Like my children, I love all my courses, but this one presents itself as particularly urgent. When my functional training instructor, who has an unbelievably toned body even at 7 months of pregnancy, complained about being ginormous, I began to understand what a huge problem body image is for women. It’s unrealistic to expect your body to remain the same when you’re carrying a baby, and it is downright sad to resent the effect the baby has on your body. All of our courses deal with issues in a science-based, warm, fun, and actionable way, without sugar coating. This one is no exception.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Talya Miron-Shatz, PhD, a rare breed of someone who specializes in medical decision making from every possible angle. Talya Miron-Shatz, PhD, is CEO and co-founder of Buddy&Soul, a digital platform for personal development. Buddy&Soul is a forward-thinking brand, premised on the realization that to make behavior change happen, you need comprehensive support targeting issues around your wellbeing, mental resources, health, and inner peace. A PhD in social psychology, Dr. Miron-Shatz worked at Princeton University alongside Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman and taught at the Wharton Business School, University of Pennsylvania. She is a world-known expert in medical decision making with over 50 publications on the topic. Through her consulting firm, CureMyWay, she has an intimate knowledge of what pharma, health advertisers, and corporations need, having worked with numerous start-ups and giants like Pfizer, BMS, Novartis, Johnson & Johnson, Abbvie, InTouch Solutions, FCB, Edelman PR, NantHealth, and Samsung. Talya founded Buddy&Soul a few years ago with the goal of disrupting the health and wellness spaces. She thinks existing solutions are not broad enough to encompass all that people really need to change their lives for good.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Three things converged to make me who I am and bring me to where I am — infinite curiosity, a passion for doing good, and luck or coincidence, whatever you want to call it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
In have an example of how you need to work hard and put yourself out there because you just never know. I went to London and gave a talk to their truly lovely Health 2.0 meetup group, led by Christina de Juan. A guy approached me after the talk, looking fine, wearing a button-down shirt with one button open and no jacket. He didn’t have a card but told me his name and that he was taking over one of the largest worldwide patient portals. He was very excited about my Buddy&Soul presentation and we’re now exploring collaboration. Had I not reached out to Christina and given the talk, this would never have happened.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I’ve made more mistakes than I can count.
And I’d say the lessons I’ve learned have been more painful than humorous. When something feels wrong, for instance, trust your intuition. Don’t be embarrassed to ask, to probe, and to admit ignorance — you will learn so much, and you’re likely to discover you’re not the only “ignorant” one in the room.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Buddy&Soul provides very comprehensive, non-stigmatized support. This is crucial, rare, and incredibly cool!
NOBODY helps patients emotionally manage their disease. Nobody helps pregnant women with their relationships during pregnancy, and nobody is offering students psychological support at their fingertips, with topics like maintaining their authenticity in spite of peer pressure, and even sleep (or lack thereof). We view people as a whole. We’re not just telling them to do better, but actually helping them get there in every way.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am super excited to be launching the Pregnancy & Birth community. We call it Beyond the Bump. It deals with many things that women really need to deal with. We’ve built three courses into it:
- Sticking to Your Pregnancy Plan: Women need to take great care of themselves during pregnancy. Whether this means taking their iron and folic acid consistently or sticking to their doctor’s general health, dietary, and lifestyle requirements, it takes a ton of effort and dedication.
- Relationship Saver During Pregnancy: This is such a tense period, and full of hormones. It’s often the case that partners feel they cannot be right. In a time when there is so much focus on the baby, it’s no less important to take care of the baby’s parents-to-be.
- Loving Your Pregnant Body: Like my children, I love all my courses, but this one presents itself as particularly urgent. When my functional training instructor, who has an unbelievably toned body even at 7 months of pregnancy, complained about being ginormous, I began to understand what a huge problem body image is for women. It’s unrealistic to expect your body to remain the same when you’re carrying a baby, and it is downright sad to resent the effect the baby has on your body. All of Buddy&Soul’s courses deal with issues in a science-based, warm, fun, and actionable way, without sugar coating. This one is no exception.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
This is a great question, because when your team thrives, your business thrives, sometimes in ways you’d never expected it to. And when your business is personal development, like Buddy&Soul, this becomes crucial.
Back in the day, when I was studying to become an organizational psychologist, they taught us about the satisfaction involved with completing tasks from beginning to end. This means allowing people to have missions they call their own, and take pride in. I see how much they care, and it’s remarkable, because we are not the best paying business in town (yet).
We have two editors who love to see to things from beginning to end. One just revised the Diabetes Community and the other the Medical Community. They have no problem telling me things are outdated or need to be revisited, even if it’s me who wrote them.
Another cool example was when we had an intern from Emory University. Interns can be hit or miss, but this one, a pre-med student, was a major hit. I could tell he was very capable and motivated, so I seized the day and had him modify amazing content from our Wellness and Essentially You communities in order to create our Student Life community. This is a community which allows young people to deal with topics that are burning for them, like sleep, stress management, and cultivating their authenticity in the peer pressure cooker of campus life — all this in the privacy of their digital devices. If it hadn’t been for Jonah Adler, now a medical school student at Emory University, this wouldn’t have happened. Of course, it meant working very closely with him, receiving his products at the end of each work day, and spending three to four hours on them — but so worth it.
So I guess it’s the same advice — give people ownership of a product, or part thereof. They will put their soul into it (if you choose them well).
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
There’s some great advice here –
· Foster an air of transparency, communication, and respect. Something I love about Buddy&Soul is that our employees (who happen to all be women) are great friends. They support one another rather than compete. They know we’ll succeed together.
· Lead by example. I work super hard.
· Stay close. I have employees sending me examples of their work and daily or weekly reports. It helps to stay on top of things and to feel connected.
· Finally, you’re the boss. Assume responsibility. I learned this when I was teaching at Wharton. For one of the final exams, the secretary only printed out one of every two pages. It was her mistake, but entirely my fault. I had to check and verify. And this is the same with a start-up. There are no excuses. If it doesn’t work and you’re the boss, you are the one to blame.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My parents always had huge amounts of faith in me and supported me to no end.
My husband is so sure I can conquer the world — it’s inspiring.
And, I want to thank my physics high school teacher. I was failing, and when I went to speak with him and ask whether I should get a tutor, he took one look at me and said, “No, you can do it.” And I did! I never aced physics, but I was okay.
This is all related to personal development — which is what Buddy&Soul promotes. Trusting yourself, knowing your worth, achieving your goals. Nothing can happen without it.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Great question, because I have a great answer — everything I do is geared toward doing good and making the world a better place. I started studying medical decision making in order to make a difference. And I definitely started Buddy&soul in order to change people’s lives for good.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. Go with what you believe in. I never thought I’d make a career out of medical decision making. I just thought it was important, and here we are.
2. Dare to fail. Or at least to be rejected. I’ve just landed a great agent for my book ‘Your Life Depends on it: How to Make Better Medical Decisions’ (temporary title). But it took some searching, and some rejection letters. My kids see this, and they know that success doesn’t come easy.
3. It’s not always fun and it’s not always nice. You’ll have to fire people. But this is part of life. You’ll have to acknowledge your weaknesses. But this is how we grow. You’ll have to work harder than anyone else. But this is your business and your career, so of course you’ll want to work hard.
4. Find people’s strengths, and let them shine. Our editor is brilliant at that. She is polishing our medical community as we speak, because she wants it to be extra helpful, and I can’t say no to this, because I know it’s as much hers as it is mine.
5. Work-life balance! My youngest would ride her scooter from elementary school to my office at Princeton University, and spend a few hours with me there until I finished work, and then we would walk home together. To this day, she asks me, ‘Mom, how come you have so much work to do, and always have time for me?’ This is no less of a success for me than being invited as a visitor to Cambridge University.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Hands down I would get everyone to subscribe to Buddy&Soul. Practice personal development. Do it alone, or do it together with family or friends. It’ll change your life for good.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I recently read Volume 2 of The Letters of Sylvia Plath, leading up to her suicide. When Plath says she cannot imagine life without being married to Ted Hughes, Dr. Ruth Beuscher, her psychiatrist, tells her, “First, middle and last, do not give up your personal one-ness.”
It’s relevant to me on many levels. First of all, I’m an only child, which means that, even though I love being with family and friends, I’m used to keeping my own company. It’s not pressing for me to be with others, at the cost of losing sight of what I want. And, of course, it’s relevant because I co-founded a business based on helping people find and nurture their personal one-ness.
If I could squeeze in another quote, it’d be an old piece of Jewish wisdom: Hillel says, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” (Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14).
This combines two pillars of existence — the first is to preserve yourself, take good care of yourself, and, what Buddy&Soul facilitates — grow as a person. The second is to give. The world doesn’t begin and end with you.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
Michelle Obama. She is self-made, which I relate to. She is powerful, loving, and cares deeply about health and personal development. She is constantly growing. I would want to learn how she accomplished all that she did, and remains warm and truthful. And, of course, where she plans to go from here.