We had the good fortune of connecting with Bruce Craven and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Bruce, do you have some perspective or insight you can share with us on the question of when someone should give up versus when they should keep going?
Let me answer this question from two perspectives. My first perspective is from the point-of-view of being a teacher, consultant and speaker. I’ve learned that once I meet my students — whether they are senior-level leaders in organizations, on-the-rise MBA students or executive level MBA students — my energy will be sparked by the chance to offer them useful insights and bring my enthusiasm and experience to help them pursue their dreams. This sparking, catalyzing energy I feel will happen in a month-long leadership program, and it will happen in a 3-hour on-line leadership talk. Regardless of their age, when my audience is curious and hungry to achieve what matters to them…their aspirations will be my fuel. My second professional example is in writing, and then it gets tougher. My instinct is to never give up, but sometimes on a writing project, such as a novel, a film script or a non-fiction book, the sound of doors slamming is followed by the sound of complete emptiness. It can appear you have no options at all, no interest from any important decision makers. You’ve reached the end and might as well admit it. I only quit on a project for good one time, calling my wife from the Columbia University campus to say that I should admit a project was finally and completely dead. That night I walked into a jazz club in Harlem and got an email from an editor, making an offer on that same project. Rather than give up, I usually put the project down mentally, and move to something else. Just let it rest and wait for some new ideas on how to push it forward. It can also be massively helpful to partner with people that believe in the project as much as you do. I’ve been lucky to work with a few people that also just don’t know the meaning of the word “quit”….and our combined energy has made us stronger.

What should our readers know about your business?
I published a non-fiction book titled “Win or Die: Leadership Secrets from Game of Thrones” in 2019. Getting that book written, while living in the Palm Springs area and teaching at Columbia Business School in NYC was a major test. The book was developed from a business school elective I teach called “Leadership through Fiction”. I was lucky to have a number of great opportunities to promote the book in 2019, including being on the stage at the Harvard Club in NYC with one of the producers of “Game of Thrones”, Frank Doelger, and speaking to audiences of business leaders on stages around Southern California, including San Diego, Santa Monica and Rancho Mirage, as well as in New York and Madrid, not to mention delivering a variety of podcasts and webinars. In 2020, this has all gone virtual and has worked fine. But this path wasn’t one I considered early in my professional life. I didn’t see a path that joined my interest in leadership and in writing and reading fiction. The mythologist, Joseph Campbell, argues that we will be called to step out on our hero’s journey. For me, that journey was about being a writer, but then I heard a different call…and I hesitated to accept it, because I didn’t see anyone who had done it, but then I made the choice to give it a try. My early chosen path was to find some way to pay the bills, while I wrote poetry, fiction and screenplays. I kept at those pursuits, but I also got hooked by leadership…and how business education, or executive education, could help people achieve their dreams, support their organizations, and their countries. I’ve worked in different roles for over thirty years in that field and been fortunate to work with people from all over the globe. One big moment for me was twenty years ago, when I decided I needed to push myself into teaching leadership. After that insight it took some years to carve it into really happening. The big insight that followed was when it occurred to me I could use fiction — films/shows/novels/plays — to teach leadership. That is a big part of what I do these days: use fiction to help personal and professional leadership ideas stick with people.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Since I live out near Palm Springs, I’ll suggest a quality desert tour! You need to make some kind of visit to Joshua Tree National Park, either for a drive or a hike, and then go to Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown. This is a unique high-desert music venue, with amazing chili, assorted bar-food and perpetually great energy. (They are operating smoothly and safely during the pandemic.) On your way back down into the low desert, there are a variety of great spas in the town of Desert Hot Springs; the most famous is Two Bunch Palms, which is awesome, but I have tried others, all unique. There is a new Mexican restaurant called Delicias Mexican Cuisine, which I strongly recommend…and also a great local Mexican spot called Zappopan. If it’s your thing, Desert Hot Springs was the first city in California to embrace the cannibas industry. When you get into the Coachella Valley, we often take people to the world-class Living Desert Zoo and Gardens…and a family favorite with our sons is to go to Bill’s Pizza…or Musashi Ramen. For a phenomenal view of the valley, you might stop in for a meal or stay at the Ritz-Carlton in Rancho Mirage.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This could easily be a long list, including my wife/business partner, and a number of fiercely honest and solid friends in both NYC and LA. However, in the spirit of The Shoutout series, I’ll acknowledge the encouragement of my former Hollywood roommate: actor, director and writer, Max Martini. We met in NYC, back when both of us were working as bartenders. Max is a powerful, successful actor who is focused on helping veterans. In 2019, Max and his producing partner, Michael Hagerty, released an excellent film that Max wrote, directed and starred in: “Sgt. Will Gardner”. Their production company donated a significant percentage of the film’s proceeds to support charities for veterans suffering from PTSD, TBI and homelessness. Since our days in NYC, I’ve been impressed by Max’s capability to be optimistic, adaptable and tenacious. He always brings a “never quit” fighting spirit.

Website: www.cravenleadership.com
Instagram: @ledsofa
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bruce-craven-4a7b95/
Twitter: @ledsofa
Youtube: A short piece on my leadership course: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQNbH2tEvBQ
Other: This is a link to a project I did with Columbia Business School and TIME Learning. This offers a person the chance to purchase 6 hours of pre-recorded, ten-minute leadership talks. https://time.com/columbia-gsb-leadershipsecrets/

Image Credits
Mark Shaw

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