We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Woo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
I think about balance the same way as the four seasons. As a serial entrepreneur, an educational researcher, and a mom of 3, there is no such thing as achieving that perfect balance. Instead, I expect that things are fluid and cyclical, and it’s up to me to recognize the patterns and adapt my time accordingly. For example, when I first launched my business, Mind Brain Emotion, it was the scary winter season, when I had to hunker down and take some “snow days” from my family to get things going. I worked early mornings and late nights with no TV during that time. Even though I’m a bit of a workaholic, I’ve learned to embrace spring as a time of rejuvenation, which in the long run, enables me as an individual and my business to blossom and reap the fruits of my labor. The length of our seasons will vary, but I’ve learned over the years that simply operating in one season is unsustainable.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I founded Mind Brain Emotion (formerly known as Mind Brain Parenting) in 2018 while I was a student (and a parent of 3 young children!) at Harvard University, Graduate School of Education. Prior to that, I had taken a couple of years off from my corporate career to focus on raising my children. The decision to go back to school was risky and scary: I was 35 years old with 3 kids under 7 and embarking into a new field. I had self-doubts and certainly the imposter syndrome when I stepped on campus. Thankfully, my family and friends believed in me and encouraged me to pursue my goal of self-reinvention. While at Harvard learning about the latest research in fields such as cognitive neuroscience and developmental psychology and having enlightening conversations with some of the best and most experienced educators in the world, it occurred to me that EVERYONE should have access to this type of knowledge. As the first person on both sides of my family to graduate college, I saw myself as the “tomb raider”. I wanted to smuggle out the golden nuggets of wisdom out of the ivory tower. In the field of education and parenting, the golden nuggets boiled down to answers to one question: how do we raise our children to be happy, compassionate, and successful citizens of the world? As a busy parent myself, my goal was to develop something that was as easy and as pragmatic as possible–for everyone. After countless hours of research and interviews, and many versions of prototyping, I developed 52 Essential Conversations, a deck of cards to equip children (and adults!) with the essential skills to flourish in life. The topics in the cards were also the culmination of my experience as a former management consultant, an executive coach in the silicon valley, a personal fitness trainer, MBA career coach, and a Montessori administrator. 52 Essential Conversations won the 2018 Parents’ Choice Awards and was featured on the Harvard homepage and magazine. Subsequently, I developed 52 Essential Relationships, an emotional intelligence deck of cards to help people build trust and understanding. Since Harvard, I’ve been conducting research at UC Irvine on how our emotions shape who we are and how we cope with stress and challenges in life. Most recently, taken from the learnings of the university-level course that I teach, called “Emotional Intelligence for School & Job Success”, I’ve launched 52 Essential Coping Skills. This consists of 50+ evidence-based exercises that help us better navigate and cope with our daily stressors to achieve life well-being. In response to the tumultuous time that we’re in right now as a result of COVID-19, my goal is to help people build resilience skills. I am most proud of my business mission: to help people uplift themselves and others to thrive in this crazy world!
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’m a simple and outdoorsy girl. I would take my friend on a half-day hike or a stroll on the boardwalk. We would then hit the brunch on Santa Fe Avenue in LA or Santa Monica, and hang out at night in the Pasadena area.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to all the teachers (and especially those who are also parents) who are working hard to engage our children in learning during this difficult time.
Other: TEDx talk, “How to be self-ish without feeling selfish”: https://youtu.be/kTACvm6m0lw 52 Essential Conversations: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FKSQV47 52 Essential Relationships: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QKMVB35