Kevin Crawford: “Don’t take your work or yourself too seriously”

Plan (Courage to take the first step and the creation of a plan)place yourself on a trajectory to advance your goals, experiencing a path that is better for you. As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kevin Crawford. Kevin […]

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Plan (Courage to take the first step and the creation of a plan)place yourself on a trajectory to advance your goals, experiencing a path that is better for you.

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

Kevin Crawford Consulting provides C-suite executives with high-level, strategic counsel with the utmost confidentiality. KCC partners with executives to identify potential pitfalls, unintended consequences, and other unforeseen outcomes in their professional and personal lives. For more information, visit

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?

My career path began from a failed attempt to get into medical school. I was told by the interview committee that I needed more medical field experience and to reapply the following year, so I decided to go to paramedic school. I got hired as a firefighter paramedic in the city of San Diego, and immediately fell in love with the job and never once looked back.

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

I struggled throughout my childhood behind in reading. It was diagnosed as dyslexia at the time, and I was tormented all the way through school. It gradually got better as I got into college, and even though there were struggles, I went to law school and earned a JD.

Throughout school and into my career, I came to deal with the fact that this is my cross to bear, and it doesn’t define me as a human being. I learned you can manage your perspective of yourself and those around you. It was a gift I gave myself — freed myself from the burden of saying self-worth is found in something external.

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?

I ended up as a firefighter with a great friend I had known since elementary school, and early in my career, he outranked me in the fire service. However, because we were friends, I thought I could be a goof and I played a ‘prank’ on him by dumping a bucket of water on him while he was in a bathroom stall. In a matter of a few words, he me in my place as a rookie, and taught me the invaluable lesson to know your place and know your audience. It has been a lesson I carried with me throughout my career.

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?

There have been many people who have influenced my life. Many in a way you may not think; as with everyone, there have been people in my life that didn’t necessarily exhibit hallmark leadership, and yet they shaped me in a profound way…mostly how I would not want to be treated.

However, the most significant role in shaping my life would be my father. He was a man of few words, but he was very character-driven. He had strong boundaries and made no apologies for his exceptionally high standards. One of his biggest lessons: he didn’t talk much about standards, he lived them. He more clearly communicated with resolve with his actions than anything he could have said. I learned two lessons that have stayed with me all my life; 1) the power of relationships and 2) character. A lesser skilled, yet committed person of character is far more valuable than the smartest employee. Character is what you do when no one is watching — that is a telltale sign of who you are as a person.

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

Don’t take your work or yourself too seriously. One who takes himself too seriously has been caught up in the trap of image. The impression you want to leave with others is a huge trap — when you take yourself too seriously, it means there is an image portrayal you are too concerned with. If you can laugh at stupid mistakes, then you’re okay with who you are.

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

People look to leaders to take their cues on how to work, how to play, and how to experience the organization. Work culture is a product of the leader’s character more than anything. There is a lot written about culture, employee engagement, the most important thing that it comes down to is — character of the leader. The leader does more to set the cultural tone and tone of employee engagement than anything else. As the leader goes, so goes the organization.

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.

Five Steps to mental health — when talking about mental health, it’s the condition of the psyche and includes how you see yourself and how you see the world around you.

  1. Step one… Awakening (event or series of events that sets the stage for the consideration of a change of mental orientation of world/self, usually comes with some measure of difficulty that causes you to break out common perspective and paradigm you’ve been holding up to this point)
  2. Step two… Recognition (recognition of a healthier outlook, believing a difference is possible) find yourself firmly established on a path to lead to better mental continuum; after pain and anguish of awakening, some may overlap or run concurrently; state in which there is a healthier perspective
  3. Step three Plan (Courage to take the first step and the creation of a plan)place yourself on a trajectory to advance your goals, experiencing a path that is better for you.
  4. Step Four… First Step (Committing to the responsibility you’ve agreed to, making strides forward
  5. Step Five… The Journey (the endless pursuit of self-responsibility, assessment and reevaluation, it is very much not binary.

To not do any of these things is comfortable. Must push through and challenge self. I want to be a different person and I want to see the world differently.

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.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen far too many struggled with the transition into retired life. Two things affect the transition most; 1) the degree with which a person finds their identity in their life’s work, 2) how much thought has gone into developing a transition plan. The unsettledness of retirement gets worked out as bitterness toward though around you, particularly the previous employer. Often time addictions become the coping means, and people throw themselves into addictions as a way to run from a reality they are not prepared for. One should spend years preparing for how to deal with retirement and surround yourself with a support system, hobbies and a plan — just as you did in business.

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?

Children are both hindered and helped by their age. They’re blessed by not having the years of conditioning that create ruts of conditioned thinking which is so difficult to reprogram. Children can be hindered by their age in that they compare themselves to the adults in their lives. We as leaders can impart guidance and kindness to help them prepare for adulthood.

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

Leadership from the Inside Out, by Kevin Cashmen. The book focuses on the central theme of leadership as being an inside out proposition, put into words what I had been feeling for some time as the cornerstone of leadership. Furthermore, it fit with the leadership foundation I had observed in my father. Regrettably, most of life is caught up in the externals of life and not the internals, we are externally focused not internal. We’re caught up in the circles we run in, the possessions we have, the acknowledgment and praise of others. Leaders can help those who work for them break out of that, and this book helps with that.

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. 🙂

The movement would be the realization that how we experience this world is a product of how we process it. Most people believe our experience of life is a product of the situations and circumstances are dealt to us. Acting as though the uncontrollable circumstances of life dictate our quality of life. Life is not done to us, rather we get the privilege of creating our existence, and the circumstances simple are the ingredients we create a life from. The life experience is more what we do than what occurs around us. Unfortunately, most people live to the contrary, measuring their life by the yardstick of life situations not their creativity in the midst of them.

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

“How we experience life is product of how we process it.”

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



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

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