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Mental Stamina of a Great Business Mind — an Interview With Adam Cole for Thrive Global About About How to Play the Long Game of Creativity

We've had the chance to interview Adam Cole, who is an expert on the creative process. For the past 30 years, Adam has written and published over a dozen fiction and non-fiction titles. He enjoys learning and teaching others how to be successfully creative in today’s world.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Cole, A Jazz Musician Who Writes Books.  A fantasy author turned musician who writes about the process of learning, Adam has released over a dozen fiction and non-fiction titles.  He is featured in Reader’s Digest, Psychology Today, and NBC.com and serves as a regular contributor to periodicals such as UpWorthy, Transzion and Fupping.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? How did you get to be where you are right now?

Adam was compelled to begin creating from the age of 6, when his first idea for a novel struck him.  Always conscious of the hazards of pursuing the creative path, he found that when he shared what he had learned, he not only kept the lesson but he attracted other people to him.  Since then, he has gone from the young man at the typewriter to an author sought by international markets, and he is still sharing!

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? How did this quality help you overcome obstacles on the path of becoming an influential and inspiring leader?

I am an introvert who knows how and when to act like an extrovert.  Unless I’m talking to crowds of people, which I love to do, it isn’t easy for me to sustain myself in public settings.  Because it’s necessary to be public to connect with people, I’ve taken my musician skills and built upon them with the help of my Dale Carnegie training so that I can influence and inspire.

What does it mean to be mentally-strong in the hyper-competitive world of running a business or an organization?

People think your biggest obstacle as a creative person is rejection.  It’s actually indifference. Even your most well-meaning family and friends cannot give you the affirmation you need on a daily basis to get up and create the next thing.

You have to have an internal sense of your own worth from the beginning even if there’s no evidence for it yet.  If you think you might have what it takes, go ahead and try. You’ll find out, and if you’re strong enough inside, neither success nor failure will stop you.

If you don’t have that sense of worth, you need to use whatever resources are at hand to get it.  This is a daily thing, not a once-and-you’ve-got-it thing. No amount of fame or success can fix you if deep inside you aren’t for yourself. 

A lot of people in the business world feel as if talking about mental health makes them appear weak. How do you feel about showing mental strength and setting an example of what it takes to have the strong mental stamina to succeed?

One of the most helpful things I found out is that Bruce Springsteen suffers from depression and anxiety.  These overwhelming feelings can appear to be an obstacle because successful people don’t appear to have them and you want to be like them.  The more you hear that successful people have the same doubts and hindrances as you, the less likely you are to use those feelings as an excuse.

Is there a particular person, a book, or place of wisdom that has inspired you to become a successful and mentally-strong leader?

I’ve been inspired by so many people that I’m still getting around to thanking them.  Any time I’ve been in the presence of someone who excelled at their craft, like Robert Spano, conductor at Oberlin College, whose sincere presence commitment to bring out the best in a college orchestra just gave me the shivers, I’ve taken their example to heart and said, “Yes, this exists, and I can be that too.”  I have so many friends and teachers who have moved me along the path, and I’ve tried always to let them know.

Can you give us 5 tips on maintaining strong mental health stamina to succeed in the modern business world? Tell us a little about why each point matters.

  1. Know what works for you.  There’s a lot of advice out there, and if you can’t filter it to find what’s best for you at this time, you’ll be overwhelmed and none of it will reach you.
  2. Always begin, every day.  Writing is basically just chipping away at that huge rock, and whether you get in a sentence or a page, if you moved forward you won that day.  The trick is to take whatever inch you can get.
  3. Have the end in mind.  I keep a master plan handy with my big goals listed.  I’m comfortable with going for years with them still undone because I know that I will eventually get to them, and this is my particular strength.  Others might need more motivation to tackle the goals, but if they’re on a list that’s not going anywhere, you won’t be able to forget them.
  4. Do what scares you, as long as you can recover from it.  I have a generalized anxiety disorder, and sometimes just going somewhere to play music, or writing a sentence, is monstrously difficult for me.  When I do the things that scare me, even if I’m having a terrible time while I’m doing them, later, after I’ve healed, I discover that I didn’t die, and the next time is a little easier.
  5. Sometimes you go in the wrong direction and you get there faster.  For example, a dog wants a steak on the other side of a fence, and he can bang his head against that fence for years, or he can go the opposite way, find the gate, and work back to the steak.  A lot of times surrender, failure, and doing things “the wrong way” will ultimately get you where you want to go in a way that following advice or seeking the quick path never do.

What does it mean to be mentally-strong in the age of information and technology?

Technology is a tremendous tool that allows a creative person to assume all roles: creator, designer, publisher, agent.  It also can force a creative person into assuming all roles, which is exhausting. It’s important to know yourself well enough to realize when it’s time to ask for help from another person so you can focus on your strengths.

Can an imbalance in private life cause a mentally-strong leader to deviate away from the path of success? Why? How to alleviate this problem?

In some cases private crises spur public success when the pursuit of that success becomes an effective escape from the crisis.  Ultimately, though, private crises catch up to you and can erode that success. Being present to yourself and your loved ones, even when it seems it may detract from your public work, is the best way to stay effective and potent in the long term.

What works best to maintain strong mental stamina as a leader? Yoga? Meditation? Listening to music? Something else?

Any kind of work which restores us to our sense of self is effective.  I’ve written extensively about the Feldenrkais Method and its use in this way.  I also meditate for a few minutes each morning.  

Building a strong leadership position requires intense interaction with other people. These professional interactions can be both positive and negative, depending on the kinds of people we interact with to achieve our goals. What is the better choice to make to achieve greatness: learn to interact with toxic acquaintances to ‘get to the top,’ or choose to be a loner and do all the grunt work individually without dealing with the toxicity of others?

No one succeeds alone, and anyone who seems to be doing that simply has a team working for them that prefers to remain anonymous.  To succeed you need people in your life, difficult ones, supportive ones, neutral ones. Learning to interact with people is always a great investment of your time and energy.

Relationships are toxic, not people.  If your relationship with someone isn’t working, you do whatever you can from your side to get what you want out of it.  If the other person is unresponsive and that doesn’t work for you, then it’s time to jettison the relationship.

In 2019, what will be the best way to recharge energy?

I used to wonder who the Beatles of this generation would be, who would change the cultural conversation and create a gap between the way things were and the way they have to be in the future.  It’s occurred to me that, because young people today are not separated from older people’s music and popular culture the way they used to be, that those “Beatles” would have to be in a completely different realm.  I think it’s going to be politics.

This generation’s “Beatles” will be politicians, not entertainers. They’re going to threaten older folks by doing government and leadership a completely different way, and older folks won’t like it and won’t be able to stop it.  In the end, we’ll all benefit from it, and those who really listen will get their charge!

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Being creative isn’t something you have to do for money, success or fame.  However, if you want to use your creativity to become rich, successful or famous, it generally has less to do with your creative process or product, and more to do with basic business principles that any car salesman can tell you.  It’s important to separate out the creativity you’re doing for you, and the creativity you’re doing as a business, because they can require somewhat different processes.

If the readers of this interview series would like to read more about you, how they can reach out?

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