I’m the first person to admit that I’ve always had an unabashed love for my career, which has taken me to some of the most innovative global brands all over the world. Since the day I joined the first R&D team at Victoria’s Secret back in 2005, to present day as the Founder of the MINDD Bra Company, I’ve been at the forefront of bra innovation, working with the engineers and manufacturers who built the majority of bras and sports-bras in the market today.
I’m going to be honest – it hasn’t always been easy. At the height of my career, at a time where I was so deeply immersed in my job, I had an experience that was life changing – which has also brought me to where I am today.
A few years ago, I found myself pulling over and parked on the side of the road. Out of nowhere, I was having a hard time catching my breath. My jaw felt as though it was in a vice grip. I sat for a second. I did what we all do when we don’t know what is happening to our bodies – I asked The Google. I searched “jaw pain” and “difficulty breathing.” The first headline that came up was “Heart Attack! The 3 symptoms not to ignore.” I had two of the three. I thought to myself, no way – I have a meeting in 20 minutes.
I believe I am quite pragmatic, but at the same time I am not afraid to admit that I read my horoscope every day. My favorite “guilty pleasure” books as a kid were always the “choose your own adventure” type series – the idea of being at a crossroads in your life, where one road could lead to falling off a cliff and the other road might lead you to the treasure always captivated my imagination. I used to joke with my family that if my life were a series of multiple-choice questions, who knows where I would end up. However, in my work life, I was strategic, thoughtful, and, yes, pragmatic – always sensible, realistic and always ON. My employers could always count me and on my loyalty, even if it was at the cost of my own health. Constant availability was my superpower… until it became my downfall.
Over the last 15 years, I always felt like I had work life balance. I thought I was able to exquisitely compartmentalize work life and personal life despite the fact that 90% of my time was dedicated to my work. For that remaining 10%, in hindsight, I was too distracted to enjoy the friends and family around me. I was constantly thinking about work.
Back to that crucial day. After sitting on the side of the road, the voice of reason kicked in and I drove myself to the hospital. I was admitted right away, an EKG was ordered, blood tests, chest x ray, echocardiogram… the whole shebang. I waited for the results and I thought to myself, What the hell is happening? Is this what I have worked so hard for? Is this what success is supposed feel like? I was so angry, I wake up at 5:30am every day, even on weekends, I go to the gym, I work hard. I gave everything to my work.
12 hours had past, the doctor came in. She said, “Well, we have looked at everything. I am not going dismiss what you have experienced today. It does appear you have experienced cardiac arrhythmia, mostly likely induced by stress.” I was holding back the tears and I also had no idea what it all meant. Where is the Google now?
“I am sending you home” she said, “and, I am writing you a note to take the next 10 days off. Stress and exhaustion, if not addressed, will continue to manifest itself physically throughout the body. You need to address what is occurring in your life that has brought this on. It may take some time, but let me ask you this, when was the last time you slept for more than six or seven hours?” I thought about it for a minute, “Maybe 3 years ago,” I replied. I was eventually discharged and went home the next morning, I slept for the next 14hours.
Over the next few days, I was slowly able to gain some perspective and after a few more I made a decision to make myself and not my work, the priority. That next week I left my dream job in pursuit of my dream life.
In 2003, a dear friend gave me the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. I was going through a divorce and drowning in fear of perhaps not being able to make it on my own. That would be a strange outcome for someone who worked two jobs to put herself through college, bought her first home at 21, and was making over $100K a year. I was 28. This was a crossroad moment for me. I realized I could stay in the current situation and fall off the cliff or I could leave and fall off the cliff and learn how to fly. My friend insisted that I read the book in one sitting. I could not put it down. The book had a profound impact on me, following the journey and adventures of a shepherd in search of his treasure. It reminded me again of the choose your own adventure books I always loved.
One quote has stayed with me “At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”
Reset to present day. Launch day.
I set my alarm to wake up at 12:01 am in New York so I could read the exclusive my PR lead had set up with Women’s Wear Daily to announce the launch of my new company. I read the amazing article and cringed when I realized that I declared my breast size to the world – “36DDD!!!” I called my husband, who thought it was great, and he immediately asked me why I was going down that road to where all of my insecurities live. He also reminded me that it is my goofiness, ability to make fun of myself and charm that people are drawn to.
Starting a company has always been a dream and I made it a goal. Making the decision to start my company was easy, making it happen was filled with moments of self-doubt. Anytime I would question the road I was on I would subsequently experience some sort of epic bra fail. Omens are real. The last one occurred mid-workout where the front close zipper of the sports-bra I was wearing decided to un-zip. Whatever it is you are thinking is exactly what happened. I was determined to work hard to make sure that kind of brablem never happens to another woman. (Bra + Problem = Brablems)
Over the last 2 years I have been able to take stock of my extraordinary 20yr career. Were there failures along the way, 1000%, but each experience has brought me to exactly where I am supposed to be.
I have also gained more clarity of the life that I want to create, the business leader I want to be and the culture I want to build. Stress is going to come up in all work environments, but not to the extent where it brings people to the brink of exhaustion or at the risk of mental & emotional health. Life is to be lived.
On the day of my launch, I woke up to a notification of my first order. A lovely woman living in New Jersey who read about my company in that same WWD article. I went for a walk and looked out at the east river and felt so much gratitude. I finally trusted myself, made myself a priority and achieved this goal (without putting my health at risk) It suddenly hit me, I just launched my company and I sold my first bra. I took a long deep breath.
I am excited and ready for what-ever road this adventure takes me on.