The Thrive Questionnaire//

Business Woman, Sheila Struyck, on Her Secret Dutch Life Hacks

"In Dutch we say 'boter bij de vis'. Translated: 'serve butter with the fish'."

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?
Sheila Struyck: I usually smile, get into easy clothes, have some porridge, call the dogs and go for a walk in the valley. When I am really early (I tend to wake up naturally at 6.00) I might take the opportunity to get a bit of work done or some chores before J my partner wakes up. What is done is done and does not get in the way of our time together…

TG: What gives you energy?
SS: Running, horse-riding, spending time with J. and friends around a logfire, interacting with my dogs (they don’t play but like to have fun), solving riddles, working with young people and start-ups. I try to do all of this at least once a day…

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
SS: In Dutch we say ‘boter bij de vis’. Translated: ‘serve butter with the fish’. In short, when my partner and/or me remark that something should be done about this or that (like missing button, broken backpack or something ordered) we either do it right away or write it in notebook on the table. Every weekend we take the notebook and do a couple of the things in there. It is stolen from ‘getting things done’ and means that all these small things to do don’t need to take up bandwidth in your head. Or you simply decide not to do it..

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
SS: ‘Han de Wit gaat in ontwikkelingshulp’. A quirky book by a Dutch author with a peculiar sense of humor, that not many people appreciate, yet I loved it. At my first date with the man I am still together with he mentioned this very book as the book he had most enjoyed. That encouraged me to look beyond the obvious. Now, many moons later it turns out we have a really different sense of humor by the way. But we do share the same view on life. Writing this down I make a mental note to aks him what he liked in the book, I wonder whether it is the same as I would mention.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
SS: It sleeps (switched off) next to me, I use its alarm function as precaution just in case I don’t wake up naturally. I don’t snooze, that only makes you tired.

TG: How do you deal with email?
SS: If it can be handled quickly I do it in a minute. If it takes longer I move it to a folder called action. I really am not overtly organized, but my mailbox tends to be almost empty, despite the 150-200 mails I get in a day. It is not a to-do list. It is just a list of ‘urgent and relative small’ requests from others. I therefore try to do those after I have handled the three things that are important to the future or wellbeing of the business I lead (and probably no one sends me emails about because strategy is never urgent…). If you send less email, you get less email. So when in cc (which means….. for information), I tend not to react, I limit people in cc to only the really needed and I try to send as little as possible emails.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
SS: Honestly? Probably read the paper, call a friend. or chat to a colleague. Plant a plant or make a meal. Normal things you do when you linger around. I might even try a round of Duolingo to work on my french or spanish…. 15 minutes is too short for Netflix….

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
SS: That is far too long ago to recall exactly why. Yet, I know I was running an advertising agency and was very snappy, shortfused and impatient. On a sunny afternoon I realized that if I was sharing that boat ride on the Amsterdam canals with myself, I really would not have a nice day. Not sure whether the reason was my own disposition or my job I took two months off and went to Ireland to work on an equestrian farm. Serving meals for 40 children and taking riding lessons everyday. No one knew I owned a business back home :-). I came back and sold my shares. And reduced my threshold to snappiness. Now I notice fairly quickly when it happens and I immediately increase my effective work habits and reduce my hours. You need to rest to be able to perform.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
SS: I lost my sense of failure when I turned fifty. Failure is a complex sense of emotions and they are connected to guilt and responsibility. Pondering on those can be debilitating and makes people afraid. I do make mistakes. And am not afraid of admitting that. Or changing my mind or opinion. It is quite liberating to simply look at what you have done or said and decide that you have new facts or the reality was different than you anticipated and that you will change your course. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
SS: Bazz Lurmann: (taken from the fantastic ‘song’ class of 99) ‘do one thing everyday that scares you’.

Sheila Struyck (The Netherlands, 1965), works since a couple of years in Paris as a global business leader in New Mobility at a French multinational. She travels a lot, and mostly spends her weekends and spare time at the Costa Brava in Spain, where her partner runs his own company. Previously she worked in innovation and marketing roles in large corporates like P&G and Philips, and also as (co)-founder of a couple of ventures. She is still venture partner at a venture capitalist.

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