Crusher: Mehr Sikri. On Piper: “Piper is just AMAZING. She’s an incredible person and she’s always looking amazing and killing it at everything. Literally everything!”
Cayla Yasukochi: Hey! So first of all, could you please tell us all the typical stuff, like your major, your year, your rosebud class…
Piper Nylen: Yeah! My hometown is Boulder, Colorado, and I am a senior at Marshall, so I’m getting a Business Administration degree, and I have this performance science minor in the entrepreneurial school--so that’s my focus; business is kind of like my foundation but I’d say that entrepreneurship is more like my identity, school-wise. Performance science is essentially the combination of mind, body, and business. You learn science, and meditation and healthy practices--it’s basically how to live your best life, and be your most efficient self, and that’s been a huge part of my school experience.
CY: That’s so cool! I had no idea that this minor existed--I was under the impression that entrepreneurship was a focus within Marshall, so is that like a focus within a focus?
PN: No, anyone can take this minor. So it’s relatively new, it officially launched the beginning of last year, and it includes so many people--we have neuroscience majors, Annenberg kids. I was one of the first who was in the minor; it was founded by Pete Carroll, so he’s stopping by for the capstone class--
CY: (Making intermittent sounds of awe and wishing I was in this minor)
PN: --and Dr. Michael Gervais; he’s a high-performance psychologist and he does work with anyone and everyone who does extreme sports. Like, if you remember Felix Baumgartner, he was the guy who broke the sound barrier, and [Dr. Gervais] worked with him; and he’s helping a woman right now who is taking a six-month solo row from California to Japan on the ocean by herself. He has this wealth of insights into that--the best way I can describe it is taking sport psychology, looking into that Olympic mindset of any competitor, and applying it to any craft in your life. It’s like thinking, ‘I’m going to be the best entrepreneur, businessperson, competitor in my daily life, and that will make me a peak performer.
CY: That is so cool! It’s funny how--like you said earlier, like about the woman who designs tables (see last question for context on this, Piper is involved in some truly fascinating stuff)--you never think of people who have those super-specific jobs and specializations, but those specific jobs are so cool.
PN: They are! And things that you just wouldn’t think were out there, are totally out there, and with this, it’s also awesome, because I think you could go into life-coaching or something if you wanted to, but for me it’s also like, I was struggling to get myself to do something like real estate or finance as a minor, because I’m just not that analytical (laughs) and it’s funny because I took finance with Mehr and I would always be sitting next to her, thinking, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing’--
CY: (Laughs, but also dies a little inside, #rip to the part of me that died in finance in sophomore year)
PN: --’cause I would be so lost, and she would always be so on top of it (Author’s note: yeah sorry Mehr, we can’t relate), and meanwhile I would always be coming in kind of flustered in class, thinking ‘I can’t! I can’t!’ So when I finally found out about this minor, I thought, ‘This is the most practical thing because I’m learning about all of these things that have such a huge impact on your life--stress, anxiety, happiness, awe--and it still feels very palpable to me. So that’s why I’ve kind of gravitated toward it.
CY: On a totally unrelated parenthetical, I would like our readers to know that Piper once worked for Ground Zero (laughs from the both of us) and I miss it so much every day.
PN: Once worked--that’s an understatement! (Laughs) Oh my god, I always say when people ask what it’s like now that it closed that it’s basically like the worst breakup you could ever imagine. It’s like, Ground Zero was the boyfriend I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with and then I got a call a week before school, and he said, “Uh, I cheated on you and I’m moving away.” And now I’m forever broken. (Laughs) But yeah, it was such a great place, I loved the community aspect of it. I loved seeing Helenes come in, because I was so busy, I didn’t get to go to meeting or go to as many events as I would have liked, but every day I would see at least two or three Helenes in there and that was really fun. Some of them I’d never met before, but they’d see my hat, or recognize me, and we could meet that way. Or e-boarders would come in doing fundraisers or things like that...I do really miss it.
CY: So Mehr’s first question is, what is your favorite pickup line?
PN: (Laughs) My favorite pickup line? That I give to someone, or someone gives to me?
CY: (Thinking) Uh...interesting, would they be different?
PN: Well, I’m kind of a minimalist when it comes to pickup lines. You don’t have to give me this major, grandiose scenario. Like, I can’t tell you how much, when I go out, I get “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers” when they hear my name (Cayla is cackling in the background) and it’s so not original! And I kind of chuckle at it now, because I never thought it would happen so, so often. But I would have to say that my favorite pickup lines are those that are straightforward and to the point--
CY: Like, “Hey, you make great coffee! Let’s go on a date.”
PN: --Yeah! Or maybe a compliment on my shirt, at least something specific. I don’t know. Just don’t make it weird.
CY: I completely agree.
PN: I feel like I have all of these ‘don’t do these’ type of pickup lines, but I don’t think I have one where I think, ‘Oh, that was amazing.’
CY: Second question--these have been selected of a pre-written list of just very random questions--are we human? Or are we dancer?
PN: Are we what?
CY: Like, you know the Killers song? (Realizing that this may not have been a well-thought-out question on my part.)
PN: I don’t even think I know that song!
CY: It was a pretty mediocre (Author’s note: I take that back, this song is great) but very popular song when we were in, like, maybe sophomore year of high school?
PN: (Thoughtfully) I’d probably have to re-listen to it....(laughs) what am I supposed to answer to that?
CY: I don’t know--we can leave that answer, “indeterminate”
PN: (Laughs again) I’ll think about it. I feel like this is one of those Google interviews, where they ask you, “Where’s Waldo?”
CY: Yeah, like, “How many gas stations are there in New York City?”
PN: “How do you figure out how many DVDs there are in the world?” “Are you human or are you dancer”...I don’t know what that means!
CY: If you woke up in the body of your five-year old self, what would be the first thing you would do? If you could return to that age of childhood...
PN: Man...I would probably eat whatever I wanted, big-time. Have that fast metabolism again. But I would probably also be--I mean, at that age, you can be so much rougher on yourself. You can go play and be so carefree and use your imagination, go back to that innocent stage--you know, like with sidewalk chalk and skipping rope, that sort of stuff.
CY: That’s true! The one thing I kind of miss about that era is that I kind of miss preschool. I feel like that was such a fun time; you could just finger paint, hang out with your friends.
PN: Yeah, there wasn’t this concept of future yet back then. That’s something I think about a lot, I wish I could back to that. I just read this article that was about people who are getting together to re-read children’s books together and try to get back to that--not necessarily going back to being a small child, but more embracing the innocence and wonder and imagination. I loved preschool though. I remember so many fun stories, like squeezing Go-gurts and getting them on the ceiling.
CY: What is your dream occupation? Does not in any way need to be based in, like, current reality.
PN: I would love to be a consultant to important people--I’d love to be in the know, get to go straight to the CEO and be the person they can vent to. And not necessarily in a psychologist type of way, I’d want to be a friend, a confidante, and get to see what’s going on behind the scenes and learn things, but also get to be my own boss and have that power. I’ve always been a very business-minded person and wanted to do that sort of thing, be a young CEO.
CY: That’s true, I’d love to be in that inner circle.
PN: Bill Gates could call me up, like “Hey, Piper!” And we could hang out in his office and just talk. Just being there, being able to observe and learn and be around all the hubbub, that would be amazing.
CY: And finally, if your life depended on your dance skills, what move would you pull out first?
PN: Oh geez. (Laughs) What move...I always feel like I do and awkward--I’m trying to think of what it is now, because I never really pay attention--I always put my hands up and do this awkward dance, like pumping it (demonstrates) I’ll go out looking kind of awkward a lot of the time, because I don’t know how to dance, so I’ll just lean into it and be intentionally awkward, so maybe people think I’m doing it on purpose.
CY: Kind of like a semi-committed, ironic ‘raise the roof.’
PN: Yeah, like ‘she’s still cool!’ Or, I really love just jumping up and down, if I’m really getting into it, like the full vertical.
CY: Those are all solid moves, man.
PN: Yeah, just show energy and excitement somehow. I always thought that I should have taken the hip-hop class at USC--
CY: Me too, yeah.
PN: --But maybe one day I learn somehow.
CY: Also, would you mind giving a very short description again of your work? (Author’s note: Piper described her current job at the very beginning of our conversation, and I highly recommend y’all check it out.) Just because it sounded very cool and I didn’t get it recorded, and I’d love to add it in the interview.
PN: Definitely! So, I’m interning for this company called Quilt, and the best way I can describe it is as community-building and membership meets the ‘Lean In’ circles and Airbnb. We have a platform where we help curate women opening up their homes for others in the evenings or in the morning where they can talk about an issue, or any topic to help facilitate conversation and networks. So for example, January it was risk, so women talked about their different experiences and perceptions regarding risk. Last month was commitment, so we talked about commitment to goals, to relationships, to a partner, all things encompassed by that. Just yesterday we had a conversation about imagination, so that was an interesting one--like, where does that lead you? Some women talked about how they’ve gotten ahead of themselves and gotten their hopes too high because their imaginations have run wild; but others said that they didn’t use their imagination enough, that they wanted to get back to that creative state, that ‘I’m the hero of my own journey’ state. We get together and talk about those topics; it’s based in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. You get to meet all of these women, and there’s so many cool people from such a wide spectrum of ages and backgrounds. It tends to be a younger group, but there’s everyone from our age, like 21, 22, to 40 or so. It’s been very successful! We’ve had articles in Vogue, New York Times--it’s a great way to meet some awesome people, hear about new jobs, and think about things you’d never think about doing otherwise. (P.S. For more info, y’all can go to their website wequilt.com)