THE BALANCE PROJECT | No. 149: Christine Amour-Levar, Social Entrepreneur

Welcome to THE BALANCE PROJECT: a series of relevant and refreshingly candid interviews featuring inspiring and accomplished women talking about balance. I’ve always been curious about how women I admire manage the tragically glorified “doing it all” craze. So I asked them. As I suspected, no one really does “it all.” Everyone’s making sacrifices somewhere. And that should make us all feel a little better. I hope the conversation will be steered toward that reality rather than toward the flawed and dangerous assumption that we should try—or even want to try—to perfectly do “it all.”

By the way, looking for THE BALANCE PROJECT novel that was inspired by these interviews? It’s here.

No. 149: Christine Amour-Levar, Social Entrepreneur, Marketing Consultant, Author

Age: 43
Where I live:
 Singapore
Job: Social Entrepreneur, Marketing Consultant, Author
Kids: Yasmine, 15; Malcolm, 13; Louis, 8; and Angeline, 6

Christine Amour-LevarHave you changed jobs or adjusted anything in your career to have more balance?
Yes, I certainly have. I’ve negotiated with my employers and clients to make my home office my primary place of work. I do have a couple of other offices at my employers’ and clients’ headquarters, but I much prefer working from home whenever possible. It allows me to focus more clearly on what I need to get done, with fewer distractions from colleagues. It also gives me the freedom to decide when I want to attend to my other work projects, writing assignments, and personal appointments or give my children the support they need with school work and other important activities.

Since I also run my own non-profit organisation, Women On A Mission (WOAM), from home, it’s much easier for me to switch amongst various email accounts, social media feeds, and take business or Skype calls, depending on what needs to get done at certain times of the day.

Do you think having “it all” is realistic or overrated and why?
This, of course, depends on one’s definition of “having it all.” There are so many ways to determine what that means, and it means different things to different people. Staying at home and raising children is a measure of success and balance for some. Reaching the top of Mount Everest or becoming an acclaimed musician, painter, or successful CEO is a form of fulfilment and contentment for others. If you mean having a happy marriage/relationship, children, a thriving career, and a great social life all at the same time, then yes, I’m sure some people can and are achieving that.

However, like millions of women, I too struggle with the paradigm of finding the right equilibrium. For me personally, it was never about “having it all,” but rather about having more options and feeling comfortable with the choices I’ve made at different stages of my life. I’ve learnt that if you choose activities that really inspire you, that make you feel alive, that stimulate your intellect (and especially your heart!), then it will never feel like a stretch. Ultimately, the most important and meaningful lessons I’ve learnt in life is that success is deeply personal and that it can’t be quantified as a number or a title. Living with awareness and purpose, choosing to do things that challenge me and that make me grow in different ways —that’s what drives me on a daily basis.

What part of “balance” can you just not seem to figure out?
Cutting down on the hours I work, especially because I work from home most of the time. I know I need to get better at disconnecting from my computer and focusing more on enjoying quality time with my husband and children.

What part of “balance” are you getting better at?
I am getting better at finding and defining MY own “brand” of balance.

I am convinced that there simply is no ONE formula for how a woman should lead her life. Each of us needs to respect the choices that any woman makes for herself, for her family, and for her career. We all have the right to develop our potential, at our own pace, and when it suits us. What’s important is supporting each other. I feel passionately that women need to empower each other more, so that we have the courage to define success on our own terms. I believe each person’s uniqueness is her power, and I remind my children about this often.

For me “balance” has been a combination of ensuring the right support for my husband, nurturing my four children, so that they can be the best they can be, and more recently, bringing together my love of trekking and adventure with my desire to support and empower abused women via WOAM. Additionally, being more selective with my work projects and activities over the years has led me to turn more of my passions into action.

Do you have a favorite time management tool, hack, or other strategy you use that helps you achieve balance that you would recommend to others?
For the last 15 years or more, I have religiously handwritten all my goals, objectives, resolutions, dreams, and favourite quotes in a little notebook which I keep in my desk drawer at home and which I pull out every weekend to reread and get inspiration and direction from. I find it helps me focus my energy on what matters the most to me, on what I want to achieve and work on during that week, month, or year.

What was the best advice you ever heard on balance from your mother?
My mother always taught me to be grateful for the incredible privileges and opportunities I’ve been given in my life and to work to become more self-aware and compassionate toward others. This naturally led me to feel a great sense of responsibility and a genuine desire to give back and empower others who are less fortunate.

I believe everyone has a distinct mission inside him or her, one that has the capacity to inspire. That’s why it’s so important to think about what we truly love and enjoy doing, and how we could all contribute to society with our own unique talents.

What do you wish you’d known when you were 20?
I wish I had known how much fulfilment founding a philanthropic organisation would bring me. Since its inception, WOAM has opened so many doors of opportunity for me and it has changed and enriched my life in countless ways. If I had known this earlier I would have set it up sooner!

What do you hope to know by the time you’re 60?
I hope to know myself better, and to keep developing a healthy and happy relationship with my four children, wherever life takes them.

WOAM Team in SiberiaWhose job do you wish you had?
I sometimes dream of being a full-time adventurer. However, I have to say, that being able to go on challenging treks and expeditions to remote and majestic locations around the world with my WOAM teammates once or twice a year is already a very big bonus for me.

So far we’ve been trekking in the Himalayas, including to Everest Base Camp and in the Tsum Valley of Nepal near the Tibetan border; rock-climbing in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan; and we recently just returned from one of our most spectacular journeys, travelling with the nomadic Nenets reindeer herders of Siberia in the Arctic region of Northern Russia.

Whose job are you glad you don’t have?
I have the deepest respect for the thousands of domestic helpers who work for families here in Singapore. And while I don’t envy their job, they have my sincere admiration and esteem for the great sacrifice they make going abroad to find work, leaving their children and families back in their home countries to earn better wages in rich countries like Singapore.

Favorite books?
I’m a history buff and have read every book written by William Manchester, an American author and historian, who was first introduced to me many years ago by my dear father. Manchester is superbly eloquent and as a result, his biographies of great world leaders such as Churchill, MacArthur, and Kennedy have become my all-time favourite books.

What are you reading right now?
I’m currently reading a fascinating book entitled Roaming: Living and Working Abroad in the 21st Century by CM Patha. It is the result of the author’s interviews and surveys with over 500 people who live outside of their home countries. She talks about the concept of “Roamers,” people who don’t quite fit into the category of “expats” or “immigrants.” Roaming is an interesting phenomenon, which is happening all over the world at increasing rates. Like me, many of my friends and family are roamers, so I’m finding the book captivating.

Biggest vices…
Activity?
 Too much sitting at my desk working and not enough exercise!
Food? I’m generally a very healthy eater but on occasion, and especially if I’m having a nice single malt whisky, I’ll break out the chips.
Website? Facebook is the chocolate of the Internet.

How many hours do you generally sleep at night during the week?
I usually sleep about six or seven hours a night.

What do you read every morning?
The International New York Times, plus my social media feeds.

Complete the following sentences:
I think I: am very lucky to have a loving and supportive family.
I wish I: could could see some of my best friends and family more often.
My kids: are going to have such interesting lives and I’m very excited for them in terms of what the future holds.

Do you have a personal motto or favorite saying?
One of my favourite quotes is from adventurer Ben Sauders:

“True and real inspiration and growth only come from adversity and challenge, from stepping away from what is comfortable and familiar, and stepping into the unknown.”

But I also quite like this quote about “balance,” which is relevant in the context of this interview:

The psychologist Erik Erikson once said, “The richest and fullest lives attempt to achieve an inner balance between three realms: work, love and play. To pursue one to the disregard of the others is to open oneself to ultimate sadness in older age, whereas to pursue all three with equal dedication is to make possible a life filled not only with achievement but with serenity.”

16 copy 2About Christine:
Of French, Swiss, and Filipino descent, Christine Amour-Levar is a social entrepreneur, marketing consultant, and author, currently based in Singapore, where she lives with her husband and four children. Upon graduating from Sophia University in Tokyo, with a BA in International Business and Economics and a minor in Japanese language, she embarked on a fulfilling career that took her across Europe, Asia, and North and South America for brands such as Nike, McCann-Erickson, Philippe Starck, and her own Brazilian fashion retail business, Beijaflor. After selling her retail business in 2010, she went on to write the motivational guide, The Smart Girl’s Handbook to Being Mummylicious, published in May 2012.

Today, Christine heads up marketing and communications at both Temasek Trust and Temasek Management Services, two wholly-owned subsidiaries of Temasek Holdings, a global investment firm headquartered in Singapore. She is also the chief marketing officer of iRaceMedia, South East Asia’s leading horse racing publishing company and the founding partner of Women On A Mission, a non-profit organisation that combines challenging expeditionary travel to remote locations around the world with the support of humanitarian causes.

Find out more about Christine:
www.christineamourlevar.com
www.womenmission.com
www.thesmartgirlshandbook.com
Twitter: @camourlevar

WANT TO READ MORE ABOUT WORK-LIFE BALANCE? CHECK OUT MY NOVEL THE BALANCE PROJECT!

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