Craig Coppola with his family in Switzerland in 2018.
Why Craig Coppola is a man with a plan
Success in business or life doesn’t happen without at least a little bit of planning. One look the Top 10 goals of at R. Craig Coppola and it’s easy to see why he’s found success in just about everything he’s tried.
Coppola, one of the Founding Principals and the highest producing office broker in Lee & Associates 40-year history, keeps an 80-page, color-coded spreadsheet with detailed plans on how he will accomplish 10 goals he’s set out for himself.
“I’m a really organized, achievement-oriented guy. I plan work, free time, I plan all of my events,” said Coppola. “(Former Navy SEAL) Jocko Williams, who I follow closely, has a book titled, ‘Discipline Equals Freedom’. I’m a believer in that. Discipline allows you, when you plan, to do whatever you want to do in life.”
And Coppola has been able to do a lot during his lifetime thanks to a focus and discipline that was kindled at a young age. Coppola recalls that as a sophomore at Buena High School in Sierra Vista, he got called up to play one varsity baseball game at first base. His dad was the coach and his older brothers, one a senior and the other a junior, played third base and second base, respectively.
“After the game he told me, ‘you aren’t good enough to stay up here.’ And he sent me back down,” Coppola said. “I think at that point the decision to really focus and apply myself really came in and for the next two years I really did apply myself.”
That focus led Craig Coppola to a successful amateur baseball career, first at Yavapai College and then Nicholls State in Louisiana. He was drafted in the 22nd round by the Minnesota Twins and played a year in their system before embarking on his current career path. He remained active, running his first marathon in 1987 and his last in 2004. In between, Coppola estimates he completed more than 80 marathons and ultramarathons, including the 2001 Marathon des Sables, a six-day, 156 mile ultramarathon through the Sahara Desert in Morocco.
To add another activity to his running regimen, Coppola picked up Taekwondo in 1993 and earned his first-degree black belt in 1994. In 2002, he earned a 3rd-degree black belt and was picked to be on a team that won the U.S. team Taekwondo championships and the World Championships in 2004. That team was inducted into the International Taekwondo Hall of Fame in 2015.
It would be natural to think that someone who has built a successful career and family life wouldn’t have time for too many activities outside of the office, but Coppola’s meticulous plans and focus have allowed him to pursue several activities many only think about, but never attempt, let alone accomplish.
“I’m really focused on my goals,” said Coppola, flipping to pages in his goals folder. “Here’s my next two months, how many days I’m working, how many days I’m traveling, how many days I’m free. This is how I live my life. It’s pretty organized.”
One of Coppola’s rules for himself is he must spend 30 days each year, “on the ground.” That simply means he goes on multiple-day backpacking trips and goes off-the-grid to give himself time to refocus and rejuvenate. He’s hiked around the world, including hiking to Everest Base Camp and spending two weeks hiking other mountains in the Himalayas.
“Hiking to Everest Base Camp is pretty cool and we hiked a couple mountains around that, but meeting Tashi Tshering and having him guide us for 2 weeks was the highlight,” Coppola said, referencing the legendary hiking guide who was highlighted in John Krakauer’s novel, ‘Into Thin Air,’ which chronicles an ill-fated expedition to summit Mount Everest in 1996. “To hear his perspective of life made the hiking ancillary to the lessons I learned.”
Coppola is the author of five books and has two more books in the works. The first three were business-related, and the final two delve into his personal life. In “The Fantastic Life,” Craig Coppola chronicles how he organized his life so he could live what the title suggests, and in “What Now? A 5-Prong Approach to Handling Cancer Diagnosis & Treatment,” Coppola details his journey as a cancer survivor and gives advice for others on how to navigate what is a life-changing process.
“When you’re faced with your own mortality, you want to make sure you can give another lesson to the kids,” Coppola said. “‘The Fantastic Life’ was written with them in mind, and now my weekly blog, LIFEies, as well.”
After he was cancer-free five years ago (he celebrated five years cancer-free with a clean scan in April), Coppola pondered retirement. With that in mind, he made a goal to have lunch with ten people age 65 or older. Coppola gave these lunches the name “chimera,” which means something that is hoped or wished for, but is impossible to achieve.
“I had some questions. How did you transition? What did you do right? What would you change? How do you like what you’re doing now?” Coppola said. “I had those 10 lunches and they were fabulous, so for the last five years I’ve just continued them. I’m on my 97th lunch.”
Coppola said that after his third lunch with someone who was fully retired, he knew that he wanted to keep working. He feels that in the last five years since he was found to be cancer free, he has given more effort to building and maintaining personal relationships and living that fantastic life he wrote about. His four children have all graduated from college and are in the early stages of starting their own families, his Craig Coppola-(Andrew) Cheney team at Lee & Associates is enjoying record numbers and he’s managing to meet all the goals he’s set for himself to date.
“I’ve actually probably sped up my life more. I’m looking for more things to do, more achievements, more experiences and to really embrace life,” Coppola said. “Now all of our kids are going to be out of college and are all launched, that’s been the last five years and I really feel good about that. I’ve hiked in another 10 or 12 countries in the last five years. I have great relationships, we’ve really solidified our team here at Lee & Associates to allow me to do that. It’s been a really interesting five years and shows how much you can accomplish in five years if you’re focused.”