248 - Polina Pompliano
Polina Pompliano has the fascinating job of studying the world's most interesting people in business, tech, sports and more.
She is the Founder and Author of The Profile, a newsletter that she started back in 2017 that is now read by tens of thousands of people every week.
Years of writing The Profile has led to her studying hundreds of successful people. She is now putting her learnings into a new book called Hidden Genius which is set to hit bookshelves in June 2023.
She was previously the Author and Editor of Term Sheet, Fortune Magazine's newsletter about deals and dealmakers.
On her desk:
- The manuscript of my book HIDDEN GENIUS which will be published in June
- A framed photo of my daughter
- My planner (yes I still use a physical planner. there's just something about writing things down)
- A printer (I print things all the time. Love it.)
- The books on my desk from L to R: Seeking Wisdom by Peter Bevelin; a notebook; my grandfather's poems that I published into a physical book; Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance; Atomic Habits by James Clear; The Creative Act by Rick Rubin; How to Live: A life of Montaigne by Sarah Bakewell; Occasional Magic by The Moth; a tiny pocket notebook where I jot down ideas
What does your daily routine look like?
My daily routine is largely dictated by my 1-year-old roommate 🤣 We wake up around 7am, feed my daughter breakfast, play with her until her first nap, write while she sleeps, and then do it all over again until nighttime. She goes to sleep at 7:30pm, so evenings have become my time. I do 30 minutes of yoga, then I go to my office, light a candle, answer emails, work on The Profile, or read.
What is your standard research process behind your profiles?
I essentially take two days to deeply study the person I've chosen. So I will read every single profile written about them, I'll watch video interviews or documentaries, and I'll listen to a few podcasts. The point is not only to learn about their life, but to also observe them — what is their demeanor, do they repeat themselves in interviews, what I can learn from watching their body language? It all informs how I write their profile, and it also allows me to get to their essence. What drives them? What do they believe? Why do they do what they do? And most importantly, what can we learn from them?
How do you spark creativity?
I heavily subscribe to the notion that creativity is a skill, and like any other skill, it can be learned. Creativity is simply the ability to generate fresh ideas, think of new ways to solve old problems, and create original work. (I have an entire chapter on this in my book.)
I believe that creativity is less a fleeting moment of inspiration and more a muscle that can be trained through consistent exercise. So for me, creativity is built around rituals. Every night, I sit down at my desk with some sort of beverage (I like those mini coca-colas for some reason) and I light a candle. That tells my brain, "It's time to get to work." And I've almost conditioned myself to be creative when I do these tiny rituals.
How do you manage work-life balance?
People ask me this a lot, and they used to ask me even more when my daughter was a newborn and I was working on my book. If someone had seen me jotting down ideas one-handed on my phone in the middle of the night as I fed the baby, they would've called me insane. Even though it didn't look like balance doesn't mean it wasn't.
To me, writing is what gives me joy and makes me feel most like myself. I kept writing before and after having the baby because I have never done it out of obligation. It's always been out of fulfillment. So there’s no “balance,” but rather, a shifting of priorities. Luckily, The Profile is my livelihood, my priority, and my joy.
So to answer your question, there's no set formula. I make time to write, but I also make time to play with my daughter and go on walks with my family. "Balance" is an illusion, and the more we talk about it, the more we make people feel guilty for not having it. If your priorities are in order, then you'll feel fulfilled even if society tells you're "off balance."