Morra Aarons-Mele: ‘Your Mood Can Change Instantly If You Get Outside of Your Head’

The author and founder of Women Online on how to stop the cycle of rumination and why an empty inbox is overrated.

When you have the opportunity to ask some of the most interesting people in the world about their lives, sometimes the most fascinating answers come from the simplest questions. The Thrive Questionnaire is an ongoing series that gives an intimate look inside the lives of some of the world’s most successful people.

Thrive Global: What’s the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
Morra Aarons-Mele: First I pet my cats, who are usually right next to me angling for breakfast. Then I turn my phone off airplane mode, and run downstairs to turn on the coffee pot.

TG: What gives you energy?
MAM: Hot yoga. I’m addicted.

TG: What’s your secret life hack?
MAM: Get outside your head! I’m a ruminator and a stewer. So when I’m going down a rabbit hole of doubt and insecurity, I force myself to think about someone else I care for, and do something kind for them. It could be as simple as sending a text message to a friend or telling my husband I love him. Your mood can change instantly if you get outside of your head.

TG: Name a book that changed your life.
MAM: Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. Life is about networks and being a good citizen in all your different communities.

TG: Tell us about your relationship with your phone. Does it sleep with you?
MAM: Before Trump won, I was totally happy to leave it downstairs. But now because I’m addicted to political news, my phone is next to my bed. I know it’s toxic. Also, I love podcasts so I have the phone on airplane mode to listen once lights out.

TG: How do you deal with email?
MAM: I channel the wise words of computer scientist Cal Newport: No one ever got promoted because they had an empty inbox. I try to stay on top of it, but also remind myself that it’s not where my true value lies.

TG: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?
MAM: I love to tidy my kitchen or random shelves in the house! It makes me feel in control.

TG: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?
MAM: Would you hate me if I said, I don’t remember? I have a busy life but I’m the luckiest person in the world because I mostly do my work when I want, where I want. And I usually work in bed or my home office.

TG: When was the last time you felt you failed and how did you overcome it?
MAM: I fail every single day. If work is going well, one of my kids is unhappy, or I’ve let my mother down, or my husband. If the family is ok, a client is upset. As an entrepreneur, cash flow is a constant stressor. I have learned over the years that the only way to manage everything is to fail and do it anyway. Not that I don’t constantly stew over the failures!

TG: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.
MAM: “Be grateful.” My friend Darryle Pollack, a cancer survivor and wise woman, reminded me that gratitude is essential and always, always worth remembering.


Morra Aarons-Mele is the author of Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home). Morra is the founder of award winning social impact agency Women Online, hosts the podcast Hiding in the Bathroom, and created the influencer network The Mission List. She was founding Political Director for BlogHer.com, and has written for the Harvard Business Review, the Huffington Post, MomsRising, the Wall St. Journal, New York Times, and The Guardian. She has lectured at at the Yale Women’s Campaign School, the Harvard Kennedy School, and at the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders forum at Harvard. Aarons-Mele is a graduate of Brown University and the Harvard Kennedy School, and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.