Alumni Profile: Julia Valentine '03 on the Art of Joyful Living
Julia Valentine '03 is passionate about inspiring people to live joyful and fulfilled lives. Read on about Joy Compass.com, her vision of such a community with the belief that this can be done at any age.
1. Tell us about JoyCompass.com and how you came up with the idea?
JoyCompass.com is the extraordinary new website that inspires and empowers people to believe that the second half of their life can — and should — be better than the first. It is an essential destination for resources on retirement planning, mentoring, a healthy lifestyle, motivation, quality of life and more. JoyCompass.com contains the book Joy Compass: How to Make Your Retirement the Treasure of Your Life, e-books, a resource center, interviews and blogs.
When my own grandparents had a rather unpleasant experience in their later years, I asked myself whether there was anything they could have done better. Sometimes a negative role model is a powerful incentive! When I finally figured out the answer to my question, which took about seven years of research and interviews, I captured it in my book and on the website. And now it’s being taken even further thanks to the contributing writers, interviewees and everyone else who gets involved.
Working on Joy Compass has been the most rewarding endeavor of my life, because it is the first time I set out to do something with the intention of helping others create a better quality of life than my family was able to have.
2. Who is your target audience and what makes them unique?
Soon-to-be and recent retirees, anyone who wants the second half of their life to be better than the first. They are unique because they do not accept the myth that aging equals decline. I was initially surprised when teenagers attended my talks, but then I realized that, much like myself, they are concerned about their parents and grandparents.
3. What makes you most proud about what you offer to your readers?
The book and the website are your how-to guide to creating the astonishing quality of life in retirement. It is the next best alternative to attending a retirement planning seminar. There’s research proving that a lack of planning creates problems later on. I wrote a book that I wish my grandparents read twenty years ago!
We offer advice and information helping people create the best retirement experience. We have the highest quality of information from experts, without the hype. Our celebrity fitness expert, Tadeo Arnold, will never promise perfect abs in six weeks. He teaches proper nutrition and the right attitude towards fitness, saying it is a mini-vacation, not a chore. Our mentoring expert, Mayra Reyes, offers insightful, practical advice based on her long tenure supporting student entrepreneurs at Columbia Business School.
We have recently interviewed Martina Navratilova, Cesar Milan, Jane Pauley, Joan Lunden, Whoopi Goldberg, Newt Gingrich, Mary Matalin and James Carville, Ronni Bennett, Olympia Dukakis and others to glean some insights into living well at any age.
4. Is there a Joy Compass membership?
Yes, and it is free. There is so much to talk about here! We would love to get the Columbia community’s involvement. It is an incredibly strong and intelligent community, and I am proud to be a part of it.
Some of the key themes that we write about are legacy and generativity. Both of them have to do with a desire to leave this world better than the way we found it. Mayra Reyes comes at it from the mentoring perspective, and Columbia has a great tradition of mentoring! I like thinking about it from the perspective of creativity.
I interviewed Ward Luthi, CEO of Walking the World (an adventure travel company for the fifty and better), and we were talking about legacy when he expressed this perfectly, “I do not see the creative ideas, or the idea that we can do anything we want. We set a goal to go to the moon, and we did it.” When Ward took people on trips to the developing world, he realized that 1.5 million people a year die from smoke inhalation and burns caused by a three stone stove. So, he started the 1Stove Project (sign up for it – your $40 will change a family’s life for years. You won’t find a deal like this at Macy’s). “We could decide to give everyone in the world a stove and actually do it in a year,” Ward says, “And I do not see it. I am wondering, is it that we do not believe we can do these things, or are we too busy with other concerns?" Read the full interview.
We are overdue for ideas that are both practical and impactful. For some reason, we gravitate towards huge causes that cost millions of dollars. We tend to underestimate that small change is all there is. So, with this philosophy in mind, we are starting the Creative Ideas list. We set the following parameters:
1. Cheap – under $50
2. Life changing - clearly defined impact
3. Tangible and practical – solves a problem we can comprehend
4. Verifiable – confidence that this is getting done by a reputable party.
Please add your idea to our list: ideasjoycompass.com. Join us by sending us your ideas. We need and want your participation!
5. How do you use the social networks to promote your business?
Social media is a part of any thriving business these days. We found that other sites request to use our content under the Creative Commons license because we express the ideas that they live by but haven’t had the time to put into writing.
6. How have the classes you took at Columbia Business School affect how you promote your business?
My Columbia training prepared me to solve problems. I really enjoyed all classes that developed my strategic and analytical skills, especially Professor Bruce Greenwald’s classes. I also found Professor Bernd Schmitt’s branding class invaluable – check out his Big Think Strategy and Experiential Marketing. I find the network and the school resources, especially the mentoring program, to be helpful. I am grateful to Entrepreneurial Sounding Board practitioner Michael Garrett, who has been generous with his time and insightful in his guidance.
7. Where do you see your company in 5 years?
We will evolve with the world.
8. What advice would you give to a graduating Columbia student with entrepreneurial aspirations?
Do as much as you can to prepare before you jump into it. Learn through interning with an existing startup, from friends or entrepreneurs in the Columbia network. Notice I didn’t say learn from reading about it, explore by doing something small. It takes a lot of tweaking to get your own thing going. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they got it in three week’s time.