The President and CEO of Nasdaq on How She Finds Balance In Multiple Time Zones

Plus her secret life hack.

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?
Adena Friedman: The first thing I do is to check my email. Nasdaq’s business today is truly global and runs across multiple time zones, so it is important to be available to our senior leaders around the world. I then get ready for exercise. I usually do an early morning Peloton workout or a Tae Kwon Do or Kickboxing class.

TG: What gives you energy?
AF: Our clients give me tremendous energy. We are extremely fortunate to have a global clientele, ranging from our listed companies, broker dealers, institutional investors, and almost 100 marketplaces that partner with us for our market infrastructure technology. I learn something new from every client meeting, including new ways for us to meet their ever-evolving needs. On the personal side, I draw great emotional energy from my husband and two sons.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
AF: I have two – one that helps fulfill me, and another that is a guilty pleasure. Both are great for relieving stress. Tae Kwon Do fulfills me – I have been practicing Tae Kwon Do for over 9 years now. In addition to the many fitness benefits, it has taught me valuable lessons in self-reliance and perseverance. My guilty pleasures are Netflix and Amazon Prime. Finding a great show to watch while traveling is a wonderful way to wind down and relax while passing some of the hours heading to or from client or office visits.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
AF: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. It is always important to keep life in perspective.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
AF: Yes, it sleeps with me. Given the global nature and mission-critical elements of our business, it is very important to be accessible to my team and to our clients at any hour. In fact, I view the cell-phone as a tool that helps me balance life and work. When the kids were younger, it gave me the freedom to go to their sports and school events, while remaining accessible and available for work-related needs. Today, I travel a lot to make sure that I stay close to clients, and yet, while I am on the road, the phone also allows me remain connected to the office. I definitely see the dangers of over-reliance on our cell phones, but so far, for me, the benefits have far outweighed the downsides.

TG: How do you deal with email?
AF: Like the smartphone, email is a useful tool but it is one that needs to be managed. As you might imagine, I receive a great deal of email every day and my assistant helps me prioritize important messages from clients and employees so that I can be as responsive as possible.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
AF: I like to use unscheduled time to walk the halls and speak with members of our Nasdaq team or reach out to our clients. I like to seek out unfiltered feedback whenever possible, and I find that spontaneous discussions can often garner great advice and insights.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
AF: I am in my second year as CEO of Nasdaq and each day is a truly exciting experience for me. For example, we recently announced a new strategic direction for the company, which is very exciting and energizing for the entire organization. Given where I am today, the idea of burnout is nowhere on my radar.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
AF: When I was head of Corporate Strategy at Nasdaq and focused on M&A, there were moments when individual deals ran into obstacles and the path forward was not obvious. My approach was to give myself a day away from the problem and then wake up the next morning and proactively look for a solution. Many times, this allowed me to rally the troops and, together, we would find a way to succeed.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
AF: Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – Helen Keller

Adena Friedman is President and CEO of Nasdaq and is a member of the Board of Directors. Prior to her appointment as CEO in January 2017, Friedman served as President and COO of Nasdaq and rejoined the company in 2014 as President.

Friedman earned an M.B.A. from Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University and holds a B.A. in political science from Williams College.

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