We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenifer Mangione Vogt and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenifer, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
I don’t use the phrase, “work-life balance” because for me it’s simply “life in balance.” I don’t think you can draw a line down the middle of your life and say one side is work and everything else is not. Whatever we are doing, we are human beings interacting with other human beings. If you’re lucky — given how many people in the world are unemployed and living in poverty — a good portion of your time will be spent at work. If you’re smart, you’ll find ways to draw something positive from it. If you’re super-smart, you’ll begin to view your life with an understanding that every person and every situation you encounter, both good and bad, offers an opportunity for self-development. People who delineate their personal and professional lives often view the people they encounter professionally as tools for career growth, rather than as people on the same journey. I’m not a fan of that approach because I see it as exploitative. Life in balance is about giving equal attention and effort to spirituality, relationships, physical and emotional well-being and career goals and achievement. The responsibility for achieving that balance is yours. You have to take care of you and much of the time it will be an uphill battle to do so. Prior to the pandemic, the traditional 9-5, work model was strained. Now, the nature of work has irrevocably changed. More people will be working virtually and from home. There will also be more informality, meaning workers will have less traditional safety nets, such as pensions and 401Ks and health and dental insurance. It’s difficult to have balance if you are underpaid, underinsured, ill or lacking a supportive network. My point is that the world has suddenly accelerated in a way that has resulted in more pressure and competitiveness than ever and, because of the economic after math of the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s going to get worse. The only line you can draw in this new situation is that you are either taking care of yourself or not. I share openly about being a cancer and trauma survivor and the impact that helping others through these experiences has had on me. I was out of balance and not taking care of myself from the time I had cancer and radiation in 2008 until just a few years ago when I was really sick almost all the time. I was completely out of balance, just depleted physically, emotionally and spiritually. At that point, I took a long hard look at myself and decided to make self-care a priority, even though it meant I had to pass on prestige clients and opportunities. I stopped valuing status and externals and I finally, finally said to heck with, “what people think.” I quit many things and many people, too. And it was OK. As soon as I stopped “being important” and doing so much for people, I learned who was genuine, who I could really count on. I took a break. I woke up. Things turned out OK. Actually, they got better. I gave up a lot of the externals. I gave up fake friends. I gave up being part of the in crowd. I stopped using Facebook and Instagram. That’s hard, you know. We now live in a world of “social proof” where people make judgments about other people based on their social media persona. It’s too easy to get caught up in that competition to prove yourself with vanity selfies, vacation photos, shopping purchases. People are, literally, missing out on actual life while frenetically trying to prove they’re living an enviable life. It’s like having an avatar. And I went within and began caring deeply about the internals, physically, emotionally and spiritually. I gave up processed foods. I gave up gluten. I gave up dairy. I’m Italian, so as you can imagine, giving up pasta, bread and cheese is like a sacrilege. So, I took one for the team and did not give up red wine. I got a coach. I got a nutritionist. I began walking. I threw myself into Mindfulness and began getting up at 5am, rather than 6am, so that I could practice daily. And I got healthy. Balance became a lifestyle, not an effort. Life in balance. It’s a way of life. It’s a choice. I believe it’s the true secret to happiness. You don’t find happiness by pursuing external validation. I just completed an open Yale course, which I highly recommend, “The Science of Well-Being” that delved deeply into how people become unhappy pursuing the things they erroneously think will make them happy. Many times, society discourages us from talking about faith and spiritual matters, but a life in balance is about something greater than yourself. It transcends the material and is a life of respect for yourself, for others and for the world. Paradoxically, focusing on self-care is a gift to those around you.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m a global digital marketing expert, business development leader and brand storyteller who is passionate about leveraging marketing technology to increase audiences, engagement and revenue. I love what I do, but I’d actually planned to be a curator. After graduating in art history, I accepted a temporary position at Mastercard’s HQ and instead fell in love with brand marketing and subsequently climbed the ladder at diverse global organizations to create and manage $1 million+ marketing budgets and creative partners. When thyroid cancer diverted my corporate journey, I launched a boutique practice to provide the spark-to-success for clients without million-dollar I am also a writer and I have specialized knowledge in digital marketing and public relations, technology, data security, art and art history, Italy and Made in Italy and Wellness & Mindfulness.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I love to take family and friends to Ironside Pizza on the Upper East Side of Miami. The food is fantastic, but the atmosphere is great, too. They have both a restaurant and a genuine italian coffee bar that reminds me of one that was on the bottom floor of my uncle’s apartment in Rome. What’s unique about Ironside is that it’s in a courtyard with a giant, whimsical sculpture that is made from a piece of the Berlin Wall. Directly across the courtyard is Galleria Ca’ d’Oro, which is my favorite art gallery. There are so many Italians there, so the total vibe is charming. It’s a lot like being in Italy. I also love to bring people to the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables for afternoon tea. It’s a special experience and afterwards you can go nearby to Books & Books, which is the coolest bookstore I’ve found in Florida. If you want to get out of Miami for a few hours, you can drive one hour north to Palm Beach County, I’m in love with the birding boardwalk at Wakadohatchee preserve.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Nothing in my life would have been possible without my mother. I owe her a great deal, as well as my Aunts Mimi and Karen. Also, my lifelong friends: Michele, Silvana and Duffy.
I also have a great deal of gratitude towards people in the Italian community who recognized and encouraged my talent, including Sally Valenti and Marco Capoccia of Il Circolo, Don Oldenberg at NIAF, Tommaso Morelato of Toscana Divino Hospitality Group and Nevio Boccanera and Alessia Marcenaro of the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce, Southeast and Luca Fabris, an Italian management consultant and entrepreneur from whom I learned a great deal about professionalism.