“Survive to Thrive”: Spotlighting Hilary Beard’s Story, Part II

Entrepreneurs are praised for their triumphs, but what about their struggles and the journeys that brought them to success? In their new book, “Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders,” Faisal Hoque and Lydia Dishman let us look behind the curtain, sharing stories of now-thriving, prominent figures of business, like Julie Wainwright and Andy Sack.

Continue reading Hilary Beard’s amazing story, as told in a four-part series of blog posts, in which she struggles to claim her own vocation, not as a lawyer, but as a New York Times best-selling author and writing coach. To read more stories that redefine success and empower your own career, visit http://survivetothrive.pub/.

I Have the Power to Be Fearless, Part II

In biting the bullet and taking a “good” job, [Hilary] could at least play a small part of a larger effort to contribute to her family’s future. That decision would plunge her deeply into the corporate conglomerates of two globally recognized, Fortune 500 companies. Beard demurs to name the companies, save to say that each is a household name. She began to climb the ladder, moving progressively towards having more responsibility in sales and marketing. Along the way, Beard went through various training programs in leadership, diversity, etc. One work shop, in particular, made her aware of something she’d been shutting her eyes to for a long time.

On the surface, her colleagues were successful. They earned hefty salaries and had perks, like company cars and expense accounts. That veneer was very thin, she says. Despite logging long hours, some regularly took Tylenol PM to go to sleep. Others were addicted to alcohol or overate to the point of obesity. Though surrounded by hundreds of colleagues every day, at a basic level, she recalls, “They were lonely.” Beard likens her realization to when Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals the Wizard of Oz as just a guy pulling levers to simulate magical happenings. For all the training these corporations were providing to advance her career, says Beard, “The thing I was being mentored and groomed to do wasn’t what it looked like. The white men [executives] in the organization were paying a tremendous price, and I was not sure I wanted that.” Why dedicate all of your time and energy to a job that promises advancement but little personal fulfillment? Or worse, doesn’t treat you as a whole human being?

She had already witnessed that cost first hand when her father had a stroke at work and his boss never came to see him in the hospital. “For all of his hard work and sacrifice,” she says, there was no human connection between the supervisor and her dedicated father. During this time, her mother also developed breast cancer, but continued to care for her ailing father, a feat Beard pronounces “heroic.” So, when her company said they would sponsor Beard to get a graduate degree, she paused. On the one hand, having an all-expenses-paid side trip to academia to get a combined JD/MBA could be a boon to any career. If she decided to eventually leave the company, she’d have not one, but two career paths open to her. Practicing law or advancing in business could both be lucrative. The security that a six-figure salary could buy was not to be ignored.

At a development workshop, Beard recalls telling a coworker that she had other dreams, but if she pursued them she wouldn’t have enough money. “A woman there said ‘Hilary, there is never enough money,’” she says, adding that she can still remember the sound of that woman’s voice. Later on, when she had to make the decision whether or not to enroll in the degree program she says, “I had to admit to myself that the only reason I was doing it was to have enough money when I was 50 to quit and become a writer.” She was, as she puts it, in the “golden handcuffs” of stock options, health benefits, and a car allowance.

So, torn between the desire to help her family and continue to support herself and her own deep-seated wish to pursue her dream of writing, Beard says she experienced a personal crisis. “I couldn’t continue to hear that question about health insurance,” she says, “When you are in a corporate culture, you are indoctrinated NOT to know those things.” This frustration was also partly fueled by an ethical dilemma. By this time, Beard was working for a major beverage company. Still young and in good health, she’d always thought of soda as an innocuous treat. During her tenure at the company, she came to the realization that those beverages were loaded with high fructose corn syrup and chemical additives. She felt she was “peddling poison” to children. “That night I cried,” she says. In part because, no matter how hard she worked and saved, she wasn’t contributing something that would make the world a better place. Though tired and dispirited she wept but knew, “I was not going to give up on myself.”

Read the rest of Hilary’s story in the next blog post, “‘Survive to Thrive’: Hilary Beard’s Story, Part III.” Click here to read her story from the beginning and learn more about “Survive to Thrive: 27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, And Leaders” by Faisal Hoque and Lydia Dishman.

Reprinted with permission of the authors from “Survive to Thrive:  27 Practices of Resilient Entrepreneurs, Innovators, and Leaders” (Motivational Press, 2015) by Faisal Hoque and Lydia Dishman.  Copyright (c) 2015 by Faisal Hoque and Lydia Dishman.  All rights reserved.

Categories: Best Practices Coaching Entrepreneurial Journey Goal Setting Inspirational Interview Lessons Learned Make a Mark Women Entrepreneurs

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