Jacqueline Novogratz on Why She Reads Poetry in the Morning

The CEO of Acumen discusses her morning routine and the poets that inspire her.

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?

Jacqueline Novogratz: It is usually 4 or 5 in the morning so I go downstairs and make tea and then read a bit of poetry – Mary Oliver, Rumi, Hafiz, Seamus Heaney, Yeats, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Rilke are among my favorites…

TG: What gives you energy? 

JN: Connecting with people, especially those who are different from me…and going for long runs…

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you? 

JN: Sleeps by me. I wake up a few times in the night and typically read on Kindle til I fall asleep. My phone is my alarm…

TG: How do you deal with email?

JN: I don’t. Need a better system. Feel too owned by it right now.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? 

JN: Email. Or call a good friend. Reading this reminds me that I should instead read poetry. Or write.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out? 

JN: I am lucky not to have felt burned out. That probably goes back to what energizes me. I get great energy from connecting with people we are serving especially. And if the work feels too hard, there is nothing like a long run to revive my spirit…

TG: Share a quote that gives you strength when times are tough. 

JN: “I wish that I could show you when you are lonely or in despair the astonishing beauty of your own soul.” – Hafiz 

Jacqueline is the founder and CEO of Acumen. Prior to Acumen,  Jacqueline founded and directed The Philanthropy Workshop and The Next Generation Leadership programs at the Rockefeller Foundation. She also co-founded Duterimbere, a micro-finance institution in Rwanda. She began her career in international banking with Chase Manhattan Bank. Jacqueline currently sits on the advisory boards of Sonen Capital and the Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Initiative. She also serves on the Aspen Institute Board of Trustees and the board of IDEO.org, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, World Economic Forum and the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Jacqueline was recently awarded the Forbes 400 Lifetime Achievement Award for Social Entrepreneurship. 

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