By Liz Wilkes, Founder of Exubrancy
When I was 24, I thought I had things all figured out. I was two years into running my first company, a seasonal décor business called the Holiday Lighting Pros, which my co-founder and I operated October to January each year in Seattle. I spent the “off-season” volunteering in Uganda, traveling around South America, freelance event-producing, and working at various film festivals. On paper, my life was awesome, and I was moving too quickly to ever really check in with myself and make sure that I was truly happy.
On a whim, I decided to apply for business school, and my acceptance to Columbia finally gave me an opportunity to slow down. When I finally took the time to reflect on how I was doing personally, spiritually, and physically, I realized how lost I’d become. My adventure-filled life meant that I didn’t have a stable exercise regimen or diet, hadn’t had any stable romantic relationships, and didn’t have one place I called home.
When I started business school in 2011, I began re-establishing routines for myself, and my life completely changed. It sounds like I’m exaggerating but I’m not when I say that over the course of a few months, I became much healthier, met the love of my life (and now fiancé!), and started feeling true joy on a daily basis. The keys to my transformation? Community and routine. When I started cooking for myself regularly, working out with friends, and meditating, my confidence and happiness soared.
I wasn’t alone. At Columbia, I joined a community of people who hailed from hundreds of different backgrounds and work experiences. A common thread that wove through many of my friends’ narratives was a lack of balance. As on-campus recruiting began, I quickly noticed a trend: Many of my friends were forgoing info sessions and recruiting events put on by companies known to traditionally lure MBA candidates. Instead, a surprisingly large portion of my class seemed drawn not to the firms with the biggest paychecks, but to innovative companies that demonstrated a clear interest in the humans behind the job applications — in the overall well-being of their employees, and in team members' personal and professional growth.
I became fascinated by the factors that help grow well-being and foster culture in organizations. I quickly realized there was an opportunity to combine my personal passion for fitness, meditation, and, more broadly, wellness, with my interest in helping companies take better care of their people — and thus, Exubrancy was born.
We’ve now been in business for almost two years. Tens of thousands of employees at over 75 companies (including Tumblr, The Boston Consulting Group, and Uber) have taken part in our in-office group fitness, meditation, and massage programs. It has by no means been an easy road, but I’m incredibly proud of all that we’ve accomplished. Our secret weapon? An unbending passion for changing the world by helping our "end-users" lead healthier, happier lives.
Now that I’m in the business of helping busy professionals thrive at work, friends hit me up all the time for my personal tips and tricks for maintaining balance. Below, I am excited to share a few of my favorites with you:
1. Own your commute.
The 30+ minutes a day we spend commuting constitute a huge percentage of our lives! Audit your commute – is it bringing you joy? If not, consider downloading engaging podcasts, introducing deep breathing exercises, or getting off the train a stop or two early to add a little more walking into your day.
2. Buy a beautiful pitcher for your desk and drink water all day long.
In addition to keeping you hydrated, this will result in more bathroom trips, AKA mandatory breaks from sitting the day away. Bonus points if you bring a few lemons into the office each week and squeeze them into your pitcher.
3. Find your happy places at work.
Identify spots in or near your office where you can breathe / refuel / rebalance. There’s an awesome windowless film screening room at my office, and I’ve been known to reserve it for midday power-napping purposes.
4. Say no.
In the words of the great Arianna Huffington, the easiest way to cross something off your to-do list is to decide not to do it!
Liz Wilkes is passionate about helping companies and their people thrive. In 2013 Liz founded Exubrancy, a NYC-based startup that helps organizations maximize employee health and happiness via in-office meditation sessions, group fitness classes, and massages. Prior to Exubrancy, Liz developed innovative programs for New York City-based organizations (including The Gucci Group, amfAR, and The Elton John Aids Foundation) as Senior Event Producer at AAB Productions. Liz also spent time at Trigger Media, a media-focused Venture Capital fund, and recently sold her Seattle-based lighting and design business launched in 2009. Liz holds a B.A. from Amherst College and an MBA from Columbia Business School.