I Looked At Myself In The Mirror, And I Realized It Doesn’t Need To Be Like This

“When my tank is full I have a lot more to give to everything else.”

We’ve partnered with NowThis to present Turning Points, a collection of firsthand accounts from people about their experiences with burnout — including what their wake-up call moments were, advice they wish they had gotten before the scales tipped too far, and how they recalibrated their lives to find a version of success that does come with health and fulfillment.

I worked in banking for ten years and accomplished more than I dreamed possible at a pretty young age. I loved my job and the high-energy environment of the trading floor. I was committed to giving as much as I could so when I wasn’t physically at work I was home reading textbooks and studying the parts of the business that I didn’t yet fully understand. My clients were hedge funds and private equity firms and being social was part of the job. We went to dinners, sporting events, shows … it was a dream … but it left little time for much else. We had a standing 7am morning meeting so that meant a 6:30 am arrival at my desk. There was a time when my US based clients wanted to trade European markets at the open. It was the height of the financial crisis and clients were expressing views on European sovereign debt and the related derivative securities. This one account didn’t want European coverage so they called me most days at 4am instead. I slept with my Blackberry under my pillow. One of those mornings, I turned the light on in my room and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was half awake with bags under my eyes and I was like this is nuts. It doesn’t need to be like this.

A decade of my life had gone by in a flash. I didn’t regret any previous decisions — I really loved and valued my job — but I knew this wasn’t what I wanted for my future. I didn’t quit right away though. New jobs and opportunities emerged within the firm and I kept going. It wasn’t until a few years later on a pretty typical day that I unceremoniously decided it was time.

Many people advised me to wait to quit until I had a plan. I was too tired to make a plan. I needed to leave first and take some time to regroup, reflect on who I’d become as a person in that last decade and think about what kind of life I wanted to live. That space and time was everything for me. It allowed me to be thoughtful about the things and people I valued most and create a life with those things at the center rather than squeezed in at the periphery. Years later, it is still a work in progress. In many ways, the creative and entrepreneurial world is just as demanding if not more. You have the illusion of flexibility and control over your schedule but the pressures are different, especially when you are at the helm and there’s no playbook. When you’re trained to work all the time, it’s really hard to turn that off. I have to stay accountable to those values and remind myself to turn off the phone, let it wait until tomorrow, and instead, do something that feeds my soul. When my tank is full I have a lot more to give to everything else.