Focus on joy. Make time to spend time with your friends. A good dinner with your community is just as healing as a hard workout. During COVID, a good FaceTime call is just as nourishing for me as another home workout.
As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jordan Schenck.
Jordan Schenck is the Co-founder and CMO of Sunwink, the first-ever sparkling herbal wellness tonic made with the world’s cleanest herbs that are good for your body and for the planet, and is the former head of consumer marketing at Impossible Foods. Jordan is on a mission to build a plant-powered movement to help people reconnect with nature and feel great every day.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Portland, Oregon and remained in Oregon pretty much my whole life until college, when I went to study in Shanghai, China. From then on cities called me more than trees so I found myself in NYC in my 20s and later in San Francisco in my 30s.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
My mother was always an inspiration to me. She was a working mom. My parents were divorced and she raised me. I was able to see her grow in the corporate world. I can still see her shoulder pads and the scarves she would wear to work every day. She introduced me to my first mentor in college, Jennifer Elliott, a woman who had come to get her PhD straight out of New York. I traded babysitting her kids for life advice, and she told me everything about the world of advertising and marketing. I was enamored with the idea of having a job that would allow me to be creative and business minded simultaneously.
I was toying with the idea of moving to NYC after college, even though I had never been, and it was Jennifer who encouraged me to make the move, saying “You only get one chance to say ‘I spent my 20s’ in New York. Go be at the center of it all.”
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I have had incredible mentors throughout my life. Some of these folks were bosses and some I cultivated through introductions. A recent example that comes to mind is actually two-fold, Jonathan Mildenhall, the former CMO for Airbnb, and Neil Barrie, who led the formative strategy for Airbnb while at TBWA/Chiat/Day. I had recently left Impossible Foods, hungry (no pun intended) to figure out what my career would look like after I left my dream job because of severe burnout. They had both just founded a consultancy together called Twenty First Century Brand and took me under their wings for a short period while I worked on co-launching Sunwink. As co-mentors they gave me space to heal and re-find myself after my previous role and also challenged me to “channel the lightning conviction inside of you” (Jonathan’s words not mine).
It was the first time in my career that I was able to have an honest relationship with two incredibly tenured and experienced individuals who helped build my confidence back up.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
Oh, one of my favorite mistakes early on in my career was when I was a first-time manager. I was overseeing a number of social media teams for some very large blue-chip companies at a well-known agency. One of my hires took my directive to pull “references” for creative reviews from Pinterest as “pull assets from Pinterest and post them directly to Facebook, no credit and no usage buyout.” As a result, thousands and thousands of unlicensed assets ended up on a large client’s Facebook page and I had to face the music with the client. The great thing was the client was completely chill and almost laughed about the whole mistake — thankfully, these were the early days of social media. I, on the other hand, was close to throwing up the night before.
The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
If you don’t feel incredibly over your head or terrified of a decision you are making then you aren’t pushing yourself to grow. I have flipped the table on my career and life more times than I count now. Every time what I find in the pieces is much more beautiful than what was there before.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer shaped the direction of the impact I intend to have on this world — change the food system to be planet-first.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?
“Day by day nothing seems to change, but pretty soon everything is different” — Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes (also CS Lewis)
This is cheesy, but this was my senior high school quote and it still resonates with me to this day. For me it means no matter the obstacle of the moment or the new thing you are trying, you are still changing even if it feels impossible or insignificant. I like to think that I have always worked towards better.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Sunwink, the brand I co-founded with my business partner Eliza Ganesh, is genuinely the most exciting project I could imagine working on! Sunwink is the first-ever sparkling herbal wellness tonic, made with the world’s cleanest herbs that are good for your body and for the planet. We’ve built a beverage brand that is crafted by herbalists and made to nourish and re-energize you through the power of plants. This is my first time as an entrepreneur and it is incredibly beautiful/difficult/exhausting/energizing and everything in between. I believe we will create a company that will reconnect humanity to the power of plants.
OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?
I think this has become stronger for me in recent years. I have made self-care my number one priority so this requires making the little things that might seem awkward or hard at first a top, daily priority. Honestly, they are the proverbial things people tell you to do — sleep, drink water, be in nature, exercise and eat green enough food. It is the legitimate secret to life and stamina.
How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?
The habit I have made my number one priority above all else is making sure I find myself in nature weekly. When you are growing quickly in your career or building a business, the crush of stress and exhaustion can deeply impact your health. Health and stamina are everything in your ability to grow in your career. For me, a nature walk or hike near greenery re-centers and reinvigorates my body.
Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?
You gotta commit! I like to think of it like having a relationship with or dating yourself. When you are seeing someone new, you worry about what to do, what to eat, what to drink. Imagine if you applied that commitment to yourself. With everything I start REALLY small. I would rather achieve something rather than going the longest or being the best. When I started meditation, I did 1 minute, 5 days a week for 2 weeks. Then I bumped it up to 3. And so on.
Same thing with bad habits, start small, overnight change is just too exhausting.
Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness? Please share a story or example for each.
Wellness should always be for yourself and not how others see you. That is rule number one. Anyone who tells you wellness makes you skinnier, more beautiful to others, richer etc., is not thinking about YOU. So, I have always focused on what makes me feel better. I’ve learned over the years that light, slow exercise is medicine, as is dancing and grabbing a drink with my friends. I focus on what lifts me up so I can feel like my whole self. I also recently started working with a Reiki Healer and practicing sound healing, which has helped me cultivate better awareness of my energy and has given me space to focus on how I can lift anything blocking me.
Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?
Like almost anything else, you don’t need to do it on your own. I have found seeking out groups for yoga, healers, herbalists and reading, or openly talking to my friends and community about their relationship with their self-care, has led me to cultivate and experiment with new habits.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.
- Focus on joy. Make time to spend time with your friends. A good dinner with your community is just as healing as a hard workout. During COVID, a good FaceTime call is just as nourishing for me as another home workout.
- Little movements over a long period of time. I wanted to integrate a practice of meditation, so I made space to do so for 5 minutes every morning. Now I am sitting with myself multiple times a day for long periods of time.
- Reflection. It is so important for me to tune in to myself. In the morning I set ONE daily intention and at night I write down 5 things I think I did well or am proud of. I try to find in myself the ability to drive and fuel myself.
Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.
- Read things that have nothing to do with your day to day. My best inspiration, ideas or approaches have always come from creative or non-business-related readings. For example, right now I am reading Optic Nerve by Maria Gainza, a story about an Argentinian woman’s love of art. This book has nothing to do with my job but it inspired me to approach our sales marketing strategy in a completely different way.
- A morning routine that centers around relaxation. For me I always saw routines that amped people up. Coffee, workouts, super charge this and that. What worked for me was some warm tea, 5 minutes of meditation in the fresh morning light, reading the “not crazy” news, and lighting a little incense.
- Take a break. When I hit a focus wall, I realize the best way around it is to not keep staring at the wall. I close my computer and take a walk around the block, call my family or a friend (yes midday) or stretch.
As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?
When you feel the flow, run towards it. I have spent most of my career running towards that good feeling flow, and running away from anything that didn’t feel like flow. This has allowed me to navigate what feels successful to me and reward my career accordingly. There are a lot of ‘bad flow’ jobs or projects that have called to me at some point. I think what I have done well is pull the ripcord on it. Anything that is good flow, I cultivate a relationship with. For example, I love building, creating and growing companies. I am good at it because I find the unknown and lack of structure exhilarating. Now put me in a role or project where the job is to maintain status quo, I completely crumble. It is my anti-flow.
Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement I am working to build right now: Reconnect humans to their planet. I have chosen to do this through our food system in the form of plant-based foods and plants as medicine. We have lost our relationship with nature, which is why we no longer care for ourselves through nature.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂
Give me any one of the female leaders in government right now: Angela Merkel, Kamala Harris or Jacinda Ardern. These are all women who have been told “no” their entire lives and have blown through every door / room that has not allowed them in. They are respected, strong and warm leaders. As a female entrepreneur, these are the women I admire deeply.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Please feel free to follow me on LinkedIn where I share my progress and work.
Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.