Susan Story, CEO, Gulf Power Co.
"...when I think about success, I think, “am I happy with my life and what I'm doing?” It's not necessarily gauged by how much money I have made or what people consider to be power, but am I making a difference? As I started my career, of course growing up the way I did in a rural Alabama town, I didn't know what a president of a company was or a CEO of a company was. I started as an engineer in a nuclear power plant and just believed in working as hard as I could and doing the best job I could because that's the way I had been raised. I started progressing pretty rapidly through managerial ranks and, interestingly, never really looked at what the next job would be…. I just kind of kept progressing through the ranks. When people would say, “why are you successful,” I guess my bottom line answer would be just that I enjoy I everything I do, I put everything I've got into it, and I want to be part of the team that does great things. "
On the influence of Parents:
"Well, when I was very young, my Mom and Dad both worked in a cotton mill. My Dad was a lab tech and my Mom was on an assembly line. And then when I was 7, my Dad got a job as a pipefitter, which was a craft that he was able to make more money at, and my Mother was able to stay home. We lived paycheck to paycheck. It was the type of home where we didn't have a lot of money, but home was the safe, fun, happy place. My brother and I were my parents' top priority, and we played games together, we laughed together. Home was that place where you were fully accepted for what you were, and were encouraged. My Dad is a very bright man, and he came from an alcoholic home, joined the Marines at 17, after he'd been living on the streets for 2 years; joined the Marines to straighten his life out. My Mom was the youngest of 9 kids of a poor farmer. And so our life was, you work hard, you don't feel sorry for yourself, you never take. I mean, we never were on welfare or anything like that. If my Dad had to work 3 jobs, and my Mom did too, that's what they did and we always had food on the table. My Mom and Dad were also the kind. . .I remember in high school, I was very popular and was a favorite, and Home Coming and all this stuff, and I always had as nice a dress as anybody else did. My Mom would go a year without buying anything herself, so that I could have a dress at a ball. That's the kind of people they were. We were – my brother and I, were the most important things in their lives, but they didn't spoil us. They couldn't monetarily. But they wanted us to grow up to be responsible adults. The best gift I got from Dad was he really believed in this Country. Grew up in a horrible home situation, but joined the military. It changed his life. He was a Marine, is a Marine, somebody told me once you're never “was” a Marine, you're always a Marine, once a Marine, enlisted Marine. And his hope was that in this Country you can do and be everything you can be. And the life that he and my Mom gave my brother and me was far better than what either one of them had. They said, there are no boundaries to what you can do. And I grew up with my Dad saying, “you can be and do anything you want to be”, and I believed him. I mean, I believed him. "
On "Going with your Gut":
"...I have learned to trust my instinct more and more. Now I do think you have to couple instinct with experiential information and knowledge, but through the experiences there are a lot of things that the facts tell me one thing, but I just know instinctually what the right thing to do is. 99% of the time, if not 100% of the time, what will unfold will show me that my instinct was right on target and I've learned that I really need to trust it because it's almost the second voice, the second knowledge that we have that says this is the path you need to take .
I think it's interesting when we talk about when we're ready for changes in our careers or our lives, and people worry and they struggle with it. The one thing I found is, I just know when the time is right and I've gotten to where I don't worry about that because I know when I get to the point that the decision is made and I have peace about it, that it just happens. And every time it does. For example, should you take this job, should you not? Should I retire now, should I not? When you look at it and you struggle with it, then one day you wake up and you say this is it, and you're at total peace and you know it's the right thing. I find that happens more and more. "
On Making it to the Top:
It's not that everything I did every day was to move me to the top. Because I really do believe that number one, you need to be outstanding where you are currently, and for people to know what you are doing. And then it takes care of itself; it really does. As opposed to someone who, as soon as they get, and I've known people like this, as soon as they get one job, all they're focused on is their next job. I think they're very ineffective because of it.