Gary Bradt is a clinical psychologist, entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, and writer on change and leadership. He is dedicated to helping executives and individuals adapt to the inevitable change that comes with life so they will not be left behind. Bradt is an executive leadership coach and consultant for 30+ years, who aims to inspire people to new heights in both science and art.
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 Fairfax, Virginia, a suburb of Washington DC. My father was the Chief of Psychology for the CIA. He was one of the first psychologists to apply psychological principles to business. Indeed, he developed the first comprehensive leadership training program for the Agency. Later, as I studied psychology in graduate school, I decided to follow in his footsteps. I remember taking a walk with him then and saying to him, “Dad, tell me about this leadership stuff.” That led to me joining a boutique leadership consulting firm out of grad school, and I have not looked back since.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Oh my goodness, this is an easy one. That it’s okay. That whatever troubles or worries or concerns I may be experiencing at the moment it’s going to be okay. I have the resources to deal with whatever it is. So lighten up. In fact, whatever I might be worried about today, there is a. 99.9% chance it will fade from memory in the future. So relax. It’s okay, and you’re okay.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
Leaders who give their folks a rah-rah speech about the need to change, but then neglecting to give them the tools needed to do so. I liken it to someone saying, “Hey, go build a house over there,” without providing the nails, wood, tools, etc. needed to get the job done. If you want people to change, tell them why it is important; how the change will impact them pro and con; and then give them the tools and training they need to get the job done.
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?
Alas, depression runs in our family and I’m not immune. Specifically, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. (Ironically I worked as a volunteer research assistant on some of the original SAD research under the direction of my new friend, Dr. Norman Rosenthal.) Anyhow, SAD is a wintertime depression that tends to kick in during the fall as the days get shorter. Its effects can be debilitating. So, SAD has literally led to some of my darker days on this earth. Happily, I know how to combat it. I exercise, walk in the sunlight, use a therapeutic light, practice mindfulness, and study contemplative practices. And I consider this: suffering is a gift as well, as it allows me to relate to all others who suffer and whom I can then try to help.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
Not taking myself too seriously. I am just one man doing the best I can to figure life out as best I can and then pass on what I learn along the way to others through my work, family, and friendships.
What is your morning routine?
I am an early to bed and early to rise type so I am usually up somewhere between 5 and 5:30 AM. Many days I’ll take a five-mile walk and use that time to listen to favorite books and podcasts. My mind is freshest in the AM as well. Therefore, after my walk, I’ll go to one of my favorite nooks and crannies in my home and get to work on emails, writing, catching up on the day’s news, creating content, staying in touch with family and friends, etc.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
Mindfulness provides me the self-awareness necessary to not become captive to my passing thoughts and emotions. Mindfulness protects me from defaulting to knee-jerk reactions to people or circumstances; actions I may later come to regret. Our greatest superpower is our ability to choose. Awareness, honed through mindfulness, is the path to freedom from the ill effects of many of life’s stressors, including stressors that are self-induced (which are most of them)!
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
Develop a routine of healthy habits for mind, body, and soul. Know what time of day your mind and body are most alive and plan to do your most important work then. Take frequent breaks during the day, both physical and mental. Move. Breathe. Maintain important relationships. And practice self-compassion. Beating yourself up for life’s inevitable screw-ups is just piling on.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, MD. Shortly after WMMC? came out, I met Spencer. Six months later he asked me to be the leading speaker worldwide for the book. Four years and over 100 talks later, I saw the power of the written and spoken word to change people’s lives. I saw as well how much people struggled to cope with change. I dedicated the rest of my career as a speaker and writer to help people adapt to change faster and better. The years that followed brought additional insights. My speaking and writing portfolio now consists of helping people address change, leadership, happiness, and well-being. For me, those four topics are inextricably linked. My goal is to inspire people to strive for a better life, however, they choose to define that, and provide them the tools to help them get there.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
Perhaps my favorite is Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘man in the arena’ quote: “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.”
This quote aligns with the theme of one of my favorite musicals: The Man of La Mancha. It is not the wins or the losses that define a man or woman but rather the passion and effort that they are willing to extend in the effort. Combined with striving for a cause greater than oneself, well, that says it all for me.