Episode 1

Attitude and Abundance with Andrea Heuston

Published on: 13th January, 2021

We start our first season with a fascinating conversation with award-winning entrepreneur and CEO Andrea Heuston, who lets us in on a few secrets about

  • what success means
  • how to nurture the attitude to be able to deal with whatever life throws at you
  • how we should always think in abundance and
  • what she learned about control after a close encounter with death.

Andrea is CEO of Artitudes Design. She also runs a podcast called Lead Like a Woman, which aims to empower women to empower others.

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Music: Pablito's Way by Paolo Pavan

Transcript
Maribel:

Yes, so it was a really nice way of meeting you online, Andrea. Thank you very much for agreeing to have this conversation with us. I'm really happy that it's working out, even though we've only e-met. When Helen and I were discussing who are the kind of people that we want to invite to our podcast, one of the first persons that I wrote, even without knowing you, I'm just gonna ask her. I mean, that she could just say no and then I don't lose anything. I was inspired when I saw you first on LinkedIn because your posts and things that you share are meant to empower and support women in business and otherwise in general. Can you tell us a little bit, Andrea, about how your business journey started?

Andrea:

Oh, it started a long, long time ago. I started my business 25 years ago this past August. And I did so because I was laid off at the corporate job that I had been working. So I had started at this corporation when I was 17 years old. I worked my way up in their graphic design team to be the head of the Creative Services. So I was the Creative Services Manager. And the company was purchased by a French company, it was an electrical engineering company. It was really, really dry. But it was purchased by a French company and they came in and said, You need to lay off 30% of the staff. So they called me and they said you need to lay off your team. I was 24 years old. I had no idea what I was doing and I was so surprised. So I laid them all off, I went through the process. And the next day I came to work and they laid me off — something I had not expected and not seen coming because I was 24 years old. So I went home to lick my wounds and figure out what was next because I had no idea. And two days later they called me back and said, We made a mistake, we need you to come back with one of your team members to completely implement the brand new brand change for the French company. And I said I'll call you back. And I hung the phone up and I drove that day down to the state capital and purchased a business license, because back then you couldn't do it online — it was a long time ago. So I purchased a business license and I came back and the next day I called the manager and I said yes, we will come back. But it will be me you are paying through my own company. And then I gave them my business information and they paid me and that's how the company started. Now, I also had not a lot of money because I was young and it was the early 90s. And so my grandmother gave me a $5,000 loan to buy a brand new computer, a laser printer and business cards, and then I had to pay her off with interest.

Maribel:

Well, that was a business woman.

Andrea:

Oh, yes. But you know, she supported me completely. And that's how Artitudes was born. So it's been a long time now. So the first 10 years, I worked as a sole proprietor, and I was a contractor hiring contractors, which I found later on that our US government frowned upon. So I had some tax implications and some fines because of that, because one of my 1099 employees, that was what we call contractors over here, one of my contractors was wanted for child support in two different states. So they came after his wages through me, but he wasn't an employee. And so the burden of proof was on me for the US government. And so I ended up paying fines of $47,000. And I almost decided not to go on, because I thought this is insane and it's gonna take me years to pay off. But I had a conversation with a business advisor and a lawyer and they said, Why don't you incorporate the company and you'll never have this problem again? So 15 years ago we incorporated and I started hiring real employees.

Helen:

Can I just go back to the point where you got the phone call after having been laid off? This I find completely amazing. So they laid you off, you were there thinking, Okay I wasn't expecting that at all. I'm only 24, I've been laid off, I need a job. And they called you and said, You can have a job, we made a mistake. And your immediate response was not to say Oh, thank you so much, yes, I’ll come and work for you, you pay me whatever you want. It was to say, Hold on, I’ll call you back. And then to go and register your own company and say All right, I'll come back, but on my terms. So what was going on in your head? What was it that caused you to slow down that process of immediately jumping on the, Yes, I need this job, I need this work, what was going on for you there, Andrea?

Andrea:

I decided that no one would ever control my destiny again but me. And that was my thought. I was in control and I was going to keep in control. And nobody could lay me off again. It was up to me then to win and lose clients. And I remember thinking, I'm never going through this again. This was miserable. I don't want to lay people off, I don't want to be laid off, because it was the 90s and my father had been laid off a few times during the 80s. Because it was a trend over here for a while, the ups and downs of business. And I decided I never wanted to deal with that again. And so that's what went through my head. The other part of it was a lot of the people who got laid off from our training department were being picked up by this little software company called Microsoft. And it was little at the time. And I’d had a conversation with one of them. Her name is Diana and she was going over there and she said, if you get a business license, we'll hire you as well. And they did. So I started working with them 28 years ago, before I got laid off, because she had been in the first round.

Helen:

And so doing that, making that decision back then and having the audacity or the audaciousness to do that back then, did that then kind of set you up for your attitudes for dealing with other businesses and people in the future?

Andrea:

For sure. Definitely. I just decided it was up to me to control my own path and to help others on the way as well. That way nobody can tell me what to do. They can, but I don't have to listen.

Maribel:

I just heard you say, Helen, the word ‘attitude’. And that makes me think of the name of your company, Andrea. How did you come up with this fantastic mix Artitudes?

Andrea:

So my husband and I were standing in the kitchen of our very small apartment and we were talking about names for the business. And I had said something about art and he said, You have such an attitude sometimes. And we came up with Artitudes and it just fit. And so for a long time, I've had that name obviously for a long time, and when we were rebranding the company or branding the company, when we went through the incorporation, I almost changed it. I almost went, Well, this is a dumb name, let's look at something else. And then I realized we had brand equity, people knew who we were, people knew the name and I went, it would be dumb to change it. So it has stuck. And it's a fun name because I get to explain that it's art with attitude.

Maribel:

I love it. I think it says a lot. You don't want art that is bland or says nothing, you want something with a message, right?

Andrea:

Of course.

Maribel:

And so you said it's been now in August, 25 years. And in those many years that you've been CEO of your company, or managing your company, what would you say have been the greatest obstacles you've had to overcome as being a female leader?

Andrea:

My obstacles are mostly internal, but there's a lot of that around being a woman. So early on, after I incorporated, I had a client at Microsoft who was an executive vice president. He was very, very high up in the chain of command. And I worked with him personally. He liked my work and so we worked together a lot. And I remember coming into a meeting with a lot of other executive leaders and I was nervous. I was a fairly young woman, I had grown up in a family that did not honor women having a career necessarily. I was meant to be a stay at home mom, that kind of thing. That's how I grew up, very traditional values. And I remember being nervous and this executive took me aside and he said you deserve a seat at the table. Always come into the room knowing that you deserve a seat at the table and you are just as worthy of being there as everyone else. And I took that to heart. And I tell my team that. I say you always deserve a seat at the table because you are an expert in your field and you're providing a service that they need and that they can't do on their own. So really, that shaped who I was not only as a leader, but as a woman. Because I sit at tables with a lot of men a lot of the time. A lot of business owners are men, a lot of executives in the tech software industry are men. And we work with all the big tech software companies, so we work with Microsoft HP, Expedia, Tablo companies like that, and a lot of them are male. And what I'm realizing, and what I have realized over time, is that we are just as worthy of being there as anyone else. And if you don't believe that you're not.

Helen:

Exactly. Is that the same piece of advice, then, that you would pass on to other women? Or is there another piece of advice which you've picked up or developed over the years? What advice would you give to women in that position?

Andrea:

So that is one of them, that you deserve a seat at the table. But one of my favorite ones is about failing forward. So many people are afraid of failure and they're afraid to start a business or start something, because they're afraid they're going to fail. And the conversations I always have is, it's not about failure, it's about learning. I call it failing forward. If something doesn't work, it's not the end of the world. If something doesn't work, you learn and you move on. And you take that lesson and make yourself and your company and your strategy better because of it. So always fail forward.

Helen:

Why do you think we have this kind of stigma around failure?

Andrea:

I think years and years ago, if you failed at something you could die, frankly. This is back when there was no system of support there and so people thought, Well, if I fail at this, I'm going to die or something bad is going to happen. And I think that's ingrained in us in a lot of ways. But there are people who really truly believe if they fail, that the world is over. And it's about changing that mindset. I mean, if you are bold, if you know what you're doing, if you're willing to put yourself out there and take a risk, you should know that failure isn't the be all and end all. Neither is success. Success is what you make it. Success is how you feel inside. And a lot of people don't understand that. They think success is accolades and money and new clients and things like that. I don't necessarily think that. It's why my company has stayed fairly small. Because I don't want a company that has all the headaches of being a big company. And I also like to stay in touch. So honestly, I think that failure has a stigma to it that it doesn't need. If you are bold and audacious, you're not gonna fail.

Helen:

Really, there's no such thing as failure. There's either you succeed with what you’re doing, or you learn.

Andrea:

Yep, succeed or learn a lesson and move forward. That's my belief and that's what I've tried to teach my children as well.

Helen:

Do you have a definition of success? So you mentioned success there, do you have a short definition of what you say success would be?

Andrea:

I believe success is how you feel inside. Success is when you have that feeling of content and happiness because you're in the place where you're supposed to be. It's nothing else. It doesn't mean you get awards or prizes or honors. It just means you're where you're supposed to be.

Helen:

I read recently that, I can't remember the name now, somebody defined success as when your life is aligned with your values.

Andrea:

Yes, I believe that too.

Helen:

And I just think that's a lovely little expression.

Andrea:

There's a quote I love. It's actually a Finnish proverb. And it says, “Happiness is the place between too little and too much.” And that's how I also define success. It's between too little and too much, because you have issues on the too little and the too much scale. So if you're right there in that sweet spot

Helen:

The Goldilocks place.

Andrea:

Exactly.

Maribel:

Would you say that you are there in that sweet spot, Andrea?

Andrea:

I am. And I have been for a long time because success is my own definition. If I put some lofty goal up, and goals are important, please don't get me wrong. I have all my big hairy, audacious goals and I look at them all the time. But if I put some goal up that was terribly unreachable and I never got there, I would feel like a failure. But I don't. Because my goals are around happiness and contentment and family and friends and connections. My goals are not about money and wealth and awards and things like that. So yeah, I do think I'm there.

Helen:

Lovely. That's lovely to hear.

Maribel:

You mentioned at the beginning of our conversation that you had already exercised and then some other things. Do you have a daily routine of things that you do to take care of yourself?

Andrea:

Oh, definitely. And I didn't use to. So to give you a little background, I was very ill 12 years ago. I was in a coma for 19 days and almost died. I lost a portion of both of my lungs. So I had a surgery that went wrong and they went to correct it and I aspirated on the operating table and my lungs filled with fluid and it turned into something called ARDS, which is acute respiratory distress syndrome and it turns your lungs to stone. So they put me into a medically induced coma for 19 days. And at the time ARDS had a 70% fatality rate. My husband, they told him to say goodbye to me three different times. I had blood transfusions, my entire system went septic, my kids came in to say goodbye. And they were three and six at the time. So I was not in control of my own health. In fact, I had let myself get to the point where everything was important in my life except for my health. And so when I came out of that, I decided to take control of my health, because it's really up to me and nobody else. And so I'm slightly obsessive about it now, but I walk 10 miles a day, every single day. So that's at least 20,000 steps. So I get that in a mixture of walking on my treadmill and walking outside, no matter what the weather, with my dogs. And then I also throw in some weights. But I'm very, very careful about what I eat too. I don't eat a lot of processed food, mainly because I don't like them. And I don't eat a lot of meat. Also because I don't like it. I was the kid who fed my steak to the dog and my dad used to get mad at me but I just didn’t like beef. I'm very careful about my health because I never want to be in a position again where I don't have it. Because your health really is everything. Without your health, you can't do anything else.

Helen:

Wow, what a story. I'm curious as to whether you learned anything else after that, I'm gonna say, near death experience, but it was even nearer than death experience. When you came out of that, what did you learn?

Andrea:

So before I went into my coma, before I got very ill, I had to be in control of just about everything. If you hear the term control freak, that was me. I believed that if I didn't control it, things wouldn't get done. So when I got sick, which was all of a sudden, in fact I was at work on a Friday, and on Monday I was in a coma. So when I got very sick, my entire staff stepped up. And the company, while we didn't make money that year, we didn't lose money. And I was out of my business for almost eight months that year. So it was a huge success that I came out and everything was fine. And what I realized when I got back to work was that I don't have to control everything. There's no reason for me to do it. You know that saying that if you want something done right, do it yourself? That is absolutely false. Because if you hire smart people, if you work with intelligent people who are driven and care, you don't need to do everything. And in fact, I like to hire people who are smarter than me. Never be the smartest person in the room. Because if you are, there's nowhere to go but down. So hire people who are smart and let them do what they're meant to be doing. And that was a hard lesson for me. And frankly, I've learned it more than once. Six years ago, my house burned down. And I was there with my kids and had to get them out of the house. And I remember standing across the street watching my house burn down and there was zero in that situation I could control. Nothing. It was a chimney fire that hit the cedar shake shingle roof and the house just went up in flames. And I remember thinking, What can I do? What can I do? How can I make this better? And then just realizing that I had to be in the moment. And I truly believe that, when I get a little cocky, the universe says no, don't do that. Here's the lesson you must learn.

Helen:

Wow. That reminds me of a story. Who was it that, when the house was burning down, and he said to his kids, Go and get your mother. She's never gonna see anything like this again.

Andrea:

It's funny. And true, very true. She'll never see anything like this again.

Helen:

Always seeing the positive. Wow, so you've had your share of adversity over the years, then, Andrea.

Andrea:

Yeah, but it just makes you stronger. Just makes me stronger. Not everybody, but me.

Maribel:

You keep coming back. Not coming back, maybe just continuing with life. Where does that drive and energy come from?

Andrea:

So I believe you can either be a victim of your circumstances, or you can choose to rise above. I really do. Because those of us who choose our attitude and choose how we present ourselves, no matter what happens, realize that things don't happen TO us. Rather, things happen and we choose our reaction to them. So I started off early on with infertility treatments. We went through four years of infertility treatments and we couldn't have children. And that was brutal to the soul, I will tell you. And I felt like a victim because it was my fault. And I don't want to say it's my fault, because I've really changed the narrative around that, but I could not have children. And so it took me a long time to get out of that. In fact, the first three or four years of my children's lives, I still stayed in that space of feeling like I'm not really a mom, because these kids did not come THROUGH me, they came TO me. And these boys are 1,000% mine. They're now 19 and 16 and there are days I wish I could give them away, because they are teenagers. But they're 1,000% my boys. So I lived in victim for a long time. And I can't tell you one thing that made me come out of that, it might have been the coma. But I could choose how I responded to things. And I think if you really focus on the outcome, if you focus on, What do I want out of life? I don't want to be a victim. I don't want the world to be at fault for everything. There are a lot of people who do believe that — that things happen TO them. And that they're just bad luck cases, which I don't actually believe. You make your own luck. You can choose your attitude, you can make your own luck. And I think resiliency isn't necessarily bouncing back. Because I don't want to be in the shape I was before. I'm not going to be a ball, you can't bounce me back to where I was, I'm going to bounce forward. And that's what it's really about. It's about choosing your reaction to what happens in life and moving forward and learning from it. And that's how I approach it.

Maribel:

So moving forward is something that seems to repeat in your life, because you also said before, You fall forward, instead of saying that you make a mistake, and then you bounce forward when things don't go, well, instead of using bouncing back for resiliency. Did you learn this from someone? Was there a role model? Where did this come from because, as you mentioned, this is not natural. Many people feel sorry for themselves.

Andrea:

They do. And I don't know if I learned it from anyone. I will tell you the strong females in my life, my grandmother in particular, the one who gave me $5,000, had a life of bouncing forward. She couldn't necessarily control her own circumstances and so she chose her reactions. And she chose her path forward. She was an amazingly strong, strong woman. And she, I mean, she lived in government housing, because she couldn't afford anything else with her two boys once my grandfather left her high and dry. And so she went and got a job at this huge airplane company called Boeing. And at the time, the computers were as big as a house and she ran the computer room. So she chose how to react and how to move forward in such a way that it would be a positive experience for her family. And so I think that's probably in my DNA to some degree. But I also don't think you go through stuff without learning something, if you're smart, if you're smart enough to take the lesson and you listen enough. I think you have to go forward in such a way that you've learned something, otherwise you stay in that space. So I think it's a combination of me, I call my life before and afters, I have four of them in my life, because things just happen. And so we just take them and we move on. But I also believe the strong females in my life, my grandmothers, both of them, helped me to realize that I could be whatever I wanted to be.

Helen:

So are you saying that it's partly to do with your DNA and partly because of the experiences that you've had? I'm just thinking about people who say, I've had no role models in my life, I come from a very weak family, I’ll never be, you know, all of this negative thought, how do you get people out of that?

Andrea:

I think you have to focus on it. So I had a business coach tell me 15 years ago, when I was incorporating the company I hired a business coach, and he said, Come at everything from a position of abundance and you will always have enough. So even when there's scarcity, think as if you have abundance. So I never ever say to my clients, Oh, we need more work. If somebody says, Do you have time to do this? I'll say, Let me see, we're pretty busy right now, but let me see. And so it's just a mindset of being in abundance. And so I have a sticky note on my computer that says abundance. I have a sticky note on my mirror that says abundance, and it is a reminder to myself to live in that place. The other thing that I do is a practice of gratitude. I have something called the 10 10 10 that I learned from another business leader, where I spend 10 minutes every day reading something positive. I spend 10 minutes in gratitude and I can just be thinking about what I'm grateful for and it can be as small as the raindrops or it could be as big as the life of my child. It could be anything in between, but it's what I'm grateful for. And then I spend 10 minutes writing and journaling. And it's just freeform. And what that does for me is it hits a mindset of gratitude. So whether I have role models or DNA that's been tested, I believe I can put myself into that space that brings positive results.

Helen:

And then that, I'm assuming, gives you the energy to set your audacious goals and to achieve them.

Andrea:

I think so. So I love having good positive energy. It's who I am. And I can't say it's who I always was. But I've been through enough that I say every day is a good day, because I am above ground. I am here to feel the rain on my skin, to smell the air, to taste the food, to hug my children, I am still here. And I very well could not be here. So the fact that I'm above ground just means every day is a great day.

Helen:

Wow, this has been a fascinating conversation.

Maribel:

Totally agree. This is a master class on growth mindset.

Helen:

I've already got a list of things I'm going to do when we end this call.

Andrea:

It is about mindset.

Maribel:

I wanted to ask you, when we were talking the other day, you told me Yes, I want to tell you about… because I asked you, How do you do all this? Because you have the company, you have the house and then your partner and the children and all these things. What's the trick, to have everything more or less under control?

Andrea:

More or less under control? First of all, I don't control anything, not any more. I just don't control anything. What I do control actually is myself and my own reactions. So, somebody once told me that balance is a myth. So there's this work-life balance thing. I don't actually believe in it. I believe in being fully present wherever I am, whenever I'm there. Because if I'm not fully present people know. If I'm at work with my team and I'm thinking about my children or I need to make an orthodontist appointment or my kid needs a shot or I need to follow up on his homework, which is always there, it's called the mom load. But that's a whole other conversation. But if I'm not fully present with my team, they know that I'm not there. And the same is to be said about my family. So when I first started my company, I worked a lot of hours. I worked probably 80 hours a week. And I remember making a conscious decision that when I came home and in the door, I was with my family until the kids went to bed. And then I would pick up work again. And it made a difference because I didn't answer the phone, I didn't look at email, nothing at all, until those children were in bed. So I would be fully, fully present. And now, in the mornings, I don't look at my phone or my email until after I've worked out. I have my schedule the night before and if somebody needs me, my assistant knows how to get a hold of me. And if she calls at eight in the morning and I'm working out, I know to answer the phone. But otherwise, she doesn't bother me. If it's not an emergency, I'm not bothered by it at that moment in time. Because everything turns into an emergency then. Every client issue, every child issue, every employee issue, it all becomes an emergency and you can't live your life like that. Too much stress.

Helen:

That's excellent advice, Andrea.

Maribel:

I love it.

Helen:

This is fantastic. Shall we come to the end, Maribel, shall I ask the final question?

Maribel:

Go ahead, Helen.

Helen:

I don't know, Andrea, whether Maribel primed you of our final question here, the name of our podcast, which is AudaciousNess. And when we came up with the name, because we were looking for, we wanted to have the word ‘audacity’ in the title but Audacity was already taken. So we came up with AudaciousNess and we found actually that the word ‘ness’ has a meaning on its own. And it's a spit of land that juts out into the sea, surrounded by this, it could be stormy weather, it could be calm weather, whatever. But it's this piece of land, a solid piece of land like a promontory, which goes out into the sea. And so we thought that AudaciousNess was good because if you are this spit of land, this solid piece of land, practicing your audacious goal on it, we want to ask you then, what gives you that grounding and that solidity to continue with whatever you are, I mean you’ve had lots of things thrown at you in your life — stormy weather — what gave you the grounding to keep going?

Andrea:

I believe it's my inner strength. And I could say it comes from other people. I could say that audacity and audaciousness is something that I just inherited. But I really truly believe it's my inner strength. And I didn't always have it. Because you don't know what you don't know. And you are built through fire and trial and beautiful things as well. But who I was when I was 20 is not who I am now. Who I am now is audacious and strong and bold and happy and content. And I'm not always striving because I believe in myself. And you know what I have learned? You can take me or leave me and I don't care. Because I care about more how I feel inside and how my family and those around me, the people that I love care about me, than what some random stranger thinks. So it's about becoming Teflon, in a way. Things just roll off. And they have to roll off in order to maintain that strength.

Helen:

And when you say all of these things out loud, how does it make you feel?

Andrea:

Strong and happy and content and full of abundance and positivity.

Maribel:

And it's contagious.

Helen:

It certainly is. We're all grinning here.

Maribel:

Absolutely. What a wonderful conversation.

Helen:

This has been fantastic.

Andrea:

Every day is a good day.

Helen:

It is. I want to spend every day with you, Andrea.

Andrea:

That would be fun. Let's go have a glass of wine.

Maribel:

Absolutely. We're above the ground, so everything is great.

Andrea:

That's right.

Maribel:

Super. Thank you very much for having this conversation with us, Andrea. It has been an incredible pleasure to learn from you.

Andrea:

Thank you for having me. I really appreciate it, Helen and Maribel.

Helen:

Thank you, Andrea.

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About the Podcast

AudaciousNess
A solid grounding on which to practice your audacity.
AudaciousNess showcases individuals who have set themselves bold, audacious goals and have worked to achieve them. Our purpose is to inspire people to act with the courage to create a positive impact in the world.

Through interviewing 'regular people' about their audacious goals, we highlight the fact that role models are everywhere. Each and every one of us can have an impact in some way. Our goal is to enable a courageous community that honours their genius and lives their calling.

The name 'AudaciousNess' has two components: audacious, meaning 'bold', and ness, meaning 'a strip of land projecting into a body of water'. We believe having a solid grounding on which to practice your audacity is crucial, or, in the words of the great philosopher king Marcus Aurelius (Meditations, 4.49):

"Be like the promontory against which the waves continually break, but it stands firm and tames the fury of the water around it."

About your hosts

Maribel Ortega

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I help women find their worth and be confident so that they can use their voice, speak up, take new opportunities and ultimately lead fulfilled lives.

Helen Strong

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I run an eco-friendly, vegan B&B in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. This is just one of the many audacious goals I've pursued in my lifetime.