BY ISOUL HUSSEIN HARRIS
You hit it big with Veronica Mars back in 2004; how has your career perspective changed over the years?
I never thought I'd be as conscious as I am today. I want to do great work, but I'm also at a pivotal point where I have kids and decide what projects to take on. Also, I've realized that if I want to be happy, I can make that choice and start right now.
It sounds like you've done a lot of soul searching?
I like therapy and intense debates. Staying open to new perspectives is important. I don't go to bed with regrets, so I sleep well. Maybe that's why I participate in so much charitable giving.
How did This Bar Saves Lives come about?
My mom always taught me we have two hands for a reason: one to help yourself and one to help someone else. My co-founders and I had all seen acute malnutrition up-close in our travels and felt it was unacceptable. There weren't any real give-backs in the food arena,
so we created one. Charity is one thing, but I think people can get donation fatigue. So we wanted to create a sustainable for-profit business model that was giving back with the intent to do something charitable, yet was for profit, run it like a business, have a great product that would sell, and sustain the give. For every bar purchased, we donate a life-saving packet of nutrition to a child in need.
How do you manage your giving partnerships?
We allow our giving partners to decide where it goes, where the need is. We don't assume to drop in places where it's not needed and make mistakes. We've learned a lot along the way, but it's been a gratifying experience to build this company. Every single person we've introduced it to has wanted to help in some way.
Have you been involved with charities before this one you co-founded?
Yeah. When I was tiny, my mom taught me that we have two hands for a reason. One is to help yourself up, and one is to help someone else.
How do you choose to devote your time?
I'm at the pivotal point where I have young kids, and I'm deciding what work to take on, what work is valuable enough for me to miss some of their childhood. I haven't found anything yet that's valuable enough to allow me to miss the years that are formidable for them.
Are you passing on the lessons from your childhood to your two children?
That's interesting. I've never been asked that before. My parents gave me a strong sense of responsibility. We let [our kids] know, "You're having a tantrum, and you should get it out. But do it in your room: you don't have the right to ruin everyone else's evening."
What's your top priority health-wise?
Eating clean and being conscious of the foods I choose. I think 99.9 percent of illnesses and health problems are due to the food we eat. I think it's crucial to be conscious of the foods you chose, not just because of health for your body but also because of sustainable practices that benefit the people who provide the food for you.
What are you most conscious of regarding food?
I don't want my food to come to my table with a bunch of bad karma, whether it's the meat I'm serving my family, having come from factory farming, or the laborers that picked or strawberries having miserable lives. As far as health and wellness, conscious eating is my priority.
Any other life goals?
There are a thousand things I want. I'd love an eight-pack, but it's probably not going to happen. I'm cool with just being relatively fit. Sometimes setting a goal too high can cause a comparison hangover, especially for women. I want to cultivate more opportunities that feed my soul, as opposed to climbing some invisible ladder that we all know will never end.
As a younger woman, what did you believe your life would look like at your current age?
I never thought I'd be as conscious as I feel I am today. I always strive to be happy, but I'm fine that I'm satisfied with how uniquely aware I am about the tricks life plays on you. I wanna do a bunch of great work, but I'm sure Meryl Streep is still going, "I gotta find a great script this year."
It's the neverending ladder you mentioned earlier.
Yes, it sort of never ends, and I have trained myself to become aware of the tricks that Instagram can play on you when you start comparing yourself to other people. Once I accepted those, I became happier than I thought I could be because I know, "Oh, it's just all a game. And if I wanna be happy, it's a choice, and it can start right this second."
You are hyper-aware. How did you get there?
I try. I like therapy. I like long, intense debates with my friends. That kind of personality characteristic tends to lead itself to a fierce moral inventory when I feel I've been wronged. I guess being aware that there are always other sides to this story and staying open to new perspectives. Because I believe you get stuck in a rut when you're only thinking one way.
Yes, I think we see in this country where a lack of critical thinking skills leads us.
I apply critical thinking to every part of my day, and it just makes me a happier person. I also think all these traps we get into, particularly as women, such as the question: how do you find balance being a mother and a career woman. My initial reaction to that is, "How cute and comical. I don't think you've ever asked a man, 'So, what it's like to be a dad and a career guy?' It immediately puts it in perspective when you recognize the game.
Are you teaching your children to recognize these tricks of the trade-in life?
Yes. Absolutely. We do it in little ways, in ways that we think their brains can understand. So, for example, the phone is attached to us. My husband and I sell ourselves for a living. We have to work after hours because that is the time deals are put together in this industry. If I'm in a pattern where I'm addicted to my phone and I see that my girls are watching me, I will put it down and say, "I wanna tell you something about this phone. This phone tricks me all the time because the people who make this phone program it to make me want to come back. Everything about it makes me want to come back. I have more information for you. I'll make you feel good. And it's a trick, and I want to do better putting it down when I'm around you.
You sound like you attempt to have a standard of honesty with your children.
I'm candid with them about that kind of stuff so that they know not everyone has to be addicted to their phone. Some people can recognize, "Oh, shoot. I'm using my phone too much." Oh, yeah, that's because all these programs run on a dopamine rush from the user.
What do you want to do that you have not done yet?
I'd love to get a little bit more involved in businesses. I want to invest in companies that I believe in and be an active investor. I have a couple of things right now that are exciting. I make ethical decisions, and I think that I also know how to sell items responsibly. So I'd like to dabble in the business world a little bit more.
Isoul Hussein Harris is an award-winning, multimedia editor, writer and content producer. @isoulharris