Bartz coped with cancer by refusing to feel sorry for herself. "I was of the mind, and frankly still am, that if you focus too much on yourself, you get kind of possessed."
Still, looking back, Bartz says she overdid the "tough guy" routine. "Please tell people that when doctors say it takes six weeks to recover, you shouldn’t go back to work after four," she says. "Missing work those two weeks wouldn’t have killed anybody. And it was really tough on me. I should have stayed home." She also remembers how she wanted to shield her family from her own worries, but didn’t join a support group. "I wish I had dropped the attitude that ‘I’m too busy’ for a group. That was wrong."
Bartz may have some regrets, but she "doesn’t believe in running around with should-haves and would-haves and could-haves," she says. She has always gotten done what had to be done.
There’s an irony in her recent decision to give up the power of the CEO job to Carl Bass. Back in 1993, Bartz bought Bass’s company, then fired him when she felt he was pushing too hard for change at Autodesk. A few months later, she realized she needed him and hired him back. He went on to develop some critical software and helped the company reverse a dangerous slide during the dotcom years.
Bartz has assured Bass, she says, that she will allow him to have control and run the company. "I promised myself that, before I make any new commitments, I’ll see what it’s like not to work 80-hour weeks." This is terra incognita, she emphasizes. "When I say it’s an unknown, it’s an unknown."
No one — not her family, friends, or Bartz herself — can picture her spending the next 10 years fine-tuning her golf swing or even puttering around the garden. "I have this work ethic, and that just doesn’t go away," she says. "But I also always feel a little insecure. I’ve been there, I’ve seen how tough life can be and how fleeting this can be. I will never lose that."
Originally published in MORE magazine, June 2006.
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