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After almost a decade in tech, mobile, media, PR and marketing, and most recently helping transform a start up mobile advertising company into a recognized brand with 100 percent year over year revenue growth, I walked into the office one day and quit my job.
I had gone from being a junior level employee to the youngest and first female on the executive team and had recently been named a woman to watch by the leading trade publication. Everything appeared great on paper, but my job felt meaningless and I knew I was leaving the best of my talents at home every day.
I was so crazy busy trying to achieve success, that I forgot what I was doing it all for. And in a world where busyness is the new black and a sign of prestige, this was surprisingly easy to do.
I felt completely stuck, wanting a change, but not knowing what do to next, a strangely unfamiliar feeling for me.
I was used to always knowing what next step to take to climb higher and higher up the ladder, but now, at the top of the ladder, I looked around and found myself saying “crap, wrong ladder!”
As I had done many times in the past, my linear left brain took over and tried to systematically research, study and prepare my way out of feeling stuck. I starting reading countless personal development books and stumbled upon concepts like mindfulness and self-compassion as well as tools to boost happiness.
I was surprised and excited to learn about the scientifically backed claims that meditation helps reduce stress and can strengthen your connection with your intuition. All of this was intriguing to me, especially as I started to notice that while I was taking great care of my body, running marathons and eating healthfully, I wasn’t taking great care of my mind and the stress and anxiety of my career was weighing heavily on me.
After reading nearly all of the recent scientific research around meditation and mindfulness, I decided to give this woo woo stuff a try. I committed myself to starting a meditation practice and decided that I would strive to do four minutes a day, every day.
So what happened in my first meditation session? I felt a sense of panic instead of calm as I tried to quiet my mind. And then I felt intense emptiness that years of being busy had distracted me from feeling. I kept repeating to myself, the research said it was going to help! It said it was going to help! Luckily, the research was right, and meditation got easier over time and more rewarding as I stuck with my short daily practice. I even went on a 10 day silent meditation retreat where we meditated daily from 6am to 9pm. As my intuition strengthened, I was able to reconnect with my lifelong desire to be an entrepreneur, open my eyes to the fears that were holding me back and create new strategies for overcoming these fears.
It was then on a vacation in Hawaii that things starting to come together for me, and I realized that vacation is not a location, but actually a state of mind. And with this revelation, I realized I could choose to bring more of this vacation mindset into my daily life.
I kept thinking to myself, what would life look like if I wasn’t so stressed, exhausted and busy all the time? Through a combination of meditation, conscious goal setting, affirmations, compassion and gratitude, I was able to personally see an easier, less stressful, and more joyous way of living. This transformation motivated me to dedicate my life to inspiring others to achieve greater success in this entirely new way.
Lisa lives in San Francisco with her husband.
My whole life I’ve been an overachiever in the traditional ways: I graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude from Columbia University and upon graduation, I thought about joining the Peace Corps, but instead, I drove myself to take the most prestigious job I could find. I started working in investment banking on Wall Street, putting in really long hours, coming home and drinking a little too much wine or zoning out in front of the television because I felt so drained and exhausted from work. I applied to business school and was accepted to both Harvard and Stanford. I had my whole perfect life planned out.
Then my mom got sick. She was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer. I took time off work to take care of her and then deferred business school one year. After she finished her chemo, she encouraged me to do something for myself before heading off to Stanford, so I followed my heart and went to live in a remote village in Ghana, West Africa, to volunteer as a teacher.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that trip changed my life. I ended up raising money to build a school, and my former colleagues from Wall Street helped fund the project. In that moment I knew I wanted to do something to change the world and that people in the business world had the resources to support positive change. But it took me more time to make it a reality.
Upon graduating from Stanford, I was scared to start my own business. I told myself I was scared because of all the debt and expenses I had incurred as a student. I told myself it would be more “responsible” to take a job working in private equity to pay off my loans. I told myself, and everyone else, I would only stay in that job one year. Those were all lies. It took me over three years to realize that was just the fear—my fear of failure—talking.
I made a lot of money at the private equity firm and was on track to be a partner. Everything looked great on paper, and yet inside, I was miserable and unfulfilled. But this was the path I had mapped out for my life. I had followed my plan for success perfectly. So why wasn’t I happy?
I realized that I had been following my mind, my ego and my wallet instead of my heart or my intuition. That needed to change, but I was so turned around, I didn’t know how to begin to follow my heart.
I started with one question: What is it I really want? That question turned into more questions. I started working with a coach and learned what it means to take responsibility for my life, my happiness and my career.
To me, taking responsibility means asking that question, “What is it I really want?” and not letting the fear stop me. It means making a big commitment to doing whatever it takes to create the change I deeply desire.
So that’s what I did. I quit my high-paying job in finance and started my own business. I realized that what I am most passionate about is supporting other people, especially women, in learning how to take responsibility for THEIR lives. I want everyone to experience the happiness that I’ve now created in my life. I want everyone to have these tools.
I’ve made it my life’s mission to empower other women. I founded Akoya (www.akoyapower.com), a transformation and empowerment business, where I run group coaching programs, retreats and corporate workshops to support other people who are ready to make this leap, the leap into a life of meaning.
I could have played it safe. Instead, I’m living my dream. It took some scary steps to get here, and it was so worth the journey. So now I ask you, what is it you really want? And what are you willing to do to have it?
Vanessa lives in San Francisco, CA with her husband and daughter along with one very shy cat. She works with clients worldwide and her business, Akoya Power, hosts group coaching programs, corporate workshops and retreats throughout the US.