Teresa Taylor on The Balance Myth

In her new book, “The Balance Myth: Rethinking Work-Life Success,” former Qwest COO Teresa Taylor offers insight about the marriage of career and family, and takes a firm stance that you can indeed, have it all.

As she sets forth in the prologue, women should not have to choose “between being a great wife and mother and being a career woman. She can have both.” For Taylor, the first step toward finding the answer to work-life balance is to look within.

“The definition of ‘all’ is different for each person,” she says.

Taylor has the experience to go toe-to-toe on this long-controversial topic. She worked her way to the top of her field, becoming the COO of Qwest, a Fortune 200 telecom company—all while staying married and raising two boys.

And while she’s all in favor of more female voices coming to the forefront on this topic, such as Sheryl Sandberg ‘s “Lean In,” her book focuses on the obstacles women face—namely, balance.

“I don’t think Sheryl’s off base,” she says. “Sheryl was focused in on being a stronger woman, which I don’t disagree with. What I’ve experienced is that the bigger issue is this mythical search for balance—that’s what holds us back.”

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For Taylor, the book is an opportunity to talk about what worked for her, both personally and professionally. Foremost is the idea that those two concepts can’t be divorced from one another. For example, keeping a single calendar for personal and professional appointments and events, and embracing the concept of working weekends were key to her success.

She talks at length in the book about the personal experiences that shaped the person she is today, from stories of abandonment and suicide in her childhood to infertility struggles to that all-too-familiar moment when mothers discover their child care arrangement is tanking—stories that aren’t shared just for effect, but to make a point.

“The first reason that I shared those stories is people think I had an easy road, that ‘I can’t be like you because I have all these problems,’” she says. “The reason (I shared those stories) was so readers would say, ‘I don’t have it that bad.’”

“Sadness and heartache is what drove me to have a different family.”

There’s plenty of professional advice as well—some of it layering on the concepts that Sandberg is forwarding in her book, and some her personal experience she hopes others can learn from and adapt to their lives. For example, knowing not to hold a grudge, and recognizing you may not be the smartest person in the room.

“There’s a difference between leadership and just being a boss.”

Hindsight is 20-20—so when asked, “What would you today tell yourself at 20?”

“It’s going to be great.”