Guy Kawasaki On Why He’s Proof That ‘It’s Never Too Late To Thrive’

The author and chief evangelist of Canva on his evolving relationship with his phone, the book he tells everyone to read, and why he has an inbox he simply calls ‘No.’

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Guy Kawasaki: Before I even get out of bed, I scan email and LinkedIn. This is not the answer you want to hear, right?

TG: What gives you energy?
GK: Playing ice hockey and surfing give me energy. I try to do one of the two every day. Sometimes I do both on the same day. Sometimes I go surfing two to three times in a day.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
GK: My secret life hack is that I have SaneBox take a first pass at my email. My virtual assistant monitors the SaneLater inbox while I attack the regular inbox. I also have a mailbox called “No;” I drag any requests the I am declining into this mailbox for my virtual assistant to handle. She answers them in a warm and empathetic way and is better at being me than me.

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 
GK: If You Want to Write by Brenda Ueland. This book changed my life because it empowered me to write back in 1987. I have told tens of thousands of people to read it, and no one has ever told me that this was lousy advice.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you? 
GK: I believe in polygamy. Sometimes I sleep with my phone and sometimes with my iPad. I monitor news all the time because the U.S. is at a crisis point politically, and I am doing my best to “resist.” My grandchildren will not wonder if their grandfather resisted.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
GK: I answer email, check LinkedIn, check Facebook, and check the surf conditions — not necessarily in that order.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
GK: No b.s., but I seldom, if ever, feel burned out vis-a-vis work. I love what I do. I love the pace and the challenge. I have a very high tolerance for work. I have ASD: attention surplus disorder.

The only time I feel burned out is when I get caught inside while surfing. For those not into surfing, getting “caught inside” means that you catch a wave, fall off, and the rest of the waves in the set make it hard to get back out. This happens regularly to me — being the kook that I am.

On the other hand, I did take up surfing at 62. That’s not ideal, but it’s never too late to thrive.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it? 
GK: Don’t get me wrong, I don’t consider myself an amazing success, but I don’t think I’ve spectacularly failed either. I’m in the middle. I just keep pushing through thick and thin without a lot of highs or lows. I love to grind it out. It’s the secret to my success. No one can out work me.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
GK: “Stop reading inspirational quotes and get to work.” Guy Kawasaki


Guy Kawasaki is the chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool, a brand ambassador for Mercedes Benz USA, and an executive fellow of the Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley). He was the chief evangelist of Apple and a trustee of the Wikimedia Foundation. He is also the author of The Art of the Start 2.0, The Art of Social Media, Enchantment, and nine other books. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College.