David Rubenstein, HOW TO LEAD

David Rubenstein, HOW TO LEAD

David Rubenstein shares with Zibby his thoughts on happiness, mortality, success, and more in this deeply sincere yet humorous chat that runs the conversational gamut.


Zibby Owens: Welcome, David. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

David Rubenstein: Thank you very much for inviting me.

Zibby: I feel a little intimidated because you are a masterful interviewer yourself. Forget about all of your professional accomplishments, but just how you do it on your TV show and in your book, you are such a great interviewer. I just wanted to start by asking, when did you know you loved interviewing people? Where did you get that interest in what makes people a leader?

David: When I was little, my mother called me a yenta. A yenta is a Yiddish word for wants to know everything and wants to know everybody else’s business. When people would come to our house, I would ask them lots of questions. My mother would say, “David, let them talk about what they want to talk about.” I did have an inquisitive mind, but I didn’t really associate it with interviewing. What actually happened was this. Your father has a private equity firm. I have a private equity firm. To attract investors to our annual meetings, we would often invite prominent people who you pay a big fee to, former secretary of state, former president. I was paying two hundred thousand dollars for a former president to make a speech, or a secretary of state. They would show up and they were giving boring speeches for that amount of money. People were falling asleep. I said, maybe I could interview them and make it a little bit more interesting, ask them my yenta-type questions. People laughed. I made Ben Bernanke look funny. It was good. People thought it was good. I just put that in the back of my mind. Then Vernon Jordan asked me to become the president of the Economic Club of Washington. I said okay. Same thing, people were supposed to come give speeches, businesspeople. They were boring. I said, I’ll stop that. I’ll interview them. It took off. Then Bloomberg saw it. They said, “Why don’t you do this on television?” I’ve basically been doing it for a number of years. It’s like anything that you think you know how to do reasonably well. It’s not something I studied. It’s just something that kind of came naturally to me. I enjoy it. Just as you enjoy this, I enjoy it. When you enjoy something, I think it comes through to the audience a bit.

Zibby: I totally agree. Then it was so neat in your book for you, who loves interviewing, to then interview Oprah who’s the most masterful interview. It’s like interviewing squared or something in this part of your book, and how she developed her love of doing it and how she became who she was. Tell me about even just that interview.

David: Oprah’s somebody I’d met before. I succeeded your father, because of your father’s help, as the chairman of the Kennedy Center. I’m sure you’ve been to some of the Kennedy Center Honors events.

Zibby: I have. It’s amazing.

David: The first year that I was a chair, Oprah was an honoree, and so I got to meet her for the first time then. Then later, I saw her a couple times at the White House when President Obama was the president. I got to know her a little bit. I always told her that my mother had told me how wonderful she was because my mother was in Baltimore when Oprah was in Baltimore. I said to my mother, “Look, Oprah’s never going to be a national figure. Nobody from Baltimore becomes a national broadcaster,” but Oprah turned out to be great. I got to know her well enough to ask her to do this interview for me. She said yes. She showed up in the studio in Bloomberg. We had a little audience. She was a great. Gave a masterclass in how to interview. The only challenge, when it was, is that halfway through, the producer ran in and said, “Wait a second. Ms. Winfrey, you had kale salad for lunch, and there’s a little kale on your front tooth. It’s showing up. We’ll have to reshoot everything.” We said, “No, no, we’re not going to reshoot it. Get a digital person to take it out.” They did. It worked out pretty well. She said the key to interviewing is listening. That’s what makes her good. Then the key to listening well is doing it with empathy. She does that extremely well. It was very enjoyable.

Zibby: I did not even know until I read your book that Oprah’s not even her real name. It’s actually…

David: Orpa. I think it was Opra. They misspelled it on her birth certificate. Sometimes that happens. You have to live with it. For example, in my case, my last name is Rubenstein. All of my father’s brothers name was R-U-B-I-N-S-T-E-I-N, but his was R-U-B-E-N-S-T-E-I-N. The reason is when he went into the military in World War II, they looked at his birth certificate and found that it had been spelled R-U-B-E-N, incorrectly. He said, “No, that’s not how we spell it.” They said, “This is the military. You’re in the marines now. This is what we’re doing.” They changed my father’s spelling. Sometimes whatever is on your birth certificate is what you’re stuck with.

Zibby: Maybe I’ll have to pull mine out, just make sure everything’s as it should be.

David: What I’m trying to do is go back and get my birth certificate and see if I can get them to change the year so that I can say it was really a couple years later so I could look a little bit younger or feel a little bit younger. I don’t know if that’ll work.

Zibby: If only we could do that, give ourselves a few extra years. One of the things that I really liked about this book is that in your introduction, you picked out all the things that you found from yourself, your own experience, and from many people that you’ve interviewed that are the characteristics to becoming great leaders. I’m just going to quickly read them because they’re the keys to your whole book. “Luck, desire to succeed, pursuit of something new and unique, hard work/long hours, focus, failure, persistence, persuasiveness, humble demeanor, credit sharing, the ability to keep learning, integrity, and responding to crises.” By the way, the part about humbleness — what did you call it? Humble demeanor. In your book and even now, you’re always disparaging yourself. You’re like, I told Oprah she was going to be nothing. I didn’t invest in Amazon. I told Jeff Bezos it would, at most, be a three-hundred-million-dollar business, and all these things. You passed on Facebook. I feel like you’re always highlighting the things you didn’t do. Whereas of course, you could be highlighting all the amazing things you have done.

David: I think that humility works. It’s a good trade. I also think that if you’re Jewish, you always look at the mistakes you made. I’m always thinking, I could’ve done this better. Oy vey, I could’ve done this better. I did this terrible. That’s my personality. Some people have a different personality. I tell people, look, if you can’t be humble, fake it. Fake humility. I actually feel that I got very lucky in life. I’m not that talented, relatively speaking. Think about this. When you were in high school or in college, there were many people who were first in their class, president of the student government, all-American athlete, whatever that might be. What happened to them? You don’t know. I had the same kind of experience. The people that were so much better than me, they kind of faded. I got luckier than they did. I feel humility is deserved.

Zibby: Yes, there’s this whole peaked too soon thing. Peaked in seventh grade.

David: I peaked as an athlete when I was seven or eight. I thought I was really good. I was going to be a major league baseball player when I was seven or eight. Then I realized later that Jews do not become major league baseball players. They might be major league owners, but not baseball players. I had to go to something else.

Zibby: You’re so funny. You’re like, I thought I was good until everybody grew way taller than me and got way better than me.

David: It’s true. When you’re seven or eight, you think you might be a Mickey Mantle or something. Then you later realize that’s not going to happen. Paul Simon had the same thing. I interviewed him recently. Paul Simon thought he was going to be a major league baseball player too. Then he realized when he was twelve or thirteen he wasn’t going to be tall enough. At a certain age, you realize you have to do something different. Nobody really knows what they’re going to do, I think with reason, when they’re ten, twelve, thirteen, fourteen, fifteen. You just evolve. Many things turn out differently than you expected. When you went to college, what did you think you were going to do?

Zibby: I really wanted to be a writer. Then I wanted to be a psychologist.

David: When did you decide you wanted to do what you’re doing now?

Zibby: This wasn’t even invented. When I was sitting around thinking, what’s the perfect thing for me, how would I know that in 2018 or whatever, I would want to start a podcast? I knew I loved talking to people and listening and interviewing. I’ve always been really interested in analyzing what people are thinking, either consumer behavior or person to person, something like that. I’ve always been able to kind of relate to what people aren’t even saying but maybe thinking. That sounds ridiculous. I was like, how can I turn that into something? I don’t know. That’s just who I am.

David: It’s worked out for you, right?

Zibby: So far.

David: You’re doing what you want. The most important thing in life is to have personal happiness. It’s the most elusive thing in life as well. If you’re happy with what you’re doing, what else in life really matters? Jackie Kennedy famously said if you mess up raising your children, nothing else in life really matters. If you’re a parent — you have four children, I think. Is that right?

Zibby: Yes, I do.

David: You realize when you become a parent, that is the most important responsibility you have. The greatest happiness you will have will be the success of your children at any age. If you leave your children aside, what it is that makes you personally happy, what you’re doing, if you can find something in life that makes you happy, what more do you want out of life? In my case, I got lucky. I found something I’m really happy doing now. You are too.

Zibby: That’s true. Which piece of the puzzle of the many things that you do makes you the happiest?

David: I would say that, actually, one of the things that made me the happiest was being reasonably successful by conventional standards when my parents were alive. I’m an only child. When you’re an only child, you have a certain responsibility to do reasonably good things because your parents have everything invested in you. My parents did live to see what I had done. That was probably the greatest pleasure of anything. Then secondly, when people come up to me and say, you’re doing a good job helping the country in this area or you’ve done this for the country, that’s good because everybody wants to help their country. Those are the things that I enjoy the most. When you get to be wealthy, it’s not as much of a pleasure as you might think because wealth doesn’t buy happiness, as we all know. Some of the most tortured souls I know are people who are very wealthy. I think it’s not the having money. It’s basically people feeling that I’m doing something to help the country in some modest way. That’s what I probably get the greatest pleasure out of in addition to my own children.

Zibby: What are your children up to these days? What are you proud about with them?

David: You can say that I failed or I succeeded. All of my children have MBAs and they’re all in private equity. There are no struggling artists. There are no poets. There’s no filmmakers. There’s nobody, nothing creative in that way. One of my daughters went to Harvard Business School. My son just graduated from Stanford Business School and Law School. My other daughter has an MBA. They’re all doing private equity-related things. I think they’re happy. Again, happiness is elusive. When you’re in your, let’s say, twenties or thirties, you’re not yet sure what it is that’s going to make you completely happy, so you’re still struggling a bit. I didn’t start Carlyle until I was thirty-seven. I think your father started Blackstone when he was in his thirties, right?

Zibby: Yeah, 1989. If I could do the math quickly enough, maybe I would be in private equity, but I’m not.

David: I would say I got lucky in life. The trick is this. Your father and I are roughly the same age, maybe one year older or something like that. When you reach a certain age, you realize that life is not forever. You’re trying to cram as many things into the remaining years. You don’t know, when you look at your body — you’ve had your body your whole life. Which part is going to fall apart first? Is it the brain or the other parts of the body? Which ones are going to check out and say, I’ve had enough, I’m going? You don’t know when that’s going to happen or what part of your body’s going to fall apart. What I’m doing is racing to the finish line, is what I call it. I’m trying to get as many things done before my brain collapses or my body doesn’t work anymore. When you’re in your early seventies, you just don’t know how long you’re going to be able to do this, at what pace. I’m rushing to get things done now. For example, my entire life, I never wrote a book. My first book comes out when I’m seventy. What was I doing in my sixties, fifties, forties, and thirties? Where was I? Why didn’t I write these books? This book is my second one, that you’re talking about. I have another one coming out later this year. I’m trying to get them out before too long. Your father wrote a book as well. He told me he didn’t like the experience, so he might not do another one. I don’t know.

Zibby: I don’t think he’ll ever do another one. He complained about it the whole time. I think he’s just delighted to be done with it.

David: I enjoy it. I’m trying to get as many things done as I can now. I wish I was as happy when I was in my twenties or thirties as I am now. I’m very happy. Like all parents, you want one thing that never happens. You want your children to call more frequently. Other than that, I’m pretty happy.

Zibby: I know you’re in this race to the finish line. Are you afraid of dying?

David: I don’t know at what age it is that people begin to think about death. I don’t know. Maybe you start preparing your wills and think about that when you’re in your fifties or sixties or something like that. I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of it because I know it’s inevitable. There’s nothing you can do about it. I’m afraid of not getting stuff done that I want to get done before the time comes. In the end, I wouldn’t say I’m afraid of it. I just would like, like most people my age, to have a peaceful death, not a terrible death. Nobody wants to linger and be a burden on people for a long time or have people pity you or something like that. You want to find a good way to die. I don’t know what that way will be. Hopefully, it’s not something that’s drawn out too much.

Zibby: What is number one, aside from perhaps writing another book, on your bucket list of what you are struggling to get done as fast as you can?

David: I signed The Giving Pledge, one of the first forty people to do it. I think your father signed it recently. Yes, right? There, we’re committed to giving away half of our money and so forth. I would say I’m going to give away the bulk of it. At least, I’m making a lot of speeches saying I’m giving it all away so my children will read these speeches and hopefully they will say, we got to work hard because he’s not giving us any money. There might be a surprise for them in the will, but I want them to realize that they got to make it on their own to some extent. Obviously, as you know, if your father is a prominent person, it has pluses and minuses. If you achieve something, people say, of course, your father or your mother made it possible. If you fail, people will say, how could this person have failed? She had the advantage or he had the advantage of a prominent father or mother. It’s complicated. If you have a prominent father, you don’t want to be in the shadow, particularly for a man. Being in the shadow of a prominent father is complicated for boys and young men. Your brother, I think, is in the West Coast. He’s in the movie world, different than your father completely. My son didn’t want to come back from Stanford Law School or Business School. He’s staying in the West Coast. I think he wants to stay out of my shadow. Maybe prominent people in the East Coast, their sons go to the West Coast to get out of their father’s shadow. I don’t know.

Zibby: Maybe they just want to get out of all the darkness on the East Coast and go to the sunshine. Maybe that’s one way to get out of the shadows. Although, the advantage, and there are many, is the example set by parents who exhibit all of these characteristics. I was thinking about my own dad as I read your through your list, the relentless working, and not like, ugh, I have to work, but the joy you take in creating and working and doing it all the time. I talked to my dad at some point about retiring. He’s like, “Retiring? What would life be if I did nothing? What would I even do with myself?” I think it’s this constant learning and working and producing and changing that keeps people vibrant at any age.

David: Yes. Retirement is a relatively new concept in humankind. For most of humankind, people didn’t live that long, so they didn’t have a chance to think about retiring. Probably in the twentieth century in the United States when we came up with social security and we said you can retire and get social security at sixty-five, people more and more began to think, at sixty-five, I’m done. I can retire. As you now know, as we all know, if you do retire, very often, bad things can happen, I’ve observed, not always. Some of my friends who retired, they dropped dead on the golf course about a week later. I’m not exaggerating. The body says, we got to keep going, we’re going to keep going. Then all of a sudden, you can relax. When you relax, bad things can happen. I don’t want to relax because I think germs will come in and all of a sudden, something bad can happen. As long as you feel you’re doing something that’s relevant and you are contributing in some way to society in some part of it, I think people should continue to work. Obviously, people have different interests in life. I can’t imagine retiring. Running a company day to day when you’re in your eighties is challenging. Some people do it. There are many things you can do without retiring that are useful for society. I can’t imagine just going to Florida and playing shuffleboard.

Zibby: Do people still play shuffleboard?

David: I always talk about it. I don’t know. I think some people do play shuffleboard. I’ve never played it.

Zibby: Maybe we need to come up with a modern-day version of shuffleboard, some sort of app or something.

David: I think it’s now what’s called pickleball.

Zibby: Oh, okay. Further to your Giving Pledge and all of your philanthropic causes, endeavors, creations, how have you decided where to give? I know this is a big question. I know you’ve given a lot to the Kennedy Center and Duke. Somewhere, you gave something to an — tell me how you decide.

David: Your father has gone through the same thing and made some mega-gifts that are quite staggering and impressive. In my case, I can’t say there’s any one or two things I’ve given money to that — you can say, look, I’m going to just do climate change. I’m just going to do healthcare. I didn’t do that. I don’t have that much of a tunnel vision. I try to do many different things. Like most people, you want to give to your schools. You want to give to your kids’ schools. Hospitals have been helped, but whatever it might be. Once you’ve done that, you look around for other things. In my case, I stumbled onto this thing that I’ve called patriotic philanthropy, which is to say giving back to the country by reminding the country of the history, preserving documents and giving them to the country or fixing the Washington Monument or Mount Vernon or things like that. It’s only ten percent or so of my philanthropic gifts, but it’s ninety-five percent of the attention I get for it. That’s okay. Most of my money goes into education and medical research. If I give fifty million dollars for pancreatic cancer at Sloan Kettering, nobody will pay attention because somebody might give a billion dollars to Sloan Kettering. If I give ten million dollars to fix the Washington Monument, it gets ninety-nine percent of the attention of the things I do just because people don’t tend to do that as much. I do a lot of what I call patriotic philanthropy. What I’m most focused on, probably, is things that I think will help the country in some way. I came from very modest circumstances, got lucky, a long Jewish name, and who would’ve thought in some other country I could do what I did? I got lucky. I want to give back to the country in some ways. That’s what my main focus is now increasingly, thinking of things I can give back to the country.

There are areas that I do care about that aren’t just related to patriotic philanthropy. One of them is something that you probably share an interest in as well, which is reading. As I mentioned earlier before we went on the air, I’ve been, for the last ten years, the co-chair and the principal underwriter of the National Book Festival. I created the Literacy Awards for the Library of Congress to focus people on literacy, reading. It’s sad, but it’s true. Thirteen to fourteen percent of Americans cannot read, adults cannot read. I don’t mean they’re from a Spanish-speaking country and they can’t read English. I mean they can’t read in their native language either. As you also know, probably, there’s a thing called aliteracy which means that you don’t read even though you can read. Thirty percent of the people who are college graduates never read another book in their life. Fifty percent of Americans have not bought a book in the last five years or been to a bookstore or shopped for one online. It’s sad. We have to get more people to read because reading produces pleasure, but also improves the brain and does many other things. Reading books is more important than reading newspapers or magazines or tweets because the book will focus the brain in a way that a tweet doesn’t. You’ve got to be focused, as you know, to read a book. It takes hours and hours and hours to get through it. That focuses the brain. I think it’s much better for you.

Zibby: It takes hours, but I feel like I lose all sense of time. When you’re reading, I don’t pay attention to time. Time disappears. The Library of Congress, what do they do to get people to read more? How do you solve this crisis?

David: There are many things you can do. There are a lot of literacy organizations that exist in the United States to help people read more. My awards, we give out money to a lot of these groups. There’s an infinite amount of good groups out there, so it’s a drop in the bucket. We’re trying to say to people, look, focus on literacy. Help people learn more. Give money to literacy groups. We try to highlight that by giving grants every year to literacy groups and also try to get younger children to focus on reading. We’re now redoing parts of the Library of Congress building so that more children will come there and be able to be mentored in how to read and realize the pleasure of reading. When I was young, I got my library card when I was six years old. You were allowed to take twelve books out in the library. I would take them out one Saturday. I’d read them all that one day. Then I had to wait week before I could take books out and go back to the library. I just loved reading. It got me out of the world that I was in into a different world. You can’t read too much, in my view. It’s just a wonderful thing. I wish I had a chance to read even more. I try to read at least one book, maybe two, a week. The trick to it, as you probably know, is this. If you’re interviewing an author, it forces you to read the book a bit because you want to be well-informed. I do a lot of book interviews. Therefore, I read a lot of books. I have a weakness which is that I don’t read novels and I don’t read things that I don’t know much about. I tend to read biographies, business books, philanthropy, politics, government, things like that which I know reasonably well. I can get through those books reasonably quickly. If I had to read a chemistry textbook, it would take me a lightyear to get through it. I would never be able to get through that. I am reading things that are easy for me to get through, generally.

Zibby: I’m keeping the chemistry textbooks on the shelf as well. If you got through college, it’s enough.

David: I like to learn more about other things. I am trying to do some more book interview shows and interview things. I do interviews of people about their books for the New York Historical Society. Now that’s on PBS. I’m working on another show that will be with the Library of Congress to focus people on reading and interviewing authors.

Zibby: I watched your interview with Melinda Gates about The Moment of Lift. That was great. I couldn’t believe that she met Bill Gates dancing. All these things you get out of people, it’s like, what? I can’t believe it.

David: Most of the people that I interview, I do know somewhat. Therefore, they tend to have their guard down a little bit more because they’re not thinking I’m going to ever embarrass them or something like that. Then in the case of Melinda, I’ve been involved with The Giving Pledge for a while, and so I’ve gotten to know her over the years. She’s also a Duke graduate. I’ve gotten to know her in many ways. I think she was fairly relaxed. One of the tricks that I use is I do send people the questions in advance. Now, if you’re a journalist, that is considered a sin because journalists are not supposed to do that. I say to people, I’m not a journalist. That’s not what I am. I’m just somebody trying to get some information for other people. I send people the questions. It relaxes them because they see there’s nothing that’s going to embarrass them. My brain is reasonably good, but not perfect. If I prepare thirty-five questions, I don’t like to have the notes in front of me and just read them up and down like I’m reading off a script. I try to memorize them. I’ll probably get thirty of thirty-five. I’ll remember them. I do also listen to the person. If they divert from something I thought they were going to say, I will go down that rabbit hole with them to follow through, not just going through the questions I had prepared in advance. In Melinda’s case and in the case of most people, what they really want to talk about is their book or whatever they’re doing. Getting them to talk about their youth or how they did something like meeting Bill Gates, their husband, and what is it like to raise three kids when you’re worth a hundred billion dollars? those are the kind of things people are often asked. Sometimes people are afraid to ask these people that. I’m generally not afraid because I generally know these people reasonably well. I’ve never embarrassed anybody that I’m aware of.

Zibby: I used to send everybody the questions too. I used to prepare everything and have quotes. I did that for two years until finally one author was like, “Why did you send me the questions? Now I don’t have as much to look forward to. I wanted to see what you were going to ask,” or something. Then I thought, well, I’m hardly ever getting to these questions. Once they start talking, I find something I’m interested in and they want to talk about, so then I stopped with the questions. Now I’m second-guessing that now that you still do that.

David: I do it, but I do it for this reason. It helps me focus my interview. In other words, if I just read somebody’s book, what am I going to do? I just prepare the questions. In some cases, people say, I don’t want the questions. I say okay, but I still have memorized kind of what the questions are. It’s really for my preparation as much. Some people just say, a lot of authors, I don’t want to see questions in advance because it takes away the spontaneity. I understand that. Nobody’s ever said to me, David, you send me questions, but you didn’t ask all these questions. I just send the questions to comfort people, but I don’t ask all those questions either. I just try to find out what they’re doing. I often analogize it to this. If the FBI comes to you and says, I’m going to do a background check on somebody, typically, they’ll have ten or fifteen questions. They just go through them as you’re talking. If you say, actually, this person is an axe murder and you should be careful, they won’t respond by saying, tell me more about the axe murder. They just go on to the next question because they don’t pay attention to what you’re saying. That’s obviously an exaggeration. I try to listen to what they say and then follow what they’re saying and try to get them to open up about themselves. When people open up about themselves, you can get a more interesting conversation.

Zibby: I totally agree. It’s so nice to talk to somebody who does the exact same thing that I do every day. It’s really inspiring and awesome. The quality of people that you get is really amazing. If you ever need help with all of your shows…

David: I’m sure you’re going to be competing with me soon. You’ll have your own show soon on TV and so forth. You’re younger. You’re going to be able to do it for a while. One of the things that I think is interesting, and as a person who does interviewing, you would appreciate this, the interview format is relatively new as entertainment and education. I think it went back to, there was a show before you were born called The Tonight Show which was hosted by Jack Paar and before that, Steve Allen. They brought people in late at night and interviewed them, entertainment figures and so forth. This was kind of a novelty. You hadn’t really seen that before on television. There wasn’t a similar thing on radio. If you go back and think about it, there are no interviews of Cleopatra. There are no interviews of Abraham Lincoln. There’s no interviews of George Washington. I wish we’d had that format before so we would know so much more about these people, but the format didn’t exist. Now what we’re doing is we’re kind of reinventing a way to convey information. I think maybe two hundred years from now or a thousand years from now, there won’t be an interview format. Maybe you just put something in somebody’s brain and all the information comes out. Who knows? I do think it’s a relatively new phenomenon. I wish I had a chance to interview Abraham Lincoln or people that are not around anymore, but that doesn’t exist. Nobody’s been able to figure out a way to make that work.

Zibby: That’s true. That’s why it’s interesting in your book, how you have it. I feel like in the olden days, maybe, you would take the interviews and then take the answers and make that into the essay. This, it’s almost like a transcript of many of your interviews, but I find that just as interesting to read as if you had done a reported piece based on the information.

David: I’ve been surprised. I won’t say I invented the technique. Obviously, I didn’t. Taking edited transcripts and putting them into a book form, people like reading it. It’s sometimes easier to read that than to read the prose summary of what the person said. People seem to like it. The interviews in that book are basically edited somewhat. I will have done an hour interview. Then we edit it down to maybe thirty minutes for TV or something. Then we’ve edited even further for the book. It’s obviously designed to be a little bit more interesting and concise than the real interview was. People seem to like reading it. In that particular book that you’re referring to, what people say is, I like it because I can read chapter one and then go to chapter eight and then go back to chapter three. You don’t have to read them in a certain sequence.

Zibby: Yes. People don’t even like being told what order to read their books in. They just want to choose everything.

David: Sometimes when I’m reading a book and the first couple chapters are kind of weak, I say, let me get to the last couple chapters because I’m not sure I’m going to read the middle chapters unless the latter chapters are really good. I skip around a bit. Sometimes people do that with these books as well. The first book I did was a book called The American Story. What it was, was I started an interview process at the Library of Congress. My theory was the members of congress should know more about American history. Once a month, I would host a dinner at the Library of Congress for members of congress only. To my amazement, we would get three hundred members of congress showing up. It was a free dinner, free cocktail party. I would ask them to sit with people from the opposite party and the opposite house. They kind of liked their fraternization which they can’t do in public. There was no press there. Then I would interview Doris Kearns Goodwin or Dave McCullough or somebody like that. They were like schoolkids learning just like anybody else would. The first book was a summary of that. This book, you’ve seen. I have a book coming out next September. It’s called The American Experience about all the genes that have come together to make America so unique and so different and what it is that we did that made our country different and better in many ways than other countries. I’m trying to work on the next book after that. I like the discipline of trying to do one a year until, again, the brain falls apart.

Zibby: I don’t want to take up much more of your time, but I was wondering as a last question what advice you might have to aspiring authors.

David: Remember that it takes a while to get your rhythm. Write about something you know and something you enjoy. If it’s not something you enjoy or know something about, it’s going to be more challenging. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a year or two or longer to write a book. Nobody wrote a great book in three weeks. It takes a long time. It can be frustrating. At many times, maybe your father had this experience, you say, I’m not going to do this. I’m just going to quit. I’m not going to write this book anymore. Sometimes I’ve been frustrated when I’ve been working on this thing. I don’t really need to do this. I don’t want to do this anymore. You just got to persist, persist, persist. Are you taking your podcast and putting them in a book?

Zibby: I have an anthology coming out next month called Moms Don’t Have Time To. It’s a collection of essays written by people who have been on my podcast. Another one coming out in November. I have two children’s books coming out. I have, perhaps, another memoir that I’m working on about how books have changed my life in different parts of my life.

David: How did you get your first name?

Zibby: It’s short for Elizabeth.

David: People couldn’t pronounce Elizabeth?

Zibby: Yeah. A girl in playgroup couldn’t pronounce Elizabeth.

David: When you go to college or business school, people ask you, where’s this name come from? They didn’t know? Everybody knew that it was shortened for Elizabeth?

Zibby: No, I get that question a zillion times which is why when I named my four kids, I was like, you’re getting names that are not — there are no nicknames associated with your names.

David: Look, you’re doing good things promoting books. I appreciate your giving me the time to talk about my book. I admire your father a great deal. He’s done a great job in the business world and the philanthropic world. I enjoyed his book. I interviewed him about his book too.

Zibby: Good. So did I.

David: He probably was more open with you than me, but it was good. I put it on my TV show. It was good.

Zibby: I have to go back and watch it. Thank you so much. This was a pleasure.

David: Thanks a lot. Bye.

Zibby: Take care. Buh-bye.

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