A year and a half ago, I was your average, slightly-neurotic, highly-stressed, type-A Jewish guy from the northeast who had maintained this persona even after 20+ years of laid back Northern California living. A husband and father of two with a moderately successful career, a loving family, and a passion for music and food, I had a pretty good life. But it felt incomplete. My career lacked purpose, and I had not been engaged at my job in awhile.
I knew I was not alone. A recent Gallup survey showed that only 13 percent of employees around the world are actively engaged in their work. Another interesting finding was a correlation between employees' engagement levels and their physical health. Gallup found that employees who are engaged in their jobs are generally in better health and have healthier habits than employees who are not. As a colleague recently pointed out, these days stress seems to be the new fad... usually not a good thing for anyone.
So when a headhunter called, aggressively scouting me for a big role at a hot, venture-backed company with a possible CEO title in the future, I thought this was it... a chance to reclaim purpose in my work again. After a tediously-long interviewing process and a successful outcome, what seemed an opportunity of a lifetime ended up being anything but -- a terrible fit, hellish hours with no live/work balance, and a toxic work environment. I left after four months, frazzled and wondering how I had gotten into that mess to begin with. And what would I do next?
Again, I was not alone. Most folks don't have to necessarily endure toxic work environments on a daily basis. But most employees these days are incredibly overwhelmed. In fact, some recent research from Deloitte has shown that two-thirds of employees today feel "overwhelmed," and many of the concepts of work-life balance have been lost, thanks to the proliferation of technology and the breakdown in barriers between work and life.
I wanted a life that I loved that included a job I felt passionate about, but not consumed with. On a whim, I found myself signing up for a yoga retreat -- something I had been curious about but eluded me. My yoga practice had always been my refuge from the stress of life, my time to quiet my mind, reflect and recharge. I didn't always make the time for it, but when I did, I was always a more relaxed version of myself, better able to handle the vicissitudes of life. A David 2.0. My yoga retreat in Baja, Mexico was like an extended vacation with this version of myself. I slept well, ate healthily, did yoga and meditated three hours a day, surfed for the first time since I was a kid, and met a great bunch of like-minded people. An indelible life experience.
The wheels that had been stuck began turning again.
A few months of brainstorming and research followed, and several months later I found myself on a humanitarian trip to Haiti with another incredible group of people. We organized a new medical clinic, worked with several children's organizations, and bonded deeply, both with each other and with the organizations with whom we worked. And I came to truly understand how the power of service in a group setting creates an ecosystem with infinite possibilities for both personal and professional development.
Fast forward a year to now. A number of those same people who I met on my journey last year post-job disaster are now working with me on an exciting new venture whose focus is on improving employee engagement and performance -- getting people to shed the stress, expand their mind and reconnect with themselves and humanity. We offer meaningful service opportunities combined with yoga, mindfulness, stress-reduction training, and other activities in beautiful places all around the globe.
I had finally found meaning in my own work by focusing inward, being present enough to observe some interesting trends going on around me, and following two passions deep in my belly: helping people reconnect with themselves and one another and starting new companies. What a difference a year and half can make.