When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.
Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Maria Gangemi: I wish I could say that the first thing I do is head out onto my balcony to practice yoga while looking out at the beautiful day ahead of me, but that’s rarely ever the case. Most days I look at my emails and texts to see what’s happening at our office in Italy and if I’m in Italy, I’m checking in to see what’s been happening stateside.
TG: What gives you energy?
MG: I’m so lucky to love what I do and the people I partner with give me energy every day. No matter how stressful certain days can be, visiting our workshop partners and watching our shoes being crafted or working on a new prototype gives me such a huge charge. The artisans that I met early on in my travels to Italy inspired me to create M.Gemi and there are simply no words to describe how good that makes me feel.
TG: What’s your secret life hack?
MG: I love the sea and always take time to swim. After a long flight or work day, nothing makes me feel more refreshed than a long swim and nap in the sun.
TG: Name a book that changed your life.
MG: Taylor’s Guide to Perennials. Years ago, a friend gave me this book as a gift while I was working on the landscape of our new home. Each night before falling asleep for several weeks I would take out this book and read about the vast variety of perennials. It inspired me to start walking around my neighborhood and I even visited local nurseries to see and smell all the plants I had read about late at night. This simple book opened up a whole new colorful world and made me appreciate the simple things in life that much more.
TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
MG: Guilty! It’s either right next to my bed or sometimes in my bed when I fall asleep with it on my stomach.
TG: How do you deal with email?
MG: I check email as often as possible but never during dinner or while I’m in a meeting. It drives some of my team members crazy that I spend a large chunk of my day away from email but when I’m with other people, I want my focus to be on them.
TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
MG: I go outside and walk to the closest cafe. When I’m in Italy, my favorite place to go is Pasticceria Catania for a cappuccino and one of their famous pastries.
TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
MG: Recently I was flying from a work trip in Italy back to the U.S. for a close friend’s birthday and my flight got cancelled. It was a milestone birthday and I missed it because I had to travel out of town for work a few days prior. There’s nothing you can do when a flight gets delayed or cancelled but it really made me stop to think. We all have to make choices between work and our personal lives. I tried to do the right thing but it ultimately didn’t work out and I felt really burned out in that moment.
TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
MG: When we first started M.Gemi I felt like I was failing nearly everyday. Since I travel so often between our offices in Boston, New York and Italy, I never felt like I was where I was supposed to be – when I was in Boston, it seemed like my team needed me in Italy and vise versa. Since then, I’ve learned to set a consistent schedule so my teams know exactly where I am and when to expect me in each office. Setting up that structure has really helped both me and my teams.
TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
MG: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. I immigrated to the U.S. when I was four years old and my first years at school were very difficult. Due to the language barrier, I quickly fell behind and was even held back in the first grade. In fourth grade I had a teacher who was an immigrant from a Greek family who understood what I was going through and spent so much time helping me learn to read, write and speak english. She always used to say this quote to me and she let me know that it’s ok to struggle and to keep working hard. It’s a great life lesson that has stuck with me and has made me stronger.