Sterling Hawkins is out to break the status quo to create what’s actually possible for humanity in our time. He has spent his career igniting new views and inspiring people to act on them. He went on to be involved with the launch, growth or investment in over 50 companies. Today, Sterling reviews over 1,000 new technology companies every year further refining the keys to realizing breakthrough innovation and giving back that experience as a mentor to leading entrepreneurs working through exponential growth. He is the co-founder of CART, a platform to drive adoption of emerging technologies at fortune 500 companies.
What drives you? | I’m constantly driven to realize the full potential in myself and others. There’s this funny thing about potential — we treat it like it’s real even though it’s not yet. We might even say to each other: “you have so much more potential!” or “your business has the potential to…”. I’m about not just seeing that potential, but taking the steps to make it real.
What do you think is often the difference between people who are good at what they do and people who are great at what they do? | What makes people great is a commitment to excellence over time. Most people can do an 80% job; it’s the attention to small details adding up over time that brings it to that 100%. We’re all capable of it, it just takes a tremendous willpower to continually stand for that greatness.
What has been your biggest failure / learning experience? | I have two actually. The first came when the group that acquired my first company raised over $550 million USD before going bankrupt. The company was great at spending more — first class tickets, parties at the Four Seasons, bringing in high-profile business people . I was ready to retire and buy an island with my holdings. I left before the bankruptcy, but I learned how not to operate a business and what not to do. Maybe more importantly, I learned that satisfaction, fulfillment and real innovation come from within, not the external world.
The second was about five years ago when another business I had fell apart. At the time is coincided with some family issues, a romantic relationship ending, and I had very little cash. It was like my life had become a bad country song. But my mom, quoting Robert Frost, told me, “The way out is through.” I realized the path to success and to fulfilling potential was by owning and doing the hard things in the future.
What are the principles and values that you believe are important to live by? | The highest principle I live by is integrity and honoring my word. I am always going to try my best to do what I say I’m doing to do and if I can’t, I tell people straightaway. It takes integrity to build not just businesses, but personal relationships.
On a psychological or mind-set level, how do you use your mind and how do you think in a specific way to help you achieve your goals and realize your ambitions? | Plato said, “Necessity is mother of invention.” Whenever something has me stuck, I come back to that quote. Whatever that thing is, it’s by embracing it fully that I’m able to see it clearly and see it as something to use to my own advantage. Things either can happen to you or for you. I chose to see obstacles as they’re happening for me to extract the potential from the chaos.
How do you deal with self-doubt, fear or negativity? Can you share a time in which you either doubted yourself the most or had great fears, yet faced up to them and conquered them? | I continually push the boundaries of what’s possible for myself, not only psychologically but physically. I do all sorts of adventure activities like skydiving, 100 mile bike rides, shark diving, etc. I push my feelings of nervousness to edge of discomfort and breakthrough that boundary. Physical resilience develops mental resilience since it’s the same biological response. Doing demanding physical challenges helps keep my brain and my body in the physical world so I don’t get caught up in my own head.
How do you ensure you are always feeling energised and performing at your peak? | To be truthful, I don’t always perform at my peak. But to get closer to that peak, I use two things. First, I exercise. I practice yoga almost everyday. It’s great physically and mentally because it resets my body and mind from day before.
Second, I rely on the support of the people around me. They can hold me to a higher standard than I see for myself and keep me accountable for the things they know I want to do.
What resources (people, books, environments, movies, music etc) do you use to keep yourself inspired, informed and growing? | It takes a lot of resources :). First, there’s the support of people around me in various capacities, especially my friends and family. They help pick me up when I’m down.
I listen to a couple books on tape every week to develop my knowledge and be inspired.
I put myself in ecologies of people that have similar aims to my own. For example, I like to spend time with people who have a stronger yoga practice than me so I can deepen my own practice. Or I have lunch with business mentors who can lend new perspectives and advise around what I’m up to.
I actually try to stay away from the news because it’s pretty alarmist nowadays, but when I do read the news, I look for things I can learn from people in all situations.
Good live music or movie every now and then doesn’t hurt either.
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