This is part of The Recession is Bullhonkey series, where I share stories of those who have gotten hired and/or started their own businesses (or sometimes both!) since 2008. Harper Spero sent me an introductory email and, after reading her About page, I asked if she’d share her story here. The goodness is below!
Fast-paced. High stress. Nonstop. Urgent. E-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is urgent.
Everything must get done right this second, not a minute later. There’s no time to wait. If the editor doesn’t get her lipstick before she goes on vacation, she’ll never think about our brand again. If we don’t respond to this customer in the next 20-minutes, we’ll lose their business. If we don’t send that tweet during the MTV Video Music Awards, our client is going to be devastated.
I lived this life for many years until my body shut down and told me “enough already!”
It was 2012 and I was working in (clearly) a very toxic work environment. I was having trouble walking down the streets of Manhattan without losing my breath after two blocks. As a native New Yorker, there are few things more terrifying than this. I went to the doctor, who told me that I had bronchitis and then walking pneumonia. She gave me some medications that did nothing for me and inhalers that also did nothing.
After almost four months of symptoms, I went to a pulmonologist and found a cyst the size of a golf ball in my right lung. Well, that was a wakeup call. There were many tears and an overwhelming sense of shock while trying to figure out how to manage this discovery in my body. After many appointments including a trip to the National Institute of Health (NIH) in Maryland, I had surgery to remove a quarter of my right lung. I was on medical leave from my job for two months while recovering. It was a really intense, dark and helpless two months.
When it was time to return to work all I could think about was the fact that I was going back to promoting nail polish. How can I care about nail polish after going through this life-altering situation with my health?
I was at a very low point trying to find my way up and for being a highly motivated, self-sufficient, go-getter this was a really challenging period for me. I immediately sought after some guidance. I started working with a career coach who helped me narrow down what I was looking for, what I wanted in my career and most importantly what I didn’t want. While working with her, I found myself accepting a job that felt like the complete right fit.
The job was for an event production and brand strategy firm focused on working with nonprofits and brands in the health, wellness and education space. I knew from the start that it was going to be really amazing experience with incredible people and clients. I also knew, in my first week, that no matter how long I lasted at the company (be it six months or five years) this was going to be the last time I was going to work for someone. I knew the next move was going to be on my own – I had always dreamed of being a business owner and knew that time was coming soon. I didn’t even know what the business was, but I knew I’d own a business.
I had been diagnosed with a rare immune deficiency when I was 11 years old, and it was always something I brushed off and didn’t talk about. I didn’t look at the big picture. I faced the small-ish issues as they came my way but it was hard to hide when I had an 8 ½ inch scar on my back from surgery and my body was telling me it was truly time to take care of me. While working in event production, I spent much of my “downtime” practicing yoga, partaking in transcendental meditation, eating in a more conscious way, quitting drinking and overall working to be the best version of myself.
I loved connecting with the nonprofits and brands that we worked with and learning more about the incredible work that they are doing locally, nationally and internationally to help others. I came to the realization that I wanted to stop doing the behind-the-desk, behind-the-scenes works and wanted to be more involved in my clients day-to-day lives. I wanted to help them be the best version of themselves by taking ownership of their reality. I did major research on coaching programs, spoke to 15+ coaches to learn more about their experience and get any words of wisdom from each of them. All signs then led me to the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (IPEC). The program provided me with the skills to improve my coaching, introduced me to incredible people and helped me dig further into myself to observe and determine the changes that I wanted to make within.
With renewed commitments to my own happiness and well-being, I made personal and professional fulfillment my top priority. Certain that coaching would provide all of this, I started owning (and living) the reality I had always wanted: running my own business. I am now a certified professional coach (CPC) working with clients who are ready to take ownership of their reality. I drive my clients to determine the steps they need to take (and actually take them!) to achieve their goals in their health, career and throughout life.
When I’m not working with clients I can be found taking in live music (anywhere but Terminal 5), discovering new restaurants that accommodate my selective eating habits, and wandering through the grid of my native Manhattan. I’m obsessed with all things ginger, the smell of lavender, and lull of life in a hammock.
Harper Spero is a certified professional coach (CPC) and graduate of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC) who has spent the past ten years leveraging brands through marketing, public relations, event production, and digital media. Since 2010 Harper has worked with small business owners and individuals with a focus on communications. Today she uses her own journey in health and well-being to inspire, motivate, and drive people in the direction of their dreams through one-on-one coaching.