Suneel Gupta on BACKABLE: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You

Suneel Gupta Backable

Thanks to Screencastify for supporting this episode of the podcast. 

On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, Tom sits down with author and entrepreneur Suneel Gupta to discuss his new book BACKABLE: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take a Chance on You.

Suneel Gupta is the co-founder of Rise and teaches Innovation on faculty at Harvard University. Using the 7 steps inside this 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 many venture firms. Suneel also serves as an emissary for Gross National Happiness between the United States and the Kingdom of Bhutan.

Let’s listen in as Tom and Suneel discuss failure, the ability to get people to believe in you and Gross National Happiness.

Suneel Gupta has had a wandering and wonderful career. From policy to MTV to tech — he has been in many of the rooms “where it happens” and has continued to absorb information about what makes people thrive in these communities. His new book, BACKABLE: The Surprising Truth Behind What Makes People Take A Chance On You, takes these lessons and makes them applicable to readers wherever they are in the process.

Through research for this book and observation, he learned that creativity and persuasion are two very different skills. This book hopes to reconcile the space between. “[In many of these pitch situations] it didn’t have to do with being the right choice, it had to do with a moment that was created,” said Suneel. “It’s not performance, it’s conviction. Backable people do the work of convincing themselves first.” In this podcast he talks about the time he pitched to Tim Ferris, the importance of low stakes practice pitches before the main event and what we can do as educators, edleaders and parents to help instill these skills and dispositions at a young age.

“It’s not about if the idea fits the market, it’s does the idea fit you.”

Suneel also works with Bhutan on Gross National Happiness. He became enamored with the idea of using happiness as a north star. The four pillars of Gross National Happiness are:

  1. sustainable and equitable socio-economic development;
  2. environmental conservation;
  3. preservation and promotion of culture; and
  4. good governance.

When asked about how he keeps learning he says that every day he does a call and response with his daughter where he says, “What is the meaning of life?” and she says “to find your life.” He then says “What is the purpose of life?” and she says “to give it away.”

For Suneel, learning doesn’t come in big waves, it comes with consistency. Sitting down and applying yourself to something. “I stopped thinking about life as a to-do list, and I started thinking about it as a to-learn list.”

Key Takeaways:

[:08] About today’s episode with Suneel Gupta.
[:52] Tom welcomes Suneel to the podcast.
[1:06] About Suneel’s rich career background.
[2:22] Suneel talks about why surveying for Gross National Happiness is important, what initially got him interested in better measurement for societal progress, and key lessons he learned in speaking directly to the researchers in Bhutan who collect the GNH data.
[6:05] What Suneel learned about the art of pitching in writing his book, BACKABLE.
[9:10] What makes someone “backable.”
[10:47] Suneel unpacks the second concept of what makes someone backable: “Put yourself in a story that makes your case memorable.”
[14:41] Suneel elaborates on the sixth concept of what makes someone backable: “You can’t just wing it. You have to practice and you have to adjust based on feedback from practice.”
[17:27] How high school and college could do a better job in helping people develop the skills necessary in order to become more backable.
[21:48] Why everyone can benefit from reading BACKABLE.
[22:29] About Screencastify, the leading K-12 screen recording solution.
[23:15] How Suneel continues to learn.
[25:45] Tom congratulates Suneel for his new book and thanks him for joining the podcast!

Mentioned in This Episode:


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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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