"There's Always Failure"
Amy Rees Anderson: busy mother of two, BYU alumnus, public speaker, and creator of MediConnect Global: an international multimillion-dollar Healthcare Information Exchange system. Through a journey of “goal posters”, divorce, and a lifelong process of trial and error, Anderson relates how her own hardships inspired her to flourish despite her difficult situation.
Raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Anderson recalls visualizing the goal of attending BYU from a young age. Promptly upon turning 17 years old, she began her first semester and says that she “[did] the whole ‘Utah thing’,” by marrying young and having children. Only a few years later, however, her marriage faced significant strain and ended in divorce. “I became the sole supporter of my family at the time,” she says, “after growing up in a family of ten kids, I just wanted to be a mom, too. But, when I was alone, I learned that being a good mom is also about taking care of your kids financially if you have to.” Although she didn’t find herself in an ideal position, silver linings began to appear in the unlikely form of business management-related talents.
Anderson reflects, “I thought to myself, I could either work for somebody else, or I can be an entrepreneur and take it all into my own hands. I decided to take that leap.” That leap meant long hours, new problems, and an even tighter schedule for a single mother, but failure was not an option. “Even if I had to work a hundred hours a day, I was going to do what I had to do to take care of my kids.” As the enterprise grew, the complex dynamics of big business became more difficult to navigate and the time soon came when her company stood on the brink of failure due to the striking of a poor deal. With the company’s executives seated in a circle, Anderson asked the somber group what could possibly be done. The room’s silence broke when one of them simply said “Well, there’s always failure.” Laughter from the defeated leaders filled the room as the inarguable truth remained, “… he was right,” Anderson admits, “worst case scenario, we could totally fail.” It became clear to her that failure was not the end of the world; the sun would still rise, and the world would still be round even if the company disintegrated. By allowing that worst-case scenario to become a believable reality, Anderson found a new perspective that allowed her to ask herself “What’s the worst that could happen? Could I live through it? Yes. Would it be terrible, and awful, and miserable and do I want to avoid it like the plague? Yes. But I would live through it, right?” And she did. Her company recovered and grew into an empire despite a formidable setback.
Something unique that helped keep her spirits high during times of trial was a “goal poster”. She recalls having made her first poster shortly after her divorce, saying, “I sat down to make my first goal poster not because I had faith in it, but because I was desperate…I had to visualize a future that was happier than what I could see in the moment.” With an unbreakable optimism and some poster board, she glued a photo of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, a drawing of her writing published in a magazine, and pictures of Wonder Woman. Then she went to work. Ten years passed and she admits that, although “[she] wasn’t focused on it, there was no doubt that the goal poster had an impact on [her] life.” She recognized its influence when, while moving her home office, she lifted her arms to remove the old poster but suddenly stopped to realize she had accomplished each of the goals she set for herself on the poster ten years prior. She recalls the fear that held her hostage when things looked bleakest and she remarks, “As much as we have a fear of failing, I think sometimes we have a fear of dreaming too big. The goal poster is a way to give yourself permission to try something beyond what you thought was possible.”
In March of 2012, Anderson’s company sold for $377 million and she has since founded the IPOP (In Pursuit of Perfection) Foundation, a charity for youth that strives to teach self-reliance, confidence, and entrepreneurial skills. Recognizing the sacrifices made by her two children to help her succeed, Anderson says that her newfound passion lies in “[helping] other people excel.” She now looks forward to filling future goal posters with “tons of grandbabies” and helping her family members excel in the years to come.