World Mental Health Day and the Power of Play

Today is a great day to celebrate the importance of mental health. While I was hosting the Rural Futures Podcast, I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Howard Liu about mental health. Dr. Liu serves as the Vice Chancellor for Faculty Development at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He is also the Director of Behavioral Health Education Center of Nebraska, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist. Even better than his training, experience and titles? Howard is a dedicated husband, father and all around super-cool human being!

Part of the interview focused on mental health disparities and shortages in rural areas; however, we also talked about the importance of fun and play for both children and adults.

I included a portion of the transcript that focuses on the importance of play and taking risks below. You can hear the entire episode by visiting the Rural Futures Podcast web site:

Rural Futures Podcast Episode 14: Psychiatrist Howard Liu intersects mental health, workforce, access

Dr. Connie:  I do a lot of work, of course on strategic foresight and futuring, but part of that is creativity, part of that is innovation. And it’s really hard for people to be creative when they’re just focusing on a to-do list and a massive amount of activity, rather than being very intentional and using discernment on what’s really important, what can you say no to, what’s maybe not in your wheelhouse, how do you engage a team around these things and create different systems that really support the ability to be creative? So many organizations say, yes, we want to be innovative, we want to really be competitive in the future. But they really aren’t designing the lives of their employees to be that way because innovation does start with the individual.

Dr. Liu: It really does. I think it does start with the individual, but I think it’s fed by the culture, or stifled by the culture.

(laughing)

Dr. Connie: No, that’s true! That is absolutely right.

Dr. Liu: And I know you’re someone that’s a futurist, and so you really think ahead, and I have no doubt that you found ways to really carve out that time. I believe in two things. As a child psychiatrist, and also as a parent of four kids myself, I think that adults often don’t take the time to play in the same way that kids do. And there’s something that, I don’t know if you grew up watching Mr. Rogers, but Mr. Rogers actually was quite a profound thinker, as it turns out, and then one thing he said is sort of like, play is the work of childhood. You really are trying things out, you’re processing things. We notice in kids who have been through traumas, well, often you’ll see in the play some of the terrible things they’re trying to work out, and what happened, and reenact, and so on.

I believe that for all adults, you have to have some time to play, but that entails two things. One is, it takes some risk, right? Because if you’re going to play, you might mess up, because you’re probably not the world’s expert in that thing, you’re sort of processing in the back of your mind, or balancing off a couple other people.

And then, second thing is then, if it’s going to be risky, you have to be ready to fail, and that’s have to be okay, right, with the organization, with your unit, with your boss, whatever, or your colleagues. And I think for a lot of people, those two things are hard, because it’s a little bit of a risk, and you don’t want to put yourself out there.

I recently read a book. It’s about the founding of Pixar, and written by Ed Catmull, the president, I believe, and it really said the manager’s job is not to prevent risks, is to make it safe to take them, and I really like that, because it makes you really think about, well, as a leader, am I stifling creativity by saying, oh, you messed up here, do better next week, or do I say something different, wow, it looks like you really put yourself out there. Maybe it didn’t work this time, but I’d love to see you keep trying new things. I think there’s different ways we can approach it, and kind of buffer that risk for our employees and our colleagues.

Dr. Connie: So the culture norm is to be so serious, and really stiff.

Dr. Liu: Right.

Dr. Connie: It’s nice to see some of that changing that, but, a lot of the high level leaders I’ve coached, that’s the thing that is missing from their lives so often, and part of coaching them is to encourage them and help them create some time, and make that time to actually play. I mean, there’s nothing more refreshing than a snowball fight with your kids, even. Go sledding, go do these things.

Dr. Liu: Yes.

Dr. Connie: They’re actually fun, or if you were a musician and you haven’t picked up your instrument, like you had mentioned earlier, for years, reengage that part of your health because it really brings out the best in you. And when I used to say that, people would look at me like, oh my gosh, she’s talking about having fun, and we’re talking about leadership and futuring and all these things, but then, it’s like it clicked, and people are like, okay, now how do I do that? Because it was really lacking from their life, but I always say fun is the fountain of creativity, but it’s also the fountain of youth.

Dr. Liu: I have this philosophy about workforce, future workforce, future people in any field, and it’s that, kinda like what you were saying, you can’t just do the routine things if you’re going to flip something, there’s not enough people in any field, right? So otherwise, in 25 years, guess what? Exact same thing, if we’re going to use this same approach. But there’s some science, and I do believe there’s some art to it as well. So my first job in this department was, the only formal title I had was to help build a psychiatry interest group, which was medical students, and there was only one in the interest group, so it wasn’t very successful.

(laughing)

Dr. Liu: But I had in my fellowship, encountered a really outstanding mentor. Her name was Dr. Paula Rauch, who’s a child psychiatrist. And when were trying to learn development, normal childhood development, she would invite all the fellows over, there were nine of us, to her house for breakfast for I think six or nine weeks. And we’d go sit around the table, and she’d serve us a very simple breakfast —just bread and peanut butter, and whatever, and we’d talk about development. And one of the things that we then did was go to see a preschool where her kids had gone to school, and then  just see what they did in their sort of all day recess. And that experience always stuck with me for two things because one is that it takes a little courage to open up your home to trainees, or to colleagues, whatever. It’s an extra step, but two was I never have forgotten it, and I think others have never forgotten it either. Many of us remember it fondly as one of the best parts of our training. And I realized that when I started here, and there’s one person going into psychiatry, and that we needed to do better than that. And so I started hosting things in my home, and we’d invite students and faculty, and you really see outside of the work environment, people really let their hair down. It’s best if they can show up in their shorts or something, and it’s casual, and they can just relax and get to know each other, and I think as the students get to know the faculty, then I think that we’re also sort of unconsciously sort of auditioning them as future colleagues. They’re looking at their lives, and sort of auditioning their lives. Is this the kind of person I want to be? Is this the kind of balance I want to pursue? And as it turns out, the latest study on why students choose psychiatry, work life integration and balance is one of the top three factors. So the only way you could show that is definitely not in your office, but by showing them that thing. Maybe it’s piano, maybe it’s something different. It needs to be something that gives them some sense of who you are outside of work.

Dr. Connie: Oh, absolutely, you get to see the real person. I mean, in so many ways, when we go to work, it’s not really a facade. I mean, I think for some people it is, but you don’t see the family that they’re raising. You don’t see who they are, or the hobbies they have. You don’t see them as a whole person. My previous position before coming to the Rural Futures Institute, I did a lot of team building at the Kimmel Education and Research Center, which is on Kimmel Orchard in Nebraska City, Nebraska. We’d have companies come and we’d do things like Iron Chef cook-offs.

Dr. Liu: That’s great.

Dr. Connie: Real active, very fun, but also very purposeful types of activities. It’s the same thing you’re saying, I mean, so often, a lot of team conflict is because people just really don’t know or understand each other outside of the meetings they sit in. So how can we break down those barriers, really understand people as people, and build that camaraderie, but also that compassion, and real like for other people. And we’re more apt to do that if we know them and appreciate who they are rather than judging who they are.

Dr. Liu: That’s really well said.

Dr. Connie: You are a leader in your space. I’d love to know more about your leadership philosophy, your style. There’s a psychologist that said, with any organization, it’s always good to be half in and half out, and what he meant by that was that if you have six different jobs, no one really feels like you’re part of that organization because you’re running around, and you’re not really present, right? And people understand that, right?

Dr. Liu: So you have to be at least half-time in, doing that thing, where people see you, they recognize what you do in that work and that kind of thing. But this goes back to your earlier point about creativity. You have to find that thing, you have passion area, and you have to carve it out. And it may not be there right away, but however you get there, that’s what’s going to create vitality for you in the workplace, is having that thing and for some people, that’s research. For some people, that’s community engagement. I really enjoy that piece, for example. For some people, it’s something different, right. It might be building infrastructure, or could be anything, publishing. But having that space to really carve that out, is so important. And then not being too committed to too many things is very important as well. So that was one principle. Another one that someone told me was, think about your portable skill set, because in a career, you may wear six, ten, many different hats, but what do you take away from each, and have you grown? And as I’ve thought about my career, I came in, again, really just as a clinician, which is a great thing, but I didn’t really know anything about leadership, and so a lot of what I’ve learned has been on the job. But I do try to be intentional about it, and try to write some things down. At some point I realized, there’s some major gaps of what I do and don’t know. I know a little bit on managing budgets, but I really don’t know about healthcare economics in the same way as someone who’s running a hospital does, and if I’m going to ever do clinical leadership, I should probably learn something about that. So for example, last year, I enrolled in an executive MBA program that’s sponsored through our hospital. Having those relationships, what Gallup would say, is the “friend at work” is so important. It’s so easy to neglect, but if you don’t have it, I really feel it So it’s the people that you can go and really debrief with, that aren’t doing it because of your role, but really, they genuinely, you like each other, that you can share your woes, and they can share theirs, that kind of thing. You can’t just create it, you have to find it. You have to carve that time out, and then you have to nurture it once you have those people. I’ve been lucky to have those people here, and it’s so important just for attention and for your own vitality as a leader.


Howard and I had a great time during the interview (I left the “laughing” element of the show notes in tact so you could literally read about the fun we had while talking).

Play and laughter need to be a bigger part of our human experience. We have forgotten not only that it feels good but that it is also good for us, our families, our communities and even our businesses!

This whole idea was the basis of creating a futuring school (F * School) for women in midlife. This creation has come from my many years of coaching clients and working with businesses who have all lost their ability to create their desired futures and engage with their world because fun is typically a distant memory. It may sound a little wild, which you all know that I am totally fine with being. The first module is going to focus on…FUN! Yes, you read that right…the first module is going to focus on the power of play and fun as the foundation for creating your future (while enjoying the present). We will explore a bit about of the science associated with the importance of fun. Then, we will get into into practical steps designed transform life through fun and fulfillment.

If you have any interest in learning to have more fun, please add your email to our list and you will be one of the first to receive the enrollment information. The fun lessons will be absolutely free! The more fun we can get out there into the world, the better!

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Enjoy yourself today and everyday, and remember to…

Go Wild & Have Fun!

-Dr. Connie

The Future of Humanity: Connectivity and Connectedness

I am honored to be speaking about the work of the Rural Futures Institute (RFI) on Thursday, April 18. My talk is one of many exciting conversations about the future at the Nebraska Law Telecommunications Conference on the Rural Digital Divide. I am going to talk about RFI as well as the importance of both connectivity and connectedness now and into the future. This is an especially important topic for women because it impacts all areas of our life ranging from finances and fitness to faith and family.

The conference is hosted by the Space, Cyber, & Telecom Program at the University of Nebraska College of Law. How cool is that…a Space, Cyber & Telecom Law Program? Absolutely! Technology is changing very rapidly, and we need experts to help shape the future through policies and laws that are as cutting-edge as the tech. I have had the pleasure to partner with some of these amazing faculty members and am really look forward to the conference. The conference is free and open to the public.

Please join us to explore the future of connectivity, connectedness, humanity and much more!!

 

Join Me Today on 1110 KFAB Radio!

Status Update: I will be on from 3:30 PM to 4:30 PM today, and Clint will be taking callers!

In addition to the topics I listed in the original blog post below, we will be discussing the 3 Mega-Trends I recently wrote about and presented on: 1) The Rise of the #GigEconomy, 2) Living with Purpose and Meaning and the 3) Decentralized Global Marketplace.

Plan on calling in with your questions!

Looking forward to hearing from you all!
-Dr. Connie

I am counting down the hours to my interview with Clint Bellows this afternoon on 1110 KFAB (www.kfab.com). I will be in the studio at 2:30 PM.

Our conversation will focus on creating your desired future in the current economy. We will touch on the power of your beliefs and talk about how your brain impacts finances, the future and of course fun!

Let me know if you have any questions you want me to answer on the air. Clint talked about taking live calls. I would love to hear from you if he opens the phone lines!

Going Wild!
Connie

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Easter is Awesome!

My family is winding down our fantastic Easter weekend. We found lots of eggs, and had fun spending time outside in the sun. The lovely rain made everything seem clean again, which is such a great reminder of the true purpose of Easter.

My daughter’s favorite part of Easter was the candy! Jim’s favorite moment was taking a nature walk, and my son’s favorite moment was finding an Easter Egg in his room. My favorite part was remembering that all is forgiven because of a special sacrifice that was made many years ago. Easter is a great time to reflect on the past but also let go to make room for a new and even brighter future.

Thank you Lord for all our blessings and for a fresh start!

Go Wild with Easter!
-Dr. Connie

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Future-Focused Leadership: Cooperation, Creativity and Purpose

Interestingly enough, the hottest jobs at Facebook require a “human touch.”  Why?  They are looking for people who can close sales because their revenue relies heavily on ads (Anders, 2014).  Perhaps the most future-focused distance learning administrators should consider blending “high-human touch” with “high-tech” in new and interesting ways that holistically add value to the lives of learners.

Future-focused leaders in distance learning are using technology to change the game of education and life. One person cannot do it alone in a world that continues to change at an increasingly rapid pace; rather, distance administrators should innovate in teams with a spirit of cooperation and creativity.   Together, with a common purpose, distance leaders can examine megatrends, utilize emerging technologies, develop content, streamline design and monitor analytics while creating meaningful educational experiences and innovating the world of distance education in ways not yet imagined.

Thanks for following and celebrating this blog series focused on the future-focused leadership in distance learning.  Keep those ideas and trends coming!

Go Wild with the Future of Learning!

-Dr. Connie

The manuscript, Future-Focused Leadership:  Three Mega-Trends Influencing Distance Learning (including references used in this blog series), can be downloaded online by visiting the Kimmel Education and Research Center’s Digital Commons site:  http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/kimmelfacpub/24

Mom's Birthday Cake
Thanks for following and celebrating the AskDrConnie.com blog series on future-focused leadership in distance learning! And, a Very Happy Birthday to a Special Someone in my family!! 🙂

Megatrend 3: Decentralized Global Marketplace

Distance learning is in the age of the “Empowered Consumer-Learner” who has a buffet of educational choices.   The empowered consumer-learner decides what educational experiences and knowledge they need, when they need it and how they want to experience it.  The wide-array of non-credit and for credit choices makes for a very competitive marketplace but also a field of new opportunities.

Venture capitalists continue to invest in distance education because of the return on investment potential.  Big Data is being used to develop marketing campaigns, study human behaviors and determine patterns.  It is also being used to examine various areas of teaching and learning.  Data can help create bite-sized, customized courses and programs that are both personalized and interactive (Koller, 2012). Technology enables the delivery of information and education anytime, anywhere and from anyone in a way that makes sense to the learner while adding value to their lives.

It’s no longer necessary for people to enroll in college, formal classes or workshops to learn.  They are learning what they want to know from their networks and resources they find on the Web, through Apps or in iTunes.  People will increasingly be able to create and print their ideas from wherever they choose with 3D printing.  Technology, combined with the continued growth of self-expression and meaning, will continue to change education at a rapid pace.

Value is becoming less about college credit and more about meaningful outcomes and self-expression through enhanced skills and evolving abilities.  The world is fast-becoming an “Add to Cart” society for anything and everything, including educational experiences.  Individuals are creating local, national and global communities of meaning and change that are self-selected and self-formed.  Many of these same individuals are transforming distance learning in new and innovative ways.  Technology, combined with the need for meaning, self-expression and self-actualization, has created an increasingly decentralized marketplace.

People are choosing how to meet virtually, when, where and whether-or-not to meet face-to-face and connecting over common causes.  Education, along with so many other areas of life, is becoming increasingly decentralized.  Savvy consumers seek and create the value they crave to transform their lives.   They are choosing whether or not they want a badge, certificate, credit hour or degree, and their demands are shaping the marketplace and future trends.  The Empowered Consumer-Learner wants a unique experience that adds value to their life.  Future-focused leaders who ask and answer not, “What is the lifetime value of a customer?” but rather, “What value can we add to a lifetime?” will be in a better position to compete in the increasingly decentralized marketplace.

Innovation Retreat: New Ideas and New Dollars on April 29!
As educators, what is the value we can add to a lifetime?

Megatrend 2: Living with Purpose and Meaning

Our society is quickly evolving into an era characterized by shared purpose and meaning.  Leaders must be willing to create an atmosphere of sustainable innovation designed to continuously move organizations forward while connecting employees and clientele to meaningful experiences and their definitions of personal fulfillment.

How many distance-learning leaders are adding value to the lives of learners, faculty and staff from a holistic perspective? 

Personal fulfillment is a growing trend and may be a growing trend in distance education as well.  Research on the “entrepreneurial learner” in the distance learning environment demonstrated an increase in credit hour completion as learner motivation associated with personal fulfillment strengthened (Reimers-Hild & King, 2006).  People are looking to decrease their levels of stress and strengthen their healthy habits while finding greater fulfillment.  Minimalism is one of the trends shaping the Living with Purpose and Meaning megatrend because people are seeking less stuff and more life.  At first glance this may seem like an odd topic for administrators in the distance learning arena to consider; however, minimalism is gaining popularity in trend-setting places like Silicon Valley and is influencing everything from living spaces, to workplaces and web design.  The Living with Purpose and Meaning megatrend will continue to grow as the global population increases and places more demands on the planet’s limited natural resources.  How can future-focused distance leaders create a better experience for learners and employees alike?  Leaders can connect with individuals’ beliefs while helping them find purpose and meaning in their educational endeavors and careers while living fuller lives with less clutter and greater health and well-being.

Technology may help distance learning administrators holistically add more purpose and meaning to the lives of both learners and employees.  For example, a forecast by Carbone and Nauth (2012) describes the evolution of the “cloud.”  They discuss the cloud evolving from a place to store data to an intelligent resource that will actively help people improve their lives:

Virtual agents will migrate from being an automated form of phone-based customer service to a personalized form of support and assistance that provides information and—more importantly—performs useful tasks. For example, such agents might design a weekly menu based on a family’s health profile, fitness goals, and eating preferences, and automatically order ingredients.

This forecast provides an example of how distance leaders can use technology to help their organizations innovate with a focus on the future.  A transition from cloud-based computing to cloud-based living and learning might be help institutions focus on both learners and employees in a more holistic manner.

Two trends supporting the Living with Purpose and Meaning megatrend include: 1) life increasingly flowing together instead of being compartmentalized into work, family, recreation, etc., and 2) the quest for greater well-being, health and vitality.  People are increasingly learning and living on the go in both the virtual and physical senses, which blurs the lines between family, self-care, work and play.

How do these trends influence distance learning?  As more people want to connect with their purpose, find meaning in their lives, and increase their vitality, educational institutions should take a more people-centered approach focused on meaning, well-being and the mind-body connection supported by the right social networks, experiences and technologies.  A few ideas might include:

  • Integrating holistic, healthy living and self-care principles into distance learning programs in an effort to create better learner experiences and to create more value in courses, programs and the lives of learners (including the lives of their families).
  • Providing coaching for learners and employees to help them uncover their purpose and create strategies and structures to support meaningful actions designed to improve their educational endeavors and lives.
  • Adding physical activity and fun to courses or programs in an effort to stimulate creativity, decrease stress, build camaraderie and strengthen overall wellness (perhaps an App or the intelligent cloud can help).

It’s time to move beyond the traditional grading scales, discussion boards and homework assignments and focus on the whole person and what life means to them.  Helping people find their fulfillment, purpose and definition of success may provide distance-learning administrators with tools to innovate their institutions.  Competition for learners, along with their precious time and dollars, will continue to increase.  Distance-learning institutions will have to find new ways to add increased value to the lives of learners, employees and their families.  Not only can people choose to learn anytime from anyplace, people can choose what they want to learn and from whom they want to learn it.  Institutions that add the most value will have the competitive advantage.

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Megatrend 1: The Rise of the #GigEconomy

The rise of the entrepreneurial individual, and what is currently referred to as the Gig Economy, will create new challenges and opportunities for distance learning administrators.  How can institutions of education help learners create value for traditional employers and for their individual brands?   If not as many people are investing in education to land a full-time job, what does this mean for higher education?

An emerging trend, the rise of global joblessness (International Labour Office, 2014), is supporting the growth of the Gig Economy while creating a need for the marketing of talents and skills in new and meaningful ways.   The number of large employers is predicted to shrink in the future causing people to find new and inventive ways to make a living.  The ability to sell, purchase and promote goods and services as well as individual brands on the Web has created a need for education to add value to the lives of learners in innovative ways.  People are increasingly defining success for themselves, which does not always include a college degree and a 9-5 job.  In many ways, it is now much cooler to be a successful start-up entrepreneur, famous blogger or YouTube sensation than a person working in a full-time job.

One common denominator will remain the same:  People need to be found on the already crowded World Wide Web.  They have to build their brands and levels of influence to strengthen both credibility and success.  Educational institutions should keep a close eye on the rise of businesses like Fiverr.com and the use of Twesumes (Twitter + Resume = Twesume = a resume in 140 characters or less) to land jobs or gigs (thus, the #GigEconomy).

Leaders should also consider building their brands, as well as those of students, faculty and alumni.  The rise of social networks and technology has enabled people to both learn and teach at anytime from any place.  These same tools have helped people create their own businesses and design their lives in ways that best suit them, which supports the Living with Purpose and Meaning megatrend.  Life purpose is shaping everything from healthcare to education.

Happy Birthday Mom!

 

 

Yesterday was a bit of a bittersweet day.  It was great because I had a wonderful meeting with some amazing people from Outward Bound Omaha who I can see working with in the near future.  It was a challenging day because it was also my Mom’s birthday.

So, I did what I could to make it a special day when the person you love is no longer around to celebrate. I called Dad to see how he was doing.  He definitely did not sound like himself.  I communicated with my sister, who remembered so many great things about Mom.  And, I bought a chocolate cake and put four candles on it (one for each of the people in my little family), sang “Happy Birthday” to Mom and asked everyone to make a wish as they blew out their candles.  Memorial birthdays are not fun but are a good reason for all who loved her to remember her and lean on one another.

Happy Birthday Mom!

WE LOVE YOU!!

Connie & Family

 

Mom's Birthday Cake