President and CEO of Susan G. Komen On What Gives Her Energy

Plus the last time she felt burned out.

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?
Paula Schneider: I try to take a moment to set my intentions but I’m pretty sure most days, I look at my phone. I’m a news junkie and I have to see what’s happening out in the world. Need that Jolt of crazy to start my day.

TG: What gives you energy?
PS: Believe it or not, it’s my work at Komen. Each day I’m motivated to work hard to save lives. Prior to Komen I used to say “well, we’re not curing cancer”. Now we actually are and that is motivating.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
PS: I only pack in a carry on. So everything is black or white. Now adding pink into my suitcase is presenting a challenge.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
PS: My favorite author is Maryanne Williamson. She writes books that highlight positivity and creating your own universe. I went through breast cancer and it really helped to believe you would be OK.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
PS: Of course it does. Well nearby on my nightstand.

TG: How do you deal with email?
PS: I respond to every single email. I get them all the time from people dealing with life and death and I try to help.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
PS: The greatest thing I have ever found is Stretchzone. It’s a business where you lie on a table and they stretch you like a pretzel. AMAZING!

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
PS: Working in fashion retail. The industry is so tortured that you could be great at your job and your results would still be tough. I know how Kodak felt.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
PS: I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 during the beginning of the financial crisis. It was the perfect storm and financially devastating. It’s hard to be sick in this country. When you’re in treatment, you can only focus on staying alive. I had to care about me first then worry about building back my life and career. I did both by putting one foot in front of the other and soldiering on.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
PS: Be decisive. Right or wrong make a decision. The road of life is paved with flat squirrels that couldn’t make a decision.

Paula Schneider is president and CEO of Susan G. Komen®, responsible for the strategic direction and day-to-day operation of Komen’s research, community health, public policy advocacy and global programs.

Schneider brings a personal perspective to Komen’s mission as a breast cancer survivor whose mother died of metastatic breast cancer.

“I know from personal experience the devastation of breast cancer, and the power and impact of the Komen mission to end it,” she said. “I am determined to do all that I can to build on this iconic organization’s mission to end breast cancer, for everyone and forever.”

Schneider is widely regarded as an expert in organization management and finance, serving as president and CEO of American Apparel and Delta Galil Premium Brands and as president at Warnaco Swimwear Group. She served in strategic advisory roles at the private equity firm, The Gores Group.

A featured speaker at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in 2016, Schneider also was named one of Los Angeles Business Journal’s 500 Most Influential People for 2016 and garnered the National Association of Women’s Business Owners Inspiration Award in 2010.

As Komen’s president and CEO, Schneider is responsible for the world’s largest breast cancer research portfolio (almost $1 billion in funding to date), and a network of 80 Komen Affiliates serving millions of women and men in the United States and globally.

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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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