Close The Loop

The Life of an American Dream CEO & His Five Lessons for Success


By Raghbir Sehgal

By Kabir Sehgal

Formats and Prices




$26.00 CAD


Trade Paperback


Trade Paperback $20.00 $26.00 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around May 5, 2020. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

The inspiring true story of one man’s journey to achieve the American Dream, and the wisdom he gained about what it takes to find success.


Raghbir (R.K.) Sehgal left his native India as a teenager with little money in his pocket. He worked factory jobs in the United Kingdom and eventually moved to the United States. Living in the Deep South in the 1960s, Sehgal experienced discrimination and that redoubled his desire to succeed. He started as a junior engineer at Law Engineering and rose to become Chairman & CEO.Close the Loop is his story told through the voice of his son Kabir Sehgal. This is a profound and personal meditation on hope, persistence, diligence, and resilience. Raghbir also shares his five lessons for success, which you can use to optimize your life.



I met R.K. in 1960. He had just arrived in the United States to attend Auburn University, where my mother was a dormitory house mother.

During our long friendship, R.K. has worked to become a successful businessman, overcoming racial and cultural barriers, including a cross burning in front of his apartment (which, in his naivete, he believed was a sign of friendship). Upon his college graduation, he joined a small, Southern engineering firm, accepting a salary that was considerably less than that of his white peers; R.K. was the first nonwhite engineer at the firm and his inequitable salary served to buttress, not deter, his drive to succeed.

Equity, social and economic, was imprinted on R.K.’s conscience from his childhood, when he watched the partition of India from his doorstep. Social inclusion, along with a deep well of spirituality instilled early by his father, who taught R.K. the importance of gratitude, shaped the man, the executive, and the public servant he would become.

R.K. rose to become chairman and CEO of Law Companies Group and was able to begin creating the company he knew it could be. His vision was to build an internationally recognized organization in which career opportunities were shared with those who were willing to work, and employees were as diverse as the communities in which the firm engaged.

With an eye toward growth and a belief in inclusion, R.K. continued to diversify employment and leadership to include men and women from every social, ethnic, and political background. He hired several prominent leaders in public service who had experienced difficulty in their post-government careers, giving them a second chance and a fresh start. He ruffled feathers along the way and created a path that sometimes was difficult for him inside his company. The wheels of change move slowly, but R.K. often was the first nonwhite member invited to join social and civil associations, including the Rotary Club of Atlanta (also known as the Downtown Rotary). He continued to rely on the lessons of his upbringing and his experience as an immigrant who sought the American Dream.

In his post-business career, R.K. continued to serve in the role as commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade, and Tourism, and helped the state attract the arts, filmmaking, and global trade, fostering a more international state with greater opportunities for all its citizens. He was one of the earliest members of the board of councilors of the Carter Center, bringing his energy and bold vision to global issues that affect and connect all of us.

With friends and colleagues worldwide, R.K. understands the connections that people share. He is at home everywhere, from Plains to Punjab. His is a story of faith that, with unflinching effort and a belief in God’s grace, things will turn out the way they should.

President Jimmy Carter

January 2020


My father is my hero. I know that sounds cliché coming from a son, but I can’t think of any other way to say it. He is the reason (along with my mother) for my creation and existence as a human being. And he has been the guiding light for me as a child, teenager, young adult, and man. He has been my role model to emulate both in my personal and professional lives. Above all, I’m most fortunate to have been blessed by his continual presence; he lights up around people and makes others feel good about themselves. You know when he enters a room because the laughter soon begins.

But he hasn’t just been my mentor. Many rely on my dad for professional and personal advice. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies regularly consult with him on business matters, from how to establish a vision for future growth and how to access international markets to whom to recruit to fill executive positions. Those serving in public office continue to ask his advice on how to position their platforms, energize the electorate, and raise money from prospective donors. Young people turn to him for pointers on how to find a job and how to ask for a raise from their managers at work. The reason that so many people check with my father is because his perspective is often so unusual. His viewpoint has been informed by a lifetime of experiences that span his upbringing in India and professional career in Europe and the United States.

You might not have heard of my dad. That’s partly by design. He has been the consummate “quiet professional” in that he lets his work and results speak for themselves. He doesn’t Snapchat or post to Instagram (alas, his Twitter handle should be @gemsmydadsays). He doesn’t share his résumé on LinkedIn (or, as he says in his gentle Indian accent, “Lincoln”). Nor has he carried a business card in over twenty years (he tells people he is unemployed). He doesn’t believe that his way is the only way. For example, he never once told me that he expected me to follow him in becoming a civil engineer, or for that matter, to pursue any other career. He teaches by anecdotes and inspiration.

Raghbir Kumar Sehgal (which is pronounced “Rug-beer” but he usually goes by by R.K.) was raised in India in the 1940s and left his native country as a teenager for the United Kingdom, where he worked as a common laborer in a Goodyear tire factory. He saved up enough money to apply to and enroll at Auburn University in Alabama in the 1960s. This was a period in which this state was going through the crucible of racial conflict. After graduating, he joined Law Engineering, a small engineering firm (which was later known as Law Companies Group), and worked there for thirty years, eventually becoming its chairman and CEO. He turned the organization global, with one hundred offices and thousands of employees, making him one of the first Indian Americans to run a major corporation in the United States. While leading this company, he recruited some of the most prominent business and political leaders around the world to help drive more business for the firm. After leaving this company, he served as CEO for a couple of other Atlanta-based firms and then was tapped by the governor of Georgia to serve as the head of economic development for the state. Since leaving public service, my father has remained active as an investor, advisor, and all-around mensch.

Think of Raghbir as the Indian Forrest Gump. He has the uncanny knack for showing up in places where important events are unfolding. I’m not sure who else witnessed firsthand the Indian Independence movement and the American civil rights movement, who met both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King’s top advisors. He has seen how the scourges of the Indian caste system and the segregation of the American South have left regrettable and indelible marks on society. On a lighter note, he is someone who played cricket in the streets of his hometown in India, and who witnessed Joe Namath playing quarterback for the University of Alabama (who Forrest Gump also played for in the movie, by the way). One of the first people he met at Auburn was Lillian Carter (Jimmy Carter’s mother); he was in Tehran during the Iran hostage crisis; his “business mentors” were management guru Peter Drucker and leveraged buyout king F. Ross Johnson; his spiritual advisor is Ambassador Andrew Young; and he played an instrumental role in bringing the Centennial Olympic Games to Atlanta in 1996. There is something positively Gumpian about my dad because he keeps leaning forward, raising his hand, and showing up. He likes to say that the fun begins when you encounter an obstacle. Whenever I faced a difficult personal or business setback, my dad would take out his flip chart and help me brainstorm a three-point action plan for remedying the situation. “Don’t get angry, get busy,” he likes to say.

Ladies and gentlemen, what you have here is a genuine American Dream story. The kind of tale that would make Horatio Alger, the nineteenth-century author who published many rags-to-riches novels, proud. Indeed, my dad could have been a character in one of these books. Because American Dream stories are so familiar in our country, you may feel like there is something banal or commonplace about them. As if we don’t need another immigrant yarn stitched into our national fabric.

But considering the national political rhetoric has taken on a harsher tone toward foreign-born people, my father’s story is a helpful and even necessary reminder of the virtues of immigrants to American society. There were 44.5 million immigrants who lived in the US in 2017, or about 13.7 percent of the overall population. Some 26.8 million are part of the workforce. And 33 percent of these workers serve in fields such as management, business, science, or the arts.1 Remarkably, immigrants or their children founded 44 percent of the companies listed in the Fortune 500, and these firms employ more than 13 million people around the world. They also generated a staggering $5.5 trillion in aggregate revenue in 2017.2 These macro numbers are undoubtedly impressive, and when you consider the struggles and sacrifices that many immigrants must endure, it makes their contributions even more extraordinary. That someone with moxie, like my father, can make it and thrive in the United States is a testament not only to his or her values of diligence and persistence but to the American meritocracy and democracy.

The American Dream archetype isn’t what makes my father’s story unusual, although his life involves many twists and turns you will surely find entertaining. Throughout this book, as you learn more about my father, you’ll notice another archetype—that of “servant-leader” who advances the interests and goals of others. He has turned generosity into his calling card and has built incredibly strong relationships that stand the test of time. I asked him, if he could do it all over again, what specialty would he have majored in during college? Without missing a beat, he responded “social service.” He lights up when others ask for help because it gives him a sense of purpose, bringing joy to their lives. His bigheartedness is partly informed by his spirituality. As a boy, not only did he receive unconditional love from his parents but the tutelage and mentorship of a guru in India. His inner peace has helped him radiate optimism and energy to others when they are most in need.


I am lucky to have learned from my father by osmosis, soaking up how he assesses an opportunity or narrates a story. He taught me how to cultivate friendships and when to keep my head down and work. Given his unique and colorful life, I wanted to document his journey and some of his core philosophies so that more people can learn about and from him.

This book is long overdue. I’ve made writing with and about family part of my career as an author. Several of my texts are children’s books I wrote with my mother, Surishtha. I also wrote a book, Walk in My Shoes: Conversations with a Civil Rights Legend and His Godson on the Journey Ahead, with Andrew Young (or “Uncle Andy,” as I call him), who was the former mayor of Atlanta, ambassador to the United Nations, advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and direct report to my father when they worked together at an engineering firm. In this book, I mention my father’s close relationship with Young and briefly delve into his coming-to-America story. In 2017, I coauthored a book of poetry with Deepak Chopra, Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, in which the title poem is a paean to my father. We even turned some of the poems into New Age meditation music.

I always knew I wanted to write a book about my father. When I was a boy, I recognized the uniqueness of my father’s story because it didn’t resemble the anecdotes I heard from my classmates in Atlanta about their parents. I attended a private K-12 school in which my friends talked about SEC football or going golfing or fishing with their parents. My father told me stories about growing up in India that sounded like fiction, with an alphabet soup of names and places to which my sister and I couldn’t relate. We learned about his living in a two-room house and how his father instilled discipline in him (hanging him upside down in a well, for example). These stories of resilience and courage made an indelible mark on me.

Writing a book about my father was the natural thing to do. My sister, Kashi, and I were raised in a home in which books surrounded us, and I felt that it was my duty not just to take texts from the bookshelves but to contribute ones as well. When I was in elementary school, my maternal grandfather, Piara Singh Gill, who was a nuclear scientist in India and confidant of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, was writing his autobiography, Up Against Odds (and I was helping him type the manuscript on WordPerfect). I remember saying, “Mom, one day I am going to write a book about Dad.”

With my father’s mind still lucid, I knew that if I didn’t write this book now, I would forever regret it. In addition, I wanted to get this book published so that he could hold it in his hands as his own. There is a special feeling when you hold something that you have created. My dad has no compunction about sharing my works with other people. He jokes that he is my number-one public-relations person. But this one, Dad, is about and for you.

But making this book happen was difficult. It took me about five years to convince him to participate in this process. Initially, he resisted the idea, not wanting to revisit difficult periods of life, especially his years in the United Kingdom when he was a teenager working physically demanding jobs. Yet he enjoys talking about other periods of his life and recounting stories, so my sister and I would record him (with his consent) in this more piecemeal fashion over the years. He finally agreed to chat with me at length in early 2019.

After we got started, he embraced the project with gusto. He shared with me files from his personal archives. He has meticulously labeled his files, which made me think that perhaps he knew all along that someone would write his life story. For example, he has manila folders with labels like “Sehgal Sahib’s departure” and “Kabir’s arrival” that are collections of personal notes people sent him on his father’s passing and my birth. He kept all of the handwritten notes and telegrams that he received from family members in India.

All these materials made my work as his biographer easier. This book is written in my voice, but the stories, insights, and wisdom are from him. I am merely the scribe or filter who helped him get his thoughts down on paper. While we could have written the book in first person, he wanted me to format it in this manner. Maybe he wanted me to reflect even more upon on our relationship. I will frequently refer to my dad by his first name, Raghbir, or R.K.; however I never call him this in person. These are simply ways to help narrate what amounts to a colorful and candid story.

As we’ve neared the publication date of this book, it’s been personally gratifying to hear him share news of this work with his friends and family members. He likes recounting how I had to convince him and that the process of researching and writing the book was difficult. He also noted that he was grateful to those who contributed testimonials, saying “I get to read my own eulogies!”

In capturing my dad’s life and wisdom with the written word in this filial biography, we can share his insights, of which there are many, with future generations. In some ways, a book makes one immortal. Decades from now, new American immigrants can read about the charismatic and dazzling R.K. Sehgal and how he surmounted great obstacles to achieve success in the United States. I think you’ll agree with me that some of his pearls of wisdom and resulting legacy will stand the test of time. And his journey alone from India to America will undoubtedly inspire you. By reading this book, I hope that you’ll be able to benefit from his wisdom.


This book is part biography and part how-to guide for your professional and personal lives. It begins by chronicling Raghbir’s life starting in India. His childhood years are full of intrigue that could fill an entire book, from witnessing the glory of the independence movement to the horror of sectarian violence that beset India. It describes in detail how he encountered a fork in the road in the UK: stay and make money, or move to America to pursue his dream of attending a university. And it explains how he went from entry-level employee of an engineering firm to turning it into a global powerhouse, in which he hired prominent individuals to help drive business. You’ll see how he went from a boy growing up in British-controlled India to having tea with Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher at 10 Downing Street decades later. His stories reveal the strength of his character and may even motivate you to take action in your life. With his tenacity and good humor, he has led a life in which many have gravitated toward wanting to be in his presence. You can’t help but smile (and probably chuckle) when you’re with him.

The second section of the book shares five lessons from Raghbir that you can implement today to help advance your professional and personal careers. My father enjoys making checklists, and he wanted his book to have real, tangible lessons for folks to absorb. These lessons include:

Close the Loop—The title of this book, as well as his personal motto. This saying means overcommunicating or at least making sure that all the right people are updated on a situation or status. It’s not enough to complete a task. Let all the appropriate people know that you’ve completed it.

Make Your Manager Look Good—Your professional career is linked to that of your manager. Paradoxically, worry less about your job and more about his or hers.

Go Above and Beyond—Raghbir’s default mode is service. When he walks into a room, he thinks “How can I serve someone?” His friends like to say that “R.K. has never met a stranger.” He looks for ways to serve people and causes important to the community. And he likes to truly wow people, providing them thoughtful experiences they had never imagined. He also finds little ways to make you feel special. He won’t just take you out for dinner; he’ll make sure that the service is quick and the food is to your liking. If the waiter isn’t around, he will get up, find the jug of water, and refill your glass.

Nurture Mentors—You don’t have to do everything yourself. Look for people who you want to emulate and develop those relationships. Raghbir showed up in America not knowing anyone, so he proactively asked for help and created a network of mentors from whom he could learn and also serve.

Find Your Mantra—My father learned to meditate as a child in India and it’s something he practices daily by repeating a personal mantra he received from a spiritual guru. Being able to close one’s eyes, breathe deeply, and reflect helps to reduce stress, anxiety, and self-centeredness. You begin to see yourself as part of something much larger, the universe in which you live. He views meditating as a way to purify the mind and remember one’s connection with the divine. When you create a positive thought, it can change your life altogether. Meditation has helped him become more compassionate toward others, as he tries to see things from other people’s perspectives.

We hope that this book inspires and motivates you to live life not only for your own dreams, but in service to others. You’ll find that in most of the stories that follow, my dad prioritized his family, friends, colleagues, and peers. He always says to me, “You can’t go wrong by putting other people first,” which is both a wise thing to say and a difficult thing to do. It’s been a privilege and honor to be my father’s son. And writing this book has brought us even closer, as we shared moments of laughter and tears during conversations about his remarkable journey, which I will no doubt return to for inspiration in the years ahead.

Kabir Sehgal

January 2020




Mother India

India has known the innocence and insouciance of childhood, the passion and abandon of youth, and the ripe wisdom of maturity that comes from long experience of pain and pleasure; and over and over again she has renewed her childhood and youth and age.1

—Jawaharlal Nehru, former prime minister of India

India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the equator.2

—Winston Churchill

To other countries, I may go as a tourist, but to India, I come as a pilgrim.3

—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

On Christmas Day, 1956, Raghbir and his family were at the airport in New Delhi. He was about to leave India by himself to embark upon his coming-to-America adventure. He had filled his suitcases until they were bulging, so that when they were weighed at the KLM check-in counter, the clerk said his baggage was twenty-two pounds overweight. Raghbir would have to pay a fee of five hundred rupees (which was the equivalent of a few US dollars) to bring his bags with him on the trip, but he just didn’t have the money for that.

“I gave my cousin a look and told him to follow me,” he said.4 “We took my suitcase into the men’s room.” They both walked hurriedly into the restroom and immediately opened the luggage. They knew what they had to do: Reduce the weight by twenty-two pounds. Raghbir donned four shirts, three sweaters, two jackets, and a winter top coat.

“I came out looking like a robot, like the Michelin Man. My entire family was laughing.” His parents were pleasantly surprised that he was so innovative. When the lady at the check-in counter asked him, “How are you going to sit?” Raghbir responded, “Don’t worry about it.” Years later, he likes to add, “Besides, it was winter, so it wasn’t that bad.”

This is a quintessential example of my father’s pluckiness. He would have to think differently and rely on himself to survive his journey abroad. Throughout his career, he would find nontraditional solutions that didn’t occur to other people. His ability to reframe problems and think laterally have been major factors of his success. It’s not that my father doesn’t think the rules don’t apply to him. He just thinks the rules should be written differently in the first place, and he is not shy about rewriting them!

In India, there is a sort of “anything goes” mentality. When you drive through the streets, folks don’t stay in their lanes. They weave in and out, with dogs and cats and cows meandering throughout. The confluence of different people, religions, and cultures make India a very pluralistic society, in which there isn’t one way of doing things. Being able to see the world from a multiplicity of viewpoints has helped my father think nontraditionally, especially in corporate America where there is arguably a preferred, and even MBA-approved, method of running a business. “You know, I had never thought about it like that, R.K.” is one of the most common responses that he has heard throughout his business career.

Before we delve into Raghbir’s biography, let’s take a moment to understand his geography because it shaped who he is and how he acts. Central to my father’s history is his upbringing in India. From the way in which he thinks to the manner in which he expresses himself with a soft accent, my father’s ethnic identity has been a significant part of his life, despite him not having lived in Mother India for five decades now.

My father grew up in India in the 1940s, a time before mobile phones or the Internet. The country was rustic, pastoral, agrarian, and far less developed and populated than it is now. Indeed, this was long before India introduced the economic reforms in 1991 to kick-start the economy, unlocking the rapid growth that has defined the India of today. Actually, my father was born before India itself became a country. India was still a British colony, and the British Crown had ruled the subcontinent through its affiliates in a unified manner since 1858. He came of age in the same decade that India would finally attain independence, led by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, and others. And living through this period indelibly shaped my father, who experienced both the triumphs and tragedies that resulted.

“At the time, I knew I was witnessing history,” said Raghbir, describing India’s transformation into a free country. This is a history worth understanding so that you can better appreciate my father’s life journey. India’s struggle for independence certainly played a formative role in shaping both my father as a human being and what he most values. He grew up hearing India’s leaders making the case for self-reliance and self-determination. These would be values that Raghbir would cherish in his own life. Throughout his remarkable voyage, he would continually return to the lessons of his childhood: “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes,” said Mahatma Gandhi.5


The paradox of India is that it’s an ancient civilization that goes back thousands of years but is still a relatively new country. That India became a nation-state just over seventy years ago belies a rich past in which the Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Mughals, and other foreign people left their mark on the subcontinent. Yet the watershed year for modern India was 1947, when India declared its independence from Great Britain after years of being yoked to their colonial masters. The period of time before the 1947 independence was known as the “British Raj.”

“Growing up, I learned the British version of Indian history. We were told in school that in 1857, Rani of Jhansi attacked the British, who called it a rebellion,” said Raghbir. “But it was also an act of self-defense.”

He indeed witnessed the waning years of the British Raj and thus didn’t see that many British people in his community. But he did experience some episodes of discrimination. For example, he traveled with his family to Shimla, a hill station in the Himalayas. There was a well-maintained road that was reserved for the British. “Why were Indians not allowed to travel on roads in our own country?” he thought.


On Sale
May 5, 2020
Page Count
320 pages
Hachette Audio

Raghbir Sehgal

About the Author

Raghbir (R.K.) Sehgal was the chairman & CEO of Law Companies, which was one of the largest global engineering firms in the United States with one hundred offices around the world. He later served as CEO of H. J. Russel & Company. He was the chairman and commissioner of the Georgia Department of Industry, Trade, and Tourism. He has served as Chairman of Smart Fuel Cell and Primacy International. He has served on many boards including Northside Hospital, The Carter Center Board of Advisors, and First Data’s International Advisory Board. He graduated from Auburn University. He is based in Atlanta. Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of fourteen books including Coined and Fandango at the Wall. With his mother Surishtha, he has written several children’s books such as A Bucket of Blessings and Festival of Colors. He is a multi-GRAMMY Award winner. He graduated from Dartmouth College and the London School of Economics.

Learn more about this author

Kabir Sehgal

About the Author

Kabir Sehgal is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of fourteen books including Coined and Fandango at the Wall. With his mother Surishtha, he has written several children’s books such as A Bucket of Blessings and Festival of Colors. He is a multi-GRAMMY Award winner. He graduated from Dartmouth College and the London School of Economics.

Learn more about this author