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Confidence Is Crucial: Life Lessons From My Book Writing Process

People

Confidence is such a funny thing; you can have it in one area in your life and not in another. You can also have confidence at certain times in your life and then lose it. But one thing is for sure, confidence can be elusive at the times when you need it most. That moment for me was when I was fired from my C-suite position.


After 14 years climbing the corporate ladder at the same company, I had broken the glass ceiling, was recognized as one of the most influential women in radio, headlined countless conferences and had been promoted numerous times. To say that I was in shock the day another woman looked me in the eye and told me my position was eliminated is an understatement. At that moment, I really needed my confidence, but sadly it wasn't there. What was there, thankfully, is a lifetime of experience learning how to build my confidence muscle back up when it had been depleted. I got to work quickly on my 30-day plan to rebuild my confidence in order to put myself in a position to handle this new challenge with the right mindset.


Heather Monahan's book cover for "Confidence Creator"

Over those 30 days, I saw amazing support from my loved ones and network of contacts. I reached out to others for help, and they showed up. I saw terrific opportunities present themselves to me. I had started to rebuild my confidence and shift my perspective. As that change occurred, it became clear to me that I wanted to write a book. Now that may not seem like a big deal to you, but it certainly was to me. While I have always been a public speaker, a mentor and a leader in business I have never been nor have I been viewed as an “author." That seismic shift to be willing to see myself in different areas and not in the one box I had always been in was scary. Would I be good at it? Would I even be able to get it done? To start something new, you need to be willing to be a beginner and take the risk associated with doing something new which can be petrifying. So many ideas flood your mind, but the biggest is what if I fail. To push beyond that feeling and get started, I needed to remember all that I had accomplished in my life, past challenges I had overcome and how I had been a beginner at everything at one point and figured it out. I decided I was going to figure this one out too. That is when I decided I was going to write my book.

Once you decide to take a risk and try something new, you need to figure out how to do it. I had no idea how to write a book so in my standard operating procedure, I googled it. I really did. I googled how to write a book and found an outline and a webinar. The basic takeaway for me was to just start writing. To stop overthinking and worrying about what I was going to write about or what I would call the book or if anyone would like it and instead I set up space at my desk, cleared everything else off and just started writing. Since the thing on the top of my mind was getting fired, I decided to start there. Each day I would sit and write whatever it was that came to my mind. Over the next two weeks, it became clear that I was writing a book about my life, my experiences and how each one of them taught me how to build confidence. Again, I did not know this when I started but through the process of doing it, I figured this out. This strategy has worked with so many different experiences and I am always reminded that taking action and taking steps will help you to figure out where you are supposed to be going.

After writing for a couple of months, I realized I was going to need to tap a professional to let me know if what I had was good enough, needed to be modified or needed to be trashed. With no experience in writing a book, I didn't have a benchmark to compare it to. That is when I started surfing the net looking for an editor. As always the simple process of taking action led me to one. When I told my fiancé how much the editor was, he called a friend in the book business who recommended someone else, that is when I found my editor. While I wasn't entirely sure that he was the right editor for me, I felt we had a fair agreement, and he really seemed to care, I sent him everything that I had written.

Heather Monahan interview with BOLD.

Photo Courtesy of BOLD

Having an expert on board was a game changer. He immediately taught me the need to re-organize and categorize my stories and always take in different ways to benefit the reader. He showed me where I was redundant and where I need to fill out more detail.

Working with an expert allows you to leapfrog the process and this was a wise investment. We are working together back and forth on email and before I knew it things were beginning to look like a book. I will never forget the first time he emailed me over a rough draft manuscript of my book. We had been going back and forth on word docs with each chapter. Unbeknownst to me, my editor had put each document into a rough draft manuscript and the first time I saw it I cried.

Even though I had been working on this for months that was the moment I realized I was really going to be publishing a book. Every step forward takes you closer to reaching and realizing your goal, and each of those steps helps you to overcome the fear. This doesn't mean that the fear of failing or not finishing or anything else wasn't there because it was, it just means that the further you go and the more milestones you reach the closer you get to the train has already left the station so I better just let go of second guessing myself.

Heather Monahan #Bossinheels - Behind the Scenes.

Photo Courtesy of Heather Monahan

During this time I was working with my editor, I began to have conversations with others with experience in the book business, and everyone told me I needed a publisher. My fiancé knew a book agent, so I called the guy to get the inside scoop.

He said to me that without being a previously published author or without having a significant social media following or another type of large reach, platforms like tv shows or movies, there really wasn't much of a shot of getting a publisher to take me on. His suggestion was to write a book proposal and start cold calling publishers and pitching my concept. I worked on this for about a week until I realized that book proposals are a lot of work and I was basically finished with my book, and then the final straw, which was finding out the publishers would want 12-18 months to bring my book to life. That was it for me, the pivot began, and I started working on self-publishing. One thing I was clear on was I wanted my book to come out now. The timing was really important to me, and I wasn't going to risk waiting.

As per my usual, I began googling self-publishing and setting up calls with companies that guide you to self-publish. I quickly found a number of different solutions based upon the investment you wanted to make. I found a company that was willing to offer me products a la carte and I chose them since I already had my manuscript finished and edited. From that point, you would think things would move quickly but they didn't.

There is the typesetting, the fonts, the copyright and everything else that moves painfully slow in the publishing process. Even though I selected the name Confidence Creator and the cover image before I even went to the self-publishing company, we still had to go through different iterations on the cover before we found the final version. The process was much longer than I would have liked and like anything there were times that deadlines were missed and I was frustrated. There were also lots of mind-blowing moments like the day I picked my final cover and the day the final locked PDF manuscript was sent to me or the day I held my first proof copy. This week I received cases of my book to my house and I stood over them and cried. The act of holding something that was just an idea months ago is beyond surreal and gratifying. The feeling of pride and accomplishment that goes along with taking a risk and doing something new is overwhelming once the task is completed. Still not knowing what the world will think of my book, I stand here today realizing that no matter what anyone else thinks I love my book and this is already a major win for me. My confidence is at an all-time high and my ability to take risks on has never been greater. Now, I am a proud author who will no longer be put in a box. I have successfully torn down the walls that I had previously allowed to limit me. Standing here now there is only one thing I can think of and that is what I will create next!

Culture

Why Whiskey Should No Longer Be Categorized As “A Man’s Drink”

I walk into a room full of men and I know exactly what they're thinking: "What does she know about whisky?"


I know this because many men have asked me that same question from the moment I started my career in spirits a decade ago.

In a male-dominated industry, I realized early on that I would always have to work harder than my male counterparts to prove my credibility, ability and knowledge in order to earn the trust of leadership stakeholders, coworkers, vendors and even consumers of our products. I am no stranger to hard work and appreciate that everyone needs to prove their worth when starting any career or role. What struck me however, was how the recognition and opportunities seemed to differ between genders. Women usually had to prove themselves before they were accepted and promoted ("do the work first and earn it"), whereas men often were more easily accepted and promoted on future potential. It seemed like their credibility was automatically and immediately assumed. Regardless of the challenges and adversity I faced, my focus was on proving my worth within the industry, and I know many other women were doing the same.

Thankfully, the industry has advanced in the last few years since those first uncomfortable meetings. The rooms I walk into are no longer filled with just men, and perceptions are starting to change significantly. There are more women than ever before making, educating, selling, marketing and conceptualizing whiskies and spirits of all kinds. Times are changing for the better and it's benefitting the industry overall, which is exciting to see.

For me, starting a career in the spirits business was a happy accident. Before spirits, I had worked in the hospitality industry and on the creative agency side. That background just happened to be what a spirits company was looking for at the time and thus began my journey in the industry. I was lucky that my gender did not play a deciding role in the hiring process, as I know that might not have been the case for everyone at that time.

Now, ten plus years later, I am fortunate to work for and lead one of the most renowned and prestigious Whisky brands in the world.. What was once an accident now feels like my destiny. The talent and skill that goes into the whisky-making process is what inspired me to come back and live and breathe those brands as if they were my own. It gave me a deep understanding and appreciation of an industry that although quite large, still has an incredible amount of handmade qualities and a specific and meticulous craft I have not seen in any other industry before. Of course, my journey has not been without challenges, but those obstacles have only continued to light my passion for the industry.

The good news is, we're on the right track. When you look at how many females hold roles in the spirits industry today compared to what it looked like 15 years ago, there has been a significant increase in both the number of women working and the types of roles women are hired for. From whisky makers and distillers to brand ambassadors and brand marketers, we're seeing more women in positions of influence and more spirits companies willing to stand up and provide a platform for women to make an impact. Many would likely be surprised to learn that one of our team's Whisky Makers is a woman. They might even be more surprised to learn that women, with a heightened sense of smell compared to our male counterparts, might actually be a better fit for the role! We're nowhere near equality, but the numbers are certainly improving.

It was recently reported by the Distilled Spirits Council that women today represent a large percentage of whisky drinkers and that has helped drive U.S. sales of distilled spirits to a record high in 2017. Today, women represent about 37% of the whisky drinkers in the United States, which is a large increase compared to the 1990s when a mere 15% of whisky drinkers were women. As for what's causing this change? I believe it's a mix of the acceptance of women to hold roles within the spirits industry partnered with thoughtful programs and initiatives to engage with female consumers.

While whisky was previously known for being a man's drink, reserved for after-dinner cigars behind closed doors, it is now out in the open and accessible for women to learn about and enjoy too.

What was once subculture is now becoming the norm and women are really breaking through and grabbing coveted roles in the spirits business. That said, it's up to the industry as a whole to continue to push it forward. When you work for a company that values diversity, you're afforded the opportunity to be who you are and let that benefit your business. Working under the model that the best brand initiatives come from passionate groups of people with diverse backgrounds, we are able to offer different points of view and challenge our full team to bring their best work forward, which in turn creates better experiences for our audience. We must continue to diversify the industry and break against the status quo if we really want to continue evolving.

While we've made great strides as an industry, there is still a lot of work to be done. To make a change and finally achieve gender equality in the workplace, both men and women need to stand behind the cause as we are better collectively as a balanced industry. We have proved that we have the ability to not only meet the bar, but to also raise it - now we just need everyone else to catch up.