Two decades ago, Sheri Riley was a twenty-something making six figures as a record industry executive in Atlanta. She was living the dream she'd first hatched as a teen in Richmond, Kentucky to move to Atlanta and work in the music industry.
Riley loved her job as senior director of marketing at LaFace records and had the means to travel the world, help her family and hobnob with celebrities, but she was totally miserable. So she walked away from it all.
"When I resigned, I thought I was an anomaly," said Riley. "People would ask me why and I would say I was miserable."
The only way she could articulate her pain was to explain that she was spending all of her time on something that was just a small part of who she was, yet expecting it to leave her completely fulfilled. "I went on a journey to find out how do I stop doing that," she said.
As she began seeking answers for herself, she became a pied piper to friends and colleagues who had $300,000 per year salaries, great marriages and blossoming children, but found themselves miserable as well. "They would call me and they would say, 'I can’t talk about this to anyone other than you,'" Riley said.
She quickly realized it wasn't just people in her inner circle who were broken, hurting and feeling awful and she wondered how she could reach a broader group of people. Riley ultimately decided to take a new path as an empowerment speaker and life strategist.
In February, she brings more than 15 years of learning to readers in a new book, "Exponential Living: Stop Spending 100% of your Time on 10% of Who You Are," (New American Library, $26).
As a marketing executive for 25 years, Riley had always been concerned more with who her clients were on the inside (or who they wanted to be) rather than their external brand. Many high achievers, she said, know how to go after success, but somewhere along the way they lose confidence in who they are.
Riley points to actresses such as Selena Gomez, Nicole Kidman and Angelina Jolie, who have recently opened up about lives in which they seemed to have it all but were secretly suffering.
Pure drive may get you to the top of your career or bring you recognition, but if personal development hasn't been the focus, you aren't prepared to sustain those levels of achievement, Riley said.
For years, Riley has relied on nine principles to help goal-oriented people turn professional or personal success into "whole-life" success. Balance is an illusion, she said. It is all about weaving all the aspects of who we are into our lives each day. In her book, Riley was determined to focus on how everyone can achieve the right blend.
"I read a lot of self-help books and one of the challenges I would always have is they would give me a great assessment of the issue, but they never really gave me the how. I would finish reading and I would feel like I still didn’t know what to do. My commitment was that I would not write a book unless I had the how," Riley said.
Each of the nine principles corresponds to some aspect of life such as relationships, charity work, career or joy to name a few. Riley gives examples of each -- using some well-known Atlantans as case studies from city council president Ceasar Mitchell to radio personality Bert Weiss -- as well as steps on what to do and final takeaways.
In a return to her early days of counseling friends by phone, Riley also offers phone training sessions for Exponential Living. Each Tuesday, now through Jan 31 (except Dec. 13), interested listeners can dial 712-775-7035 (access code 470473) for training in each of the nine principles as well as a Q&A with other callers.
Riley's book is only available by pre-order on sites like Target.com , Amazon.com, BarnesandNobles.com and exponential living.com , but already on the most recent phone call, listeners tuned in from around the world for training on living the first of the nine principles "Live in your P.O.W.E.R." Riley said she plans to continue the calls after the book launches in February.
"Exponential living birthed out of my friends asking me to have a call," she said. "I know how effective it is. So many people learn from observational listening. It allows people to have access beyond reading a blog or books," she said.
But when the book is released, she hopes it will become a manual for readers.
"I want people to look at this as something they have at every stage of their life and know they can go back and it will help them wherever they are," she said. "The core message of Exponential Living is pursuing peace, choosing clarity and living courageously. When we understand that our personal life fuels our professional growth, that is when we truly know how to live in our power."