Pass It On: Addiction network CEO emphasizes education

American Addiction Centers CEO Michael Cartwright learned the lessons of recovery and treatment first hand.

He struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol as a teenager and young adult. After recovering in his 20s, he found his passion working as a rehabilitation caseworker and eventually created a series of drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

Today he prizes education and expertise in running his company's nationwide network. When personal and professional challenges arise, he relies on meditation and prayer. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity:

Q: What key things can a manager do to create a workplace culture that makes a business top notch?

A: I think you should expect and demand excellence from yourself first. As a leader, I try to come in early and stay late. I try to read a lot and inform myself. I try to become highly educated about what I'm doing in the field that I'm doing it in.

And I ask all my team members to do the same, whether you're a nurse in one of our facilities or you're a front-line staffer checking in patients.

I think at every level in your company I would hope that your workforce is trying to truly get knowledgeable. At American Addiction Centers I would hope that everybody here is as passionate as I am about saving lives and, on a daily basis, trying to make a difference in somebody's life to get better from the disease of addiction. And you're in a better position to do that if you're knowledgeable.

Q: What are the keys to tackling your most difficult challenges?

A: Whenever I've faced a very challenging personal or professional dilemma, I think the number one thing to do is to stay calm and pray a lot. I know that sounds simple, but it is very effective.

A lot of times we build stuff up in our mind that we think is a problem, but it's not even really a problem. And so I always try to start out with prayer and meditation and then I ask myself "Is this really a problem or is this something I just need to work on?"

There have been very few times in life where I've had an insurmountable problem. It's usually just that you've got to work through the answer and sometimes it's just working seven days a week, 12 hours a day to figure it out. But that doesn't constitute a problem, it's not a crisis. It's just that you've got to put some extra effort into figuring out the answer ... When things are really tough I rely a lot on exercise because it gets the endorphins pumping and gets your mind clear.