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.
Megan Baca is just like the clothes she creates: calm, cool, and incredibly authentic. As the VP of Design & Merchandising at Chaser, she helps infuse the apparel brand with a SoCal vibe. A lifestyle that makes room for both relaxation and adventure is important to Baca herself. Her m.o.? When you don’t sweat the minor things, you’re better able to embrace your power.
In her Thrive Questionnaire, Baca reveals what inspires her designs, and explains how we can achieve versatility and quality in both our clothing and our daily lives.
Thrive Global: What gives you energy?
Megan Baca: Coffee! But I also like to try to squeeze a gym workout in at lunch. My kids also give me energy; they are full of life!
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
MB: I am a routine person; that is how I get a lot done in one day — I follow a routine to get through all the things on my list, and that includes time for creativity and inspiration-hunting!
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
MB: We are all slaves to our phones these days, but I try to keep it in check. I have to keep up with my emails, and keeping up with Instagram is in many ways part of my job, but I try to put it down during friend and family time as much as possible. I charge my phone by my bed, but I try to remember to put it in airplane mode so it doesn’t melt my brain as I sleep.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
MB: So many fails, too many to recount. But life is about small wins and small fails, keeping balance in perspective, keeping your eye on the end game. I try to see what the universe if trying to teach me with my fails, and how I can reshape my view to make life flow better and keep the good energy circulating.
TG: Share a quote or a mantra that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
MB: It’s such a simple one, but helps me on tough days: “You win some you lose some” sometimes. When something bad or unlucky happens, I try to see it as balance for all the good and lucky things that do happen.
TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?
MB: I would have told myself to put my health on the priority list. For many years in my career I skipped doctor’s appointments and just worked through sickness and that kind of thing catches up with you. Again, it’s about balance — healthy body, healthy mind, healthy outlook, which can lead to better work flow and inspiration.
TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness?
MB: I actually do a quick 3-minute meditation when I arrive at work and right before I arrive at home after work, to re-center and refocus myself, to make sure I am living in the moment and appreciating the now, as we can’t get this time back. This is something that being a mom has taught me.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming about to do?
MB: I know this sounds cliché but I create an old fashioned “to do” list and write it in order of time sensitivity and priority. Then I power through it. I won’t lie, sometimes it is too overwhelming, so I try to take it one task at a time and stay on top of the most important priorities.
TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others.
MB: I would have to say that taking the time to meditate before having meaningful interactions has been very powerful. I don’t try to do long meditation sessions, as I know that will set me up to fail with all of the things I have to do in a day. I use the Headspace app and do 3-minute mini sessions, and occasionally I even do the 1- or 2- minute sessions when I need to sneak one in and am running late. It goes a long way.
TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life?
MB: That is hard to say, but I definitely had things that I wanted to accomplish in my life, and luckily with a lot of good fortune and hard work I have been able to have the career, the husband, the kids and the house that I wanted. When it all comes together, you find yourself at a strange place, now what? Everything was about working to get these things. I never stopped to figure out what I would do once I achieved those goals, so it is about staying motivated, staying inspired, and finding new ways to ignite passion and interest and remember why I went down these paths in the first place.
TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning?
MG: I have two small kids, 3 and 5 years old. We also have 2 small dogs, so mornings are nuts. This is where the routine comes in: come downstairs, get the kids hot chocolate and take the dogs out and feed them, multi-task getting myself and kids ready, and then try to get everyone out the door and to school so I can get to work. I guess one amazing thing is the Starbucks app: I order my coffee when I leave my kids’ school and it’s ready by the time I arrive so I am down to about 30 seconds of coffee pick-up time.
TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?
MB: I don’t really have trouble falling asleep anymore, as I am always so exhausted, but when I am riddled with stress and worry, I try to listen to audiobooks with my sleep mask on and sink into my pillow.
TG: What are some ways you spark creativity?
MB: I used to never stop for lunch in my work day; I would sit at my desk and just power though. But now I try to exercise, as I find that getting the blood flowing enhances my mood and it also sparks my creativity. I often have amazing creative ideas or solve design problems on my drive back from the gym. I used to go to hot yoga and that was amazing, but unfortunately that just took up too much time and was not flexible as I had to go when the classes were offered, whereas now I can go to the gym whenever I can squeeze it in and for as short of a session as I need, depending on my schedule.
TG: How do you practice self-care?
MB: I try to do little things like planning a girls’ night with a friend, and maybe get a massage or a blowout and then some wine and dinner. It’s nothing major but these little breaks go a long way, and it’s important to connect with people in our lives outside of work and our immediate family.
TG: What causes you stress? How do you alleviate it?
MB: Deadlines are the ultimate culprit. There is no way to avoid stress, but you can try to control your body’s reaction to it — for instance, not letting stress cause tension headaches, or other damaging reactions. Again, meditation helps, as well as visualizing calm and peaceful things, acknowledging that the deadlines are there but that you are working toward them the best you can, and trying to still see the fun in the work.
TG: Your brand is inspired by the past and appreciates a vintage touch. What about the past inspires you?
MB: It is fun to come up with a new storyline each season, and dig into the archives of fashion to find inspiration. For this coming holiday, we’ll take it back to the early 80s sunset strip, to rock and roll icons like Aerosmith and even southern rockers like the Black Crowes. Think: feminine blouses, leather pants and scarves. Every season is a new look into the past and that is where all the fun is.
TG: The design process can be tedious. What helps you stay motivated?
MB: It can be long, and for the most part I love every stage; it is like raising a child. There are times that it seems like the work will never come to an end, but I have a great team and we laugh a lot and that helps things move along!
TG: In your industry, creative burnout is common. Have you ever faced a creative block? If so, how did you overcome it?
MB: Creative burnout is huge! And it’s not just for writers. I find that self-care, like exercise and massage, are rejuvenating and help the creative juices flow. I also find that travel reinvigorates the spirit and helps renew inspiration. Travel — seeing other cultures, other ways of life, other textiles, other uses of color and print and texture — is key. It gets us out of our daily routine and expands our vision, and that is key to staying motivated and inspired.
TG: What about fashion helps you thrive?
MB: I love that fashion changes; it keeps things interesting. Change is often what people fear the most, but it is what I like the best — it keeps things fresh and new, and keeps the job changing.
TG: Aside from a cozy graphic tee, what helps you find comfort?
MB: I love a great sweatshirt; I think that a perfect sweatshirt can feel like a hug, and I pride myself on being able to create that garment for people. But aside from that, I love a warm bath or a cup of tea. These are the little things in life that make a difference.
TG: Your brand is constantly growing its presence. Whether it be choosing a retail location or launching a new product line, what helps you make the right decisions for your brand?
MB: I have always followed my instincts. It sounds too simple, but there is a certain level of intuition in what I do and I feel that the power of following my gut cannot be underestimated. At the end of the day, if you follow your instincts, you can feel like you didn’t betray yourself. Whether it worked or it didn’t, you gave it your best try.