Fridays with Friends: Phil Cooke on culture, crime fiction, and the benefits of boredom

Image courtesy Phil Cooke
Image courtesy Phil Cooke

An internationally known writer and speaker, Phil Cooke has produced media programming in nearly fifty countries around the world.  In the process, he has been shot at, survived two military coups, fallen out of a helicopter, and been threatened with prison. And during that time – through his company Cooke Pictures in Burbank, California – he’s helped some of the largest nonprofit organizations and leaders in the world use the media to tell their story in a changing, disrupted culture.

According to former CNN journalist Paula Zahn, Phil is rare – a working producer in Hollywood with a Ph.D. in Theology. He’s appeared on NBC, MSNBC, CNBC, CNN, Fox News, and his work has been profiled in the New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Wall Street Journal. His book “Jolt!: Get the Jump on a World That’s Constantly Changing” shares his secrets of making today’s culture of disruption and change work for you.  “One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do” helps you find the great purpose and calling for your life – and was named by the Washington Post as one of the Top Five Business Books for 2012.  His new book is “Unique:  Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Social Media.”

Phil has lectured at Yale, University of California at Berkeley, UCLA, and is an adjunct professor at the King’s University in Los Angeles.  In addition to writing his blog at philcooke.com, he also blogs for The Huffington Post, and is a contributor to Fast Company, Forbes.com,  and FoxNews.com.

On behalf of All Nine’s “Friday with Friends” series, author/historian Kevin Belmonte recently conducted this interview with Phil:

Image courtesy Phil Cooke
Image courtesy Phil Cooke

Kevin Belmonte: What/Who/where are your consistent sources of inspiration?

Phil Cooke: Certainly I’m a fanatical reader, and love all things related to culture, but oddly enough, I do my best work when I’m terribly bored.  Whether it’s listening to a boring lecture, waiting in the doctor’s office, or standing in line somewhere, when I get bored, my mind starts racing.  That’s important to think about because today, our mobile devices are robbing us from the value of boredom.  These days, when we don’t have anything else to do, we don’t daydream or stare out windows, we whip out our mobile devices and check email, text a friend, or watch a video clip.  In our relentless efforts to keep from being bored, we actually are killing our creativity.  To be inspired in the 21st century, we need to learn to set our technology aside, and be willing to daydream.

KB: What artists (musicians, poets, painters, photographers, filmmakers, etc) are you following/do you recommend? (i.e. who are your faves?)

PC: My wife Kathleen and I are both museum hounds.  In 2012 alone, because of our media production company Cooke Pictures, we travelled nearly 250,000 miles, and wherever we go, we look for a museum.  I’m terribly inspired looking at the greatest art, music, and literature in the world.  Just last week, we were at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and saw two fascinating exhibits.  One was on the brilliant work of Italian artist Caravaggio, who worked primarily between 1593 and 1610.  And the other exhibit was about the extraordinary filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.  What a mixture!  But seeing each of those exhibits together really shakes up your thinking.

I happen to be in an Ernest Hemingway phase right now where I’m reading through all of his short stories.  My guilty pleasure?  Raymond Chandler novels.  I could care less about the details of crime fiction, but I’m addicted to Chandler’s hard boiled writing style.

KB: How can readers of All Nine get involved in what you’re doing?

PC: My work is primarily focused on how anyone with a powerful and compelling message can engage the culture more effectively.  I happen to be a Christian, and how people of faith connect with today’s disruptive and cluttered culture is my primary passion.  But my books – from “Jolt!” to “One Big Thing” to “Unique” are about how anyone can cut through the clutter of today’s media saturated world, and get on the radar and get noticed.  My background is television and film production, so I’m especially interested in helping writers, filmmakers, musicians, and other artists get their work out there.

My books are all available online through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and you can find most of them at local bookstores.  I would also encourage readers to visit my blog at philcooke.com, where I hash out issues related to faith, culture, and media on a daily basis.  Since I’m a little on the A.D.D. side, I find Twitter is my second language, so you can find me regularly posting on Twitter: @philcooke.

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