Amanda Slavin is a #1bestselling author, marketing strategist, business and branding consultant, active angel investor, advisor, speaker, and former educator. She is the co-founder of CatalystCreativ, a community design agency that helps companies more meaningfully connect with their audiences through campaigns, branding, and in-person and digital experiences. Slavin is the author of the bestseller The Seventh Level: Transform Your Business Through Meaningful Engagement with Your Customers and Employees.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I grew up in a very small town in NJ. I moved 3 times during high school, and this had a profound impact on my identity. I felt very comfortable in my small town that I grew up in my entire life, and when I moved, my social life and my priorities of being popular, completely shifted. I tried to be something I wasn’t in a completely new town to get attention, and then had to move 3 months later, only to be in a different town with totally different standards for being popular. By the third town, I was being mocked for wearing clothing that was considered popular in the second town, and I had enough of trying to change myself for others’ approval. I wrote a letter to myself the year of my junior year that said that as long as I was happy with myself, that was what mattered most, not what others thought of me.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

I have often heard to “work smart, not work hard” but I never really knew what that meant. For so long, I didn’t value myself enough or know enough about my skills or gifts to really leverage them properly. I always say that we so often don’t recognize our gifts as gifts because they come so naturally to us. I wish I was taught how to learn more about what I was good at and use it earlier on in my life to prevent burn-out from overworking myself.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

I really don’t love the concept of hustling. I think we have created a culture of hustle that has negatively impacted people’s perceptions of success, and also their prioritization of what’s important. When we glorify hustling, and not sleeping, or taking care of ourselves, we are teaching people to put themselves last, which in turn will never be sustainable. I think we have to teach people how to work harder on themselves than their business so that they can create a sustainable life for both themselves and their companies.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

When I first started my career, I didn’t know how to set boundaries or negotiate on my own behalf. It was deep into the recession and I was really scared to ask for what I deserved. After working 12 hour days for 4 months straight with no breaks, I was so burnt-out, I couldn’t go to work one day. I remember one of my bosses at the time called me after the phones weren’t being answered, the emails weren’t being responded to, the interns had no one to turn to, and he told me that I couldn’t just not come to work. I don’t think they realized how much work I was actually doing until I didn’t do it. While this was not the best way to go about this, I ended up sitting my bosses down and telling them that this was not best for me or for the company, and I needed more support and guidance. This was an extremely hard lesson, as I was so afraid to lose my job that I almost ended up losing my job because I didn’t speak up. I learned then, that it’s important to communicate my needs and how those needs relate to what’s best for myself and for the business, it’s never a bad thing to share what will make you your best self.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

My network and my relationships are what has made me successful. I have always operated from a place of connecting people to each other, to projects, to opportunities to better their lives. I have always felt that my intention

What is your morning routine?

I wake up at 7 AM briefly to breastfeed my son. Breastfeeding is something that I can write an entire article about. This was one of the most physical, emotional, and mental challenges I have had to experience in my life, and it is one of my biggest accomplishments that I am still doing it a year later. I then go back to sleep for an hour or two and wake up around 9 AM. I meditate for 20 minutes, turn my phone on, (I shut it off at night so I don’t get distracted at all), and I look at my texts and emails. I then pet my dog Chaz and tell him it’s time to wake up, (my husband is normally awake by 6 AM) and so then we join him and I have an iced coffee even when it’s 25 degrees out.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Meditating has had a huge improvement in my life, I feel that it is the one thing that keeps me grounded no matter what. I also am an avid walker, and making time to walk even for 30 minutes a day allows for me to clear my head.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

I think these changes, as life changes, and it’s about recognizing that you can’t be perfect and the same every day. I am such a type A personality so this is something I have had to learn over time. We put our baby on a sleeping and feeding schedule very early on so that he, but also we would feel some sense of stability. During this very uncertain year, where things have changed so much, it was so important to have some semblance of consistency every day. From there, because we know we have some structure, we can then have flexibility. I think the idea of knowing that you can only control so much, doing what’s best for yourself and your family, and then not being too overly attached to the structures you design, will help you navigate the things life throw at you.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The Emperor’s Handbook by Marcus Aurelius is one of the most profound books I have ever read. When I was first starting my company, I was looking for advice everywhere and anywhere and a friend of mine recommended this book. This is not just a book that teaches you how to be in business, it teaches you how to be in life. I highly recommend reading this over and over again as each time, it teaches you something new.

I also love the book Unschooling Rules by Clark Aldrich. I have a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction and was a teacher but have always thought of education as much bigger than the four walls of a classroom, (which many are now seeing since school is no longer what we thought it was). I co-founded CatalystCreativ with the intention of creating experiences that educate and inspire, and Clark aligns directly with this intention.

I will say that it would be quite ridiculous to say that reading my book (The Seventh Level: Transform Your Business Through Meaningful Engagement with Your Customers and Employees): I wrote changed my life, but I will say writing my book absolutely transformed my life. It taught me the importance of taking the time necessary to put something into the world, it taught me how to think not only about what interested me, but about who was reading the book, and speak to them in a way that they would understand, and it taught me to trust my team to support me turn my thesis from 2009 into a reality.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

I was once told to never defend yourself against a lie or you become a part of that lie, and that lies are like weeds, and the truth is like a vine; the truth will always outlive the lies. These two quotes helped me tremendously over my career. He also helped me understand that anyone who wanted to gossip shouldn’t be someone you want close to you, there have been a lot of opportunities over the years to get swept up in other people’s business, but I’ve tried my hardest to stick to what I know, which is my business.