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?
Leelila Strogov: Deliberately ignore my phone. I then take thirty minutes to drink my coffee. It starts out hot, but by the last sip is room temperature.

TG: What gives you energy?
LS: The original and the brilliant and the strange, which you can almost always find, anywhere and in anyone, if you look hard enough.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
LS: I date and mark up anything and everything I read. That means underlining my favorite lines, putting notes in the margins, and putting stars next to words that feel perfect and that I’d like to use more. Later, I return to my markups for inspiration and reminders of where my mind has been at any given point in time.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
LS: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The book is the perfect illustration of the complexity that often lies behind the simple. At the heart of it is a message that the greatest rewards lie not in finding, but rather in exploring—the mysteries of the universe, each other, and the truths that lie several feet beneath what one might normally see.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
LS: Sleep with me? Hell, no. I will admit, though, that I am a night owl, and far more protective of its invasion of my mornings than my nights. When I wake up, I do not look at my phone (or if I do, it’s from afar and with derision).

TG: How do you deal with email?
LS: Similar to the way I de-clutter: in spurts. So sometimes you will get a response from me in half a minute, and sometimes in three months. I tell people who are important to me not to be afraid of badgering me.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
LS: I lie on whatever floor is beneath me and breathe. It’s probably some form of meditation, but I’ve been doing it since before I had such vocabulary.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
LS: About a year ago. My company had seen a huge surge of growth, I was working far more than any reasonable person should, the days of winter were getting shorter, darker, and more oppressive, and I wasn’t sleeping nearly enough. I wasn’t delegating enough or managing my time wisely and felt burdened by a lack of perspective and gratitude.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
LS: I don’t remember failure enough to even recount it. It doesn’t stick to me. I find a way through it and then I only remember the overcome part. That’s how I overcome it.

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
LS: “Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” –Mae Jameson

Leelila Strogov is the CEO of Brattle Street, an educational consulting and college counseling firm that helps ambitious students from around the world pursue their interests in unique, creative and authentic ways. As a result, these students often gain admission to the most selective colleges, universities and graduate schools in the world. 

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