Jay Sidhu says his latest project was about five years in the making.
In fact — it has been a lifetime in the making — a lifetime of dreams, education, travel, challenges, resiliency and success.
Sidhu, chairman and CEO of West Reading-based Customers Bancorp Inc., has added author to his list of accomplishments. His book, “Never, Ever, Ever Give Up,” was published in January. For the week ending April 8, the book sold 7,000 copies — landing it in the No. 2 spot on the Wall Street Journal’s Bestselling Books list, and on several Amazon lists.
Writing it all down
When his granddaughter was born nearly five years ago, “I thought it might be a good idea to leave something for the next generation,” Sidhu said in a recent interview with MediaNews Group.
“I thought, I would love, love to give something back,” he said.
In the book, Sidhu talks about his personal and business lives, the goals he’s had, how he’s achieved them and the challenges he’s faced along the way. Sidhu has been guided by a set of principles over the years that he wants to share with others.
He is specifically reaching out to 18- to 30-year-olds with his message and wants to reach a half-million people by the end of 2024 — with the goal of sharing his life story and “inspiring them to never, ever, ever give up.”
“I think that is the age group that is most looking for mentorship or role models,” he said. “That is also the age that I had the greatest amount of opportunity given to me in America.”
He acknowledges he may not make a direct impact on every one of those 500,000 people — but has confidence he can impact 25,000 to 50,000.
Sidhu kicked off his book tour at the Sidhu School of Business and Leadership at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, where he earned his MBA.
Sidhu’s guiding principles
One of the first principles Sidhu learned he learned from his father — and lives by to this day — always have a vision.
“And you must be passionate about doing everything and anything to achieve it,” he said.
The second thing to be successful personally and professionally is to be an authentic person.
“You can’t be a great leader unless you are a great human being first,” he added.
His third guideline is that whatever you are doing, try to do it better than anyone expects you to.
The fourth principle is to be passionate about continuous learning and giving back to the community.
Sidhu said the same principles can also lead to success in business.
“There are so many parallels,” he said. “You still must have a passion, clarity of your vision and mission,” he said.
“And the authenticity is an authentic self-assessment of your company,” he said. “What are your strengths, your weaknesses, where do you stand?”
He added that in business, leaders must also be a master of the external environment: the economy, competitors, customer trends, technology and digitization.
Putting the guidelines into action
Growing up in a middle-class family in India, Sidhu said he always had a passion for travel.
As an 18-year-old college student, Sidhu and his college roommate set off on a 3½-month, 14,000-mile hitchhiking trip through Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium and London, England and then back again.
It was the 1970s, and Sidhu said the pair wanted to spread the word about “world peace through international understanding — that if we get to know each other there will be more peace.”
On their first night in Afghanistan, three Afghans threatened the pair with knives. While he thought about getting on a plane and going home after it happened, he had a goal and continued the journey.
Now, he says that hitchhiking trip was the best experience of his life.
“That education of dealing with life — that to me was a three-month journey that is an example of a full life, you can almost say,” he said.
“We had a vision to get to London and back,” he said. “We had no idea what the next day, or next three hours were going to be. We had no idea of terrain, highways and the people we were going to meet. We had to be ourselves and recognize that adversity was going to hit you out of left field. And you have to be able to deal with it.”
His journey to America
Sidhu said his father always encouraged him to pursue his goals. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Sidhu wanted to come to the U.S. to continue his education.
To achieve his goal, Sidhu got creative.
“I didn’t have enough money to come to America to go to college. I didn’t even have the $20 application fee,” he said, adding that he launched a letter writing campaign — writing to dozens of schools — promising if they accepted him and gave him a scholarship that he would do something significant in return. Wilkes University offered him a full scholarship to pursue his MBA.
“My first night in Wilkes-Barre was in a homeless shelter because I arrived on Labor Day weekend. Everything was locked. I had nowhere to stay, no money,” he said. “I was away from my parents. I was 20 years old and I sat there and I cried.”
When it came to his career, Sidhu said he didn’t aspire to be a bank CEO, but followed the recommendation of one of his mentors to apply at a bank.
That decision led him to becoming the CEO of Sovereign Bank, which under his leadership grew from a $12 million company to the 17th largest banking institution in the U.S.
“And when I was in my 50s, I developed what is now Customers Bank,” he said. “We started off at Customers Bank with a $5 million company. Now it is a $1 billion company.”
Sidhu’s unwritten chapter
“People ask when I am going to retire and I say, ‘Never,’” Sidhu said about what’s next for him, adding that while he will eventually retire from Customers Bank, he will do something different.
Another of Sidhu’s guiding principles is that you must always have something significant left to do.
“A vision doesn’t mean that you have to change the world,” he said. “Success is defined by you. Success is not measured by money, not measured by titles and the worldly things — it is measured by your inner peace and your satisfaction.”
Sidhu does have a list of what comes next.
He wants to see the world — every country in the world — with his wife Sherry. They have visited about 75% of the countries. He also wants to play the top 100 golf courses in the world. So far, he has played 20.
Sidhu wants to give back and do whatever to make a positive impact on the lives of youth.
“To mentor them, to be there and help them achieve their goals — including if they need financial help,” he said.
One-hundred percent of the proceeds of the sale of Sidhu’s book and speaking engagements are going to charity and educational scholarships, he said.
Some funds will go directly to scholarship funds or charitable organizations through co-marketing arrangements, while others will be deposited to the Sidhu Family Charity, established by Jay and Sherry Sidhu, according to information on JaySSidhu.com.
On May 15, he spoke about his book at an event at Reading Area Community College, with all proceeds from the event going to the United Way of Berks County.
Source: Berkshire mont