Business and politics have always fascinated me. After finishing my undergraduate degree at the Stern School of Business at NYU I landed my dream job: working in City Hall for New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg. As the new media director for Mayor Bloomberg’s national initiatives, I had the opportunity to work with incredibly talented colleagues as we tackled some of the most important policy issues affecting New Yorkers and communities across the country. I was given broad responsibility, and had the chance to learn, grow and make an impact.
But I also faced burnout. There were many weeks where we would work all hours leading up to the launch for one initiative and then turn around and begin work on another effort being announced only days later. I didn’t sleep enough, I failed to exercise regularly, and I ate far too many hearty sandwiches and unhealthy snacks at my desk.
After leaving City Hall, I launched a digital strategy firm. It quickly grew, and I had the chance again to work with major organizations on meaningful issues that I cared about deeply. But as the work expanded and the days grew longer, I again fell back into an unsustainable pace. I had never been very athletic or in the greatest of shape, but as my professional life flourished, my personal health had fallen to one of its lowest points. Even worse, it was affecting my personal relationships and professional productivity. I could be short-tempered and irritable, and while I was churning out a large quantity of work material, I questioned the quality and clarity of my thinking.
After three years on this path, I knew I needed to reset. So in the beginning of 2016, I scaled back on some of my client work, left New York, and headed to South America. I thought I’d spend three months away, recharging and exploring ideas for new ventures before returning to New York. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it would be the start of a rather nomadic three years, where I’d end up traveling pretty extensively around the world while working remotely.
It also marked the beginning of a series of small changes to my lifestyle that would lead me to shedding 50 pounds and having much more energy for every endeavor. While I never intentionally set out to make a big change, once I started to see progress, I knew I would never turn back.
I joke with friends that I cut back on sugar and politics, which was definitely part of the change. But honestly, outside of leaving New York City for a bit, nothing I did was radical. It wasn’t like I woke up one morning and traded every bad habit for marathon training and pressed green juice. Rather, it was a series of small, manageable changes that added up, including:
- Sleep. I first prioritized sleep, going from 5 to 6 hours per night, to 7 to 8. I continue to feel noticeably different — physically and mentally — when I get less than 7 hours of sleep.
- Stress. I try to have a positive outlook on challenges, and on my capacity to influence outcomes. And while it might sound cliche, I also try to stay grounded in gratitude, viewing the glass as half full and appreciating the small wins in life.
- Sugar. I didn’t cut sugar out entirely, but I make a conscious effort to reduce my intake. I also made small changes in meals, grabbing a salad instead of a sandwich, or having eggs or a protein bar for breakfast instead of a bread-based meal.
- Sweat. I try to be active every day, even if it’s as small as walking to a meeting instead of taking public transit. I got really into group fitness classes, especially SoulCycle and Barry’s Bootcamp. The friends I have made in the classes and the energy of the instructors and the community continue to be incredibly inspiring and motivating.
- Self-awareness. I try to be present and conscious in my decision making. Regular meditation helps, as do long walks with music and reflection.
It takes work, and it is definitely more of a journey than a destination. But I have noticeably more physical energy and mental clarity to tackle challenges across my personal, professional and philanthropic endeavors. I know I am delivering better quality work for my clients, am a better friend and colleague, and have much richer life experiences. For example, a few years ago, just lacing up my snowboard boots would leave me winded. Now, I can tackle double black runs and board for a full month while feeling energized the whole time.
The experience has also informed and inspired a new venture that I launched last month called FLTbar. A vegan, all-natural protein bar, FLTbar combines 12 grams of plant-based protein with as much caffeine as a cup of coffee. After exploring and eating many of the protein bars on the market, I noticed many either looked great on the nutritional label but were loaded with unnatural ingredients that were hard to digest, or they were all natural and tasted good but were high in sugar and carbohydrates. With FLTbar, I focused on developing a bar that would leave me energized and satisfied and be a great option for whether I was heading into a meeting, a workout, or a night out.
I will still continue to be engaged in politics and issues I care about, but my personal health and wellness has certainly taken center stage. I know burnout is all too frequent in both politics and start-ups. I hope I can use my own personal experience and what I’m building with FLTbar to encourage a healthier, more sustainable approach that empowers entrepreneurs, creators and adventurers to do more with their time and talents as they work to improve the world.