Episode 195 – Our American Dream; Cultivating a Life of Success, Joy, and Purpose
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our Becoming Your Best podcast listeners, wherever you might be in the world today! This is your host, Steve Shallenberger and we have a terrific guest with us today. He went from living in poverty in India and collecting and selling cow dung to ringing the opening bell at Nasdaq. Welcome, Andrew Samuel!
Andrew Samuel: Thank you, Steve!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, man, we are excited to have you! And before we get started today, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Andrew. He serves as the Chairman, CEO, and Director of LINKBANKCORP, Inc. and also LINKBANK, and has a long track record of industry success. He has helped take banks from insignificant to really being listed on the Nasdaq Global Market and has been involved in the Mergers and Acquisitions of more than 10 companies, with an aggregate deal value surpassing $1.5 billion. Andrew has shaped workplaces that are listed as the best to work at in their region, and created cultures centered around servant leadership. Andrew lives in the Central Pennsylvania area, with his wife of 36 years. They are blessed with five daughters, four sons-in-law and 12 grandchildren. Way to go, Andrew!
Andrew Samuel: Thank you, Steve!
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s quite a bit of an experience. To get us rolling, Andrew, tell us about your background, including turning points in your life that have had a significant impact on you, what you’re doing today, on your experiences and, yeah, what’s your story? It is so fun of a background!
Andrew Samuel: Yeah, I’ll try to condense that a little bit. I was actually born in India, right on the foothills of the Himalayas, in the northern part of India – I spent my first six years there. I have three sisters, our dad was a military man and was gone for probably 11 months out of the year, he fought in two wars with Pakistan. My mom has really raised us on her own with her brothers and her sisters. We lived in what I would consider more of an extended family environment. So, I lived with all my cousins and my uncles and aunts. We all lived together, we had a 14m by 14m room, in which 16 of us slept, lived, cooked – everything was there, and we didn’t have indoor plumbing of any form, so every morning my aunts and uncles would have to go at the well for water. But it was a very, very happy time for us and I learned a lot during those years. When you don’t have much, there’s a level of desire and persistence that evolves, and I’m very fortunate that I was able to develop some of those things.
Andrew Samuel: One of the things that I learned at a young age, at that time, was the spirit of entrepreneurialism that was alive in our extended family. I mean, my uncles, and aunts, and cousins – we would actually collect cow dung and actually sell them to neighbors and other families in the form of dung patties which really burn well. So, we sold those, we also sold fresh cow dung to other families because when I was growing up, the choices were, you either had a dud floor or a cow dung-covered floor and the cow dung floor was better because it sealed the dust and a lot of our neighbors saw that too. So, we learned very early to be resourceful.
Andrew Samuel: My father was fortunate that, when he retired from the Indian army in 1969, he was one of the few people that was recruited to Zambia, Africa, to be a defense specialist to help organize the Zambian National Defense Force. Zambia had just gotten its independence from the British and wanted soldiers from a neutral country to help establish their defense forces. So, we moved from the subcontinent of India to the continent of Africa. Never having left India at those times, we didn’t have TVs, so I hadn’t really experienced anything outside of my small village that I lived in. But we moved to Zambia and things got a little better – my dad made a little bit more money but in the social scheme of things, we were still on the lower spectrum of resources. I spent about 11 years in Zambia, graduated from there, and I was fortunate that I was able to get to a small Christian college called, Messiah College, in Central Pennsylvania that I came as a freshman too. When I came, you know, I had some interesting experiences – not having used the silverware was one of the first experiences, to sit in a cafeteria not sure what to do because I was so used to eating with my fingers, and now I had to transition to using the silverware. And I did it, by mimicking people.
Andrew Samuel: But college was a great experience. So, one of the biggest things was, I met my wife 40 years ago, in college, I was a freshman and as you mentioned earlier, we’ve been married 36 years. So, that was a significant experience – meeting my wife there. One of the things I really learned while I was in college, was just that my background of being Indian, having lived in Africa, coming here, served really well because I was very adaptable and very social and learned a lot in that educational environment. But, one of the biggest things that I learned there, was just – people are different and I quickly began to realize that one of the things that I really enjoyed using my background, was the ability to engage people and influence their lives in a positive way. So, as I was coming out of college, that was kind of the purpose that I had in my mind, to really have an influence on people’s lives. I just didn’t know how I would do that.
Andrew Samuel: I ended up starting my career in banking, and I applied that whole concept of influencing people’s lives positively and so, everywhere I was, that was my goal, which kind of led to opportunities and I was fortunate that over my career I’ve probably been CEO of half a dozen companies, and it’s interesting that all of those companies, their mission statement was always very simple – to positively impact people’s lives. And we carried that, and that mission has really helped us grow companies at a much faster level than most companies and that has led to a lot of investor interest and leading to taking a couple of companies public during that time. So, it’s been a remarkable career, humbled by the opportunities, especially, if I were to summarize it – a skinny poor little kid from India coming to America and being able to do whatever he set his mind on. And that’s why the book is called “Our American Dream” because, in our nation here, you can do anything you want as long as you put your mind to it and are committed to it, and are willing to make the sacrifices to be successful in doing it. So, that’s a little bit – I know I covered a lot very quickly, but I’m sure you might have some specific questions there.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that was wonderful and Andrew, thanks for taking a few minutes on that background. Did you live in Lusaka?
Andrew Samuel: Yes we lived in Ndola, which is the capital of the northern region and we lived in Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, yes.
Steve Shallenberger: Got it! That’s great! That’s a very interesting country. We have visited there. Beautiful people. We were able to hold a seminar in that country and then visited Victoria Falls, which is so beautiful!
Andrew Samuel: Absolutely! You know, one of the natural wonders of the world.
Steve Shallenberger: Yes, how true! And then, going back to the description of living with your cousins, your uncles and your aunts and all of those people in that room, multi-purpose room – and I loved your comment that you said, “And we were happy”.
Andrew Samuel: Yes!
Steve Shallenberger: You mean you can be happy with not a lot of material things?
Andrew Samuel: That’s right! Just the security of the family and just simple things like having a meal. To have a day was more than enough for us. And really, really times that were very fulfilling, challenging, but at the same time, a very, very happy childhood.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s good to keep in mind, that we can be happy without the material things or things far more important. Thank you for pointing that out! Now, let’s get back to Our American Dream! Wow, talk about building upon that American dream, you have a book that just came out recently. Tell us more about your book.
Andrew Samuel: Yeah. So for years, particularly as I’ve spoken at the industry conferences and other meetings, which I’ve done pretty actively, people always said, after I spoke, people would always say, “Andrew, it would be great if you wrote a book because your speech was so encouraging, so inspirational, so motivational.” And they said, “You know, it would be so nice that you had a book because then you could reach so many more folks.” And of course, with my priorities with the company, with my family, I kept putting it off, and about 15 months ago, after the sale of another bank that I had been a part of, I decided this was the time to take some time and write a book.
Andrew Samuel: I spent some time thinking about what the topic would be. And the thing that really spoke to me was how do we impact the next generation of leaders? I’m 57 years old, and I have quite a bit of time left, but the reality is 15 years from now, 20 years from now, who will be the next generation of business leaders and are they going to run businesses and treat people with the same values that have helped me have a fulfilling career over the last 30 years? As I began to think about that, I felt like I wanted to write a book where just from my heart I could just lay out, “Here is a little bit about my background, but here are some simple principles that can help you focus on having a purpose-filled life.”
Andrew Samuel: That’s what the basis for the book was – to have an impact on the young leaders and young business folks, as they developed their reputation and their career and just to give them some insights into what they could focus on, that would help them be successful because I found that a lot of 20 something, 30 something, and early 40 something, are seeking purpose in their life, in their careers, they are wondering how to do it, they’re making excuses why they can’t focus on something, stick to something, they’re looking for immediate gratification, etc., and this book focuses on just helping them see that you do need to put work into it, you need to have a purpose that’s pure in terms of what you’re doing. If you’re solely focused on making more money, that’s not going to be fulfilling but if you’re focused on growing your career to impact people, and in the process, you create wealth for yourself, that’s more fulfilling.
Andrew Samuel: So, that was the motivation for the book, to really have an impact on people. And so far, the feedback has been very, very good, from a number of people that have read it, just to say, “I love that principle on focus” or “I love that principle about being bold.” So, it’s been fun. The other part of this was, there’s been so much negativity about the topic of immigration and I don’t address the topic of immigration directly here, but what I wanted to point out to people is, I am an immigrant that came to this country, I came here legally and the country has opened up its doors to allow me to do whatever I want. The things that I’ve accomplished here, in terms of my banking career, the ability to grow companies, the ability to do mergers and acquisitions, take companies public – has been a privilege and it’s not something that you can do in any country, but our nation allows us to be whoever we want to be, as long as we put hard work into it.
Andrew Samuel: So those were the two really driving forces – impacting the next generation of business leaders and secondly, showing an appreciation for the American Dream and the American opportunity, which is very, very alive.
Steve Shallenberger: That is fabulous! And let’s just jump into the book here, the subtitle, by the way, is “Cultivating a Life of Success, Joy, and Purpose.” Well, right on! That’s the right focus, isn’t it? It pretty well hits it. What are some of the favorite principles or ideas for you, from this book?
Andrew Samuel: So, one of those that I’d like people to walk through – there’s a number of them but I’ll just touch on a couple – one of those is, in the book I talk about taking advantage of every opportunity that comes your way because you don’t know what that training is preparing you for. And I’ll use again the cow dung example. The seeds of entrepreneurialism were embedded in me at a young age, when my family was involved in that, not knowing that it would come into play later in life. A second thing is, I’ve had a number of different jobs and roles, and every one of them, I’ve approached as an opportunity to excel in. You know, you learn from that and you take that on into the next role and the next opportunity.
Andrew Samuel: My favorite chapter is the one on ‘focus’ because a lot of people today, really struggle with being able to be focused and part of it is obviously, with today’s social media, and technology environment, it’s very easy to get carried away from things. One of the things that I really enjoyed as I was documenting the focus piece is, so much of this, if you learn to just channel your energies into something that has purpose and something that you’re passionate about, and just focus on that and not deviate from that, as things come at you – because too many times today, business leaders, what’s happening is, this is a good strategy today and then, six months later, somebody else thinks of another strategy and so there isn’t a focused effort on what your purpose is and what you’re trying to accomplish. My favorite chapter is sharing with our readers the powerful effect of being focused and giving it time to excel.
Steve Shallenberger: Good! And while you’re on focus, I noticed that you talked about eliminating distractions. What have you found the best way to do that? Because that’s a big part of the focus.
Andrew Samuel: Right! It really is and I think the first thing is to be intentional about it to be aware of the distractions. I’ll give you an example: in my career, I meet a lot of people. We have a bank now called Linkbank and I meet a lot of people and I want to impact people positively. Our company’s philosophy is to impact people positively. That means you give people the attention and you engage with people and you invest in people but, at the same time, you realize too, that people that can’t help you move your purpose forward, you need to find a way to limit your time with those individuals. So, meaning, those that can help you move your purpose forward are the ones that you want to spend time with. Those that can’t, you treat them well, you treat them with humility, etc. but don’t get carried away with it, if it doesn’t channel your energies into achieving your purpose. So that’s one thing. Time limits on email, etc. One of the most difficult thing today is that everybody wants to be connected all the time, checking their text messages, checking their email, etc. I believe it’s better to put time aside and be focused on saying, “During this time, I’m going to focus on getting this done, and I’m putting the phone away, putting it on silent, whatever it is.”
Andrew Samuel: Another one – I’m a big sports fan. With the technology that’s available today, I can go look at sports scores, and before I know it, it’s two hours later and I’m still looking at sports stories and scores. So, what I do is, I say to myself, “Look, you have half an hour a day, and it’s usually in the evenings, where you can go catch up on your sports news because you love that, but don’t distract yourself by looking at those scores during the day, because you do become less focused then.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s great! Good advice, that’s just one of these principles. The book is really broken into two parts. Part one is the American Dream formula, which is awesome, focus – persistence – faith, and then part two, principles for enduring success. And this is actually, Andrew has listed a number (six, seven or eight, somewhere in that range) – One of those happens to do a service. Being a servant leader. And I love that whole perspective and idea. So, how do we learn to serve others when we live in a world where everyone wants to be served?
Andrew Samuel: Yeah, absolutely! That is one of the big issues we’re dealing with, today. You’re absolutely right! Everybody wants to be served and they want to be served quickly and the interesting thing is, I found in my career that, if you look in one of the pages in the book, I talk about the Inverted Pyramid. And the bottom line there is, it has got to start with what I consider a pure purpose. And my purpose has always been, I want to be willing to serve people before desiring to be served. And that has always been the purpose and that purpose has been driven – if you want to impact people’s lives positively, you need to be willing to serve them. And in order to serve them, you need to be willing to make sacrifices. And I found, as a leader, I’ve made sacrifices in terms of time and resources, where I poured into people and made sacrifices to pour into them, and that has led to longtime loyal employees.
Andrew Samuel: The whole process here is really more about the other’s need and showing a certain level of empathy because when you invest in serving others and winning their heart, it’s amazing how the productivity levels naturally raise the bar and how you can accomplish so much more with a loyal group of people, because it all started with your willing to have a serving heart, not just from the beginning, but also on an ongoing basis. It’s a powerful tool that we don’t realize. The paradigm has shifted to where people want to be engaged and one way to engage them is to really have a humble, humility – filled approach, that lets people know that you are willing to serve them and invest in them, because in the long run, that comes back to benefit you and the purpose that you have for your life.
Steve Shallenberger: So well described! What a great focus! And it does make a big difference, doesn’t it?
Andrew Samuel: Yes it does!
Steve Shallenberger: Trust is so fundamental to building vibrant, effective, positive cultures and when you have that, you’re far more effective together than you might be alone in what you can accomplish. Team is so powerful, so this is a big deal that you’re talking about! Way to go!
Andrew Samuel: Absolutely, it is! And it’s been around forever and it’s just that I think somewhere along the way we lost our way and when you look around, some of the greatest leaders, leaders that had a humble spirit as serving heart, have been iconic leaders.
Steve Shallenberger: Absolutely! Oh, what a great example! Our listeners or most of our listeners, anyhow, are quite aware about the background of the story of Becoming Your Best. One of my early companies – we had many employees and managers who would come and say, “How can I be among the top managers?” And this led me to really do research that ended up taking over 40 years and it’s interesting because as I’ve been thinking and listening to Andrew Samuel about his book, “Our American Dream”, what I found as I went all over and interviewed top leaders from around the world, people that were quite successful, what we observed is that there were certain things that they did, that allowed them to be among the top performers, producers. And here is what I found – is that what Samuel is talking about in this book and what he has done throughout his life, are among the 12 Principles of Highly Successful People and Leaders. So, way to go! I mean, this has been so fun to just look at this and this is a book that helps you continue to be familiar with those types of things and the result is so predictable, isn’t it, Andrew?
Andrew Samuel: Absolutely! It is very predictable!
Steve Shallenberger: When you have focus and persistence, and faith as you’ve outlined, when you’re honest and authentic, these are all the principles that Andrew has talked about! I love the meaning of family that he talks about – he had just referred the focus. Maybe one more before we get to the end of our podcast – and I’m always amazed how fast time goes, but you talked about boldness. Do you mind just talking about that and how does that play out in our success? Why is it important?
Andrew Samuel: That is an important piece because nobody prepares us to be bold. Bold does not mean being just foolish and foolhardy. What it means is to do your research but not be paralyzed by not making bold steps. An example that comes to mind here is, when you look at your career, it’s okay to make those bold steps and not be paralyzed not wanting to make a decision in your life. Sometimes you’ve got to take that calculated risk. I’ll give you an example: recently, in the last five years, I was the CEO of a bank, it was a great job, it paid a lot of money, it created a lot of wealth for my family, and everybody thought, “Andrew, you’re going to do this forever. This is what you ought to do.” But I felt like the company as a whole, was not delivering on the purpose and therefore, I didn’t feel fulfilled in the role so I just said to the board, “Listen, I’m done. I don’t feel this is where I need to be, this is where I’m called.”
Andrew Samuel: And I took a bold step in leaving what I would consider – to give you an idea – an $18 billion company, to move down to run a $190 million company. It was a bold step, there were a lot of people who said, “Andrew, you’ve got to be the dumbest guy we know, to give up everything and go do this.” But I did it because I knew that the purpose that drives my life and my fulfillment was here, it was a calculated decision. And when I went down there, we grew that company, we grew it exponentially in three years, with certain values, etc. and at the end of the day, I was better off financially from making that transition, than not making that transition. But in the process, I was more engaged, I felt more fulfilled. But I could’ve easily said, “I’ve got a really nice job here, and I’m just going to stay.” But I would’ve never been fulfilled the way I was by leaving that to go to another job, that was a much smaller bank. So rather than focusing on the prestige and the ego of running a larger company, I focused on who am I, and what is my purpose – and by taking that step, it was a bold step, but it was one that was important.
Andrew Samuel: Now, I can name five or six different times in my career where I’ve done that and that’s why I would encourage folks in business to take calculated, bold steps, and not be afraid of them because there’s an awful lot of benefit in that, if you are willing to be bold in your thought-process. And dream big! Don’t limit yourself! And as I’ve always said, if you have a pure purpose, and you’re bold, you will be fulfilled and you will be very successful at that.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s great, yeah! So, have a clear vision, what is your purpose and then, be bold about your goals and then take the steps to achieve them!
Andrew Samuel: Right, absolutely!
Steve Shallenberger: Oh, good going! Well, that’s an inspiration! It’s been so fun having you on this podcast show today. Tell us how people can find out about what you’re doing?
Andrew Samuel: The book is available on Amazon – on Kindle as well on paperback, and you can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I hope you’ll find inspiration and just take the time to read the book!
Steve Shallenberger: Wonderful! That’s Andrew Samuel and that’s what you’ll look for. Thank you, Andrew, for being part of this show today, it’s been such a really fun and productive visit! Compliments to you on being this skinny little boy who’s done so well, and building upon the American Dream! Great going!
Andrew Samuel: Thank you, Steve!
Steve Shallenberger: And we wish you, our listeners, all the best, as you’re making a difference in the world every single day! This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!