Conversations at the Top: Daniel Talks

Quoted excerpts from Ruben Navarrette’s interview with Daniel Lubetzky, founder and executive chairman of KIND Snacks, for our “Conversations at the Top” series

Daniel Lubetzky, Founder and Executive Chairman, KIND Snacks Photo: Gillian Fry

Best known as the founder of KIND Snacks, Daniel Lubetzky’s sights are set on a much bigger picture: humanity. Ruben Navarrette tells the story behind his ambition; here are compelling excerpts from the interview.

Daniel Talks: Family Motto

“Our family motto is ‘To be united as a family, to be noble towards all, and—whatever be our quest—to do our very best.’

Unity, to get our kids to take care of each other, is one very important value for me. Being noble towards all, being kind towards all, being respectful towards all, treating others the way you want to be treated, and then doing your best at whatever you do. I don’t really care if you end up becoming this or that, for me the success comes from you trying and then you can derive satisfaction from doing your best.

If you go beyond those, the other things I would love to teach our kids include grit, the responsibility we have towards each other and towards our world, and a hard work ethic.”

Daniel Lubetzky, KIND Snacks, standing against wall
Photo: Gillian Fry

Daniel Talks: Gut Feeling vs. Data

“Fundamentally, I’m a person that works from the gut, because I have twenty-five years in the space, walking the aisle, talking to people—so I have such a rich set of experiences that I can gutturally know if the product is going to be more likely or less to succeed.

I try to encourage my teams to also work from the gut and go from their sensory: what would you want for yourself?

Then, there’s a lot of the newcomers that are all about the data and the insights. And the truth is, neither of us is right. You need to find the balance between letting your gut and your creativity and imagination run, but also with some data at some points.

Because if you’re just following data, you’re always going to follow someone else’s lead—you’re never going to set the new direction. Whereas if you’re allowing your imagination and your gut to lead you somewhere, you’re very likely to create new spaces.”

Daniel Talks: Exporting Epidemics

“America is exporting the obesity and diabetes epidemics. It’s just so depressing that now we’re causing these problems across the world. And hopefully, one day soon, KIND is going to be among the companies also exporting from the US but with a product that that’s healthier and more helpful.”

Daniel Talks: Optimism in Today’s World

“It’s all about your attitude and your frame of reference. It’s up to you whether you commiserate and get sad about something or whether you make the best of it. I don’t think it’s about seeing the glass half full or seeing the glass empty, it’s about saying that you’re going to fill it up.

And a lot of people are like, ‘Daniel, you’re such an optimist.’ But I don’t think that’s at all the case. I think it’s more that I’m determined to do something about it.

“A lot of people are like, ‘Daniel, you’re such an optimist.’ But I don’t think that’s at all the case. I think it’s more that I’m determined to do something about it.”

I mean, you talk about today’s day and age and the reality is that I’m so terrified of what’s going on, no one would accuse me of being an optimist. I’m like really, really scared. My father, as you know, went through the Holocaust, which is one of the darkest periods in history, and then the last sixty, seventy years we’ve been moving forward with a lot of progress where people really started breaking stereotypes—a lot of mistakes, but things moving in the right trajectory.

And then, the last couple of years, it’s been stunning to see the rise of totalitarianism and authoritarianism and fascism and extremism and racism and hatred and dictatorships chipping away at established liberal democracies—whether it’s here in the United States or in Israel, Hungary, Poland, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey, or Germany. Everywhere, monarchs are on the retreat and extremists are advancing.

I’m really terrified about what we’re going to give our children, with problems with climate change, with plastic in the oceans, with all these different things that I’ve lived through during an incredible fifty-one years, and I’m just really concerned about what we’re going to give our children.

We need to do something. We can’t just commiserate.”

Daniel Talks: Recognizing Your Power

“It’s striking to me that a lot of people live their lives not recognizing the incredible power that they have to make change, even in the smallest of ways, you can choose to change the world for the better or for the worse—you will have an impact.

Increasingly I’ve noticed that if you wait for somebody else to do stuff that you’ve noticed needs to get done, it’s not going to get done. And I’m not talking about picking up a piece of paper, I’m talking about things you need to do to improve society—if you notice that somebody’s not speaking up, don’t expect others to do it for you. If you notice that the oceans are not being cleaned or that immigrants are being attacked, you cannot wait for others to do that which you know needs to be done. Not that you can do it alone, but others cannot do it alone either. You have to work with people and recognize your powers as a protagonist to make a difference.”

Read the full “Conversations at the Top” feature ⟶

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