Balance & Beyond Podcast

Episode Summary

#1: The Art of Balance: My Journey from a 'Burn it All Down' Moment to True Fulfillment

When you want to burn it all down...

Welcome to the Balance & Beyond podcast! In this first episode, we dive into the personal story of our host and founder, Jo Stone, who, like many of us, desired to have it all - a thriving career, a loving family, and a beautiful home. Despite achieving all of these, she found herself overwhelmed, stressed, and unfulfilled.

In this candid episode, she shares her journey towards finding balance and contentment. She opens up about her "burn it all down" moment - selling her dream home, leaving her successful career, and even checking herself into the hospital, fearing an incurable autoimmune disease. But her story doesn't end there. Over the next 5 years, she redefined success outside the traditional norms and discovered a life filled with calm and contentment.

Join us to learn how you can create a life that aligns with your values and desires, and find inspiration to chart your own unique course towards fulfilment.


Here's a glance at this episode...

[04.30] My old definition of career success and how I reached it in my early 30's, yet was still unfulfilled

[07.45] How my body started telling me something wasn't right, culminating in checking myself into hospital

[09.50] The ego death that caused me to relook at everything I had

[10.39] What I realised I valued more than the big house and perfect life

[12.30] The moment that changed everything

[14.44] The nudges I was being given that made me really, really angry

[16.19] The reason everything is different this time, even though it may look the same

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Episode Transcript

INTRO: Welcome to Balance and Beyond, the podcast for ambitious women who refuse to accept burnout as the price of success. Here, we’re committed to empowering you with the tools and strategies you need to achieve true balance, where your career, relationships and health all thrive, and where you have the power to define success on your own terms. I honour the space you’ve created for yourself today, so take a breath, and let's dive right in…

Hi there, welcome to the Balance and Beyond podcast. 

I am your host, Jo Stone, from the Balance Institute. And I'm so happy to be here and be able to share what happens when ambitious women find a way past the juggle and the struggle of work and life and family and actually get to create a life on their terms. 

So what can you expect from this podcast? Well, in my traditional way, you're going to hear raw, real, unedited and unfiltered stories. 

There may be a time when a kid bursts in, and there may be a time when you hear a bird in the background, but this is our life. And I have a very done-is-better-than-perfect attitude. So, don't expect huge scripting. You're gonna hear me pause. You might hear me fumble. But in my belief, people need to see what actual real life is like, none of this extra filtered rubbish. Let's make sure that we are able to be real, and to be honest, have a conversation that isn't really being had anywhere else. 

Ambitious women are burning out in droves and it's largely because we feel like we need to subscribe to some perfect stereotype. And so I'm here for us to have the tough conversations, to share what's working, and here in my business, I've helped thousands of women overcome burnout and actually achieve work-life balance. 

I'm not talking about the type where you have to step back, or the type where you have to reduce your hours, or you have to quit your job, or go live on an island for three weeks to settle down and try to pull yourself together again. This is about what's possible when we have thriving relationships that are deep and connected. And when we have a career that we love and we're fulfilled and get to reach our potential. And where we get to have good health and not just mental health, but emotional health and physical health. And above all else, let's have some more fun!

So, I want to share a little bit about my story and how I got here, because I'm often asked, “Jo, you seem to have it all put together and how have you worked out this toolkit that seems to work for so many women and now has been road-tested over three years. ” So let me share how I got here, and my journey, which may be very similar to yours. 

So, I did a marketing degree at university and headed off into the corporate world thinking: “Right, I'm going to climb the ladder. I'm going to get as high as I can.” I was always ambitious, I was always a high achiever, and always over-delivered, and had all these trademark qualities that so many of us have. 

I grew up in Australia and had a very, I wouldn't say simplistic childhood, I had half-siblings, who I didn't grow up with. So, it was me and mum and dad. A happy childhood, no trauma to speak of, no real little T or big T trauma, as we say here. And, you know, lived a nice life in suburbia, went to school, and I was blessed in that a lot of things weren't that difficult for me. I was always pretty intelligent, and never really remembered struggling with school. But, that doesn't mean that I didn't actually struggle with my own demons. 

And ironically, what you'll learn about in this podcast, is despite having what might look like a really simple and easy childhood, as a human who's a meaning-making machine, there are still things that I made up that don't make any sense. 

So, I entered the corporate world, and my field was marketing. So, otherwise known as the colouring-in department, was where I cut my teeth and rose pretty quickly. And I very early on in my career recognized that I had a particular gift for finding order from chaos. And I would go into newly created roles and work out: “What needs to happen here?” And as I became more and more senior, I got my first leadership role, where I was looking after a team and a lot of it was a baptism of fire. I had some great bosses in my time, some of who I'm still friends with, who I got to learn different leadership strategies from. 

But for me, it was very much just to find your feet and work hard and never give up. And I found myself at the age, I had my first child in my late twenties, got married, and found myself relatively high up the ladder pretty quickly. So, by the age of 30 I'd got myself into a chief marketing officer role. I was in the C-suite, which was one of my big career goals. And on top of that, my C-suite job was across Asia Pacific. So, my stratosphere of where I wanted to be, to make career success, was being in Asia Pacific, so having regional responsibilities. I had remit across five countries, having big teams, big budgets, and lots of responsibility and lots of ability to stretch myself. 

So, by the age of 30 or 31, I had that. I'd been a leader by that stage for five to seven years, I'd had regional responsibilities and had some baptism of fire from a corporate career perspective. I'd been through a number of mergers and acquisitions, I'd been made redundant while on maternity leave, and a lot of this was, you know, it was stressful, and I was the one who pushed myself more than anybody else. Like I said, I've had some great bosses, and they helped see parts of me and give me confidence where I lacked it. However, it was my ruthlessness. It was my, “It all has to be perfect.” That really was the driver of that. 

And what I found happened was, I got to the age of about my mid-thirties, and found myself now, I'd sort of moved out of a CMO role and was exploring new things. I was exploring innovation, and I was exploring project management, running a large PMO, which is a project management office, in a company that was in Asia Pacific. You know, loved my team, loved the people I worked with, but I wasn't in the right role for me. And, so suddenly, my fulfilment at work wasn't where it used to be. And I didn't feel like I was necessarily best set up for success. My skills didn’t necessarily match what was required: I was the get-shit-done person, and I was really, really good at it. And I was really, really good at managing people, but you know, the role probably called for something else. 

And, during this time, I had done the other thing on my bucket list. So, I'd had a second child by this point. So I had two beautiful girls, and I'd also built a house. Which was also part of the dream. I wanted to build a house from scratch, and for many years, my husband, Mick and I, on our date nights, would find a napkin and we'd be sketching: right well, down here we're going to put this, and we'll put the pool here,  and we'll do this. So, I built the house, the big five-bedroom house. It's a great Australian dream, as it's called. I had the pool and the chickens and the water feature, and I had everything I ever wanted. 

And yet, I still found myself going, okay, I've climbed this mantle of success. So, why am I not fulfilled? And is there something wrong with me? Because I'm always rushed, and I'm exhausted, and I'm beating myself up. And despite, you know, having good incomes at the time, things were pretty tight because we had a big house, and we had a big mortgage and we had cars, and we were going overseas, and doing all these things. So my income, my spending had risen, to match my income. 

And I started thinking, there has to be more to life than this. Why have I worked so hard? This was meant to be the pinnacle. This is meant to be everything I ever wanted. And yet I'm stressed and my body's starting to break, and it was at a point in time where I actually checked myself into hospital because I thought I had an autoimmune disease. I felt like I was having an attack of MS, or multiple sclerosis, because of some lesions I had in my brain. Oh my god, I'm having an MS attack, I'm gonna be diagnosed with a current incurable illness, and I knew it was because I'd pushed my body to the extreme. 

I did triathlons in between babies, and somehow between working full-time, decided to get up at 5 a.m. and train in three disciplines. You know, it's what I did: I pushed myself, I drove myself, but eventually, it all caught up with me. 

And I got to the point of thinking maybe I have to... burn this all down? How am I going to cope? Because this is meant to be the pinnacle, this is meant to be success, I am meant to be happy. And I was drowning in these feelings of guilt, and shame, and “What's wrong with me?” I should be happy, this is what I wanted! And so, I did what many people who I speak to every day want to do, and I started to burn it down. 

We ended up selling our house. The property market in Australia had gone a little bit nuts, and after 18 months of this forever house that was meant to be it, you know, we'd built it with teenagers in mind, we ended up selling it. And that was without a place to go. We just went, you know what, I thought I valued these material goods, but in the end, through a very long soul-searching process, I worked out that I actually valued my freedom. And the house wasn't making me happy. So, it's time to change. And so we sold the house, right before the property market plunged in 2018, and I ended up leaving my job, and starting my own business, and selling the house was the catalyst for that. 

But in that process, I had to go through a really big, almost an ego death. It caused me to relook at everything I’d ever wanted. And I found myself, the night before we put the house up for sale, sitting in one of the bedrooms. It was beautiful, I think it was a spring evening, and I've got all these doors open overlooking this beautiful garden that I've cultivated, and planted, and it was great for entertaining, and I thought, oh my gosh, I'm giving all of this up and I'm probably going to downgrade. It wasn't aligned with my identity because I was the person who was the young CMO, and I had this great house, and I had this amazing life. I had it all on paper and I was about to blow it all up. And it was really, really hard to go through that process and I had to reimagine, well, what actually does success look like? 

It was only during that process that I realised that, you know, I think I value freedom, and I think it's time for me to step through that fear, which was terrifying. I've got a one-year-old and a four-year-old, and I'm about to sell my house without anywhere to go. But, we did it. And that's not the first time we've done it again since. And from there, I started my business, initially consulting in the marketing and customer experience space. And then what I found was, you know, here's me now, actually, we moved out of our house, moved into my parents' house initially. And here's me thinking, all right, well, could I find something now? Let me, let me go into what I know. Let me go into where I'm confident. 

I got some amazing blue chip clients and I've had some amazing people, you know, sponsor me and advocate for me throughout my career, which was, which was wonderful and I learned so much. But what kept happening every time I was in, you know, one of these, a big telco company, or I was in financial services, and I was sitting down with the head of sales, or the head of service, or the head of marketing, how I was there as a consultant to upskill and to help them with a problem. The conversation very quickly would go to, “Yeah, yeah, Jo, I get what you're doing, yep, give me the presentation, I'll implement it. But I'm burning out, how are you okay? How are you coping with this? You've got little kids.” 

The conversation kept coming again, and I said, “Let's go have coffee, and I'll talk to you about what's going on for me, or what I found is really helpful.” It was one week when I had about five coffees in the same week, and every single conversation was the same. “I'm exhausted, I'm burning out, I know I'm capable of more, but I just can't do it. There's got to be more than this. Jo, you sold your house, how on earth did you have the courage to break away from the race with the Joneses?” 

I thought, there's something in this. And it was one day on a run in my new house, which I ended up buying the day that I moved out of the old house. That's another story for another day. And I realised, “Wait a second, what if there's more me's out there?” “What if I'm not the only one struggling with this?” And at the time, I had a stay-at-home husband, because his mum had passed away and he was struggling with some mental health issues. So, he wasn't necessarily in a place to work. So, I was the only provider. And here I am living, about to quit my job, and trying to find a way to, having lumpy income as a consultant, and going, “I want to start a new business.” “I think there's an opportunity here for me to share these elements of myself or these beliefs that I've got, these strategies that I have that I thought everybody else had, but it turns out they didn't.” And so the Balance Institute was born, after my burn-it-all-down moment where I sold the house, I quit my job, we used to fantasise about moving down to the Southern Highlands and opening up an antique shop or what else could we do that simplifies life? Let's just get away. 

And I knew though, that the problems would follow me. Because, those problems were all me. The fact that I couldn't be present with the kids, I was always running, I constantly felt guilty, showing up at work with rice bubbles on my suit jacket because you've literally, you know, a kid smooshed their mouth into you as you've run out the door and then you're on a call to somebody. 

I remember being in the bath with Stella, who was very little at the time, being in this Asia Pacific role and trying to talk to one of my team members in Hong Kong, and she sort of demanding my attention and splashing me. And I ended up dropping my phone into the bath. And rather than going, oh my gosh, universal nudge, put the darn phone down and actually focus where you are. I freaked out and ended up getting mad at Stella, because she sort of accidentally, as I don't know, maybe an 18-month-old, you grab my hand and I dropped the phone. 

So, “Oh my gosh, I've got this deadline, and this person's waiting for me … “ And it was these series of nudges. And, “Oh my gosh. Like, woman, wake up. This is not how it's meant to be.” And so that was over three and a bit years ago now that this business was born. And I am now so blessed to have been on this journey to find myself and to re-engineer. What are these tools that I've had in my toolkit? And what are the tools that I've actually had to cultivate in order to get where I am now? And where is that? You might ask. Well, I've gone full circle. I've now gone and bought a new house. I didn't actually have to build this one. And I've still got the two kids who are now 13 and 9, so it's been a while. And I've still got the husband, the same one. And I'm now running my own multimillion-dollar business. 

But interestingly, the last one where I had the job and the house and the kids and everything, that was built what I called “Outside-In.” That was built all about what I think I should have. That was built on, if I've got the thing, then I'll feel good. Once I get that C in my title, I feel like I'm, you know, I'm senior and I'm worthy and I've got the confidence. But that “Outside-In” approach is incredibly shaky. And if somebody can gift it to you, well, then they can also take it away. And I've been through two redundancies in my time, and they were not easy, because they rocked me to my core. It's like without my job, who am I? 

And so, this time, the reason everything is completely different, is because I've built it “Inside-Out.” I have built this life based on what I truly desire. And I've built it, not being attached to what I do, because that was at the crux of a lot of this,  is my worth, I was a get-shit-done person, I was a high achiever, I had to do, I had to do, I had to do, I had to earn my rest. I had to have done enough. “When this is done, then I'll be happier.” “When this is done, then I'll relax.” I could never relax. 

Whereas this time, I'm still a person who can achieve lots. That's a part of my DNA that I do not want to get rid of, and I don't think I ever could. But my greatest lesson has been to let go, to slow down, to surrender to timing, and put down the impatience. And it's been this beautiful journey of self-discovery where I've surrounded myself with some of the most amazing humans on the planet who have been my coaches, who have been my confidants. I have a team who now support me, because I finally believe that I'm worth investing in. 

This isn't about thinking that I have to do it all myself, which was part of my pride. I can handle it all myself, I don't need to ask for help. And, I've invested in these people when I didn't have any money. I’d started my consulting business, we just bought a new house, Mick wasn't working, and I spent $25,000 on a 10 week coaching program. And we didn't really have that money, that got pulled out of the offset, that was the emergency rainy day fund. 

But, I said to myself, this has to be my emergency rainy day, because this is my future. And if I don't go and invest in me, then what's it all for? I am the best investment I will ever make. And that $25,000 I spent last year, I spent 10% of my company's revenue on consultants, coaches, and support. Of revenue, not profit. So, I am serious when I mean I have to surround myself with a team. And it's not: “Can I afford to spend this?” It's: “Can I afford not to?” Because by investing in myself in this way, I believe this is what has been crucial to my success. This has been about me uncovering my triggers, and learning to find calm, and learning what is it that I need to do for me to put myself first, so that I can be my best self for everybody else. 

I've got hundreds of women every month who rely on me being able to show up, and not being in my head, and not being trapped in my own world, or thinking about what am I going to cook for dinner? I can't be there anymore. You know what? Life gets so much more fun when you can live this way. I have pure joy on a very, very regular basis. Sure, I still get crabby at the kids, but I'm present so much more. My business is thriving, I have time for friendships, I move my body, and it's built “Inside-Out”, so nobody can take it away, because it's built off my characteristics, I know myself so well now. I know all my strengths, and I know my shadows, because we're human, and we are all going to have them. 

But this is just the beginning of my journey. Yes, it's been going on for a while now. However, I know that this will be my journey for life. The quest for better, faster, more, is not something I ever really need help with. I will drive myself. I am still ambitious. I still have big goals. And yet, the letting go, the surrendering, the faith in what will be, that are things that I'm always going to need help with. You know, making sure that I'm putting myself first, being held accountable for that, investing in people who can help me find my shadows, is where now I find the greatest joy and fulfilment. And it's an absolute blessing that this is what I get to do all day, every day. 

So I'm delighted that you were joining me here, on this podcast, for this journey to not just balance, but I want to talk about what goes beyond that. What happens, when you can tap into your potential? What happens, when you can step into the fullness of who you are? Where you can find that deep peace, and calm, that you're longing for and know that whenever your time is up, that this has been a life well lived, and that the people who are in your world have benefited from you walking this earth. 

OUTRO: Thank you for joining us today on the Balance and Beyond Podcast. We're so glad you carved out this time for yourself. If you enjoyed this episode, please share it with a friend who might need to hear this today. And if you're feeling extra generous, leaving us a review on your podcast platform of choice would mean the world. If you’re keen to dive deeper into our world, visit us at to discover more about the toolkit that has helped thousands of women avoid burnout and create a life of balance, and beyond.Thanks again for tuning in, and we'll see you next time on the Balance & Beyond Podcast.