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Adrian Sullivan: “Be proactive with planning your future”

Be proactive with planning your future. Short-term and long-term goal setting has personally helped me relieve anxiety. Taking accountability for my structure has led to me greatly improving my mental health. As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian […]

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Be proactive with planning your future. Short-term and long-term goal setting has personally helped me relieve anxiety. Taking accountability for my structure has led to me greatly improving my mental health.


As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian Sullivan.

Adrian Sullivan is a former D1 athlete who played football for Temple University, and is now a driven mental health advocate, focusing on mental wellness, nourishment and growth. He is also the co-founder and president of Rockstaws Incorporated (RSI), a black-owned media agency based in Philadelphia. RSI’s mission is to share their stories as successful black men to inspire and empower other young black men and women.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I am from Long Island, New York. My mother’s side of the family is from Babylon and my father’s side of the family resides in Hempstead and Queens, New York. At four years old, my father passed away and as a result, I grew up in a single-parent household. My mom is my rock and always did everything she could to make sure I had everything I could ever need. She instilled belief and confidence in me from a young age. I was also very close with my grandparents and uncle as well. An interesting part of my upbringing was having adopted siblings. I have two adopted brothers and an adopted sister. They are all special needs and have taught me how to have love, compassion and understanding. With a strong family unit, I always felt empowered to be successful. I grew up playing basketball and football. Sports were an integral part of my life and I was determined to be the best student athlete I could be. I loved working hard, competing and proving myself. That sparked me to be a Division 1 athlete at Temple University and take that same work ethic into business.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

The most interesting story of my career was being interview by NBC10 in Philadelphia. I felt that it was great to be able to talk about mental health in the black community and broadcast some of the great things my media company, Rockstaws Incorporated, has been able to do as far as giving back to the community.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

The most humorous mistake I made, years ago, was thinking I could keep an accurate book of business in my head. That worked for about a week. I would encourage all business owners to keep a systematic filing system for all of your business contacts. It’s okay to rely on technology and admit that our digital spreadsheets have a much better memory than we do. I have grown to be realistic and to not overestimate myself. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is key to running a successful business.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My mom has offered me the most encouragement to be who I am today. I remember my mom being really hard on me when I would get B’s in school and being disappointed. She always believed in me and knew that I was a high-level achiever and expected my best. Not settling for mediocrity or anything but my best effort was a great standard my mom helped set for me.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

I encourage my colleagues in my industry to have a constant focus on learning. When things do not go as planned, do not panic or get frustrated. Instead, be solution-oriented and try to move the needle forward each day. Some days will be better than others and that’s a major part of the game. Dealing with the adversity positively is key.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

In order to create a great work culture, you need to know your company goals and vision first. Once you know who you are, you can bring people on board who share that vision and work as a team. The best work is done when it is done in the spirit of togetherness following a plan. When work has a purpose, the culture is fun and energetic.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each.

Be proactive with planning your future. Short-term and long-term goal setting has personally helped me relieve anxiety. Taking accountability for my structure has led to me greatly improving my mental health.

Asking for help and knowing your resources. When I was leaving Temple University, I was unsure of whether I would go into pursuing the NFL or start my career. I was able to seek the advice of one of my college professors and she helped me land a job with University of Pennsylvania’s Netter Center program as a strength and conditioning coach. That helped me on my path to becoming a mental health advocate.

Control the controllable. Right now, we cannot control the pandemic but we can control wearing our mask, being compassionate, showing gratitude and having a positive attitude. We can achieve great things by focusing on what we can control.

Journaling. I have experienced a great change in my self-awareness by keeping a gratitude journal. It has helped me to be aware of all the blessings in my life and not to harp on the things that are not going well. I have been able to maximize good things happening for me just by focusing my attention in that direction.

Do things you enjoy. Right now, there has been restrictions in many aspects of our lives due to the pandemic. However, we need to find ways to spend time doing what we love to do. An example for me has been checking in with my family and friend via text message, letters or FaceTime. I am a person that likes to go out with my friends and spend quality time. During this time, I have focused on sending appreciation messages to my family and friends. Not only have I felt great in finding new ways to connect, it has also positively impacted my relationships.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

I would encourage that planning for retirement be an entire lifestyle transition plan. It is easy to focus on just the financial aspect, but envisioning retirement by looking at the entire picture is important. For example, one of my closest friends’ fathers just retired. He is now mentoring and consulting so that he transitions out of a rigorous work schedule smoothly. Maintaining life balance is paramount to mental health. Finding the most optimal way to work and play during retirement can optimize mental health.

How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Advice I would give to pre-teens and teens is to make themselves aware of mental health. The earlier you realize that health consists of many different components, you will be able to take care of yourself better. I would also encourage pre-teens and teens to have a positive outlook. You experience a lot of change at that age and it’s important to know that everything will work out. Lastly, I would let them know to keep good company. The friends you have are the people you will be most similar too — choose wisely as you can.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

A particular book that made an impact on me was The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. In reading this book, I have learned the power of combining incremental efforts every day to see major results in my life. At the beginning of last year I set out to lose some weight to feel better and be healthier. Using principles from the book, I was able to lose 30 pounds. That weight loss and achievement also helped my mental and spiritual well-being too. I would absolutely recommend the book to any entrepreneurs and people looking to achieve big results.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would want my influence to start a revolution of people trying to understand and love each other. As humans, we do not always need to agree with each other. However, I would love to start dialogue where people learn to have empathy for one another. Doing your best to fully see from someone’s point of view is one of the most powerful things you can do.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Comfort is the enemy of growth.” We all need to step out of what we are comfortable with in order to be our best selves. Adopting better ways to live is the best way we can see positive changes in our lives.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or check out my company at www.rockstawsinc.com.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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