By Jessica L. Dupree
Edited by Darlene Aderoju
Photos by Johnny Jones
From Sgt. Major to history making Hollywood executive, Keith L. Craig talks defining success on his own terms.
When multi-faceted Walt Disney Executive Keith L. Craig released his No.1 international bestselling book Serving to Lead in June 2020, the retired Command Sergeant Major opened up about the magnitude in which servant leadership can impact a community when practiced effectively.
After powering through 32 years of dedicated service in the U.S. Army — where he became a highest-ranking non-commissioned officer — Craig transitioned into civilian life and became a record-breaking Film Distributor at Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, having worked on smash hit films including Black Panther and Avengers: Endgame. The latter is the highest-grossing movie of all time.
He opens up to Heart & Soul about his journey from homeless to military hero turned award winning Entertainment Executive.
Craig reveals what inspired him to publish his book depicting the importance of servant leadership, equality and justice for all.
“As political, social and cultural issues became the center of global conversations, Americans recognized the need for leaders who valued the equality, fairness and decency across all sectors of business and government,” he tells Heart & Soul. “Communities from every race, background and people recognized the significance of having leaders who understood what Martin Luther King Jr. meant when he said, ‘Everyone can be great because everyone can serve.’”
Throughout his decades-long career in the military, Craig’s years of serving the nation have distinguished him as a stellar role model to those aiming to make a difference. He has been honored with several coveted awards in recognition of his selfless duties including: the Legion of Merit Award, three Bronze Stars (for three separate combat tours), the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal and the Army Achievement Medal. The Legion of Merit award is one of the most prestigious awards in the U.S. armed forces.
With such reputable achievements under his belt, the proud retired Sgt. Major enjoys a peaceful life devoting his time to doing what he loves most — teaching, mentoring and sharing the meaningful lessons he has learned throughout his career.
One major theme Craig hopes to teach future generations is the art of defining one’s own success, which he learned to do according to his own terms.
In his role as a key film distributor, Craig plays a significant role in developing effective strategies for global theatrical sales and distribution. He has worked on incredibly successful projects including Oscar-winning film Coco. One standout movie in which he assisted was Avengers: End Game, which became the highest grossing film in history with more than $2 billion dollars in global sales.
He tells Heart & Soul the trick to redefining what success means.
“Ask yourself, ‘Who decides the definition of success?’” he begins. “I’ll tell you repeatedly that it’s you. You have complete control of your life.”
Craig reflects on some of the obstacles he faced and the strength it took to climb his way to the top, “Throughout my lifetime, I’ve learned to become resilient. There was even a time when I was homeless before joining the military. Now, working in Hollywood, my journey might ultimately make a ‘feel good,’ story but it’s much more than that. I’ve been faced with plenty of challenges, but I chose to conquer them.’”
The renowned author continues, “Don’t be afraid to ask for what you’re looking for but be okay with not getting it. Because I had the courage to ask for what I wanted, I’ve gotten this far.”
“Success doesn’t always take the form of money or fame or buying ‘fancy’ things,” adds Craig. “There are multiple ways to win. For me, I will never let anyone have leverage on me. That’s my happiness and how I control my success. Continue to stick with your own principles and keep your convictions.”
For Craig, reaching back and sharing the lessons he has learned is paramount. Craig challenges us to define success for ourselves and understand what it really means to overcome the obstacles that arise with unwavering resilience.
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