Adam Kreek is the founder of KreekSpeak Business Solutions. He is an executive coach, author, speaker, and rower. Kreek published the bestselling business book The Responsibility Ethic, and is also known for his popular weekly newsletter: Quote, Comment, Question.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
I grew up in London, Ontario, an average Canadian town. In fact, it had the reputation of being the most average town in Canada and was used to test new consumer products. My dad was proud of this, and would often tell me, “Son, you should be proud. You live in the most average town in Canada!”
My life was very middle class, low key, and average. All that changed, I suppose, when my rowing coach told me “Adam, you’re an Olympian. You just don’t know it yet.” His faith in my abilities seeded a journey I could never have predicted.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
We have so much time on this planet. When I was young, I endured periods of time where either my ambition crippled my enjoyment of the present moment, or my lack of progress depressed my emotional state, making it very difficult to act.
I wish I would have realized that it will be OK. Even in the worst circumstances of my life, there was always something positive to focus on.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I am an executive business coach who develops leaders. Some of the worst advice I hear is related to the sales pitch. Development is not quick and is not always easy. Leadership development can be simple, but it takes time. Anyone who sells a quick fix to a high performer is probably not telling the full story.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
I choked at the Olympic games and nearly died in the Bermuda triangle, but you can read about that in my book, The Responsibility Ethic. More recently, I had a flare-up of a chronic back injury after spending too much time cramped up in airplanes, following a full presentation and training schedule.
In December 2018, I was admitted to the hospital with severe back pain and sciatica in both legs. I have high pain tolerance, but this episode pushed me to my limit – a 9.5 out of 10. Movement would dull the pain sensations, but I couldn’t sleep or be still without extreme pain.
Having chronic pain is horrible, disruptive, and distracting at the best of times. At the worst of times, it’s a complete mind-twister. It interferes with your ability to earn money and provide for others.
Pain is a very strong motivator for change and action. Keep trying new things. Keep innovating and experimenting. Create your new paradigm of health.
I came out of the pain slowly. It took six months to fully recover.
Moving my back from a lower-level priority to THE priority ensured a speedy recovery. (Although recovery from injury is never speedy enough…). My priority was to change habits and embrace a new paradigm that will make my back stronger, longer.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Work hard and have faith in your abilities to drive results. Having the faith to act is an essential ingredient for finding success, happiness, and fulfillment at work. You must have faith in your organization, the products and services you offer, your boss and coworkers, and especially in yourself.
Today’s highly uncertain world has closed the book on the era of left-brained, analytical dominance, and most business owners have been slow to realize this. No longer can we simply analyze and predict our way to business success. Although this left-brained approach has been the dominant mode of thinking and problem-solving for decades of business design, we now know it is not well suited to dealing with uncertainty, because uncertainty cannot be predicted. When business leaders rely solely on analytical skills and design their businesses to complement that mode of thinking, they leave themselves more vulnerable to destructive, unpredictable events, and less responsive to unexpected opportunities.
What is your morning routine?
I wake up between 4:30 am and 7 am. No day is the same. I go through periods of time where I have a defined schedule, goal, and outcome, and other periods where an organic approach to starting the day works better. Regardless, I like to hydrate myself, move my body a bit, spend quality time with my family, and solitary time meditating, reading, or creating.
What habit or behaviour that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Setting personal priorities is key. Unless you identify what needs to be done for you, you will end up achieving other people’s plans – not yours.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Build an environment that supports work. We are creatures of our environment and will respond to the stimulus that our surroundings generate.
I like to identify action triggers in my life that push me into motion. Then, see if that motion is serving my goals and allowing me to live my values. If that trigger is? Great! If it’s not? Rebuild the environment.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Many books have influenced me. Here is a list of my favorites:
- Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
- The War of Art by Stephen Pressfield
- Eat That Frog by Brian Tracy
- Awaken the Giant Within by Anthony Robbins
- The Obstacle Is the Way and Ego Is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
- Success Principles by Jack Canfield
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Drucker Collections by Peter Drucker
- Scaling Up by Verne Harnish
- Getting Things Done by David Allen
- Born Standing Up by Steve Martin
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
- Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart by Mark Epstein
- Mindset by Carol Dweck
- Brain Rules by John Medina
- The Picture Bible by David C. Cook
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle
- The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Better Man Literature
- Triumphs of Experience: Men of the Harvard Grant Study by George E. Valliant
- Stealing Fire by Jamie Wheal, Steven Kotler
- Boy Crisis by Warren Farrell
- The Wayfinders by Wade Davis
- Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
- Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari
- Assault on Lake Casitas by Brad Alan Lewis
- Rowing Into the Son by Jordan Hanssen
- Chariots and Horses by Jason Dorland
I would be amiss to not mention my own book, The Responsibility Ethic. The act of writing a leadership development book based on my personal experiences was difficult, yet deeply satisfying.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans. That the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.” – WH Murray
My life has been blessed by Providence, and each of us can be blessed, too. When we work hard and have faith that the best outcome will occur, remarkable results happen.