The Thrive Questionnaire with Krista Suh

The artist and creator of the Pussyhat talks energy, ideas, and the importance of training wheels.

Courtesy of Krista Suh
Courtesy of Krista Suh
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?
Krista Suh: Drink water. I’m constantly dehydrated, and I’m convinced all my problems stem somehow from not drinking enough water. When I’m well hydrated I don’t get headaches (so ostensibly I make better decisions!), I have glowy skin, and am probably nicer to be around.

TG: What gives you energy?
KS: A REALLY GREAT IDEA. And even better, I love having a great idea while being around creative people who have sloughed off their egos and are eager to make something new and exciting. When I have a great idea -- whether it’s the pussyhat or something a bit sillier like “Butt Twitter” (where you Tweet where your butt goes all day) or “Introverted Nail Colors” (earbud white, wallflower green, head in the clouds blue, blush pink) it fuels me, I literally feel a surge in my chest propelling me.

TG: What's your secret life hack?
KS: Training Wheels. I talk about this in Chapter 6 of my book, DIY Rules for a WTF World. When we’re little, we’re often ashamed of using training wheels on our bikes because we don’t want to look like a baby, but in reality, training wheels are great! And in our adult lives, we still live with that mentality, we don’t want to have training wheels like life coaches, self help books, personal trainers because we’re afraid to look like babyish -- and you can swap out that word for any of these: weak, coddled, extravagant, clumsy, awkward, needy. I think the most successful people in life are not afraid to strap on those training wheels to get really really good. My secret life hack is that I actually give myself MORE resources as a beginner. When I learned how to crochet, I paid for crochet lessons and great tools and great yarn that I loved working with, and that made me fall in love with fiber arts all over again -- plus introduced me to the community that created the success of the pussyhat. What I used to do, and what I see a lot of people doing, is deprive myself at the beginning of learning something because “I wasn’t good enough to deserve it.” Now I’ve flipped that mentality, figuring that beginners actually need great tools, it’s the advanced people who can make do with poor caliber tools and training. Remove the shame of being a beginner from your own life and see yourself blossom.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
KS: I have to cheat and say that in the Resources of my book DIY Rules for a WTF World I list several books that have changed my life. DIY Rules has changed my life in that it’s brought me all over the country meeting people in the movement. But if I had to choose from my Resources page, I would say it’s a tie between The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron and The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
KS: My phone sleeps with me yes! It’s on its Do Not Distrub setting, so I’d like to think I still control my phone, not the other way around.

TG: How do you deal with email?
KS: I use unroll.me and boomerang to keep my inbox down to reasonable numbers, and I try to calendar everything into iCal, so my email inbox isn’t a “to-do” list of reminders.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
KS: I do one of the exercises I share in my book DIY Rules because I seriously use these exercises all the time. That or I call or Marco Polo a friend. I’m a total chatterbox that way, whether it’s talking to myself on the pages of a notebook or talking to a friend, it feels so good to share.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
KS: In the middle of my book tour, I got to be home in LA for a couple of days, but I decided to take an opportunity to go down to San Diego to do a morning news segment. I was probably already burnt out, but I really crushed the embers by doing something so early in the morning, and in an unfamiliar city to boot! I often underestimate how much traveling by car and being in unfamiliar surroundings can add to my stress load and “wear the brake pads thin.” When I’m burned out, my body tells me by sending my lip a cold sore, and I’m like, yikes, it’s time to SLOW the eff down, I hear ya! Planes, not drinking enough water, and getting up too early in the morning is like the hat trick of cold sores for me. When I get one, which is thankfully pretty rare, I try to appease the goddesses by saying, “I hear you, and I’m slowing down.” Oprah talks about listening to the whispers before they become screams, and I like to think I’m listening to a whisper / stern talking-to before it gets to a screaming match with my body.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
KS: I’ve spoken at events with 400 people, and events with 6 people, but there was one stop on my tour where no one showed up! I felt I had failed in that I should have sent an email blast out or promoted this event better, and not have relied on the venue to bring in people. But to be honest, it wasn’t bad at all, which is how I know I’ve grown. I didn’t take it personally, and my team and I had so much fun taking pictures and video and enjoying ourselves. I think sometimes, things are meant to be, because we got some iconic images and boomerangs out of the experience! Something that would not have happened had I been doing my usual song and dance routine where I talk about the pussyhat, the book, feminism, and self-care! I think a lot of my attitude about it stemmed from doing The Work by Byron Katie -- had I chosen to believe the thought “I’m a bad person because no one showed up” it would have turned out very differently! But now I know that thought is something I can choose or refuse to believe, this is a concept I talk about in Chapter 2 of my book The Pharmacy. You are the pharmacist and you prescribe which thoughts to believe according to what you think will help. I think a woman’s right to choose goes far beyond reproductive choice, it includes our right to choose our thoughts.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
KS: “You were what the wind was making with illuminated leaves.” This is one of my favorite lines of poetry by Pablo Neruda. For me it’s a very romantic way of saying, “it is written.” When I feel like the weight of the world is on my shoulders, and I’m scared to make a decision, I remember these words and turn the responsibility dial down and understand I am a part of something much larger than myself.
Women, Thrive Questionnaire, Suggested Books , Poetry, Morning Routines, Life Lessons, Failure, Energy, email, Beating Burnout

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