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

Women Worldwide Podcast Interview with the incredible Dierdre Breakenridge

I recently had the privilege of being interviewed by Dierdre Breakenridge. Dierdre is a PR guru, entrepreneur, teacher, author and awesome person! Learn more about Dierdre and her work by going to her web site: https://www.deirdrebreakenridge.com/

We had a million things we could have talked about in this episode of Women Worldwide; however, we ended up talking about futuring, the importance of a vision and how to have fun while pursuing your desired future! Check out this episode Women Worldwide and join Deirdre’s mission to advance a global conversation designed to help women succeed in business and in life.

Futuring – What is it and Why Do You Need It In Your Business?

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!!

 

Creating Exponential Opportunities

I am thrilled to be leading a strategic foresight session in partnership with the Western Healthcare Alliance as part of their Annual Summit.

Our goal is to achieve three overall objectives:

1. Feel Inspired, Energized and Connected

2. Learn about Ideas and Opportunities

3. Collectively and Openly Innovate to Co-Create the Future by Asking and Answering: What can our Health Organizations do Together?

Healthcare is undergoing a massive disruption like so many other industries.  Many women are leading this change as part of the health and healthcare industry.  They are also leading it as consumers.

I am curious…how do you see the future of health and healthcare evolving?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, ideas and insights!

-Dr. Connie  

 

The New Midlife Crisis on OPRAH.COM

I just read a brilliant article by Ada Calhoun, The New Midlife Crisis:  Why (and How) It’s hitting Gen X Women.   

Gen X, the generation often ignored by researchers, employers or even in basic conversations and presentations about generational differences,  had a very different upbringing when compared to their parents or their children.   We are an ambitious generation that created successful companies but also struggled in careers while figuring out how to “balance” work, family and gender dynamics.  Many remained unmarried and childless by choice.  Others married and had children much later in life than previous generations-yes, that’s me!

Midlife has changed, and there is little understanding of midlife challenges and opportunities in the modern era.  I agree with Calhoun about many of the challenges (underemployment, regret about life decisions, etc).  However, I also think our bold and courageous generation continues to shape the world in many positive ways.  Gen X continues to shape organizations, businesses and communities with their independence, work ethic and drive to have a personal life.

The pressure many Gen Xers put on themselves can be a blessing but also a curse.  One key to a more positive midlife is letting go of regret and so much self-censoring while making life more of an adventure.  Generally speaking, many of us were bold and independent in our youth.  We are the generation of big hair, shaved sides, multiple piercings, video games, loud music and mohawks. If there is any generation who can find ways to enjoy it all more-it is ours.  Gen X has done more for this country than most people realize without receiving or even needing the credit for their accomplishments.  We have been leading under the radar for most of our lives, and it is time to raise our hands and voices to audaciously shape the future, especially for women (more on this in a later post).

What does this more modern midlife look like to you?  How are you dealing with the challenges, pressures and stress?  What great adventures are you having in your midlife?  What new opportunities are you pursing?  Let us know by leaving a comment.  We would enjoy hearing from you!

-Dr. Connie

Enjoy OWN’s hilarious video:

 

The Future of Women: Globally Connecting in the #GigEconomy

Women are one segment of society benefitting from the #GigEconomy.  They are taking advantage of being globally connected in a big way!  Women are selling products on Etsy, Amazon and their own stores.  They are using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media sites to grow their online presence while supporting their businesses and families.

In 2015, I co-published an article, Become a Future-Focused Leader:  Use Three Megatrends to Grow Your Rural Business, with Alyssa Dye (an amazing young female entrepreneur!)  We also published three videos on the three megatrends I will share in the Future of Women series.  You can download the full-text article focused on rural entrepreneurs, including related references by clicking here.  The first video is below.  The article and videos were targeted to rural entrepreneurs; however, the same ideas are important for female entrepreneurs.  I made a few changes to the original article and posted a few segments below.  When you read or hear “rural entrepreneur” in the video you can think “female entrepreneur.”  The #GigEconomy is full of challenges and opportunities for women in business.

No one can predict the future; however, entrepreneurs and business owners can use a future-focused leadership approach, which includes examining megatrends, to shape the future of their businesses and lives. Megatrends are global shifts that influence society, the economy and the environment. This “Future of Women” series will  discusses three megatrends shaping the future:
1) The Rise of the #GigEconomy
2) Living with Purpose and Meaning
3) The Decentralized Marketplace

While many companies are struggling to keep up with the rapid rate of change, future-focused entrepreneurs are growing their businesses by blending technology with the human experience. And, many of these entrepreneurs are women.  Together, with a common purpose, female entrepreneurs can examine megatrends, utilize emerging technologies, and monitor analytics while creating meaningful experiences and innovating businesses in ways not yet imagined.

Why is this so important?  I believe many women are naturally future-focused leaders.  Research published by the National Women’s Business Council shows that nearly 91% of female entrepreneurs are in business by themselves.  They have no employees.  I believe this is by choice.  Women are working to support themselves and their families; however, they also want to build a future for their families that includes more than money.  They are looking for ways to live a full and meaningful life designed to support their families for generations.

The trend of female entrepreneurs is a critical global trend.  Women have long been leading families and communities with little to no recognition.  This trend is changing, and women will be shaping the future in ways the world has not yet imagined.

The emerging Gig Economy (#GigEconomy) will create new challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs, businesses and communities. 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 ability to sell, purchase and promote goods and services, as well as individual brands, on the web has created a need for entrepreneurs to add value to the lives of others 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 traditional office setting for 40+ hours per week.

Approximately 53 million Americans are engaged in some manner of freelancing, which is adding around $715 billion to the economy (Edelman Berland, 2014). Further, the number of large employers is predicted to shrink in the future, causing people to find new and inventive ways to make a living. Self-employment has been identified as a vital economic tool for rural people and communities (Goetz & Rupasingha, 2014). The rising #Gig Economy may be one megatrend that can benefit rural places if technology can be leveraged to reach both local and niche audiences interested in purchasing goods and services from freelancing entrepreneurs.

One common denominator will remain the same: Women-owned businesses and 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. Businesses like Fiverr.com and Iotronics are disrupting the traditional career and job search with technology. Need a logo, book review or video? No problem. Go to Fiverr and hire outsource experts in almost anything to help you. Services start at only five dollars! Iotronics helps people generate Twesumes (Twitter + Resume = Twesume), which are resumes in 140 characters or less) to land jobs or gigs (thus, the #GigEconomy).

Connectivity is key. Female entrepreneurs can participate in the #GigEconomy as both entrepreneurs for hire as well as employers. Entrepreneurs can use #GigEconomy tools to diversify their profit centers, contract with other entrepreneurs and generate income.

Coaching Tips for Female Entrepreneurs:

1) Consider marketing goods and services on websites that can help you test the marketplace, connect with customers and take payments. Amazon, Square and Etsy may be places to sell your ideas. Fiverr and Elance can help entrepreneurs find help or land gigs. Online marketplaces may be a way to begin selling on the Web. Make sure to do your homework first to ensure that you are working with a credible source.

2) Connect with other entrepreneurs inside and outside of your niche. Look for other entrepreneurs (both competitors and collaborators) on Fiverr and find gigs on places like Mom Corps, TeachersPayTeachers, Square and similar resources. LinkedIn is a great place to connect with like- minded entrepreneurs and industry leaders. Many states have an online marketplace focused on selling goods and services available in that state. For example, Grow Nebraska is a marketplace resource for Nebraska’s entrepreneurs.

3) Become vigilant and creative about building your brand. Blend online and offline worlds in ways that engage people in meaningful experiences. Have some fun and let your personality shine through! For example, a Twitter Party is a great tool to expand your brand online in real-time.

Successfully making your mark in the #GigEconomy takes patience and hard work.  However, it also presents the opportunity to earn extra income along side of your current career or as a part- or full-time entrepreneur.  The opportunities are truly endless!

Go Wild with Your Opportunity in the #GigEconomy!  This is your chance to…Be You & Do Something Cool!

-Dr. Connie