Women Who Inspire: Tiffany Shlain

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Next on my Women Who Inspire series, I’m talking about creative inspiration, risk taking, and really good hats with artist, author, and filmmaker, Tiffany Shlain. I met Tiffany when our daughters became friends through summer camp, and we instantly bonded over out mutual passion for living a creative and intentional life. I’m a huge fan of Tiffany’s book, 24/6, which details how to recharge each week with a 24-hour digital detox. She is one of the most confident women I know, and she constantly inspires me with her bold and innovative career choices. Our interview is straight ahead.

Tiffany Shlain

The most valuable career advice you’ve ever been given?

“Ad astra” which means “Reach for the stars” in Latin. My father taught it to me, lived it, and inspired it in those around him. It is what we put on his tombstone, which lies among the wildflowers near where we grew up. Another big one that me and my siblings all followed was from both of our parents, who always said “be your own boss.”

A risk you took that paid off?

My current Human Nature art exhibition. After a career as a filmmaker and writer, during Covid I was drawn to new mediums of sculpture and photography to convey ideas about how going deep into history and nature realigns your perspective. I spent the last two and half years following this creative pull, investing a lot of my own resources. To have the opening of HUMAN NATURE happen this month, and to see people reacting so powerfully to the work, with tears in their eyes, and buying pieces for their homes, has been very exhilarating.

Tiffany Shlain

Proudest accomplishment?

Being asked to give the UC Berkeley campus wide commencement speech to over 11,000 people in 2010. I went to UC Berkeley and I was at a pivotal moment in my life; I’d just lost my father, and days later my daughter was born. In this intense moment it felt like the universe was looking into my eyes and asking “What have you learned so far?” I worked so hard on that speech and I was so incredibly nervous beforehand. Then I got up on the stage and it all melted away. I was completely in the zone, present with all those graduates and their families, and gave the speech of my life. NPR later included it on their list of best commencement speeches since 1776.  Being on that list meant so much to me.

The thing you like most about yourself?

I love being a mother, wife, and creative person. And all of those roles require finding the humor in every crevice you can. So my ability to laugh at the absurdities that happen along the way would be the thing I like most.

How do you fuel your creativity?

Turning off all screens one day a each week, which I have done now for over 13 years with my family. As I look back at my journals, all my creative ideas come on that day.

Go-to daily uniform?

A hat and red lipstick. That’s all I need and I am ready for anything.

When I am making art, I love my jumpsuit. It’s like I zip myself into action to create.

Actual morning routine?

Before looking at my iPhone or computer in the morning, while drinking my coffee with my dog Rosie at my feet, I do my five-minute journal. I write what I am grateful for and my intentions for the day. It sets up the day in a beautiful, analog way.

Earlybird or night owl?

Earlybird. I love getting up before my family and the world, to think.

How do you recharge when it’s all too much?

I mentioned my family and I turn off our screens one day a week, from Friday night to Saturday night, for what we call our Technology Shabbats. We started doing it at a point when I needed a profound way to recharge after losing my dad and giving birth to my second child. This practice is literally the best thing I have ever brought into my life. I ended up writing a book about it called 24/6 because it was so good for me and my family. I highly recommend trying it. It’s a free, ancient concept of Shabbat (a day of rest), and a simple and powerful way to recharge each week. Any idea that has been around for over 3000 years like shabbat is one to look to. While Jewish, I am not a religious person but I love the tradition of shabbat, and in our modern society, it feels like a no screens day, can truly be a day of rest.

One self care tip you follow religiously?

Tech Shabbat.

Your #1 go-to easy weeknight meal?

Broiled salmon with just olive oil and salt, brown rice, and roasted veggies. I make it every Monday. Then of course Taco Tuesdays. Friday for Shabbat is always the same meal of Ken’s roast chicken and my challah. The other days are a free-for-all.

Favorite snack or treat?

I love popcorn. Which is really just a conduit for the butter, right?

Favorite or most used app on your phone?

Oh, I do love Instagram. I am pretty careful to only follow people who make me laugh or inspire me with visuals and ideas and I try to also only put those kinds of posts back into the interweb.

Tiffany Shlain

What’s in your handbag right now?

Just my wallet, my red lipstick, my keys, and my glasses. That’s all I carry, and I put it into a hands-free bag, as in “hip bag” (also known as a fanny pack, but let’s rename that!).

Sweatpants or real pants while on Zoom?

Sweatpants and my Ugg slippers on the bottom, and hat, lipstick, and a fab shirt on top.

Digital or physical planner?

I swing both ways. I use digital and love writing things down and drawing in my notebook.

Favorite gift to give?

The five-minute journal.

Can’t live without beauty product?

My signature red lipstick. I don’t really do other beauty products.

Guilty pleasure?

Getting massages…and didn’t I mention popcorn with butter?

Your favorite spot to retreat to in your home?

My morning journal/reading chair. And my bathtub. Sinking into a lavender epsom salt bath can dissolve away any excess from the day.

Anything fun coming up that we should know about?

Come visit my art exhibition HUMAN NATURE either in person at the SF Ferry Building’s SHACK15, or online, where I am giving online Zoom artist tours.  All info on the exhibition and the art can be found here

Tiffany Shlain

My book 24/6: Giving up Screens One Day a Week to Get More Time, Creativity, and Connection. You can find out info on my art, films, monthly newsletter and upcoming speaking at tiffanyshlain.com

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