Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky

break the ceiling

Recently I had the privilege of interviewing Anthony Rose, a Walmart executive and author of Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky: Success secrets of the world’s most inspirational women. In the book he features interviews with a wide range high-achieving women. I was particularly interested in hearing how his interviewees managed the work/life balance. Anthony touched on two interconnected points:

                        Knowing your priorities.

                        Be willing to compromise.

I have seen these points also touched on recently by Indra Nooyi from PepsiCo (see her interview here) and I feel it ties very well into the ‘can women have it all?’ argument. It is impossible for anyone, female or male, to have it ‘all’, but a successful person defines what it is important and prioritizes those things. There are many other insights in the book, which is a wealth of first-hand information. I really appreciated how much these women were willing to share and found it so valuable to hear their stories in their own voices. There are fourteen chapters around which the interviews are structured and each chapter focuses on a habit or practice the interviewees felt helped their own success. These habits are:

                        Aim to make a difference

                        Have a clear goal. Plan for success.

                        Define your leadership compass. What are your values?

                        Master the art of balance

                        Think big

                        Take responsibility for your own success

                        Find and leverage great mentors

                        Focus on the positive. Never give up.

                        Deliver results.

                        Give and take support

                        Believe in yourself


                        Learn how to influence

                        Take a risk. Follow your dream.

An amazing and motivating list. The discussions around each chapter are a great read. Please do search out the book to read more.

Below is an excerpt of our interview:

Tell me about the most influential women in your life, and what was your motivation in writing the book?

The most influential woman in my life was my mother, who passed in end 2012. Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky is dedicated to her so she is the primary inspiration for this book. She was a home maker but also ran a small kindergarten to help my Dad with bringing up us three boys, putting us through good schools and giving us strong values.  From her I learned as much about work ethic and leadership as I did from any leader.

The second reason I am writing this book is because women have always inspired me. My first manager way back in 1991 was a woman – Unnita D’Souza. My second manager was also female – Jane Swamy,  India’s  PR Guru.  And my two favorite P&G Managers were Joanne Crewes and Deb Henretta, both extraordinary women leaders and both still with P&G. They invested in me, critiqued me and helped me grow and I am very grateful.

The third reason for me writing this book was to help the many young women leaders I know amidst all the challenges they currently face.

There are several other women leaders, friends, who continue to inspire me today as I endeavor to make a difference to millions of women through Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky.

The challenges facing women today are enormous but so are the opportunities.

Research shows that women perform 60% of the world’s working hours but receive only 10% of the world’s income. Only 4% of the world’s largest Companies are lead by women.

Yet around the world women are making a huge impact. There are over a dozen democratically heads of state currently. Globally, there are more female graduates versus male graduates with women earning more of the world’s college degrees than men. To me, this is extraordinary. I wanted to help with this change in some small way. Hence my book.

I have small children and have recently begun full time work as an entrepreneur. How did your interviewees handle those years of juggling small kids and long hours?

Some simple tips from my three interviewees out of the chapter on Balance.  Here’s what Barbara McFarland, Co-Founder and Partner of FlexLife and bestselling author says:

“Many people wish they had more time – ‘If only there were more hours in a day, I could do it all.’ Actually, time is not the major problem in being able to balance your life. Surveying 800 graduates from Wharton, research revealed that the psychological conflicts that come from thinking about work when at home and thinking about home when at work are more of an issue than time,”

Her advice is very simple:

Know your values/priorities.

Set boundaries in your relationships.

Then there is Deb Henretta, who says

“Be willing to compromise. You can’t be perfect on every single project. But if you can be perfect on the top few – the priorities that really count – it’s easier to live with being ‘just good’ on the others.”

Deb Henretta (image courtesy


Deb should know. Deb Henretta is currently Group President, Procter & Gamble Global Beauty. She served on Singapore’s Economic Development Board for several years, and in 2011, received a US Presidential appointment to be the first woman Chair of the Business Advisory Council to APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation). All of this while being a wife, and actively-involved mother to three teenagers.

There are several more tips in the book on balance.

What lesson from the book do you think has resonated with yourself personally the most?

Making a difference. That has been my purpose for the last several years. I see a lot of people feeding into intellectual debates about what’s wrong in the world and who is to blame. I see fewer people willing to step up and be the change. It does not take anything extraordinary to be the change. All it takes is commitment. My commitment is to touch the lives of the 20,000 under-privileged women in rural India who will receive testing for anemia through my royalties from this book, and through those tests we will hopefully be able to prevent several deaths of their innocent children (newborns of severely anemic women die in the first 24 hours after birth.). It is my way of ‘lighting a candle instead of cursing the darkness.’

And what lesson do you think your audience has connected with the most?

Master the art of balance. Women reading the book have told me they find it inspirational that the three persons I interviewed for the chapter on balance all rose from humble backgrounds to become the world leaders they are today. Their success is not accidental. It is a result of years of practice balancing out work, family and self.


Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky is available at Kinokuniya Stres in Singapore and will roll out internationally by Sept 1.

The book is priced at SGD 29.

You can also order direct by emailing

Anthony Rose, author. (image courtesy of


I have two copies of the book to give away – all you need to do is leave a comment – any comment will do! The two winners will be drawn at random in one week from now, on the 7th of August, and announced on our Facebook page.

The giveaway is open to Singapore residents only. Please note, if you are commenting ‘anonymously’ (i.e. not under a Wordpress / Facebook / Google account) please leave your email address in your comment.

***Congrats Amie & Clair, the winners of our signed book giveaway!***


6 thoughts on “Break the Ceiling, Touch the Sky

  1. Great interview! Would love to win one of the two copies and cozy up in a chair at Woolf Works to read it in between my writing! 🙂


  2. I’m sure it a great book but it annoys me when women constantly have to keep proving /reassuring themselves. They are making it a “Man’s World” by this insecurity. When will it be One World?


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