Girl Boss Jaclyn Johnson on the Myth of Work/Life Balance

We got the chance to chat with Jaclyn Johnson, founder of the first “Girl Boss” conference, about work/life balancing and how she’s totally killing the entrepreneurial game.

More than ever, the reality of successfully merging the divide between work and life is that it’s all about finding the right fit for your own personal and professional life. And of course, those three seemingly innocuous little words, “work/life balance,” mean something different for everyone.

We were excited to chat with inspiring female millennial entrepreneur Jaclyn Johnson, founder of what has been officially coined the first “Girl Boss” conference, also known as Create & Cultivate. For Jaclyn, the divide between work and life is not so clear. Actually, it means working hard to bridge the gap between passion and professionalism, and pushing boundaries to foster creativity in the digital space.

With a laser-sharp focus on the burgeoning field of twenty-something female entrepreneurs targeted by Create & Cultivate, Jaclyn has been on Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30 list for Marketing + Advertising, was called a Woman of Note by the Wall Street Journal, and made Levo’s 100 List in the past year alone. In other words, it’s pretty clear she knows what she’s doing –– and she’s shared some of her best career tips with us.

We got the chance to really delve into the good stuff with Jaclyn. We chatted with her about whether or not she thinks it’s really possible to maintain a healthy work/life balance, how to pull off doing so, and why it’s actually okay not to, if you feel that’s what is right for you.

Girl Boss Jaclyn Johnson on the Myth of Work/Life Balance

Take advantage of opportunity when it comes a-knockin’.

We asked Jaclyn what inspired her to start Create & Cultivate, and if she could tell us more about it, for those who haven’t had the opportunity to go or haven’t yet tuned in to the hype about it (to which we have to say, you will soon). She explained:

“Create & Cultivate is an online platform and offline conference series for female entrepreneurs in the digital space, and we keep that pretty vague on purpose, so… You know, like a female entrepreneur in the digital space could be anyone from someone who’s just launching their blog, who’s launching an online business or maybe has an offline business who wants to learn how to build it online. It touches so many careers and women.

So Create & Cultivate started actually 4 years ago, as a total side project. I have [a marketing and events agency called No Subject], and what I had found was I was working with all of these incredibly talented people, who were sitting behind computers all day. I realized we kind of need to create a getaway kind of experience where all of these amazing people can get offline and talk about what they’re doing, and get the word out and connect… in real life.

[It was hardly a] conference at the time, it was like 50 people. We had this great mix of bloggers, entrepreneurs, leaders –– the girls from Honestly WTF [etc.], all coming together to hear people speak, learn how to grow their businesses, and how they launched it. So it was this really kind of fun thing that really took on a life of its own. We already had more and more people asking, 'Hey, when’s the next one? When’s the next one?' and you know ironically, one of the topics we cover in Create & Cultivate, one of the main things that people talk about is when something becomes so big that it’s sort of knocking at your door versus you trying to build it… you have to take advantage of it.” 

When it comes to work/life balancing, focus your energy on finding the right fit for you.

There are so many different paradigms flying around on the topic –– controversial concepts like work/life integration and alignment have both recently risen to the fore. We asked Jaclyn what her thoughts are on making these things actually work in our daily lives. Her answer surprised us.

“This question is always so interesting,” Jaclyn said, “because I feel like for me right now –– just to be totally frank –– my 'balance' is NOT that balanced. I think finding balance is about finding what YOUR balance is, and for me that’s not like a 50/50 split between work and life right now. It might be down the line… but for me I figured out, Hey, right now work is amazing, I’m loving it, I’m loving my team, I’m really excited to be part of this...

However, my weekends are my weekends; I always try to focus on not connecting on my cell phone on a Saturday. But I think for me, I need my breaks and I’ll feel my breaking point, so I think it’s really about being in touch with yourself and knowing what works for you. Because for some people, they know exactly when they need to stop working and they can check out after 5 or whatever it is, but for me –– my career is my passion! I love it, I live it, breathe it everyday in my personal life, in my work life.

I think it’s just a matter of finding what works for you in your relationship and in your personal and professional life.”

Girl Boss Jaclyn Johnson on the Myth of Work/Life Balance

“Treat your business like your best friend.”

One of our editors at Livingly recently wrote a feature on Amy Poehler’s advice from her book about treating your career “like a bad boyfriend”; in other words, treat it like something that you shouldn’t depend on. We were curious about Jaclyn’s thoughts on that.

“I think for me, I’ve had actual horrible boyfriends!” she said with a laugh.

“You and me both,” I had to admit.

“Yet my career has been really good to me,” she continued. “You know, on the flip side I think Lady Gaga said once (I mean not to like quote Lady Gaga but...), she said something like 'Your career won’t wake up and leave you in the morning.'

It’s such a different quote but I actually thought that was so true. If you work hard at your career, your career will work for you; whereas in a relationship, if you work really hard at the relationship, if that other person isn’t working just as hard… it’s not gonna work.

I feel like with my career the more I put in the more I get out, and it’s always been that way for me. So I’ve had a really positive experience. I mean of course it hasn’t been all roses and amazing, there are trials and tribulations that come with owning a company, but I think for me it’s always been like 'Treat your business like your best friend.'

You have to be harsh sometimes, you have to fight, you have to get through things, and then you obviously grow, and your friendship changes, and it gets better over time.”

Also, we’re not mad about her quoting Lady Gaga. 

It’s about figuring out all these pieces to the puzzle; [and] once you’ve figured out all the pieces you need to feel whole, finding the time to make them happen.

–Jaclyn Johnson

Celebrate your accomplishments.

When we asked what has been the proudest moment of her career so far, she responded, “For me, it definitely was the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. I got it this year, which… feel likes a hundred years ago. I was on the list this year! And it was amazing. I had always gotten really great press among beauty and fashion sites, but being recognized by a business publication was really exciting for me. It had grown from such a small company to working with incredible brands, so I think that was the best moment so far.”

Enjoy the journey.

At Livingly, we strive to “live life beautifully.”

When we asked Jaclyn what that means to her, she responded, “It’s just sort of enjoying the journey. I think that’s something I learned when I turned 30, too. In my 20’s I feel like I was rushing through life. You know, heading to this event, doing this, meeting this person, closing this deal, jumping from this to that, just so crazy and frenetic and awesome… for being in your 20’s. But in the past couple years I’ve really learned to enjoy all of the moments –– take it in, see your successes, see your failures, accept both, move on. And just live in a little bit of a slower, more thoughtful way.”