The Elevation Approach

Harness the Power of Work-Life Harmony to Unlock Your Creativity, Cultivate Joy, and Reach Your Biggest Goals

About the Book

“A powerful, innovative plan for finding creative fulfillment and bringing your passions to life.”—Marie Forleo, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything Is Figureoutable

Make room for your dreams and revolutionize how you manage your time and energy using this groundbreaking framework for finding work-life harmony from an accomplished entrepreneur and business strategist

Throughout her multifaceted career, Tina Wells has always found a way to transform her dreams into reality. She turned a business that she launched at sixteen into an award-winning marketing agency, led boardroom meetings as the youngest (and sometimes only) Black woman in the room, and pursued her childhood dream of traveling around the world.

But all that success came with burnout, and Tina had to rethink how she thought about work and life. The result of her deep thinking and some trial and error, The Elevation Approach presents Tina’s four-phase plan, a flexible and foolproof technique that helps you meet your goals without sacrificing joy for productivity and progress. Rather than treating work and life as separate and necessarily opposing forces, The Elevation Approach integrates your personal and professional ambitions, values, and responsibilities at every turn:

Preparation: Ask the right questions, get curious about the possibilities, and figure out what you have, what you need, and what you can give.
Inspiration: Expand your beliefs of what’s possible—create spaces for mind-wandering, relearn how to pay attention, and collect creative sparks.
Recreation: Hit reset, make room for rest and play, and when something isn’t working, give yourself permission to try something new.
Transformation: Evaluate the work that you’ve done, decide whether to stay the course, and celebrate the changes and goals you’ve accomplished.

Whether you want to start a new business, find time for a new hobby, or reevaluate a relationship, The Elevation Approach can help you make impactful shifts and realize your most cherished dreams—without losing sight of what matters most to you. With exercises featuring writing prompts and worksheets, real-world insights from business leaders and creatives, and “Instant Elevation” practices that ensure your efforts align with your priorities in each phase, The Elevation Approach is a one-stop solution to work-life harmony.
Read more

Praise for The Elevation Approach

“Tina Wells offers a powerful, innovative plan for finding creative fulfillment and bringing your passions to life. Her brilliant advice will help you open doors and uncover exciting possibilities.”—Marie Forleo, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Everything Is Figureoutable

“Tina Wells has a gift for breaking down information and reframing challenges into solutions. She does just that in her new book, The Elevation Approach. She provides advice in such a personalized way that you feel you are communicating with your best friend. Tina’s pragmatic and thoughtful approach to live a more fulfilling and harmonious life is inspirational and truly feels achievable.”—Carly Zakin, cofounder and co-CEO of theSkimm

“With The Elevation Approach, Tina Wells will help you forge new paths, stay true to your purpose, and prioritize everything that matters most in your life. Her gentle encouragement, indispensable tools, and motivating stories will give you the confidence to dream big and make big things happen.”—Tika Sumpter, actor, producer, and cofounder of Sugaberry

“Tina Wells has delivered us all a great gift: lessons she's learned through decades of success in business in an approachable how-to guide to living your best life. The Elevation Approach will help women of all ages reach whatever goals or dreams they have, no matter how big or small. Not only is the advice great for tackling challenges or kick-starting new adventures, it helps you find joy in the process as you go. It helps us let go of the great illusion of work-life balance, while replacing it with something far richer and more achievable—work-life harmony.”—Alexa von Tobel, CFP, founder and managing partner of Inspired Capital, founder of LearnVest, and New York Times bestselling author of Financially Fearless and Financially Forward

“Anyone chasing work-life balance, feeling stuck, or even bewildered about how to achieve true happiness must read The Elevation Approach. It’s the rare book that offers practical and actionable advice about how to fashion the life of your dreams.”—Lola Ogunnaike, journalist
Read more

The Elevation Approach

Chapter 1

The Power of Work-Life Harmony

“Do you ever sleep?”

Whenever someone asks me this question, I tell them the truth: “Yes, I do. At least seven and a half hours per night, nonnegotiable.”

I’m usually met with a blank stare. “I just don’t see how that’s possible. How do you do all the things you do? There’s just so much. . . .” These questions usually lead to a conversation about a concept that has become the core of my life: work-life harmony.

Different forms of harmony are around us. For instance, we see it reflected in nature every day. I love the outdoors, and I’ve been super-fortunate to travel to Africa several times. One of the things that struck me on my first safari in Kenya was that nature was just . . . in sync. I sat for hours one morning watching hundreds of zebras and wildebeests migrate from Kenya to Tanzania. They knew where to go and when to go. Another day I watched two cheetahs eat their lunch while vultures nearby waited patiently for the leftovers. When the cheetahs walked away, the vultures descended on the remainders, and it was as if nature had brought its own clean-up crew! Similarly, I picked up on these unspoken rhythms, rising easily with the first sign of light and growing tired when the sun went down. Seeing how everything in nature moves in continuous, complementary ways made me realize how we humans can experience this harmony in our own lives—but how easy it can be for our lives to fall out of tune with that harmony.

Burnout: Everybody’s Doing It!

After burning myself out for the first time, when I was twenty-seven years old, I decided to take my first proper vacation since launching my company eleven years prior. When my friend invited me to join her in Miami, she said my laptop wasn’t invited. But I didn’t think it was possible to unplug: Did she really expect me to not check my email for seven whole days? When we arrived, I was anxious and scatterbrained. I realized I didn’t even know how to stretch out by the pool and relax.

I once approached work with an all-or-nothing attitude. I would get up early and grind away until the late hours. Sure, I had to sleep, but I kept the other sixteen hours of the day, plus the weekends, available for work. To me, this was just the cost of doing business. You see, I was not just the CEO of my own business but also a well-known teen entrepreneur. The story of how I founded my marketing agency followed me everywhere. By the time I was twenty-five, articles about me had appeared in major women’s magazines, including a cover story in O, The Oprah Magazine. I am so grateful for every experience I had, and I was so blessed to have built a great company, but it was sometimes overwhelming. I went from teen entrepreneur to college student athlete and writer at the school paper, to running an office in New York City after college. I kept barreling ahead.

To be an entrepreneur, you are expected to dedicate yourself to your work, especially when hustle culture was the paradigm for success in American business and “girlbosses” were glorifying the grind. And for a Black woman in business, the self-applied pressure to be twice as good as my counterparts propelled me to work even harder. I was one of the few Black entrepreneurs in marketing at this time. I knew the spotlight was on me, and so I wanted not only to represent my family and my community but also to make them proud.

When things got really busy at Buzz Marketing Group, I just kept going. Instead of delegating the work when different clients launched big projects at the same time, I made myself even more accessible and I dug in deeper. However, that extra dedication came at a cost. I skipped taking vacations because I needed to go on back-to-back work trips. I neglected doctor’s appointments and gave up my beloved daily walks. There just was no time for any of that.

Burnout is a familiar experience, particularly now and especially among young women. We’ve been socialized to give all of ourselves to others and to stretch ourselves to satisfy everyone else’s needs before our own. At home, we’re constantly serving our families to make sure they’re cared for. For those of us who work outside the home, we’re likely to volunteer for extra tasks, even when our plates are already full. If a deadline must be met, chances are a woman on the team has volunteered to work those extra hours to ensure that the deadline gets met.

Traditionally, our culture has celebrated working hard for the money (cue that catchy tune by Donna Summer!). For decades, women have fought to gain an equal footing in the workplace, and now that we’ve come close to achieving that, it’s understandable that those who’ve made it will work hard to keep it (and help bring their fellow ladies along). Nevertheless—and this is true for everyone—our relationship with work slowly becomes an obsession. Corporations offer every amenity employees would want—sleeping pods, healthy (and free) organic snacks, wellness coaches, and office gyms—so that people never have to leave the office. We’ve all prioritized productivity over well-being. We speak honorably of those who never take vacations or call in sick. We herald young workers who give twelve hours a day to their jobs and create side hustles on social media.

While success seems to be within easy reach for those who give blood, sweat, and tears to an organization, this attitude usually leaves us exhausted, anxious, and stressed. In 2020, a Gallup poll of more than 12,000 workers found that about 76 percent of workers reported experiencing some sort of burnout on the job. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon, defined as “a syndrome . . . resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

While the WHO pinpoints workplace stress as the source of burnout, that burnout also happens when there is too much to do at home. More women than ever are the breadwinners or heads of their households. And historically, women are usually the caregivers for loved ones, such as a child or an aging parent. In the United States, the typical caregiver for an elderly family member is a forty-nine-year-old woman who provides twenty hours a week of unpaid care. Also, women spend twice as much time per day taking care of children than men.

Couple these household responsibilities with an already burdensome work life and a seemingly unending pandemic, and you get an inevitable burnout at home, too. To make matters worse, the emotional exhaustion from caregiving burnout makes it a whole different beast from work-related burnout—something I discovered firsthand when I became the primary caregiver for my dad after one of his surgeries.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, the situation reached a tipping point. People were forced to work from home, blurring the lines between workspace and personal space. In essence, employees invited their managers into their living rooms when they took Zoom calls. Working hours got extended well past the nine-to-five schedule. If you were a parent, though, you also needed to tutor your children while they navigated online schooling. And you had to secure your home, or at least your elderly relatives, from exposure to the virus.

During this time, we started to reevaluate the relationship between work and success, examining how our work lives and our personal lives were intertwined. We wondered whether commuting, much less spending hours in an office, was worth our time. We questioned whether the work we were doing felt fulfilling. We asked ourselves hard questions about how we worked, what we did for work, and why we did the work we did. And a time when the future of the world was unclear, when our health became a top priority as we navigated the pandemic, we wondered if we were prioritizing our own lives as much as we did our jobs.

The pandemic was a catalyst. It inspired us to seek a better way of allocating our time and energy. Now, people don’t just want jobs with good pay and great perks; they also want jobs that allow them to enjoy their lives, both at work and away from it. No longer are we living to work or working to live. The new standard for work in a postpandemic world is a life that prioritizes both our well-being and our personal fulfillment—that takes a holistic approach to how we satisfy our needs.

About the Author

Tina Wells
Tina Wells is the founder of RLVNT Media, a multimedia content venture that brings culture-shifting storytelling and beloved products to market through innovative partnerships. Tina has been recognized by Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business, Essence’s 40 Under 40, Cosmopolitan’s Fun Fearless Phenom, and more. She is the author of ten books, including the middle-grade novel Honest June; the bestselling tween fiction series Mackenzie Blue; its spinoff series, The Zee Files; and the marketing handbook Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right. More by Tina Wells
Decorative Carat

About the Author

Stephanie Smith
A Midwestern girl living in New York, Stephanie Smith is a New York Post Page Six reporter and writer whose blog, 300 Sandwiches, made her an Internet sensation. She is a self-described foodie with a love for chocolate, sushi, and pork buns. This is her first book. More by Stephanie Smith
Decorative Carat