When I was young, I rarely spoke. I remember in elementary, getting called to the whiteboard because I was the only person who understood division. What for many may have been a moment of pride was, for me, traumatizing. I preferred to write my parents letters instead of vocalizing my needs (favorite form: poetry). And, I was also very critical of myself. I would write round lists of “100 traits I need to fix.” You’d be surprised how difficult hitting one-hundred is with a middle school vocabulary!
Because of this background, self-development has always been part of my M.O. I feel blessed that this turned out to be for the better, not worse. Often, the most driven people are also those most plagued by social-emotional differences that make them prone to anxiety and depression.
Perhaps feeling safe in my own head prompted my early interest in psychology. In high school, I created an art therapy program for troubled youth, and worked overnight shifts assisting the mentally challenged. When I got to Princeton, I studied in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, writing my application essay for the major on education in correctional facilities. But, it was the summer of 2009, fundraising as Director of the Business Today International Conference, that I became interested in the psychology of leadership. Each CEO I met with that summer, over 150 in all, exuded excitement about their work. I would leave meetings feeling suddenly jazzed about insurance or investments, having known nothing about the space prior. I remember thinking: that’s the kind of energy I want to instill.
I found myself at 30, after Harvard Business School and six years of finance, in many ways the same, in some ways, different. Those who know me today would be surprised to hear about my introverted ways. I've grown into my father’s loudest, widest laugh, and taken on my mother’s effervescence and endless curiosity. Still, it bothered me that other things hadn’t changed. Despite business school negotiation and communication courses, expressing personal needs or approaching conflict still seemed excruciating.
I was working at a hedge fund, a place I felt was the pinnacle of actualization for the finance introvert, when two things coalesced to make me create the LIFE App. First, a seemingly-endless stream of news about school suicides or shootings. And second, seeing myself and many high-achieving peers as anxious, unfulfilled, or unsure as we were at 18. To me, the two things were linked. Nowhere in our education systems or workplaces had we learned true self-and-other management skills. The onus, unfairly placed on our parents, generated widely-different vocabularies across cultures and upbringings. Why wasn't cognitive behavioral therapy required alongside basic algebra? Why had Harvard asked me to select my top 3 core values, but failed to teach me the science behind the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values and its implications on our subjective well-being?
Boosting productivity and saving lives aren’t on opposite sides of the spectrum. It’s a continuum. 10% better from the top 1% means your team or employee base is that much more productive. 10% better from the bottom 1% means someone could talk themselves off the ledge today.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I met with a not-to-be-named university and asked how they were dealing with the mental health crisis. They said, “We’re pulling out our hair out trying to solve it, but it’s taking us a whole year to come up with four keywords to describe mental health.” This lit a fire. What will happen in a year while we wait for the perfect answer? There is an opportunity – rather, a duty – for tech to move faster. Even if we do follow the 80/20 rule, if I can get it 80% right and stop 80% of what we're seeing, wouldn’t that be worth it? In recent campus tragedies, administrators said, “We aren’t omnipotent.” What if we can get you 80% of the way there?
At the hedge fund, a large part of my role was to take a vast amount of research and analyze and distill it into one concise stock recommendation. What if I could do that – but for the topics that are core to our lives? If had the skill set and the means to do something and chose not to, I would be partially responsible.
Boosting productivity and saving lives aren’t on opposite sides of the spectrum. It’s a continuum. 10% better from the top 1% means your firm or employee base is that much more productive. 10% better from the bottom 1% means someone could talk themselves off the ledge today.
So, I set out to write the curriculum I wish I’d had. Today, LIFE serves individuals and companies, because both mental health and great managers start with self-management. We start with the 9 topics I personally wanted to understand: mental/emotional management and CBT, self-awareness and telling a story, values and goal-setting, regret and time-management, decision-making, mind-body health, attachment styles and dating, appreciation and conflict resolution, and leadership. This is delivered first through a private, mobile course/journal. If desired, the LIFE app also facilitates in-person team-building exercises for culture, community, and authentic leadership practice.
Users call our course the most “comprehensive and coherent” management training they’ve seen, with content that is “second to none.” While this may make it seem that we are a content-first company, our broader vision and value prop lies in technology: aggregate Q&A to make voices heard for the introverts or others who otherwise don’t have an easy outlet for asking the tough questions of their managers or administrators. No more time-consuming task forces. No more grease going disproportionately to the squeaky wheels. We can get you an answer, STAT – and the content to address it. Big picture, we can shorten the feedback loop from psychology research, to broad adoption through common literacy, to demand for more research on precisely what the public wants to know.
There is an opportunity – rather, a duty – for tech to move faster. In recent campus tragedies, administrators said, “We aren’t omnipotent.” What if we can get you 80% of the way there?
We have one life. Together, let’s make it our best adventure, and inspire others to do the same.