On the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 14, following day 1 of ISC East in New York City, security industry luminaries will gather for SIA Honors Night. In addition to enjoying drinks, networking, musical entertainment by Like Minds Trio and a gala dinner celebration benefiting Mission 500, Honors Night attendees will hear engaging remarks from Bonnie St. John, a Paralympic ski medalist, Fortune 500 business consultant, Rhodes scholar, former White House official and best-selling author.
The Security Industry Association (SIA) sat down with Ms. St. John to learn more about her background, the successes and challenges she’s had and her best advice.
SIA: What has your career path been like? How did you get where you are today?
Bonnie St. John: My career path is unusual because I have achieved at world class levels in very different areas: winning Paralympic ski medals, working as an economist in the White House, earning a master’s degree at Oxford University and running my own global leadership consulting business. Stretching across disciplines – sports, politics, academia and business – means having to start over, to learn and to make mistakes. Excelling in new areas requires the willingness to fail.
SIA: What achievement/accomplishment are you most proud of?
BSJ: I would say raising three daughters, but I can’t consider them ‘my achievement’ per se. Apart from that, I would say creating resources to grow others. Whether it is through keynote speeches, books or the virtual leadership development programs we provide, I am proud of our ability to help others stretch, expand their vision and achieve more than they thought they could.
SIA: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
BSJ: What was harder than winning Olympic ski medals for me,was healing from the sexual abuse in my childhood. With the #MeToo movement raising the visibility of these issues, I think it needs to be said. Most people do not understand the depth and breadth of the challenges that ripple out from abuse.
SIA: Who/what was the strongest influence in your career (e.g., a mentor, an event that inspired your career decision(s))?
BSJ: I read Ben Franklin’s autobiography when I was in 5th grade and was very impressed. Like me, he didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but he committed to improving himself every day and made a success of himself in business, politics and even science. He wrote inspirational books. Ben Franklin was a real role model for me!
SIA: How do you define success?
BSJ: I define success as objective measures of achievement in the discipline you choose. Fulfillment, on the other hand, is personal ‘success’ or happiness in life. I believe it is important to pursue both and find ways to make them reinforce each other. No one but you can figure out exactly how to do that. It’s like cracking a safe – finding the right combo of achieving things while living your values, relationships and passions.
SIA: What is your best piece of advice (for individuals in their careers, for companies looking to succeed or for overcoming obstacles)?
BSJ: Ken Kragen – a Hollywood star maker – once said to me that some people were more “helpable” than others. In the end, the person who becomes the superstar in the person who got the most help. So my advice to high achievers is to learn how to be more helpable…look for help, accept it, be extravagant with thank yous….cultivate your helpability!