Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman, The Canadian Newcomers Edition

Over the weekend, I found myself on a sun-drenched Toronto patio, engrossed in conversations with fellow immigrants about our experiences integrating into Canadian society. Each story, filled with trials, triumphs, and moments of levity, seemed to echo the narrative of the 1992 Bollywood classic “Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman.”

A common thread in our tales was the “Canadian experience” conundrum — the classic Catch-22, where securing a job requires Canadian experience, which is only obtainable through a job. The Canadian government is thankfully taking strides to dismantle this barrier, advocating for international skills and experience to be valued as much as domestic ones.

While this is a significant hurdle for immigrants, I want to delve deeper into the subtler, yet equally challenging, aspect of cultural transition. This journey mirrors our protagonist Raju’s transition from his modest Indian hometown to the pulsating heart of Mumbai.

The shift from a familiar cultural landscape to a new one brimming with unfamiliar customs and traditions is profound. The workplace is where this culture shock often hits hardest. For instance, the Radical Candor Framework, a leadership approach that balances “caring personally” and “challenging directly,” surprised me. Coming from an Indian work culture where ‘caring personally’ is inherent but ‘challenging directly’ is often considered disrespectful, this presented a paradigm shift.

My experiences in corporate India resembled a Bollywood drama — intense, colourful, and unpredictable. Challenges such as passive aggressiveness, lack of empathy, and elusive work-life balance were common. Despite these hurdles, they cultivated resilience within me.

Upon entering North America, I was struck by the contrasting work culture. Here, mental health is not just recognized; it’s actively discussed and addressed. The work-life balance is tangible, not mythical, and transparency, mutual respect, and diversity are core values.

I recall my first team meeting in a Canadian office. We were discussing a project, and suddenly, one of my colleagues called out the director’s plan. And instead of a gasp from the room, the manager thanked them for their input. I almost fell off my chair!

Just as two rivers converge, I found myself at the confluence of these starkly different cultures, learning to blend the best of both worlds. I embraced the Indian spirit of camaraderie and the North American ethos of open dialogue and direct feedback. This balancing act was a journey in itself, as surprising and rewarding as the union of chai and tea.

You know if you know.

Much like Raju’s transition in “Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman,” my journey was one of adaptation and personal growth. As newcomers, we may stumble through this new cultural dance, making a few missteps along the way.

Common mistakes include:

  1. Being Overly Formal: Remember addressing seniors as “Sir” or “Madam”? In North America, everyone’s on a first-name basis. Right, Tim?
  2. Not Speaking Up: We’re often taught to keep our heads down and work hard. Here, it’s all about voicing your ideas and opinions. Speak up early, especially if there’s a problem. 
  3. Overworking: Hard work is appreciated, but so is work-life balance. Focus on outcomes and results vs vanity metrics or hours spent.
  4. Misunderstanding Small Talk: Small talk is more than idle chit-chat; it’s a relationship-building tool. Keep it light and friendly. 

To ease this transition, I recommend the following strategies:

  1. Cultural Orientation: An interactive session covering North American workplace etiquette, communication styles, and norms.
  2. Mentorship Program: Pair newcomers with a seasoned local colleague who can show them the ropes.
  3. Communication Workshops: Workshops on public speaking, active listening, and feedback emphasize the importance of direct communication.
  4. Social Integration: Encourage participation in social events and activities, fostering a sense of belonging.
  5. Continuous Learning and Feedback: Provide regular feedback to help them adjust and improve. Also, encourage them to share their own feedback and experiences. Remember, it’s a two-way street.
  6. Celebrate Diversity: Create a culture that celebrates diversity, encouraging newcomers to share their traditions and experiences.

Through my journey, I’ve learned that building trust and respect in a team is universal. It’s about balancing and maintaining a sense of humour amidst challenges. So, cheers to more cultural adventures! And yes, the offer for a Bollywood movie marathon stands. After all, we’re all dancing to the tune of globalization, right?


Selling is not helping. Helping is selling.

Though its origin remains a mystery, this nugget of wisdom is the crux of our discourse today. But first, a bit of context. During my tenure at a creative agency, my primary role was to bring in new business and strategize. The question that often arose was, “How do you land such big accounts?” Well, let’s unravel that mystery.

The Great Divide: Doing the Work vs. Selling the Work

There’s a common misconception that talent and the ability to do the work is all it takes. But here’s a secret, the secret sauce that has been the cornerstone of my business strategy for years. It’s not about my skillset, the hard sell, pushy tactics, or the relentless pursuit of a signed contract. Instead, it’s about something far more potent yet often overlooked: curiosity.

Yes, you heard it right, curiosity. But before you scoff at the simplicity of it, let’s delve into why curiosity is the secret ingredient to successful early conversations with prospective clients.

The Cardinal Sin of Selling: Being Self-Serving

In the initial stages of client interaction, we often fall into the trap of being self-serving. We’re so eager to sell our product or service that we forget to listen. We talk more than we should, push our agenda, and truly miss the opportunity to understand our client’s needs. We’re so focused on selling that we forget to help.

But here’s the twist: selling is not helping. Helping is selling. Take a moment to let that sink in.

The Power of Curiosity: A Page from Malcolm Gladwell’s Book

In his infinite wisdom, Malcolm Gladwell often talks about the power of curiosity. He suggests that curiosity leads to understanding, and understanding leads to empathy. And empathy, my friends, is the key to helping. It also builds trust and gives your client reassurance — subtext they are not verbalizing.

The best salespeople do precisely that. They aren’t the ones who can talk the fastest or pitch the hardest. They’re the ones who can listen the best — including the conversation subtext. They’re the ones who are genuinely curious about their clients. They’re the ones who understand that selling isn’t about pushing a product; it’s about solving a problem. And to solve a problem, you first need to understand it.

The Shift from Selling to Helping: Insights from “The Coaching Habit”

“But how do I do that? How do I shift from selling to helping?” I hear you ask. To answer that, let’s borrow some wisdom from Michael Bungay Stanier’s book “The Coaching Habit.” Stanier suggests that the key to effective coaching (or selling, in our case) is to stay curious a little longer and rush to advice-giving a little slower. He suggests asking questions like, “What’s the real challenge here for you?” and “What do you want?” These questions not only show that you’re genuinely interested in helping, but they also encourage the client to open up and share more about their needs and goals.

The Art of Listening: Cultivating Curiosity

When we approach a conversation with genuine curiosity, we shift our focus from selling to understanding. We ask questions, listen, and learn about our client’s needs, challenges, and goals. This understanding allows us to offer solutions that truly help our clients rather than pushing a product or service that may not be the right fit.

And here’s the beautiful part: when we help, we sell. When we provide a solution that truly meets our client’s needs, the sale naturally follows. Here’s how to cultivate this curiosity and shift your focus from selling to helping.

1. Listen more than you talk 

This might sound simple, but it’s more complicated than you think. It requires you to put your agenda aside and focus on your client.

2. Ask open-ended questions 

These questions invite conversation and encourage our clients to share their thoughts and feelings.


  • Can you tell me more about the challenges you’re currently facing in your business?
  • What are your long-term goals for your company, and how do you plan to achieve them?
  • What do you think is the most important factor in choosing a product or service in your industry?
  • How have your needs or expectations changed over the past year?
  • What would an ideal solution look like for you and your team?

3. Be genuinely interested in your client

This isn’t about pretending to care; it’s about genuinely wanting to understand and help our clients. Don’t just nod along. Be genuinely interested. 

So, the next time you find yourself in an early conversation with a prospective client, remember the power of curiosity. Remember that selling is not helping, but helping is selling. And most importantly, remember to listen, ask, and care.

And now, in the spirit of Neil French, I’ll leave you with this: “The best salespeople are not those who talk the most, but those who listen the most.” So, let’s all strive to be the best listeners we can be.

Remember, curiosity didn’t kill the cat; it made the sale.

So, go ahead, be that inquisitive person. It’s not just approved. It’s encouraged. After all, curiosity is not just about being nosy; it’s about being interested, engaged, and, most importantly, helpful. 

Now, shoo! 


Hang on a Minute, You Still Read, Don’t You?

Well, well, well. There’s this quirky little rumor flying around that folks like you and I don’t read anymore. They say we’ve all turned into screen-staring zombies, hypnotized by flashy images, and swiping past anything that demands more than a two-second peek. Is that what you’ve heard too? Now, isn’t that just the oddest thing? For my gamer folks, it’s the human refresh rate.

Not Everything That Glitters is Gold, You Know
You’ve probably come across this ‘Picture Superiority Effect,’ haven’t you? It’s a fancy pants theory that makes you think that pictures and visuals are like shiny lures to our minds, outsmarting boring old text any day. But, let me ask you this, does a picture ever really satisfy the way a well-told story does? I thought so! Bada-bing bada-boom!

Readers Unite and Take Over!
Here’s a little secret: you and I are not alone. We’re part of a large, silent army that still loves to read. Big-name writers like J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, and Margaret Atwood are still charming readers like us by the millions. Doesn’t sound like we’re on the brink of extinction, does it? Hail long blocks of text. Mmmm…

Riding the Podcast Wave
And guess what else? We’re not just readers, we’re listeners too. Podcasts are the new black, and folks like Joe Rogan, Dax Shepard, and Guy Raz are our modern-day Beatles, capturing millions of eager ears with their enticing gab. You know as well as I do that if the chat is interesting, we don’t care how long it goes on.

It’s Not Just Furry Felines Anymore
Ever noticed how some of the biggest YouTube channels, like PewDiePie, MrBeast, and Dude Perfect, are churning out longer videos, and we’re lapping them up? If we didn’t have the patience for such “long” content, they wouldn’t be lounging in million-dollar mansions right now, would they? It’s humans, not algorithms watching those videos.

Can’t Stop the Binge
And let’s not forget our dearest TV series. “Game of Thrones,” “The Crown,” “Stranger Things” – we’re not just idly watching these shows, we’re devouring them! Each episode is a ride that we can’t get enough of. So much for us not having the stamina for long content, huh? Ever called in sick to finish a season? Don’t look at me.

It’s Not the Size, It’s What You Do With It
In the end, it’s not about how much we can take in; it’s about how much we care. We don’t mind hanging around if the content is, well, worth our time. A gripping story, a dash of humor, or just a fresh take – that’s what keeps us engrossed, not the length or the glitzy images.

So, the next time someone tells you “people don’t read anymore,” you can give them a knowing wink and say, “We do, but only when the story’s worth our precious time.” And that, my friend, is the absolute, beautiful truth.