People 17 May 2018
Randi Zuckerberg is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is the serial tech entrepreneur and Founder of Zuckerberg Media a New York Times best-selling author, Broadway singer and avid proponent of getting more young girls into STEM via an innovative pop-up shop called Sue's Tech Kitchen and children's content platform (Dot Complicated), but she's also a mom of two young boys.
According to Zuckerberg, navigating her packed schedule and multitude of personal and professional responsibilities has been built on a simple notion; picking and choosing.
Work, sleep, family, friends, fitness; all important, but not all possible to do at once. Picking three on any given day is Zuckerberg's way to navigate the many demands a modern woman in business faces. Her newest book, Pick Three: You Can Have it All tells women it's OK to sometimes temporarily disappoint people or say 'no,' to something, because being fully present is much more important. "Not everything can be top priority, so instead of trying to do everything and winding up doing it all in a thoroughly mediocre way," says Zuckerberg. "It's always better to prioritize and show up for things 100 percent."
Here, we get low down on how this book came to be and why Zuckerberg believes it's OK to sometimes put work over family...
1. Were you always someone who took on a lot? Can you talk us through how your experience brought you to the "pick three" philosophy?
I guess you can say that I've always had a 'more is more' approach to life. I've always found room to advise one more startup, see one more Broadway show, write one more book, or invest in one more female founder. The only glaring problem with that approach is it's easy to feel overloaded, drowning under the pressure of everything going on - I often found I was prioritizing everything and everyone in my life, except for me.
I figured that there had to be a way to be busy and to accomplish everything I wanted to do in terms of: work, sleep, family, friends, and fitness, but in a way that was focused, mindful, and strategic. I realized that the key lay in prioritizing. Having the discipline to focus on a few things each day and do those things really, really well has allowed me to take on many more projects than I ever dreamed possible, while feeling way less overwhelmed and frazzled (though of course I do still have my moments)!
2. Do you think there is more pressure on women to balance all responsibilities while men are forgiven more easily to embrace business over family life?
Definitely. It was shocking to me as I was researching and interviewing people for Pick Three how women would lean in close and drop their voice to a whisper before admitting that they wanted to prioritize their careers. As if it's a major taboo for women to admit that they want to spend time on the thing that they spent years of their life doing and oodles of money and student debt preparing for! It's ok to say 'I love my career and sometimes I want to prioritize it over my family!' It doesn't make you any less of a mother or any less of a person. Men definitely don't have the same societal pressure to excel at work by pretending their children don't exist, while at the same time feeling like they need to say that their children are always their number one priority in every social setting, but Pick Three applies to everyone, no matter gender, age, or phase of life. We all prioritize and make sacrifices. So make your choices each day, do those things well, and don't waste a minute feeling guilty about the areas you didn't choose.
Zuckerberg, with her two boys, reminds women that some days it's inevitable that you must pick family over work or vice versa. Photographed by Dan Martensen, Vogue.
3. Are these five value propositions universal? Do they vary when it comes to different countries, generations, and socio-economic groups?
I purposefully tried to make the five categories as broad as possible to fit the needs of as many people as possible. For example, Fitness doesn't just apply to going to the gym. It encompasses all areas of health: mental health, physical health, stress relief, mindfulness, meditation, nutrition, and more. Family is another example of a broad category. There are many people for whom family is complicated - or biological family just doesn't exist. Family broadly applies to the people who make you feel like you belong - which could be a church, religious community, etc. Of course, if my five categories don't meet the needs of your life, feel free to craft your own!
4. Which of the five are you most likely to drop? Do you notice any patterns in your own life re. favoring some vs. others.
For me, I find that friends drop off the most and sleep is a close second. I've interviewed dozens of people on this topic, and while no two people are the same, I have noticed some broad similarities of what people prioritize in different life stages. Teens and Twenties are all about Friends and Work (School, Early Career.) Thirties and Forties switch to Work and Family. And Fifties and Sixties switches back to Friends and Fitness. For me, I am squarely in the Work and Family phase of my life. I have my own company and two young children, so I am pretty much picking those two categories every single day. Which leaves only one open slot to rotate through: Fitness, Sleep & Friends. By the time I make it to the weekend, all I want to do is sleep and try to get in a good workout. Sorry, friends. See you when I turn fifty, I guess?
5. You say there is "no such thing as a perfect balance" yet women are constantly striving for perfection. What advice do you have to help women go easy on themselves for those moments they are most stressed?
I have wasted way too much of my life feeling guilty: guilty for not having a perfect body, guilty for not spending enough time with my children, guilty for not spending enough time on my company. You name it. Guilt-a-palooza over here. Compound that with the fact that it's so easy to open Instagram and feel like everyone else's lives are so perfect (because we've all gotten so good at curating our lives to a tee).
Enough of that. Don't waste one more second feeling guilty because I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that when you think about the things you've done that you are most proud of in your life, those things probably did not happen when you were perfectly balanced. No. I'm guessing you accomplished those things when you gave yourself permission to really go for it in one area of your life, even if it had to mean temporarily sacrificing some other areas. So go be great and stop feeling guilty!
"I guess you can say that I've always had a “more is more" approach to life. I've always found room to advise one more startup. See one more Broadway show. Write one more book." Photo Courtesy of Ben Arons
6. As more women enter executive positions while navigating motherhood, can you share your thoughts on how companies should begin to adapt? What was your experience with this?
Oh gosh, I could write a book titled Horrible Places I've Pumped (And Other Stories). I think that the more we as women articulate our goals, our priorities, our Pick Threes, the more we educate those around us on our boundaries, the better off we'll be.
The workplace of the future will need to be a nimble, flexible one that can accommodate working mothers and give them the environment to do their very best work, while also enabling them to Pick Family when need be.
That being said, we do ourselves and all working mothers a disservice by pretending that we can do it all at the same time. If you're on a conference call while your toddler is throwing cheerios down your shirt, then you're not present at work and you're not really there with your children. Pick Three is all about prioritizing and choosing fewer things to focus on each day so that you can be fully present and truly excellent at the things you choose. So make sure that when you Pick Work, you give your all at work. And when you Pick Family, you are truly spending quality time.
If that means that you need to have a four-day work week or a flexible work-from-home arrangement or you need to not answer emails on Sundays, then do it. You know yourself best, which means you know the environment to truly set yourself up for success, rather than failure.
7. It is clear that women from more privileged socioeconomic backgrounds are given preferential treatment in terms of getting hired by top firms or getting investments, can you speak about this disparity?
It's definitely a vicious cycle. If you're in a position where you get to pick your Pick Three and you have the freedom and resources to choose where to focus your energy, then you're already starting from a privileged position.
There are so many people out there who don't get to pick their Pick Three - life picks for them. And of course, if you're a single parent working multiple jobs to make ends meet - then you're regularly not picking Friends, which means you're not building your network. You're probably not picking Sleep or Fitness that much either, which means you're not putting your best foot forward. So you're already starting from a severely handicapped position.
Where Pick Three can truly help here is in acknowledging that none of us can prioritize everything and do it all alone - we need to lean on those around us for help. So whether that is finding a mentor, a religious community for networking and resources, an online course, friends or neighbors - find those local groups that can fill in the gaps and enable you to pick some of the categories you have been neglecting a bit more.
8. When it comes to giving yourself totally personal, disconnected 'me-time,' as a mom or as a business leader, is there ever too much? Any strategies for "touching base" with yourself every so often?
I'm not sure there's ever such a thing as too much 'me-time.' I tend to believe that the more you take care of yourself, the more you can show up for those around you who depend on you. The better you'll be at work, with your children, at the gym, with your friends, you name it. We all have different needs - for example, I am actually quite introverted and need some alone time after a highly social work event, whereas my husband is quite extraverted and could spend every single minute of the day surrounded by other people, so it's hard to apply a one-size-fits-all here.
By journaling your Pick Three, you'll be able to quickly touch base with yourself and see if you've been neglecting self-care a bit too much recently.
Book cover for PICK THREE by Randi Zuckerberg
9. Let's say you adopt the Pick 3 strategy, and it causes you to put work further down on your priority list, how should you go about explaining this to your employer and making it a seamless experience moving forward?
If you're getting your work done as your job requires it (not half-assed), you probably won't need to have a big discussion about de-prioritizing work. But if you have to take on a smaller workload and actively pass on projects, or if you find yourself missing deadlines and falling short of responsibilities, you definitely need to have an honest discussion with your employer.
Having to focus on family, health, etc. is a normal part of life. It's understandable to be afraid of being honest about this need. The fear stigma is real. We worry our outside needs could cost us our job, our salary, and our livelihood. But honesty is always the best policy. If you can make it so your work is completed or your team can help pick up the some of the load, tell your boss that your time away will only bring you back as a stronger, more focused employee.
If you have to take a leave, be honest about that too. Don't stretch yourself thin. Life happens, and when it does we need to be adult about what to do. By hiding your needs, you're bringing more stress to come. Rip the Band-Aid off quick and admit your struggles. Your boss will appreciate you more for respecting them and including him/her in your discussions of what to do. It shows a strong work ethic, and even more so, it shows your dedication to your work.
10. When it comes to those days that everything just seems equally important (i.e. a big All Hands meeting, your kid's big recital, and your best friend's bridal shower), do you have any strategies for how to decide on which should come first, and how to navigate the others?
Sometimes, prioritization means making tough choices and being honest with those around us when their event just can't make it into our Pick Three. It also means planning in advance. I've found that even the busiest weeks can be made less stressful by planning in advance what to prioritize and how to focus. With some good planning, we can occasionally have a Pick Four day (as long as we don't try for it too often.) Can you delegate tasks for the bridal shower? Video call into the all hands? Have someone tape the piano recital and then watch it with your child at home to relive the moment? Not everything can be top priority, so instead of trying to do everything and winding up doing it all in a thoroughly mediocre way (that's the old you!) it's always better to prioritize and show up for things 100 percent, even if it means temporarily disappointing a few people along the way, but then showing up for them fully in the future.
11. A lot of what you do (Dot Complicated, Sue's Tech Kitchen) is aimed at bringing technology into the lives of children. Can you tell us more about why this was a quest you set out on?
I am driven by a mission to get more women and girls into tech and STEM fields. My research points to ages 9 and 10 as a key time when we lose a lot of girls in these fields. If we can't get a girl excited about tech by that age, it's really hard to get her interested later on. After seeing that data, I decided to focus a lot of my efforts on children's media projects. I am currently the executive producer of Dot., an animated children's show on Hulu and Universal Kids about a tech-savvy girl and her friends, based on a children's book I wrote in 2013. And most recently, my team and I opened Sue's Tech Kitchen, a pop-up tech-themed cafe where you can eat 3D-printed s'mores or watch a robot make you a pancake. We've now opened three locations, focused on small and mid-sized cities that could become up-and-coming tech hubs. Our first location was in Chattanooga, TN. And most recently, we popped up in Jackson, MS. We'll be opening in six additional cities in the second half of 2018.
12. Can you tell us a bit about what you're up to now (aside from the book, of course). Any Broadway performances or other activities of note?
Oh my, aside from raising two young boys, ages 3 and 7 to be smart, kind-hearted men - I'm not afraid or guilty to admit that I love my career. We're opening six additional locations of Sue's Tech Kitchen in the coming months. I host a weekly radio show on SiriusXM (Dot Complicated on Channel 111), I see 60+ Broadway and Off-Broadway shows each year as a Tony voter. I travel the globe speaking at conferences from Croatia to Cleveland. And I have a personal goal to lift 3 million total pounds of weight in the gym over the course of all of 2018. There's always something brewing at Zuckerberg Media. Luckily I have Pick Three to keep me grounded!
Purchase your copy of PICK THREE at Amazon now!
In 2016, I finally found my voice. I always thought I had one, especially as a business owner and mother of two vocal toddlers, but I had been wrong.
For more than 30 years, I had been struggling with the fear of being my true self and speaking my truth. Then the repressed memories of my childhood sexual abuse unraveled before me while raising my 3-year-old daughter, and my life has not been the same since.
Believe it or not, I am happy about that.
The journey for a survivor like me to feel even slightly comfortable sharing these words, without fear of being shamed or looked down upon, is a long and often lonely one. For all of the people out there in the shadows who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I dedicate this to you. You might never come out to talk about it and that's okay, but I am going to do so here and I hope that in doing so, I will open people's eyes to the long-term effects of abuse. As a survivor who is now fully conscious of her abuse, I suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and, quite frankly, it may never go away.
It took me some time to accept that and I refuse to let it stop me from thriving in life; therefore, I strive to manage it (as do many others with PTSD) through various strategies I've learned and continue to learn through personal and group therapy. Over the years, various things have triggered my repressed memories and emotions of my abuse--from going to birthday parties and attending preschool tours to the Kavanaugh hearing and most recently, the"Leaving Neverland" documentary (I did not watch the latter, but read commentary about it).
These triggers often cause panic attacks. I was angry when I read Barbara Streisand's comments about the men who accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them, as detailed in the documentary. She was quoted as saying, "They both married and they both have children, so it didn't kill them." She later apologized for her comments. I was frustrated when one of the senators questioning Dr. Christine Blasey Ford (during the Kavanaugh hearing) responded snidely that Dr. Ford was still able to get her Ph.D. after her alleged assault--as if to imply she must be lying because she gained success in life.We survivors are screaming to the world, "You just don't get it!" So let me explain: It takes a great amount of resilience and fortitude to walk out into society every day knowing that at any moment an image, a sound, a color, a smell, or a child crying could ignite fear in us that brings us back to that moment of abuse, causing a chemical reaction that results in a panic attack.
So yes, despite enduring and repressing those awful moments in my early life during which I didn't understand what was happening to me or why, decades later I did get married; I did become a parent; I did start a business that I continue to run today; and I am still learning to navigate this "new normal." These milestones do not erase the trauma that I experienced. Society needs to open their eyes and realize that any triumph after something as ghastly as childhood abuse should be celebrated, not looked upon as evidence that perhaps the trauma "never happened" or "wasn't that bad. "When a survivor is speaking out about what happened to them, they are asking the world to join them on their journey to heal. We need love, we need to feel safe and we need society to learn the signs of abuse and how to prevent it so that we can protect the 1 out of 10 children who are being abused by the age of 18. When I state this statistic at events or in large groups, I often have at least one person come up to me after and confide that they too are a survivor and have kept it a secret. My vehicle for speaking out was through the novella The Survivors Club, which is the inspiration behind a TV pilot that my co-creator and I are pitching as a supernatural, mind-bending TV series. Acknowledging my abuse has empowered me to speak up on behalf of innocent children who do not have a voice and the adult survivors who are silent.
Remembering has helped me further understand my young adult challenges,past risky relationships, anger issues, buried fears, and my anxieties. I am determined to thrive and not hide behind these negative things as they have molded me into the strong person I am today.Here is my advice to those who wonder how to best support survivors of sexual abuse:Ask how we need support: Many survivors have a tough exterior, which means the people around them assume they never need help--we tend to be the caregivers for our friends and families. Learning to be vulnerable was new for me, so I realized I needed a check-off list of what loved ones should ask me afterI had a panic attack.
The list had questions like: "Do you need a hug," "How are you feeling," "Do you need time alone."Be patient with our PTSD". Family and close ones tend to ask when will the PTSD go away. It isn't a cold or a disease that requires a finite amount of drugs or treatment. There's no pill to make it miraculously disappear, but therapy helps manage it and some therapies have been known to help it go away. Mental Health America has a wealth of information on PTSD that can help you and survivors understand it better. Have compassion: When I was with friends at a preschool tour to learn more about its summer camp, I almost fainted because I couldn't stop worrying about my kids being around new teenagers and staff that might watch them go the bathroom or put on their bathing suit. After the tour, my friends said,"Nubia, you don't have to put your kids in this camp. They will be happy doing other things this summer."
In that moment, I realized how lucky I was to have friends who understood what I was going through and supported me. They showed me love and compassion, which made me feel safe and not judged.