The Thrive Questionnaire with Director James Clapper

What this former Director of National Intelligence has to say about life after leaving the government, leadership, and President Trump's tweets.

 SAUL LOEB/Getty Images 

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’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
James Clapper: I turn on CNN, of course, and then make the bed….always a good way to start the day; you can do something simple and mindless, but it is a chore done.

TG: What gives you energy?
JC: Finishing projects—yard work, washing my car, finishing ironing, cleaning my fish tank, after a work out at the gym.

TG: What’s a daily habit or practice that helps you thrive?
JC: Much the same answer as #2; for some reason, since I left the government, I get a lot of satisfaction out of house chores; sounds weird, but it’s true.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
JC: I often read news clips before I fall asleep, and leave the iPhone next to the bed, but I turn it off and charge it. I also don’t take the phone with me into the gym where I work out; I’m one of the few who don’t carry a phone. Very un-millennial.

TG: How do you deal with email?
JC: Am not as anal about it as I was when I was in the government; I try to respond quickly and follow up—old habits hard to break, I suppose.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
JC: Crossword puzzle in the WaPo—at least on the “easy” days.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
JC: The last few months as DNI; the problem was I didn’t really understand I was burned out until I stopped.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
JC: This is a hard one to answer. I’ve failed a lot, or at least felt I hadn’t done something as well as I could or should have…

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
JC: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

TG: The President of the United States sometimes tweets negative comments about you. Are you on Twitter? If you aren’t on Twitter, how do you deal with this?
JC: I don’t do any social media; normally, someone tells me if Trump Tweets about me; I got asked about this on New Day once, and said they don’t bother me—which in itself is a very sad commentary.

TG: What was your proudest moment as Director of National Intelligence?
JC: I was very proud of a speech entitled “Black Lives Matter” that I gave at two historically black colleges; another speech I gave to an IC LGBTA Summit. Very proud after the UBL takedown.

TG: What makes a great leader?
JC: Someone who is humble, has a sense of humor, works hard, and treats people of all ranks and stations as well.

TG: What is one thing a lot of people may not know about you?
JC: I’m really an introvert at heart.

James R. Clapper served as the fourth US Director of Intelligence from August 9, 2010 to January 20, 2017. In this position, Mr. Clapper led the United States Intelligence Community and served as the principal intelligence advisor to President Barak Obama.

Mr. Clapper retired in 1995 after a distinguished career in the U.S. Armed Forces. His intelligence-related positions over his 32 years in uniform included Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence at Headquarters, US Air Force during Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and Director of Intelligence for three combatant commands: US Forces, Korea; Pacific Command, and Strategic Air Command.

Director Clapper is currently an on-air contributor at CNN.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

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