David Rubenstein of The Carlyle Group

Today I have David Rubenstein, the billionaire businessman and philanthropist. But one of the things that I’m most excited to talk to him about is his book, How to Lead: Wisdom from the World’s Greatest CEO’s, Founders and Game Changers, where he sat down with people like Oprah, Tim Cook, and past presidents.


David Rubenstein

David Rubenstein

The Carlyle Group

David Rubenstein is a billionaire businessman and philanthropist. He is also a co-founder The Carlyle Group, a global private equity investment company based in Washington, D.C.


Full Interview Transcript


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Andrew: Hey there. Freedom fighter. My name is Andrew Warner. I’m the founder of Mixergy, where I interview entrepreneurs about how they built their businesses. Joining me is one of the most successful entrepreneurs that I’ve had here on Mixergy. David, I wonder I’m having a hard time reading you. Like how do you feel about me being so excited about talking to you?

It feels like maybe I’m overwhelming you with my enthusiasm for having you on David.

David: must be because you haven’t met me after the interview will be less enthusiastic, probably.

Andrew: No, I doubt it. David, whose voice you just heard is David Rubinstein. There’s so many reasons why people would have known you David. Number one, and probably your most famous for creating the Carlisle group. It’s an investment firm with $195 billion in assets. You’ve got a show on Bloomberg. You are one of the original signers, one of the original billionaire.

So sign the giving pledge, committing to giving half of your wealth away. And for me, one of the things that I’m most excited about is that you are the author of a book called how to lead wisdom from the world’s greatest CEO’s founders in game changers, where you’ve got interviews with people like Oprah, Tim cook presidents, George Bush, and bill Clinton to sit down together with you.

And it did a grid as an interviewer. I just enjoyed reading that book. you know what, one of the things that I wanted to find out is why are you doing interviews? Why are you doing television? Why are you doing this podcast, dude? You’re one of the richest people in the world. One of the most accomplished, you could just be sitting on boards. You don’t have to. Deal with it.

Zoom set up for me. You don’t have to go and do interviews all over the world. Why are you doing all this, David?

David: Why are you doing it? Um, you enjoy it right intellectually.


Andrew: I love it.

David: Right. Challenging. You get to meet a lot of people. Well, I enjoy the intellectual challenge of preparing for an interview, meeting the person. I don’t already know them and going through an interview. I, I enjoy it. So, uh, for me, it’s pleasure.

It’s not that I have enough money. I don’t need to make more money. So I might make another billion dollars is going to make me happier. I don’t really think so.

Andrew: I talked to one of your people, Christopher, I asked him the same thing. He says, David is so curious. I said, like what? He says, we sat down once and David’s Jewish. I’m Catholic says Christopher almond to me. He says he wants to know, do I believe in salvation? And Christopher’s thinking I’ve got to really have a sharp answer here because David’s not just asking a question that he’s trying to pass the time with.

He’s deeply curious. That is the way, huh?

David: I guess I was always that way. I try to learn as much as possible. I read enormous amount of, of books. And now that I’m at the point in my career where I don’t have to run my firm day to day, I’ve set up a family office that does things that Carla doesn’t do. But I am trying to do things that maybe I would have done earlier in my life, but didn’t have the opportunity to have a TV show or write some books.

And I just wish I can, you know, keep doing this because I enjoy this part of my life as well.

Andrew: For this interview is to find out how you launched the Carlisle group and why it succeeded to find out a little bit about your interviews and to find out what you learned from interviewing leaders. Why don’t I start with that first one? The Carlisle group, uh, happened because you had left the Carter administration, right?

You couldn’t find a job as a lawyer. And what inspired you to found this, uh, investment firm?

David: Well, I had worked in the white house for president partner and I was a bright young man, 27 to 31 years old and a great job in the West wing. And I thought I would do that for another four years. My partner was reelected and then we ran against a man named Ronald Reagan, who I thought would be great. We could beat him because he was 69 years old.

And how can anybody that old get up in the morning, even. Now I’m 71. So I realized it wasn’t that at all. And we lost. So all of a sudden the people told me how great I was when I was in the white house. They didn’t want to hire me anymore because we wanted a Carter white house aid. So it took me six months to find a job where I could practice law, but at a small firm, and also not as a senior partner or a junior partner or anything, just another associate.

So I did it, but I realized I didn’t love it. And if you don’t love something, you won’t be good at it. I wasn’t in love with it and I wasn’t good at it. So I decided to start something else. And I read about bill Simon, starting a, doing a buyout of a company called Gibson greeting cards made, uh, you know, about $80 million on a, on a, about a million dollar investment.

In that 18 months. I said, that sounds better than practicing law. And then I read that entrepreneurs start their companies between 28 and 37 and I was 37. So I said, I better do something about this. So I decided to recruit some people knew something about finance. I really didn’t. And then I said, okay, I’ll help you guys.

I’ll go out and raise the money. I didn’t know anything about fundraising either, but I thought I could learn that easier than learning finance. And that happened. That’s how we got started.

Andrew: How did you raise money when this was your first time out? What worked? What

David: I had a friend of mine at T Rowe price who introduced me to some people. And basically we were, we only raised $5 million to get it off the ground. And so it was a very modest ambition. We only had a 2000 square feet. We had about 10 people and nobody thought it was going to become a great private equity firm.

It was just a little investment boutique, probably. And, uh, you know, raising that first $5 million, but the long time, probably six months to nine months to get the first 5 million. So today, um, you know, it’s, it’s a much different environment, but people are willing to impact these kind of events because they weren’t so much in 1987,

Andrew: In your book, how to lead one of the questions that I loved the best were the ones about how people are persuasive. What did you learn about being persuasive when you were raising money? When maybe you can give me an example where you didn’t do well, or you did do well, but I’d love a specific.

David: There’s a book called presidential power by Richard noose that any entity says, presidents don’t really have that much power. They only have the power to persuade. And then you can persuade people three ways. The way I look at it, one by being a great speaker, Martin Luther King, a great writer, uh, Abraham Lincoln, or, or Thomas Jefferson.

But the most effective way is to lead by example, you do what you want your followers to do. George Washington, staying at Valley forge in 1777 with his troops suffering with them. So that’s what I learned is a way to persuade people is to do something that you want them to do. So in the end, our firm had a culture of investing a lot of our own personal money.

In all the deals we did. And then when I went out to start raising money, what did I have to sell? Well, a modest track record, but I had a lot of knowledge of how Washington worked. And so people were, I think, in the hammered with my stories of Washington and how government works and people around the United States and around the world are always interested in what’s going on in Washington.

So I would use that as a way to kind of get in the door and talk to people. And then eventually I could convince them to come into a fund.

Andrew: And one of the other things that I read was that the first investments that at first, you were just investing in a hodgepodge of companies that it really didn’t take off for the first few years. What, what were you investing in in those early days?

David: In those early days, we did things like take a stake in the restaurant company or a chemical company. Or an aerospace company. We really didn’t have a lot of expertise. We honestly didn’t know what we were doing so much. We didn’t have a lot of money either. So we had to raise the money deal by deal. All right.

So that’s a couple of years before we could get her out to raise a hundred million dollar fund, which was our first fund. And that’s turned out to be pretty successful. If you have a successful fund, money will come in money. Here’s about the deal is pretty quickly. So our first one went pretty well and then we could raise funds from that.

But what we did that changed the private equity world and enabled the firm to grow. Was, we had a concept that doesn’t strike you as deserving of a Nobel prize in private equity, but it basically it’s this private equity firms were all mom and pops, seven people, 10 people. They had a small amount of money.

They weren’t, they were just patient going by announcements. Right. I came up with the idea of going a firm that would be like fidelity or T Rowe price in the private equity world, having an array of funds, private equity buyouts, but also venture capital growth capital real estate. And then I had the idea of globalizing and like taking around the world, having funds all over the world.

So that’s what enabled us to institutionalize it by having many different funds and then getting people used to the brand name and centralizing the administrative functions back in Washington D shape. And then we did one of the techniques. That in hindsight, maybe work, maybe it did. We brought in some prominent government people, former government people.

I had worked in the government. And so I, we all, we recruited Frank Carlucci, former secretary advanced and Jim Baker and so forth. And they came in and they gave us a little bit of a star power and more people were willing to go to a dinner that Jim Baker was going to speak out. Then a dinner that David Rubinstein was going to speak out.

And so it helped us attract investors to listen to our story. We have a terrible track record. It wouldn’t have sold, but our tracker was pretty good. We had to get people to listen to them.

Andrew: And the track record was good before that, because of what.

David: Well, I had recruited some people who are actually pretty good investors and they’re still with us and they would just, we just had a good track record. We were very cautious, very careful. We didn’t have a wall street mindset. Wall street mindsight often is worrying about the fee. As opposed to the deal on the investment return.

We didn’t have a wall street background. Nobody had worked in wall street, so we weren’t really feed driven. We weren’t looking, getting fees. We’re really looking at getting good investment returns on our money and our investors money. And since these were people that were friends of ours, we were very careful to make sure we didn’t mess up.

And then eventually we got to know more people, more people around the world as I developed more and more contacts.

Andrew: I read a little bit about the greeting, uh, the Gibson greeting card company that inspired you to launch a Carlyle group that buyout was largely financed by the company’s own assets. Is that what you did to buy loans by selling real estate? Right.

David: Well, buyouts are by definition, uh, using, uh, loans to help finance the deal. And the loans are really secured in effect by the company’s assets or really the cashflow. So that’s not novel. What was novel about the Gibson greeting cards deal? Was that it was so little equity put in and the, the exit occurred within 18 months.

Normally you would think you would take four or five years or so, but again, the buyout world hadn’t yet really, uh, taken off it wasn’t they weren’t that well known at the time.

Andrew: Um, okay. And then at some point you became known as the company that has all of these former leaders and it became an issue for you guys at the Carlyle group, right?

David: Yes

initially, nobody ever heard of Rubinstein and there’s no reason they should have. I was a junior Whitehouse eight, but when you have Jim Baker, Dick Darman. Um, let’s say, Jim, uh, you had Frank Carlucci and John major and also, uh, George Herbert Walker, Bush. And you’re from, people are gonna say, who are these guys?

And so we got a lot of attention when George W. Bush was elected president, uh, people, George Herbert Walker, Bush came to me and said, David, you’re a good friend of mine. He was not a partner in a firm. Jim Baker was, but you know, I have to stop doing business because my son’s present. And I said, okay, I understand.

And then after my six months or so, he got tired of not doing anything in the business world. So he said, he’d like to re affiliate in some way. And we said, okay. And it was fine, except we gotta be very careful. It goes, his son was present and all that. But, um, what happened was we went into Iraq and Iraq didn’t work out so well, needless to say, And then we became blamed for it.

People said, well, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re leading the Iraq war effort. I’m, I’m doing investments. I’m nothing to do with Iraq war effort, but we got blamed for it because the father was in there from Jim Baker was seen as close to the Bush family. And as he was, so we got blamed. So one day we had to basically.

Ask all these people to be retired and I had to go retire them off so we could change our image. Cause we weren’t really a government firm and we weren’t really part of the Bush administration. And I recruited Lou Gerstner to be our chairman, uh, who, and it was stepping down from IBM.

Andrew: Wasn’t that you were also getting an advantage because you had former government people in your team who are helping to guide the investments that the gov, the U S government was impacted. Okay.

David: Wow. No, this is the reason one. Um, we didn’t do any lobbying of government. We were, we didn’t lobby the government. Secondly, we didn’t do any investments that were particularly ad, uh, help by the government. But remember when we, when these people were in our firm, Bill Clinton was president United States.

And it wasn’t as if bill Clinton was going to be doing a lot of favors for, you know, Jim Baker. It just, that wasn’t the case. And so, uh, that wasn’t the case. What they did was they didn’t really work on deals. They were never on any investment committees. What they did was if somebody is selling a company and they want to buy that company.

Um, Frank Carlucci called them up. They might be more likely to return the call than a David Rubinstein called him up. So is that an unfair advantage? Well, it’s no more unfair than if you had a prominent CEO of an accompany making that kind of call you, you get their call return. Um, I didn’t ask any of these guys to ever.

Um, make any investments or they didn’t bring any investments in and they never talked to the federal government of course, about anything we were doing. So I don’t think it was particularly, um, inappropriate in any way to do that. And of course now many people have accepted the idea that former government people can be an investment firms, as well as being in law firms.

It’s not that uncommon.

Andrew: Truthfully, I went down a rabbit hole of just researching all of this. And then I realized this is outside of my focus and passion to ask these questions because I don’t have enough depth of knowledge or enough depth of interest where I’m curious is. George Herbert Walker, Bush works for you. How are you pers how did you David persuade people like him to come work for you at the Carlyle group?

What did you, what is it about your personality that draws these people to you?

David: Well, what happened was, I didn’t know, Jim Baker at all. I had been on the opposite side of him. I’ve been in the Carter administration that he ran the campaign against us for Ronald Reagan. And then, so I did, and I stayed out of politics. So once I left Carter, I divorced myself from politics. I don’t give money to politicians.

I still don’t. And stay out of politics. Um, I had a friend named Bob Strauss who had been at the chairman of democratic national committee who knew Jim Baker from Texas. And he introduced me to Baker when Baker was leaving government, this one, the end of the Bush administration. I went to make a pitch about joining my little firm and he said, wait a second.

This is a little firm you’ve got, you don’t even have a hundred million dollars practically at tiny. And you know, I’m the great Jim Baker. He wasn’t that impressed honestly. And then eventually he asked to Garmin and former head of LNB to. Analyze a foreman. Dormant said, no, he didn’t think he should join.

Eventually I went to talk to Darwin and then Darwin thought it was better than maybe at before. And then Darman thought he would want to join. So they both came in and the novelty was that you could be in Washington, DC, uh, live there. If you’re going to live there and you don’t have to be a lobbyist or a lawyer, or kind of sell influence, we were basically making investments.

So. Uh, and when Jim Baker came in, eventually he introduced us to George Herbert Walker, Bush, and Bush became an advisor to our Asian fund. And, uh, you know, I got along well with these people. I, I, I didn’t really know them that well initially, and they weren’t, they were older than I was, but, you know, I wouldn’t say it was my charm or good looks.

It was just, uh, basically it thought we could build a firm together and they would make some money from it, but nothing that was inappropriate or illegal or immoral.

Andrew: What is it about? I’ve heard how relentless you are. I’m trying to get a sense of, do you have that one person that you convinced to come work with you at the Carlyle group? That one story that encapsulates who you are helps us understand? What is it about your I’ve got one, if you don’t, but I think you’d come up with a better one.

David: Um, Lou Gerstner was stepping down as the head of IBM. And I didn’t know, I’d never met him before, but I was introduced to him by somebody who is in our firm, Arthur Levitt. And I, um, convinced him. He was, he, he was 60 years old, retiring at 60. And, uh, I convinced him if he could come in, he could be the chairman of the firm and to have an influence in helping us to build the firms.

So it took some while to do that. So I don’t know that I more persuasive than the average person, the other people that built large private equity firms are probably pretty persuasive as well.

Andrew: Here’s one of the stories that I got from Christopher. For Aman, who I talked to before talking to you, he said that he’s a champion Whistler, which I didn’t know was a thing. Do you know that was a thing.

David: I didn’t know until I recruited Chris, but he’s the four time world West whistling champion.

Andrew: whistle with his lips, is that what we’re talking about?

David: Yes. He’s the whistling as are those a national there’s international whistling championship apparently every year. And he won it four years in a row. He’s pretty good at it.

Andrew: he says to you, David, I’m going to whistle a Duke. You say to him, let’s go on a road trip and you do what,

David: what,

Andrew: and you do what you ended up going together.

David: Um, down at Duke? I think he went down there. I took him to a Duke basketball game, I guess maybe he whistled down there at the Duke basketball, right? Yeah. He’s, uh, he’s very good at it. Um, so, uh, you know, that, wasn’t that hard to convince Duke to do that. I was chairman of the board of Duke probably at the time show, probably wasn’t that hard to get somebody to wish.

Andrew: that, the part that touches me that makes me feel like I get an understanding of why people enjoy working with you. As you heard that he was doing this, and you said, let’s take a road trip. I’ll go together with you. You got on a, on your plane with him and you went and you watched him do this and supported him as, as he did it.

David: Well, I try to help the other people and I’m always interested in and, um, doing what I can to help other people. So I guess it’s a function of the way I was brought up and, uh, I enjoy it.

Andrew: Can you tell me a little bit about how you were brought up? I read in your book, your dad was a postman. Am I right? Your mom was a homemaker. You

David: worked as a male, a male clerk. Um, and then my mother, uh, sold ladies’ dresses, uh, after I was going off to school, um, I was the only child. It was a very modest background. My father made seven, eight, nine, $10,000 a year. Blue collar worker. Um, small house, 800 square feet, two bedrooms, one bathroom, no air conditioning, no back, no backyard of any size.

And so very modest. And, um, but as you know, um, growing up in modest circumstances can really induce you to be more independent and really work harder. So it’s very difficult to raise children. Maybe the hardest thing in the world to do is to raise children, raising children when you’re in a wealthy family is much harder.

Now that I’m wealthy, raising children is much more complicated as you know, So I grew up in that setting and

Andrew: I’m sorry, go on. And I’ll ask you, what’s more

David: when you might, when you’re, when you’re wealthy, you know, it’s harder to induce, um, your children to be, um, independent and not rely on a wealthy parent. So a lot of wealthy parents produce children who are not driven.

If you’re from a modest background, you’re going to be more driven. And the interviews that I did, a lot of people were leaders tended to come from modest backgrounds and they have the drive that, that gives them.

Andrew: What was it about your, your parents and your upbringing that made you feel that that drove you more?

David: Well, I guess, um, it wasn’t that I felt I was poverty stricken and nobody says when they’re growing up, I gotta get out of the circumstances. The worst thing in the world. I shouldn’t say nobody says that some people are terrible situations. I didn’t think it was the end of the earth. I had a modest. Uh, upbringing and modest resources, but I just maybe read a lot and was inspired to try to do something with my life.

That was more than just the kind of things that my father did. And my parents didn’t really encourage me or discourage me if I’d worked in the post. I was, my mother would have said fine. You’re my only child, whatever you want to do is fine. And so they didn’t push me one way or the other, but I just maybe push myself a little bit to try to make something of myself.

Andrew: What was it that you read? I, I remember reading, um, books about Andrew Carnegie. He was an immigrant. I was an immigrant. He had parents who didn’t know how to figure out this country, this world I did too. And it inspired me to see what he was able to make of himself. And then also how he had so much to give afterwards.

The library I went to was inspired by him. What was it that you read that did that for you?

David: Well, early on, I thought I was going to be a professional athlete, baseball player or something until I was seven or eight. And then I realized I wasn’t that talented. So I read a lot of sports biographies, but then I tended to read a lot of biographies. And then kind of when you read a lot of biographies, you get inspired by the people.

Did you read about, because books are usually written about people that have done something useful or important. So I got inspired by that and, you know, and I was in a youth group in Baltimore where we had a lot of very talented people and I aspire to be like them. And so one thing led to the other, but I was not, um, a superstar, as I pointed out in the book, many of the people that are superstars in high school or junior high school or college, they tend to tend not to turn out, to be the great leaders later on.

So, uh, in, in any college is going to be probably a road scholar, student body, president All-American athlete. Those people don’t often turn out to be the leaders later on the leaders often turn out to be the people where they, where the tourists, not the hair in the early days as like divided life into three, three parts.

The second, third, and the third, third is where relieving the leader is. Is relevant. If you’re a leader as a student, it’s okay. But it’s not going to be a significant if you’re a leader of a company or the leader of a government. And so I got fortunate that I wasn’t so, so great early on because it didn’t go to my head.

I realized I had to keep striving. I was going to get anywhere sometimes if you’re a great leader early on or a great athlete, everything comes to you so easily. You don’t have to work that hard. You kind of coast for awhile. And then people like me come past you later on in life. So thinking about presence in the United States, the last 20 or so none of them, except for bill Clinton was thought to be a superstar when he was young, but in the end, um, you know, they all Rose up and that’s true of a lot of corporate CEOs as well.

Andrew: Do you remember one of these biographies that made you see what was possible beyond the life that you had in Baltimore? No.

David: Okay. Well, I, uh, was inspired by, uh, John Kennedy. He was a very impressive politician when I was a boy. And, um, I read a lot about him and I’d say he was probably a pretty good inspiration. That’s why I was probably interested in politics. I had no interest in money, although I didn’t come from a wealthy family.

I didn’t say. Well, listen to me, I’m going to go become a billionaire because there were no billionaire Stan and nobody in my family really knew much about money making money. I didn’t, and I didn’t care about it. I really wasn’t interested in going to government and politics. That’s what I only, the only thing I really cared about.

Andrew: By the way, when you said earlier that people who you’d interviewed many of them didn’t come from wealthy backgrounds. I was immediately thinking about how in your book, how to lead. There was a story with Marilyn Houston, who I hadn’t heard of before. She’s the, uh, uh, the president CEO of Lockheed. Yeah, she had this line.

I highlighted in the book. She says I, um, I was told, Oh, here’s what her mom said to her. Go to the grocery store. Here’s $5, bring back $7 of groceries. That type of mentality is so it’s so powerful.

David: Well, a lot of people grow up in circumstances like that. Ginni, Rometty, uh, father left her family and I think she had three, three siblings and they kind of had to raise themselves with a mother, but the mother didn’t have any money and didn’t have an education at the time. Uh, you find a lot of these kinds of tickets, situations, even bill Gates, bill Gates was not from a poverty stricken family for sure.

But he was an upper middle class family. It was a prom. He was a prominent lawyer, but he wasn’t a billionaire or anything close to that.

Andrew: How do you get these guests? People like Melinda Gates, people like bill Gates, Eric Schmidt. How do you get them to sit down and do interviews with you? And sometimes it’s not even broadcast. How do you do it? What works for you?

David: Well, I, I I’m in the business world, I’ve met a number of these people and then I’m very involved in the nonprofit world. I’m on a lot of nonprofit boards and chair on a number of them and through the nonprofit world or things like the giving pledge, you can do meet a lot of people. And remember I’m older than you.

So I’ve been around a while. So now, um, you know, I’ve, I. Seen a lot of these people over the last couple of decades as I’ve gotten to know them. So all the people I’ve interviewed are people I do know, and it usually makes the interview go much better because I’m not, you know, I also say to them, I’m not a journalist, I’m not trying to trick you on anything.

I’m not trying to embarrass you. I just want to have your story come out in a reasonably pleasant way. And so I do know them and you know, I, I’m not, uh, you know, best friends with them, but I do know them. I’ve known him for a long time, in some cases.

Andrew: And it’s just you tapping your network of people who you already had met. You met Jeff. I’m sorry. You met Jeff Bezos. You talk about that in the book. How did you meet Jeff? Basles.

David: Well, it’s an interesting story though. It’s hard to talk about it sometimes because I realized the mistakes I made, but Jeff Bezos was starting a book com a company, sell books over the internet, obviously famous now, and he didn’t have any, uh, bibliography of books in print. So how can you sell books over the internet unless you know what books are available?

So one of our companies at Carlisle was a company that had a bibliography of books and print. He came to rent it. Our people said we don’t rent it. He said, well, I’ll give you a piece of my company, 20 or 30%. They said, Hey, let’s start up company called Amazon. We’re not, we don’t, we’re not interested in that.

We’ll take cash. So in the end they got a hundred thousand a year for five years. And then after about two years, I read about this company. I didn’t know about it before I read about Jeff Bezos. Um, and I said to our people, Hey, there’s a guy starting a company. So books, or even that maybe he will rent our bibliography like this other guy that you’ve already got the Hey, a hundred thousand dollars a year for.

And he said, no, no, that’s the guy we already did it with. And then I think I said, was that the company that was going to give us 30% or something, he said, yes. So I decided to go out and get some of the equity. Cause I went, flew out to his ramshackle office. It was in his original office. He was basically putting the books together.

In those days, if you made an order to Amazon, he would then send an order to the publisher. The publisher would then send it to him. And about three weeks later, you get the book. Um, and he was delivering it to the post office himself. So I said to him, Jeff, Uh, your company, why do you think you’re going to make it?

You’ve got Barnes and noble out there. How can you compete with them? And he said, well, we have better software. We know what we’re doing, blah, blah, blah. And, uh, in the end, um, he gave us 1% of the company and we sold it at the IPO because we didn’t think it was gonna go anywhere. That’d probably cost about four or five or $6 billion.

But, uh, Jeff’s brilliant idea was not selling books over the internet. There were already people doing that. His brilliant idea was selling everything over the internet. And then when he came up with that idea, that’s where he revolutionized the, uh, the world of e-commerce. Uh, selling the books over the internet, there were four or five or six other people doing that already.

Andrew: When you sit down to do an interview with him. Do you wonder, what do I David want to know about him? Or do you think, what does the audience need to know about him?

David: Well, Try to do is, uh, read a lot about the person I’m gonna interview. So I read everything that I can, then I write down the questions that I’m thinking of asking, and I kind of do it in my, the way my mind works. And I typically send the questions to the people. The reason for that is not because I can’t ask somebody, I didn’t write, but I, I would like to see if there’s something that’s offensive to them.

Or something they think I, I missed. And then when I, I do the interviews, I don’t use the questions in front of me because I like to memorize them and have a conversation. So I don’t usually use notes. And therefore, um, if I forget of that 25 questions, I forget two or three, nobody will know, but me and it won’t be a big deal, but I often listen to the people and that they have something to say that I didn’t anticipate.

Then I kind of follow that lead and I try not to embarrass them and I try to get their story out in the story. The things I’m interested in are how did these people get where they got. That’s the most interesting thing. So I want people want to know, how did Colin Powell become Colin Powell? How did David Petraeus become David Patraeus?

How come I’m not David portray? It’s not going to David Patraeus become David . That’s what people want to know. And, uh, you know, it’s interesting, everybody likes to know how other people became successful or unsuccessful. And it’s a fascination that humans have had throughout the Dawn of time. Okay.

Andrew: And you’re still interested in that. And you’re still learning something from that that satisfies your, your personal curiosity, or is it you imagining what you would want if you were in the audience?

David: I’m very curious. Uh, there’s a Yiddish word for this called the Anta. And the Yenta means that you’re always interested in being a busy body, trying to know other people’s business. So my mother would say, David, don’t ask so many questions of people that people would come to our house and I’d ask them a lot of questions.

And she’d say, you know, don’t be a, Yenta, don’t have so many questions, but I’m always interested and curious about people. And I do think it’s an effective way in, in business as well, um, to having a good conversation. So if you go to make a business sale, Um, talk to the person for a while, let them tell you about themselves and you’ll learn a lot about them in their conversation.

And then you can judge the what’s the best thing to say about the business proposition you might want to make to them. Uh, people like to talk about themselves as a general rule of thumb, right? The most popular word in the English language is hi. Or, um, or can you hear me? I, at this point, yeah. I want to say, you know, what about their background and people who’ve come from modest circumstances and became famous.

They liked to describe how they did it, overcame all the hurdles that existed for them.

Andrew: Do you still feel a motivation from that from your childhood and how you got here or, or is your motivation now coming from somewhere else?

David: Um, I’m more visible now. So if I make a mistake, everybody’s going to know it. So I have to be very careful not to embarrass myself or my family. I’ve got three children and, uh, you know, I don’t wanna embarrass my children by doing something terrible. I’m going a lot of nonprofit boards. My name is a lot of different places.

And so if I do something bad, all of a sudden my name will come down to the various buildings or various scholarships. So I have to be pretty careful, but I try not to do anything. That’s going to embarrass myself or, or the people that care about me. But I also am very curious and I’m not trying to do anything.

I think it’s nefarious, fraud bias by interviewing people. I think it’s. Enjoy why, as you probably know, from the art of interviewing, and I’ve thought about doing a book about interviewing famous interviewers, because there’s a skill to it, as you know. And, uh, and I kind of figured out where did the interview come from and why did it become so popular?

So we don’t have any interviews with, um, Julius Caesar. There’s no interviews of Alexander, the great

Andrew: I hadn’t thought of that.

David: interviews of William Shakespeare, no interviews of Charlemagne. Why is that? Uh, there’s some interviews of Abraham Lincoln, no one interviews of George Washington. Why? Because the interview concept didn’t really exist then now of course, Socrates had the Socratic dialogue, but it wasn’t quite what we have now.

So when did it get embedded? Well kind of in the United States, there was a show you’re too young to remember this, but there’s something called the tonight show and it was actually the first post was I think Steve Allen and, uh, Steve Allen is in the early fifties later succeeded by Jack Paar later succeeded by Johnny Carson.

Well, they would do interviews of people on television. And then later people did it on daytime, Phil Donahue or Winfrey, and then there was Larry King doing it, and everybody wanted to hear other people’s story. And an interview was a good way to do it because people didn’t have to prepare a speech. They could just respond to questions.

And so now everybody has podcasts. Everybody is interested in other people’s information. And so there’s a real art to it. And I think it’s an interesting, uh, phenomenon, but it’s relatively recent. It’s not a, it’s not a centuries old phenomenon.

Andrew: David. I hadn’t thought of that. You’re absolutely right. Like poetry is as old as the written language,

David: But not

Andrew: why not interviews? That’s such a good point. Maybe not interviews as a way of journalists understanding the world is, but as a finished product, it’s not right. Right,

David: But journalists have been around for a while, but they typically might interview somebody, but they wouldn’t publish the interview per se. And the interview was not seen as entertainment as much as it was information.

Andrew: Yeah. I hadn’t thought of that at all. I, I wonder at the end of an interview, I will often just sit back and I’m going to be analyzing this interview. I’ve hired coaches to help me go through my transcripts. Do you do any of that to try to figure out what you can do to improve what you asked Eric Schmidt that maybe didn’t work out there’s um,

David: Well, I’m not probably as, uh, organized as, as you are to do that. So I do the interview. I sometimes realize I made a mistake in asking somebody a question. Um, and you know, I, I will cut that out of the interview because I made a big mistake, but I, I generally don’t go into a lot of self-analysis. I realized what I could have done better, and I try to fix it the next time.

But, uh, I don’t really go back and reread it now for this book, I had to go back and reread the transcripts. And in doing that, I said, Oh my God, why did I ask that stupid question? I should’ve asked this, but you know, for the book, I edited out the, my stupid questions.

Andrew: You know what I wish that we could do more of, and I get to do it. I think more than you’ll ever be able to is ask those personal questions. Like you, you talked to Christopher and you asked him if he believes in salvation. That’s where I, I enjoy having private conversations, public conversations often you don’t get into that,

David: So I don’t, I don’t get into anything. That’s going to embarrass anybody. Uh, tell me about your relationship with your, your mother or, uh, you know, why did you get divorced or did you have an affair or how did that go? I mean, that’s not the kind of stuff.

Andrew: But it was, it was always when, for example, Melinda Gates talked about an abusive relationship. She had you click, you read her book, I imagine. So you understood that it was in there and you

David: She had written about it already. And I asked her before the interview was okay to go into that.

Andrew: Um, there’s this great story, you know, from Oprah Winfrey and your book, I guess Sally field was married to, I forget who it was.

Um, and everyone in the audience wanted her to want an Oprah to ask. Does he sleep with this to pay on. And she didn’t feel right asking it, but the producers that everyone wants to know, you should go ask and she did. And Sally fields just closed up from that. And that is something I noticed in dinner conversations and an interview conversations.

There are certain topics that if you’re not gentle about it and you push the person closes off completely, you find that too.

David: Well, yes, I therefore, I, I’m not trying to do embarrassing questions. I want people to be happy. Nobody that I’ve interviewed yet has ever complained about the interview. As far as I know, they all are happy with it. Everybody I asked to let them use the transcript for the book. Was that okay? So I try to.

You know, do things differently now I’m not Leslie stall stalled. I’m not, uh, Chris Wallace or Mike Wallace. I’m not 60 minutes. My, some other people can do that. That’s just not my style, not my personality.

Andrew: I was going to ask you why you didn’t start if you’ve got this energy and apparently one of your philosophies is sprinting to the finish that God gave you gifts. You have to crank my right.

David: Yes. Well, yes, because, um, you know, you never know when your brain or your body is going to give out. So I’m now 71. So 23% of the people born in the year I was born, 1949 are now deceased. So that means that you know, about 77% are still around. How come I’m one of the lucky 77%? I don’t know. Uh, but I know every day I read about people in the obituary sections who are my age or younger, they die.

When I was growing up, I used to ask my parents, why do you read the obituaries? And now I find I’m reading the obituaries. And I read them first to see who I know that died and say, how come I’m so lucky that I’m still alive when this person was younger than me. So, yes. Um, I do feel that I’m lucky in that migraine still works reasonably well and my body doesn’t have any exotic challenges relative to my age and all that.

So I’ve been, you don’t know when something bad is going to happen. So I’m trying to rush to get stuff done. So that I can feel like I’ve completed my mission on life and in life, and also to do as many things that I’m interested in doing and enjoy life and remaining years of the life.

Andrew: Do you feel that God gave you gifts? Or is that just an expression?

David: No, I wouldn’t say any gave me any gifts. I would just say that I got lucky in that I have some skills that other people think are interesting. So, um, before I started doing interviewing, nobody ever said, Hey, David, you’d be a great interviewer. Nobody ever said that. And I came about it through serendipity.

Um, you know, nobody’s ever said to me, David, you are such a handsome guy. You should have been a movie actor. You know, people don’t say that. So you have to realize where your skillset is and, you know, being handsome, being a great athlete, isn’t an IPP. I’ve been surprised at how many people tell me they liked my interviews.

And so I don’t want to say, look, you really don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a terrible interviewer. I don’t say that. I’d say, well, thank you. And I can always do better, but thank you.

Andrew: And so I was going to ask you, if you have this sprint to the finish energy, why not start another company and then donate your money after you’re dead, let someone else do it. What I’ve heard from, um, someone on your team is that. You actually felt that you wished that you’d done that you donated money earlier that you’d actually what’s the upside.

Why not? Why not just say I’m going to do what my gift is, which is I’m one of the few people who can build a business, let someone else, when I’m gone, give away the money. What is the upside for someone who like the people who are listening to us for donating money earlier for getting involved earlier?

David: And the declaration of independence. Thomas Jefferson said that what we’re trying to do is people have life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s the most elusive thing in life. Happiness. What creates happiness and what makes you happy? I don’t know what it is. Um, what makes me happy? Well, I found out that in the end, making me work in the white house may be happy for awhile.

Uh, building a company from scratch made me happy, but also giving away the money made me happy. Um, you know, I, when I was building Carlisle, nobody ever, uh, uh, my mother never called me up. I’m her only child and said, David, you’re building a great company. You’re going to be a hero in the private equity world.

She never said that he didn’t know what private equity was. When I started giving away the money, she would call me regularly and say, David, you’re doing something I’m proud of. And then when she passed away a few years ago, I went through her scrapbooks. The only thing she had about me were the things that talked about the money I’d given away.

Not any of the businesses I built. So in the end, um, I, it create gave me a lot of happiness to make my mother happy. And that’s why I often ask people in my interviews. Did your parents live this year? Success? There’s to me, that’s a very important thing. And a lot of people like to talk about the fact that their parents lived, the Caesar, their success, and the ones that didn’t feel that they’ve lost something in life.

Andrew: Did your dad get to see your success?

David: Yes. My parents live to be 85 and 86. They died four or five years ago. So, yeah. Um, but you know, they, they didn’t travel in the world that I travel in. So they live in a retirement community in Florida and they didn’t go around bragging that much about it, but they were very happy with what I did because they had no ambition that I would.

You know, for me, they did, they give it, they were happy. So that was good. Um, so the reason I’m doing this is I am happy giving away money and I am building another company in effect. I create a family office, but that’s, uh, you know, just the phrase, the money is not designed for my children. It’s designed to create more money for me to give away.

Andrew: You still hear your parents in your head? Do you still do things like when you’re, when you’re making a move today, when you’re donating, when you’re meeting someone, do you still hear your dad’s voice, your mom’s voice? See them feeling proud. See them noticing it in your head.

David: Well, I wouldn’t say I do, obviously I have in my home, I have pictures of them and I was, I tell people all the time, uh, It’s very important to, in my view, honor your parents and don’t wait until they’re gone. Try to do it while you’re alive. They’re alive. And, um, I, I, you know, I did that with my father. I made a mistake.

I didn’t really do a lot to honor him. And so he was a Marine. And so after he died, I, I realized I had something. I shouldn’t want to do something. And it’s like re repair the Eden Jima Memorial, which is for Marines. Then I, the avoid the mistake with my mother. I gave some money to a. Something in Washington, they named the something after my mother and I surprised her took her there.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg was there. She sat had dinner with her and it was a great event. And I realize it’s a lot harder to do that when they’re not around. Um, so it’s easier to do it. Uh, you know, when, when they’re, when they’re there.

Andrew: Let me ask you this. Now, as someone who’s had to analyze, uh, people that you’ve invested in people who you’ve brought on board, people who you’re interviewing, you’ve been studying, what makes them tick? What makes them successful? What have you taken away from all these conversations that you’ve recorded and all the conversations you’ve had before?

David: Well, everybody’s showman. There are no superstars. Nobody is lacking in, in, in, in, uh, some insecurity. Nobody is insensitive to what other people think. Uh, everybody wants to get along with other people with though they have different ways of doing it. Um, everybody realizes they got lucky to get where they are and everybody wants to do something to make the society or the humanity or some part of the world better than it was before

Andrew: Is that, is that one of the takeaways from the people you’ve interviewed the sense of. I want to leave the world better. I want to make the world better.

David: Absolutely.

Andrew: Is there anything else?

David: Well, well, everybody wants to have everybody’s legacy. If they have children, it’s going to be their children to some extent. But, um, everybody wants to do something more than that. And why do they want to do that? Well, I think that makes them feel good, but maybe it’s because they want to please their parents.

Maybe, please their friends, their partners, or spouses, whatever. But I think everybody generally thinks the life will be better for them. If they do something useful with their life, rather than just do nothing and just acquire money and just put in a bank account.

Andrew: What other advice would you have for someone who’s listening? Who says David has done it himself. He’s helped other people do it. He studied other people. Who’ve who’ve achieved big success in their lives. And again, it’s not all business. We’ve only talked about business, but in your book and your life you’ve talked to and analyzed others, what is it about them that separates them?

David: I, I th what separates the leaders are the people that have a vision, they have failed. They’ve overcome that they’re persistent. They know how to communicate. They know how to share the credit, their ethical way and large. We have a fair amount of humility. I think all of those things are, are, uh, in all of the people I analyze.

Now, obviously you made a great leader without being humble. Um, I imagine that Napoleon wasn’t that humble. I imagine that the Alexander, the great who attached the great though. His name probably wasn’t humble, but there are always going to be some people like that. But generally the people I know and the people I admire have a fair amount of humility to them.

Andrew: I feel like almost you’ve talked in your book more about the investments that you didn’t make, you, you had it. Did you have a chance to invest in Facebook?

David: Well, I had a chance there, my, uh, Son-in-law now, but he was the boyfriend then of my daughter when they were at Harvard. Uh, he said a classmate of his was going to drop out of Harvard and create a company called Facebook. And it really kind of helps people get dates, I guess, suddenly Harvard. And now we’re going to do it in other colleges.

And I said, look, I’ve seen student dating. Companies before they don’t really work. And he said, you don’t want to meet him. He said, he’s trying to raise 30,000 or 40,000 or something. I said, no, I don’t think so. Now, obviously the original 30,000 that went in produced the about $15 billion in profits for somebody.

Uh, so I made a mistake and, uh, yes, I think it’s maybe my Jewish upbringing. I always look on things I should have done, or I kind of, uh, realized I should look on the back and all of the mistakes I made. Some of my partners. I have a partner. That’s the chief investment officer for Carlyle. For many years, bill Conway, I recruited on a cold call, more or less.

He never looks back. He just, you know, that’s the deal in the past, too bad. And we go into the future and I wish I had that trait, but I don’t.

Andrew: You, um, you, you read, I think, did you say a book a week or you read on a regular basis?

David: try to read at least one book a week, sometimes two, but it’s not that difficult. Let me tell you why. Uh, one, I’m not reading books. I, I don’t know anything about it. I don’t read novels. I only read to get information and get as much information, in fact, so I read books in history. If I know reasonably well.

Uh, biographies, which I’m always interested in. I can get through them pretty quickly, um, uh, books on, on business or books on, uh, politics. Those are the subjects. I know. So if I, if you ask me to read a chemistry textbook, it would take me three years to get through it. I, I wouldn’t understand it. So I’m really reading books on things I know.

And then I have a secret than I has helped me a lot. The secret is this. I do a lot of interviews of authors. I have some shows. And so I have a theory that you, as a courtesy to the author, you should read the book. And so I read all these books on, you know, I’m always reading books that people have about have to interview.

And then, uh, you know, today I was going to do an interview on Friday with an author and they just canceled. Now I’ve got to get somebody else. I got to read the book in two days, but I’ll find out how to do that.

Andrew: Did you read by the way, David? I think I forget how to pronounce the last name. Is it?  the author of that Lynn Robert, excuse me. Robert Carr.

David: I have interviewed him. Yes.

Andrew: I know, did you read his book or do you know about his book working, where you see his process?

David: I did.

Andrew: a book.

David: Yeah. What happened? That book disappointed a lot of people because people said, you’ve got to finish your last volume of Lyndon Johnson. You’re 83 years old, finished this book. Don’t do anything to you finished the fifth book on, on Linda Johnson. And he comes out with this little book called working.

People said, what are you doing? Get rid of that book. How could you waste time? You got to finish the Johnson book, but he just said he wanted to get this out of the way. And it wasn’t his ultimate autobiography. It’s a good book. But he, he disappointed a lot of people by writing it because they thought you’re taking away time from the book that we all want to do.

Andrew: Uh, I enjoyed that book. Let’s see his process, how he thinks, how he writes, how he struggled, how he, why it works. Um, and so you read a book or two week you read the newspaper on a regular basis. What other habits do you have? Is it about time that you wake up exercise things that you look at people that you make sure to talk to on a regular basis?

David: I, you know, Jeff Bezos said he gets eight hours of sleep a night. I wish I gotten that. I try to get about six hours of sleep a night. I should get more. Um, you know, my regular habits are nothing great. I don’t exercise as much as I should, but I think about exercising a lot. And I have some gym equipment in my house.

I walk past a lot on the osmosis theory. Maybe it’ll rub off, you know, maybe it’ll work. I don’t know. Um, I, uh, you know, I tend to, uh, you know, call my friends and ask them what’s going on. And I read a lot and I, um, you know, I’ve watched news. I only watch news and read pretty much news on television. Uh, I’m not that good on social media and that’s because I don’t have any social media accounts.

Um, my theory is that. If I went on Instagram, I would be embarrassed. They only have three followers. So Donald Trump has 72 million followers. I got three. I don’t want anybody know how little followers I have. And when Facebook came along, I didn’t really want to be a member of Facebook. I could have been in the first a hundred or 200, but my fear was that the way it worked initially, I don’t know if it still works this way.

You had to say, I want, I want to. I just want you to be my friend and I didn’t want to turn all these people down and say, I really don’t want to be your friend. So I didn’t run that, how to do that. So I just said, I’m not even going to be fooling with it, but now my kids tell me I should get on the, on these things.

And a couple of my, my kids are signing that everybody in the world is on LinkedIn. You’re the only person in the world, not a LinkedIn. I said, but I’m not looking for a job. They said, that’s nothing. I could do it. I thought it was an employment kind of thing. But apparently it’s more than that now. So I don’t know.

Eventually I’m going to teach myself how to be on Instagram and I’m going to inflate the number of followers I have. So I won’t seem so insignificant.

Andrew: I bet you that there are people who are listening to me, who can help you get a whole lot of followers pretty quickly. You’re big on YouTube. I feel like YouTube is your platform where people, and I’ll tell you where you’re the, you’re the best. Or you’re not great at promoting it, but your podcast is good.

It’s well known people edited tightly. You’re introduced like three times by Bloomberg. It’s like three different people. Make sure to announce it. David Rubinstein’s coming up, but it’s good.

David: Well, when Bloomberg came well, here’s what happened. Actually, I was, I became the president of the economic club of Washington. Uh, and Vernon Jordan turned it over to me and I wasn’t even a member of the club and it had about a hundred members and you’re supposed to get a business person come in and speak.

And then you ask them a couple of questions and then the business person came in. And they were terrible speakers. So I tried to live it up by asking some humorous questions to people like it. So eventually I said, I’m going to get rid of that format. No more speeches. I’ll just go to the interview format.

And so I did it for about six or seven years, and then somebody at Bloomberg who was a member of the club, I didn’t even know him. Um, he said, why don’t you go on TV? I said, okay. But, you know, DB, I said, look, um, Bloomberg is not, you know, I recognize it’s not 60 minutes, but he said, look, we’ll promote it.

We’ll call it the David Rubinstein show. And I said, well, you think a long ethnic name is really going to work. And he said, what? At Bloomberg? We don’t think it’s a big problem. So, uh, they call the period up here and I started doing it and turns out the people. I like it. And the thing about Bloomberg is Bloomberg has a great job.

They are on a hunt, they’re in a hundred countries. They kind of give away the, uh, Bloomberg TV, the people on the cable channels. So we’re in a hundred countries and they rebroadcast it 20 times a week. And so it’s hard now they sell it to airlines. So if you’re flying on a commercial airline, sometimes you see, and then they take it into a podcast.

They, they do all those things and I don’t have to do any of that.

Andrew: I want more people to know that the podcast there, here’s what I like about your book, where you saw, where you basically have transcripts of the interviews that are edited. The book I should say is called how to lead. It’s anecdotes. You’ve picked people who are really good at telling short stories with poignant messages.

And that’s what you let them get into. It’s not long windups it’s, here’s the story about my mother and how after I became the CEO of PepsiCo, she still brought me to the house. She said, sit here and let me now introduce you. You’re not the CEO. You’re my daughter that I get to show off with.

David: Those are the kinds of things. People remember if instantly had said, here are the four lessons of how to be a great leader, your eyes might glaze over, but when she comes home and tells you, um, my mother wouldn’t let me even tell her. I was speaking president of Pepsi that’s I had to go get the milk for the kids.

You remember that?

Andrew: Right. Exactly. Exactly. All right. Here’s my big takeaway from you. Number one, give earlier, give early, but also because you love it. If I don’t love it, do I have to give David? Is that, is that okay if I don’t.

David: Oh, you should do what makes you happy? And that’s the most elusive thing in life. If giving doesn’t make you happy, then don’t do it. But I think it will make you happy if you learn how to give.

Andrew: I think I really loved just being a Yenta. Can I just do that?

David: And by the way on giving, the most important thing to give is not money that’s insignificant. The most valuable thing you have to give is your time. You can always make more money. You can’t make more time. So I tell people giving your, your your time is more valuable and we have bastardized the word philanthropy to mean only money.

It should be giving your time, your energy, your ideas. That’s much, much more significant.

Andrew: I’ve been, I’ve been working on that. One of my guests this year, challenged me to do it, to find individuals who need help and work with them. And it’s, it’s frankly, it’s a struggle to find someone to be there, to have them be consistent, but it’s, uh, it’s worthwhile. And that’s one of the things that I’m spending time on this year.

And speaking of time, I appreciate not just your time, but I appreciate your people’s time. I’ve got to tell you, I. I like to research people before I talk to them, your people are good enough to talk to me. I go and I research. I said, let me see if there’s something that they did in the past that I can use as a hook, to have a conversation with them.

These people work for you for decades. Their LinkedIn profile has worked for David. That’s it?

David: I don’t know, but I’m sure they have, they have other things they’re doing, but a lot of people I’ve worked for me for a long time. My, my assistant, my secretary, chief of staff worked for me for 30 years.

Andrew: I know only LinkedIn mentioned is that you worked at the Carlyle group for 30 years. I contacted her and she goes, yeah, that’s all I got.

David: She’s good.

Andrew: All right. Thank you so much, David. Um, I’m going to recommend the book, how to lead it’s available everywhere. And also the PI cast, which is a it’s. What is the podcast called?

It’s called the David Rubinstein show. Thank you so much for doing this,


David: All right. I appreciate it.

Andrew: Thanks everyone.

Who should we feature on Mixergy? Let us know who you think would make a great interviewee.