Connect authentically with your kids, early in the day. Kids have such a natural joy for life that is so infectious. Spending as little as 5 minutes before the morning rush will allow that joy to rub off on you and be a touch-point for the rest of your day. Plus, kids need that connection. Experiencing it early in the day will help improve their day too (which is, frankly, better for everyone!) So stay in bed and read them a couple of books or get down on the floor and play. Even for just a few minutes really helps.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Marianna Sachse. Marianna has spent the last twenty years helping individuals and communities improve their health and wellbeing. She has worked with and for such noted organizations as the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Whitman Walker Clinic, the Aspen Institute, and the Federal Reserve Board. A cancer survivor herself, Marianna has found ways to thrive in adversity. Her own experience demonstrates how living a creative life is central to wellbeing. In an effort to align her personal creative needs and desire to improve the world, she launched the triple bottom line enterprise Jackalo — an industry-changing line of durable and organic children’s clothes that accepts all of the used clothes back to be repaired and resold or responsibly recycled, thus reducing reducing the environmental impact of the children’s apparel sector.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I spent much of my childhood making things — sewing, knitting, making jewelry, and cooking. My mother was a huge inspiration, as she was always creating. I did this as a creative outlet, but never thought seriously about this being my career.
When my first son was 9 months old, my mother was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. In the midst of this, I needed to make some critical decisions about my career — should I stay with my employer that wouldn’t allow me to have a flexible career? Between my mother’s illness, having an infant, and a crazy long commute, flexibility was critical for me.
During her illness, my mother and I talked a lot about what would be next for me. I shared my fear of leaving the professional path I’d been on for a more creative one. A bit to my surprise — as she’d spent her career as a high-powered economist — she was really supportive. It took a few years to figure out what this career change would look like, but as my son grew older the path became clear.
My older son is super active. He tore through his clothes no matter how much or how little I spent on them. I grew tired of the waste and the poor quality of the garments. I decided to use my experience as a maker and my knowledge as a mother to design clothes for kids that are more durable and made with care, and create a circular system along with that to make quality second hand garments available to more families.
What does it mean for you to live “on purpose”? Can you explain? How can one achieve that?
To me, living a purposeful life means aligning my day-to-day with the impact I want to have on the world. In both my personal and professional life, it is important to me to work towards repairing the world. I find the practice of meditation and mindfulness helpful in checking in on how I’m aligning my actions with my intention.
Do you have an example or story in your own life of how your pain helped to guide you to finding your life’s purpose?
When my older son was two-years-old, I got pregnant. Within a few weeks I knew this pregnancy wasn’t going well. Ultimately, I lost the pregnancy and was found to have had a molar pregnancy — essentially, one in which the placenta is cancerous. I underwent two surgeries and nine months of chemotherapy to rid my body of the cancer. Throughout that period I experienced the mental pain of the loss as well as the physical impacts of chemo. In this period, what brought me joy were my creative efforts. Whether it was writing about my experience or knitting in my downtime, I found the creative process to be something that gave me energy even when I was at my lowest. In this period, I it became clear that living a creative life was more important to me than I’d previously thought, that it was truly central to how I define myself.
The United States is currently rated at #18 in the World Happiness Report. Can you share a few reasons why you think the ranking is so low?
The US does a terrible job of allowing families to find balance. Who hasn’t received an email saying, “I’m going on vacation, but I’ll be checking my email.” I’m guilty of this myself. But I know that this behavior of always being “on” and never turning your work mind “off” is a disaster for our well-being. We need more freedom to disconnect from work and engage with family and friends. This is something that is the norm where I live in the Netherlands. Come the weekend, people are all about their family. And during vacation email is shut down. The more we can disconnect from work (and our phones!) the more we can create the space for authentic experiences that build the foundation for happiness.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I use my creative skills and knowledge as a parent to make it easier for families to dress their children in quality clothes that last. My company, Jackalo, is renewing a culture in which families buy less, and buy better for their children’s clothes. This has a huge impact on the environment. The clothing industry is a major polluter, and by making our clothes with organic fabrics and encouraging repair and reuse, we help families decrease the environmental impact of dressing their kids.
What are your 6 strategies to help you face your day with exuberance, “Joie De Vivre” and a “ravenous thirst for life”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. Connect authentically with your kids, early in the day. Kids have such a natural joy for life that is so infectious. Spending as little as 5 minutes before the morning rush will allow that joy to rub off on you and be a touch-point for the rest of your day. Plus, kids need that connection. Experiencing it early in the day will help improve their day too (which is, frankly, better for everyone!) So stay in bed and read them a couple of books or get down on the floor and play. Even for just a few minutes really helps.
2. Get moving early in the day. Whether it is a run, a bit of yoga, or just walking the dog, I start my day feeling better when I move my body early. I listen to my head and my body to see what intensity of movement I need. Anxious or stressed? A run or something that gets my blood flowing is the best way to work through that stress. Tired or sore? A walk or some yoga will gently invigorate me.
3. Make something every day. I’ve made creativity central to my “day job,” but all too often we feel that if we aren’t good enough at something to make it our life’s focus then it isn’t worth pursuing. I disagree wholeheartedly: hobbies are important! They give our brains space to operate differently. And in a world with long-term projects, seeing something finished and accomplished has tremendous value. Last winter, I took an online gouache pattern design course, and it was one of the most joyful uses of time. I looked forward to it every day. While my art will likely never be in a gallery, it makes me happy and that happiness radiates out in my life.
4. Go outside. As a dog owner, I have an excuse to go out into nature frequently. Watching the seasons change, getting to see and know my neighbors, and just being present in the world brings me so much joy. But it is easy to do this and just roll through it, checking one thing quickly off a a mile long to-do list. I try to slow it down and take advantage of this time to see the small things that fill me with wonder and joy. If I’m having trouble doing that on my own, I listen to a meditation that I can do while I walk to foster that connection.
5. Lay hands. One of my dearest friends used to be a massage therapist. I remember her once telling me about the immense responsibility of that role: “You don’t know if that person has experienced touch that day. And it is so rare to experience touch without intention.” This acknowledgement of the power of touch has stayed with me. It is so important to give and receive touch frequently, daily if possible (I’m talking about non-sexual, consensual touch.) Take time to give someone a solid hug, long enough that you can take a deep breath or two. It will help you feel so good!
6. Breathe. When was the last time you took a deep breath? Yes, meditation is all the rage right now, but for all of the health and well-being crazes you may read about, this one really is backed by science (as well as thousands of years of experience by millions of people). Meditation can lower stress levels when you are in a difficult situation, and even when things are going great it can help build resilience for difficult times. So even if long meditation sessions aren’t your thing (yet), finding a time to really breathe and pay attention to your body and surroundings will have a profound effect. If you are new to meditation, I highly recommend apps like Headspace that offer both guided meditations and education on how to meditate (even people with busy minds that they “can’t shut down” can do it!)
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that most inspired you to live with a thirst for life?
Playing Big by Tara Mohr has been hugely influential for me. I read it in the midst of a stressful period launching my business, and found that it helped me connect with the things that were holding me back. Fear and self-critique often plague us (women especially), and finding ways to move beyond that and into action is so powerful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote” that relates to having a Joie De Vivre? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” — Mary Oliver
A good friend once did a family vacation at a dude ranch. As someone who isn’t a horseback rider, she stayed behind at the ranch and explored the natural surroundings. Each day, she got to know more of the flora and fauna of the area. Ultimately one of the ranchers, who shared what he knew about the local plants commented that he liked how she “noticed the small things.” Since she is one of the most joyful people I know, it solidified my sense that noticing things is key to feeling joy. We must slow down enough to pay attention to the little marvels of life. And the way we spread joy is by sharing these small moments of awe. I see this in the little things my children do, in the natural world, in the way we care for one another. The more we notice and share the joy in these things, the more we spread joy.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’ve recently launched Jackalo, a children’s clothing company focused on durable and organic clothes that are designed to be handed down. We built in a trade up program so that when a child outgrows their clothes, there’s an incentive to pass the item down to the next kid and keep clothes out of the waste stream. My hope is that through Jackalo we will change the way people view clothing consumption for their kids, and make clothes that are ethically produced available to more people. Our clothing choices have a huge impact on the environment and the well-being of the hundreds of people who touch a garment before it reaches your closet. By improving the path a new garment takes to your child’s closet and extending its usable life cycle we can reduce the negative impact these choices have on the environment and on people.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
At this time of great change and strife in the world, it is really hard to pick one thing I’d like to inspire a movement towards, and there is so much action happening I’d rather see more movements grow, than spark new ones. But there are three movements that feel the most urgent to me right now, I’d love to see them grow exponentially:
1. In the US, it is past time for sensible gun laws. We often think about moving home to the US, but the lack of gun control really gives me pause. How do we send our kids to school or go to worship when someone full of hate can tear us down so easily? The rest of the world has come to their senses and seen a dramatic reduction in loss of life by instituting sane gun laws. It’s past time for the US to follow suit.
2. Around the world, we all need to get behind fighting climate change. Our governments need to regulate carbon production and we as individuals need to buy less, and buy better.
3. We need to increase kindness all around. We need to welcome the stranger and learn about who they are and where they come from. Only then can we break down the barriers we have between cultures and fight hate.
Thank you so much for joining us!