We had the good fortune of connecting with Magdalena Pire Schmidt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Magdalena, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
People have this fantastic idea that work life balance is a state of equilibrium. I see it more as an actual exercise that requires effort. When we see a trapeze walking on a rope, we see someone that’s sweating, engaging core and leg muscles, staying focused, sometimes swinging wildly, sometimes getting help with balance tools.
My balance tool is the KIWIs. This is not the fruit (though, the fruit is healthy too). These are the Key Wellness Indicators. The idea is simple. The KIWIs are activities or behaviors we follow when we are in balance. These are things that we are already doing, that don’t require additional effort. I track my KIWIs as an early warning system. The challenging part about balance is becoming aware when we are about to fall off, so we can auto-correct on time. For example, for me sleep is the last part I will give up on to meet a work deadline. One of my KIWIs is sleeping an average of 7 hrs a night. Every Monday I check the number of hours I slept the night before. If it is 7+, my KIWI is green. If it is under, it is yellow or red. Most importantly, if it is under, I know that work is criping in and it is important to calibrate. This act of awareness keeps me walking on the tightrope.
My balancing exercise wasn’t always this weekly/daily activity. Years ago, it was a yearly intervention. I was working in a demanding corporate job. My life was organized around work for roughly eleven months out of the year. Then I had roughly four weeks to disconnect. I used this time to refill the tank to be able to perform during the eleven months of work focus. During these eleven months, even my weekends were organized around maximizing for productivity. I had a list of five things I needed to do every weekend to disconnect in order to be productive on Monday. The point of the weekend was to recharge for Monday. The point of vacation was to recharge for the rest of the year. That was my idea of balance.
A couple of notes on this. I was lucky to have four weeks, mostly people in the US get half as many. Also, work life balance is possible with a demanding corporate career. I just wasn’t able to. But many of my colleagues were able to keep up the grueling speed. They accomplish this by having meaningful social connections outside of work and pursuing real interests outside of work. I was never successful at this. Like many others, I had moved far away from my family and loved ones to pursue this career. And, I didn’t quite learn to cultivate activities outside of the demands of the job.
What should our readers know about your business?
Heron was born out of a desire to make it easier to be a thriving business owner. Heron is an accountability platform and community that helps us stay focused on business results, stay consistent in our goals and balanced in our approach to well-being. The idea is a simple weekly routine that is informed by some of the best thinking from Silicon Valley. To stay consistent, we rely on our human partnerships and for well-being we use our KIWIs (Key Wellness Indicators).
The heron is a useful symbol for healthy productivity for business owners. It stands tall and still in shallow water for a long time while chaos ensues around it: the city of Miami, other animals, humans. When the heron moves, it moves in slow motion, until it sees the prey. Then, it moves at lightning speed. Herons are fierce, even pulling small mammals and baby alligators out of the water. Herons show us that there is a way to be calm, centered and smart in our execution. We can get business results and enjoy the environment we are in.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
These are some of my favorite places in Miami:
Tigertail Boat Tours: These guys give a great Everglades boat tour. They take you to an island where they have wildlife that’s recovering and you get to pet baby alligators. They are a small team that’s always there, they love what they do and you will love spending time with them. I don’t think that people realize how beautiful and unique the Everglades are. There is nothing like it in the world.
Salty Miami: A sailing trip on Biscayne Bay National Park. The sailing experience with Juan Pablo Ortega is like going on a hike with friends, except that you go into the water. We get close to nature, breathe a different air, get reacquainted with our connection with our fragile ecosystem. And, of course, there are snacks. But what makes Salty Miami special is that he and his partner do what they preach. Unbeknownst to many of the sailing guests, Juan Pablo works tirelessly on clean up efforts all around the Miami ecosystem.
Mid- Beach and Faena’s Gold Mammoth: if you want an easy going beach day, go to Mid-Beach, right by the hotel Faena. It is less crowded than South Beach, you are less likely to find loud music. If you come here, make sure you check out the Gold Mammoth in the back of Faena (you can usually walk in from the back). It is the most-Miami thing you will see.
À la Folie Café: Have a coffee or a cider at La Follie in Española way. Only a few blocks from the chaos of South Beach, you get this European corner. Go to relax. Just like in Europe, the food will be great, the service will be slow and no one will be rushing you with a check no matter how busy it gets. On the weekend nights, sometimes there is live music.
Rusty Pelican: this is more of a touristy place but it is worth it for the view. Come here for a cocktail, cornbread and enjoy the Miami Skyline.
Bunbury: this is a top-rated Argentine restaurant for a reason. The service is flawless and the food is delicious. They have plenty of vegetarian options in spite of being an Argentine restaurant. I also like where they are located because it is a bit outside of the craziness that Wynwood has become.
The Corner: great bar, central but outside of the touristy traps. It has an European feel to it, you will find mostly locals hanging out.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The shoutout goes to Lara Fox the founder of Creative Fox Films. Lara helped me in the initial stages of my startup filming training videos. Lara brought in all her expertise and gear (including a teleprompter she trained me to use). For Lara, any project is an outlet for creativity and storytelling. One just needs to look at her wedding work to recognize the unique, cinematographic style that is her trademark.
drawings by @zebradaa portrait pictures by creativefoxfilms.com