After 15 years abroad, Plant City native Jayme Harris is back and will have a chapter on success in an upcoming book.
He’s only four, but Jayme Harris is already thinking about the lessons she wants to pass on to her son, Dylan.
Lessons on happiness, specifically. She turned to the poem “Success” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and expounded on each point in the poem: to laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people, to leave the world a bit better.
Harris compiled the points into a chapter and submitted it to CelebrityPress. The chapter will be included in the new book, “Success Manifesto: The World’s Leading Entrepreneurs and Professionals Reveal Their Secrets for Achieving Success in Your Health, Wealth and Lifestyle.” The book is tentatively set to release in Fall 2016.
For Harris, a military veteran and the founder of proposal and contract-writing company I Consult Jayme, there’s one certain truth about success: it doesn’t come easy.
Win the Respect of Intelligent People
Growing up, Harris said she was the kid who didn’t have a lot going for her, at least in terms of finances.
She was nearing her graduation from Plant City High School when military recruiters came to speak to graduating seniors. Harris attended the seminar as a way to get out of class, a decision that ultimately affected the rest of her life.
“I graduated from Plant City and immediately entered the (United States) Air Force,” Harris said. “The Air Force was four years. I wanted to get in and get out, but I ended up loving it. It was the best choice for me.”
Harris determined she wanted to be a fire protection specialist — the equivalent of being in the military’s fire department. The job description, she said, made it sound like she would be a superhero.
But when she got to basic training and told the recruiter her plans, she was laughed at. She was told she would have to work twice as hard and do twice as well to be considered equal to her male counterparts. The only female in tech school, she refused to allow herself to be limited on physical capabilities.
“And that’s what I did,” Harris said. “I wanted to be taken seriously. I always had to prove everybody wrong.”
After she served active duty for four years, she became a civilian firefighter. In 2001, she became Civilian Firefighter of the Year. She stayed with the department for 11 years, eventually running her own fire truck.
But soon, she was ready for her next adventure. She left the department to join Halliburton KBR, a once billion-dollar procurement and construction company.
“My dad told me not to do it,” Harris said. “But I never looked back.”
Leave the World A Bit Better
As a KBR employee, Harris served as a safety inspector. In the 2000s, Halliburton constructed and ran military bases, oftentimes overseeing facilities such as base dining halls. Though Harris was in the middle of a war zone, she was living a dream of experiencing the world around her.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Harris said. “When you’re living your dream, you’re also learning. I was seeing the people affected when we brought them supplies. It was really emotional.”
After enrolling in vocational school when she left the Air Force, a teacher told her she wouldn’t amount to anything.
“She said, ‘When you’re born poor and a nobody, you’ll die poor and a nobody,’” Harris said.
Every day from then on, Harris worked to prove that teacher wrong.
From Iraq, Harris went to Kuwait, where she worked under local companies to bring in supplies to the military. In 2003, she ventured away from KBR to co-found billion-dollar Unity LSS. The company’s work in construction and logistics was used by the United States government in the Middle East.
Harris was always on the job.
“We did our first $10 million in the first two years,” Harris said. “And $800 million in 10 years. It was a really proud whirlwind. It was hard to fill all orders. We had to rely on locals a lot.”
The company, originally under five people, grew to 600 people with camps all over the world.
“I was the person that flew in (to the camps),” Harris said. “I would get three to five hundred emails per day. I would be there for the customers. Sometimes they would need a quote within an hour. Nothing was stopped.”
It was a 24-hour job.
“I started cracking a little bit,” Harris said. “We grew so big, so fast. It was so much pressure on me. After a while I couldn’t even breathe and sleep because the stress got to be so much. The pressure to me was unbearable. This is like a baby, this is like a kid.”
Eventually, Harris took a step back. She went to London for one year, but felt directionless. After a short stay in the Dominican Republic, she went to Thailand, where she gave birth to her son. By the time she gave birth, she was back in work full swing.
“I was emailing in labor,” Harris said. “I worked on proposals while my son was in intensive care.”
After some real estate investments that crashed with the market, Harris moved to Dubai and then to Mexico. She stayed there for one year, where she managed a resort and wrote proposals for the government.
Harris and her son returned to the United States in May. While living in Tampa, she’s working on her real estate license and hopes to continue her consulting business while writing proposals for Unity.
Laugh Often and Much
For Harris, it feels a bit weird to consider “home” a townhouse in Tampa. She doesn’t have tons of furniture and decorations yet — most of it is still in storage in Dubai.
It’s her first time living back in the United States in 15 years. But with her son getting closer and closer to school age, Harris was ready to settle down for him. Dylan is learning how to swim, and Harris is looking forward to taking him to the Florida Strawberry Festival in March.
“This is where I want to be in my life,” Harris said.
Even now, the comment from that teacher still keeps Harris motivated to follow her dreams. She advises others to do the same.
“Look at true examples of people that have (made it),” Harris said. “Just remember the reality and the real people that have made it. If they’re from Plant City, they have got somebody in their corner.”
In her next endeavors, Harris hopes she’ll be able to give back.
“I would like to do mentorship programs,” she said. “I want to show kids that they have other options.”
All they have to do is look at her to know anything is possible.
Contact Emily Topper at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jayme Harris’ business, I Consult Jayme, was created for consulting, event management and content writing. Jayme Harris also offers personal coaching and mentorship programs.