laura_harrisOne of the things I’ve learned to treasure most is friends that challenge me – with both their words and their actions. I’ve learned what a gift it is when someone is courageous enough to lovingly tell me when I’m off track. And I’m also very grateful when they pave the way with their own life and are willing to share their lessons with me.

Today, I’m honored to share an interview with one of my personal “Master Chefs.” I recognized Laura Harris as a business leader in our community a decade ago. Now, I’m even more inspired by her journey to grow in her faith and leadership. I think you’ll appreciate her honesty and candor in revealing her own challenges and how she has worked to overcome them.

Laura, let’s start with the end in mind. What does success mean to you?

My deepest desire is to be powerful in every aspect of my life and consistently improve in each area. Ideally I would be a catalyst for inspiring the same in others. I want to see fruit in my life and in others.

I focus on faith, family, fitness, finances, friends, fellow employees and some fun. I have also recently returned from Guatemala. That has challenged me to consider that we have a responsibility to make a difference globally. I am not yet sure what that will look like but I am returning to Guatemala in October.

Was there a time when you had a different definition?

Most of my life I was driven…not in a good way. I had an intense desire to achieve, particularly in business. I have been ridiculously successful in business but the remainder of my life was a mess.

In 1999, at the pinnacle of my career, my 17 year old daughter decided that she no longer wanted to live with me. My obsession with work was a huge part of the disconnect in our relationship. In that moment, I would have gladly given up everything I had achieved to repair the damage done.

It took years to repair the damage but my daughters and I are very close today. Now I have chosen to redefine success and live very intentionally. I no longer allow the world’s definition of success to rule my life. Ironically, I am much more successful in every area of my life (including business) now that I have realigned my priorities.

Can you describe a typical day in your life?

There is no such thing as typical. In the last three weeks I have been in Toronto, Corpus Christi, New Orleans, Ottawa, Montreal, and San Diego. Travel doesn’t always allow me to have total control of my schedule.

Ideally I am up early listening to Christian music and having some quiet time. I have found when I skip this, the remainder of the day tends to be chaos.

My breakfast is a protein shake with banana, kiwi, spinach and berries. I also dump in some Green Tea extract. If I am traveling I will carry dried cherries and oatmeal with me. Eating healthy when traveling can be a challenge.

I typically start work between 7:00 and 7:30 am. During the first hour of work I will listen to an audio book or sermon while I clean out e-mails. The beginning of the day is quiet and it gives me some education time. Since my kids are now grown and gone I typically work nine hours a day. Luckily I am self-employed and have the privilege of designing my job so I can work within my strengths.

Here is where I am weird. My office is in Texas but I primarily live in Toronto, Canada. I have six employees in my Corpus office, a remote employee in Colorado Springs and myself in Canada (when I am not traveling). This dynamic forced me to get Voice Over Internet phone systems that help me measure activity. Over the 19 years that I have been self-employed, I learned to strategically relinquish control to make sure we still run a top notch operation.

I have the luxury of eating several small meals through the day since I office out of my home. My last one is usually around 5:30. Around 7:00 pm I am on the treadmill. I have a wonderful set up in my home with a TV I can watch while I exercise. The television is a distraction that makes exercise enjoyable.

Do you have any particular habits or systems that you feel are essential to your success/health?

I am adamant about getting eight hours of sleep a night. I am convinced that it is crucial to my success.

I have cut out most liquids besides water and green tea. Since I began this morning routine a year ago, I have lost 30 pounds. In addition, I found that cutting out caffeine radically improved my energy levels.

Being committed to constantly learning. I operate ideally when I feel challenged. That doesn’t happen unless you surround yourself with overachievers. I need people and information that stretches my brain.

Are there any habits you’re working to develop next?

God continues to to work out many rough edges in my life. I am currently forcing myself to focus weekly on every aspect of my life. It can be a challenge to be passionate about improving in all areas.

My biggest challenge in this moment is my understanding that many relationships are superficial at best. I want to deepen my relationships with family and friends. I want to love without hesitation but it requires that I am intentional with every one of those relationships.

I am also challenging myself to write on a daily basis. I have discovered that writing allows me to trigger breakthrough moments. Life is much more fun when we question everything and document our learnings.

Recently my husband and I were having a random conversation, and I said, “As an athlete…” My amazing husband started dying laughing. I immediately began to defend myself. I did get a black belt in Tae Kwon Do when I was 25. Even though I am not as strong a player as I would like, I still play on a co-ed softball team. In addition I am reasonably consistent about running (OK…it is more jogging).

Later I had time to reflect. Why was it so crucial to me to describe myself as an athlete? In the back of my mind I was sure that I would behave more like an athlete if I thought of myself as one. I am very clear that my mission in life is to be powerful in every aspect of my life and encourage others to do the same. Our thoughts and actions determine whether or not we are successful.


Laura runs one of the largest Allstate Insurance offices in the United States and consults business owners on effective management. She is also a professional speaker, entrepreneur, author of Surrender to Win – Regain Sanity by Strategically Relinquishing Control and contributing author of Chicken Soup for the Soul – Tough Times, Tough People. You can connect with her on Twitter or on her website.