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.
Career shifts can be daunting, but not to Vicky Hausman. Since the moment she graduated college, Hausman has found herself exploring new opportunities in a variety of work environments, following the callings of industries that need her help the most. She started her career in the Peace Corps, later transitioning into a role at Dalberg, where she led the firm’s Americas business and its global health practice. Hausman has most recently traded the corporate world for political entrepreneurship. Currently, Hausman is the co-founder of Forward Majority, an organization focused on winning state legislative power to address the gerrymandering and voter suppression that undermine democracy. It isn’t an easy job, But Hausman admits that she finds joy in the mix of wins and losses. “Life is messy, and I’ve come to appreciate that the surviving and thriving often go hand in hand,” she says.
Hausman chatted with Thrive about her shared love for being a mom and bettering her country, and how we can start sparking change ourselves.
Thrive Global: What is the first thing you do when you wake up? How do you set your day up for success?
Vicky Hausman: My alarm clock these days is my 3-year old son. He is the early bird in our home, and most days I wake up to his smiling face as he clambors over me, with an elbow or knee to my ribs, and climbs into bed, along with a requisite handful of stuffed animals. The first thing I do when I wake up is lie in bed for 10 more minutes. Religiously. Soaking in the last few minutes of calm before the whirlwind of the day begins.
TG: You started your career in the Peace Corps. How did giving back affect your career?
VH: I grew up in a big family that is very service-oriented. We were born incredibly lucky — in America, at a moment of peace and great opportunity. The ethos of our childhood was, “those to whom much has been given, much is expected,” and that’s been a frame for my professional life.
I joined the Peace Corps after college, curious about the world, and with a belief that income inequality is one of the biggest issues of our time. As a 22-year old with a high dose of enthusiasm but not much to offer in terms of relevant skills, my lived experience in Peace Corps was less about “giving back,” and more about being welcomed into a vastly different culture and community, and being schooled on the promise — and also dysfunction — of foreign assistance and the global aid system.
TG: How can we incorporate more giving and gratitude at work?
VH: One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is to try to get as close as possible to the people our work aims to impact — be that mothers in rural Ethiopia, or voters in suburban Texas. This makes our ideas and solutions much, much better, and also infuses a human connection that gives greater meaning to the day to day.
TG: Can you share a bit about Forward Majority? Why did you start it?
VH: I started Forward Majority, along with my co-founder, David Cohen, to win state legislative power for Democrats where it can have the biggest impact on voter suppression and gerrymandering.
Like it was for so many of us, Trump’s election was a wake up call for me about the state of our democracy. I started trying to figure out what could make a difference, doing my own due diligence to understand the most powerful points of leverage for change.
I quickly came to appreciate that if you care about democracy, you need to care about state legislatures. They have been ground zero in voter suppression and gerrymandering of congressional districts, which continue to undermine national elections, give us unrepresentative government, and drive partisanship and political extremism.
TG: What are its goals?
VH: We’re focused on flipping state legislatures to Democratic control in places like Texas, Florida, Arizona, North Carolina — states that have been consistently bad actors when it comes to these issues of democracy. Winning power in 2020 will give Democrats a seat at the table when district lines are redrawn after the upcoming census, and put a check on laws designed to make it hard for people — particularly people of color and young people — to vote.
TG: How can people get involved?
VH: Sign up to follow our work at www.forwardmajority.org, or follow us on twitter (@forwardmajority). Pay attention to the state legislative races in your state. Support candidates who’ve stepped up to run.
TG: If you could convince us to do one thing that could help our country what would it be and how can we do it?
VH: VOTE! Take your friends, neighbors, colleagues with you. Teach your kids the value of going to polls and making sure their voices are heard. If you’re a leader of a business or organization, give your employees time off for the day to vote. Celebrate this civic duty.
TG: How can we actually spark change?
VH: It’s easy these days to feel disillusioned, powerless, and overwhelmed by the sheer chaos out of Washington. The forces that benefit from this chaos, that profit from dysfunction in our government, want you to feel exactly this way, and they want it to keep you on the sidelines.
But, each of us has so much more power than we realize. Margaret Meade was absolutely right: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” To drive change, don’t let today’s news and politics numb you into a state of disillusionment. Get fired up, get angry, get hopeful — whatever it takes to motivate you — and translate that into action, organizing, and fighting for the future we hope our children will inherit.
TG: In your field, working long hours can be the norm. How do you set aside time for self care?
VH: To be honest, it’s extremely hard to find time. But, it’s essential, and I feel my clarity and effectiveness wane when I don’t sleep enough, get to work out, or otherwise take care of myself. I make time to run several days a week, literally booking time on my calendar and sticking with it as much as possible (!). In the evenings, I set a timer on my phone telling me to go to bed, and try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.
TG: When was a time you felt burned out and why? How did you overcome it?
VH: I actually don’t think I experienced true burnout until this past year. It was brutal. The toll of mobilizing a start-up and ploughing it into the midterms — only to wake up, exhausted, having spent every last cent of our funding and needing to build it all over again the day after the election, was incredibly draining. What brought me back and rejuvenated me was being able to take some proper time off, and then spending time with my colleagues to chart a vision and strategic direction that pulled me back into focus.
TG: What is the most effective way, as a leader, to communicate with your team?
VH: At a big picture level, aligning on goals and priorities helps everything to flow. Beyond that, time together in person is incredibly valuable. And, remembering to just pick up the phone instead of trying to resolve or debate on email or text.
TG: What brings you optimism?
VH: Seeing all the people who never cared about politics before 2016 who are now deeply engaged.
TG: What daily habit or practice helps you thrive?
VH: I carve out time for myself at the end of each day. There are so many demands and requests, all day long. I savor the quiet moments in the evening, when the work of the day is done, homework is done, kids are in bed, email follow ups are done, that is just for me. Have a glass of wine, call a friend, dig into a juicy series or audiobook.
TG: How do you prioritize when you have an overwhelming amount to do?
VH: Write it all down. Pick the critical path essentials; push out, delegate, or simply decide not to do the lower priority items.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
VH: I’m a big believer in the value of failure. Fail fast and recover quickly. As an entrepreneur, it’s the only way to succeed.
I lead much of our fundraising, and in that regard, it’s easy to feel failure every single day; there are a lot of NOs for every yes. I try to learn from them, and to quickly move on.
TG: Can you share a time you went from surviving to thriving?
VH: I’ve come to appreciate that I’m constantly doing a bit of both! As a working mom, juggling a fast growth start-up and three young boys, most days, I have a slew of wins and losses all mixed together.
We make a big advance in our campaign programs, only for me to get a text from my son’s school that I forgot to pack lunch for a field trip. Or, we’ll have an awesome morning at home with lots of laughter and minimal fighting, only for there to be 10 fires to put out as soon as I look at my email.
Life is messy, and I’ve come to appreciate that the surviving and thriving often go hand in hand.