1841 – Power of Ancient Wisdom in Modern Business with Craig Cooke

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks to the Principal Consultant of C-Squared Professional Consulting, Craig Cooke.

Cooke Wide

Craig has been at the helm of a successful digital marketing agency for over two decades, honing his expertise in marketing communications, brand development, and leadership. But what truly sets him apart is his passion for Chinese medical qigong, a practice he's integrating into his consulting work. As he pursues a doctorate in Chinese energy medicine, Craig is on a mission to offer a unique perspective that blends business and holistic well-being.

Craig shared how qigong has been a transformative force in his life. Running a company for 26 years is no small feat, and the stress and responsibilities that come with it can be overwhelming. However, through qigong, Craig found the balance and clarity needed to navigate the complexities of business leadership. He even demonstrated a simple yet powerful qigong exercise called “pulling down the heavens,” which integrates mind, body, and breath to foster inner harmony.

Craig emphasized the importance of personal experience in understanding the true benefits of these practices. It's not just about the theory; it's about feeling the positive impact on one's well-being and performance.

Craig's vision extends beyond his current consulting work. Post-exit, he aspires to create and share content that inspires and empowers others to reach their full potential. His book, “Business Kung Fu: Modern Strategy, Ancient Truth,” is a testament to this vision. Aimed at entrepreneurs, the book distills lessons and principles from his journey in Chinese kung fu and how they can be applied to the entrepreneurial experience.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Introduction of Craig Cooke and his background
  • Craig's consulting focus areas
  • Craig's passion for Chinese medical qigong and its integration into his consulting work
  • Explanation of the practice of qigong and its benefits
  • Discussion on the value of meditation and qigong
  • Craig's post-exit plans and desire to inspire and empower others
  • Overview of Craig's book “Business Kung Fu” and its relevance to entrepreneurs

About Craig Cooke:

Craig Cooke is a visionary entrepreneur who pioneered the “digital first” approach, establishing with a mere $1,300 and an Apple computer alongside college friends. His strategic insight into internet dynamics predated today's commonplace digital terms.

After overcoming numerous challenges, Craig successfully positioned and sold “Rhythm” to a premier digital creative agency in 2019. Serving as CEO for over three years, he completed a remarkable 26-year stint at the company.

Craig's leadership at Rhythm® included collaborations with notable brands like American Honda Motors, Beats by Dr. Dre, ZO Skin Health, Irvine Company, The Travel Corporation, Segway, U.S. Bank, FivePoint, Online Trading Academy, Allergan, Abbott Labs, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, and various other B2C and B2B entities. His enduring legacy is marked by navigating Rhythm through evolution, showcasing adaptability and resilience in the ever-evolving digital space.

About  C-Squared Professional Consulting:

C-Squared Professional Consulting stands as a pinnacle in delivering comprehensive business leadership, brand strategy, and marketing communications solutions, particularly emphasizing digital experiences.

The consultancy seamlessly integrates expert knowledge with dynamic practices, ensuring clients achieve peak performance while maintaining harmony in both professional and personal spheres. Specializing in fostering optimal collaboration, C-Squared imparts strategic insights and infuses energy into its methodologies.

By combining precision in business strategies with a keen understanding of the digital landscape, C-Squared empowers clients to navigate the complexities of modern business environments.

The consultancy's commitment to synchronizing professional and personal success underscores its role as a valuable partner for organizations seeking elevated leadership and strategic positioning in today's dynamic market.

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out  C-Squared Professional Consulting website at

Check out Craig Cooke on LinkedIn at

Check out Craig Cooke on Instagram at

Check out Craig Cooke on Twitter at

Check out Craig Cooke on Facebook at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey, thoughtful listener, before we get going. Did you know that my company up my influence? Com has launched more than 200 business podcasts. The host of our shows are amazing leaders and collaborators. Folks I want to connect you with. Maybe you deserve your moment in the spotlight as a guest of one of these amazing shows. Just go to up my influence. Com where you can see more than 50 shows that are actively seeking business leader guests like you to celebrate right now in front of their high caliber audiences. Just click on the podcast tab and up my influence. Com where you'll see shows like Profit, Powerhouse with Glenn Close, sales negotiations and business insights. This isn't just another business podcast, it's a deep dive into the strategies that truly drive success. Hosted by Glenn Poulos, a seasoned sales strategist and business growth expert, each episode is packed with insights from top executives and business leaders. If you're a high level executive looking to share your expertise and story, we want you on profit powerhouse. Your experiences could be the exact insights Glenn's audience of ambitious business leaders are craving.

Josh (00:01:27) - And for our listeners, if you're ready to elevate your business acumen and learn from the best in the industry, Profit Powerhouse with Glenn Poulos is your go to resource. Subscribe now and join a community of professionals who are transforming the business world, ready to be a part of something groundbreaking? Visit up my influence and click on the podcast tab to find profit powerhouse. Whether you're looking to be the next guest or just seeking invaluable business wisdom. This is where your journey begins. Again, just go to up my influence. Com and click on the podcast tab. With us right now it's author, speaker, consultant and advisor Craig Cook. Craig, you are also the founder and principal consultant with C Squared Professional Consulting. You're found on the web at C Squared Rodeo. And you're also the author of the book Master Your Craft Business Kung Fu, Modern Strategy, Ancient Truth. Craig, thank you so much for joining us.

Craig (00:02:31) - Oh, thank you, Josh, it's a pleasure to be here today. Thank you for having me.

Josh (00:02:34) - Absolutely. I also want to congratulate you for a recent exit of your company, a company that you're the co-founder of and CEO, that 26 years of your life. And again, I had had a great accident a few years ago, so congrats on that.

Craig (00:02:51) - Oh, thank you so much. Yeah, 26 years. It was a great run. And I like to say I equate each year to a mile. So I ran a marathon and it was great you know.

Josh (00:03:00) - Yeah. It you and you feel every year and you feel every mile.

Craig (00:03:05) - Oh yeah that's for sure. I definitely need to decompress after that. And it's all good. And now I'm on to a new chapter in life. It's great.

Josh (00:03:12) - Yeah. Yeah. Well share just a bit about the work you do today and then what? You know, definitely we'll talk about the book and I'd love to hear a little bit more about your background, but let's start with kind of like who you consult with today okay.

Craig (00:03:25) - Great. Yeah.

Craig (00:03:25) - So today I'm consulting in three primary areas. And that's based on my experience of running a company for 26 years. It is a digital marketing agency. So I have a very strong marketing background. So two of the three pillars are related to that. So, marketing communications with an emphasis on digital experiences. Brand development is the second pillar. And then leadership development is the third pillar. And working with business owners, executives of companies and any of those three areas. Also, I have a passion for what's called Chinese medical qigong, and I'm actually been studying that for the past nine years, and I'm enrolled in a doctorate program for Chinese Energy medicine right now. And that was a game changer for me in running my company in 2014 when I came across it. And so what I'm wanting to do now is incorporate that into my consulting work. And I'm, you know, I'm defining that. But I've been doing that, doing some workshops. And actually at a mastermind group, I was just out a couple of weeks ago, led all the participants through some qigong routines.

Craig (00:04:32) - And it really helps balance and center yourself. So I'm creating something new with these couple passions that just have a unique angle perspective on things.

Josh (00:04:40) - Since you've been talking about this,, what are maybe, I don't know if you were to give like a, you know, kind of like a super, super mini TEDx talk on the value of some of those practices or philosophy. What are maybe 1 or 2 kind of key principles that, you know, anyone could adapt and start, you know, working into their daily practice that that would have some tangible benefits.

Craig (00:05:06) - Okay. Well, one of the biggest benefits for me, why I considered it a game changer is my state of mind at the time. Going back to 2014, running a company on the Inc 5000 list, I think it was like probably the fourth year in a row. We were on it and I just found myself being,, really off centered and out of balance with myself mentally, emotionally. You know, when you're managing employees,, meeting client demands.

Craig (00:05:33) - Yeah, working with vendors, juggling family life. You know, it's a lot of stress and pressure, those responsibilities and obligations that are on your shoulders. And,, when I came across qigong, after about six months, I started feeling much more centered and balanced. And at that time, the person that I had met who was I was working with said, would you like to learn this? And he took me on as his first student because I said yes, absolutely, without hesitation. And it's really, you know, the benefit, you know, that quick little story there. The benefit was that I got much more centered and balance, and it really helps you to maintain that balance. Balance is huge. Being a mentally, emotionally centered and balance enables you to think clearly, have clarity, and when you're making big decisions, also when you're interacting with different people, whether it's employees or clients, you know, everything starts with yourself and being right with yourself. And when you're right with yourself, you can have positive interactions with others.

Craig (00:06:33) - So it really helps on a multitude of levels. But, you know, mainly balance. And we all we all need that balance because life is always throwing punches at us. It doesn't stop. Right. But you're better equipped to manage through that.

Josh (00:06:47) - , all right. Well give us some tools because I want that. hahaha.

Craig (00:06:52) - Okay, well, there's all kinds of different things out there, right? And, you know, this is something that worked for me. You know, other people, maybe they like to run or maybe it's yoga or something like that, but with qigong it's the integration of mind, body and breath. So there are static meditations that people can. News. And you know, I'm not going to do that right here. But there are some simple exercises that people can do on a daily basis, whether it's even just five minutes a day, ten 15 minutes a day, 20 minutes a day. So one in particular, it's called pulling down the heavens. Usually I don't like to really show stuff online because I have to kind of like watch people and see if they're doing the motion right.

Craig (00:07:29) - But this this one's very simple. I mean, it's super, super simple and all it entails breathing some sound and visualization. And what that does is it purges, quantifies and regulates meaning that it purges, that we have an energetic anatomy, just like we have a physical anatomy. And our energetic anatomy gets stagnation and blockages of key of energy as we go through our day and have these negative interactions with people, places, things, situations. Right. So,, the sound purges. It breaks apart those energetic clusters that cause stagnation. And then the visualization of light helps. Helps fill that empty space that's been created. And then the combination of the two and along with the motion and the breath helps to regulate, which means balance, keep things in balance. So real quick demonstration note most of the time you do this standing up with knees slightly bent, like you're about to sit in a chair. But you can also do it sitting as well. And the motion is just bringing up your arms. Come in here and then coming down and it's an inhale on the way up.

Craig (00:08:39) - And then it's an exhale here. And on the inhale you're visualizing golden what is called golden earth cheek coming up into your palms, the center of your palms. And then as you turn your palms over, you're envisioning heavenly white chi coming down and then filling your body and rushing through your body all the way from the top of your head, down to the bottom of your feet, into the earth. And then there's a sound. So as you inhale up here. And you come down, then there's a sound., it's a descending, hoarse sound. So it would look and sound like this.

Speaker 3 (00:09:16) - Are.

Craig (00:09:20) - And when that hostile does, it targets the heart center. It vibrates that energetic pool. And that's what helps break away those clusters in that descending sound just kind of helps bring everything from the top all the way down. And that's a very simple exercise that one can do that for five minutes, ten minutes, 15 minutes, just doing that straight. And afterwards you just feel refreshed and ready to go.

Craig (00:09:45) - And and you can do that in the morning. You can do it in the evening. You can do it after you've just encountered some negative situation, you know, and you want to make yourself feel better. It's just a really great, simple, simple tool. And there's all kinds of them. But, you know, just for,, you asked. So I said, well, that's a simple one.

Josh (00:10:04) - Well, you know what I'm thinking? Probably other people like me. I understand that there's value to meditation, for example, but boy, I don't enjoy it. I'm like, I shouldn't say I, I guess I enjoy the benefit afterwards, but during it, you know, I have a a pretty active brain and my active monkey brain, just like it's that is the longest five minutes of my life if I try to meditate for five minutes. But, you know, if I'm maybe doing something a little bit more active, then, you know, it's, you know, and then certainly I think it doesn't.

Josh (00:10:37) - Well, let me ask you this question., you know, I, I'm kind of rationalizing this, kind of thinking about this myself. I suspect that, you know, if you're working with someone or maybe especially if you're in a group environment, you probably have those 1 or 2 people that are kind of maybe not rolling their eyes, but you could tell they're they're skeptical or, you know, what is analytical? Brain is like, how do I do this silly or whatever, right., yeah. And obviously you seem like, you know, come from the business world. Like, how does one kind of, you know, I guess, start to accept the value that that could be had from a practice in qigong or, you know, anything that's a little bit more eastern nature that we as Westerners just don't have as much experience with.

Craig (00:11:23) - Right? Right. So you bring up a few really good points here. One, that's why I, I'm very passionate about sharing this because it was a big game changer for me as a business professional, as an entrepreneur.

Craig (00:11:34) - And I want to share that. And and the great thing is that people can relate to me. You know, people like us can relate to me. I'm not someone that's like, hey, I'm wearing all these white robes and beads and I meditate in a cave and the world is wonderful. Can't you just jump on board like, no, no, no, I'm grounded in reality. I live in the world and I have all the challenges that others do. And I've experienced this, and I'm just sharing one thing that definitely worked for me. So if people can tend to have much more of an open mind because they can relate to me, I can relate to them. So that's one is,, being open and that relatability helps right to with the meditation that you mentioned, it is challenging for people with the monkey mind and we all have it. And and meditation is awesome. It's great. However, what I like about qigong is it has static meditations in it and all kinds of different ones for different purposes, and that's fantastic.

Craig (00:12:32) - But with the movements and and different exercises with, you know, the sound and visualization, it, it incorporates the entire body, your entire being. And when you do that, it has this exponential effect on,, on how it affects your energetic anatomy and it actually affects your physical body, your energy body and your spirit body. That's how the Chinese culture has grouped it in these three things. And three is a lot. And it's different than just meditation, where again, meditation is great and that's a part of your qigong. But that's really emptying the mind. Being still doing a lot of purpose is great, but when you're really engaging the body through motion,, there's,, just a whole host of different benefits. And for someone to really get the value out of it, like what you're asking for, they really have to experience it. They have to go through it and experience it. It's one thing to hear someone like me talk about it or read a book, but that's just knowledge in the mind.

Craig (00:13:33) - Once you experience it and then you can embody it, then that's when the the true benefits start to hit.

Josh (00:13:39) - Yeah, yeah, maybe a little bit. Like you said, you've done some distance running.

Craig (00:13:44) - Oh I'm not a good runner. Yeah I.

Josh (00:13:47) - Know, yeah. Well I mean just casually it's because it's that same thing. It's like, why would you run a marathon? Like I just, you know, and it's like, yeah, yeah, it's, you know, the only marathon.

Craig (00:13:57) - I ran was my business marathon.

Josh (00:14:00) - Oh, okay. Okay. I was going to say, you know, kind of or climbing a mountain or something like that, which, you know, I did a 14 or Pikes Peak last year and it's like, you know, why would you put yourself through that? It's like, because when you get to the end of it, it's an experience that you just can't have any other way. And it's, you know, it's just that, you know, in my case, you know, it's kind of that duality between.

Josh (00:14:20) - Mind, body and spirit. And, you know, to me, it's like one of the most powerful ways to kind of crack that egg open and, and really kind of synergize kind of those three elements, you know, in a way that I just can't explain unless you do it. Like when the body, you know, when you're forced to continue, when the body's just not willing to get, you know, it's like your brain can't motivate your body, then you just have to tap into something deeper. And for me, you know, those kind of those endurance opportunities have been that way. Hey, Craig, before we talk about the book,, I wanted to ask you about,, kind of your practice today. I mean, you had a successful exit. What's your game plan now?, you don't have to work, but yet, you know, here you are. What's kind of your ideal worker that you've created for yourself now.

Craig (00:15:08) - So,, as I was decompressing and taking time off in 2022, I started thinking about, well, what's the next chapter in my life, you know? So I'm still pretty young for the most part.

Craig (00:15:18) - I'm 53. And I said, wow, it'd be really selfish of me just to sit around and do nothing and enjoy, you know, recreation and all that. Like, how selfish is that? Right? When I have a lot to share. So I decided, you know, I really need to define my purpose. And my purpose really going forward is to create things that inspire and empower others to help them fulfill their divine potential. That's how I phrase it. And so the book is one of those components that serves that purpose., doing the consulting work,, is a component that serves that purpose. The qigong practice is a component that helps serves that purpose. I actually even practice the energy medicine aspect of that, where I have a lot of clients that come in and see me on an ongoing basis or randomly at times, which is that's a whole other topic, but that's a part of that purpose. And I think at some point, you know, perhaps I'll, I used to speak at a variety of conferences and so forth.

Craig (00:16:13) - , I'd like to get back into speaking. So that's another component and eventually, perhaps even build a community of some sort. But, you know, one step at a time.

Josh (00:16:22) - Yeah. Right. Right. Yeah. Okay. So Craig business kung fu. And again, if someone goes to your website which is C squared Pro IO, you'll see a link right up at the top that says books and Amazon bestseller. And, you know, at Amazon you can get it both in hardcover, paperback or Kindle. So who should be reading the book and what is the outcome that you would expect you've got, by the way, very good reviews and ratings on Amazon. So congrats on that. Yeah. Thank you.

Craig (00:16:53) - So it's interesting, some of those reviews had some comments that even expand outside the audience that I was intended, but what I really geared it for was for entrepreneurs. That's the context of the book. It's it's my entrepreneurial journey. But with all these lessons and the concept business, kung fu, why is it even called that in the first place? I studied Chinese kung fu from the age 17 to 25 really intensely, and when I started my company at age 25, I took a lot of those principles and learnings from Chinese kung fu and applied it to my business.

Craig (00:17:24) - How I thought about my business, how I structured things, my approach, my discipline, perseverance,, mindset really helped tremendously in running my company. And the book talks about that. It has those lessons in there and and applies how I applied it. And there's all kinds of aspects to it. And it's really at the it's a mindset book geared towards entrepreneurs so they can be inspired and empowered to overcome challenges that they face on their journey.

Josh (00:17:55) - Yeah. And so again, the book you can search it up on Amazon, it's called Business Kung Fu. Or again you can go to C Squared Pro I o when somebody goes to your website, what would you recommend they do?

Craig (00:18:08) - If they go to the book section, they can actually download the first chapter for free. And that first chapter is really cool that it has what's called the five Elements of Entrepreneurship. It's a model I created based on Chinese five element theory. And you know, again, all about balance. And it's about developing and balancing, maintaining the balance of those five elements.

Craig (00:18:29) - Those five elements real quick are passion which leads to discipline, which leads to expertise, which leads to confidence, which leads to faith. And it's that balance of those five elements is what really carries people towards success. So I highly recommend people go down that first chapter because that's in that first chapter and check it out. If they like it, then, hey, you know, go over to Amazon and then there's a forum you can contact me in case you're interested in working with me., in various ways. So yeah.

Josh (00:18:59) - Excellent. Craig Cook again, author, speaker, consultant, advisor, the principal consultant and founder of C Squared Professional Consulting. Your website is C Squared Pro Audio and the book is business Kung Fu, modern strategy, ancient truth. Craig, thank you so much for joining us.

Craig (00:19:18) - Oh, thank you so much. Josh. It was. A lot of fun and really had a great time. Thank you.

Josh (00:19:28) - Thanks for listening to the Thoughtful Entrepreneur show. If you are a thoughtful business owner or professional who would like to be on this daily program, please visit up my influence.

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