Ok, so why read a blog from me about being successful in business and having a balanced, passionate life? Well, I’d say it’s because I’ve pulled it off. I am a 39 year old COO of a large company. I’m a single Mom of two kids (one of which is a teenager). AND.. I work 4 days a week. Not 60 hours crammed into 4 days, I mean 32 hours a week – really. I run a large company, run a family and have a life.
I haven’t gotten it all figured out but certainly have achieved what few have – become successful in business and still have a balanced, passionate life.
Since this is my first entry, I’ll tell you a bit about me. I have been an executive working at multiple large businesses for 5 years and owned an Executive Consulting firm for three years. I started in business as an accounting clerk before I had a degree. I swear to you that I had absolutely no grand plan to climb the corporate ladder – it sort of just happened to me. By the time I was 33, I was a vice president working for a large telecommunications company. Growing up in a small town in Idaho where most folks are below the poverty level, this was the American dream. I made it. I wasn’t just making six figures; I was make 2x six figures plus some. I had it all… or so you would have thought.
I loved my job but I finally got so burned out from working 60+ hours a week and trying to be a good mom, friend, daughter, etc. that I never had a second for myself. So I got my bonus in 2010, went off the deep end and quit my job. People thought I was crazy! I didn’t have a spouse with a job, had no other income and not very much in the nest egg department. What I did have was a mortgage, 2 small children to care for and a sense that if I didn’t get out now, I would screw up my kids and never recover. So I did it and it all worked out, because I knew deep down that it would. I was to the point, where I had my Acura MDX and my Harley Davidson and all the other toys on Craig’s list. I started figuring out where we could cut down and get by on a lot less money.
I took a 3 month sabbatical. I spent time with my kids (real engaged time, not the kind you have after working 12 hours and you see their lips moving but really can’t muster the energy to care about the girl in his class that was such a pain). I started going to the gym, worked in my flower beds, climbed mountains, went to see my family in Idaho, rode my motorcycle, sat on my back deck with a cup of coffee or wine– every day, read a book whenever I felt like it, went for drinks with friends. Well you get the picture – I essentially did whatever the hell I felt like. And it was the true recovery that I needed. I felt like I found the absolute key to happiness – to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it. I found myself.
I hadn’t really decided what my next step would be, and although I really only had about 3 months before I’d financially need to get back to work, I just trusted my fate to the universe, didn’t ask for anything specific, except to find something that inspired me but left me the ability to still be the Mom I wanted to be and have a life that was mine. I started getting some consulting projects. I had a good resume and people knew who I was. I gradually was able to quit focusing on only individual projects and was able to bring some executive mentoring and coaching into the mix. I found I truly enjoyed that. I mean, I did know how to make a business successful but I was also learning how to make the people in that business successful and inspired.
Being a consultant was a good gig, let me tell ya. I worked pretty much when I wanted, took off on a nice afternoon to break my kids out of school or head out on the Harley. I never worked Mondays so was able to get the kids a good start to their school week and guess what? I never had a bad Monday! Talk about savoring life!
Finally, after getting many job and business offers over those few years as a consultant, I did rejoin the ranks of the officially “working for the man” crowd. (oh wait, maybe I am the man?) Anyway, I took a job as COO for a great company with a wonderful culture. They were already successful but I felt like I could really make a difference in getting them to the next level. But I knew I could not go back to the corporate lifestyle. So I negotiated a great salary package but the most important piece was I negotiated a 4 day work week. Yep, really 32 hours a week. And of course on occasion I step up and go above and beyond, but mostly I have been able to have my rewarding career (mentoring and coaching opportunities galore) and still be the Mom I want and need to be and still find plenty of opportunities for drinking Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain.. woops, wrong entry.. moving on.
After getting the privilege of going through this extraordinary journey, I’ve been able to reflect back on my “involuntary” path of success and figure out what got me there. Now, a large part of my job is mentoring others to become successful in business and ultimately in life.
The difference between your every day, 10 tips to being a business executive is that a large part of my journey was figuring out how to have a truly balanced life and still running a large company – and (here is my real secret) – having a balanced life is actually the KEY to being successful. Suspend belief for a moment because I know this goes against all traditional American wisdom on how to get ahead. You know – burn the candle at both ends, cut our your competition, do what you have to do to get ahead… blah blah blah.
I think it makes sense to most people these days that being a balanced, positive, smart (not harder) worker will get you where you need to be, but unfortunately in almost every corporate culture I know, there is a stigma associated with not being able to work the hours, not answering your emails on the weekends, not taking every phone call from your boss or client on the weekends.
But I’m telling you – if you truly want to be successful and not be completely burned out when you get there, you must find the balance. Successful business leaders these days are passionate about what they love. They are positive, they lift people up, not tear them down- and the easiest way to be positive is to have a balanced, passionate life with plenty of time to do what you want to do. Successful people trust those around them and know how to delegate (which really helps to getting to the 32-35 hour work week. Successful people inspire their bosses, peers and subordinates alike. Successful people surround themselves by people that know things they don’t know, that will challenge you and the conventional wisdoms, people that also INSPIRE you.
Join me on this journey to reclaim your life and have the passionate, successful career you’ve always wanted. ~ Heather