Soul Shelter.com hosted an on-line essay contest this summer. They asked their readers to submit a 500-1500 word essay based on personal experience which related to the Soul Shelter theme: “balancing fortune and fulfillment, or getting a living while having a life.”
I decided to write and submit an essay on how I started my consulting company, Healthy Discoveries. I’ve incorporated this story into my public talks many times, but it was a good exercise for me to actually write it down.
In case you were wondering how my business began or interested in my thoughts on entrepeneurialship, here’s My Story:
Balancing Fortune & Fulfillment – By Jolene Park
My lunch break was over. I was on my way back to a job that I dreaded when my cell phone rang.
“Hi! I’m calling for Healthy Discoveries.”
Ugh, obviously a telemarketer, I was in a hurry and had no time for this delay. My reply was short and curt, “This is Jolene.”
The caller began speaking. I wasn’t listening until she said, “My company is looking for someone to present a wellness workshop.” I quickly tried to catch up with what she just said and I immediately changed my tone. “Oh, um yes, that is what I do. What company did you say you were with again?”
We talked for 20 minutes and I was late getting back to work, but this caller became much more important than a timed lunch break.
Three years earlier I launched a nutrition and wellness consulting company called Healthy Discoveries. My vision was to form a Dale-Carnegie type seminar business, but instead of facilitating leadership and personal development classes like Carnegie, I wanted to specialize in corporate wellness classes. I hired a designer to put my website and brochure together, and I was ready to go. Unfortunately, I never had enough clients to leave my day job, in fact I had recently thought about taking down my website. When I asked how my surprise caller had found me, she said, “I did a search and found your website. It was impressive.”
I did my own on-line search when I returned to work. I, too, was impressed and very surprised when I found her company. I learned I just finished speaking with a major Fortune 500 medical supply company.
She requested a proposal and I sent one. One week later the same woman called back and said, “We’d like to hire you.”
For years I had written down ideas and scenarios of how my ideal business would operate. I wrote about how I’d like to live- working a couple days a month, traveling and having a lot of flexibility in my schedule. When I shared that idea with friends and family they laughed and said, “Yes, we’d all like to live that way: unfortunately, it’s not realistic.”
In June 2004 that medical supply company flew me across the country so I could present my workshop. I had many nervous, sleepless nights as I prepared, practiced and designed an eight-hour workshop.
That workshop turned out to be a huge success. I remember saying. “If I never do this again that would be okay, because I feel like I just did what I was born to do.” That opportunity satisfied something deep within me.
Two months later the same company sent me to one of their 46 distribution centers to “test” the class. It was a difficult audience. They knew that but wanted to see how I’d do. To everyone’s surprise, including mine, the response was overwhelmingly positive.
Four months later I quit my day job and I have been doing freelance work ever since. That fateful lunch time phone call in 2004 changed everything. My vision of doing work that used my strengths- public speaking and my passion for health and wellness had become a reality!
I’ve negotiated various contracts over the years, including speaking at corporate leadership summits, traveling to corporate sites all across the United States to facilitate hundreds of workshops, and manage special projects like healthy vending-machine campaigns.
Every time I teach I am totally fulfilled. I motivate my corporate audiences to choose healthier, balanced lifestyles, and I provide them with practical, do-able tips for their busy lives.
I remain independent, I make my own schedule, and I travel eight to ten times each year. In my personal time I have the freedom and flexibility to do what I want to do and go where I want to go.
My self directed career provides incredible advantages; but it doesn’t provide limitless funds. I still must make trade-offs and choices within my budget. My choices include living debt free, while spending my money on personal leisure and travel instead of using that money for expensive car and mortgage payments.
Contract work is not secure, and there are no employer provided benefits so I provide my own health insurance, retirement and savings plans. In the end, the fulfillment of living my dream lifestyle while doing the work I love is what brings me my fortune.
5 Things I’ve Learned About Balancing Fortune and Fulfillment
1. Be Careful Who You Tell Your Dreams To– When your ideas are beginning to sprout and germinate, nay-sayers can and will stomp on them. Get the momentum going and build your own confidence before sharing your passion with anyone and everyone. Carefully select mentors who will cheer you on, yet offer insight and perspective when appropriate.
2. Be Ready, But Be Smart– I’ve watched more people than I can count over the years start and then stop something. Both times they announce these decisions to the world and then quit too soon. To be honest, I thought about quitting many times myself, but thank goodness I didn’t. Things often turn around in the eleventh hour. Be persistent, put your goods out into the world, and then be patient! All it takes is one “yes” and timing is everything. In the meantime stay focused and realistic about your long term vision and not the short term immediate pay-off.
3. There Is Always A Trade-Off – It is important to know what you value. Do you value security, freedom, financial independence? Which one of these things do you equate with fulfillment? There is no right or wrong answer. Just remember there are pros and cons to whatever we choose. Make conscious choices so you can enjoy the ups, and then understand the downs that come with each choice.
4. Learn How To Manage Your Money– If you can’t manage $2,000, you won’t be able to manage $200,000. Money will undoubtedly be part of the fortune and fulfillment equation in one form or another. Therefore learn how to allocate, save, and manage expenses today. Regardless of how little or how much money you have, now is the time to learn how to manage it responsibly!
5. Don’t Put All Your Eggs In One Basket– Life is in a constant state of flux, especially business. The average business won’t last 70 years. Most businesses fail within three years, and people don’t stay with the same job for 30 years anymore. Anticipate, look ahead, take calculated risks and keep your options open. Whether you are in business for yourself, working for someone else, or in business relationships with a partner or a spouse, at the end of the day don’t expect someone or something to take care of you. Things can, and do change at any time.