Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious—and maybe a little obsessed—about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”
2015 marks the second full year of The Balance Project! And there’s lots in store: First, The Balance Project is celebrating its first birthday. Read all about how it got started and what I’ve learned from it here. Second, my second book, THE BALANCE PROJECT: A NOVEL, will be published in April. It’s women’s fiction and it was inspired by these interviews. More about that here. Third, in preparation for the launch and because these interviews have received such tremendous response, I will publish new interviews two or three times per week, not just on Fridays. Thank you for your continued support!
No. 53: Lori Pollan, Cookbook Author
Where I live: New York City
Job: Cookbook Author: The Pollan Family Table
Kids: Two girls (17 and 23) and one boy (21)
Is the job you have now the same one you had before kids? If not, how and why did you change directions?
I co-owned The Pollan-Austen Fitness Center before I had children and continued with it while my first two were babies. It was untenable to continue working the schedule I was working and have little children at home. Our clients wanted us to personally teach their classes on weekends and in the evenings and there was no way that I could balance family life with that kind of schedule. Also, I was teaching three classes a day and I had a toddler and a baby—looking back I can’t imagine how I ever had the energy! So we sold the fitness center, I taught part-time, and dedicated the rest of my time to raising the children (I had my third by then). I was a stay-at-home, PTA mom for many years but once my children got older, I started to focus on a new direction. The Pollan Family Table was born out of all four of our experiences creating meals for our families and sitting down to family dinners together.
Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
I think that life is full of trade-offs and the best answer to this quandary is to find contentment, even happiness, in the choices you make. Then the question isn’t any more about “having it all,” but about appreciating and valuing what you do have.
What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
I have a hard time saying no or not being the first one to volunteer when something needs to get done. As a result, I tend to wear myself out and/or feel like I’m juggling too many balls in the air—and then life becomes more and more stressful.
What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I’m getting much better at living the moments more fully. I believe that the key to “balance” is to stop regretting the past or worrying about the future and to be truly present in the present. That’s how you achieve balance. And I’m also getting just a little better at saying no… sometimes.
What was the best advice you ever heard on balance…
From a mentor/co-worker? My predecessor as PTA president reminded me that I couldn’t make everyone happy and that I should trust my instincts.
From your mother? Her advice came through example: every night she cooked dinner and we sat down to eat, talk, and be a family. What better lesson about balance could there be?
From your kids? They grow up so quickly, so when you’re busy and they want you to play a game with them, or have you read to them, or watch a silly YouTube video with them, say yes! This is it—you don’t get another chance.
If you had one extra hour in each day and you couldn’t work or be with your family, how would you spend that hour?
Hopefully I’d be practicing my mindfulness meditation or reading more books—all the books I read about that sound so good.
What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
Not to compare my inside to anyone else’s outside.
What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
That I truly embrace the notion that I can wake up each morning and choose to smile.
What one part of your home life do you wish you could outsource?
Organizing all the “stuff” that accumulates when you have three children and a very busy life. I wish someone would go through all of our closets and drawers and cabinets and tell me what to keep and what to give away. That would be so amazing.
Whose job do you wish you had?
I always wished I had a great singing voice—that would give me so much happiness. I would love to be a really talented, introspective singer-songwriter, like Regina Spektor or Joni Mitchell.
Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
I’m very entrepreneurial by nature, and I have a background in marketing. I love coming up with new ideas and creative solutions to problems. I wouldn’t be happy in a job where I could not use those capabilities.
It’s almost like asking who’s your favorite child—here are some: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, East of Eden by John Steinbeck, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Activity? Believe it or not, doing cardio. I used to teach three classes a day when I had my fitness center and I got very accustomed to a lot of aerobic activity. I do it almost every day—it relaxes me. I should be doing more strength, stretching, and balance work.
Food? Scones. Cranberry or blueberry are the best.
Website? Reading book reviews to find the best books to bring to my book club. I literally spend hours clicking around book sites. I should use that time reading! Also Buzzfeed lists my kids send me.
How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
7 hours, but 8 is my ideal.
What do you read every morning?
The weather on my iPhone before I take the dog for a walk then The New York Times in print with breakfast.
Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am a good listener and have a lot of patience.
I wish I: meditated more.
My kids: are a total joy—such amazing, interesting, compassionate people!
Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
“If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
Lori Pollan’s first book, The Pollan Family Table, was written with her sisters, Tracy and Dana Pollan, and her mother, Corky Pollan. Her brother, writer Michael Pollan, wrote the foreword. Her father, Stephen Pollan, is also an author (Die Broke, Live Rich). Lori, who holds an MBA, began her career in the health and fitness field 25 years ago. She cofounded the renowned Pollan-Austen Fitness Center where she guided clients through highly effective exercise and diet regimens. In the mid-nineties, Lori left the workforce to raise her three children. During this time, in addition to being the family chef, she was also an active classroom and school volunteer, PTA president, and the author of numerous school newsletters. Lori is now a certified life coach, instructing clients in improved fitness, nutrition, and stress management so they can create a more balanced and healthy lifestyle
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 1: Jessica Mindich, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 2: Veronica Beard, Fashion Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 3: Emily Liebert, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 4: Lyss Stern, Mom-trepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 5: Lauren Slayton, Nutritionist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 6: Elizabeth Moyer, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 7: Annabel Monaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 8: Holly Gordon, Director
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 9: Jill Salzman, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 10: Jennifer Levinson, Jen’s List
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 11: Jenny Hutt, Media Personality
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 12: Angela Santomero, Kids’ Media Creator
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 13: Carola Donato, Yogi
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 14: Tiffany Washington, Pastry Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 15: Emily Giffin, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 16: Alana Sanko, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 17: Cara Lemieux, Journalist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 18: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, Authors
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 19: Nikki Mark, Author & Foundation Director
Shonda Rhimes on Doing It All
Indra Nooyi on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 21: Jill Bryan, Comedian
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 22: Cindy Callaghan, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 23: Stephanie Hirsch, Artist
My Times of India Interview on Work-Life Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 24: Whitney Dineen, Author/Baker
AmEx’s Sobbott on Balance
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 25: J0-Laine Duke-Collins, Dessert Stylist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 26: Whitney English, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 27: Jennifer Gooch Hummer, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 28: Melissa Amster, Book Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 29: Nigel Marsh, Author and Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 30: DayNa Decker, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 31: Amy Selling, Blogger
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 32: Heather Sonnenberg, Entrepreneur
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 33: Allison Winn Scotch, Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 34: Bibi Kasrai, Entrepreneur and Chef
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 35: Karen Sutton MD, Orthopaedic Surgeon
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 36: Samantha Ettus, Balance Expert, Author, TV/Radio Personality
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 37: Pam Yudko, Holistic Health and Transformational Coach
THE BALANCE PROJECT| No. 38: Nancy Huang, Nonprofit Outreach Director
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 39: Mary Laura Philpott, Writer, Editor and Illustrator
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 40: Towanda Long, Marketing Communications Specialist
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 41: Kristyn Kusek Lewis, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 42: Tracy Pollan, Actor and Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 43: Christianne Phillips, Fitness Consultant and Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 44: Susannah Lewis, Writer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 45: Kimi Culp, Producer, Author and Creative Consultant
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 46: Traci Bild, Entrepreneur
The Balance Project Interview Series Turns 1!
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 47: Laura Vanderkam, Journalist and Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 48: Amy Tara Koch, Style Expert and Author
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 49: Cozy Friedman, Kids’ Hair Expert
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 50: Bobbii Hach-Jacobs, Music Promoter
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 51: Niketa Jhaveri, Game Creator and Web Designer
THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 52: Sheri Silver, Blogger