Sunjay Nath returns to inspire

Sci ‘97 alum preaches the “10-80-10” principle

Sunjay Nath spoke to students in Sir John A. Macdonald Hall Thursday night.
Sunjay Nath spoke to students in Sir John A. Macdonald Hall Thursday night.
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“You! You think you’re funny. You will fill in for him.”

Those were the first words of encouragement that led Sunjay Nath, then a second-year engineering student, to pursue a career in inspirational speaking.

At the time, he was part of the planning committee for a one-day student leadership event for Kingston high school students. When a speaker bailed last minute, Nath was forced to fill in.

Almost 20 years after that first speech, Nath has spoken in front of approximately 2,000 audiences and one million students and business professionals. Thursday night’s alumni speaker event in Sir John A. Macdonald Hall, put on by the Queen’s Student Alumni Association, was one of over a dozen times that Nath has returned to speak to Queen’s students.

“Everything about [professional speaking] fits my personality,” said Nath, Sci ’97.

“If I had a 9-to-5 job I would have gone crazier, longer ago. I like how every day is different … the entrepreneurial aspect fits who I am personally. In terms of impact, over the years, the letters and emails that I’ve got back saying this that and the other.

It’s amazing.”

Following his initial speech as a fill-in for the high school leadership event, Nath was approached by one of the teachers in the crowd, who asked if he could speak at another school event.

This cycle of recognition continued to the point that schools were offering to pay him to come speak. By the time he reached his last year at Queen’s, he was doing all his schoolwork during the week so that on the weekends he could drive to local schools in Ontario to speak.

After graduating in mechanical engineering, Nath found a part-time job so he’d have something consistent on the side as he continued to find speaking opportunities. Eventually, he quit to focus solely on speaking.

“I think what everyone wants in a career is, they want to do something they like and something they enjoy and have an impact that helps people to be better around them. In terms of that, I’ve been extremely fortunate,” he said.

Nath’s trademarked “10-80-10” principle is based on the idea that when individuals pursue careers in areas of their strength and interest, their work is more efficient than those doing jobs they don’t enjoy. Nath also stresses the idea that being a victim of bad luck in life is based on individual perspectives.

“The very things, at one point in our lives, that serve as obstacles, with a better understanding, with more maturity, more development, more smarts, will be stepping stones as others.”

Nath gave this example: in fourth year, his application to be a residence don was rejected. This allowed him to look at himself and ask why he was rejected and how he could improve, something he preaches to people now when he gives lectures.

“I’ve often been called a motivational speaker and I don’t fight it, but I don’t consider myself a motivational speaker,” he said.

“Motivation is pushing someone to do something they don’t want to do … an inspirational speaker is someone who helps awaken the genius within yourself so you’re inspired to take action.”

As a student, Nath was involved in the Engineering Society and other clubs. He originally planned on going into business but, due to family pressure, he pursued engineering.

He said he wasn’t happy with recent discussions of changing certain student traditions.

“I understand you want to get rid of some of the hazing, where people are being targeted and inappropriate behavior, but to take away the fun, poking sarcastic gabbing between Engineer and Commerce students, I think it’s too far,” he said.

Nath currently lives in Oakville with his wife and three children but still travels frequently, doing 70 to 80 speeches a year.

“Do I get nervous? No. Do I get the butterflies? Almost every time,” he said.

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