Courtney's Story: You're Not Lucky, You Earned It

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This is a podcast episode titled, Courtney's Story: You're Not Lucky, You Earned It. The summary for this episode is: <p><strong>"It's okay to be a leader in an organization and be just a regular human being."</strong></p><p><br></p><p>In this next episode in our Stand Tall in Your Story speech series, you'll hear from Courtney Bills. Courtney is the CEO at Tactive, where she started as a commercial printer and worked her way to being the CEO. Today she shares how she earned her success.</p><p><br></p><p><strong>In this episode, you'll learn:</strong></p><ul><li>Stand up for yourself and make no apologies for it</li><li>Find your support group of like-minded people who can help you work through your experiences</li><li>No one “has it all together,” we’re all humans—even leaders</li></ul><p><br></p><p><strong>Resources:</strong></p><p>Watch <a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">The Stand Tall In Your Story - International Women’s Day</a></p><p>Join the&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">1000 Thriving Women Movement</a></p><p>Learn more about&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Rebecca and her work</a></p><p>Get your copy of&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Write Your Own Story</a></p><p>Listen to Rebecca's Audiobook&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Write Your Own Story</a></p><p>Take the&nbsp;<a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Badass Quiz</a></p><p><br></p><p><strong>Connect with Rebecca:</strong></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p><p><a href="" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank"></a></p>
01:49 MIN
What stood out to Courtney throughout her Rise & Thrive experience
02:31 MIN
Expectations vs. reality as high-achieving women
04:45 MIN
Finding the power in journaling
02:27 MIN
How Courtney found her story
03:45 MIN
Courtney's story: You're not lucky, you earned it
08:36 MIN

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: (singing) This is Write Your OWN Story: Three Keys To Rise& Thrive In Life And Business. I'm your host, Rebecca Fleetwood Hession. For you regular listeners, I know you're going to say, "I know. I know. It's your birthday month." That's okay, as long as everybody knows. And I have gifts for you. We have the women of Rise& Thrive season four who are here to talk about thriving, and they're also at the end of each of these interviews, we're going to share the talk that they gave on stage at the Vogue Theater at our fourth annual Stand Tall In Your Story event, celebrating International Women's Day. You can go to the link in the show notes and watch the videos of the talks. These women are just badass. It's amazing. I want you to watch them too because when you share the video with others on your social, or on email, however you're sharing these days, it will spark such great conversation for y'all. So, I encourage you to do that. Today on the show, we have Courtney Bills, who's the CEO of Tactive and I want you to stay through the interview so you hear her talk about standing up for yourself and why that's so important. I got to tell you, that the information about a thousand thriving women is in the show notes. And I'm telling you, to get these Thrive tools and the coaching that these women have received for little money, high value over a full year. Six months, we're going to talk about personal thriving, then three months career and leadership. And then in the final three months, I'm going to teach you how to build your own Badass Women's Council in your local community. I'm going to give you all the tools. I'm going to give you everything you need. Y'all, it's good stuff. Go check it out. Here we go. So, you've been in your seven month setup to thriving called Rise& Thrive experience. Just in general, before we dig into some of the details, how are you feeling about it? Just general overall sense?

Courtney Bills: I feel energized, excited, validated, and supported. Supported. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience since we started coaching before I joined Rise& Thrive. And I mean the minute that we met, I told you, I was like, " My gosh, I need to talk to her again. I think she sees and feels everything that I'm going through and can help me be the best person that I could be." And then once this program came available immediately it was like, " Yes, yes, I want whatever train you're driving. I'm coming along. Rebecca."

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I love that. I do remember our very first call. It was even before you had said yes to coaching, you were introduced to me and we just had our get to know you call and we dug in immediately. I mean, I was all up in your business even before had contracts signed. And the same, I was like, "Ooh, I want to work with her." It just felt right. And I think that illustrates what we teach is that you'll know when a connection is right for you. You'll just have this sense. And I sure had that with you and you're right, we were just getting started with coaching and I was immediately thinking about you for the following years Rise& Thrive because we had already started, we already had that year's group and in my mind I was like, " Oh yes, she already in it." And then I eventually said something to you like, " Oh yeah, I already have you penciled in." You're like, " Okay."

Courtney Bills: Great. I'll be there. Sign me up.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I love that. I love that. And one of the reasons I was so confident about this being a great experience for you is because of where you are in your career. You're in an organization where you're now the CEO, but you started out in the organization in a different role and have worked your way up. And that often creates just unique challenges of I used to be doing the work and now I need to lead the work and I need people outside of the work that I can have real conversations with because that whole lonely at the top thing is real. It's not just an Instagram post. So, I immediately just had that sense of, ooh, yeah, she is the perfect fit for this experience. But just for context, tell our listeners a little bit about your organization and what y'all do.

Courtney Bills: I am the CEO at Tactive and we are a tactile marketing company here in Indianapolis. Started as a commercial printer and then added a few divisions, promotional products, corporate online stores, warehousing and fulfillment. And then these amazing 3DDM is what we call them, these kits, these marketing kits that go out and they're in custom boxes and they're all colorful and it's called tactile because it's something you could touch, you can feel. So, there's these amazing creative agencies all over the US that have the minds behind great marketing strategies and then once they're done with it, somebody has to make it. And so, that's what we do. We engineer the output of whatever these creative minds have come up with.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I love this concept of just calling it out that in a digital world, we will never tire of having just things that we can touch and feel, and that represent real humanity, not the screen.

Courtney Bills: You said it. It's real. People want something real behind the digital so they can see it on screen and the minute that they can touch it, that organization and the quality that goes into whatever they're touching from that organization, automatically becomes real.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I love when I see somebody in one of my merch shirts for my business, it lights my heart on fire. It's like, " Oh my gosh, there's my brand walking around on a person." And I just now thought of this, a few months ago in one of our monthly sessions I printed out, actually you all printed out, copies of our Thrive tools, printed copies of our Thrive tools, which in the past I had often just distributed digitally because it was easier, convenient or whatever. And then I just feel like I would always print them out because I wanted to have them on my desk and write on them. And so, I printed them out for you all and immediately Maggie said, " I'm so glad you printed them." I think we just all are craving that aspect of business again.

Courtney Bills: Well, and like we said, it's bringing brands, concepts, whatever that is to... Our tagline is bringing it to real life. So, we took your digital version and we made something real and tangible out of it that people could connect with, they could touch, they could feel, and they could go back to express themselves through their own writing and add their own touches to and really bring the gap of those to your digital thoughts and the reality of whatever it is that messages that you're trying to share together.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And your business has grown and evolved as you described, which also creates its own set of challenges and opportunities and we've been able to work on the business side of that and coaching and through Rise& Thrive. But I'd love for you today to tell a little bit about your experience with Rise& Thrive because it is very much a personal experience. Everybody has their own thing that comes from it. It's not like this plug and play timed outline. Everybody gets the same thing. So, when you reflect on the experience to this point, what are some of the things that stand out for you as either things that surprised you, or just tangible takeaways that you weren't expecting?

Courtney Bills: So, there's a couple of things. One of them is the feeling of confidence and support and validation behind some of the feelings that I was having and getting with another group of individuals. And in our case it was women and they were all working moms, that were juggling some of the very same homework, not issues, but the juggling between the two that were difficult and the personal relationships and going from, like you said, working next to someone, to then being leading them and getting yourself out of the weeds of the daily work that you're doing all the time that you can check off a list, to then in charge of leading something that's you're not going to see an outcome for six months. You go through a lot of emotions when you can't check that list off as fast as you used to and then you have to go home and you're a wife and you're a mother and you've got a whole nother set of responsibilities that you're leading someone's life and you're leading a company on during the day and you're leading people's lives at night. And there's inner struggles that come with that. While it's extremely exciting and fulfilling to do, it takes a toll. It takes a toll on you. And to hear other women and other leaders that feel the same way and for you to know, okay, this is real. I'm not crazy, I'm not failing, I'm not failing at this. There's other people that are going through the same thing. They look like they've got all their stuff together too. And then when you peel back the layers, we are all just humans trying to do the best that we possibly can and interacting on some of those points and the validation that, okay, you are good at what you do. You're not going to do things right all the time or what you feel is right all the time, but you're giving it 110% and other people that are in that same boat and the imposter syndrome that we talk about, it's real. It's real. So, the validation behind it alone and seeing other... the connection between the women and the group and our businesses, we found out our businesses work together and half of us didn't even realize it. I was like, " That's you? I didn't know that was you." So, that was really cool. It's a small world, but to actually meet the faces behind that and see that they are just like you is super cool, super cool.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I just wrote down for my marketing next year, I need to write, " You're not crazy and you're not failing. Let us validate those feelings." Because that's the reality of it. You go home at night sometimes after a long day at work and you sit faced with whatever's waiting for you at home to serve there too. And sometimes you just don't have enough emotional bandwidth to handle it all. And the space each month is really meant to recharge you. While you're busy out serving everybody all the time, it's you know monthly, you can just charge your battery back up, get validated, get your emotional fill. And sometimes there are tears, there's laughter, there's self- deprecating, making fun of how crazy it all is, but there's nothing that's not safe there.

Courtney Bills: Correct, exactly, exactly. And to have somebody sitting straight across from you and to be able to say, " Girl, I have been there. This is how I did it. This is how I got through. Have you tried this?" You feel immediately you're not alone. And that there's a way out of whatever you feel at that time is the biggest hurdle personally or professionally. Someone else can step in there and say, " I'm with you. I'm in the same lane. Here's what I went through and then here's how I got through it and have you thought about trying this?" And that goes with everything, like I said, from personal all the way through professional because it is a service. You said the word. When people say, " Oh, you're the CEO, that's great, congratulations." I don't think what people understand is it's a service role. The best CEOs are serving their employees. They're leading and serving.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And most days, especially in the size company that you lead, where it's all hands on deck too. So if you were thinking about it through the lens of a restaurant, you take the order, you cook the order, you serve the order, you clean the kitchen sometimes. It's very all hands on deck and you are a very hands- on leader. In fact, that's some of the things that we've worked on in coaching is, it's hard not to be even as the CEO, sometimes you do have to raise up into strategy and vision and looking out and you have such a servant heart, that you want to just jump in and run machines and help people pack orders and what do we need to do? Because your heart is, let's make this the best that it can be. The other part of the monthly sessions that I think are so valuable but hard to articulate to people is that you know have a space every single month to just think, to just have reflection, to have space. I get the benefit of seeing everybody and feeling the energy when they get in the room, which sometimes is coming off of a tough meeting or sometimes there's phone calls that are happening in the parking lot. We've had people walk in tears. There's always something that's happened that morning and by the time you get there at one o'clock in the afternoon, I can feel the energy when you come in and then I can feel the energy when you leave. And that's some of my favorite... those are the things that feel like my performance evaluation, is that if I can feel that shift start to happen and people start to lean into that space, they know that we're doing good stuff.

Courtney Bills: Yeah, and it's because you can be yourself and as you get... The first meeting with the other people in the room, you're reserved. You're saying that you're putting your best foot forward and all, but you still got that mask on. By the second, third, those layers are peeling and then by the end you're walking in and you can tell them just about anything and you know you're not going to be judged and they will straight tell you to your face, " You're doing that wrong. I don't recommend that. You're going to lose employees if you do that." Or, " Hey, you're doing that, great, keep going. I wish I could do that." And that's where the work's done. That's where the work's done.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And that's exciting to me about this community continuing to grow, is you'll not only have the people from your season, but now you'll have the previous seasons and all the seasons that come after, that are very, very tight- knit. I want to hear your experience because you and I are very similar in this way. I had never been a girly girl. I was raised with all boys, I was raised on a small farm. I went squirrel hunting instead of going to church. I never dressed up. Other than being a cheerleader in school and having some girlfriends, if you would've said to me in my younger years, " Oh, you're going to lead a business that specializes in women," I'd be like, " No, I'm not." God has a sense of humor and puts you where He needs you. So, I'm thrilled and I'll change it for the world, but I didn't see it coming and we've talked about that. And so, you said we were reserved when you first met, so having not been that person that typically did women's things, what were your expectations? You said yes, I think mostly because you trusted me and knew I wasn't going to set you up for failure, but what were you expecting?

Courtney Bills: I was expecting to walk into a room with a bunch of high level women that had all their shit together and that knew... that were running the biggest companies in town and I was just a little fish in their sea, trying to gain as much knowledge as I could. And they all had perfect hair and perfect outfits and they had it all together. Really, that's what I thought. Because I think people put certain... a woman in business, or that gets to a certain level, and I do it too, you put them up on this unfair pedestal to where you think that this must be how it is. And in actuality, these women all are beautiful in their own way and they all have great hair in their own way and they're just like me. They're just like me. And it's okay to be a leader in an organization and be just a regular human being.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: The very first thing we talk about is uncertainty. See, your brain can't help but make up a story. Before you get there, you're making up the story of what you think it's going to be like. And I still do that. Nobody gets a pass on uncertainty. You don't get to say, " Oh, I learned about that, so I'm not going to experience it anymore." That's not a thing. Even to this day, and I teach this every single day of my life, if I need to walk into a room, especially one with all women, like a networking thing, or even if I'm going in to do a keynote or something, there's this uncertainty that I hope this place is going to be safe for me. I hope that I fit in or belong. All of it, still today, after all these years, there's that moment before you walk in the door where you just take a deep breath and you just have to leap in there because the only way to get more comfortable is to get your ass in the door.

Courtney Bills: Right? It's true. And if you want to talk really personal, when I was in college, I joined a sorority and I knew going into it that I was going to feel intimidated and that there was going to be a reputation that I needed to live up to, and I still joined it anyways. And I lost myself trying to live up to something that I thought was expected out of me. I lost myself physically, mentally, and leading in, that's when I ended up on the path that put me right into falling in love with my backup school. But it was because I walked into an organization that was all women and I thought I had to change who I was, and I started to change who I was and it was in an unhealthy manner. And so, to come into this organization, " Okay, I'm coming into another room with a bunch of women and they were all going to be what I thought I was walking into when I was 18," and it's not the case. They are just like me. They're moms, they're working, they don't know all the answers, but they're giving it their absolute best to serve the people that they're leading and doing it to their best of their ability. And they know they don't have all the answers, which is why they're in the room with you and they're looking to someone like you, Rebecca, to help us guide ourselves down this path of betterment. So yeah, it was scary to have gone through something that put me on a totally different path when I was younger, to then enter into it again at 40 something and not have some of those flashbacks as to what had happened in the past. And like I said, this has been the best experience for me professionally.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I have never thought about that, the juxtaposition of those two experiences. I knew your experience from college, we've talked about that, but I'd never put those two things together. That's one of the things I love about doing this podcast now with each of you, is every single time I've gotten on with someone else, there's been something we hadn't talked about yet that has surprised me. And that's such a beautiful, just healing opportunity. I hadn't thought about it that way.

Courtney Bills: It's really neat to have gone through the experience and then to be able to reflect back on those days when I was younger and to see at that point in time, it wasn't the sorority, it wasn't the school, it was me. And how far I've come since then, to be able to have walked into another situation that's full of high achieving women and thinking there's some expectations that I need to live up to and to say, " Whoa, wait a minute. No, that's not how this goes. It's not 18 year old immature you anymore. You're past that. You're bigger than that."

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: You're standing tall in your story, which you mentioned your backup school. And that's the story that people are going to hear after our interview today. But I wanted everybody to get some context on how these stories came to be and what you just said points directly to the very first stage of burnout in the research, is this insatiable need to prove ourselves. And that's what was happening to you at 18, and now you were able to flip the script on that. And that's significant for anybody that has danced with burnout, or gone full in like I did. To be able to stop and say, " No, that's not where I'm at now." And make the decision for it not to be that is so important because you're probably going to have challenges again in the future somewhere, that's going to try to pull you in to-

Courtney Bills: Absolutely, yeah.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: ...prove yourself or do something differently.

Courtney Bills: But lead back though, the beginning of what I had said was when seven months ago I was having those feelings when we first started, it doesn't go away, but going through the experience of Rise& Thrive, I learned about myself and I learned about leadership and I learned about women in a way that I hadn't experienced before. And so, the outcome is, thanks to you and the other Thrive guides, this is the result. It's not somebody that has to change their story. It's somebody that can stand tall in their story and they can make friends and they can be proud of the position that they're in and the family that they're in and the path that they took. And they can relate to the people sitting at the table with them every single month in some way, shape or form.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: You said several times the validation, and I want to dig into that a little bit more because that's what makes this experience personal, emotional, which the human needs that we have personal, emotional and social, is you get to discover you. I'm just going to hold up the mirror and help you see you. And so, the validation, can you share some examples of either journaling times or reflection times, or anything in particular that comes to mind that helped with that?

Courtney Bills: There were some hard decisions that had to be made in the workplace. I am very emotional when it comes to the employees that are here and when some of those hard decisions have to be made. And one of the things that I had learned through... and I'm not a journaler, I was never a journaler, but one of the things we were taught was write out everything you're feeling in this time. I know it's hard and I know it hurts. You need to write all of that down so you can get it out. And so, when you get to this point again, because you will sometime in your life where this situation will happen again, you can look back at how you felt through it, how you handled it, and what that outcome was. And that was a really helpful for me, almost like a stress relief reliever, just to just get it all out and then to be able to reference that back, because you're right, it's going to happen again and-

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Absolutely.

Courtney Bills:'s going to be hard again. And to have something to go back and look at and say, " Yeah, it was really hard then, but look, I got through it and this is where I'm at in the journey of my journaling of where I was, how I'm feeling right now with the scared and hurt of that decision or whatever that is that has to be made. There I was back then too, and I got through it." And so, you got some more emotions still to go. There's still five more pages of writing of emotions that you're going to go through, but you will get through it. And that was very helpful.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And that's the point, is to shift it. We call ourselves Thrive Guides, myself, Alex Perry, Eliza Kingsford, and Alyssa Teal. But our entire role is to help you trust you because we all have our own inner Thrive guide. That inner voice that says, " Is this right? Am I going to fit in? What's happening?" And all we do is help you trust that voice that you have for yourself and journaling and writing things down to have something, again, going back to something tactical and to go back and read and say, " That's me."

Courtney Bills: That's me. That's my words, that's my handwriting, that's my ink, my notebook. That was my experience.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And so, I can trust me to get through whatever I've got coming next, whatever the next best decision is that you need to make. I love that.

Courtney Bills: And another validation was when the owners had come to me and asked, there'd never been a CEO before. And they said, how" Do you feel about taking on this role?" And I said, " Okay, because that's just how I am. Jump in. Okay, now what? Now what do I do?" And the first thing that they said is, " You're going to need a support group, and you're going to need to have somebody that is outside of this organization that you can ask questions to, that you can bounce ideas off of, and that can help you navigate your way through this." Because they said, " We're founders. We've never had a CEO before. We don't know what a CEO does. We know that to scale our business up, we need to put some things in place and we feel that you're the right person to lead the direction that we're going and the scalability and the long- term growth of this company." And they saw something in me before I even knew that that was there. I mean, I shouldn't say I knew it was there. It's something I always wanted. But wow, as we get older, nobody comes up to you as you're older and says, " Way to go. Good job. I think you should go on to the next level of this." When you're a younger child, you're continually validated and your schoolwork and your sports and your grades and all of that. And so, to have two individuals come to me and say, " Hey, we've built this company for 20 years. We want it to go on for another 20 years, and we think you're the person to lead it," that's exciting and scary. So then they say, " Make sure you have a good support group." And that's where we then were introduced to you, Rebecca. And then I had all these feelings inside as to what I thought a good leader would be and how I thought things should be ran. And to have yourself and another group of women that are... to come to them and say, " This is how I handled it, was this right?" And them to validate, " Yes, that's exactly what I would've done, that's exactly... Yes." I know you're thinking it because I hadn't experienced a CEO role before. There's a lot of gut instinct that you're going on, and that's based on your foundation of maybe how you were raised or your background or your experiences. And to get into a group with some other people that are in the same spot and to say, " Yep, that's how I did it." That validates like, I'm doing something right here. Yes, the numbers are going in the right direction, but the employees are happy, and I have a group of people that I can talk to that can yay or nay me when that time comes.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: I want to just affirm how wonderful it is that your founders recognize that having support was going to be a necessary part of the journey. Not all leaders are that great. In fact, we've had other participants who were not as supported, and I need to send them a thank you for just being the great humans that they are, to understand that human need that we have no matter what position that we're in, especially when we're in a senior leadership position.

Courtney Bills: I think sometimes, there's gender barriers that sometimes pop up. And these two individuals, I'm just a person to them, it doesn't matter. I'm a leader for them and they're male and I'm female and that doesn't matter. And they have supported me wholeheartedly, 110% since the minute I walked in this door. And for that, I'm extremely thankful and humbled by.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: That's good stuff. We need them. We need more of them. That's good stuff. That's super good stuff. So, our listeners are going to hear your story that you told on the stage on March 8th for International Women's Day. What kind of context or setup do you want to share about the story, either in your experience in deciding what the story was going to be or just what context do you think would be interesting for them to hear before they hear the story?

Courtney Bills: Yeah, so At the beginning of our Rise & Thrive journey, Rebecca tells us that we have to tell our story on stage. And for six months, I was putting off what that story was. I didn't have a story. I don't have a story. And there's even a part where we're asked to write down 20 different topics that mean something to us, that maybe have happened in our lives. I'm writing all these things down and I still don't have a story. No one's going to want to hear what I have to say. I don't have a story. I don't have a story.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: And you did write down 20 different story options and still didn't feel like you had a story.

Courtney Bills: No, I didn't. And then all of a sudden it just... two of those things merged together, two of those ideas. I took a time in my life that was very difficult for me, that I had no idea was going to be what was the turning point to set me up in my career to where it is today. And at the beginning, there were things in that story I wasn't comfortable talking about. I didn't want people to know about, I was embarrassed about. But through this journey, I realized, that's me. That is my story. And there's other people out there that have been in my shoes, and I always thought I was the only one. I went on to a podcast prior to my speech and was asked about my story, but just the background that I had growing up in high school, college and sports and all the things. And when it got to that part of my life, the person that I was speaking with at Element Three, he dug in, he dug into that personal part and kept asking questions and kept asking questions. And after that podcast was over, I said, "People do want to hear my story. People can relate. People have had these experiences." And when I walked off stage, there was somebody out in the audience with tears filled in their eyes, and I went through the same thing and, "Oh my gosh." That's something that you told us would happen. And there's that validation again.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: You and I both share a strong faith, and I think it's worthy of mentioning, we talked about uncertainty of being a human experience. The dark side of uncertainty is when we allow it to be fear. And fear is the weapon that darkness uses to create pain and isolation. And that's when we go through things, especially at an age when you're already in a state of maturation that you're questioning everything about who you are and who you need to be and all of those things that it's easy to think that you're the only one, and then you don't want anybody to know about it, so then you don't talk about it. So, then you just create this wall of isolation that keeps you from being the absolute best that you can be because you don't want anybody to know how much you're hurting or how afraid you are. And the fact that your story, that pain and that isolation and that fear became a part of the transformation is just so beautiful. It says in the Bible, " He'll use it all together for your good." And in the time that you're going through this stuff, it's hard to see how that could ever be for good. But I love that the story that people are going to hear from you from the stage was now no fear. You're ready to stand up for yourself. And you've learned that, and it's time.

Courtney Bills: It's time.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: People need our stories.

Courtney Bills: They do. They do.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: What's the one takeaway from your story that you will continue to keep in your pocket?

Courtney Bills: At the end of the story, you're going to hear me say, " You're not where you are in your career because you got lucky. You're there because you earned it." And that's my takeaway. And then I know I said, " I'm here because I earned it," and it's a long time coming, and it's okay to be proud of yourself and to be proud of your company, and to be proud of the school that you went to and all the darkness you might have gone through before you got to that school, but you earned it. You earned where you are, and it's okay to be proud of that and stand up for yourself and share your experiences with others because you might show them a side to something that they never dreamed possible.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: That was the entire intent of this event being the... encapsulating the whole experience. I wrote in my journal one day, " If we stand tall in our stories... " I'd been writing a lot about story and I knew that was a part of the book, and I knew that was a big deal. And I wrote, " If we stand tall in our stories, we'll give confidence and courage to others to do the same." And it's that ripple effect that I care so much about because we want to have impact in our lives. And standing on that stage and telling stories every single year, there is somebody in that audience and sometimes more than one that needed to hear what you said. And if you're listening someone and think, " Oh, maybe season five is for me," then come join us because we'll start signing people up in June to start in September. So, there's your call out.

Courtney Bills: Do it.

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: All right. Ladies and gentlemen, you're about to hear Courtney's story from International Women's Day. Here we go.

Courtney Bills: How many of you have planned for a moment in your life or a series of events only to have it completely disrupted by reality? I had a high school coach that used to say to me, " Courtney, you can plan all you want, put everything in a perfect row, but then life happens. It can all change in an instant." Well, I had it all planned out after high school. I moved from Northwest Indiana down to Indianapolis to go to Butler University. I was scared, also excited and looking forward to spreading my wings and being away from home for the first time. First year, fantastic. Education was top- notch. Joined a sorority, made some friends, no complaints whatsoever. Going into my sophomore year though, I had some troubles and unfortunately my physical body was not able to keep up with some undealt with emotions that I had experienced previously, and I knew that I needed to make a change. Let me tell you, there were three things that could get my butt moved back to Crown Point once I left for college. One, if I got a tattoo. Two, if I found myself pregnant. And three, was if I dropped out of school. So, not knowing what to do, imagine you're standing there, I did the only thing a broke 19 year old could do at that time, I called my parents. And I said, " Mom and dad, please can you come down to Indianapolis and meet with me? I've got some news." Yeah, just the thing they want to hear from their 19- year- old daughter. Now, I remember it very well. We went for lunch and I went ahead and I shared my news. I did not feel that this position that I was in at that school was good for me and I needed to make a change and school wasn't going to be an option. I'm pretty sure my dad had about five Jamesons and 10 smoke breaks, all while my mom got herself a big glass of wine so that she could do something that she did really well, which was mediate between me and my father. She didn't disappoint. We found our middle ground. Now, my parents are extremely supportive and they said, " We will help you. We help you get the help that you need, but if you want to stay in Indianapolis, you will not be dropping out of school. We don't care where you go. You don't have to go back to Butler, but you got to keep riding that train and you got to keep moving forward with your education." Okay, middle ground, that's cool. Help, check, good. So, I didn't know what I was going to do. I did have plans. Maybe I'm going to go to DePauw, maybe I'm going to go... I don't even know, anywhere but where I currently was at that point in time. But I needed to sign up for classes to stay in school, and I did that at what I was calling at that time, my backup college. That was IUPUI. That's when what my coach told me was going to happen, happened. Life. What was supposed to be my temporary plan ended up being my actual plan, and I fell in love with that university. I love the diversity, I love the adult interaction in the classroom, that mixed immature 20 year olds at that point, like myself, with more mature people that had careers and families and a whole different viewpoint that I could have imagined. I love my teachers. I met amazing new friends and the education that the IU Kelly School of Business right here in Indianapolis gave me, set me up perfectly to be successful as I can in my career. All right, let's fast forward to 2022. I'm with some friends and we are out on a back deck having a wine night under those really cool patio, Paris lights that are strung, that are so popular right now. And there's a woman there that I didn't know. She was new to our group, but she was lovely. She fit right in. She was smart, she was successful, and she actually worked for IU in the SPEA business department, but out of the Bloomington campus. She knew nothing about my backstory, so we'll just start with that. During one of our topics of conversation, she mentioned some things that were a little different, viewpoints about the Indianapolis campus that I just told you pretty much saved my life, and I loved. The words, subpar, leftover professors and resources were mentioned. Yeah, that didn't go so well. Well, everybody though, you're entitled to your own opinion. Everyone has different experiences, right? So, I sat there and I listened and I asked her questions and those questions provoked answers, and the answers completely and utterly me pissed off. So, I tried, guys. I tried. My blood pressure was raising, my heart was pounding, my chest was tightening, and I was pretty much wanting to scream from the inside out. Took my glass of wine, threw my shoulders back, took a big drink just so I could steady myself and say absolutely nothing. Nothing. I didn't say a thing. How could I? That would've been rude. I was a guest at someone's house. Raise of hands, how many of you have been in that situation? You bit your tongue. You said nothing for whatever reason that might be? Maybe you were a guest and that would be rude. Maybe Uncle Joe is at Thanksgiving and he is out on one of those tangents again, and you're like, " I just don't want to mess with the piece on this one." Maybe you've got a coworker or a friend and they have taken credit for your work and they've done it right in front of your boss. Don't want to be that person. Maybe someone you love and respect and look up to, discredits your recent promotion. Your stomach sinks and you just don't have the words. Whatever your reason might be, you deserve to be heard, and that's what I'm here to tell you tonight. Explain to people where you came from. What is your story? What is your background? So you can give them a completely different perspective that they never might have ever imagined possible. Tell them the reason that you got that promotion was because of the time, hard work and dedication that someone saw in you for putting yourselves in a selfless position for your organization, all to make the most success you possibly could. You're passionate. You're passionate about your job, your family, your career, and that passion shows. None of you are where you are tonight because you got lucky. You're all there because you earned it. I'm here on this stage because I earned it. This is my story and I am so thankful for that beloved backup school. All those leftover professors in the resources that gave me their time, their knowledge, their tools, and the skills that I needed to take me on a journey that puts me standing tall in my story right here on this stage in front of all you fine people, a very proud wife, mother, daughter, Jaguar sure, and the CEO of the best, I'm telling you guys, the best tactile marketing agency of our kind. ( singing)

Rebecca Fleetwood Hession: Thanks for listening to this episode. I would love it if you would leave a rating and a review on Apple Podcast and then go to wethrive. live. First thing you'll see is a place to drop your email and join the movement. I'll send you tools that you can use to thrive in life and business. ( singing) Hey y'all. Fun fact. Did you like the music for the podcast? That is actually my son, Cameron Hession, and I would love it if you would go to Spotify and iTunes and follow him and download some of his other music. My personal favorite's TV Land.


"It's okay to be a leader in an organization and be just a regular human being."

In this next episode in our Stand Tall in Your Story speech series, you'll hear from Courtney Bills. Courtney is the CEO at Tactive, where she started as a commercial printer and worked her way to being the CEO. Today she shares how she earned her success.

In this episode, you'll learn:

  • Stand up for yourself and make no apologies for it
  • Find your support group of like-minded people who can help you work through your experiences
  • No one “has it all together,” we’re all humans—even leaders

Connect with Rebecca: