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?
Carolina Saavedra: I usually get up and put on the news, make my breakfast and tea, and then watch said news for about an hour before getting ready for work.
TG: What gives you energy?
CS: Energy is something that doesn't come easily to me these days, unfortunately. But without fail the one thing that can always fill me with joy and energy is music. Music offers me a freedom that nothing else can. When I am listening, I get lost in the rhythm, lyrics, and beats, and I am able to get in touch with the most essential parts of myself. I turn to music when I am in need of inspiration, joy, reassurance... you name it.
TG: What's your secret life hack?
CS: My secret life hack has become (only recently) to say "no" when I need to. I have always been a caretaker by nature and nurture. I love being that way, but many times it can come at my own expense. Recently, due to some major life events I've had to force myself to get reacquainted with the word "no." Although I never overuse it... I do turn to it when I know that I need to self-care. And knowing when those moments are is another life hack. In essence, I've learned to listen to my body and mind and try my best to give them what they need. Often that is rest. I have by no means mastered this... but I'm on my way.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
CS: Wow. so, so many. I guess if I have to pick one it would be An Enemy of the People by Henrik Ibsen. Ironic title for these times. I first read this book/play in college and although my political ideology was already well formed by then, this play "had me shook" as young people would say these days. It reenforced all that I already knew was wrong with a culture that does not care about it's people. About greed. About a society that lacked a sense of responsibility for others and the dangers of what that can lead to. It's such a beautifully written play and it truly impacted me. But again, there are so many books. This one just stands out right now.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
CS: I currently have a terrible relationship with my phone. I'm ashamed to admit it, but it's true. It sleeps next to me on my side table and it is the first thing I look at when I wake up. I know this is not good for me and I am trying to change this relationship but it has been a struggle. Intellectually I am incredibly aware of how toxic our perceived dependency to our phones is. I literally feel myself becoming more and more detached from the world as I stare into it's screen and I hate it. A few days ago I made a deal with myself to make a real effort to create a more balanced relationship with my phone and I am making headway. Slowly but surely.
TG: How do you deal with email?
CS: If it's during standard working hours (9am-7pm), I make sure to respond right away. If I receive a work related email after hours that is time sensitive, I make sure to address it as soon as possible. However, there are times when I no longer check my email. For instance, If I am at a dinner I make it a point to keep my phone in my purse or near me, turned upside down. If it is an emergency, I will be texted or called. If not, I will check my email upon returning to my home and if need be, respond then. If not, I will address it first thing in the morning during working hours. This is something I have only recently started doing after spending close to 20 years being on permanent "on call" status with everyone, at all times.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
CS: Nowadays, I try to sit in silence. Working in television and film, I am constantly surrounded by audio. I am always listening for story. I am constantly reading transcripts or watching footage. So when I can, I close my eyes and listen to natural sounds. Yesterday it rained all day in Los Angeles and I made sure to spend some time listening to that. Just that. And it felt like a recharge. For those 15 minutes I felt connected to nature. This is something I feel we all need. I'm not great at it but I'm trying.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
CS: By nature of what I do and the fact that I am show running the projects I work on, I tend to feel this more than I'd like. Especially during production. On my current project we are doing things methodically and with the proper amount of time needed to develop ideas. However, recently I worked on a documentary series that was developed, produced and posted all within 4-5 months. This meant 14-18 hour days, 7 days a week for that entire time. Also, every choice made on that project was loaded with responsibility as any mistake could mean real life consequences for those involved in the documentary. After that project I felt elated and proud but also somewhat broken. To the point where I seriously contemplated doing something else with my life. Luckily, I was able to spend some much needed time with family and independently traveling which allowed me to gather enough energy to go back and keep pursuing my career. A career that I love... but can often be unforgiving.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
CS: This is a great question. I tend to be very introspective and that causes me to constantly question myself. I do this almost nightly as I turn off the lights. Many nights I will find at least one thing I've said or done where I feel I could have done better. This isn't just when it comes to work, it's with everything (I'll be thinking about this email tonight I'm sure). However, even though I overthink what I feel are my daily "mistakes," I don't tend to see them as failures. I see them more as learning opportunities (granted those are often smaller things of perhaps less gravity). The last time I truly felt I had failed was when I allowed my admiration for a Director I was working with trump my own self-worth. Because he is an accomplished Director I allowed him to, at times, behave in ways that were diminishing to me as his equal partner on the project. It was only in retrospect that I was able to see just how I had failed myself. When it comes to my work, I know what I am doing and I know that I am good at it, but I am also not driven by ego. I am driven by the work. At times that can lead to me overlooking my own power and strength. This is something I am actively working to change. I haven't overcome it completely but I work on this every day and I won't stop until the day I no longer question my own authority, knowledge and contribution.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
CS: “All paths lead to the same goal: to convey to others what we are. And we must pass through solitude and difficulty, isolation and silence in order to reach forth to the enchanted place where we can dance our clumsy dance and sing our sorrowful song”. - Pablo Neruda
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