Finding balance: How high-powered women can have it all

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A few months ago, I got in trouble with some of my readers. In my Ramit’s Brain Trust program, where I interview one of my mentors/advisors/confidants and share the video with the group every month.

When I asked who else they wanted me to interview, I started getting a bunch of notes from Brain Trust members asking why I hadn’t interviewed any women yet.

They had a point. In fact, there are so many top-performing women in RBT, there’s even a sub-group called “Women of RBT.” (It’s so private, even I’m not allowed in.)

It took me about 5 seconds to know who I wanted to interview. I definitely wanted to interview Pam Slim, whom I introduced a couple months ago. And Gretchen Rubin, whom I introduced in April.

And I knew I also had to bring Elizabeth Weil into studio. Not just because I was looking to fill a quota of women, but because she’s one of the best examples of top performers that I know.

I’ve known Elizabeth Weil since 7th grade. And she’s mastered the balance of high performance and creativity.

A little bit about her:

  • She’s a partner at a top-tier venture-capital firm in Silicon Valley. Before that, she was an executive at Twitter

  • On the side, she runs Paperwheel, a letterpress (high-end stationery) company

  • Oh, btw, she’s also an ultra-marathon runner

  • And she also has a family and stays in touch with her friends all the time.

HOW?? How does she do it all?

That’s exactly what I wanted to ask her when I brought her into my studio for an hour-long interview. We talked about it all — the tradeoffs, where to cut corners, how to stay in touch when you’re pulled in different directions by different people.

Truthfully, Elizabeth admitted that she doesn’t have it all figured out. But she does have a few “tricks of the trade” she uses to stay on top of these demands…and ways to recharge when it becomes overwhelming.

SPECIAL NOTE: This interview will be especially interesting to the 100,000+ women in the IWT community, but it’s not just for women. If you’re curious about how top-performing women navigate the field of traditionally male-oriented industries and manage it all, we cover it in this interview.

Unfortunately, it’s become politically incorrect to talk about the differences between men and women — even though we clearly think and act differently. So in this interview, you’ll see Elizabeth and I try to unravel how to highlight our strengths and figure out the best way to live a rich life.

Does that mean making sure you’re home at 7pm every night to eat dinner with your family?

Or setting an example for your boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse by putting your work away and spending quality time together?

Or maybe temporarily saying, “Work is the most important thing right now,” and committing to being the best at your job?

What are the unique challenges that women have to think about…(that men don’t)?

Crafting a balance between your career and personal life can be one of the most challenging parts of being a top performer, especially when everyone wants a piece of you.

How do you create an environment where you can succeed — and stay involved in the lives of the people you care about?

To answer this question, I invited Elizabeth Weil into my Brain Trust studio to ask her how she does it. This is a rare opportunity to see a top performer pull back the veil and talk candidly about work-life balance, careers, and the demands of being a top performer.

Here’s a sneak peek:

In the full interview, you’ll learn:

  • What to do when you feel “stuck” in your job and know you need to get out

  • How to attract healthy relationships with people who will bring the best out in you — both personally and professionally

  • The unique challenges that ambitious women have in male-dominated industries

  • A simple system to keep in touch with the people you care about (never let a relationship go “cold” again)

  • A simple way to say “no” to things that you don’t want to do without feeling guilty

This interview is part of my Brain Trust program, where each month I unveil a new interview with my personal mentors, advisors, and confidants each month. Each month, you get access to these private interviews, plus a community of 1,000+ top IWT students. Find 1-on-1 accountability partners, meet other IWT readers in your city, and stop consuming information…and start taking action.

The Brain Trust program is closed right now. If you’re interested in getting on the wait list and getting the full interview, add yourself here:

Ramit’s Brain Trust

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16 Comments

 
  1. […] Finding balance: How high-powered women can have it all is a post from: I Will Teach You To Be Rich. […]

  2. Men and women don’t think any differently than a man and another man. If we did, then women would not appreciate literature from a male perspective and men would not be able to connect with anything from a woman’s point of view. PC is PC for a reason. It keeps an entire group from being marginalized because someone else decided that we think differently or act differently or any other number of differents. Yes, there are different challenges women face, but that is only because people out there still believe men and woman are so different when they really aren’t.

    • That’s the way I see it too. I don’t think that business places should adapt to women – but adapt to everyone’s needs. For example, I don’t think serving your family is something feminine. Business environments should be more family-friendly, not mother-friendly. In my country there’s a strong mother friendly trend instead of a parent friendly trend. Instead of making it easier for mothers, it’s making things worse. For example, the mother leave got longer, but father leave is like 2 weeks long in comparison. Instead of making it easier for a woman (so that she can take care of her baby longer), it makes women discrimination on job market more drastic.

      To the original article – sometimes I feel overwhelmed with all those articles and videos and conferences on “work/life balance” led by “an entrepreneur, a speaker, a wife and a mom”. Is work/life balance only a domain of mothers or what? Can I wonder about my work/life balance if I’m single? Should I feel worse or unproductive because some women also run a marathon and raise a family? These are my thoughts. I also wonder why I don’t see a topic “how to be a dad and a husband and a business entrepreneur”. And why in women interviews I never hear what their partner (unless they’re single mothers) do to make that happen. If I hear a topic about business and family life, I’d always want to see both people responsible unless there’s only one. So my ideal video would guest a couple who talk about how they share their responsibilities and support each other in their professional life. Because life/work balance is always both parents business, it’s not like a mom needs to watch 100 videos and figure it out and force her partner to follow her will. It takes two.

      If we look at career as an overwhelming responsibility and a family life as a privilege, then again, it would be a great topic for men too. How not to focus 100% of your energy on business? How to spend more time with kids when they’re young? I don’t see such topics and I spend my time mostly on gender-neutral sites just like this one, not on women magazines.

    • Lastly, “having it all” sounds extremely tiring. Woman+having it all. You need to have it all or… you’re not good enough. I don’t want to have ALL. I don’t want to be a business person 8 am to 6 pm and marathon runner for the next two hours and a wife for the next four. I wanna me ME, mostly, and have ME time. For me work/life balance is about having a rest and recharging my bateries while I’m trying to do something meaningful, but in moderation.

    • Thank you Doris. You put so elegantly what I wanted to say, but couldn’t find the right words. I rarely see a feature of an entrepreneur or business person who does such and such AND is a father! Thank you for speaking out on this and hopefully our daughters will have an easier time in the business world than women today do.

  3. OK, after learning about all that Elizabeth packs in a single day, I will never, ever complain of being tired again! :). And love that the interview is packed with lots of great tips, while keeping it at just under 6 minutes. much appreciated! Thanks.

  4. Doris, I agree with many of your points. I think businesses should adapt to everyones needs and know how to adjust for any individual given their circumstance and along the lines of how that individual chooses to live their life.

    Nowadays families can be constructed in many ways and the husband can be taking care of the children as the educated mother is busy working. Luckily I think workplace environments will be able to accommodate for these situations more and more, now that working can be more mobile for us entrepreneurs, or business people.

    Also, I would like to take a moment to comment about the “work/life” balance. Yes, it is fantastic that a woman or a man can be super productive, successful, with many kids, and have their athleticism in tact until they are 70. The point isn’t to make you feel bad about yourself, it is more to make you realize what you are capable of doing this too, given the right strategy. In Elizabeth’s case, it would seem as if she is a super woman with the ability to do the things we all dream of doing, but if we are to take a closer look and have certain questions answered about her habits you will realize that although she takes on a lot of work, she has more importantly built herself into being the person it takes to be able to handle that workload thus resulting in all that “workload” to be a lot easier than you would think it is. Whether its the way you organize your time, or already being athletic and it being easier to run those extra miles, or having enough energy to take care of your kids and be positive going into your next work day. That being said, Elizabeth or anyone in her position probably structured their life to make all these things happen in a way that allows them to feel productive, happy, and feel like they are leading a life that was well worth it.

    You stated that “For you work/life balance is about have rest and recharging your batteries.” I agree with you, and share the same beliefs, but it has come to my realization that for individuals like Elizabeth, she probably gets what you think of a being tired after a run, as getting the energy and blood flowing to take on the rest of her day, or that maybe the nutrition she has for her lifestyle fuels her to have more energy than the average person. My point is she probably spent many years structuring her life and her habits to be able to take on the workload she takes on, while making it more simple to handle.

    • Thanks Yanni! I appreciate the most your longest paragraph about Elizabeth. Nobody says that, you know? Still I know it’s true. I’m coming out from a moderate depression and I realize it was as hard for me to do the little I was doing (eg. get up and take a shower and maybe cook a dinner and that’s it, the whole day) as it is hard for executive managers that are used to their routine. If I’m chaotic and stressed out I can’t squeeze as much in a day as people who are in balance. So now I try to learn my balance, but I know I’ll never be Elizabeth – I need alone time and inactive leisure time not to go crazy. That’s also the reason I’m putting off having children – I know I couldn’t last a week without 8 hours of sleep a day and min 4 hours a day just for me. But I wish to do more with me time so that I had time both for practical stuff and working on my long term goals. So I’m taking your precious advice and I’ll be working on being the person that is psychically and emotionally prepared for this, instead of just fulfilling my expectations. Wish my therapist suggested that long ago.

      Another thought: “but it has come to my realization that for individuals like Elizabeth, she probably gets what you think of a being tired after a run” – I have a problem here, see I think many many people (not necessarily Elizabeth who does this successfully) are forced into relaxing in active way. I’m an indoor introvert and I heard many times I should exercise to be less stressed out. Thing is, exercise IS stressing me out! The list of activities that serve health and make me relaxed is very short (swimming in the sea/lakes, yoga, romantic & not health-oriented walks, private dance improvisation) but all the people trying to help don’t know this and won’t listen to this. Running or going to gym/fitness club is the socially accepted way of relaxation after work. So I wonder how many people who’d rather walk a dog or do some gardening or whatever are running every day against their gut instinct because they believe that’s the prize you pay for physical and mental health. Young people in corporations (where most of my friends work) work for 9 hours + at least 1 hour of commuting, and the advice you get how to deal with stress is go to gym after work. I bet lots and lots of people wouldn’t find being out from 8 am to 8 pm really relaxing, but rather hate the exercise and drop out of gym and be only more stressed. That’s the issue I have with this, but I also know people who live and breath exercise and that’s cool too.

  5. Doris, you’re unfairly comparing yourself to Elizabeth. She probably had to go through many hurdles and changes to get to the point where she is today, just as anyone else. You have the potential to do the same, but you have to realize that it takes time for those changes to happen if you’re not already used to those things already. And if you don’t want all of those things, that’s okay too! That doesn’t mean we cannot still look up to those people who “have it all”.

    Plus, your perspective of “having it all” is extremely one-sided. Some people like to have more time to relax (in solitude, or with family/friends). Others like to have more busy lives. Some might even negatively view having just work/relaxation (no recreation, community service, side projects, etc.) as “having it all”. In truth, no lifestyle is really “bad” or “good”. It’s just our thinking that makes it so. That doesn’t mean we can’t learn from each other.

    Personally, I am looking to do work that I love, enjoy creativity in solitude, spend time with friends at least once a week, exercise, and relax. I’m not interested in having a family right away or getting involved with multiple work-related projects. Since Elizabeth seems to be involved with all of the things I’d like to do and more, it’s not exactly a bad idea for me to ask for her advice. There’s still a process behind it. You don’t need to want the same things, as long as you want to follow the same idea. In this case, the idea is to have the lifestyle that YOU desire.

    • I love your post. Thank you for all your comments. I’d love to be surrounded by people thinking the way you think, that every lifestyle choice is alright as long as it’s not harmful to anyone. I guess I’m oversensitive having been surrounded by all these people who think they have “superior” lifestyles. People on the Internet and in my environment are generally haters. If someone is one size bigger than them, they’d be like: “Why aren’t you on a diet? Why aren’t you running every day? Oh, I know, you’re LAZY”. Makes me laugh because I’m quite slender and I spent around two hours on the exercise in the entire year :) When I say I’m tired after 8 hours, there’s always someone who jumps in and says “I work 12 hours and then go to gym and then study neuroscience for 4 hours and I’m not tired”. I’m serious. So I see a real downside to promoting activity and effectiveness – it teaches people that it’s never enough, and that being active and effective is all that matters in life. I don’t agree with this, but this is just a note to Ramit I guess, on his choice of topics. As for Elizabeth she seemed to really enjoy her life and I admire her for living the life she enjoys. You made rethink my policy to attack first all these suspiciously active people :)

  6. Does she have children? It is one thing to “have a family” but a completely different ball game if a woman has children and tries to balance career, family and children’s activities etc. This becomes a huge drain on her time usually…

  7. You put so elegantly what I wanted to say

  8. I have never understood why our culture always puts men ahead of women. Such that when women succeed they have to go through so much more to get there. It’s too much of a male-centric mentality. Business is a meritocracy, whoever does the best job should get rewarded.

  9. I just stumbled onto your blog for the first time and I am so glad I found this post. My wife and I are all about partnership in our marriage and I love that she wants to have a career. The insight that could be had regarding “how to say no to things you don’t want to do” I will definitely be sharing with her. She is incredibly talented, and capable; which leads to lots of people asking her to be involved. A side effect of this is that she is often over committed. When will the Brain trust be accepting new people?

  10. […] Finding balance: How high-powered women can have it all – I Will … What are the unique challenges that women have to think about…(that men don't)? Crafting a balance between your career and personal life can be one of the most challenging parts of being a top performer, especially when  […]

  11. If you’re going to “have it all,” I think it is crucially important to pick a mate (if you choose to have one) that supports you in that endeavour. I think that’ one great benefit of women choosing to marry later in life. These are conversation you need to have BEFORE you get married.

    If you marry someone who expects you to keep the house clean, take primary responsibility for the kids, etc, then you are not going to be able to achieve things like Elizabeth. If you want to, you’re going to be pretty unhappy in your marriage.

    I chose a partner that was supportive of whatever I chose to do in life. Pursue owning my business, joining the corporate world, or just being home with the kids. And I’ve done all 3 in the course of over 12 years of marriage, depending on the stage of life I was in.

    But, I can’t stress enough how a supportive partner is more crucial for a woman (fair or not) than it is for a man. Who is expected to get the mundane things of life done when work is not happening? One or both. That’s key. It’s not fair, but many women get shouldered with way more responsibility than they should.