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Adrian Sullivan of Rockstaws Incorporated: “Habits have set me up for success by allowing me to be consistent”

The best way to develop good habits is to make a conscious effort to build habits you think will benefit you. Once you find that good habit, you should try to incorporate it into your schedule for about 33 days straight. If you can do anything for 33 days straight, in my experience, it becomes […]

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The best way to develop good habits is to make a conscious effort to build habits you think will benefit you. Once you find that good habit, you should try to incorporate it into your schedule for about 33 days straight. If you can do anything for 33 days straight, in my experience, it becomes a part of who you are. The same is true for bad habits. If you want to get rid of a bad habit, simply try not to do it for that same amount of time. Often, we can see improvement in our lives by subtracting bad habits, even without replacing them with a good habit.


As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, 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 joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

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.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My uncle, Andrew Dees, inspired me to take football seriously. He played and coached in the NFL. Seeing the heights he took his career gave me motivation and inspiration. This initial inspiration has set me on the entrepreneurial path I am on today.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? 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, knew 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.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? 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.

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

My advice to a young person that wants to follow my footsteps is to trust yourself. Everyone in the world can tell you that you can’t do something. As long as you always affirm yourself, the outside world is just noise.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

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.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

“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 are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

My team and I are planning on officially launching our media company, Rockstaws Incorporated, next month. Our goal is to share our stories as successful black men to inspire and empower other young black men and women. We believe in the power of creativity, sharing and giving back to our communities. I have a lot of exciting personal and professional endeavors in the process and I know it will be impactful when they come to fruition. Stay tuned.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

The reason it is so important to build good habits is because they dictate and influence many of the things we do. Habits naturally grow stronger and stronger, and we tend to do things without even thinking about it. The automatic nature of habitual action can be a tool of production or a tool of destruction, so we have to pay close attention to our habits. A habit that I have built is making my bed each morning. It starts my day off with a completed task and gives me an easy win to start my day. It is simple but it sets me up for daily success.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Habits have set me up for success by allowing me to be consistent. We have a lot of control over how consistent and disciplined we are without even realizing it. If you follow a routine that has good habits built in, you will compound positive efforts every day. That daily grind has allowed me to have a measured progression in my life. I get just one percent better every day and the changes I see are significant over time.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

The best way to develop good habits is to make a conscious effort to build habits you think will benefit you. Once you find that good habit, you should try to incorporate it into your schedule for about 33 days straight. If you can do anything for 33 days straight, in my experience, it becomes a part of who you are. The same is true for bad habits. If you want to get rid of a bad habit, simply try not to do it for that same amount of time. Often, we can see improvement in our lives by subtracting bad habits, even without replacing them with a good habit.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

One of the best wellness habits I have formed has been to do check ins with myself. I have a checklist to make sure I stay hydrated and grateful, and that I’ve done something to improve my health every day. One of the best performance habits I have built is to say positive affirmations before I start a hard task. I prime my brain to know that I am capable and excited for a challenge. Something as simple as positive self-talk can change your entire perspective on hard work. Another great habit to improve focus is to build the habit of mono-tasking. Instead of doing a lot of things in a block of time, focus on doing one thing at a high level. Doing one thing for a block of time will be hard at first but honing in on a single task will be make you more productive in the long run.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

The best practice I recommend to build these habits is to have them on a checklist or daily calendar (it can be a physical or digital list). When you write down the habits you want to commit to, it helps with accountability. It also makes it tangible to see a habit you are working on get checked off every day. Our brains work on reward systems, so you have to positively reinforce it for building good habits.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

A good habit that can help with performance is to spend time visualizing success every day. I am a firm believer that if you see it, you can be it. I imagine myself having great introductory phone calls and being able to leverage deals and partnerships. It helps with performance because it feels like you are following a script where you know the outcome. A simple habit for me that has also helped my performance is dressing well. When I can physically see that I am well-dressed, it helps me feel more confident. I believe this comes from my days of being an athlete. Look good, feel good, play good is a mantra I still incorporate to help my performance. The greatest performance hack is preparation. The harder you prepare, the less anxiety you feel. A habit that I have developed is to spend time going over every part of my day that I can. Looking at notes for meetings and doing research definitely helps me perform better. Even five extra minutes of preparation can make a big difference.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

The best practice you can do to perform better is to get in the habit of committing the proper time to the tasks you want to perform well at. When it comes to performance, it is often input based. The harder you work at something, the more return you will get.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

A good habit to create focus is to develop a routine that revolves around your natural energy levels. I am a morning person, so I try to get important tasks done before noon. If I push things to the end of my day, they tend to not be done as well. A habit to create optimal focus is to write down what you want to accomplish every day. From my past experiences, it is very hard to be focused when you are not intentional. Another habit that can lead to optimal focus is to know what environments you work best in and make sure you work there. For me, I make it a habit to have an hour a day where I can be in a quiet workspace and lock in on what I need to do. Overall, knowing how you work is a great way to build habits for focus.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

In order to build a more focused lifestyle, you have to create more organization in your life. The more organized you are, the less time you will end up taking away from yourself. Another way to develop habits that support focus is to set goals for yourself. Goalsetting helps add clarity for what you are trying to do. Clarity breeds focus.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

It is amazing to be in a state of flow. The best way to enter that state is to do work you find enjoyable that aligns with your passion. When you are working in line with your passion, it becomes all about the process of what you are doing. It is no longer a chore to work but a privilege. Finding work that has great meaning to you is the best way to enter that state of flow.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number 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.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

I would like to meet William Wesley. He is the executive Vice President and senior advisor for basketball operations with the New York Knicks. He is someone I respect. As a black man, it is hard to work your way up that high. I would love to ask him how he did it and what he would tell younger black men looking to achieve at a high level.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

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

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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