Fly, Butterfly

Fly, Butterfly

by Annicken R. Day


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A Personal and Professional Metamorphosis Story

Maya Williams is an ambitious, hardworking, New York businesswoman, stymied on her way up the corporate ladder by sexist, male executives. When sent to the Hawaiian island Kaua’i to speak at a conference, she finds herself having to make a choice that may jeopardize her entire career.

On Kaua’i, Maya experiences the chill island life for the first time, and as she meets the people who open her eyes to different ways of thinking and being, she begins to see life, work, love—and herself—in a whole new light.

When Maya returns to the corporate world, as an executive, can she implement her new philosophies and still succeed? And will her personal and professional metamorphosis ultimately bring her the happiness and freedom she dreams of?

Annicken R. Day is the founder and CEO of Corporate Spring, co-author of the book Creative Superpowers, a public speaker, and an executive advisor. Fly, Butterfly is her first novel.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781632992123
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group, LLC
Publication date: 10/07/2019
Pages: 340
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.76(d)

About the Author

As a young girl growing up in Norway, Annicken R. Day fell in love with old Hollywood movies, especially the musical South Pacific from 1958. When she visited the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i thirty years later, she learned by coincidence that South Pacific had been filmed there and that the mystical island of Bali Ha'i indeed existed. That was when the idea for the story about Maya Williams first came to her, a story inspired by Annicken's own life and experiences, and by people-and butterflies-she has met on her journey.

After fifteen years as a leader and executive in the IT industry, Annicken jumped off the corporate treadmill in 2012 to start her own company, Corporate Spring, with a mission to make the corporate world a happier place. Since then she and her team have helped and trained thousands of leaders around the world on how to build thriving corporate cultures, high performing teams, and successful businesses.

Annicken is the founder and CEO of Corporate Spring, co-author of the book Creative Superpowers, public speaker, executive advisor, and a passionate maverick for new ways of thinking, working, and leading in the new world of work.

Annicken spends the majority of her time between Oslo, London, and Los Angeles, where also her singer-songwriter daughter Matilde Redbridge lives.

Fly, Butterfly is Annicken R. Day's first novel.

Read an Excerpt



"Last call for Hawaiian Airlines flight 51 to Honolulu! Can passenger Maya Williams please contact gate forty-nine? The gate is about to close."

Shoot! Would I ever learn to not wear high heels in airports? Already late to begin with, I had been detained for an extra security check because of that stupid water bottle in my carry-on. Typical.

"Please, please, please wait for me!" I shouted silently as I ran toward the gate. I had forgotten how big JFK was, especially when in a hurry.

"Twenty more seconds, and we would not have let you on board," the strict-looking woman at the gate said. I was too short of breath to even speak, so I just smiled thankfully, scanned my ticket, and entered the plane.

As I walked through the business class section where passengers were already sipping expensive champagne, I silently cursed TechnoGuard Inc.'s travel policy. Only executives were allowed to fly business class. Since I was just a simple vice president overseeing five hundred salespeople — selling cybersecurity for a billion dollars a year — I was only permitted to fly coach. Or cattle class, as I secretly called it.

I left the calm and luxurious business class section and stepped into a world of crammed seats crowded with families dressed in matching tracksuits, elderly couples in Hawaiian shirts, and shouting children with chocolate-covered faces jumping up and down in their seats.

Eleven hours of this. Sigh.

In my charcoal-colored suit, high heels, and black leather briefcase, I definitely did not fit in. I guessed by the way the other passengers looked at me that they agreed.

A large man, who seemed as though he was about to burst out of his trousers, struggled with getting his oversized bag into the overhead compartment. I tried to be patient and not make a face, but on the inside, I was rolling my eyes. The things I had to endure ... I only hoped it would all be worth it in the end.

And as if all of it wasn't enough already, when I finally arrived at my seat on the thirty-fourth row, I realized I would be sandwiched between one of those elderly couples in matching Hawaiian shirts. They both had raised eyebrows, as if they were constantly surprised. I nodded toward the seat between them, indicating it was mine.

"Hello, doll. Give me a moment so you can get to your seat," the funny-looking woman said with a heavy Southern accent and smiled cheerfully. I struggled to match her level of enthusiasm.

Just getting up from her seat seemed to require all her strength, and I was near panic, just thinking about sitting between the two of them for the next eleven hours.

"Is there any chance I could have the aisle seat?" I asked carefully. Maybe they would have mercy on me.

The woman looked at her husband, or was he her twin? "Engelbert, hon, let's give this little creature some space," she said and moved into the middle seat, which could hardly contain her large body.

"Thank you," I said and sat down in my seat with a silent sigh.

Maybe there was a God after all.

When the cabin attendant announced that boarding was complete and the plane started taxiing out to the runway, I leaned back in my seat and closed my eyes. I thought about the past day and what must qualify as some of the strangest thirty-six hours of my forty-three years. Little had I known when I woke up yesterday that today I would be on my way to Hawaii, of all places ...



I had been even more stressed than normal for the first Monday of the month. It was an important day. My monthly thirty-minute Presentation to the executive team was my moment to shine, impress my boss, and demonstrate my accomplishments as a VP of sales.

I had worked all weekend and stayed up until 3:00 a.m. the night before, leaving nothing to chance.

"Fail to prepare, prepare to fail" was my mantra. I had been promoted to vice president of sales only one year earlier. This was no small feat in itself, as I was the first female VP in TechnoGuard's twenty-year history.

My ultimate goal, however, was to be promoted to executive VP of sales, with a corner office (and business class tickets!) to go with it. But to get there, I knew I would constantly have to prove myself to my boss and the other men on the executive team.

At times, it both frustrated and exhausted me, but I knew that if I wanted to continue my way up the corporate ladder, I didn't have any other choice than to continue playing the game. A game I, by the way, had become so good at that I sometimes forgot I was playing it.

Before I left my apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, I checked my look in the mirror. I had decided to go with a black skirt and white, low-cut blouse.

I was pleased with the way I had learned to master the art of classic corporate with just a dash of sexy. It was an important part of the game. The effect high heels, red lips, and a little bit of skin had on a man's concentration and his willingness to negotiate never ceased to surprise — and amuse — me.

In fact, often my clients, mostly male, didn't realize what had happened until the deal was done and I had their signature on a piece of paper. It felt like a little victory every time. Payback for all the looks, comments, and condescending attitudes I'd had to endure as a woman in business.

Today, however, it wasn't a client but the executive team I needed to dazzle. I had an important message to convey; I didn't particularly look forward to delivering it, but I knew I didn't have a choice.

After I passed my own final inspection, I took the elevator down to the ground floor, said hello to Fred, the doorman, and stepped out on the pavement. It was 6:15 a.m., and the streets of New York were bustling with cars and people. Everyone was in a hurry, and most people seemed to be even more stressed than I was, which said a lot.

It was still dark outside when I got into the back seat of the yellow cab Fred had waved in for me. "Have a beautiful day, Ms. Williams," he said with a bright smile and opened the car door for me. I had no idea how he did it. Rain or shine, he always had a friendly smile and remark for everyone.

"Thanks, you too, Fred," I said and smiled back as I sat down in the back seat of the car. It took me less than five seconds to discover that the cab driver didn't have Fred's good mood. I watched from the back as he honked and screamed at the other drivers, and when there was no one else to swear at, the man swore at himself.

It was just a regular morning in New York City.

I put on my headphones to drown out the cabbie and listened to the morning news while browsing through the emails on my phone. I had one hundred new emails since I had checked earlier that morning.

As I quickly browsed through my inbox to see if any needed an immediate response, one email in particular caught my attention. The subject line read, "Invitation to speak at a Young Professional Women's Network (YPWN) event."

The network's chairwoman, Cynthia Jones, wanted me to come and speak to their members about how to become a successful businesswoman in the male-dominated corporate world.

I looked out the window of the cab for a moment. Men and women in similar attire were rushing up and down the streets, their blank faces revealed by the lights of hundreds of cars aggressively making their way through the heavy southbound traffic.

I sighed. What could I possibly tell these young professional women that would help them become successful in today's corporate world?

"Work hard, much harder than the men."

"Learn to adapt — to be treated as less worthy."

"Be smart, but not so smart that you intimidate your male colleagues."

"Look good, but not so good that you attract your male boss."

I felt a bit nauseous. No, I couldn't say that. Someone might get curious and start asking questions. And that was the last thing I wanted and needed right now. I decided to decline.

As soon as the cab arrived at the office building on 57th Street, I hurried in and took the elevator up to the thirty-sixth floor. I always arrived in the office before seven and expected my team to do the same. Never mind that we usually stayed until eight or nine in the evening. If you wanted to get ahead, you needed to put in the hours. The competition was fierce. "Eat or be eaten," that's what my dad had always told me. He had forty years of experience; I only had fifteen, but I knew he was right.

Many members of my team were in the crowded elevator. I nodded to a few of them before I stared down at my phone, making sure no one felt invited to start a conversation. I neither had time nor interest to engage in meaningless chitchat.

Once on the thirty-sixth floor, I noticed that most of my sales staff were already inside their cubicles staring at their screens with their headsets on.

The few people who stood by the coffee machine hurried toward their cubicles when they saw me. I pretended not to notice.



Right outside my office, Ruth was already at her desk. She looked like a picture cut out of a glossy magazine that featured smart, professional women in their mid-fifties. With an extraordinarily organized mind to go with her professional look, Ruth was a dream of a personal assistant.

As soon as she saw me, she stood up, followed me into my office, locked the door behind us, and handed me a cup of freshly brewed coffee, like she did every morning.

"Ready to kick some ass?" She smiled.

"Always," I said.

Ruth sat down opposite me, legs folded, with her iPad in her lap, and looked at me over her 1950s-style, black-framed glasses.

"OK, boss. This is what your week will look like."

Little did we know that it wouldn't end up looking anything like that.

I first met Ruth five years ago. It was the day I had been promoted to senior sales manager. She had knocked on my door, introduced herself, and said that she wanted to work for me.

"If you are serious about getting somewhere in this company," she said, "you need someone who knows people, who can give you the information you need, including the kind you're not supposed to have." She winked.

I admired her gumption.

Two weeks later, her boss, the director of marketing, was fired. That is when I realized how well informed Ruth was. She'd known about his firing long before her boss did.

The day after he left, she started working for me.

I know it's unusual that a personal assistant chooses her boss and not the other way around, but there was nothing ordinary about Ruth.

"We women need to stick together," she said. I knew the kind of women she meant: ambitious, determined, and perhaps a bit more ruthless than most.

* * *

From that day on, my journey up the corporate ladder accelerated. Skillfully guided and advised by Ruth, I learned where to be, what to do, and what to say to whom at what time.

Soon I was promoted to sales director, and then senior sales director, and then to my current position as VP of sales.

I wondered how much longer it would be until I could call myself Executive VP and move into my own corner office on the thirty-seventh floor.

The alarm on my phone beeped. It was 8:45 a.m. and my presentation to the executive team was scheduled for nine.

On my way up to the executive suite, I thought about some of the nicknames the execs apparently had given me: "Hot Lips," "Ice Queen," and "Little Miss Lonely Pants."

I knew it was their hurt male egos talking. The majority of them had once, in one way or another, tried to pick me up or insinuated that they wouldn't mind getting into those "lonely pants" after a few too many drinks at one of the dreadful social gatherings I had forced myself to attend.

They had all, of course, been rejected. Not as mercilessly as I would have liked, but considering no one had tried to pick me up twice, I must have made myself pretty clear.



The thirty-seventh floor was like a different world — with big empty spaces, heavy brown furniture, wooden floors, and two massive brown leather sofas in the middle of the room.

Every office was the size of ten of the cubicles on the thirty-sixth floor, the corner offices even bigger. The doors were always locked, and a red or green light outside signaled whether it was OK to knock or not.

I took a seat in the waiting area that looked like a set from the TV show Mad Men. The décor was old-fashioned, heavy and dense, with an air of power, testosterone, entitlement, and greed.

The receptionist, Agnes, fit perfectly into the picture. Dressed in a tight blouse that left little to the imagination, the size of her cleavage could easily hold ten pencils upright at any time. I was amazed that the chief financial officer, who apparently had a thing for big-breasted women, didn't screw up the numbers more than he already did.

Thanks to Ruth, I knew most of the things that happened on the executive floor.

It fascinated me that the executives, who I am sure considered themselves of above-average intelligence, were stupid enough to think that their assistants kept their bosses' shady affairs and dirty little secrets to themselves. The executive assistants were treated like dirt and expected to be dumb and loyal, but I knew that these women were neither.

Every last Friday of the month the executive assistants met for "therapy night" at a local bar. Over pitchers of margaritas they complained about their horrible bosses and swapped stories, each more outrageous than the last. On the following Mondays, Ruth was always eager to share with me what she had learned about the politics, dysfunctions, power struggles, and secret lives of the executives.

It was the highlight of the month.

I knew about Agnes and the CFO, who apparently worked "overtime" quite a bit. One time, during a late-night teleconference call, someone had heard the CFO groan "Ohhhh yeeeessss!" in the middle of a discussion they were having about new accounting practices. "Our CFO sure loves his numbers," one of his colleagues had commented dryly.

Another story was about the chief marketing officer, who usually welcomed his new team members with a wrapped package of marketing books that he wanted them to read, all written in the early 1980s.

One time, however, he gave a new team member the wrong package. He realized his mistake when the call girl he was seeing had phoned him and asked what he wanted her to do with all those books.

As soon as he realized what happened, he rushed his assistant down to the marketing office to retrieve the package for the newly hired marketing assistant, but it was too late. She was already sitting at her desk, staring down in shock at a giant pink dildo.

The mother of all stories, however, was the one about the executive VP of products known for his macho leadership style and sexist behavior. When he didn't show up at work one day or answer any calls or text messages, his assistant Sasha became worried and called his wife, who was out of town. The wife got worried too and asked her to go check on her husband, saying that the doorman would give her the keys to their apartment.

Inside their Park Avenue penthouse, Sasha found her boss on the floor — shouting and growling, feet and hands tied behind his back, wearing only a diaper and a pink tutu.

"I was drugged! I've been robbed! It's not what it looks like!" he screamed when he saw her.

"Right," Sasha thought to herself and hurried to the kitchen to look for a knife. As she loosened the tight rope around her boss's ankles and wrists, her eyes fell on a note on the table.

"This is what happens to cheap, lying sons of bitches. Get yourself another babysitter," it said. Beside the note was his open wallet. Except for a few credit cards, it looked empty.

As her boss quickly wrapped a blanket around his body, the tutu below giving him a funny shape, he simultaneously threatened and begged her to never tell anyone. She would be richly compensated with "shitloads of TechnoGuard shares," he said.

Sasha had managed to keep a serious face and told him that his secret was safe with her, then left the apartment for her boss to get dressed.

Her silence didn't last for long, though.

On the next "therapy night" she completely spilled her guts by the time she had finished her second margarita. Fueled by the effects of the alcohol and the camaraderie with the other executive assistants, Sasha simply couldn't contain herself anymore. Laughing so hard that she was barely able to speak, she gave a detailed description of what had happened, which ended with two of the other girls lying on the floor laughing hysterically and one of them peeing her pants.

Ruth didn't particularly enjoy the assistants' get-togethers, but she still attended them, knowing the information shared one day might come in handy.

For both of us.



At 9:10 a.m., Agnes told me that the executives were ready for me.

The executive meeting room had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Central Park and a sizable wooden table that made the men around it look a lot smaller than they really were. I doubted they were aware of how ridiculous they looked, like little boys pretending to be men.


Excerpted from "Fly, Butterfly"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Annicken Roed.
Excerpted by permission of River Grove Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

The Beginning,
Chapter 1: Last Call,
Chapter 2: Technoguard Inc.,
Chapter 3: Ruth,
Chapter 4: The Thirty-Seventh Floor,
Chapter 5: The Presentation,
Chapter 6: Lisa,
Chapter 7: Alistair Parker,
Chapter 8: A Walk Down Memory Lane,
Chapter 9: The Conference,
Chapter 10: The Beach,
Chapter 11: The Dream,
Chapter 12: The Day After,
Chapter 13: The Key To Paradise,
Chapter 14: Josh,
Chapter 15: The Beach House,
Chapter 16: George,
Chapter 17: Lani & Liat,
Chapter 18: Island Beach Yoga,
Chapter 19: Another Kind Of Dream,
Chapter 20: Chill Beach Babe,
Chapter 21: Aimee,
Chapter 22: William,
Chapter 23: Island Life,
Chapter 24: The Children Of The Rainbow,
Chapter 25: Finding The Dream,
Chapter 26: An Unexpected Visitor,
Chapter 27: Back In The City,
Chapter 28: Day One,
Chapter 29: Year One,
Chapter 30: Year Two,
Chapter 31: Year Three,
Chapter 32: Christmas In New York,
Chapter 33: In Transit,
Chapter 34: Back On The Island,
Chapter 35: The Hike,
Chapter 36: A Place With A View,
Chapter 37: Christmas Eve,
Chapter 38: Bon Voyage, George,
Chapter 39: A New Day,
Chapter 40: Thank You,
About the Author,

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