MSNBC and NBC news anchor Richard Lui talks to Zibby— but not about himself. Richard shares why he wanted to write a self-help book on how to be less selfish after he became a family caretaker following his father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, how working in journalism inspired him to form a team of ten creatives to help write Enough About Me, and how he hopes this book will reach its intended audience of people willing to make more selfless changes in their lives. Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books has teamed up with Katie Couric Media and Random House to give away 100 copies of Sarah Sentilles’ book, Stranger Care! Enter the giveaway by clicking here:


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

Richard Lui: Zibby, thanks for having me. Really, really appreciate you taking the time.

Zibby: I laughed out loud when I saw the title of your book because I feel like I’m always saying that, especially on this podcast. I feel like if I googled my transcripts, I would say it a thousand times. Okay, fine, enough about me, but… Anyway, so it was a great title.

Richard: We laughed about it when we were putting it together. The approach of it was not to be a shaking finger at anybody. It was more of, let’s talk about it. We know there’s some funny elements about life, and so let’s not ignore that along the way. In the book, as you know, I really tried hard — I guess I’m a wannabe comedian. I’m sure you enjoy them. I love comedians. I really appreciate their craft. It is so difficult, especially coming from news where we’re always so right down the middle. It’s not often that we get to explore that part of our person.

Zibby: That’s true. Might as well do it in a book. If not now, when?

Richard: Go for it.

Zibby: For listeners who don’t know what this book is about, would you mind giving a quick synopsis? Then I want to know, what even inspired you to write this book to begin with?

Richard: Zibby, it started with the caregiving of my father — about six years ago now, he was diagnosed, maybe eight, with Alzheimer’s — and me making the decision to — I’m in New York right now, but I’m from California. I would travel back and forth to help with the caregiving about three times a month. I actually spent more days in California during the last six years than I did in any other city in the country. Even though I’m sitting here talking, I would come to New York to work, but I spent the most hours — because I had to calculate it, I was like, wow. Through that processing of traveling two to three hundred thousand miles — four hundred thousand one year — a year, it’s not like you’re asking yourself, Zibby, who I am? What am I doing? It just kind of seeps into your psyche. I sit there in the subway at three AM wondering, okay, here I am at three AM in the morning again in the subway. I’m in the airport. Well, another ten-hour, door-to-door, one-way. It just sits in the back of your brain. You start to think about, why are you doing this? It was to help my father. Why was I wanting to help my father? Because he helped me. Why did he help me? Why am I helping him? It came to this idea of wanting to help another person that you love and giving of yourself.

When I was talking with the publisher and the agent, Brandi Bowles and Pilar Queen, we really were like, what is the big idea here? The big idea, especially given the reporting hat being on, I saw all this selfishness, what I call a selfish pandemic. As a breaking news anchor, I covered a lot of mass killings and a lot of racial strife in the last ten years. I’m in the streets reporting on this stuff. With the reporter hat on, I was like, wow, we are really thinking about ourselves too much, all of us. When we take other people’s lives, that is super selfish. That is like, my view is so important that I can take somebody else’s life because I think something. That is supreme selfishness, and then with the racial strife and not being able to see the other. So the reporter hat, then putting on the book hat was, okay, if you see this, what are you going to do about it? Then on my personal hat, all those things together, it was like, let’s do something that is a small effort to a bigger problem. That was Enough About Me where we focused on, how do we be more selfless in day-to-day way? I love self-help books. I love business self-help books. Most self-help books are me, me, me. Love me, love me, love me. I am me, and I’m great. We’ve gotten so good at producing books like that. This self-help book is why we call it an anti-self-help book. The approach is very similar, though, in that we go at it little by little, not, hey, you can be Mother Teresa. You can be Desmond Tutu. We did not approach it that way. We approached it more of, what’s the little things we can do every day? What are the bite-size things we can do to build our selfless muscle? You can tell how long it takes to describe that. I think that was maybe four minutes, it took me.

Zibby: I wasn’t timing it.

Richard: It’s a lot of things as to how I got to that point.

Zibby: What I was really struck by in the beginning of your book was how few people even really want to be selfless. There was some high percentage of people who felt like they would be giving up too much.

Richard: Yes. In our original research, it was a team of ten people that put the book together. I had a researcher, a scientist. I had two comedic consultants, going back to where we started. I had two poets. I knew that I couldn’t get it done the best that we could if I did it alone. I know from a journalistic perspective, we do that all the time. Whatever you see on TV is not one person, just the reporter, doing it. It’s a whole team. I did not approach the book as, oh, I have to write every word. There was just no way it could happen that way. That’s why when it came to doing the book, when we dove into the data, we really wanted to make sure that from my user perspective, that every time I made a qualitative claim, I had a quantitative backup and vice versa. It couldn’t just be a number. You also had to have qualitative to back up the quantitative. None would stand alone by itself. That’s very much a journalistic approach to it, why we had a team of ten, the way we built the idea of an anti-self-help book. That was how we approached it.

Zibby: A whole new category. Now you’re going to start this whole trend. We’re going to need a new little placard in every bookstore.

Richard: That’d be, “Anti-me, me, me.”

Zibby: One lone book on that shelf with a little thing underneath. That is super interesting, how to even work with ten people on a project and maintain the same consistent voice through the narrative. I feel like I could use a comedic consultant on so many parts of my life. How great if you could just say, I would like these experts to help me with this and you with this. Wow.

Richard: Because I had worked in startups, I really did it approach it as, okay, let’s get all the people together in a room, and let’s do this. At the end of the day, it was me writing everything. In some chapters, it would be, you try this. Here. Then I’d get it. I’d take what was there as the skeleton and then break it out so that it was — although, just like as you’ve worked in teams before too, and groups before, if you are charged with slides — I don’t know if you do a lot of presentation decks all the time. When I was a strategy consultant, I did it all the time. I was often what they used to call the deck master, which meant I would assign the slides out to everybody. By the end of the day, I had to take whatever was there and make it all one narrative. That was the approach here too and how we got to the end.

Zibby: I feel like this is another little spin-off. You could do an Audible Original or something called The Desk Master: How to Utilize Teams for Writing. That’s really interesting. Nobody talks about that. Anyway, next project.

Richard: Next project, that’s right.

Zibby: Also, in the book, you were talking about how when people are evaluating your performance, as happened when you were interviewing for your anchor position at CNN, that it wasn’t just what happens when they say “rolling,” but what happens behind the scenes, and how you were wiping your face with a piece of paper because you were sweating and nervous and all this stuff and how when you try to get a job, it’s the whole person, basically. You can’t fake it and really be good at your job. You have to actually be confident to have some jobs. Tell me a little bit about how you even got into that situation, how you knew this is what you wanted to do, how you went from consulting to that and how you were willing to put so much on hold to help your dad.

Richard: The career change was to be open to whatever is in front of me, and not whimsically, more of, don’t ignore what’s happening. It’s very similar as to the decision to decide to go part time in new anchoring was because, well, your dad’s not well. His disease, the disease that he lives with, is only going to become more and more intense, so don’t ignore it. Especially with family caregiving — there’s over fifty-three million of us. Zibby, have you been a family caregiver? The odds are, yes.

Zibby: Yes. Not for that long, but yes. Unfortunately, yes.

Richard: It’s not like as soon as that happens, we’re like, oh, I’m family caregiver. I embrace it. I love being a family caregiver. No, we don’t do that. It typically is, I don’t want to be in this situation. I’m not happy. This is going to take more time and effort and emotion. It takes years to identify as that and accept it. In both career decisions, which is to work part time to take care of my dad and then moving from consulting to journalism, both of those were just, hey, this is reality. This is where you’re at. For my father, I’ve explained why. At a certain point, I cannot not help him fight for this because he helped me in so many ways, as my mother did too, to fight for the right decisions, whether it was to go back to school — I did not go to college out of high school. I worked in fast food for five years. Then I got fired. I was like, okay, I could go back to another fast food place. When I was thinking, you know, I should probably go to school, my dad was like, “I’ll pay off all your debts. I’ll borrow money on the house. You go to school. Please, go. It’s all right. Mom and Dad will take care of you.” They had done it all through my life. They could’ve said, hey, tough luck kid. You’re twenty-two. Figure it out yourself. Instead, they said, no, let’s help you figure this out, Richard. Are you sure you want to do this? Are you committed to it? Okay, if you’re committed and you’ve thought about it, let’s go do it.

That context as to why I decided to work part time was built around not only, be very open to the context, but also the drive to give back in ways that they had always given back to me. In terms of becoming a journalist from consulting, that was a one-year debate with all of my good friends that I went to business school with. Maybe it was six months or a year. I was like, “My interest now has shifted because I’ve learned so much through business school and working after business school that this is now the big thing I need to really commit to.” I’m sure many of them thought it was maybe, perhaps, whimsical. I haven’t been, typically, whimsical in my career choices in the past, but maybe they thought that. You went to business school. You’re working at Citibank. You did a startup, and we’re done with it now. Why would you want to become a journalist? Here I am now fifteen years later still doing the journalism job and feeling very grateful for it. I think what shifted was I felt there was a need to talk about stories in the way a person like me might talk about them. So began the journey. I did not know that the need for a person like myself to be talking about stories would be so important. In the last year of so much anti-Asian hate, I’ve really realized the importance of something that looks like me and has lived — that’s definitely an important part of my existence. It’s not the only part. It’s not the only story, as you know Zibby, but it’s to reflect that just as when I’m talking about general quality and talking to various sectors like, for instance, the finance sector, it’s not an easy topic, but we have to talk about it. I cannot check anything at the door.

One of the questions I often ask in those conversations is, if you’re a man and you’ve gone into a business meeting and you thought about your gender, raise your hand. If you’re a woman and you’ve gone into a business meeting and you’ve thought about gender, raise your hand. You know what that looks like. The men are like, what are you asking? The women are like, you got it, Richard. The same is this sort of existence of why I became a storyteller and a news person and journalist. If you’ve ever thought about this, raise your hand. I have. Now as we’ve lived through a very tough year and a very tough decade when it comes to racial strife in general, these are hands that I raise. I’m not going to not talk about these things. It’s not the only story. Again, it’s not the only story, but it’s an important story. Those are the reasons why I made these shifts. They weren’t small ones. When I left business and decided to become a journalist, I had to write a check for seventy thousand dollars. The consulting company was so kind to pay for my second year of business school. Who’s not going to say yes to that? Saying no to them to return — they were so kind to keep my job. Look, I told you about how difficult it was to pay for education earlier in my life. I was like, I don’t know, this is the biggest check I ever wrote. I knew that I had to get out of there and do this. It was not an easy decision, necessarily. I don’t think you were saying that. It was one that I definitely was like, okay, this is the new world that I’m in. In this new world, this is what I need to do.

Zibby: Wow. First of all, I’m not surprised that there was some business school friend pushback. I went to business school too. I wrote for the business school paper. Afterwards, I was like, I’m going to take a year off and write a book. Everyone’s like, what? What do you mean? There were three other people in my whole class who had that sort of literary bent or whatever, so we kind of congregated. For the most part, people were like, yeah, okay, good luck with that. If there’s one thing I learned at business school, it’s that — I don’t know about you with the consulting or startup or whatever, but there are people who are passionate about doing those things, who actually are really into it. I thought I was into marketing until I met people who really were marketing. I’m like, well, I’m not really marketing, but I’m really into this. I found that very funny.

Richard: Man, did you really go at it. Now they’re looking at Zibby going, yep.

Zibby: You too.

Richard: No, that’s my first book. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m saying that you left B-school and they’re like, yeah, look at that.

Zibby: For a journalist, you kind of knocked it out of the park. You’re like, I’m going to just try this. Meanwhile, people are at tiny stations all over the world working their way up. You’re like, let me just swoop in here.

Richard: As you know because you went to B-school, you’re going to give your full effort at it. It wasn’t like it was a whim, necessarily. It was like, I’m going to attack this like it’s a business. That’s what you do with your books. For me, when I became a journalist, I was like, I’m going to attack this as, I’m a product, because we are. As a journalist, and you also as a storyteller, you’re a product. You realize that pretty quickly. What’s the pluses and minuses of the product? That was the one benefit coming out of B-school. I immediately shifted. Okay, you’re now a product. How will people see you as a bar of soap in the aisle compared to all these other bars of soap? Get it done. I also knew, though, that if it didn’t work out after giving it my all, that I could certainly go back to consulting. I still feel that way, Zibby. Maybe I’ll be a strategy consultant next we speak.

Zibby: Maybe so. Maybe I’ll hire you. Help me with my business here.

Richard: Please.

Zibby: By the way, having failed my way miserably through those consulting interviews after school, I have so much respect for people who can figure out how many gas stations might be in fifty square miles or whatever those questions were.

Richard: Those are funny.

Zibby: Once you did get to this vaulted place within journalism and at the holy grail of news dissemination, did it fill your bucket, as my kids would say? Did you feel totally fulfilled, like, okay, this is it, this is the zone, this is what I was meant to do? Is that how you feel about it?

Richard: I love your kids, first of all, which one that said that. Does it fill your bucket? I love that. Did you tell them that? That’s really cool.

Zibby: We had this book about filling your bucket and how you have to do things that fill your bucket. Actually, you should get it because some of it’s giving back. This is like the Enough About Me for kids. It’s called Have You Filled Your Bucket Lately? or something.

Richard: I love that. I’m putting it down. Fill your bucket.

Zibby: You can just add it to cart right now.

Richard: Done. Did you write that too?

Zibby: No, I did not write that.

Richard: I love that. Yeah, I’m getting it. It did and did not. I think that was one of the things that I struggled with. Well, it seems like this is pretty cool, but why do you feel like it’s not? Then it took me probably about seven years into my career as a journalist to realize what I didn’t even know in business either. Business actually did — my first bunch of jobs did fill my bucket in business, these startups. I was working with really good people. Not like I’m saying in journalism, they weren’t good people. I’m saying that it wasn’t all. It wasn’t everything. I realized there were so many things that I enjoyed outside of it that it gave me. I talk it in the book, too, as three plants. Water three plants. The idea is that there is a main plant that we feed and we care for, but there are two or three others that we also feed and care for and that we cultivate. It was an offshoot of me realizing, okay, I’m here. I have this show. This is great. Now that I’m here, I’m realizing there’s all these other things I have to do, which is these parts of the community that I’m part of that I care about.

One is, I’m absolutely an abolitionist when it comes to the idea of human trafficking and understanding how prevalent it is in our country, in the United States of America, and around the world. Yet we don’t talk about it. We’re talking about selling humans and treating them like they’re not human. Another part of community that grew from that was gender equality. I often will say I’m a seven-year-old feminist. My eyes opened up after covering human trafficking. I was like, why is this the same everywhere in the world? Everywhere I go and I report on this, it’s the same dynamic of the way we treat girls and women. That then grew into, along the way, also being very much part of the Asian American, Pacific Islander community. What were the needs of that community too? It just sort of grew. My bucket became fuller, but not because of the journalism only. It became because of journalism plus all the things around it. The book that we’re talking about and the movie that’s just coming out this month and next month and last month is also part of that bucket being full. I’m more now on the satisfied end of a full bucket and still saying, I know it’s not full, but it’s okay. I know that at least I’ve put the right scoops of sand into it. Look, independent filmmakers, anybody that might be listening to us, if you’ve done one as well, Zibby, I would just say thank you for doing it because it is more work than I ever knew.

Zibby: My husband’s working on that now, actually.

Richard: Is he?

Zibby: Yeah, he’s a producer.

Richard: Wow. Five years and I’m finally reaching, sort of, the end. I’m just like, it is work. I know what we do in video news or broadcast news is very different than print. There’s a cultural difference there because everything we do — your husband knows this. Writing a book compared to doing a movie, wholly different things. Everything you do in a movie requires that you show it. Showing every second is so difficult in terms of the money and the time you spend on it. The book, I can just edit it and delete. I can find the quote. That also means you can go to places you can’t go with film.

Zibby: Yes, that’s true too.

Richard: It’s not, one is better than the other. It’s just so different. That’s why I love the written word, because it can go so much in different places. If you try to do that in video, you can never make it there.

Zibby: I think it’s a miracle any movie ever gets made now that I’ve seen how it is firsthand with people’s schedules. I can’t believe any movies come out and that so many are so good. It’s a miracle. I feel like they should standardize. You can only start a movie like it’s a semester. Then at least you could align people’s schedules, all the actors and actresses. Anyway, off topic. So the only thing with this book is I feel like a lot of the people who would need to read this book, they might not think that they think too much about themselves or they might not be self-aware enough to realize that they’re the ones who need this book the most, that they are so selfish and that need it, they need these lessons and takeaways and your story to resonate. Maybe they just don’t think that there’s anything wrong with them. What do we do about those people?

Richard: You’re right on the money there, Zibby. What I was telling, in working with a publisher who’s fantastic to work with, and the team was, this is the swing doer. This is the person that might consider trying one of these things. If you’re targeting it towards a swing doer, then you’re not going to be overly dogmatic. You’re not going to be all, and this is the way it is, boom. No, it’s going to be an exploration. It’s not also going to be a person that is an expert at it. I’m certainly no expert. This is not a book where, oh, Richard’s this perfect, selfless person. No, far from it.

Zibby: I didn’t mean to suggest that you masqueraded as such or something.

Richard: No, I’m speaking to exactly what you know because you’ve read the book. That is, I definitely approach it like, I’m a goof-up. I goof up a lot. I open the book with how I thought it was all about me in my audition at CNN. It really wasn’t what I’m saying and doing in front of the camera. It’s really what I’m doing off camera. What we do in life is the analogy here. What’s off camera is what really makes us. That’s why I started the book with that, but I really do goof up in this. That is the idea, the swing doer. That is why I worked on it in a way that is — I call it a white-collar idea with a blue-collar approach. I’m very much a bootstrapper kind of person. Another critical point if you were to read the book, you could say, why are you talking about yourself, Richard, if it’s called Enough About Me? The important thing is I wasn’t going to sit around and say, you see, this is another example of how not to do it. Look at that person. Look at Jane. Then look at John and then Jim and Elizabeth. I wasn’t going to do that. I was going to more say, look how I goofed up. Throughout the book, I try to share how I’ve goofed up and that it’s fine. Often, you’ll build up yourself as the voice that knows everything. In fact, in this case, it’s more of, I don’t know everything. I’m trying to explore why, what can I do? as a journalist might.

That tone and that approach, the very practical little things and bite-size things you can do also was targeted towards a swing doer. That’s why you have humor in it. That’s why in the back of the book there’s — if anybody ever makes it to the end, if you do, you get a free steak at Cattlemens in California. That’s why in the back, there are four poems. That’s why there’s also this playbook in the back where it’s like, if you like to do sports, that’s the way it is. That’s why in the book, I wanted cartoons. I worked with a cartoonist. There are fourteen cartoons in the book. That’s why these data graphics are in here too. I was really just trying to say, if you’re a swing doer, there’s a lot of different ways you’re going to engage in something. The one way you’re not going to engage, if I sit there and just write from the beginning to the end about how you’re wrong and this is what you need to do. That’s just not going to work. It doesn’t work with me. I’m a swing doer. I wrote it for me. I am the swing doer. I’m the person who doesn’t like ivory towers. Do not talk to me as an ivory tower. I told the entire team all the way through, Zibby, we cannot do it that way.

Zibby: You succeeded in getting your message across. I think the most powerful thing that you can do and that you did do was to share your own story. All the bullet points in the world can’t replace one person sharing their hard-won advice and innermost feelings with another. For me, that was the most compelling part. Congratulations on your book. I’m so excited about it. If you end up a consultant again and you need some business, let me know. I’ll try to drum it up for you.

Richard: I’ll take it. Thanks, Zibby.

Zibby: Thank you so much. Take care.

Richard: Appreciate it. Buh-bye.

Zibby: Buh-bye.


ENOUGH ABOUT ME by Richard Lui

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