The Thrive Questionnaire//

La La Land Musician D.A. Wallach on Why Being Aware of Your Potential Means You’re ‘Ever Failing’

Plus what gives him energy and his favorite quote.

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?
D.A. Wallach: Sadly, I check my email. Then I shower almost immediately to turn on my brain.

TG: What gives you energy?
DAW: Interesting conversation with interesting people. And playing tennis.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
DAW: Curiosity is the engine for everything I do. I am happy if I’m learning, so I follow my curiosity wherever it takes me.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
DAW: E.O. Wilson’s In Search of Nature, which opened me up to the wondrous World of biology.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
DAW: I do charge my phone next to my bed, even though I know better. But I am afflicted by the modern fear of being unreachable in crisis. Being part of the last generation to know what a pre-personal computing World was like, I have come to resent my phone and what it’s done to my brain and the society at large.

TG: How do you deal with email?
DAW: I try to batch my emails into morning and evening sessions, and to only reply to urgent messages in between.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
DAW: I try to read whenever I have downtime and am not also exhausted in that moment. I more recently attempt to meditate with some regularity.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
DAW: Earlier this year I felt burned out, directionless, and uninspired. I have opted to trade a future mid-life crisis for much more frequent existential dilemmas in the meantime. Counterintuitively, I feel most “burned out” when I am not on a mission. When I am busiest and most purposeful, I tend to feel energized, even if I’m objectively more physically tired.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
DAW: I feel that I am perpetually failing in the face of the great injustices and opportunities of our times. To be aware of one’s surroundings and one’s personal potential means to be ever failing. But I accept that this sense of failure is in fact the reason to try at anything, be it writing another song or financing a company. Engaging in the ultimately un-winnable battle for significance in life is the source of meaning.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
DAW: Cornel West: “If your success in defined as being well adjusted to injustice and well adapted to indifference, then we don’t want successful leaders. We want great leaders who love the people enough and respect the people enough to be unbought, unbound, unafraid, and unintimidated to tell the truth.”

D.A. Wallach is a recording artist, songwriter, investor, and essayist who Kanye West and Pharrell Williams discovered while he was an undergraduate at Harvard College. He has been featured in GQ, Rolling Stone, Vogue, and numerous other publications, and has toured with N*E*R*D, Lady Gaga, and Weezer. D.A. has also performed on TV Shows including Jimmy Kimmel Live and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.

As one half of Chester French, D.A. has released three full-length albums, and has written and performed on records with Janelle Monae, Rick Ross, Diddy, and many others. His solo debut for Capitol Records, Time Machine, is available at: www.TimeMachineAlbum.com

Beyond music, D.A. invests in and advises several start-up technology companies, including SpaceX, Doctor On Demand, Ripple, Emulate and Spotify, where he was the official Artist in Residence. Forbes selected D.A. as one of its 30 Under 30 and Fast Company named him one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business. In 2015, he launched Inevitable Ventures, an investment partnership with multibillionaire Ron Burkle that supports radical entrepreneurs in areas including health care, the life sciences, and financial technologies.

In 2016, D.A. made his feature film debut in La La Land, which won a record number of Golden Globe Awards and received 14 Academy Award nominations, making it one of the 3 most nominated films in history. He frequently publishes essays on media, technology, and philosophy at www.dawallach.com and www.medium.com/@dawallach.

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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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