Episode #4 – Sunil Robert Vuppula
How did a young man from Hyderabad, India, who was written off by many as a rebellious and good-for-nothing teen, go on to win a prestigious international award in corporate communications, author two books, and inspire thousands of young people to chase their dreams?
One particular statement from Sunil Robert Vuppula’s interview gives a clue, “My career story is like a wonderful script written by God Himself.”
A global executive with a career spanning 25 years, Sunil is a writer, motivational speaker, and leadership coach. His first book, I Will Survive: Comeback Stories of a Corporate Warrior, was a bestseller that was endorsed by leaders such as Ratan Tata and Joseph Kennedy II.
Sunil started working at a young age to support his struggling family, ensuring that his siblings got a good education. Keen on learning and growing, he burned the midnight oil to get a Masters in Journalism while he worked full time. Sunil’s career in communications took him to London, UK and then to New Jersey, USA. In 2006, he won the Stevie International Award, considered by many the Pulitzer for corporate communications.
Through it all, Sunil rarely lost sight of his God-given purpose. When I talked with him, I was struck by his passion to serve God and others, “I didn’t want to ever think that now I’ve arrived in my life and I can sit back and enjoy the ride. Rather, Lord, you’ve brought me here for a purpose. Until that purpose is achieved, I’ll stay rooted. I’ll keep on serving.”
In this interview, Sunil also talks about how he turned around his unhealthy lifestyle to become an avid Marathon runner.
Sunil Robert lives in Edison, New Jersy, with his wife, Prafulla, and two sons, Aman and Sahil.
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(Please excuse any errors since this transcript was provided by a software.)
Hi, and welcome to Immigrant Faith Stories. I’m Mabel Ninan. I’m a Christian writer and speaker and host of this show. Immigrant Faith Stories is a platform that showcases diverse and powerful testimonies of Christian immigrants. On this show, I invite immigrants to share with you their life stories. They share their struggles and challenges and joys and sorrows. More importantly, they share how they’ve witnessed God’s faithfulness and goodness in their lives and how their immigrant journey has shaped their spiritual journey. Whether you’re an immigrant or not, I hope you will be able to relate to these stories. And I hope these stories will encourage you in your faith journey. My desire is also that through this show, you will get a peek inside the lives of your neighbors and friends, who are not just immigrants, but also your brothers and sisters in Christ.
So subscribe to this channel. If you want to be the first to know when I upload a new video. transcript of all the episodes are available on my website, Mabel ninan.com. So without much delay, let’s get started.
On today’s episode, I’m very excited about this interview because I’m interviewing a personal friend, a brother, and someone who’s from my city of Hyderabad in India. And I’m also excited about this show, because this is the first time we’re doing a giveaway. So stay tuned to more to know more details about the giveaway.
So today we have with us Sunil Robert Vuppula. And I just wanted to let you know that I call him “Anna.” And that’s big brother in my language, Telugu, so and that’s how I would be addressing him, as “Anna.” Sunil Anna is a personal friend, like I mentioned. But his he’s a global executive with a career spanning 25 years across three continents. He’s written two books, and he’s not just an author, but also a motivational speaker and a leadership coach. He has won global awards for his ability to build brands and in the field of communication.
I’m so blessed and honored to have him on the show. He will also share with us how he became an avid runner and his story about why he went about how he was in an accident and incapacitated to how he came to you know, run so many marathons and what inspired him to do that. What I love about another most is his love for God and His passion to inspire young people. And that he says it’s his mission to inspire young people to do better, to be better. And so I am excited about this conversation. I also want to mention that he lives in Edison, New Jersey with his wife, Prafulla. He’s got two sons, Aman and Sahil. So welcome to the show, Anna.
Thank you. Thank you, Mabel. I’m at a loss whether I should call you Mabel, or Toy in the endearing way. But just let the viewers know that I know Toy and her sister, Joy, since the time they were very little, because I happen to know their mom and dad as well. Their mom was a very encouraging woman when I was growing up as a young lad in our church circles. This is Malika Samson, someone whom I subsequently also met a few times during my trips back to India. And it’s been a fascinating interconnection that we had, after many, many years.
And recently when I was in Santa Clara, California, serving as the CMO of small startup, and we reconnected with… by more than a little boy Ryan. And we did life together. So in many ways, it’s just two friends, converging heart to heart, about the exciting highs and the depressing lows of immigrant journey of life, love, faith, adventures, and so on. So I’m glad to be here this afternoon.
Thank you, Anna. It’s a blessing for me to have you here. Let’s start with how you became an immigrant. The story behind it. I know that from India, you went to London before coming to America. So take us through the journey, the WHYs and the HOWs and the WHENs.
Sure. I my parents actually were original immigrants because they came from a small village in Nalgonda, the big city of Hyderabad. And likewise, many, I think people who, those days migrated to the big cities for their opportunities, actually did that long trip away from their, you know, place where they had these fields, and they grew up in those small villages, but lack of opportunities, push them into the migrant app. And my mom and dad actually were from two small villages in Algona, and he got married, and they moved to the big city, because city offered potential jobs, it offered better access to education, because they were English, medium schools, and so and so drew all these aspiring folks into the big cities and my parents had come into the city back in the day, and I was born in Hyderabad. And so Hyderabad was always home to me.
But I never really had global aspirations till much later, because, as you may or may not know, my first of my struggles, were not for any success or wanting to become a global executive or anything. My first half of the story was just to stay alive as a survivor. Because in my early years, to the time I was 11, my family was okay, my dad had a job at the age of eleven, I, along with the siblings, and my parents were completely staring at a barrel of our tea, because my dad had lost his job. So here we were six of us in a big city, no job, no income, at rent, to pay six mouths to feed, and potentially losing education or access to school.
But this dead immigrant journey, competing, right, then I mean, within a few years of them moving to the big city, it’s a very depressing scenario that I grew up in, in since the time I was 11, all the way till the time I was 18, when I got my first job, so in that seven years, me and my sisters and my younger brother, we really experienced a lot of difficult times… days, we would go on without food, or, or months together, we were just staying at home, and when we are not able to re rent anymore, they would just throw us out, or we are back on the streets, and then we go find some other place, it was just hand to mouth kind of an existence. And under those circumstances, my education was a nonstarter, I could not pursue education and back in the day in the 80s, and 90s. If you did not have education, you did not have a job, end of story. At least now, if you have an undergraduate degree, you can go into a BPO you can do some kind of skills that you have there are vocational opportunities, if you’re gifted with some hands, offs, that that you can potentially earn a living back in the day it was, unless you have a graduate degree or a postgraduate degree, you had no chance of surviving the corporate battles in the corporate scenario.
So in that context, migrant journey was a farfetched dream. And for me, it was all about survival. and supporting my family, my mom, most notably because my mom was really waging this lone battle as a wage earner and the breadwinner. And, and so to come alongside and support my mom was really my first order of priority. And by God’s grace, and around that time, I really fell into bad company in a Polytechnic. That’s another thread that your viewers may or may not be interested. So I did some very interesting, exciting adventures, which I’m not proud of these days. But in that scenario, in that multiverse scenario, I found faith I found God. And that aha moment, set me up to turn my life around. And since then, I started working, I supported my sisters and my brother to acquire education. So they want went on to get two masters degrees each of them and then they they were settled. Around that time I had this hunger to study and, and somehow retrieve and reclaim my own career or get on the ladder for aspirations.
Around that time, I took education and my full-time employment simultaneously. With a lot of hard work over seven years, I acquired a bachelor’s degree, an MBA degree and a two-year program in communications in journalism. In journalism, I really excelled because I was able to passionately pursue that subject. out of the five gold medals at stake. I won four of them for academic excellence, so good, I was completely deprived of education on one hand, and seven, eight years later, I was so passionate I rebound and like a coiled spring, I just burst forth into the academic, and I excelled at the university.
So then in the aspirations to say, Okay, now that I’ve got the education, and now that I’ve got these desires and skills that I’ve built over the years, and I take my skills to a global setting, and that’s when I thought being known in India is one part to succeed at a global stage was going to be my dream, that was when my, to answer your question, the global dream was born. And I said, Look, I want to be well known as a communicator in India, but I really want to compete at the global setting as well. And compete I did as the years unfolded, that was the birth of my immigrant dream was to succeed, survive at one level and make sure my family survives, and then succeed at the global level, who an immigrant dream.
Thank you, Anna, for sharing that. So how did you end up in in London, tell us about that. And, and your experience living in London, I know you live for about two years with your family and you had one son at that time. So tell us about that time.
So I was working with a small startup in India. And we were doing some very interesting work in Mumbai, I was based in Mumbai. And those days, IT industry was just taking off. And many large corporations were looking to hire non-technical business leaders also to kind of support the business and so on so many opportunities open within ID information technology industry. And so I was fortunate to be a you know, we many people talk of incidents and all that my career story is like a wonderful script, written by God Himself, you know, you couldn’t explain how an almost written off indoor young lad from Hyderabad went on to achieve such you know, almost like storybook like in, in subsequently in life. So if I ever come across as immodest, it is just that momentary lapse of reason. I could never claim any credit. I mean, obviously, I work hard and a human element was there.
Yeah, my story is completely a god story. I, as a follower of Christ, I could just not take any credit from the way he weaved my story, it was a masterpiece of a story. And, you know, there is, I told you about some stuff that I’m not proud of, most notably, I had a very difficult relationship with my father. And it was all my life, I was like waiting to get out of the house and, you know, move away from his shadow, because I hated the fact that all of us went to hardships, because of his lack of career management skills or career hunger or whatever right, I felt he led us down as an ad. And so, that anger, I was just driven to get out from the shadows, but that one part was not completely healed. So I made peace subsequently as a follower.
Subsequently, as I mean, I was standing at platforms and I was telling young people about relationships, but on one side, my own relationship with my father was fractured. So till I made peace with my father, I was never completely healed individual. So I it was a very awkward moment, I wrote a letter and inland letter to him saying, you know, Dad, please forgive me. This is really awkward. But I made some mistakes, please forgive me. When that killing him. I was a free individual, then I was able to kind of call off after that.
While I was working in Mumbai, my family was still in Hyderabad. And I was really involved with my family. But opportunities I got, like I said, after my education, started really setting me up. For example, in this youth group circles that I was involved, many people saw potential in me to be a good public speaker who enjoys the written word spoken word. And they encouraged me to pursue that in that communications direction. Little did I know that I would be actually making that my career my calling my lifetime avocation. Where are we just committed to learning communications as a craft? So it’s like I said, right.
It’s only God who scrripts these kind of comeback stories, but from that stage of Mumbai, when I was excelling in my job, he saw potential in me and said, Hey, you know, there are opportunities that are opening up for us as a company. We’d like you to go to UK, for example. So I went to the UK, although all my friends were going to I towards the IT side, learning coding and getting into it, I said, I will always take the calling that I have, I will never trade off my personal passion for getting to the US, right. I mean, many people get to the US just on coding jobs and coding visa event, their passion might be elsewhere, right. So I did not want to do that.
I went to UK, this opportunity, and play it was a very rich experience. Within two, two and a half years we were really immersed in into the culture as as, as you would expect, I got involved in a church there called putting Baptist Church in East Near East ham and Bob barking in that area. I started mentoring young people, there was a small group of boys, all the boys brigade. And I would just play with these kids in arm wrestling and such competitions and jumping from monkey bars. And I was like very, very involved with these bunch of boys. And my wife was involved with the kids and the young children’s ministry that my my younger son was like literally making friends inside the church. It was a good immigrant experience as far as work church was concerned.
But we the real turning point was when my son fell sick. And we felt that the health care system NHS did not really support us the way we felt was needed at that time and make matters worse, I was traveling around that time and I battled Amman, sickness single handedly, like came back into London. So we were really traumatized by that experiment. And with that system. And we said, you know what the first available opportunity, we are scooting from here. And then as luck would have it, I went through another disappointment. And then when we were really wondering what our next step would be, my company moved me to New York City. So that’s how I made it the US.
Wow, what a journey. But um, tell us, Anna, I mean, when you went to London, and you are going through this crisis with Amman, and even your entire stay there, being involved with the church and helping young people, how did your faith grow? How was it strengthener
I think God exists people out from comfort zones, grow them and stretch them. If you look at the biblical model of how leaders were stretched and strengthened, you would realize that it had happened when they were part of a from the comfort zone, Moses had to go into into the wilderness, all had to go through a wilderness experience. You notice every other leader have to and to me, while does immigrant experience is enriching in a, you know, you know, financial sense, you’re much better off but every other aspect goes and strengthens your emotional apparatus just has to go through a radical realignment to get strengthen your spiritual hunger and searching will change your own orientation culture, your past, your roots will also change.
For example, when we were in India, we would never speak our native language or, watch telugu movies or know what’s happening in our Telugu circles. The moment you go overseas, there is that yearning to reconnect with your roots. And you watch more you keep in touch more with your roots. Because that you now start seeing that you are a stranger in a strange land. And you’re always trying to say, this is me. These are my roots. This is the language I spoke. When I speak in Telugu, many people wonder that you’re still able to you know, speak your native language. And I said, it’s my mother tongue. That’s the way defines me. And there are some idioms, there are some cultural phrases that cannot find a translation equivalent to that.
So to answer your question, migration experience that journey in UK and This experience has really taught me a lot about what I stand for what my faith is, why is God real? Right your priorities. For example, I was much younger, and if I were to redo that experience, I chose a teaching assignment in a guy, the time when my son was unwell. If I know any better, they would never do that again, even if it means that organizers at Haggai International would be disappointed with my last-minute change in schedule. And just support my family at a time. I mean, I wouldn’t do almost casually the teaching assignment versus my son’s thing, because then God wants us to have priorities where we make decisions based on what our eternal what what he wants, as opposed to just what you feel in your own impulsive way.
So I felt that it was a growing phase. I was young, restless, energetic, but if I look back, was those immigrant experiences taught me that, if ever it comes down family versus, I mean, of course, recently, I was in California, so I’m not exactly preaching. But there are times when you have to make joint decision as a couple as a family as to what is right for the short term near term, even if it means that there is a lot of discomfort inward. So it I grew as an individual, I was involved in every of these cities that I was involved, only because I didn’t want to be ever thinking that Okay, now I have arrived in my life. Now it’s for me to sit back and enjoy the ride. Rather, Lord, You brought me here for a purpose, that purpose is accomplished is rooted, I keep on serving, I’ll keep on doing what is needed.
As you would notice in once you become an immigrant time becomes a premium for us, because we don’t have the kind of support systems that we have in India, our time ends up being used for manual chores, janitorial work around the house, you know, don’t happen unless you hire and you spend an awful lot of money. So the ability for you to just say, what are my priorities? What is my family wanting at this point in time? This ability to relook at who you are and understand and prove calling an identity comes when you are immigrant, you get a lot more reflective. I grew up because I didn’t have already friends circle, I was involved in Toastmasters, I did a lot of social things, but I have to look at the mirror and say, by my at this stage in my life, what does God want me to do? Where is my purpose? What can I do to serve others around me? What can I what gifts and talents Can I use to lift up others? Those are the kind of questions I asked in my time in London.
Wow. Thank you. And I can certainly relate to that journey. And at some point, you know, I think it took me many years of struggle to arrive there to ask myself, God has put me here for a reason. So what is it that he wants me to do? And definitely, even my faith has grown so much. So I can relate to that.
So how did you become an author and tell us about the birth of your book? And the journey… I know… I Will Survive is a best seller. It’s kind of a memoir talks about your journey from adversity to… I put it as adversity to adventure to awards. So how did that happen?
Like I said, towards the end of the…it’s always good to talk about your disappointments as well. Towards the end of my time in London, I really had an appointment, I applied for a big job in a big channel that has three letters. Starting with the beat. I thought the job was there for the taking. I was going to become a senior leader and I came down to the finals. And I was like this close to getting it. And for some reason that job eluded me. I was very, very disappointed.
And I was going through that low. Because when you pin your heart, soul and mind into something, and you don’t get it, you go through a lot of you know, disappointment. Yeah. So as a result, what happened was I was grappling with that and when I went to the USA on a personal trip. What has happened was I talked the CEO, and I was able to explain to him that I’m not doing my best as far as my talents and gifts were and then he said if that’s the feeling you get underutilized. Why don’t you move to the USA. Within a week before I could even get back to the back into UK. My boss had moved on things and because we’re moving and application move me to the US happened. And in a blink, literally speaking within a couple of weeks, we were ready to start packing up our home sell a car. It’s like that in London. So, you know the when.
When the scriptwriter as I talked about God as being my scriptwriter starts coming into the end of a chapter and he starts opening up another chapter. marvelous things start happening and it happened with me in a very peculiar and in a very unexpected way. Because I was really thought of well settled in London, you had a Ark, Amman was going to a good school in Barking and Dagenham area, we were all set I was teaching in a very good school there, I’ll manage junior school, it was set and then we had to uproot ourselves and move us move, move all over again. Not disappointment. When I got here, I started looking at ways and means of saying, Okay, now that I’ve come to the wall street area, where I’m doing some work with international media, how can I make my company you better known? How can I make my own story well known. And I started looking for opportunities.
And in 2007, a very interesting thing happened. I applied for a competition called Stevie award. If you google search Stevie awards, you will find out that Stevie awards are some of the coveted awards in the business world. And this award for the best corporate communicator in the world. We apply then from applicants, and in that year, applicants more than hundred applicants, or from about 35 countries, different categories applied and I won it in 2007. For me that was a defining moment, because I felt at from being a nobody in Hyderabad growing up with issues around identity, rebellion. Among those questions. In 2007, completely coming to receive a global award really was a defining moment for me. And as soon as I went to India, a lot of young people and youth groups and youth meetings, these clubs, these young clubs, gathered and said, can you tell us your story. when fascinating story from Hyderabad, you went in and you did this remarkable thing.
That platform started opening up more and more opportunities. And Sunil won this award for communications, Hyderabad guy, an Indian guy doing this in a very competitive field… of super competent field was a big thing for me. And that platform started going and we would only be able to go to India once or twice a year. So around that time, this actually it was probably as idea that you said why don’t we start playing your story in such a way that even when you’re not in India, that story will continue to work and inspire people.
So we actually started writing this too, in the form of a testimony first, because obviously, you want to tell your story. And then again, like a beautiful wife, she challenged that assumption and said, Look, your story’s a universal story, why do you want to just confine it to a sort of a religious audience or a church going type of an audience? Why don’t you tell the story to everyone because every young person struggles the way you do when it comes to relationships, and, you know, life and that kind of stuff. So I said, Yeah, it’s a good idea. And I actually, for a change, listened to her, you know, you should always listen to your wife, right?
It’s one of those advices that really was, in retrospect, a very valuable advice, because once I started writing it to a general audience, and I started putting it out there, magic started happening. I reached out to a couple of mentors, and I shared them my story and said, you guys have any interest to this story? They said, we’ll love it. In fact, not only do we love it, we’ll share it with a couple of friends. And so, a friend of mine actually shared it with another couple of people in his circle. And one fine day I got an email from Ratan Tata his office saying nothing data is so happy to endorse your book here area or a few lines that Mr. Ratan Tata would like, describe him? And I was like, Are you kidding me? This is like, dream come true. Success is not where you go, success is where you go from where you started. Yeah.
Yeah, it’s relative. It’s never an absolute, you know, within the conditions that you had within the boundaries you played? Did you achieve what was humanly possible? For me, that’s a definition of success. And to me that really set me apart that I said, you know what even if it didn’t sell a single copy, just the fact that I had this respectable business leader endorsed this book. And I also got another endorsement from Joe Kennedy who is a former senator from Massachusetts. And after that, there was no turning back. So to me, the immigration journey into the US and in parallel with my ability to impact those two are parallel I, I know I did not come just here to make a quick buck or make money, or just find a comfortable mission, stay there, I felt God call me make a difference wherever I go. And hopefully, I was faithful to that calling.
Wow, that’s amazing. So just wanted to let anyone who’s watching this show, know that. So that’s the giveaway we are doing. If you like this video, or leave a comment, you will be entered Yes, to win a free copy a signed copy of Sunil Roberts book I will survive, he wrote a second book bound to arise. And so yes, so we will have to, we will pick two winners randomly from from the list, and you will get bound to rise or I will survive. So thank you for sharing that journey. And that’s so powerful, and so inspiring. So, another inspiring thing about you is how you became a marathon fan runner and avid runner, and I know that it took an accident for you to again, you know from nothing you went to becoming a runner. So how did that happen? I had you get in an accident. And what
While I was still in India, I was actually traveling at high speeds on a busy highway. And the next thing I knew I was involved in an accident and I landed up in the hospital. And before I fully became conscious, I discovered that there was an operation and a seven-inch bone was removed from my right knee. And the prognosis was not at all looking good. The doctor said you know what major load bearing capability in your right knee is gone. So you will probably have to walk with the walker or have a limb for the rest of your life.
Because at that time I was about 85-90 kilograms already. And they said right like does not simply have ability hold your weight. So even after a lot of physical therapy, you will at best get enough to walk with the help of a cane or a walker. So that was a very depressing prognosis. Because back in the day, I had long hair, you know, a reasonably well-built personality and what younger girls would call tall, dark and handsome was close to my description was but I was very depressed after that. I was very depressed.
And I just went into a shell, grew out of shape. And then went to went to Bangalore, Mumbai and all that. I grew at the compounded annual growth rate about five kilos. So by the time I came to America, I was like, completely out of out of shape and carrying a side of depression physically, I was nowhere close to what I was just five, six years ago. And I was going through a very dark phase from physical fitness standpoint. Remember, I was like an average Indian kid. Every young Indian kid would play cricket, be very active. Like most Indians are cricket fans and I was too and from that sports lifestyle, I completely became sedentary and I was not in a good shape.
Two big incidents really transformed me and I want to share them. The first one was when I met Cecil Murphey, a very prominent writer who wrote a famous book 90 Minutes in Heaven and so on and so forth. I’d met him in India. And I moved to the United States. He came and visited me in Edison, New Jersey State over a weekend, he saw my lifestyle. And he told me the time he was 77, I think, late 70s. And he told me, “Sunil, when you die, I want to be one of your ball bearers.”
And it took a while for me to absorb what he was saying. I was in my early 40s. Are you kidding me? Here’s a 77 year old man who was running two, three miles a day, remarkably fit, you won’t find one extra pound of fat on Cecil Murphy’s body. Look at me and he said, “Sunil, you have to change your lifestyle.” I mean, that was the message he was giving. But he said, You know, I want to be one of your pallbearers. Only a writer would have come up with that kind of a jolting line and it jolted my mind. Like people say, right, it blew my mind. Yeah.
And then as that thought process was worrying and stirring my brain, I also changed from my previous company, Oracle, and into TCS as you know, as a large Indian company, and a company that I’ve grown to love immensely. And even in that company, a senior leader was making way to a younger leader, a 46-year-old leader called Chandra.
Chandra’s claim to fame is… outside the fact that he’s the CEO of a large corporation…he himself is a marathon runner. He came to New York in the first week of November. He ran a marathon on a Sunday, next day morning, next day afternoon, came to attend a leaders’ meeting in Jersey City. The entire audience was blown away that Sunday, this man ran a marathon, and on Monday afternoon, he’s talking to about a 150 senior leaders in TCS, and somebody in the audience asked him, How do you manage this?
This is a remarkable story. You just ran a marathon. We all know that New York Marathon happened yesterday, and how did you…how are you energetic? Because you’re standing up, you’re speaking. And then he said, “Look, if you are not proactively manage your health, you cannot manage anybody else, you cannot manage anything else.”
And you know, there are some things that happen that are beyond your control, right? Accidents, for example, are outside your control or some prognosis or something happens that is outside our control, right? Within the realm of normal, controllable things, if you do not control your health, you’re not a good leader. That’s the slant he was taking on that. So between Cecil Murphy and Chandra, these two came together, and I said, “I got to get my house in order as far as fitness is concerned.” And then I said, “Let me go and run on a treadmill.” I did not even last a minute.
Because as you can imagine, running on a treadmill itself is scary, because I was… my load bearing capacity was not good enough. And I knew I would never be able to run unless it’s like run outside or…to cut a long story short, from one minute I went to two minutes to five minutes. And slowly I started picking up ability to run a few minutes, and then run a mile. And then from then on my journey started. In 2010. I ran my first half marathon, a Philly marathon, which is 13.1 miles. Not a big deal for many people. But for me, it was a huge deal. 13.1 miles is like 21 kilometers in Indian distance. Not a big deal because there are many who run a marathon. So if I compare myself with true athletes, it’s not a big deal.
But for from where I started, it’s a big deal because people said he has to walk with a cane, he will never let go of his limp. I’ll always limp. That really started giving me the high, what they call runner’s high. In the runner’s world, there’s a term called runner’s high. And if you once you run a long distance and you beaten all the limitations in your body, you experience a chemical high in your mind. And that is almost like addictive, right? So many people go through painful distance, stretching, only to experience the euphoria that your body has done something that wouldn’t have been possible and I developed a love for running. Within six months, I signed up for the New York City Marathon.
And the next year after I met Chandra, I ran the New York City Marathon. So he was like instrumental in bringing me to a point where… and since then I’ve run nearly 10 full marathons. And it’s been a phenomenal running journey, I ran five of the top six marathons in the world. If it were not for COVID, I would have done the sixth one in Japan. But it has to wait for another year because they cancelled it and God willing, next year, if not, whenever God gives me the opportunity. But I’m on my way to accomplishing some great stuff in running. Many people were inspired.
In my view, I do this not just to inspire myself, but you never know who gets inspired. I’ll give you an example. In one of my teaching sessions inside TCS, one girl who had just come off of pregnancy, she was going through a lot of post pregnancy blues, and just having all these issues with, with all the, weight women gain after a pregnancy. And when I shared my marathon story, within 90 days she took up a regime and she ran a half marathon. I mean, you when you tell your story, you’re not bragging, you’re, you’re telling them…”If I could do it, you can do it too.” And that kind of sparks, a genuine desire, and they do it.
Prafulla, my wife, for example, struggles with sciatica and some of those knee-related arthritic pains and stuff. In 2017, she ran the Brooklyn half marathon with me. I trained her…we trained. She has this… you know go-getter attitude and she overcame that and when we finished she started crying with both pain and joy, mostly joy. And my young teenage son at that time…Aman was 16, he ran the Brooklyn marathon twice. He may not love marathons like I do but at least he now knows the joy of running, the joy of finishing a race and I can’t wait to reach this to Sahil, my younger one ,as in when he is ready and after that it’s up to them, right? I mean, my job is to inspire them and set them up and after that it’s…So I started a running club in the Edison area, I started a running club inside my complex so wherever I go, I just try to kindle the love of running, you know.
Happy people are… healthy people are happy people and they are stretching and they are not in the comfort zone. So I believe that’s my God-given call to go around and you know… You’re just constantly pushing people and say hey why can’t this be done, why can’t you, why don’t you consider this… you’re challenging their assumptions and you’re encouraging them to live, a fuller life. That is my, I feel, God-given call.
That’s really inspiring. I know my husband and I have been trying for a long time to become more fit and I’m really inspired to take it seriously… take my health seriously and it is possible like you said, if you can do it um you know, I can do it too.
So, quickly before we go, you’ve shared your life story up until now and I wanted to ask you your opinion on the immigrant work ethic I know there’s a lot said about it but specifically talking about indian immigrants. Indians have done well abroad. If you look at the Indian diaspora, they’re successful even in America, even though we constitute just I believe one percent of the population…in terms of…whether it is income or other things. We have done well. So what do you see and you’ve worked with all kinds of people from all over the world. What are the plus and the minus points of an Indian immigrant in the workplace?
Yeah, it’s a fascinating topic. A few years ago someone asked me on tv what makes Indians so successful. Why are all the 711s and the Dunkin Donuts and the motels owned by Indians and what sets Indians apart? And my response was pretty much the same. God made humans and He distributed to… everyone was gifted with some kind of skill set, which when leveraged and when exploited, benefits all of mankind.
If you look at the Russians, you’ll probably pick them for music and chess, for example. If you look at the Chinese, you see that they’re excellent in in the area of gymnastics and some of these sports and music and so on. If you look at African Americans, you see that NBA is dominated by them…music, for example, the Grammy and the music industry African Americans also dominate there. So every race brings to humankind a certain set of gifts and talents that only they are unsurpassable in that sense and Indians are… their numerical and literary aptitudes bring in a certain level of excellence to the global marketplace. Some of the top technical leaders, engineering leaders of large corporations are Indian. Banking is dominated by Indian leaders because again financials, numbers, that kind of an aptitude and even in academia these days, there’s a lot of Indians going into academia as well because, again, love for ideas,
So in the larger scheme of things, almost everyone brings a certain set of capabilities. But Indians, generally, because we come from opportunity-scarce societies, we tend to be a lot more competitive and a lot more hungry for success than compared to opportunity-abundant societies, so because you’re competing for larger share of a small pie everybody’s driven back in India. How many thousands and lakhs of people take the EAMCET for example or engineering and medical test or the IIT competitive exams. I mean it’s so much more difficult to get into IIT than to get into, let’s say, the ivy league schools here so it’s that’s the level of competitiveness that drives Indians. Those are the positives. For us, excellence is almost like a given in certain Indian homes. Indian parents are driven with their children so the children get that excellence and the streak of competitiveness so that’s the good part.
The flip side is we now need to start thinking beyond success… what does it mean to build and give to communities. We are great at succeeding and climbing the ladders of success, but only now many of the Indians are trying to say, what can we do for others or for those who are marginalized, underprivileged and so on. SoI think that’s one area where we can really see a lot more involvement from our community.
For example, when I was in Toastmasters, when I was doing a program on community, I had to work with an African American community and I was so shocked by the lack of opportunities in that African American community, where young children are struggling for numerical and analytical skills and stuff. Just imagine people like me, people like you, can go along these communities and lift these communities and share what we have. So if we are able to really come alongside and lift these communities, I think we are in a better place as far as giving is concerned.
So I feel that we now need to turn our attention from getting and succeeding to giving and helping others. How we can leverage the influence to help the community.
I totally agree. Anna’s books… you will get a signed copy of the book, as long as you’re living in the US and you have…I’m sorry we are not able to ship abroad… but if you’re living in the US and you like this video or if you leave a comment, you might win a free copy a signed copy of either of his books, I Will Survive or Bound to Rise.
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You can find Sunil Robert at sunilrobert.com and I will put up that link in the description too so you can get in touch with him if you have any questions. I’m sure anna would love to answer your questions as well.
So thank you, Anna. This has been so exciting and such a blessing to have you on this show.
Thank you so much.