Jess Yagan- Life.xls

Readers of the blog know that Ken and I first started dating at Stanford from 2003-2005, when he was at Business School and I was getting my Masters in Education.  To say that his class had some amazing people would be a huge understatement.  (By the way, if you’re wondering what the most read post in the history of the Josie Girl Blog is, click here):  Today, we feature a power COUPLE from Ken’s class, and speak to Jess Yagan.  She shares how she and her husband approach work… and life … Enjoy!



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You’re the CEO of Impact Engine.  Your husband has founded numerous companies including OKCupid, was named to TIME Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People in the World’ list, and until very recently was the CEO of  Your family lives in Chicago, and Sam travels around the world for work constantly.  You have three kids.  How do you keep it all together?


I hope by keeping it together you mean we get through each day! Sam and I joke that our crazy lives are held together with duct tape and bubble gum. And sometimes you have days you have to MacGyver some solutions to get through it. The most important things are to remember to breathe, remember we are so fortunate to CHOOSE this craziness (many families have this kind of pace forced on them due to economics) and for Sam and I to remember to give each other the benefit of the doubt. We’re both running so hard carrying so much load that it’s easy to feel unappreciated.


You and Sam are both clearly geniuses, and have math, data, business-school thought process-driven minds.  You guys have a very unique way of setting goals for and assessing each others’ performances as spouses.  Can you share?


It’s super geeky but we have a spreadsheet called life.xls. We have agreed on a number of things we want to be really good at – things like kids’ health, time together, jobs we love. All of our priorities are on there and we both agree that every single item is important. Each year, we reflect and rate ourselves on each item – 1 to 10 against how well we thought was possible. If an item scores 6 or below we require an action item. In other words, we’re not allowed to say something is important to us, then say we’re bad at it, and not do something about it. It’s a great tool for us to stay focused on aligning our time/actions with our values. We’re far from perfect and often repeat low scores more than one year but it helps a lot that we try to hold ourselves accountable.


(Note from me:  What would your life.xls spreadsheet look like?  Ken and I are going to try this, and if we don’t get into a huge fight and are comfortable with the results, we will share.  As “business school” as this sounds, this is one of the coolest ideas I have ever heard of.  Thanks for sharing Jess!)
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What is the biggest challenge of having Sam on the road so much?  Has it ever felt like too much?


It feels like too much a lot of the time!  There are two big challenges – the logistics of managing our house and three kids and the loneliness of not being able to hang out and connect with Sam, who is my best friend.  In terms of logistics, it’s a lot of work but we’re really lucky to have an amazing support system of family and babysitters and others who make it possible.  In terms of connecting with each other, we put extra effort into connecting on the weekends and taking time for ourselves when we can.
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What advice do you have for other couples where both people have such important and involved jobs?


I don’t really feel qualified to share advice on this, but I guess if I have to I’ll say – stay positive, stay intentional with your time. If you’re lucky enough to have the choice to live a crazy life, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. For me, that means I think my work adds value in the world.


Tell me more about your company and your mission.  Have you always been involved in promoting social good?


I’ve spent my career trying to align profit and social good.  I’m also a philanthropist and I believe in the need for better government but I’m focused on capitalism and how it can be better aligned with is the world we want to live in.  It’s an elegant system of alignment and we just need to make sure it’s linked to other things we care about, in addition to money.  Why do we only care about social and environmental issues when it comes to donating money and time?  What about all the other money and time? It doesn’t make sense.  At Impact Engine, we invest for both financial and social return – we measure both and report both to our own investors.  Prior to being an impact investor, I worked for McDonald’s Corporation making the supply chain more sustainable (both better for the business and also better outcomes for environment, human rights, etc.)


Have you ever worried about your husband being so involved in online dating sites… :)?


Not really.  We’ve been together since high school.  It does crack me up every time he is called a dating expert, since he hasn’t been on a first date in many, many years. 🙂




Thanks Jess for your time and for sharing the details of your life.xls spreadsheet.  If any of you incorporate it into your relationship/marriage, please share!

Anika Yael Natori, aka, The Josie Girl

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  1. So many successful Stanford Alums! Really neat to hear more about Jess and her family.

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