence comes from believing something will go wrong and that you’ve practiced enough to be able to handle it. “Build your recovery muscle.”
  • Surround yourself with great people – Early adopters need to feel part of the build.
  •  Steer Into Objections. Anticipate three key objections to your idea. When pitching, don’t avoid those objections; steer into them.
  • Don’t Pitch Prematurely. Instead of sharing an idea before it’s ready, nurture it until you’re ready. It’s not charisma that convinces people, it’s conviction.
  • Don’t Overshare. Share what it could be, not how it has to be. Share just enough to get the essence of your idea across, then open up the conversation.
  • Build Your Backable Circle. Don’t rely on just one person to help you with your pitch. Surround yourself with a trusted group of people who bring different perspectives.
  • Humans are not risk takers – We do whatever we can to avoid a loss. You need to neutralize that fear.
    • “Don’t just talk about why it’s new, but why it’s inevitable.”
  • “Backable people convince themselves first. It’s not charisma that convinces people, it’s conviction.”
  • “Most new ideas are killed inside hallways. We share too early. Before they’re ready. Nurture your ideas behind the scenes. They need an incubation time. Write it out. Draw…”
  • Quiet time is so important to hone ideas. It’s critical to the creative process
  • “Ken Robinson was not that charismatic, but you believed everything he was saying.” He believed it first. He had conviction.
  • Storytelling – “You need to cast a central character.”
    • “Re-write the book for on person as the reader… ‘I’m writing this book for my daughter to read.'”
    • “Don’t talk about the market, talk about one person.”
  • Life advice:
    • “Figure out what makes you come alive. I left Groupon and created a list of ideas.”
  • Apply to be part of my Leadership Circle


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