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Laura Hillenbrand by Yue Li


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Biography of Laura Hillenbrand as a leader in all parts of life, written by Wharton MBA student for a course on leadership from the point of view of the whole person.

Published in: Leadership & Management
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Laura Hillenbrand by Yue Li

  1. 1. Laura Hillenbrand Yue Li 4/11/2017
  2. 2. Laura Hillenbrand is an incredibly successful author 2 • Hillenbrand is a 49 year old nonfiction writer who have sold more than 13MM copies of her books • She has only ever written two books: Seabiscuit and Unbroken • Both turned into major motion pictures, critically acclaimed, and NYT bestsellers • As a “New Journalism”, her writing focuses more on the story than prose-- she is meticulous about her research and her books can take up to 4-5 years • Published in 2003 • 1,400+ reviews, 4.5 stars on Amazon • National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist • Published in 2010 • 27,000+ reviews, 5 stars on Amazon • Time Magazine #1 Nonfiction of 2010
  3. 3. Hillenbrand suffers from a debilitating chronic illness 3 • Chronic fatigue syndrome: Believed to be caused by inflammation in the brain and spine • Those effect feel intense vertigo for prolonged periods of time “Everything feels like you’re on a ship, and when it’s really bad, everything is whirling. I don’t know which way is up, and I’m grabbing onto things.” “I was nearly hit by a car the other day. I looked straight at it. It was a white car against a green background, and I did not see it. I stepped right in front of it.” -Hillenbrand • Hillenbrand is effectively confined in her home because of CFS
  4. 4. Her illness has led people to doubt her legitimacy 4 • After first developing a sudden onset of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome at 19, she had to drop out of college as a sophomore at Kenyon • Her family, doctors, and friends all thought she the disease was not real, especially because little was known about the illness at the time • She was accused of being lazy and unmotivated
  5. 5. She’s preserved through her illness, but the illness could be a factor in her success 5 Hillenbrand credits some of her success to her illness: • Hillenbrand does her research only through • phone interviews • scouring for old newspapers on eBay • inviting experts to her home (e.g. building a bombsight in her yard) • She only starts a book if she feels truly inspired by the story to preserve energy Negatives of CFS: Positives of CFS: • CFS inspires her to look for intellectual escape: “It was a beautiful thing to ride Seabiscuit in my imagination. And it's just fantastic to be there alongside Louie as he's breaking the NCAA mile record. People at these vigorous moments in their lives - it's my way of living vicariously.” • Research via phone calls lacks visual cues, forcing her to ask detailed and personal questions and widening her imagination
  6. 6. Takeaways 6 • Even when it seems highly unlikely, it is possible to align your Self and Home needs with your Work needs, finding success against all • Fulfilling Self needs can enhance Work needs (i.e. Hillenbrand’s way of research makes her a more effective writer • There is no conventional way to Work. Even in a liberal “writer” domain, you can still find ways to innovate to suit your needs