This Is What Dana Mathews Reminds Herself to Handle Setbacks

In her Thrive Questionnaire, the Entertainment Director at GQ and Architectural Digest opens up about the mindset shift that helps her reframe and overcome failure.

At Thrive Global, in honor of International Women’s Day, we’re inviting women business leaders to share how they Thrive. 

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed? 

Dana Matthews: Give my boyfriend Michael a big hug and put in my contacts. Then, I go straight to the coffee pot and get a cup with some vanilla creamer.


TG: What gives you energy? 

DM: Positive thinking! A 45-minute spin class. A walk through  Domino Park in Brooklyn no matter what the weather is. And chugging water if I am at work or on a plane.


TG: What’s your secret life hack? 

DM: Olive oil can make almost any breakfast lunch or dinner meal better.

TG: Name a book that changed your life. 

DM: You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay. Jesus Calling: Enjoying Peace in His Presence by Sarah Hay, which I read daily before I go to sleep.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you? 

DM: It’s truthfully not great, working on using let less but it’s very important for the type of work I do (celebrity booking) because anything could happen at any time and I have to problem solve IRL. As for the evening…the ringer is off when I go home. I find a phone ringing so disruptive. I’ll call you back when I see a missed call (and it isn’t a work call). My phone is not in the bedroom while I sleep, but rather outside my room so I can hear my alarm. I read something you should sleep three feet from your phone but I don’t want it near me when I’m sleeping.
 
TG: How do you deal with email? 

DM: I need someone to help me organize my inbox! I have been at my company since 2006 and have 38,260 unread emails. The volume of pitches I receive is very high. I try to respond as timely as possible but it isn’t always doable. I get backed up! One thing I do like to do is be formal on work emails. Always address

people, and sign it properly. I don’t like super casual work conversations via email.


TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it? 

DM: I’ll start travel scheming and randomly look up flights on Google flights or Skyscanner and hotels on Tablet. I love travel!

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
DM: In one week I was in London working with Tom Holland (on the hottest day of the year) went back to New York to change my luggage, then went to Los Angeles for GQ’s Brad Pitt cover. I was truly exhausted and out-of-my-mind tired.


TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?  

DM: In a work context, there’s so much out that happens that is of my control and all I can do is my best in  any given situation. When something goes wrong with talent (like, they don’t show up, or they’re 10 hours late, etc.), I always tell myself, I’m not a magician. I can be sensitive towards hard situations but I tell myself to move on as quickly as possible.  Experience gave me a complete change in attitude and I’ve learned nothing is personal.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace. 

DM: A quote from a really beautiful and special place, The Golden Door: “Your mind will always believe everything you tell it. Feed it Faith. Feed it truth. Feed it with love.”

TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do? 

DM: I take a deep breath and as the Greeks say “sigá-sigá.” I slow it down! I know it will all get done and I don’t want to put too much unrealistic pressure on myself. That never works. I make a list and take one thing at a time.

TG: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress? 

DM: Things that you think really matter and are causing you stress actually don’t matter at all. Try your best, problem solve with grace, but don’t put all this unnecessary stress and pressure

 on yourself. It’s unkind.
 

TG: Do you have any role models for living a thriving life? 

DM: Will Welch (my GQ Editor-in-Chief) has the best outlook. He has the craziest schedule of anyone I know, is always on a plane to somewhere, and barely has time to eat lunch everyday. He comes to every meeting with exuding kindness and positivity.
 

TG: What’s your personal warning sign that you’re depleted? 

DM: My TMJ flares up and it’s not fun. My jaw hurts, the back of my neck, and all down my back.

TG: When you notice you’re getting too stressed, what do you do to course correct?

DM: I’ll try to go to a spa for a massage or facial. Or I’ll lie down and get lost in a good book.

TG: What’s a surprising way you practice mindfulness? 

DM: Going to church on Sunday really helps me get my mind in the right place Monday- Friday. Listening to podcasts by Chad Veach or Judah Smith on my morning commute.

TG: How do you reframe negative thinking? 

DM: Having a thankful attitude. Every moment we have a choice to be positive. We can view whatever comes our way as experiences or annoyances. I told Will Welch that my goal for 2020 was to make our travel more fun. So instead of being stressed before work trips, I am trying to reframe my mindset from a place of being grateful, because I truly am. Fatigue can wear you down.

TG: What brings you optimism? 

DM: Seeing a Broadway show or live theater. Sharing a meal with a loved one. Taking a New York City walk.

TG: Tell us about a small change you have made in your life to improve the way you connect with others. What did you do, how long did it take until it became effective, and how you sustain this habit?

DM: I try to genuinely connect with people. Ask how people are, make eye contact, and be friendly. It makes a huge difference in the room during a meeting and has a big return in the long run.

TG: What was the biggest turning point in your life? 

DM: When I started having a real relationship with God. That changed everything for me and gave me peace.

TG: What’s your secret time-saver in the morning? 

DM: I’ll take a shower the night before if my time is limited in the morning. Drying my hair is my biggest time suck.


TG: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep? 

DM: I take a bath every night with epsom salts, a candle burning, and a good book or People magazine.

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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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