21 Career Questions with Susan Piver - Bestselling Author + Former Guardian Angel
Susan Piver is a New York Times bestselling author and Buddhist teacher - but started her career in the music business and even had a stint as a member of the Guardian Angels. (Its not often that one encounters this combo in life, so I had to interview her.)
Her bestselling books include The Hard Questions: 100 Essential Questions to Ask Before You Say “I Do,” and the award-winning How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life. Her newest book is The Wisdom of a Broken Heart.
A student of Buddhism since 1995, Susan teaches workshops on meditation, relationships, and creativity. She wrote the relationships column for body + soul magazine, is the meditation expert and contributor at drweil.com, and is a frequent guest on major network television shows, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Today, and The Tyra Banks Show. In 2011, she launched The Open Heart Project to teach anyone who would like to how to meditate.
1. What would the headline of your biography be?
"She Had No Idea What She Was Doing, But She Did it Anyway"
2. What is your mission / goal in life?
My mission is to become who I really am. It’s not as straightforward as it sounds. Once all the cultural conditioning and media messages fall away, who is left? It is my goal to find out.
My other mission is to create products that communicate deep spiritual truths without cheating either the profundity or the marketability.
Oh, and to become enlightened.
3. What do you love to do?
I am a complete and total nerd. I like to read. I like to think. I like to study what I’m interested in. I like to sit on the couch and dream.
I love to cook and give fancy dinner parties for my wonderful friends.
4. What were your “aha” moments - when you realized you were exceptional at something?
When I was a kid, I was in the Guardian Angels. Yes, the street patrol of the 80s. I became the chapter leader, actually. It was a controversial group and I was interviewed by the media a lot. I was still a teenager and very shy but as soon as someone stuck a mic in my face, I knew exactly what to do. I gave great sound bite. I realized I could cut through and command attention with the right few words.
5. What keeps you up at night?
How will I teach everyone on earth how to meditate in the time I have left on the planet? How will I help people create peace in their minds and hearts so that together we can create peace for the world? And how will I pay the bills by doing so?
6. What historical / business figure do you most identify with?
I would not presume to identify with him, but I aspire to be like Marpa the Translator, who translated important Buddhist texts (without cheating the profundity) from India, for Tibetans. In the 11th century.
7. What is the trait you most want to improve in yourself?
I have a tremendous amount of self-doubt. I am shy. I still have to convince myself that anyone would have interest in what I have to say. So I hold back.
8. What are your unique talents?
I can explain complicated things quickly. I listen really well. I’m super adaptable and can drop my ideas and plans in a nanosecond to suit changing circumstance. I can teach myself things. And I’m a master at disappearing from parties.
9. Have you had to change the road you're on?
Many times. I’ve had lots of careers: music business executive, book packager, marketing consultant, writer, Buddhist teacher. In addition, the road has changed me. (I was driving cross-country when my car broke down in Austin, TX. I didn’t have enough money to get it fixed, so I got a job. At a bar. That started a record label. That hired me to pack boxes. Thus began my tenure in the music business.)
10. Which brands / businesses do you admire the most?
I admire brands that focus on the customer experience above everything. Zappos. JetBlue. Whole Foods. (I know Whole Foods has its share of controversy. But when I’m in a non-Whole Foods market, I always choose the item also carried by Whole Foods, if they have it. They inform my buying decisions even when I’m not in their store...)
Locally, I think Newbury Comics has a fantastic brand. They are the only music store chain in the country to have transitioned successfully into a new model. That is pretty huge. They know their customer. They take chances in incredibly smart ways. (Full disclosure: my husband is COO.)
11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“I’ll get back to you on that.” I don’t like to decide things in conversation. I like to think about them first.
12. What is your greatest career regret?
I’ll get back to you on that.
13. When or where were you happiest in life?
It may sound cliché, but right now. I’m in the midst of building something innovative that I really believe in. It’s at that delicious stage where I think it’s going to work, but it hasn’t yet. As a writer, I feel more and more confident in my voice. As a spiritual practitioner, I’m at the point where I realize I don’t know anything. So there is a lot of possibility.
14. Which talent would you most like to have?
I really, really wish I could sing.
15. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Authoring seven books (including a New York Times best seller) without having had a formal education. Asking the Dalai Lama a question at a press conference. Meeting Albert King. Building what may be the world’s first completely virtual meditation center.
16. What is your most treasured business memento?
Don’t have one.
17. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
Publishing something no one responds to. Wait, even worse: having to go to an office to do work I don’t care about while reporting to a boss who doesn’t care about me. Ew.
18. Do you care about money?
19. What is your defining characteristic?
20. Who are your favorite business writers / bloggers / people?
Seth Godin is basically my idol. Jonathan Fields. Hiro Boga. Chris Brogan. Danielle LaPorte. Jennifer Louden, Patti Digh. People who have made their life their livelihood by having a truly independent and uncompromising voice.
21. Who is your hero in real life?
My late father, Julius Samuel Piver. He is the only person I’ve ever met who spontaneously thought of others before himself, but he was no sap. He was tremendously accomplished. He was medical doctor who completed law school (at night) in his 60s. He had the ability to focus like nobody’s business. Plus he was the sweetest person I’ve ever known. His memory is a profound blessing.
What do you think?