By Angela Noel
January 26, 2017
One dark December night in the late 1980s, I pulled a pair of rollerblades on and slipped out the front door of my childhood home in Southern California. Not typically the fearless type, the notion of racing around my block in the middle of the night thrilled me, even as I worried I might come home bruised and bloody. The moment the wheels hit asphalt and I gained speed down the gentle hill not far from my house, I reveled in the speed. I was invincible, pure motion and spirit in that moment.
That’s how it feels to talk to Hadley Barrows, children’s book author, publisher, and changemaker. To know her, is to feel as if all things are possible.
I met Hadley two years ago, when we both worked on a major project to transform a part of our company’s business. We quickly learned we shared a love of storytelling and an obsession with “giant hairballs” (messy, complicated problems no one wants to solve, but someone has to). Hadley approaches problems like a practiced tactician, breaking each piece down into solvable chunks. Careful to manage her energy–though not always succeeding–Hadley finds the path of least resistance, saving people time and effort. Where some would find the way around the hairball, Hadley finds her way through.
One of the greatest challenges she’s faced in the past few years was the marketing of her lovely children’s book, Antler, A. After determining the best way to develop, publish, and sell her dream project (with best friend and illustrator Megan Moore) was to form her own publishing company, Hadley had to overcome rejection. She loaded copies of Antler, A in her car, checked her list of bookstores and gift shops, and headed out, stomach clenched. At first, the rejection hurt. But when someone said “yes” she felt the exhilaration of success. “I don’t like the moment of asking,” she says, “but once I know the answer I feel good.” No matter what the answer is, yes or no, she feels good. It wasn’t the rejection, it was the seemingly endless moment of indecision that bothered her most. But, once she recognized the real issue–the underlying hairball– she got over it. “I thought I’d hate selling, but I like it.”
In high school, Hadley was the girl who finished her assignments three weeks early. Who knew what might happen just before the due date? Better to get it done right away.
“I like the work, always have. I just want to keep doing great things now. I don’t stop things. I don’t give up.” Hadley admits her persistence can sometimes be a liability.
With family, a corporate job, freelance writing clients, and her book projects, Hadley can’t afford to let her projects run amok. “I know I’ve taken on too much when I forget things, and I get grumpy.” Her husband, Brad, engineered a spreadsheet to help his wife force-prioritize. “Using Excel,” Hadley says of her husbands abilities, “it’s like he’s using the Force, its so amazing.” Along with hiding encouraging comments within the cells, Brad’s tool enables Hadley to do just ten things a day. So, they better be the most important things.
For a ferocious doer like Hadley, motivation isn’t the problem. In 2016, her motto was, “The fastest way to get something crossed off your list is to skip it.” Obviously, this isn’t the motto young Hadley would have used in her early years. Today, though, it’s essential.
Hadley’s main goal, with so much capability, energy, and drive is to do things she’s excited about. It’s not enough for something she’s doing to pay the bills, she wants more. Hadley wants a life filled with pure motion and spirit, like streaking down a hill in the dark, trusting that whatever life hands her, she’ll feel good about it.
Invincibility isn’t a state of being, it’s a state of mind.
If Hadley can do it, so can I. So can you.
Be Awesome in Real Life.