Start Now and Ask For Help: Advice to Authors from Best-Selling Author Heather Hanson Wickman
By Casmin Wisner
“…I found my voice through the process of becoming an author. It forced me to get clear on my beliefs and what I stand for.”
I had the pleasure of interviewing Heather Hanson Wickman, a best-selling author, entrepreneur and a woman on a mission to reimagine the way we work. Dr. Wickman is a highly sought after coach and consultant to progressive leaders looking to redesign their organization to meet the demands of the future workforce. Heather’s first book, “The Evolved Executive” was just listed in the top 5 Books to Help you Kick Ass in the Workplace, all cozied up next to Sheryl Sandberg and Seth Godin’s recent books. Having worked in Corporate America for 10+ years with a number of large healthcare organizations, she’s made a bold move to ditch the corporate race and traditional life to start her own firm, Untethered Consulting, all while learning what it takes to live a remote and adventurous life.
Thank you so much for joining us! What is your backstory?
I think if I had to sum it up briefly, I’d say my backstory is that I’m a ‘closet activist!’ I began my career bright-eyed and excited to climb the corporate ladder. Curious what might lay ahead and absolutely determined to set myself up for success. As in, I will work as hard as I need to work and learn as quickly as possible to succeed. However, it didn’t take long for this sinking feeling to set in that this work stuff is not all it’s cracked up to be. I grew more and more miserable trying to keep up the with political games and ensuring I looked as good as possible in the eyes of my peers and bosses. I saw this intense suffering in my colleague as well and couldn’t simply ignore it any longer. About ten years ago I began thinking there has got to be a better way.
The way we work today isn’t working, and it’s frankly wreaking havoc on our individual well-being as well as business outcomes. I’ve been on a quiet mission to shed light on this fact and provide innovative solutions to re-thinking how we come together in this world of work. Ways that not only out-perform our mediocre business results but bring meaning, joy, and fulfillment into the area of our life where we invest the vast majority of our time. With the launch of The Evolved Executive, I’ve officially come out of the closet and am now on a very public mission to bring love and humanness into the way we work and up-end our painfully outdated management practices of the past.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
How about a good story that pretty much brought me to my knees? I was working for a large, prominent organization doing incredible work with people I truly cared about. From the outside looking in, it was everything I had dreamed of in my corporate climb. Working with the top executives, engaging in crucial corporate culture work, and traveling to pretty incredible locations. But, I was dying on the inside. Something clearly wasn’t right in my world. How could it be that I have everything I wanted and I was feeling completely empty?
My husband and I were literally on our way to CA to relocate for this new position. I remember I flew out and he was on his way, but driving. I didn’t sleep much that night and called him first thing in the morning. I was scared but knew I had to do it. I told him, “babe, I’m resigning today.” I remember sitting there for what felt like 5 minutes in the silence (likely 20 seconds) and he simply said, “are you sure?” I said, yes and from that moment our lives entirely changed.
At the time, my husband was working in a senior corporate role as well and decided, if I was going to jump ship, he would as well. So in a matter of a month, we both resigned from our jobs. The year prior we lost both our dogs, had sold our house with everything in it (literally) and found ourselves in this crazy situation where we had the opportunity to reinvent our lives completely. So we did!
We spontaneously left the country and took several months to travel all over Thailand. Returned to the US and lived nomadically in our 40’ Winnebago Coach and started Untethered Consulting. I knew I had to be a part of reimagining the way we work and decided that would be exactly my mission going forward.
It feels like I went through a bit of a breakdown. I cracked. While it was painful and confusing at the time, it was such a blessing in disguise. Today, I am so grateful for the courage it took to leave and dive into the unknown.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Well, the most fascinating project is me! It feels like I’m reinventing myself every day. All joking aside, the most exciting work I have right now is helping leaders and organizations genuinely create a new way of work. I love coming alongside executives and guiding them on a process to unlearn the beliefs that keep us stuck and seeing the moments of joy when they experience work in a whole new way. When they can see how their own need for power and control stifles the creativity and engagement of the team and bravely making new choices to let go and give that power to their team. The results are profound, both professionally and personally. I’m also learning a ton about building a business. I’ve had to stretch in every way possible — from putting myself out there with a rather provocative conversation about love and business, to learning about how to market and bring new services to the world. But most importantly, learning how to design my own life in a way that is infused with meaningful work, freedom and joy.
Which people in history inspire you the most?
I remember being asked this question for a student leadership award in my undergrad program. I’ll say the same thing today. It’s gotta be Rosa Parks. While I am not a history buff, I know a bit about her story and can’t even imagine the courage it took to stand up for herself and what she believed in — in the face of intense scrutiny and hardship. I know my own sense of activism doesn’t quite compare, but I’m truly inspired by her and her legacy.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from?
When I’m not reading leadership books, I love learning more about spirituality, quantum physics and how this crazy universe works. I think there is a lot to learn from these subjects that can absolutely apply to the world of work. I do a lot of work with change. Helping people and organization move through change, supporting people who feel stuck and need to change, etc. For example, quantum physics has this concept that our thoughts create reality. If we need to create meaningful change, we have to literally rewire our thoughts and beliefs, which lead to new awareness, that allows us to make new choices. The hardest part about change is making a different choice from what you did yesterday and I find these sources provide amazing insight that helps us individually and collectively change.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Don’t wait! I waited way too long. I was scared and didn’t know if I could do it. What I realized is that I found my voice through the process of becoming an author. It forced me to get clear on my beliefs and what I stand for. It provided me with a platform to share my message and meet a whole new group of people just as passionate about this work. Also, it doesn’t have to be hard. I was lucky to find Scribe, an organization which has turned the book writing process on its head. They helped me quickly and relatively easily bring my thinking from a mishmash of ideas to a coherent and powerful book…in a matter of months, not years.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I don’t want my nieces and nephew, friend and family to have to go to work and be miserable due to a terrible boss or a toxic work environment. It doesn’t have to be that way. I want to start a movement where we don’t have to separate or balance work and life, where we have true human connection, a sense of freedom and autonomy, and are not driven from a place of fear. Simply put, I want to start a movement of putting love in action at work! This isn’t a movement absent of good business outcomes, more and more literature is highlighting the fact that when we design and operate organizations from this place of love, extraordinary outcomes follow (check out my book for full details).
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started,” and why?
- It’s not as painful as you might think! After finishing my Ph.D. I promised myself I’d never write a book again. I did it once and did not need to repeat that painful experience. I had all these negative perspectives about how brutal it was going to be, how it would take up my entire life, that I’d need to lock myself in a room for months on end to get it done. Thank goodness, none of these things came true. I won’t say it was easy, but it was a very worthwhile experience and could have entered the process with a much more positive state of mind!
- It’s not going to be perfect. I think the quote goes something like this, ’perfect is the enemy of done.’ As I was nearing the completion of the book, I swear I had three panic attacks because I was convinced it was never going to be perfect. I couldn’t have easily been swept away by this fear and never completed the book. Finally, something switched in me and was able to let go of my neurotic tendency and trust it was exactly what it needed to be. Don’t strive for perfection.
- It will change your life. I’ll be able to complete this more accurately in a year, but even today, just a few months after the launch of the book, I’ve met people and had experiences that have already changed the trajectory of my life and perspectives. This book has opened my eyes to much bigger dreams than I ever imagine and has given me the runway to make those dreams a reality.
- Ask for help! There will be times when you are completely stuck or wrapped up in your own head or struggling to make the content come to life. If you are anything like me, it’s hard to ask for help. I’d much prefer lending a helping hand versus admitting I can’t figure it out and need help. The process of writing this book pretty much forced me to face this limiting belief head on. Turns out, people love to help!
- You will touch people’s lives. The big, secret fear I had when starting the book writing process was that no one would read the book and it would be of no value. Well, for anyone just starting or thinking about starting, please through away that thought. It’s crazy talk. Your book will quickly find people who need your message at precisely the time they are ready. I don’t know how, but it happens. Trust that your message, your story, and your solution will touch people’s lives and provide inspiration in times of need. Don’t let fear stand in your way!
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Yes! Hands down, Brene Brown. Ask my friends and colleagues and they’ll tell you all I want to be when I grow up is Brene Brown. Or at least a beautiful combination of Brene Brown and me! I not only love her books and research, but my heart resonates with her vulnerability, her humor, and her willingness to face her own inner demons and lives to tell about it.
If you would like to see the entire “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” Series In Huffpost, Authority Magazine, ThriveGlobal, and Buzzfeed, click HERE.