Make Love Not Porn Founder On Why Getting To The Top Isn't What You Think

Photo: Courtesy of How Did She Get There.
As told to Caroline Hugall

What did you want to be when you grew up?

"All the usual things that little girls want to be: a ballerina, an artist, and a writer. I did, in fact, also want to work in advertising. So at some point in my youth, I was mildly prescient about where I might end up."

With whom would you most like to be stuck on a desert island?
"Any man with whom I'm having fantastic, mind-blowing sex."

What single book has had the greatest impact on you? Why?
"If you look around, you will see I'm a bit of a book fan and I couldn’t possibly name a single book. I have always been a voracious reader. In fact, I'm rather fortunate, because I can speed-read, which I taught myself to do when I was very young. My father fed my voraciousness by letting me read very adult stuff."

When do you go to bed and when do you get up?
"It entirely depends on how jetlagged I am. I guess on average, if my routine is normal, I go to bed around 11 p.m. and get up between 7 and 8 a.m."

Can you briefly explain your career path to date?
"It was a total accident. I never consciously set out to do anything I found myself doing. I read English Literature at Oxford and fell madly in love with theater because Oxford has a thriving student drama scene. I was so passionate about it and decided all I wanted to do was work in theater for the rest of my life.

"I worked at several theaters in the U.K. for several years, until I got completely fed up with working every hour god gave me and earning chicken feed. [In one of my theater jobs], I gave a talk to a group of women, and afterwards one said to me, 'Young lady, you could sell a fridge to an Eskimo!' I saw this as the universe telling me something and decided it was time to go into advertising. So I did.

"I worked in various ad agencies in London, including Ted Bates, J. Walter Thompson, and GGT. Then, in 1989, I joined Bartle Bogle Hegarty and soon came to realize I'd found a very special agency — one I was going to want to stay at for a while.

"In 2005, I turned 45 and had my very own mid-life crisis. After vast amounts of thought and angst, I eventually concluded that [it was time to leave BBH) and review every possible option open to me. So I took a massive leap into the unknown and resigned as chairman of BBH in the summer of 2005, without a job to go to. It was the best bloody thing I ever did, because I could not be happier doing what I'm doing now. I'm reinventing myself in every possible way, including financially. I love being in charge of my own destiny.
Photo: Courtesy of How Did She Get There.
"These days, I am an entrepreneur. I have two early-stage start-ups: If We Ran The World, which is my attempt to redesign the future of business, and Make Love Not Porn, which is my attempt to redesign the future of sex. They are both in the early stage, though, so to support myself I work as a paid consultant and public speaker."

What is the biggest obstacle you’ve overcome, as it relates to your career or industry?
"The biggest obstacle I'm dealing with at the moment continues to be the biggest obstacle I've ever encountered, which is the path I'm on with Make Love Not Porn. In scaling and growing that as a business, the single biggest obstacle that I'm the social dynamic that I call Fear Of What Other People Will Think.

"This is the single most paralyzing dynamic in business and in life. You will never own the future if you care what other people think... The best moment in my life, and this was a gradual realization, was the day I realized I no longer give a damn what anybody thinks. That is the only way to live your life."

What motivates you?
"The dynamic that I call 'I'm going to fucking well show you.' You tell me it can't be done; I'm going to fucking well show you. You put an obstacle in my path; I'm going to fucking well show you."

What do you wish you’d known at the start of your career?
"I wish I'd thought about doing my own thing and working for myself a great deal earlier. I don't regret anything about my career, because my experiences have shaped who I am and what I'm doing today, but I would have liked to have known how wonderful working for yourself is."

What is your life motto?
"The only person who can make things happen for you is you."

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
"Get more sleep."
Photo: Courtesy of How Did She Get There.
What do you believe is the secret to rising up to the top?
"It all depends on your definition of 'the top.' I make this point a lot in the work I do to champion gender equality. Because when, at the top of every industry, [there] is a closed loop of white guys talking to white guys about other white guys, it is entirely understandable that women and minority groups drop out before they ever reach the top.

"Until we have gender-equal leadership teams at the top, we have not redesigned business to make women want to rise to the top...because life is so deeply shitty up there, for many reasons... The top, in many ways, while it continues to be male-dominated, is a deeply unpleasant, highly aggravating, very irritating, utterly ridiculous place to be, and nobody should want to get to the top...just for the sake of it."

Whom do you turn to when the going gets tough?
"I have wonderful, very close friends...and that's absolutely whom I unburden myself to when things get tough. Everyone should have those."

What's next?
"I have a single-minded focus on raising funding for Make Love Not Porn so that we can scale and grow the business to the billion-dollar venture I know it can be. So, if anybody reads this who is an open-minded investor, hit me up:"

To read more about Cindy Gallop and her career path, click here.

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