Sunjay Nath is best known for his trademark, The 10-80-10 Principle, a framework helping individuals and teams improve performance. This methodology combines best practices with small wins to help people empower themselves. Sunjay was a founding Vice President of a Toronto-based e-learning company that went on to become a multimillion-dollar venture. He has also worked as an engineer for a distribution company in New York and served as a camp director to instill leadership skills in students. He started an international speaking business when he was 19 and has addressed over 1,000,000 people since. He is the youngest Canadian and third youngest in the world to earn his Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation. Sunjay is the author of The 10-80-10 Principle, The ABCs of Student Leadership, and a contributing author for the book, Professionally Speaking.
Vinita Kinra: Welcome to Global Asian Times, Sunjay. Tell us something about yourself not many people are aware of.
Sunjay Nath: Although I am known as a speaker and I absolutely love what I do, my identity to which I most relate is being a father. I am the father of three very high energy and ridiculously talented boys.
Vinita Kinra: Share with us the moment your heart said to you: “I want to be a Motivational Speaker!”
Sunjay Nath: I don’t think I ever had that realization. It is just something that found me. I was fortunate enough to be put in a situation where I was able to present a program. Someone in that audience found it valuable enough that he asked me to speak for another group, the same thing happened with that second group and it is has been happening for 21 years. My goal isn’t to “motivate” people, but simply to remind them of the power they already possess and help them rediscover it.
Vinita Kinra: Tell us about your international speaking business.
Sunjay Nath: Most of my business is done within Canada and the US. However, I have had a few opportunities to go overseas. On one hand it is very flattering to be requested to travel so far to share a message, on the other hand it is a lot of work to do so. This is especially difficult with a family.
Vinita Kinra: What sparked off the idea for your book, The 10-80-10 Principle?
Sunjay Nath: The 10-80-10 Principle is just a synthesis of many inputs of concepts that I have read, seen and learned about over the years of being in the self-help world. When you submerge yourself long enough in an industry, you tend to see certain patterns emerge. The 10-80-10 Principle is a consistent pattern I have seen over and over again articulated with my voice.
Vinita Kinra: Who has been your greatest mentor?
Sunjay Nath: I’ve never really had any specific mentor. However, there have been several individuals who have guided me along the way. When I first started, there was a member of a Rotary Club that was very instrumental in encouraging me. As well, a speaker that helped me understand the business. These days I look to people who are more experienced than me to help reduce my learning curve with respect to business development, writing, relationship development, etc.
Vinita Kinra: Out of all the hats you’ve worn so far in your life journey, which is your favourite and why?
Sunjay Nath: Being a dad is the hat I identify with most. I find it amazing to watch and learn from my sons. As they grow and develop, I have the opportunity to see things “click” in as they mature, and that is one of the greatest joys I have experienced.
Vinita Kinra: How early in life did you realize that you were not meant to sit in a cubicle from 9-5 Monday through Friday to make a living?
Sunjay Nath: When I was 13, I worked in my uncle’s factory. He was an entrepreneur – it was around that time I think the seed was planted about being non-traditional. There were certain elements of career that became very important to me: autonomy, flexibility, unlimited earning potential, opportunity to use my aptitudes to help others.
Vinita Kinra: What experiences or personality traits do you credit most in yourself that make you a people’s person?
Sunjay Nath: Like every human being, I have my off times and my on times. I think the most common trait of “people” people is that they have a truly genuine interest in learning about the other person. When people are curious about other people, it bridges many gaps and opens up lots of avenues for relationship development.
Vinita Kinra: Successful Keynote Speakers like you are partly stand-up comedians. Do you agree?
Sunjay Nath: Successful keynote speakers all have a way to engage the audience on an emotional level. One of the ways to engage emotionally is through comedy. Based on my personality of being a sarcastic, smart Alec, that approach resonates with me. However, I have seen other keynoters excite other emotions in people with fabulous results (fear, shock, pity, etc.) The key to success is engaging emotionally with the audience in a way that is authentic with the personality of the speaker.
Vinita Kinra: What’s your formula for steering companies in the direction of increased growth and productivity?
Sunjay Nath: That is the basis of my brand, The 10-80-10 Principle. Said as simply as I can, “Focus on Your Strengths.”
Vinita Kinra: You have been an all-rounder who excelled in academics, sports, and almost everything you touched. What’s the secret of your success?
Sunjay Nath: No one excels at everything. You should see me cook – it’s not pretty! And, I am pathetic at racquet sports. The more we recognize what our Top 10 attributes are, the more we can focus on them with great results. By focusing on your Top 10, you get better results because they are your strengths, and this recognition reduces stress because you enjoy it.
Vinita Kinra: Our readers would like to sample an excerpt from your book, The 10-80-10 Principle.
Many years ago, I was interested in learning about politics with the idea that someday I might consider running for office. I figured that the best way to learn about how the political system works was to immerse myself within it. Through a connection, I met a man who had quite the political pedigree and I joined his election team. What a great learning experience it was, and through it I discovered that successful campaigns utilize a strategy that I later coined the 10-80-10 Principle.
I started out canvassing with this man (let’s call him George Smith of Party A) door-to-door and was completely perplexed by our first few encounters. At one house, a woman came to the door and he introduced himself ― Hello, I am George Smith and I represent Party A … That was all he was able to get out before he was interrupted.
―Oh, Party A. Well, I’ve supported Party B for 40 years, and let me tell you just SOME of the things you and your party are doing wrong! And she started to rip into him.
A rookie politician would have immediately defended his party’s position and tried to convince this woman that they are not evil. Instead George did something that I thought was brilliant. His response was, ―You’re right. Sorry for wasting your time. Then he moved on to the next house.
For the most part, we received two other kinds of reactions. If the person was undecided, we would offer them a flyer from Party A and say something to the effect of, ―We would really like your support. Please let us know if we can do anything to help you with your decision. But if the person was already planning to vote for Party A, that’s where we spent most of our time. ―You are voting for Party A; that is excellent. We really appreciate your support. Have you considered placing a sign on your lawn? They come in two sizes, extra-large and super extra-large.
I used to think that the purpose of canvassing was to try and win people over and get them to vote for you. It has nothing to do with that. When politicians knock on your door they care very little about trying to change your mind. They want to know if you’ve decided to vote for them or not. If they aren’t already your candidate of choice, they aren’t going to try and convince you.
George Smith, the political candidate I was working for, understood this perfectly. The woman with 40 years of supporting Party B was part of his Bottom 10. Staying with this woman and trying to get her to come around to his way of thinking would take time and effort he simply didn’t want to spend. Instead, George spent his time with the people who were already supporting his cause—his Top 10. That’s what successful politicians do and this is the key to success for any individual or organization: find out who is supporting the behaviors that drive your mission and empower those people.
Vinita Kinra is a Toronto-based author, editor, speaker and activist, best known for her short story collection, Pavitra in Paris, launched to critical acclaim in 2013. She is also a contributor for India’s largest English daily, The Times of India.