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

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 III

While she was struggling to find her way through, Beard’s internal GPS — her feelings and intuition — provided some guidance. She recalls going to a writers’ workshop during this time. “I was so nervous,” she admits, “but I immediately felt at home.” Having a panel of editors from New York talk to her about her work further buoyed her spirits. “They said ‘please send me something that isn’t a Terry McMillan knock-off,’” she remembers, laughing. She did snag one editor’s card. “I hung on to it for years.” More than the validation she got in conversation with the editors, Beard says she also began to feel that her joy in immersing herself into a creative pursuit was a valid way of knowing which path to take. This is when she started plotting her escape with a peer at the company. The two put their heads together and created a development plan. “We did that for work,” she rationalized, “Why couldn’t we do it for our dreams?”

Laying out the plan’s steps, Beard realized she would have to make some radical changes to her life. She wanted to move to New York City, but “just couldn’t figure the math out.” Though young and single, she went ahead and purchased a four-bedroom house, reasoning that she could rent out the extra rooms if she needed to bring in more money while pursuing a creative life. Disaster scenarios continued to haunt her. What if she wasn’t able to earn a living writing? What if she lost everything?  At this point, Beard says, she started going to therapy and hypnosis, “To disconnect me from events that had taken place that drove that socialization home and drove the fear in me.”

The plan culminated in picking a day to quit. It would turn out to be the day her mother died. Though grieving, Beard contends, “My mother [dying] is not why I left. I just became clearer and clearer about who was important to me. It made it more difficult to go back to selling sugar water.” All the pieces of her dreams and the reality of her life were starting to come together in an unexpected way. As a side project, Beard had devoted more time to genealogical research. In addition to learning the facts about her great-great grandparents, Beard learned that her grandmother had moved from Georgia to New York, to escape the continuing oppression in the south. She eventually became Gloria Vanderbilt’s cook at the Breakers, the family’s Newport manse, and then set out to start her own business. “My parents were the first generation of people who worked for others,” Beard came to realize, “Everyone else was an entrepreneur.” Except, of course, Beard herself.

In the midst of her dark night of the soul, Beard could feel herself shedding the uniform of the “corporate chicken.” Thinking of her family lineage, where members fought to be free, Beard repeats, “I didn’t want to be a coward.” She had planned for it to take three months before being fully employed in a dream job, but a year and a half later Beard was still relying on the savings she had put away (she had never used that car allowance to buy a new car) and continued to pray for guidance. During this time, she interviewed for corporate jobs in moments of self-doubt. “I was in unfamiliar territory,” she explains. At least in her corporate office, “you may not be happy, but you know the rules.” The job interviews were a disaster. Her heart wasn’t in it, and it showed. “I couldn’t ace it because I couldn’t tell the lie that I wanted the job. I would be tongue tied, and I knew how to market myself,” she contends.

While Beard waited for the transformation to get started, “I would get up at the same time each morning waiting for someone to tell me what to do,” she recalls. “All of a sudden I was in that space and lost.” Beard remembered the feelings she had while attending writers’ conferences and poetry readings. She knew she had to make it happen. That was when a job opening at a small health and wellness publication opened. It was to work on the magazine’s distribution strategy, not editorial. “The idea made me feel depressed,” Beard confesses, but she thought she would do it if she could at least be near the creative department. Then the magazine’s managing editor resigned and Beard desperately wanted to take her place.

She passed the editing test with ease. “The next thing I knew, I was their editor at less than half of my corporate salary,” she says, laughing at the memory. It wasn’t long before another opportunity arose, this time to work on a manuscript for a health book. Beard was unsure whether she had the chops to work on a book, as it was so early in her new career. But her passion for writing overruled her uncertainty. She also got a boost of confidence from the editor who had given her his card years before. Beard found out that it was his project. He remembered her saying warmly, “You never don’t have the answer; you do know what you are doing.” And she did.

During this time, she connected with former Essence magazine executive editor Linda Villarosa, who encouraged Beard to work for herself. Her entrepreneurial ancestors’ path was beckoning. She hung out her own shingle right after 9/11. Though the country was in turmoil, Beard was taking her journey, one step at a time. She admits, though, there was plenty of fear, anxiety, doubt, and insecurity to overcome, yet she managed to stay the course thanks to a deep and abiding faith — in God, as well as in herself. She looks at her resilience and success as an entrepreneur this way. “I screwed up a lot of things,” says Beard, “But have I failed? No. I was quite successful at corporate, and I was only bringing a fraction of myself. How could I fail when I am giving it my all?”


Read the ending of Hilary’s story in the series’ final post, “‘Survive to Thrive’: Hiliary Beard’s Story, Part IV.” Click here to read Hilary’s 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.

Categories: Best Practices Entrepreneurial Journey general Goal Setting Inspirational Interview Legacy Lessons Learned WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS


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