Design Your Business Around Your Life

Not the Other Way Around.

Cornelia Shipley

It’s a call that all of us with aging parents fear. Your mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. And your father has had a stroke. For some it might be Alzheimer’s or bad fall followed by a hip replacement or a broken arm. When Cornelia Shipley got the call that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and then her father had a stroke within the same week, she was living in New Mexico where she had moved for her dream job. But the parents who needed her were living 1500 miles away, back in Detroit, MI. Making the round trip between the two non-hub cities required planes, trains, and automobiles, with nearly as much time on the road as she got to spend at either end. As her parent’s only child Cornelia knew there was only one place that she wanted to be, and it wasn’t in New Mexico at her job.

Luckily Cornelia’s employer at the time was sympathetic and worked with her on an exit strategy that worked well for both parties. In a matter of months, Cornelia was fully self-employed and able to work from Detroit or anywhere.

Setting up a business this way is something that a lot of people aspire to, but prior to 2006, it was less of a reality for a than it is today in 2017. Cornelia was first inspired when she lived in Melbourne, Australia in 2003 when she was in graduate school. She loved the easy going, laid back, no worries attitudes of the Aussie culture and the way that they focused so much on enjoyable experiences in life. Cornelia wanted to design her life to include some of those elements. After leaving her corporate job to form her own company, she was able to do just that.

Getting married is another potentially stressful time in life. And while Cornelia’s mother was able to attend her wedding, she passed away 5 days later. If Cornelia had still worked at her old corporate job, she would have had only a couple of days leave for a family death. Instead she was able to take as much time as she needed to mourn her mother, make the necessary arrangements and return to work at her own company when she was ready. All because she designed her life and career this way. And after some time had passed, she and her new husband were eventually able to reschedule the honeymoon they missed out on.

Many of us come up against the challenges of caregiving for a loved one ill prepared in terms of having the kind of flexibility we need from traditional jobs. I faced this same challenge back when I was on bed rest for both of my high risk pregnancies and then when first one daughter and then the other was diagnosed with special needs. There was no way to hold down a regular 9 to 5 job and get my kids to all of the therapies and appointments that they needed. The same can be true when a parent experiences a significant health-related event.

If you love the idea of building your business around your life instead of the other way around, you can listen to my entire conversation with Cornelia here. You can also find Cornelia’s book Design Your Life: How to Create a Meaningful Life, Advance Your Career and Live Your Dreams here. And if you want to check out her website, you can find that right here.