How to Finally Find Balance
The Story of When I Lost My Balance
· Do you feel like it is becoming easier to exchange your health for your work?
· Do you feel like there is a struggle to differentiate yourself from the men in your field?
· Do you feel your value as a person is connected to what you do?
· Do you struggle finding a balance in having a career and life?
You’re not alone. As women I believe that it becomes increasingly easier and easier to exchange our health for our business or even our career. Sometimes, there is a struggle to differentiate ourselves from men in the same field in a way that allows us to grow our careers as successfully as men. Even though the world has come a long way in empowering women, there is still a differentiation made in the pay we receive as well as the roles that we play. We also don’t have the same ability as men to disconnect from our value as a person being tied to what we do. Our identities get tied up in what we do, how much we succeed and being able to manage it all. But it doesn’t always work for us.
It’s like there has to be an exchange of one thing for another. You can’t play with the big boys if your main focus is raising a family. You can’t get ahead unless you are thinking and acting more like a man than a woman. So you decide to make the exchange and give in on one so you can have the other.
One thing that I feel women sacrifice more quickly than men is our health. It is the first and sometimes easiest place for us to give way and create that “exchange” of energy. The exchange results in more energy to the business or career and less energy to health and healthy practices. This leads us to a place where we become sick and unhealthy either mentally or physically. We might gain weight, have high blood pressure, digestion problems, depression, or a myriad of other issues.
Here’s my own personal story around this energy exchange.
Several years ago, I changed my 6-figure accounting job due to a corporate downsizing. I found a position with a smaller company that not only gave me a sense of comfort because it was so much smaller (and less likely to be downsized), but also gave me a bump in title and pay. I thought it was going to be a walk in the park.
Going into the job, I had no idea that the person I was replacing wasn’t a true accountant. Not a general ledger accountant anyway. At the time I started, the company had been in business for a few years. Not one thing had ever been reconciled. The enormity of that probably might not sink in for anyone who isn’t an accountant, but this was huge, because cash was one of those unreconciled things. If you don’t know where your cash is going and how much you have, you can quickly get into trouble. On top of that, the company was responsible for lots and lots of employer/client cash. The money came in from clients into one big operating account. It had to then be separated with the company keeping their own portion and the rest going into a separate employer/client bank account.
Bottom line: it was a nightmare of ins and outs. There was huge liability if funds that were designated for our client’s health benefits weren’t being managed properly. The state requires all companies like this to be audited by outside accountants yearly. When I started, the audit was completely stalled out because the auditors needed information that no one could provide them. That meant that we were on the verge of losing our license to do this business. The audit needed to be completed immediately because we were on our last extension with the state Department of Insurance. By the time I got there and figured out the process, I had about five years of bank reconciliations to complete. This included five of our own bank accounts, as well as about 250 employer/client bank accounts.
I dove in, determined to do my job well, save the company, be the hero.
As the weeks and months went by, I started to find myself eating out for lunch and dinner because going through the drive through just saved time — time I needed to reconcile bank accounts and save the company. I stopped working out to save time too. I stopped drinking water, because frankly I didn’t have time to go to the bathroom. All these things and more fell by the wayside because I didn’t have time to take care of myself and complete all the work that needed done. I felt that I had to get 100% clear that everything reconciled, that every single client’s funds were fully accounted for before I could take care of myself or focus on anything else.
After a year with the company and of living this way, I had things pretty well reconciled and cleaned up. During the process I found that money hadn’t been transferred to our clients, which meant that we could potentially use our client’s funds for our own operations. Lots of things had gotten missed. I was finally at the point where I could see what cash that was in the operating account that actually belonged to my employer. The answer to that was very little; in fact, there were times when we were really close to the line of using money that didn’t belong to us.
I had struck up a friendship with the only other female executive in the company; she was over operations and was really frustrated with our system problems from an operational perspective. She came to me and asked me how the finances were. She was wondering if they were as screwy as the operational system. I am a very honest person and I had not been told not to share the situation with other executives, so I told her that I was really concerned. I told her that I did not think we would make the next month’s payroll. We had to have a significant cash infusion within the next 30 days or we would be in big trouble.
She happened to be friends with one of our board members, so she called him and suggested that the board may want to take a closer look at our finances and to really dig into it with the CEO. When he shared that conversation with the rest of the board, they called a secret meeting, not inviting the CEO, but inviting the two of us. They asked us to bring a plan of action and be ready to make recommendations on where we thought things needed to change. I knew this was big. We were going behind the CEO’s back and basically playing tattle tale. There was no way our investors and the board of directors could possibly know that we were skating on very thin ice until we told them. Initially, they were in a bit of shock and disbelief. The CEO had told them that he would like to complete another round of investments to get cash infusion. But he never told them how critical it was.
They were skeptical, but asked us to tell them what we would propose to do to fix things. We presented a radical plan to save the company, where we cut staff in half. These cuts were mainly the executives and managers. We also presented monthly expenses that we felt could be reduced along with contracts that we would like to re-negotiate.
After meeting for two hours, they asked us to leave and stated that they needed to review everything and have an official meeting. They asked us to reconvene over dinner. I will never forget that dinner as long as I live. Only the two board members that represented the largest percentage of ownership came. They were blunt and to the point, they were sticking with the current CEO. They believed that he could pull it out and they wanted to give him a chance. I remember that I just started crying. Not wailing sobs or anything, but tears just started streaming down my face. I knew that they were making the wrong decision and within 30 days, the company would fold. All those employees I had grown to love would lose their jobs. I was so concerned for the ones who were making $25k per year and completely and totally relied on that work to sustain their families. I was thinking of all the clients that we had who had put their trust in us. I was thinking of my countless hours and all that I had sacrificed. I was also thinking of the legal consequences when the company ran out of cash and began to use our client’s money to fund payroll. I was thinking of all of that and more.
They asked me why I was crying and I told them, that I respected their decision, but they were going to do it without me. I am a CPA, and I was not putting my license on the line for that CEO one more day. I told them that for me to stay there knowing what would happen, would be unethical and I just couldn’t do it. I had to withdraw immediately, and I did.
I went home that night thinking I had just resigned. I had no idea how they were going to tell the CEO, I had no idea how I could live with myself knowing all of that was happening. The only thing I knew was that my conscience would not let me to work under those circumstances.
I hate to cry, but it is one of the things about me that just is. And somehow those tears served their purpose. Not because I was being manipulative, but because they conveyed the magnitude of the situation. Better even than my detailed numbers, spreadsheets, income statements, projection statements and cash flows could ever do. Better than my own passion and words could do.
That night, the board reversed their decision. They called my friend and told her to call me and get the ball rolling to lock the CEO out of the system (I wore many hats with the company; that included HR and IT). The board had called a meeting for the next morning and they were going to let the CEO go. They said, “you ladies better be ready because we chose you and your plan”.
Our investors had to invest an additional $250k that month in order to keep us open. Within a year, the company was in the black for the first time since inception. Profits weren’t huge and we didn’t grow much, but we paid the bills, we even paid back that $250k with interest.
Thus began seven years of me being so focused on not only having saved that company, but keeping it saved, and I didn’t think of anything else. I didn’t go on a vacation where I didn’t at least check in once a day. Most often I was working several hours each day when I was “off”. Working and managing and making sure the cash was still adequate.
It was an all-consuming passion. It was like I had birthed a baby and I had to care for it 24 hours a day or everything would crash and burn. I couldn’t allow that, I had invested way too much of myself to back-off now.
My health suffered in big ways:
· I gained about 75 pounds. I was heavier than I had ever been and that wasn’t the worst of it.
· I had developed chronic migraines that were only managed with daily prescription meds, plus as needed prescription pain meds.
· I had acid reflux that required a prescription, plus some over the counter meds to supplement.
· I was also close to being put on statin medications for cholesterol.
I sacrificed my health in order to be the employee I thought I should be. I wanted to prove that I could fix the mess and that I could save the company (which I did). I wanted to prove that I was better than the man who came before me. And while I got the result for the company, what I got for myself was a load of health problems, no social life to speak of and a complete lack of joy and happiness. When I realized this, I made major steps to turn my life around, which I did, and that eventually led me to quit my job so that I could focus on helping other women who are losing their health and happiness from a business or career that consumes them.
One of the reasons my business is named Lives in Balance is because I have come to see that there has to be a balance. I learned the hard way that focusing only on the job or career or business is not going to give you lasting fulfillment in the long run. That level of focus causes the rest of life to get out of balance. Health is affected and can deteriorate. Family suffers and can be broken apart. Dreams suffer and die.
I’ve learned that balance is key to it all. There is a way to be the employee or business owner that succeeds because she gives, but also because she takes care of the rest of her priorities including her health. There is a way to balance it all. And I’m living proof, because with conscious intention and skill, I’ve recovered my health, gotten off all my prescription and over-the-counter meds and lost 60 pounds. I’ve discovered holistic tools that help me balance my life and live in a positive, joy-filled way. Now I help my clients do the same.
Sherry Parks is a Wellness Coach who helps career women escape feeling trapped and out of control in their work life, so that they are happy on their own terms and have joy and excitement for their life. Grab her Free PDF, Top Tips for Successful Food Cleansing, here.
To connect with Sherry, join her women-only Facebook group Lives in Balance.