When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What gives you energy?
Craig Elbert: My source of energy tends to be one of two things. The first is the adrenaline generated when our team at Care/of is building something new; I was so energized by all the rapid work that went into the creation of our new app, which launched in November. Each day the team gave me an update, I was excited for the next day. The second is probably obvious, but sleep can be easy to disregard, particularly with a toddler and a new company. It really changes energy, creativity and mood for me. I can’t say I succeed all the time, but when I manage to get a good night’s sleep (or two in a row!) I can feel it.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
CE: After busy days full of conversations and emails, I find my attention span shortens. So when I get home, I tend to lean towards old fashioned technologies like vinyl records or physical books – partially because I’m a nostalgic creature of habit I’m sure, but also because I do think it helps exercise focus. Both traditional mediums require a linear focus. Books, in particular, are an exercise in spending time turning over an idea or characters in a detail. The focus required is healthy for long-term thinking. It also just feels good and makes me feel sane. I’m not sure if reading a book counts as a life hack, but anything that helps with focus these days should in my view!
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
CE: Renata Adler’s Pitch Dark and Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems are both books that changed the way I thought about the power of language to communicate the simple day-to-day activities of life with a lyrical warmth. I try to carry one of them with me because they come in handy when I’m tired and a bit worn out on a subway platform.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
CE: Ugh, I’m definitely not proud of this and need to make a conscious effort to create some separation from my phone. But yes right now it sits bedside and I check it too frequently.
TG: How do you deal with email?
CE: With a deep breath and sometimes a bourbon. It also doesn’t hurt to have some means of prioritizing the most important messages.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
CE: I love taking a walk outside our office, right over to Washington Square Park. Temperature permitting, it clears my head and creates a moment to reflect all of the amazing work our team has done. It creates a positive mindset and also focus. Temperature not permitting, I’m freezing and get snow on my shoes.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
CE: Life builds up and we get busy. I don’t know if I’ve let it build to a burn-out in the last couple of years; I just try to make sure I take a breath on the weekends. Back when I graduated college and did a stint in investment banking, I certainly felt burned out constantly – I was spending so much time doing something that wasn’t personally rewarding or fulfilling. Since then I’ve tried to avoid that path – for me, doing work that is gratifying is one important way to avoid feeling burned out.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
CE: When building a new business you fail all the time – you’re making so many decisions quickly, with limited information, and some of them don’t work out as well as you hope. The key thing in those moments is to acknowledge it. Recently, for example, we made some operational decisions that have resulted in a backlog of orders, which has meant some of our customers have had to wait awhile for their orders – something I take responsibility for and have worked to correct as quickly as possible. Failure is natural, and the best we can do is learn something from it and move forward.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
CE: There are a couple quotes with a similar theme that pop into my head in low moments but also when things are going very well. The first is a Persian phrase that I encountered when reading about Abraham Lincoln as he used it in a speech. ‘This too shall pass’ is the adage. It feels incredibly leveling in both extreme misery and triumph. Regardless of how great or bad things are going, it will pass. The second quote I think of has a bit more sneer to it. Or at least it my head it sneers more, as it is a Bob Dylan lyric. In one of his songs he sings that ‘she’s an artist, she don’t look back.’ There’s something similar and more aggressive in this idea of not looking back, particularly in the successful period in which he he wrote that. Ultimately, both of these remind me to focus on what’s ahead in moments of extremity. Okay, admittedly I’m still working on the meditative advice of living in the present.
Craig Elbert is the founder and CEO of Care/of, the wellness destination that specializes in personalized vitamins and supplements for today’s health-minded individual. Prior to founding Care/of, Craig led marketing at Bonobos, where he helped grow the company from 10 employees to over 250. Bonobos is now the largest clothing brand founded online in the U.S. Craig has an MBA from Wharton, where he graduated as a Palmer Scholar, and a BA from Dartmouth College. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.