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.

Frank Shankwitz is the co-founder of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a global organization that grants a child’s wish somewhere in the world every 28 minutes, on average. Earlier this year, a movie based on his life, Wish Man, hit theaters. The impact of his nonprofit has been transformative — for countless families, and for Shankwitz himself. “Meeting and interacting with so many families of ‘wish kids’ at speaking events, and more importantly, getting to meet kids who have survived a life-threatening medical condition and are now adults has truly impacted my life,” Shankwitz tells Thrive. 

In his Thrive Questionnaire, Shankwitz shares lessons he’s learned, how he doesn’t let stressors lead to burnout, and the surprising advice he’d give his younger self

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?

Frank Shankwitz: Say thank you for another day, have coffee and get the paper on the front porch, then finally turn on the phone and check on messages and to-do’s for the day, week, and month/months.

TG: What gives you energy?

FS:  Family, keeping up with my kids, grandkids, and great grandson, and then the adventures, book and movie promotion, speaking engagements, and involvement with several non-profits.

TG: What is the power of giving back?

FS: Hopefully, the self-satisfaction of helping someone or something. A simple act of kindness can cause a ripple-effect and change someone’s life.

TG: What is your favorite Make-a-Wish story?

FS: With almost over a half a million wishes granted world-wide, that’s hard to answer. Initially, it would have to be granting the wish of seven-year old Chris, who wanted to be a Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer, like his heroes Ponch and Jon from the then-popular television show, CHiPs, and the Arizona Highway Patrol made it happen. There is a misconception that Chris was the first wish child, when in fact he was the inspiration to create the Make-A-Wish Foundation, with the first official wish granted in March 1981.

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

FS: Wish Man — writing my own book has brought back some not-so-pleasant memories, but also brought back so many fond ones.

TG: How do you deal with email?

FS: I avoid having to deal with the phone email alert on 24 hours a day. Today, the email alert is off, and email is checked only after coffee and reading the paper.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

FS:  It is not in my nature to feel burned out; if anything is negative, I learn how to turn it into a positive.

TG: Can you share a time you failed and how you learned from it?

FS: I was taught at a young age that you don’t really fail at something, it’s only a learning experience on how to succeed.

TG: What advice would you give your younger self? 

FS: Fill your own cup first. I mean that financially — take care of you and your family first.  When the cup is full financially and starts overflowing, you start helping others. I didn’t do that, and am actually still trying to fill my cup. I never took a salary from Make-A-Wish, because I have always wanted the funds to go to fulfilling wishes.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

FS: “Everyone can be a hero.”


  • Lindsey Benoit O'Connell

    Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships at Thrive

    Lindsey Benoit O'Connell is Thrive's Deputy Editor, Entertainment + Partnerships. Prior to working at Thrive, she was the Entertainment + Special Projects Director for Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Redbook and Woman's Day booking the talent for covers and inside features. O'Connell currently lives in Astoria, NY with her husband Brian and adorable son, Hunter Fitz.