Workaholic Gets a Life

This summer there were a lot of changes in my life, both personally and professionally. In short, I got a life. I’m not missing my workaholic self one bit either.

For 17 years I’ve worked non-stop. An entrepreneur since I was 13, I hit my stride at 19 while starting The Young Entrepreneurs Network…and the rest is history. I’ve been obsessed with succeeding as a social entrepreneur ever since. It’s such a tricky balance. And when you’re trying to make a serious impact, no matter how much you accomplish, you always seem to feel like you’ve barely just scratched the surface.

Taking myself outside of my workaholic self, I’m now taking a hard look at the toll this lifestyle has done to me personally and it’s frankly kind of scary. Sleep deprivation. Unhealthy eating. Embarrassingly sparse exercise. Excessive amounts of caffeine. So little fresh air or vitamin D (sun). Countless all-nighters. More missed parties, holidays and special occasions than I’d dare try to count.

While I’ve traveled for work over one million miles now, I’ve had 2 two-week vacations to speak of since that dreamy and wild month off with my high school BFF all over Spain, Mallorca, Menorca and Ibiza way too long ago. Adventures and private get aways since have been great, but usually no more than quick 2, 3, 4 day stints. Always, time stolen, riddled with guilt and stress over the opportunity cost of what I’d be missing, delaying, neglecting at work.

Somehow I have managed to make a lot of friends over the years who’ve tried their best to look out for me. As you can imagine, I’ve gotten a lot of slack over the years for not having any real balance too.

Like a true addict, I always knew I had a problem, but didn’t quite understand how all encompassing or harmful it had been. Yes, business always came first and I last, but besides me, what else got squeezed out more times than I’d like to admit? Family, close friends, personal time, fun, life. Even the closest relationship in my life suffered irreparable harm…even though we were in it all together.

A few months ago, I kind of restarted my life. I confronted a battle to let go of the stress, confusion, complication and negativity that had consumed me for years. I ended up in a pretty deep dive of depression, I’ll admit to you now. (That’s kind of why you didn’t hear a lot from me for a few months. Sorry.)

But with the help of the most wonderful of friends and loved ones,

I fought back.

Survived.

…and now, I smile again,.

Constantly.

I have officially taken my life back. I have one. And it’s so nice.

Now I struggle with the same challenges that everyone else does – how to do it all, have it all. Before, it might have looked like I did, but I didn’t. I was missing too much of the “me” in the equation.

What am I doing differently today?

I cook, create, walk on the beach, sit on the beach, watch less tv, read more, spend more time online with an incredible array of new friends from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and of course, YSN. I exercise, shop, stroll though farmers markets, sit on my deck with friends for hours getting lost in engulfing conversations, get consumed by laughter, clean my house, maintain a garden (with tons of fresh herbs and tomatoes), fill the house with flowers, bask in the sun, catch up on reading, nap with the kitties, walk my neighbor’s dog. I now take photographs like I’m afraid I’ll miss a single moment.

Work, I love again. I dream, invent, conceive, collude, collaborate, and create every chance I can. I write more because I’m constantly inspired now. I’m more connected, more transparent. I want to learn, listen, share every minute I’m alive.

And yes, I am committed to succeed more than ever, even in the most traditional sense. I’m ready to profit, and not just give everything away as I always have. I deserve it. I know I do.

In this new zone of mine, I’ve been more present. I’ve reconnected with tons of old friends and colleagues. I’ve also been thanked daily. People who’s lives I’ve touched in some way have come out of the woodworks lately to make their experiences known. I’ve been humbled and awed by this profoundly. Every day is rich, robust, calm, exciting, joyous, adventurous. I could still use more sleep. And a lot more exercise. But I’ll get there. For now, I’m quite at peace. The other day, I was downright euphoric.

Now, I’m ready to tackle the challenges ahead and feel infinitely stronger setting out to do so.

To all you workaholics out there: Those of you who can’t stop yourself from truly giving your work your life, all the time, I understand. I really do. Try to make some room for you, for whatever matters to you, not just in the big picture and the big scheme of things, but for the here and now. Start by focusing on the little moments that fill your day and your life. The simple things that inspire you to smile, laugh, feel warm and fuzzy inside…and connect with those things over and over. Try to infuse them in your work too.
Let me know how it goes. Maybe we can help each other. After all, we always have.

Love you all. Thank you for letting me be me.

Jen