Episode 58

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Published on:

23rd Jan 2024

Building a People-first Culture with Chris Wright

How does a company remain resilient and successful during challenging times? How can leaders steer their companies to thrive, not just survive, during times of uncertainty and change? Complex strategies or advanced technologies can help, but there’s something more impactful that can lead any company to long-term gains. According to Chris Cright, Founder, CEO and Chair of Liberty Energy, it's about prioritizing your people.

Chris Wright is a tech nerd turned entrepreneur. With a deep-rooted passion for energy in all its forms, he has journeyed through various sectors, from fusion, solar, and geothermal, to his current focus on oil and gas and next-generation geothermal. 

His guiding principle is clear: the source of energy matters less than its ability to be secure, reliable, affordable, and, most importantly, its capacity to better human lives. Chris’ commitment is not just to energy itself, but to unlocking its potential to enrich communities worldwide.

In this episode of the HAPPINESS SQUAD Podcast, Chris, shares with us the power of a people-first culture and how to lead one. Join us as we uncover how Chris’ passion for energy and commitment to improving lives translates into a leadership style that puts people at the forefront.

Episode highlights:

  • The power of meaningful relationships
  • How vulnerability creates connections
  • The importance of a People-first Business Strategy
  • How to Lead a People-first culture

Ready to learn from a master? Tune in to hear Chris Wright talk about building a thriving people-first culture. Listen to the episode here! 

Resources:

Books:

Transcript

Ashish Kothari:

Hi, Chris. It is so lovely to have you with us. Thank you for taking the time to share the amazing life journey you've had and the mission that you're on with our listeners.

Chris Wright:

Great to be here with you. Enjoyed your book and excited to chat with you.

Ashish Kothari:

So, Chris, I always start with the first same question. In fact, my co-host Anil and I, he's not on this podcast today, but this is the question he always loves to ask. So I'm going to bring him in and ask you that question, which is what is your definition of happiness and how has that changed since probably your younger years?

Chris Wright:

Wow. That is a great question. So when I was young, I was an undersized but highly competitive kid in sports, school, and life. Happiness then was probably a lot about succeeding at what I was trying to do, winning a tennis tournament, doing better than I thought, getting the top score in the physics test.

But even as a kid, my greatest joy has always been happiness with people I like and trust, sharing things, and feeling better when someone is struggling or when I'm sharing what's bothering me with my sister or a friend. That gives me a warm feeling inside. It's evolved to today, but it's really centered around those same things.

I always say I'm only going to live once. I'd like to do my part to make the world a better place when I'm gone. That's ultimately about relationships with family, friends, people that are struggling, and colleagues in business.

I want to live a sincere, leave it all on the field, meaningful life. To the extent I feel that I'm doing that, I'm happy. I'm content. I know I'm going to make mistakes. I'm not perfect, but I want to live a sincere, meaningful life.

Ashish Kothari:

Sincere, meaningful, and filled with rich relationships. You've always highlighted the importance of that, even in our pre-talk. Relationships show up consistently. The recent study by Waldinger, an eight-year-old study running at Harvard, clearly highlights the quality of relationships being a big driver of flourishing.

Chris Wright:

The biggest driver by far. It's your relationships with your family and your close friends that really matter. Everything else is kind of the details in your life, the specific area you worked or played in. I care about those things too, but it's the relationships with your family, your friends, and people that are important to you. That's what life is to me. The rest is details.

Ashish Kothari:

That is it. Exactly. And the other part, which you also say, is meaning. Doing something that matters. You want to leave it all. You want to know that you made a difference and it was a difference. We come with nothing and we leave with nothing. So it's about making a difference in terms of the impact. Did you leave the world a better place because of the actions you took?

Chris Wright:

Exactly.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah. So look, I would love to hear about your amazing journey. Your life journey is so inspiring, from a tech nerd to entrepreneur and such a people-centric leader. Could you share two to three seminal events that shaped you and how you show up as a leader?

Chris Wright:

Okay, well, I'll start with one of the big formative things for me growing up. My dad was an alcoholic before I was born and he's an alcoholic to this day, a functioning alcoholic, not an evil person, but every day drunk. That affected me and my three siblings all very differently. I'm lucky; it actually had a quite positive impact on me.

My mom is just fantastic, loving, and a central person in my life to this day. We just had the family together to celebrate her 87th birthday party swimming in the ocean in Mexico. Mom is a sweet angel who always believed in all of her kids and always believed you author your own life and you got to have whatever your dreams or ambitions are. Don't hold back, don't listen to convention, go pursue your dreams.

She always believed in us. I probably got a big sense of optimism from my mom who just believed and loved no matter what. That challenge may bring out great things, warm strength from around. I got motivated to make money and be able to control the decisions in my life from a young age.

I wanted a skateboard and my dad hated skateboards. So the only way I was getting a skateboard was to make enough money to buy my own skateboard. At 10, I really started my weed picking business. Then at 11, 12, I was babysitting and then I was mowing lawns. I have paid into social security since I was 14. My motivation in high school was to be able to take care of my mom. This somewhat negative thing drove me to be better and stronger, really out of love for my mom, my siblings, and for so many others.

Another formative experience was when I went to high school. I went to a big high school and they weighed you and measured your height on the first day. I weighed 68 pounds and I so wanted to be five feet tall. When they wrote a five, I did a fist pump and it was 59 inches. So I was four foot 11, 68 pounds when I started high school and I was a competitive tennis player. I was a year young and very small for my age. Maybe a little chip on my shoulder about that. I had confidence and belief in myself, but I thought people didn't take me seriously or wanted to write me off. That little chip on my shoulder made me want to put my best foot forward and show I was good or special.

Two friends who I'd known for a long time became my friends in high school. They were tall, bigger, just great guys. The most lovable thing about them was their self-deprecating sense of humor. They constantly teased themselves, exposed the stupidest thing they did or the most embarrassing. They celebrated the things they did that were foolish or so they were just comfortable.

I learned then, maybe around 14 or 15, that people love or connect more for your weaknesses and your vulnerabilities than for your strengths. They got me to stop taking myself so seriously, take that edge off. Have a little fun and give everyone the benefit of the doubt. I give huge credit to Chris and Bill who were just great guys and had a good impact on me. I went off to college still as a young, confident go-getter, but maybe with a little better sense of humor, a little lighter.

I was super interested to meet everyone. I wasn't a conventional student, pretty much a screw-off. I did well in school because I was naturally pretty good at it, but I was not hardworking because I wanted to rebel against whatever. If someone told me to sit down, I wanted to stand up. I didn't like the structure of school. I don't want to be there all day long. I knew that I had to do well in school because it was my road to success. So I could take care of my mom and realize whatever dreams I had.

I wasn't a conventional student, but it was important to me to do well enough so that it was not going to hold back my future. I just enjoyed interactions with people or trying to take a risk, missing a class or doing this more than too much of the grind in school. So I always tried to strike this weird balance.

But then I went to college. Now I'm free. I'm 17 years old, living on my own. I've left Denver. I'm in Boston. It was incredibly liberating, exciting, meeting people from all over the country from all different backgrounds. I loved it and I thought I would love it, but you know, I got to school and it was fantastic.

Then I went to college to work on fusion energy because the mania when I was a kid was the world was running out of oil and gas and coal and land and fertilizer and farmland and industrial civilization was going to collapse and the world was coming to an end. I knew that wasn't literally true, but I probably didn't appreciate how foolish that view was. But that was a very prevailing view. It drove me a little bit.

I went to MIT specifically to work on fusion energy, like if the world's running out of energy. I want to solve the energy problem. I want to work on that issue and pretty quickly learned that I didn't have the patience for big science. I love it, still love it, but the actual carrying out of it, I wasn't really wired for that.

I had a summer job when I was 18 at a company called Honeywell, a big company and people were really nice. They had a policy then that, you know, in your first two years, you've got three vacation days, you know, and then you got a week and then, you know, five or 10 years later. They had the bell curve of human beings. There were really good people and sort of middle of the road. And then, you know, some people that, you know, were just not productive at all, but they'd been there for 30 years.

As a very competitive guy, I realized, boy, I couldn't work in this environment. I couldn't do a year with three days of vacation in this setting. But that summer job clarified things for me. And now I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to be an entrepreneur. I have no idea what, but I want to be an entrepreneur where at our business, we just hire people that I think are exceptional, that are different, that are fun to be around, that are hard driving. We're not going to have these silly three vacation days a year policy.

At my company, we have no vacation policy. We don't count the days you're at work. We don't tell you when to show up and when to leave. I like to travel and do stuff with my family and adventure. And presumably a lot of other people do as well. What do I care about at work? I care about people that are moving the ball forward and driving success in the company. And if you can do that, traveling several weeks a year, and attend all your kids' soccer games, and arrange your schedule the way it works for you.

Some groups have to work together in our company. Those groups figure out how to work together. Most people are in the office most days, but we've never asked or required that. We just want people to move the ball forward. And some people, of course, will work all day, every day, but they're not productive or they're kind of a jerk or they're not a good team player. And we've got to politely let those people leave. We just want a family of passionate people that have fun together and that are low maintenance, and that are hard driving to move the ball forward.

I never took a business class in my life. I never worked at a real company except for that one summer when I was 19 years old. So I've got a lot of blind spots in my knowledge too. But to me, it's just been about if we can just get great humans that care about what they do, we're going to figure something good out.

Ashish Kothari:

So Chris, this is why we just immediately connected when I met you not that long ago at the ICS event. All the three themes that you mentioned in your life, formative experiences, role of people, they ring so true for me. And friends, if you haven't done this, I invite you to reflect back on those seminal events and people who have made such a big difference.

Chris, I could see you get emotional. That's how I feel as I heard you and reflected on my own events. I'm just going to play a bit of that back and then dive into how you built the company and how you put people at the center. But I understand you and your history.

The first theme that you mentioned was, just like you, for me, my mother had a huge impact on my life from a very young age. And the word that really captures it, you captured it, is LOVE. We have a large extended family as so many Indians do, she and my father, but particularly my mother, she's the one who brings everyone together. Love is a big part of it. She was a PhD in mathematics, taught, worked at home, took care of us, and ran around for my classes after school. Moms and mothers often play such a big role, and I love what you just said, Chris.

The other part of that story for me was, there are so many people who say, well, I didn't control, my father was an alcoholic, and so this is who I became, but through that love, you took that and you became a different person. You chose your path, which was to be self-sufficient, to make things happen, not to let this define you, to take care of your mom, to take care of others. I think it's a really big deal. So this notion of choice, our circumstances don't define us. What we do when facing that does. It's the choices you make, not what the world gives you, that defines you.

Chris Wright:

Exactly. And those are the stories that inspire me the most. One of the reasons I love this country is immigrants. People come from all over the world in all different circumstances, and they generally come to this country because they want to author their lives. They want to be in a setting where they have more freedom to pursue whatever their dream or passion is.

Immigrants tend to come to this country, on average, a little bit hungrier, a little bit harder driving to pursue whatever their freedom and drive is. And they constantly prove your point. They come from the humblest, roughest, most violent, awful circumstances. Of course, that impacts us. That's in there.

But they say, hey, I'm going to remake my life and I'm going to do this or I'm going to do that. So yeah, two words I love a lot are love and authorship. You author your life. It's not circumstances, it's not history, it's not your location, it's not your strengths or your weaknesses. The other way to say that, that I heard when I was young was, it's not the cards you're dealt in life, it's how you play them. That's life.

Ashish Kothari:

Yes, absolutely. And building on that point, Chris, that you also highlighted, which your friends did for you. In effect, what you're talking about is you had a high degree of psychological safety with that group. That then allows you to be self-deprecating, and I loved what you said, I'm going to read it back. The connections we forge through vulnerability and sharing our weaknesses are a lot deeper because they're grounded in the true reality of what every human being experiences.

I haven't met a single person who, despite what they project out there, doesn't have something they are trying to deal with in their personal or professional life. We just don't like to talk about them because somehow we feel that shows that I am not perfect, I am flawed, and that is the source of so much agony, so much suffering. If we just allow ourselves and we as leaders create an environment for people to connect. It's the imperfections, it's the struggles that make us human, how deep that connection is.

Chris Wright:

It's what forms relationships. Tight relationships form when things are awful, when people are scared, when people are struggling, or in business too. You find out who your real partners are when things are bad.

When things are good, everybody loves everybody, but those are shallow relationships. They don't become deep, lasting partnerships. And yet, as you said, and as I said earlier, I think human relationships, person to person, they're formed and bond more over weaknesses and vulnerabilities than admiration or appreciation of strengths. That's nice too, but humans form love and relationships based on their fears and their struggles and how others make them feel better and stronger through those things.

Ashish Kothari:

Right? That's love. That is love and that is growth that comes from it. I love it. And then I also love how you reflected on what would bring joy to you and what you would fit in order to create this. You decided to go the entrepreneurial route. Chris, I want to go there for a minute.

One of the things when we talked at IAC and your talk at ICS that really spoke to me, and it was so contrary to what actions every company takes when things get tough. People talk about all the things about caring for their people and building a culture where everyone is respected. You are number one. The moment things get tough, the first lever so many in companies pull is letting go of people. I was deeply touched when you shared that experience over how many times in your lifetime of companies have you pulled that lever and how that was always the last one.

So, tell us a bit about how you've thought about employees, headwinds, things that you have done, which is different than many others, in being able to still serve shareholders but not do it at the expense of others.

Chris Wright:

When I was 19, I decided I'm going to be an entrepreneur. My model is very simple. It was just like backyard football. I just wanted to get people on the team who wanted to work together, who were good at what they do, and who were good humans. People you can trust, who will do the right thing when no one's looking and are nice to be around.

If you have a team and everybody's fighting, obviously a backyard football team that doesn't work. The best players, if they don't play as a team, they're not going to win. My model was that simple. I'm just going to try to get good humans who care about what they do. We're going to work together as a team.

So, I started my first company that became a real business, not a trading business, over 31 years ago. I've been a CEO for pretty much all that time, sometimes of two companies simultaneously. One of my goals was to get great humans on and never lay anyone off. We're in the oil and gas industry, which is very cyclical. There are good times and everybody hires, and then it cycles down. Then they lay off everybody and then they come back.

So one of my goals was to never lay anyone off. Our most important asset by far is the people on our team. That culture binds us together when times are tough, we're covering each other when we have personal or family struggles. Our company, although it's bigger now, it's a family. Everybody is there for that person. If a tragedy happens in a family, there's always a network of people that call up and help that person. We don't just use the word, our company's a family, we walk that walk.

as I call it, in November of:

I had lived for over 20 years at that time, never laying anyone off. As that dropped down quickly, I remember I had 600 employees at that time, and I went and visited our four locations where we worked out of, and told everyone at the start, no one is going to lose their job. Everyone here is going to dig deep every day with the person on your left and the person on your right to just deliver a better quality service than all our other competitors.

We knew we were going to get paid less money. We knew we weren't going to make any money. But we were going to get through this time together. It was a very rough 2 years. We started that downturn with 600 employees. We ended that downturn with 600 employees. At the bottom of it, we started with 5% market share. We fracked 5% of the wells drilled in the Rockies. In the bottom of that downturn where activity was so low, we fracked 25 percent of all the wells drilled in the Rockies.

Our goal was we just have to be better than everyone else so that people want to use us. The market pricing pushed pricing way down. We got a little premium on that because we were better than the other guys, but not a lot. So we didn't make any money, but we built relationships and loyalty within the company.

A whole bunch of other companies that had never been our customers before realized we were different. They walk the walk, they back up what they say, they admit it when they make mistakes, they never lie. They always live by the words and guarantees they give.

Those two worst years in our company, they were the most formative years of the business, that's now 12, some years old. Well, we have another formative year coming up in this story. So we did that, and then we rebounded and continued to grow.

Ashish Kothari:

Can I ask you for a moment before you go there? How did you, what did you do that allowed you to keep all those people employed when your business, basically the top line, just died? Like 70 percent is a huge, massive number.

Chris Wright:

It is a massive number. So we did a lot of things. At the start, they were cultural. We immediately cut executive pay by like 80%. We did that again in COVID. Now in both times in my business, I'm a flat organization guy. So executive pay is actually not a meaningful part, even of our G&A, but it matters. You got to do the right thing, and everybody on our team did.

The first thing we announced was we cut executive pay by 40% and eliminated all bonuses for executives. Ultimately, we eliminated all bonuses for everyone. To build a company correctly, you have to have a highly variable bonus. When the company's doing well, everyone does well, and when the company's struggling, everyone tightens their belt.

Shrinking the compensation of five or six guys, that's not enough. We have 600 people, but we removed bonuses, which were a good part of our compensation. So people's income shrunk. But I think the culture of a company that was going to stand together was appealing to people.

Some people left because they couldn't withstand the cut in compensation, which was probably a good 20% for the average person, very tough. Most people stayed, knowing that we're going through this the right way, we're going to be a stronger company afterward. We're going to go to a good place by doing this together. We didn't know how long it would last, but it was very much a bonding experience for our company.

During COVID, we had zoom calls where we had hundreds of people on a phone line. We had different themes. We just had dialogues. We did town halls, as I traveled the locations, but I think making people feel that they're in it together, that what they do matters and that it's not all for naught, I was 100 percent sure our company would survive.

Even our lenders, people we paid rent to, we had personal relationships with all of them. People said, "Hey, don't pay the next six months of rent. We'll add it on, pay double rent the last six months at the end of your lease." All of our partners, all of our suppliers, stood behind us.

It was a time where people signed contracts to buy materials like our competitors. Then as the industry collapsed, they just ripped up those contracts. We don't do that. We signed agreements and contracts for multiple years to buy sand, the biggest material we bought. We bought every grain of sand we contracted to buy.

We talked to the partners and said, "Look, if you don't adjust the price on the sand, we're going to be buying sand for much more than all our competitors who ripped up your contracts, who are now just starting anew." And they said, “You’ve come to us. You’re going to take out sand. We’d rather you.”

They voluntarily at their own discretion, lowered pricing to keep us competitive. We signed commitments for volumes and they're running mines. They've got to keep those mines running because they want to employ their own people. We bought every grain of sand, every chemical we contracted with.

Our customers did the right thing. It was a formative experience for our company. Then, as things came out and things were strong, we did well. We took the company public only a little more than a year after this downturn.

Most of the leadership team in the company were also my partners in the company I started 31 years ago. We've been a family and a team together. But when we went on our IPO roadshow, I made sure I told every investor. I said, "Look, I've been a CEO for 27 years or whatever, I've never laid anyone off and I don't intend ever to lay anyone off. So when times get tough, we don't do what everyone else does. We handle it very differently.

Ashish Kothari:

Yeah. So if you don't want to invest in me, don't invest in me.

Chris Wright:

Exactly. But I said that's how we roll and it's not going to change, so we might not be for you. We're very candid. When I was young, I almost took a company public, but my fear then was, I don't want a bunch of people who don't know my business telling me what to do.

I realized now, having been an entrepreneur for a long time, I wasn't worried about that at all. I'm going to tell them how we run the business and they don't have to be shareholders. They don't have to be involved and heck, if they own enough of the company, they can fire me. But this is how we roll. These are the principles we operate under.

We do business a little bit differently. We always honor our commitments to our customers. If we miss a contract price, and we do that sometimes, we live with it. If we made an agreement, we live with it. The market's gotten so tight, we could move that fleet away and go to someone else for a higher price. But no, we're not going to break that contract we made with you for that time period.

So we just do business differently than our competitors, but we are very open about that. Our IPO was 17 times oversubscribed. So I think investors could also see we were just different and it's maybe not the model for everyone, but we'd had a quite successful track record rolling that way and we're not going to change it.

Ashish Kothari:

Chris, what you're describing is a living case study example of the research done by Rod Sisodia and Alex Edmans. We had Alex on our podcast; he's a London Business School economist. His book, "Grow The Pie," discusses the notion that investing in your people is a far superior competitive strategy, increasing shareholder value by two to three and a half percent. This isn't just correlation; it's causation.

Oxford's work also highlights that taking care of our people leads to higher returns on assets, shareholder returns, and profitability. It's about growing the pie, not just splitting it. And if you walk the walk on this, the actions that Chris highlighted are important. It is not just about investing in well-being when times are good. It's about protecting the asset. Protect the asset when times are hard.

If Chris could do that with a 70 percent decline in demand, and still keep people employed, and really use that crucible moment as a way to show how they walk the walk, you emerge stronger like they did.

We let people go when 15 percent softness shows up in the business. This is 70 percent and actions that they took, number one, cutting executive pay first, creating a more variable bonus structure that gives you the flexibility to not let people go. Families stick together. Build that foundation from the beginning.

It ties to the beginning of his life. Be open with your struggles with our people, with your suppliers, with our customers, about what we are going through. And trust that they will pull forward, pull together. It's that weakness and the vulnerability that's going to make you stronger. Chris highlighted how some of his suppliers on their own deferred rent or said, "Hey, we know what you're trying to do and we appreciate you." Love that connection, that compassion, customers staying true to those partnerships and sticking through.

I love what you said. I bought every grain of sand because in the end, it's contracts, right? And our actions speak louder than our words. If you say I have a contract, I'll keep you around. And the employee sees you operating with, you're not honoring your contract out there. How are they going to trust you to honor the contract here?

The most beautiful thing you said, Chris, is something often overlooked. By being open, engaging everyone, ensuring they feel valued, safe, and free from fear about their job security, you create an unbeatable environment.

When people feel like they're part of a family, united in a common cause, they dig deeper. They offer more productivity, creativity, and innovation than any resource you could buy. It's these moments that define a company and give it a competitive edge over others.

Chris Wright:

Ashish, let me give a couple of numbers on that. There's a firm called Kimberlite that conducts an exhaustive survey of our industry every year. They ask everyone about their experiences: what they like about each company, how they perform. They write exhaustive reports, but the summary of this, and they've been doing this survey for seven years, involves four big players in our industry. They have five different categories, like technology, quality of service, response to mistakes, among others.

Liberty is ranked number one in every category, every year. That's every category, every year. This supports the point you just made: when we have a culture like this, with great people working together as part of an important mission, we excel. Our broader mission is to supply energy to the world to enable great lives. To do that better, we've got to provide tremendous service to our partners and be the best customers to our suppliers.

The data from surveys and our performance in the marketplace back it up. Our last point, and I don't really want to talk too much about the business, but our cash return on capital invested, our CROCI, is about 50% higher than the S&P 500 since the day we started the company to today. This has been a decade of terrible returns in our industry.

Our industry has probably had less than half the average cash return on capital invested than the S&P 500. But our returns have been two to threefold higher than our industry and higher than the industry as a whole. We're known for our efficiency, our technology, our cutting-edge approach, but why do we have all those things? They all come from one place: the people in the company. That's where technology, innovation, and processes come from. They're not separate inputs from your humans; they're created by your team members and your family in the company.

Ashish Kothari:

Now, I love that you all are such a living example of that. Chris, I was engaging with a bunch of CEOs the other day, and I asked them two questions, followed by a third one. First, I asked them, "How many of you think the Earth is flat?" Nobody raised their hand. I pointed out that 500 years ago, 50 percent would have said the Earth is flat, but science has since proven it's not.

When it comes to believing that investing in your people is a dominant competitive strategy, more dominant than almost any other strategy, because without this, nothing else is possible. You need people to execute every other strategy you come up with. They agreed, but I challenged them to question that belief. If they truly believed it, they wouldn't let people go at the first sign of trouble. They would use data on their people at a granular level, like they do with their operating assets.

You wouldn't run the same operational program for every oil well; each situation is different. They need different things. We don't personalize, we don't customize. I urged them to reexamine their belief because in 50 years, the fact that investing in people matters will be as clear as the science behind the flat Earth. That no, investing in people matters, but for this to be a competitive advantage, you have to do it before others.

You have to lead differently because in 50 years, the next generation of employees will demand it, and governments will mandate it. It's already started with mental health and well-being as part of employee health and safety, the first lawsuits on toxic workplaces. But if you make a choice to build a company or integrate these learnings into your company like Chris did from the beginning, there's a real shot that you actually get those competitive returns. You create a competitive edge where flourishing is at the heart of it because this is coming.

Chris Wright:

Yes, indeed.

Ashish Kothari:

So Chris, just keeping an eye on the clock, I want to ask you one more question. We have so many that we can talk about. It's really amazing. As you highlighted some of the skills around the people leaders and what you cultivate. Talk to us a little bit about what are some practices, Chris, that you integrate into your life. How do you make sure that you are protecting the asset that you are, and how do you take care of your own wellbeing to make sure that you can serve so many others with all the demands you have as the CEO of a business?

Chris Wright:

Well, where does happiness come from? It's from work that's meaningful, from earned success, and even more from loving long-term relationships. My mom, my wife, my kids, my siblings, my friends are critical to me. They're critical to my happiness, to my joy, to my wellbeing. So I am not a six days at the office, 6 AM to 8 PM guy. Never have been. Yes, I work on weekends when stuff comes up, but I've always tried to keep that work-life balance throughout my professional career.

I just came back from celebrating my mom's 87th birthday party in Mexico with my entire extended family. We do that every year. Every Thanksgiving week, seven days, my siblings, their spouses, the nine grandchildren, my mom, we all go and spend a week together. I'll be heading to Montana and we will spend time there from before Christmas well through New Year's with a crew of family and friends. I've continued to climb mountains, travel the world, and do things that matter and make me feel alive.

I read a lot. Part of my success in business is maybe differential knowledge. I love to read; it's meaningful to me. And so therefore, I need to turn that into a business advantage, and it is a business advantage.

You've got to understand everybody has different rules and needs. Some people come in early, some come in late, and some work very flexible schedules. If your kid's got an important game, go see it. We don't try to micromanage. We treat people like adults. We want you to help move the ball forward. We're not going to have someone call me up to ask for three days off. No adult should ask that question. Deliver on your work and what you're doing. If you're going to be gone for a day, something important you need to do is there, then find that person who can cover for you or do it remotely.

People can solve their own challenges about their schedule if you just let them, as opposed to having a system that they have to work within. We treat people like adults. Heck, we have a bar in our office. We have happy hours, most of us drinking beer or drinks. We play all sorts of crazy games together. We laugh and cry together.

We have a “take your parents to work” day, which is a growing event. It's just awesome. People come in, and these are 45-year-old people, and their parents are coming in to hear about the company and why, what Liberty's mission is, why the oil and gas industry is the most important industry in the world. And the reason is because it enables every other industry to do what it does.

And our biggest problem in the world today with oil, gas, and coal is not too much of them. It's too few of them. A third of humanity is cooking their daily meals today, burning wood and dung and agricultural waste.

Three million people every year die from that indoor air pollution. That is an urgent crisis. And we can solve that crisis by getting energy to the people that live in unenergized worlds. Low-income people struggle with the price of energy and food. The more we get better, the more we can abate that problem.

I'm the weird oil and gas guy who celebrates low oil prices and low natural gas prices. We have to get efficient so we can deliver a good return at a lower and lower price in real terms so that people can live better and better lives. Our mission, as I write in that report, Ashish, is to better human lives.

And what does it take to better human lives? First, you have to hit the basic necessities. People have to have food and shelter and healthcare. And too many people don't have these basic necessities taken care of. Even low-income people in our own country struggle with these. We've got to cover those because if you cover those, they can achieve those higher desires of happiness and meaningful relationships and thoughtful lives.

We want everyone to, when they die, to have left it on the field and lived a full and meaningful life. Which, and as you, I'll end with saying, which involves struggle. Like, tragedy and insecurities and fear and bad things happen to all of us. There is no way to avoid them. They're going to happen. All we can do is use our family and our friends and our partnership to soldier through those things.

Ashish Kothari:

And our bigger ‘why’, Chris. If we know our North Star, Nietzsche said it best, "If you have a ‘why’, you can survive anyhow." You gotta have a why. And you gotta have friends and others who support you to trudge through it. Because if you do it, that suffering, that struggle is at the heart of a better you.

Chris Wright:

I love that quote. I'm going to say it slower again. "If you have a ‘why’, you can suffer through anyhow." If you know what you're about, where you're going, what's meaningful, you can survive any adversities and setbacks because you have a reason, a purpose, a meaning that's above everything else. It makes us stronger. It makes us happier.

Ashish Kothari:

Chris, thank you. This was such an amazing conversation, and friend, I know we could talk on and on together. There's a new report that Chris is going to launch, "Bettering Human Lives." It's a report that comes out every year. There's a new one coming in January.

Another one I highlight for our listeners to check out is "Thank You, North Face," the video you recorded, because you so clearly articulate the importance of energy and the role it plays away from all the politicizing. We're just at the brink of the COP, and there's all of this discussion, but there is a role for energy.

I always talk about capitalism. It is not bad. Conscious capitalism is the reason we can actually heal the planet through capitalism. Capitalism is at the heart of why poverty levels are down to where they are over the last 250 years, as is energy. So please check it out.

But Chris, I'm so grateful for you to take the time to spend with us, share your thoughts. You are really a beacon of hope, a beacon of love, a beacon of inspiration to so many business leaders who should be looking and learning from what you've been able to create through the companies you've created and launched and are running now with Liberty. You're the model that so many I wish could follow, and we could create a more prosperous, healthier, kinder world. Thank you.

Chris Wright:

Pleasure being with you, Ashish. I appreciate you, your thoughts, and your work. Thank you. Take care of everyone.

Ashish Kothari:

Thank you. Bye.

Show artwork for The Happiness Squad

About the Podcast

The Happiness Squad
Welcome to Happiness Squad.

This is the podcast dedicated to helping you unlock your full potential by mastering the art and science of happiness.

We bring on the best leading experts on these topics to help you unlock your true potential and live with more joy, health, love, and meaning in your life.

Your host is no other than the star combo of Ashish Kothari and Anil Ramjiani who are on a mission to provide you with an unfair advantage to be the masters of your experience and leaders in your industry.

Get ready to be moved, challenged, and enlightened on this podcast. It may change your life.

Thanks for being here and joining the squad!
Learn more: https://happinesssquad.com/

About your hosts

Ashish Kothari

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Ashish Kothari is the founder and CEO of Happiness Squad, a company focused on democratizing happiness and touching a billion+ lives over the next 20 years and helping them live with more joy, health, love, and meaning.

Prior to founding Happiness Squad and writing his best-selling book “Hardwired for happiness”, Ashish spent 25 years in consulting, including the last 17 at McKinsey and Co, a premier management consulting firm, helping thousands of clients and their organizations achieve breakthrough performance by building new mindsets and capabilities.

Ashish is a trained ontological coach and a lifelong student of human thriving.

Anil Ramjiani

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Anil Ramjiani is an experienced senior leader at Nike, Inc., most recently as the Commercial Director managing key athlete partnerships and business with Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe, and Marcus Rashford.

Anil's passion is grounded in empowering people, unlocking potential, and driving performance. He has worked in consulting and corporate across the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia acquiring over 20 years of experience in strategy, brand, and general management at IBM, Adidas, and Nike.

He created the podcast and platform Live. Breathe. Believe., to enable reflection, motivation, and inspiration for his peers. #Knowyoutobeyou!