Chasing Financial Freedom

Ep 271| Cultivating a Zen-like Focus in the Midst of Entrepreneurial Turmoil with Craig Cook

March 13, 2024 Ryan DeMent Episode 271
Chasing Financial Freedom
Ep 271| Cultivating a Zen-like Focus in the Midst of Entrepreneurial Turmoil with Craig Cook
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Unlock the transformative power of Qigong in leadership as we sit down with Craig Cooke, a masterful entrepreneur with over two decades of digital marketing prowess. His journey from agency leadership to business consulting and energy work is a testament to the evolving nature of entrepreneurship. Please tune in and draw from Craig's wealth of knowledge as he imparts his experience on integrating the calm of Qigong with the chaos of managing a business, providing a fresh perspective on executive development.

Dealing with the relentless buzz of notifications and the allure of our smartphones can derail even the most seasoned professionals. Craig joins us to dissect these modern-day productivity pitfalls and offers practical strategies like time-blocking and prioritizing to reclaim your focus. We delve into the psychological parallels of constant availability and traditional medicine, revealing how Qigong can be a game-changer in managing the nervous energy that comes with the entrepreneurial territory.

Balancing the scales of work and life is no small feat, especially when your business rests squarely on your shoulders. The episode wraps up with vital discussions on setting boundaries and the art of delegation. Craig's invaluable insights into trust-building within teams and creating systems that work for you will resonate with anyone looking to harmonize their work life with personal well-being. Connect with Craig Cooke for tranquility amid your busy entrepreneurial life, and empower yourself with strategies that blend ancient wisdom with modern business savvy.

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Speaker 1:

Hey guys, Ryan Dement from Chasing Financial Freedom podcast. Hope you guys are having a great day. Today on the podcast, we have Craig Cook. Craig is an author and a consultant for business and energetic practices. I think this is going to be a good conversation, guys, because we're going to talk about some interesting things that Craig is doing, but also how we can improve ourselves. Craig, welcome to the show.

Speaker 2:

Well, thank you, Ryan, for having me. It's a pleasure to be here and I'm happy to share with your audience.

Speaker 1:

Thanks, and I know it was short notice, but thank you for coming on, looking forward to our conversation. But before we go there and down some rabbit holes, can you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself? Sure?

Speaker 2:

So my career span 26 years of running a digital marketing agency. I started it in 1996. So those are the early days of the internet and I was marketing independent music online and then adapted and pivoted and changed to focusing on companies Small businesses at first and then grew to mid-market, to large enterprises, grew. The agency had great success with it. I was on the Inc 5,000 list five years in a row that's of the fastest growing private companies in the country and also best places to work. Four years in a row and just a lot of great things. I sold the agency in 2019.

Speaker 2:

I stayed on for three more years in my role as CEO and then, two years ago actually this month I left and I just relaxed for a bit, because I equate each year to a mile. So 26 years, 26 miles. I ran a marathon, so I need to decompress a bit and rest. And then I started defining my next chapter and that's the right. Now I'm in my next chapter in life and I'm sure we'll get into it. But yeah, that's where I've been and that's where I am now.

Speaker 1:

So let's start with your next chapter. Let's tell the listeners a little bit about that chapter and we'll start figuring out what we can talk about.

Speaker 2:

Okay, sounds good. So last year I started after I came out of my hybrid nation. I let everyone on it go hey, I'm available for this and this. So one of the things that I do business consulting. That was just a natural transition from the 26 years of running a digital marketing agency, and I really defined three pillars, and that's marketing communications with an emphasis on digital experiences, and then brand development and then leadership development, and I picked up clients right away and have been doing that work over the past year.

Speaker 2:

And then there's another area that I'm very passionate about, and that's what's called Qigong or Chinese energy medicine, and I'm actually enrolled in a doctorate program right now for Chinese energy medicine, and I'll be finishing that this August, and we can get into that. But that's a whole other area, and what I'd like to do is combine the two in a very interesting way to just have a very unique perspective in the marketplace, and that's how I started. My original company was combining a passion for music and a passion for technology together to create something new. Yeah, I'm just going to repeat in a different way, though.

Speaker 1:

So what you're doing today, plus, is it Qigong? I don't want to mispronounce it. Yes Qigong, yeah Qi, and then Gong, gong Qigong. Yep, how do those two play nice in the sand and how is that going to help your clients going down the road? Yeah, it's a great question.

Speaker 2:

So I think where it really comes into play is in that leadership development pillar and, from my personal experience, why I want to share it is because of what it did for me the impact that Qigong had for me as a business professional and running my company In 2014, I found myself just very out of balance and off-centered mentally, emotionally, just from all the pressures and demands of running a company. You have your employees, you have your clients, you have your vendors, and then family life and a lot of different demands, pressures, obligations, responsibilities and I was just out of balance. And I was referred to this one gentleman named Russ Anderson, Qigong practitioner, a really great man, and I'd see him once a month for six months. And after that six-month period, I found myself feeling so much better, just much, much more centered and balanced, like my old self, and I was like, wow, this is fantastic. And then he asked me if I wanted to learn how to do this work and I said yes, absolutely.

Speaker 2:

So I started learning training in January of 2015. And I've been studying it ever since and for me it's a game changer. So it's that experience that I want to share and with that, I'm someone that other professionals can relate to, because it's not like some of this topic could sometimes seem out there and strange to some people, but I'm not someone who's like coming down the mountain that's been meditating in a cave wearing the same clothes for six months and all those things Right. I'm just a regular guy and it's very practical and it did something great for me and I just wanted to be able to share that.

Speaker 1:

So what are the principles behind it?

Speaker 2:

So Qi Gong literally means energy skill or life force energy skill. So Qi is life force, energy, and then Gong is skill. So it's really essentially the skill of working with energy. And, yeah, we take all that kind of strange esoteric view that some people may have about it and we take more of a scientific perspective, like quantum mechanics, quantum physics.

Speaker 2:

You have scientists such as Albert Einstein, nikolai Tesla who have stated in their own terms everything is energy, frequency and vibration. So that's what we're working with energy vibrating at different frequencies. The way I like to articulate it is that everything is information vibrating or expressed as energy vibrating at various frequencies. So just like we have a physical anatomy, we have an energetic anatomy, and Qi Gong allows you to work with that energetic anatomy for various outcomes. So there's a work that you can do on your own to cultivate your energetic anatomy and work with it to have certain impacts, effects. And then there's also actually having a treatment session done or, like someone like myself that has been trained, can actually give treatment, energy sessions to people for various conditions to have specific outcomes.

Speaker 1:

Hmm, Very interesting, so I guess I don't know enough. So I'm going to ask some crazy questions. But how can entrepreneurs take advantage or learn Qi Gong and be able to apply it in not just their entrepreneurial life, but what about their personal life?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, this is where it's really great. Great question, actually not crazy question at all. Fantastic, like I said, for me it was a game changer. Why do I say that? Because back in 2014, I was just really off-centered and off-balance and that affected me in two ways professionally and how I interacted with my team and other people in a business environment, and then also my personal life, the relationships that I have at home and friends and so forth. When you're off-centered, off-balance, you're extremely stressed. Yeah, there are times where you can get triggered very easily or maybe your way of thinking that you just don't have clarity of thought, that you can act more rashly, maybe not take the time to take all considerations into viewing the entire picture to make really sound decisions. There's all these various things that different emotions and interactions with people, places and situations have on us that affect our emotional mental state, and the more healthier state we're in emotionally and mentally, the better we can not only just feel ourselves, but the better we can interact with others in a professional and personal setting.

Speaker 1:

That's loaded. There's a lot in there, so I'm going to try to pick it apart a little bit and digest it. So I guess I can use myself as an example. I struggle with balance because I'm an entrepreneur. I got that and I know that I need time to rest and recharge and so forth. How can I—what would be—let's go with the top two principles of Qigong that we could gong. I should say that I could implement or try to work within my life to get myself balanced. But also I need at times to be more focused and I'm working on some different ways to do that. I'm guessing this would also help, too, with that.

Speaker 2:

It does so with Qigong. There's all kinds of different exercises and there's also meditations as well. Qigong, you can break it down and say it's all meditative actually. And there's dynamic meditation, which really involves movement. Dynamic because it's not still, it's movement, it's simple, it's not like Tai Chi when people see Tai Chi in the park, so it looks similar to that and they're very closely related actually.

Speaker 2:

And then there's static meditation, where you're either laying down or you're sitting or you're standing to do just static, still meditation. So it's all about integrating the mind, body and breath and through getting into a meditative state it could do a lot of great benefits for you relaxation, being able to focus the mind, as you mentioned the need to focus. There could be various emotions that you're experiencing that could be bringing you out of focus. So my first thought is you might be racing from thing to thing, item to item, jumping, maybe overthinking at times, and maybe there's just an underlying nervousness about various aspects of getting to task, getting into the next task or executing tasks, getting work done. This situation, that situation, is that fair.

Speaker 1:

I don't think there's a nervousness piece. I think it's more of I. I handle everything. I'm soup to nuts. I'm unfortunately, that's just where it's at, and when there's a lot of things on my plate, I have to sit down, write a list and figure out what prioritize, and that's something I've gotten better over the years. But I still think I can do better. To where I can block more time out of my day to do specific items or tasks, to where my mind will quiet.

Speaker 2:

I see yeah, so maybe it's just a. It sounds like you're very structured and organized and you're probably really proficient at that and you're maybe being your own worst, getting better.

Speaker 1:

I don't want to say I'm proficient, I'm getting better with that, but I'm learning that the number one distraction I have is my phone. And if I put my phone on do not disturb during these blocks where I'm trying to get things done that are revenue generating items, I can get them done a lot quicker and move on to the next task. And I struggle with not being able to if someone calls me not to pick up the phone, someone sends me a text and it's all business related to not respond. I'm still working through that, but I'm getting better to where I can put my phone on, do not disturb for an hour to two a day and be okay with it, and it doesn't drive me like insanely bonkers. Oh my God, what am I missing?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So what you just described there is what I mean by. You may not think it is, but I do classify that as like an underlying nervousness, not like nervousness like you would classically think of being. Oh, I'm nervous, it's more oh, yeah, if I ignore this text. Oh, my God right, that's a symptom of nervousness. Actually, it's a nervous trait and it's very natural and common. Yeah, I have the same issue and it is so common. What you just described Now, that energy, that nervous energy, and also overthinking too, because maybe the overthinking of how well or not you are doing is also all that energy resides in the spleen, each of our what are called five-yen organs, which is the heart, the lungs, the liver, the spleen and the kidneys.

Speaker 2:

They all have like positive and negative aspects to them. So we look from an emotional state, there's various emotions that you could consider negative that are associated with each of those organs. So the spleen aspects of overthinking and underlying nervousness reside in the spleen. So if you were to come in, if you were to see me and if I was going to treat you, I would do what's called a general treatment protocol, which addresses all the organs actually, and it purges, tonifies and regulates and we can talk about what that means in a minute. But then I would probably pay extra attention to your spleen and then when you, before you leave, I would give you an exercise that you do on your own every day that would concentrate on that spleen to help again purge, tonify, regulate the spleen energy.

Speaker 1:

Because I don't know how to the best way to describe it is when I can be hyper-focused, non-distracted, of course I'm more productive, but I am also that underlying. You call it nervousness, and I can agree because I'm always worried about that. It tends to go away and it's you know what. I'll get back to them when I can. But then the other side of my brain does kick in every so often and says oh my gosh, if I don't pick up the phone when these people, someone, calls, I'm missing out on business. And I'm in that type of business because I'm in real estate development. I'm also in blending you pick. If you don't pick up the phone, they just go to the next person. So I have to find a way to work through that, and that's going to be through another virtual assistant is probably. What I'm going to do is just have my phone during those times forwarded to a virtual assistant number and they can pick up and then take the information and we'll figure it out. But yes, I do struggle with that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and, again, very common. And I can totally relate because for myself I was like for the longest time it's just like the king of email. So an email boom, I'd respond immediately and just always, just I wouldn't wait a day, I would just be like always right there on top of it. And there's actually a positive aspect of that, like what you described. Even though it gets away in the way of some tasks and getting executing tasks, it could also be viewed as a standout, because not everyone responds in a timely manner.

Speaker 2:

A lot of people don't actually yeah at all, Like when you reached out to me, like we went back and forth real quick and set up the show. Like that I can probably relate to you and this is why I feel compelled to share what has impacted me because, again, I can relate. I've walked this walk, I've experienced what you and others are experiencing as entrepreneurs and I just have a variety of tools at my disposal that may help everything. Everyone is unique and different and we'll find things that work for them. For me, qigong was a game changer, but there's other stuff too that comes into play, and for you it might be that or it might be some notes.

Speaker 1:

We go back to that topic of most people don't respond in a short period of time. So how can you as an entrepreneur, and then also how you're helping people. How do we get over that? Because, realistically, I think we set ourselves up for failure in that arena, At least for me, and this is just me personally. We could go back and forth, but I do. If I don't pick up the phone, I feel like I'm letting myself down and I'm letting business go away.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I completely understand. It's a great question. It's all about balance, just like all the QGON practice is all about balance. Before I said emotionally, mentally, how to balance and how it got me in balance also with just executing work. There's a fine line of balance in Act that must be done. What you do is great because, again, it can make you a standout. Ryan is on top of it. That's what people think. When someone's so responsive, ryan's a standout like, wow, this guy's on top of it, oh, I trust him, he's going to get the job done. That's great. Where it turns into a detriment, where we can get out of balance, is when people are sucking our time because we're wanting to respond and, like you said, not lose business or address needs and provide top level service. Some people, unfortunately, what should be a five minute conversation will take 40 minutes of your time or from my experience.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I agree, I can agree. Or I get the Sunday afternoon text from a potential client that says I know to reach out to you because you're a workaholic in your 24-7.

Speaker 2:

What happens is it enables these people to not intentionally take advantage. Most people are well intended. There are those that will take advantage, for sure, but I wear, oh yeah, I don't have to be as organized, I don't have to have everything as put together as I should, because Ryan will just take care of it.

Speaker 1:

He's also on top of it and I think that's a detriment to myself. I am my boundaries. Typically on the weekends I will work, but Sunday afternoons I have to disconnect. I really don't. I just let them know that. Hey, I got your text message. Unless it's a barn burner and your house is burning, I'll get back to you tomorrow. I need some time to disconnect. Spend it with my family, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And most of the time yeah, it's healthy, and they realize that, hey, it's okay, but it's and we're going to keep on going back and I really like to talk about that piece, and this is not me, it's just. We have some individuals that are, let's say, small business owner, entrepreneurs, that you can't get them to respond if their life depended on it to whatever. Then you have the opposite extreme, like you and I, where we respond quickly. How can we balance those two out to where we find that middle ground but also feel like we're being one productive but also an asset to our potential clients or whoever we're interacting with?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, one is the boundary setting, which you already said you do on Sundays. There could be some additional boundary lines that are set up, whether for yourself or anyone in a similar situation is one. Two, you mentioned earlier about a virtual assistant. But, yeah, what can it help support system do you have around you as you get inundated? And you, as an entrepreneur, you wear all these different hats.

Speaker 2:

From my experience, it was whenever I found myself spending too much time on a particular activity that interfered with my most productive and profitable activities. I realized, okay, it's time to relinquish that to someone else. Agreed, yeah, that could be different for everybody, because everyone's unique and their business is unique and so forth. I think what you mentioned earlier having a virtual assistant to help respond is a great idea. That's one thing. Another thing could be, which is challenging too, but setting blocks of time for certain things. But that's for me.

Speaker 2:

It was very difficult in dealing with what you described because, again, I totally relate, easier said than done, but that could be something that works for others that are say yeah, let me just for the first two hours, I'll be very responsive about the next two hours I'm focused in, et cetera. So there could be those set schedule for that my team, my marketing agency that I had. They also were challenged, especially our leadership management team, and they were beginning pulled and trying to be responsive. But yeah, that was a real problem for them. So it ended up where they did schedule time on the calendar where it's like do not disturb, they're not available, their heads down doing their work that they need to do, and for a number of them that really helps quite a bit. There's going to be different things for different people that work more effectively than other tactics, but those are a few. I think the support and really relinquishing those hats of critical importance. So I'd say that's number one, as long as the revenue allows for that.

Speaker 1:

That's tough to take those hats off and then put it into somebody else's hands. Trust, it's trust.

Speaker 2:

But it's trust.

Speaker 1:

But it's also as the entrepreneur. You have to be willing to put processes in play and we can go in a whole different rabbit hole with that. But that's where that starts in. I've had a virtual assistant that handles all of my post production stuff for the podcast. But that's four years of building trust and putting together SOPs and being on the right page the same page, I should say when it comes to the podcast. Now I need to find somebody that I can trust on the sales side, because I'm the sales person minus the real estate agents we work with on our projects. I'd like to be able to have an in-house salesperson that could make outbound calls, take the inbound calls, be able to set up the appointments when needed. So I'm working on that process flow and what it looks like, but can I tell you that being able to get that accomplished in a relatively short period of time is not going to happen when I'm wearing all this hat. Yeah, and that balance that we struggle with.

Speaker 2:

It is Totally understand, totally relate, and it is essential. You have the right mindset, though, that you need to have systems in place so that people can work effectively not only effectively from working within a system, but how you like to get things done, how you like to see things get executed, because you have your way, your style, and it's important to define that process so that, when someone else steps into your shoes, that you're not getting angry because they're not doing it the way that you expected them to do it Right. That's something that a lot of people fall into. So there's having those systems in place. So trust is a big deal, which trust also resides in the spleen, too. Lack of trust that's the negative aspect of the spleen, and one thing for me in my mind because everything that I believe starts with the mind, proper mindset is being okay with your team members when they fail. Some people get really spun out extremely upset and angry when their team members just fail. Sometimes it can really hurt from a monetary perspective, but if you think about it, as long as that person acknowledges the mistake and learns from it, the chances of them repeating that are much smaller. So wouldn't he want someone who's very competent because they know what not to do and, in addition to what to do, that can, over the course of time, really have solid performance.

Speaker 2:

And for me, as I was coming up in my company and I bootstrapped my company, $1300 in the computer is what it started with and no investors or anything. So I was doing everything and I made a ton of mistakes, but I ended up being extremely excellent at what I do. But that's because I screwed up a ton and made tons of mistakes and I was like, oh, I'm not going to do that again. Oh, I'm not going to do that again. So it's having that understanding that. Oh yeah, that was me back then. Let me be okay with them failing, though, as long as I make sure they acknowledge and understand and have learned from it, they'll be better next time around. And it takes trust, but that's the mindset I advise.

Speaker 1:

The failures really shape us and they help us get to a better place. But then you get to pass those failures on to the people that potentially replace you or do those tasks that you did. They're priceless. When I first started in this role in entrepreneurship, I thought failure was like a four letter word. It took me several years to realize that these failures were shaping me for better things, but also learnings, to where I could share those learnings with others and that's where my social media has gone to.

Speaker 1:

Is I just talk real Sorry. Every Wednesday I do a true talk. So the five, six minute video that I short video just talks about what's going on during the week and my struggles. Some people think I'm crazy that I'm sharing my struggles. I'm like you know what. We all have them. If I can share what is going on with my entrepreneur life, GleamFlemmit finds something that works for you or maybe you learn from it and not make the same mistake. That's great. But I'm just sharing. It's just being open and honest, and I think that's probably one of the biggest things that I've learned on this journey is just being open and honest with myself and saying, okay, it's okay to fail, Now what you do afterwards is what counts.

Speaker 2:

A hundred percent and that's awesome. You do that. It's being extremely, as you said, open, vulnerable and authentic, which people really appreciate, and the people that could criticize that approach, they probably have their own issues at play with that. I commend you for doing that. I think that's awesome and, as a leader, as you continue to scale your business, that's an outstanding quality to exhibit, to demonstrate to others, and it really builds. Just. You have to have trust in your team. They also have to have trust in you as a leader, and having a quality like that really helps people see you as another human being and someone they really would rally behind, in my opinion.

Speaker 1:

And I think being open and honest in that human touch is what draws me to other people too, and we could go down this rabbit hole and we're coming to the end. But we can talk about it really quickly and I'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Social media has made us, in pretty much instant, gratification and, unfortunately, all the fake stuff that's out there. It is what it is. I'm not social media is a double-edged sword. We could go back and forth on it and so forth, but I honestly think if we actually put the time and effort into what we put out on social media to be transparent or however you want to say that, I think that makes our lives better in the real aspect of what we're actually doing, because you're now, you're being not just transparent but also being honest with yourself.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah. If you're not honest with yourself, you're not going to acknowledge areas of failure or even slight mistakes or things that you could maybe did good, but how can you have done even better? You're not going to acknowledge those moments and evolve. Essentially, I love that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, evolve, I love that.

Speaker 2:

True.

Speaker 1:

That's truly what we need to do is we need to evolve as leaders, and I think what you're doing but also taking a holistic approach in trying to find those things that are really, I say, eating at us, because that's what they are, because they eat at my insides too is big for entrepreneurs and small business owners or whoever you're working with, because I honestly think that will translate to our personal lives also.

Speaker 2:

I never said I truly believe professional development and personal development are closely intertwined not disconnected, but intertwined and they go hand in hand. And that's the way I always supported my team members. And one thing that you said is very important earlier is what social media has done with instant gratification and that conditioning that, especially younger people. Just because they were the generation coming up, they were born with it, my generation built it, the millennials grew up with it and Gen Z was born with it. So there's this instant gratification aspect that has affected all of us, but especially with the younger crowd.

Speaker 2:

And as an entrepreneur, things just don't happen instantly, man. It takes time, and that's my book, business Kung Fu, that I just came out with a few months ago. That's the cover there. There's a model in there called the Five Elements of Entrepreneurship that I speak about, and it starts with passion.

Speaker 2:

Passion leads to discipline, discipline leads to expertise, expertise leads to confidence and confidence leads to faith. So if we look at discipline, they don't do something and all of a sudden the world changes and oh easy, oh, that was easy, awesome, yeah, I'm so successful and doing an instant success. I like that. Oh man, the first five years for me were brutal. It was brutal, oh my God, something I really would not want to repeat, but hey, I had to have discipline to stick through it. And also it led into expertise, which led to confidence and faith and so forth, and I talked about that in the book and it's extremely important for people, especially younger people that are going into their careers, maybe wanting to become an entrepreneur, to have that understanding that instant gratification just isn't the way it happens.

Speaker 1:

Everything you said there in that last segment is I'm 100%. Those first five years, my first four and a half five years, probably the same thing, probably the rough it's been. And if you asked me while I was in the middle of the fight if I'd be willing to go, my mom would test me and say, ok, you ready to go back to a W2 job? Nope, I'm still going to fight through. I'm still going to keep on going. And to this day she jokes around with it and asks but I'm with you, I wouldn't give up those times. Before we wrap up, are you taking on clients?

Speaker 2:

I am. Yeah, I have capacity, but it is limited. So if anyone is interested in working with me, they can find me on LinkedIn, at CraigCook, with an E at the end of LinkedIn and slash CraigCook, and then also my website, which is csquaredproio that's the letter C and then squared proio, and there's a form on there that people can fill out, and I monitor both those channels very closely. I will receive the information and respond quickly, actually, and also people can download the first chapter of my book for free at my website and they can learn about the five elements of entrepreneurship that I briefly described. And I'm on social media TikTok and Instagram and all that stuff but LinkedIn and my website are the best ways to get in touch with me.

Speaker 1:

OK, I will put all those links in the show notes so people can get ahold of you Awesome, awesome. Thank you, sir, for coming on, love what you're doing, great conversation and us entrepreneurs. We do need some different strategies to help us calm our mind, calm our insights, to get us focused, and thank you for what you're doing.

Speaker 2:

Thank you so much and thank you for having me today. I really appreciate you. You're more than welcome.

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