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.
Sarah Kate Ellis is President and CEO of GLAAD, a dynamic media force that tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change. Prior to joining GLAAD, Sarah Kate Ellis led national media brands, notably growing Real Simple into one of Time Inc.’s most respected and successful magazines. Her vision also transformed and energized leading media outlets including Vogue, InStyle, New York, and House & Garden.
In her Thrive Questionnaire, she opens up about her approach to failure, her love for travel, and the ritual she swears by on her morning commute.
TG: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
SKE: Pour myself a cup of coffee.
TG: What gives you energy?
SKE: Big visionary ideas that can change the world, my children, sunny days, and new adventures.
TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?
SKE: I meditate every day no matter what. And, since I live in New York and commute by train, I call my mother every day on my way to work.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
SKE: Susan Faludi’s Backlash. I read it in college and I had my first understanding of how media shapes narratives for good and bad. It inspired me then, and continues to inspire me in the work that I do everyday.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
SKE: It does sleep with me, however, when I am with my kids it is in another room and only gets checked once in a while in case of breaking news.
TG: How do you deal with email?
SKE: My assistant is on all of my emails and helps me sort through them. I’m so thankful for his help. Also, I travel between LA and NY often and I use that uninterrupted plane time to get caught up.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
SKE: First, I spend time organizing my desk, then I start with the easiest task on my list. Also, I do this thing where I tell myself that I only need to cross off 5 things on my list before I’m done. Before I know it, I’ve usually ended up doing most of the tasks at hand, but if I know in my head I don’t have to do it all it takes the pressure off.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
SKE: I research some new adventure I want to take my family on; we love to travel.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
SKE: There are degrees to being burned out… The last time I felt truly burned out, like, needed at least a month to bounce back, was about six years ago before I became President of GLAAD. I was working in an industry that was unable to innovate fast enough to keep up the changing media landscape, and it was exhausting and defeating. Since then, there are certainly moments of burn out, but I quickly rejuvenate through spending time with my family, and taking much needed vacations. There’s also an element of excitement that comes with my job that usually helps me bounce back quickly.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
SKE: Failure is a part of my job, but I always see it as an opportunity to approach my work differently.
TG: What advice would you give your younger self?
SKE: Laugh at yourself more.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
SKE: Nelson Mandela once said “It is impossible until it is done” and Valerie Jarrett once said “It is impossible until it is inevitable”. I use these quotes in my daily life. Sometimes changing culture can seem impossible, but then, eventually and seemingly all of a sudden, it is happening in front of your eyes, and it is miraculous.
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