Success Monday: Ellevest Founder’s Simple Two-Part Formula for Endless Energy

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in Cyprus who contributes to several media outlets, including CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, Brazen Careerist and Inc.com, to which she contributes her “Start it Up” column. Here, she shares a solid tip she picked up from a tough and successful female entrepreneur.

“There are some people out there whose careers are so full-on it's tiring just to read about them. Sallie Krawcheck, a former Wall Street executive turned founder of female-focused investing platform Ellevest, is definitely one of them.

Publicly fired twice on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, she continued to fight her way to the top of one of the most male-dominated professions on the planet. And, oh, did I mention this was right around the time of the Great Recession?

Better yet, even as she battled to rise she remained a fierce advocate for women on and off Wall Street (her classic Fast Company article “Just Buy the F***ing Latte” is one of my personal all-time favorites). Which is incredibly impressive while also sounding just unbelievably exhausting.

How does Krawcheck keep up her Energizer Bunny levels of energy? In a fun recent interview with blog the Cut, she revealed her (thankfully stealable) secret formula.

The secret recipe for endless resilience

The whole interview, which covers everything from Krawcheck's bullied childhood to her very public career setbacks, is worth a read in full, but one of the most useful moments comes when the Cut’s Charlotte Cowles asks Krawcheck about her incredible resilience. Krawcheck offers a simple two-part recipe for never-ending get-up-and-go: gratitude + anger.

“I hold two competing thoughts in my head all the time,” she explains. “One is that I’m just so frustrated and angry that we’ve built a society where women have less money than men. I’m energized by that anger, and driven by it. That’s half of my brain.”

She continues: “The other half is like, how fun is this? Seriously! I walk through airports with my Ellevest bag and young women stop me and say, ‘Do you work at Ellevest? You’re changing my life.’ That happens all the time, and it’s amazing. And to be able to build a company where I want to work, and where I would have liked to work when I was younger—it’s so much fun. So I’m pissed off and grateful, simultaneously, and I’m ignited by that.”

Gratitude will only get you so far

The second half of Krawcheck’s prescription probably doesn’t surprise anyone who’s read any self-help or productivity advice in the past decade. Gratitude is widely touted as a cure for nearly anything that ails you. And for good reason. Science shows that counting our blessings makes us happier, and happiness, besides just feeling nice, makes us more creative, resilient, and successful.

And, in good news for the more naturally gloomy among us, science also shows it’s an attitude that can be cultivated through conscious practice.

So it’s no surprise that Krawcheck powers herself partly on gratitude. But what the gratitude boosters often don’t mention is that life isn’t just about feeling good. As Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman has pointed out, most people crave not just pleasure but also meaning. True happiness isn’t just sunny days and chocolate cake (though those are certainly nice). It’s also feeling like you’ve made a dent in the world.

That’s where gratitude can let you down. Appreciating what you have is important, but fixing what you lack is often required for meaning. And for that, the driving power of a healthy dose of well-directed anger can really help you out.

Which isn’t to say that living your life engulfed in endless rage won’t lead straight to misery and burnout. Of course it will. But the kumbaya of gratitude alone isn’t going to keep you going through decades of sexism, economic headwinds, and the usual struggles of being an entrepreneur. For that, you need to be a little angry.

Gratitude helps you savor your successes and preserve your sanity. Anger helps focus your efforts and drive you over the inevitable hurdles. Combine the two and you have the ideal attitude to power you through even the most demanding career.”

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer who contributes to Inc.com, among other media outlets. You can follow her on Twitter at @EntryLevelRebel