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The secret is revealed… less is more

Dana Brownlee

Recently, while I was dressing for my morning jog, I caught a glimpse of a CNN story about Marissa Mayer, the Yahoo CEO who had rocked the business world (and Wall Street) by announcing that she was pregnant – what nerve!

Of course, I thought it was non-news, really, continued to dress thinking: “A busy female executive is having a family…no big deal.” As I tied my shoes however, I couldn’t believe my ears as they read her official statement about her pregnancy, “My maternity leave will be a few weeks long, and I’ll work through it.”

I couldn’t believe it — Huh? I’ll work through it! It sounded like she literally said that she rejected the concept of a true maternity leave and would simultaneously work. As a new mom who feels she hasn’t really had a good night’s sleep in almost four years (after the births of two little ones), I found this mind boggling.

More importantly, her attitude toward balancing work and family life was the complete antithesis of my own personal philosophy. I felt myself yelling at the screen “No, no, no!” While I believe wholeheartedly that we, as women, are diverse and completely free to choose our own unique paths, including career choices that work best for each of us individually, I couldn’t help but think somehow her statement set us all back a few decades. To me, it sounded apologetic — not like a statement coming from the CEO, but instead, more akin to an explanation from a worker caught misappropriating funds. Yes, she leads a publicly traded company and has a responsibility to her shareholders — I get that, but I couldn’t help but wonder:

  • What message does that send to other women (in her organization and elsewhere) who need to take time off for maternity or other types of leave?
  • In fifteen years, how will her child feel about that statement?
  • If she’s at the top of the corporate food chain and she can’t take time off, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I guess I should ask what hope there is for the rest of them because I exited corporate America nearly a decade ago and have never looked back.


Years ago, I visited Barcelona while a good friend was there doing an exchange as part of her MBA program. I’d completed my MBA a few years earlier and had a successful career in management consulting. When I arrived, I asked them about going out for a late lunch and immediately they looked stressed. Perplexed, I asked why we couldn’t go, and they looked at each other, then me, and said “Siesta!” They explained that most of the city shut down from about noon to 3 p.m. while shop owners and workers all went home to have a nice lunch, enjoy time with their families, and literally smell the roses along the way.

It must have been the American capitalist in me, because I’m ashamed to admit that my immediate thought was “I should move here and open a business that’s only open from noon to 3 p.m.!” But interestingly enough, that trip, and my utter admiration at the European attitude of working to live instead of living to work, profoundly changed my perspective on career, success and life.

Less is more

Almost in an instant, I decided that I would not get caught in the rat race of sacrificing time with people I love and things I enjoy in an attempt to work more or make more money so I could ostensibly enjoy life more…when of course I realized that what would really be most enjoyable is to spend time with people I love and do things that I enjoy! It was completely backward…sacrificing exactly what I want to achieve so that I can work more, which will hopefully position me to get more of what I sacrificed in the first place. After some soul searching, I decided that in my case less is more. Indeed, the most precious resource for me, I’d determined, was time, not money.

Consequently, nearly a decade ago, I abruptly left a lucrative career in management consulting to start a corporate training firm with one employee — me! Finally, I would leverage my years of corporate experience to do what I really wanted to do — provide corporate training that was practical, engaging and tons of fun! One of my absolute favorite parts of my job is traveling the country, speaking to leaders, teams, and individual contributors, providing practical tips and real life examples about how they can work smarter not harder, increase productivity and enhance overall effectiveness. I also love the flexibility my business affords me to mix business with pleasure, through international speaking events and engagements. Just in the past few years, I’ve traveled to London, Toronto, Milan, Marseilles, Costa Rica, Miami, Denver, New York and other amazing destinations (often with my husband) to speak at an event while also exploring a great destination!

I consciously decided very early on that, in contrast to many entrepreneurs, I did not want to build an empire. After all…an empire can turn into a prison very quickly if you’re not careful. Employees require significant amounts of precious time and energy which I simply refuse to sacrifice, and there are simply smarter ways to bring in passive revenue in my business. Indeed, I measured my success year-by-year, not by gross revenue, but by average revenue per day. My thought was that as revenue per day increases, I can afford to work fewer and fewer days — my ultimate goal! When I left corporate America, I made $160,000 per year. Last year, I made $135,000 but I only worked forty-six billable days. Even adding twenty additional days to account for non-billable working time (developing proposals, writing newsletters, managing email, etc.), my revenue per day still exceeds $2000. Viewed another way, embracing the less is more philosophy, I’m making eighty-four percent of my previous corporate salary but only working twenty-six percent of the time. That’s not a bad trade at all in my book. Even better, my revenue potential is unlimited and I fully expect to exceed my previous corporate salary within the next year or two.

Next: Finding the balance

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