Suzy Welch is an author, commentator, and business journalist. The weekly column, The Welch Way, that she writes with her husband, Jack Welch, appears in BusinessWeek magazine and is published by the New York Times syndicate in more than 45 major newspapers around the world, reaching more than 8 million readers. The Welches are also the co-authors of Winning, a #1 Wall Street Journal and international bestseller, and its companion volume, Winning: The Answers. On her own, Suzy is a columnist for O, The Oprah Magazine, where she writes frequently about balancing work and life, as well as the delicate art of managing career challenges.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Suzy received her BA from Harvard College in 1981 and then joined The Miami Herald as a reporter. She left daily journalism to attend Harvard Business School, where she graduated as a Baker Scholar in 1988. After Harvard Business School, Suzy worked as a management consultant, specializing in strategy and manufacturing. She joined the Harvard Business Review as a senior editor in 1995 and was named editor-in-chief in 2001. During her tenure at HBR, Suzy was the author of numerous articles on leadership, change, creativity and organizational behavior, as well as the contributor to several books on management.
Suzy is the mother of 4 children, ages 14 to 19. She is actively involved with several non-profit boards, including Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program.
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Seven Books I Love, Love, Love
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
This is the single best manual for motherhood ever; I’ve read it umpteen times. Beautiful and true, poignant and wildly funny, this book is the present I give to all my pregnant friends, especially when the first baby is about to arrive.
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
I read this brilliant novel about love and redemption on my honeymoon with Jack. As I reached the heart-breaking end, Jack discovered me sobbing, curled up on the couch in our hotel room, and, utterly mortified, cried, “Oh my God, Suzy, you can’t be sad now!”
Audition by Barbara Walters
A deeply honest and fascinating autobiography by one of the great women of all time. Audition is as much a gripping, first-hand account of modern American history as it is an inspiring story of self-discovery and courage.
Mama’s Promises by Marilyn Nelson
My favorite poem from this collection - and my favorite poem, period - is “Mama’s Promise,” which somehow manages to capture all the bittersweet complexity of motherhood in 64 perfect lines.
Them: A Memoir of Parents by Francine du Plessix Gray
This is the kind of book you pray to God your children never write about you. Regardless, Them is a gripping memoir within a memoir, and a fascinating history of World War II and post-war New York City.
Personal History by Katharine Graham
The former publisher of the Washington Post tells the story of her remarkable life in unsparing detail. I will never forget the passage in which she describes her husband’s shocking death and her equally shocking reaction – a long boat trip away from her young family. Her remorse - decades afterward - over leaving her children when they needed her most is touching and revelatory.
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
A very short, very complete, very perfect explanation of what it means to be a writer.
Q&A with Suzy
What is the most memorable application of 10-10-10 you've ever heard of?
I've heard so many I love! 10-10-10ers, for instance, have used the process to decide whether to try online dating, tell off a boss, run for political office, confess a marital infidelity, buy a new house, have a baby, and change careers. And that's just the beginning of the list.
What advice would you give to 10-10-10 "newbies" trying the process for the first time?
At the very outset, I think it's useful to 10-10-10 with a paper and pen (or a computer) to write down your thoughts. And it never hurts to 10-10-10 with a friend, especially if that friend will help you push your thinking.
What was your latest 10-10-10 decision?
Whether to attend the funeral of a person I literally did not know -- he was a good friend of my husband's. The decision to attend would have been a no-brainer except that I had an important child-related obligation the same day. In many ways, it was a classic 10-10-10 dilemma. Jack ardently wanted me one place; Eve desperately wanted me to be someplace else, and I saw both of their points of view. In the end, I was so conflicted that I sat Jack and Eve down and the three of us 10-10-10'd the situation together. I went to the ceremony with Jack and everyone understood why that was the best solution.
What do you love/hate most about being a writer?
I love and hate everything about being a writer. I love the solitude with my thoughts; I hate the loneliness that entails. I love coming up with new ways of saying things all the time; I hate the pressure of deadline creativty. It's a moot point though, as I am only equipped to be a writer. There is literally nothing else I can do in life.
How long did writing the book take you from start to finish?
I first wrote about 10-10-10 for O, the Oprah Magazine in 2006, but it was January of 2008 when I started conducting research in earnest on the topic. I spent about four months making phone calls and traveling around the country to meet people who regularly use 10-10-10. After listening to their stories, I spent another few weeks making sense of everything I'd learned and reading about brain science, and then I finally started writing the darn thing in April of 2008. I finished the book almost a year later. Suffice it to say, there were a lot of drafts.
Do you have a bizarre creative process?
I wish I had a bizarre creative process -- it would be fun to reveal at dinner parties. Unfortunately, my years as a workaday journalist at the Associated Press and the Miami Herald turned me into a real grunt when it comes to writing. I'm really methodical about doing research, preparing my thoughts, and organizing content. Frankly, on this front, I even bore myself.
Now that 10-10-10 is complete, what are you planning to do next?
I'll continue writing other stuff, like the BusinessWeek column I co-author with Jack, and I hope to keep blogging for my favorite website, The Daily Beast. I'll certainly attend more of Marcus's swim meets. Otherwise, the Next Big Thing awaits me.
I have a 10-10-10 story. How can I share it with you?
You can post it right on this site.
Did your children get mad that you wrote about them?
My kids were great about having their life stories included. Roscoe and Sophia (who are 18 and 19) actually read the whole book and gave me very useful feedback, and Marcus, who is 16, is just really cool about everything. In the end, I only had to remove one anecdote from the book because Eve, my youngest at 14, went ballistic. It concerned her choice of a Halloween costume, and I am forbidden from saying more.
If you really did have a magic wand to bring you back in time, is this any one thing you would have done differently in raising your children?
One thing? Are you kidding? I can think of 100, starting with the fact that I should have believed Sophia when, at age 8, she told me she had a bead stuck up her nose and I ignored her for six months, until it popped out. Honestly, I am like every mother. I have gotten more things wrong than right, albeit not for lack of trying. The fact that my kids are wonderful and sane is a miracle.
What does Jack think about 10-10-10?
Jack is a huge fan of 10-10-10. In fact, he was the first one who said, "Suzy, you need to write a book about this." He had just seen me give a speech in Miami, and the crowd reaction to the idea blew him away. Nowadays, Jack is always telling me to 10-10-10 dilemmas, especially if he notices my decision is not breaking his way.
Who are your heroes?
My first hero, as I mention in the book, was Oriana Fallaci, the Italian journalist. I admired everything about her. She was original, intensely smart, fearless, independent, ceaselessly curious. The world needed her and she died too young.
Since my early fixation on Oriana, I have gathered a pantheon of other heros. I bow down to the doctors and nurses at Boston Healthcare for the Homeless for the saintly work they have done, largely without notice, for twenty years. I hugely admire Barbara Walters for her groundbreaking career, brilliance, and goodness. I read everything Anne Lamott writes, especially what she writes about being a writer. And I worship Mary J. Blige for all the obvious reasons.