How Wendy Kopp Clears Her Head Before the Workday Starts

The CEO and Co-founder of Teach For All shares her secret life hack and the Teddy Roosevelt quote that's kept her going.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Wendy Kopp: I make a French press of strong coffee.

TG: What gives you energy?
WK: My family and my work.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
WK: I get up bright and early so I can have time and space before my kids are awake and before people think I’m on email. I do work projects that need reflection, prep for my day and go on a run to clear my head. Those hours are priceless for enabling me to be proactive and centered.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
WK: Reinventing Organizations by Fred Laloux has had a deep influence on my thinking and approach. It’s helped me along on the journey of unleashing the leadership of everyone in our organization and network.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
WK: It provides constant company throughout the workday, but for my sanity I separate myself from everything but messages and calls with family on evenings and weekends.

TG: How do you deal with email?
WK: I try to begin the day with an empty inbox, filing away anything that needs longer reads or responses to be done in due course.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
WK: Check in with my kids or get through email.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
WK: By the time my summer vacation rolls around in August, I’m exhausted and ready for a real break! But I feel so privileged to do energizing work alongside incredible people who keep me going.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
WK: I fail every day – in a meeting here, a relationship there. I embrace this as long game and hold onto the thought that all that matters is that we reach the destination in the end.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
WK: This quote from Teddy Roosevelt has kept me going over the years: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Wendy Kopp is CEO and Co-founder of Teach For All, a global network of independent organizations that are cultivating their nations’ promising future leaders to ensure their most marginalized children have the chance to fulfill their true potential.

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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