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?
Jane Edwards: I do three half salutations, to stretch my back and try to generate a good attitude towards another day.
TG: What gives you energy?
JE: Accomplishing small things – for me, it’s a matter of “I may not be able to think about the whole rest of my life (or day) but I can probably make a good piece of toast and spread it with Seville orange marmalade.”
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
JE: Asking the question “what makes sense?” when trying to make decisions about things.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
JE: Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past. Sorry, I was an English major.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
JE: Are you kidding? I check it systematically throughout the day but after dinner, I only look at it if I think something might be going wrong somewhere.
TG: How do you deal with email?
JE: Systematically throughout the day, but I don’t file most things, I delete or leave them in my inbox and use search functions to find things. I archive my inbox when it gets to 1500 items.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
JE: Listen to whatever music is currently obsessing me (at the moment it’s Long Time Sun , Snatam Kaur, but it could equally well be Arvo Part or the Decembrists or Bruce Springstein). Or read a few pages of whatever book (Manhattan Beach just now) or New Yorker article (Evan Osnos, Jane Mayer, Adam Gopnick, David Remnick, so many great pieces these days) or professional journal I have to hand. Or go outside and look at the trees, I do that a lot.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
JE: Two weeks ago. Too much travel.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
JE: Oh, every day – I get something wrong or don’t accomplish something I’d planned or I realize something I thought was going well may not be. For me, knowing that those small things are handled in the same way as significant failures is a key to moving forward. We obsess over large failures because we haven’t built the tools to deal with the up and down rhythms in all that we do. I talk a lot about this with my students: looking at possible outcomes ahead of time, and managing how you feel about things when they don’t go as you hoped they would.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
JE: Well, this is weird but:
“I am in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more,
Returning were as tedious as go o’er.”
It’s from Macbeth, and for years I’ve used this line with my staff when I feel we have to keep on trucking to get something done – so it’s become a joke with my leadership team, a “oh, here comes Macbeth” moment. I love the combination of Shakespeare and a 21st century university office.
Prior to coming to Yale, where she serves as Dean of International and Professional experience, Jane Edwards held the new position of Director of International Studies at Harvard, where she initiated an ambitious program of international experience for undergraduates. She served for ten years in a similar position at Wesleyan University, where she also ran a program in the less commonly taught languages, and taught for the department of Romance Languages. She holds a B.A and an M.A from Cambridge University, and a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania. Co-author with Humphrey Tonkin of “The World in the Curriculum” she publishes and presents on a wide range of topics in international education. She has held national office in professional organizations including NAFSA, CIEE, the Forum on Education Abroad, and the Fund for Education Abroad. She currently serves on the Schools Board of Overseers of Middlebury College, as a member of the Academic Advisory Council for the Schwarzman Scholarship program, and as a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Studies in International Education.