Last year I was living the quarter-lifer's dream. I had a job that helped me change lives. I resided in Chocolate City. I earned more money than many dual-income households. Still a feeling of discontent kneaded on my spirit with more consistency and pressure than a Swedish masseuse at a five-star spa... Here's what you had to say: Gabrielle commented via Facebook: "This is my worst fear." Denise wrote via Facebook: "I'm trying to balance work, school and family now so I know how it feels."
Last year I was living the quarter-lifer's dream. I had a job that helped me change lives. I resided in Chocolate City. I earned more money than many dual-income households. Still a feeling of discontent kneaded on my spirit with more consistency and pressure than a Swedish masseuse at a five-star spa. Success wasn't enough; I craved financial autonomy and I knew the only way to achieve it was to go out on my own. In June 2009 I launched NMC Consulting Group, a firm that specializes in economic development, entrepreneurship and economic policy. I was intellectually prepared for the endeavor. I'd already held positions at JP Morgan and Merrill Lynch, as well as prominent posts on the city-run economic development teams in Los Angeles and Washington, DC. In addition, I come from a family of entrepreneurs -- my dad is a professor specializing in business, my mother and sisters all own businesses -- so I had the privilege of being exposed to the lifestyle from a young age. I was ready, excited and motivated. Then it launched. I imagine starting a business is like birthing a child; no matter how many classes you take or kids you've babysat, there's nothing like having your own. My business was my baby. For months I nurtured NMC Consulting Group. I was in the building, planning and execution phases simultaneously -- and it consumed me... it had to. Much like a child, I was responsible for this "thing's" life and it was my livelihood. I put my business plan together on my dad's kitchen table. I spent countless nights with laptop-warmed thighs as I researched my industry while warding-off sleep until the wee hours... only to wake up at 8am to continue the grind. One year after venturing off on my own, I was once again at success -- but there was something missing. As I was recalculating my business goals for the upcoming year, I took a peek at my losses; while there were few in the financial sector of my life, they abounded everywhere else. I'd missed many important family gatherings. I was gaining weight. My friends no longer reached out to me to spend time because they assumed I'd say no. And dating? Let's just my laptop was still the only thing faithfully keeping my sheets warm at night. For me, having a business with no life meant I'd won the battle but lost the war. I decided to make a change and add another component to my strategic planning for the year: goals for the other quadrants of my life. In addition to my business objectives, I included targets for the spiritual, heath and relationship sectors of my life. Today I'm balancing all four quadrants with equal fervor. I ground myself daily with a physical activity to help me stay fit and protect my health. I make time for my family events -- even if it means showing up late or scheduling meetings around the major ones. Lastly, I take time to connect with my friends and go out -- which may mean combining pleasure with a business. For example, I'm heading to Egypt later this year and I've invited some friends to come along. Yes, I'll have some meetings, but I will also have down time... and great memories from both. Launching my own business has been the most rewarding experience of my life. But learning how to balance my well-being, health and wealth can only be summed up by one word: priceless.