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.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Brad Meltzer: Check email, then the news. I don’t check social media until I’m at my desk. I want my work, not someone else’s, to be at the forefront of my brain before I jump into the day.

TG: What gives you energy?
BM: Kindness. Kindness undoes me. When my Mom died, what hit me hardest was the outpouring of true kindness from the least likely places, like a friend who I knew at 14 years old showing up at the funeral just to see how I was. That kindness is my forever fuel.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
BM: I can take a paperclip, unbend it, and use it to get 200 credits on most video arcade games. (Children reading this: Arcades are cool. And so is my paperclip.) Also, I start every day of work by reliving the lowest moment of my career – just to appreciate what I have every day.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
BM: Watchmen by Alan Moore.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
BM: Our greatest strengths are our greatest weaknesses. On the weekends, I put my phone away.

TG: How do you deal with email?
BM: Poorly. I deal with the big stuff, and keep all the little stuff, little it slowly become an avalanche of dread. Sorry to everyone out there whose email I haven’t answered – I’m launching The Escape Artist – that’s my excuse!

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
BM: Call my wife. Give it to my kids.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
BM: At the end of book tour, I‘m exhausted from flying. But work-wise, I like talking to my imaginary friends all day.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
BM: Every. Single. Day. Back when I was fourteen years old, my first job was scooping ice cream. I worked at the Haagen Dazs in the Aventura Mall. By the time I was 17, a friend and I convinced the owner to let us be the managers of the store. And one day, this woman came up and snapped her fingers at me. “You need to serve me!” she barked.

“Ma’am, I’ll be right with you,” I told her.

“Now!” she said.

We go back and forth, and eventually I tell her, “Ma’am, I’m not serving you.”

She goes ballistic and yells, “I want to see the manager!”

“You got it,” I tell her. [I turn away from the podium and turn right back] “How can I help you?” I ask her.

“You’re not the manager!” she yells.

“Yes I am. And I’m telling you, we’re not serving you.”
And she screams at me: “You’re going to be working at this miserable ice cream store for the rest of your miserable life!”

And I calmly told her, “Ma’am, even if I am working here for the rest of my miserable life, you’re still never getting any ice cream.”

For years, I used to tell that story, laughing, saying, “It never even bothered me.”

But I need to admit, it did bother me. It terrified me. It made me see what happened to my dad as my own future—it made me feel like my life would be small or somehow limited. But I now also realize…that fear? That fear this woman brought out in me? It fueled me. It drove me.

Remember what scares you. When you’re jealous of something, afraid of something, enraged by something…that’s your body telling you you care, deep within you, about whatever it is that’s eating at you. So figure out what it is, embrace it, let it be your own rocket fuel.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
BM: “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.”

Brad Meltzer is The New York Times Bestselling Author of The Escape Artist to be released March 6, 2018.