We all know that relationships play an important role in our success, happiness, and fulfillment. For an entrepreneur, this is even more true. We all have goals (conscious or unconscious) that involve our relationships. Gaining clarity around relationship goals—whether they are professional, personal, spiritual, or familial—greatly impacts our lives, which is one of the reasons people work with me and my Take Back Your Time program. For my client Karene Richards, this couldn’t be more true. As a former investment banker, her journey as an entrepreneur began with a tragedy involving one of the closest relationships a person can have—the one with your mother.
Fifteen years ago, Karene’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later, she passed away. During this time, her father had a poignant request. He saw how similar Karene was to her mother. Both went to Ivy League colleges, both obtained their master’s degrees, both were ambitious, and both often neglected their own self-care to care for others, something that many women—especially women of color—can relate to. Karene’s dad took her aside and asked her to not let what happened to her mom happen to her. Instead of sacrificing herself for others, he asked her to practice self-care. Could she put herself and her health first?
Ten years later, the doctors found a lump in Karene’s breast. Karene wondered if she, like her mother, had only two years to live. It threw her life into sharp focus. How was she prioritizing her time? Was she fulfilled? What were her relationships like?
The lump turned out to be benign, but the doctors told Karene she needed to take care of her health better. She thought she was living a healthy and fit lifestyle, but the results were clearly not there. Karene was described by a trainer as “skinny fat”—in other words, she had normal body weight with a high body fat percentage. Like many ambitious women, Karene works well under pressure, so she immediately signed up for a bikini fitness contest and had only nine months to get into the kind of shape “you’re going to want to be in when you’re standing on stage half-naked in front of an audience and a row of judges.” When the time came, she placed fourth. As Karene admits, “I’m not a fourth-place kinda girl.” Eighteen months later, she won the Masters Overall Bikini Champion Title, and a new life had begun.
Karene’s professional life began to take off. She hadn’t realized how the insecurity around her body had been holding her back. As a successful investment banker, she was often invited to networking events at rooftop pool parties or in upscale cocktail lounges. Uncomfortable with the prospect of being seen in a bathing suit or cocktail dress, she’d often avoided going and missed out on developing the rich networking relationships that those events foster.
With her newfound confidence, she was showing up in a different way, and doors opened up to greet her. She was invited to be on boards and became the CEO of the Association for Women in Science, leading an organization of over 100K. As her relationships and success grew, Karene had a light-bulb moment that led her to me.
“I saw how my life was transformed by focusing on my health and fitness, and I wanted to help other women transform theirs,” she told me, but she wasn’t sure where to begin. Would she have to give up the financial and prestigious perks that came with being a high-powered and successful investment banker to become a coach? How would this affect her family relationships? Her professional ones?
The ability to show up for others is directly proportional to how you are able to show up for yourself, so the first things we worked on were passion, priorities, and boundaries. “When people come to work with me, I ask them, ‘What do you want to spend your time doing?’” Karene thought that fitness was going to be a side job.
I could relate. When I first started the Take Back Your Time program, it was a part-time passion project to help people achieve their goals and dreams, but I knew I couldn’t spend time helping people unless it was going to be sustainable, which is why you need to be clear on your time and your boundaries. Becoming clear on how much time you spend at work and respecting boundaries around that will allow you to begin taking steps toward transitioning a part-time passion project into a full-time one.
Fast forward to 2021, and Karene’s business is thriving. “Over the last year alone, Fit Hidden Figure has grown 1700 percent.” By becoming clear on her passion, priorities, and boundaries, it became clear to Karene (and everyone around her) that nothing in investment banking gave her the fulfillment that transforming the lives of women did. Karene’s mother’s legacy lives on in these lives. This is the power of relationships.