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.
Julia Landauer is an American professional NASCAR racing driver. She launched her career at age 14 when she was the first and youngest female champion in the Skip Barber Racing Series. With a passion for science and technology, she attended Stanford, earned a degree in STEM, and began to create a career for herself that merged her intellectual interests with her natural gift for racing. As someone who has excelled in a male-dominated industry, Landauer works to inspire other women to get out of their comfort zone and push past obstacles. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more comfortable and confident doing things my way,” she says. “I’m a relative ‘outsider’ in the sport of racing — being a woman who comes from New York City and attended Stanford — so I’m making this career work in my own way.”
In her Thrive Questionnaire, Landauer shares how she learned the power of resilience, and the tools she uses to remain optimistic.
TG: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Julia Landauer: I make my coffee. I really enjoy measuring out the beans and water, so it’s become a ritual at this point.
TG: What gives you energy?
JL: Looking forward to a race, excitement about a project, a great conversation, brainstorming new ideas, and seeing other bada*s people going after their goals.
TG: Given the pressures of your sport and industry, what are some things you do to destress?
JL: Running always helps bring me back to center. I make sure to recognize the little things and experiences that make me happy, as well as talk with my family and closest friends, who are incredible forms of support.
TG: What originally drew you to the STEM fields?
JL: I’ve always loved that my sport is centered around human and machine interactions, which then made me want to study STEM and have a better understanding of how technology and our culture intersect.
TG: How do you reframe negative thinking?
JL: Positive self-talk. I believe in regularly reminding yourself of your successes. If I’m feeling low on confidence, I look in the mirror and say, “Julia, you’ve won two championships, you have dozens of wins.” We often have to be our own biggest cheerleaders.
TG: What’s your favorite thing about racing? How does it make you feel?
JL: I love the speed, I love the competition and racing someone really hard, but most importantly, I love the euphoria when everything comes together and I win. It’s an intoxicating feeling, the highest high.
TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?
JL: Rigorous exercise. I always feel better, it’s always productive, and I try to unplug when I exercise so I’m just with my thoughts.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
JL: I don’t get any push notifications except for text messages and calls because I don’t want things interrupting me. I like intentionally having to go check apps. That being said, I’m pretty bad about looking at Instagram or Twitter before I go to bed, so I’m working on that.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
JL: Forever by Pete Hamill is my all-time favorite book.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
JL: I do the things that have a deadline or that will have the greatest impact. I work really well with deadlines, so I try to assign everything a deadline.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
JL: Luckily, I haven’t felt full-on burnout in a little while, partially because I prioritize my sleep, and I am deep in a lot of work that I find very invigorating. But I’ll have a week here, or a few days there, where I feel stagnant, or I’m waiting on other people to keep moving forward, and in those moments, I get really frustrated. So I find things I can work on that I have control over.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
JL: I’ve had races where I haven’t performed as well, and I view those as failures, in which case I am deeply honest about what I could do better, then focus on preparation for the next race.
TG: How do you handle social media criticism? How do you differentiate what is private and what is public?
JL: I believe that I signed up for public life, but my friends and family didn’t, so I always keep enough privacy so that they feel protected. As for criticism, I usually let it slide (or don’t look in the first place), but if I get really riled up, I’ll type out my response, let it sit for a few seconds, then delete. It’s just not worth it most of the time.
TG: What brings you optimism and hope?
JL: Seeing how the world around me is constantly evolving, seeing my friends doing really cool projects, and seeing general excitement for life.
TG: How do you show gratitude?
JL: I’m very open with my emotions and appreciation for people and opportunities, which I think comes through regularly. I also make sure people I surround myself with feel valued.
TG: Can you share a time you went from surviving to thriving?
JL: We all get in ruts, and last season I did very little racing due to lack of sponsorship, and I worried that my career wouldn’t continue. Although I was constantly working at my career, I went through a series of losses, so I felt like I was just surviving. That year I took my New Year’s resolutions very seriously, changed my attitude, had a little luck, and have gone on to feel like I am thriving.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
JL: “If it’s both terrifying and amazing, you should definitely pursue it.” —@erada
TG: How do you find time for yourself?
JL: I work from home and travel a lot, so I do have a lot of me time, which I really appreciate. I try to give myself my late evenings and weekend mornings (when I’m not racing) to do things that simply bring me joy.
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