Women In Wellness: Jocelyn Florence of Parallel On The Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing
Don’t underestimate the “social” parts of your job. Something like getting lunch with a colleague might seem unproductive, but it pays off in too many ways to outline in a quick top-five list.
As a part of my series about women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jocelyn Florence.
Jocelyn kickstarted her career as Associate Producer at Ars Nova, where she brought to life shows featuring emerging artists across comedy, music, and theater. Prior to her current role as a partner at Parallel, Jocelyn served as Creative Director at business news publication, Quartz, overseeing the design, engineering, and branded editorial teams to produce compelling content for Fortune 100 brands and leaders. Jocelyn currently sits on the board of the LA comedy venue, The Elysian, volunteers as a college application advisor at Scholar Match, and holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
A job interviewer once offhandedly said to me, “Your resume is all over the place,” quickly followed by, “in the best possible way.” She was right, and I’m proud of it. I started my career as a producer at a great NYC venue, Ars Nova, and it was an ideal way to spend my twenties — building my creative instincts and cultivating a community of the most talented and fun people. After Ars Nova, I took a hard pivot to business school at the University of Chicago, where I strengthened my strategy and management skills. Post-MBA, I joined the business news publication Quartz, leading their branded content business. It was a great opportunity to learn how to tell stories digitally (as opposed to IRL at Ars Nova). And then, in a *very* lucky turn, I met Nic Gonda, who became my partner at Parallel. We’re a celebrity partnership studio and strategic investor focused on making wellness more accessible. At first, the idea of working in wellness wasn’t an obvious fit for me — I was a New Yorker and had visions of this realm in LA being too “woo-woo” for me. Visions aside, it’s been great to work with our team to define our unique perspective on wellness–something that’s more expansive and approachable than what the definition usually connotes.
While that interviewer a few years ago had a point, I do think that my roles, from theater to business school to media to investing and building alongside celebrity talent, actually have a common throughline — they’re all super collaborative and combine strategy and creativity in a way that’s really satisfying and challenging.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?
When I was at Ars Nova, I produced the New Year’s Eve shows. These were major events, with fifty performers, a few hundred attendees, and sky-high expectations across the board. The first time I did it, I remember doing a run-of-show meeting with all these people — musicians, magicians, technicians, etc. — and thinking, “Well, whatever happens, the clock will strike midnight, and there will be confetti.” Those nights were chaos, but they always worked out, and I’ve carried the lessons I learned from them throughout my career: you plan as much as you can (but expect that things will absolutely go wrong), you manage a customers’ expectation as much as you can (but know that there will always be some people who won’t like the end result), and you make sure your team is all working towards the same goal (and that you’re in it with them, ready to celebrate at the proverbial midnight finish line).
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about a mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I started at Quartz, I inherited a team, which is always tricky. Naturally, my approach was to avoid rocking the boat as much as possible. But eventually, I realized that by doing so, I missed a big opportunity to do the opposite — to assess the status quo and figure out how to make the team stronger and impart a new perspective. Since then, I’ve approached management from a much more critical angle — making a deliberate effort to evaluate what’s working and what’s not on a regular basis.
Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?
We do two things at Parallel: strategically invest in funds and companies that are broadening access to wellness and build partnerships between companies and influential people (famous actors, athletes, musicians, etc.). Our ultimate goal is facilitating genuine and aligned collaborations that effectively promote and elevate these companies. Rather than creating our own products, we aim to support and amplify the efforts of the people and brands that we truly believe in in the space.
Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.
Well, luckily, we’ve covered a bunch in our digital newsletter, Prism; otherwise, five might be a tall order for me. And in true Prism fashion, I want to caveat that there’s no one size fits all approach and no quick fixes. But here are some things that have helped me, at least:
- Force yourself to drink one glass of water after every non-water drink you have (coffee, alcohol, etc.) I started doing this as a 2022 new year’s resolution, and it stuck; please join me in this practice if you’re like me and need to game yourself into drinking water!
- Do a commute, even if you work from home. Take a walk outside before sitting down at your computer and do something similar at the end of the day. Otherwise, suddenly you look up, and you’ve been working for twelve hours (or at least I do :/ ).
- Call people on the phone. I’m a devoted phone talker, and I feel very validated whenever I see science back this up as a way of maintaining stronger bonds with your people. Do you think you hate the phone!? I refuse to believe it, and I DARE you to try calling someone.
- Download the Merlin app and learn the names of the birds you hear in your neighborhood. My friend Peyton told me about this, and I’m indebted to him for making my daily walks more interesting.
- Engage with art (however you define it). At Parallel, we talk a lot about how creativity and self-expression are critical to wellness. It’s why we just launched a podcast about music education hosted by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers! And while not everyone considers themselves a creative, per se, everyone can still engage with art! Go to a concert, take a minute to notice a mural in your neighborhood, or watch a documentary about your favorite hobby… whatever it is, just find time to incorporate some creativity into your day.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Ummmm, universal public healthcare? Is that on the table? Assuming that’s a slightly more ambitious answer than you’re looking for, I’d say it’d be working on a campaign to spread information and adoption of basic preventative healthcare measures for the aging population. We recently invested in a fund called Springbank that’s focused on the care economy, and much of their portfolio targets our country’s caregiver gap. As our population ages, there are going to be fewer and fewer caregivers available to keep older Americans healthy, so basic preventative healthcare around nutrition, mobility, combatting loneliness, etc. will become even more critical. It’s not the sexiest of topics, but it’s about as universal as it gets. And if that’s *still* too broad, I suppose I’ll just have to launch a national phone talking initiative. Give me a call to talk about it!
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?
- Don’t underestimate the “social” parts of your job. Something like getting lunch with a colleague might seem unproductive, but it pays off in too many ways to outline in a quick top-five list.
- Negotiating your salary doesn’t make you “difficult.”
- The work relationships you make in your twenties shape the rest of your career (and life!), so invest time into them.
- Critical feedback is usually more of an opportunity than a setback.
- Script difficult conversations ahead of time.
Sustainability, veganism, mental health, and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?
Tough to pick just one. I probably spend the most time thinking about mental health, but I spend the most time *worrying* about the environment. At Parallel, we tend to do more projects around mental health because that’s a space where influential people can really destigmatize issues and do a ton of good.
What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?
Me personally… not too many places since social media is not so much my thing. But for Parallel in general, there are a few places: our site offers a general overview, our (newly launched) Instagram offers updates, and our Prism newsletter offers our takes on wellness.
Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.