Happiness Ignites Innovation

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4th of July Gratitude!

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays!  I love the fireworks, food and time with family.  I am also grateful  to be free!!

In the United States of America, we have the best gift of all: Freedom.  Many men and women have sacrificed their lives and families to protect our freedom.

Cherish your freedom.  Respect your freedom.  Use it wisely.

Remember, we have the freedom to decide how to live our lives every single day.  You have the power to live in the present while creating your desired future.

Enjoy all the fun that the fourth has to offer; however, make time to thank veterans, active military personnel, and their family members whenever possible.  We all owe them all a deep debt of gratitude!

Go Wild with Fun on the 4th of July!

-Dr. Connie

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Mom, Memories and Miracles

Two events in 2010 changed the trajectory of my life forever.

I was driving home on June 22, 2010. As usual, I was talking to Mom. We talked about everyday things like my kids and when we would see each other next. I told her that I had been stranded at home the day before because every road to work was flooded due to heavy rainfall.

She wondered why I had not called. The truth was, I was being selfish and wanted a day to myself. I was scheduled to leave on a work-related trip to Costa Rica on June 26, so I spent the day packing and getting everything ready. I knew calling Mom would result in a two-hour phone conversation, so I made the decision not to call.

As I pulled into the garage, I told her (again) that I had to go because I wanted to take my three-year-old daughter to the pool or run with her through the sprinkler. It was finally hot enough to get into some water—for the first time in 2010!

My daughter, Raquel, loved the water, and so did I. My love of the water came from Mom. She taught my siblings and me how to swim when we were very young and always made sure we spent a lot of time at the pool. I wanted to get Raquel in the water so we could have some fun, but also because she had been talking about swimming with Mom (a.k.a. Grandma Reimers) since January. Raquel loved going swimming with Mom, and Mom loved swimming with her.

I told Mom again that I had to go and for a split second thought about telling her that I loved her. She said, “Okay,” quietly and with disappointment in her voice. Mom and I talked often, so I left the “I love you” out of the conversation and bolted out of the vehicle to see Raquel. She was ready to get wet, but my nine-month-old son was not feeling well. We opted for the sprinkler and had a great time laughing, playing, and goofing around in the yard. When you live in Nebraska, the first time getting wet in the summer is always the best.

After running through the sprinkler, my husband, Jim, and I gave the kids a bath. I got into the shower around 9:00 p.m. I had just stepped in and turned the water on when Jim came into the bathroom and told me that Dad was calling. I was not worried and told Jim that I would call Mom and Dad back after I showered.

He came back a few minutes later and told me I had better call home, because it was an emergency. I called home. The line was busy. Then I called my sister Marsha, and the words that came out with great sorrow as she cried and sobbed will haunt me forever: “Mom is dead…she’s dead!”

In that single moment, my life changed forever. I quickly packed a bag and drove to my parents’ home to be with Dad. It was dark, and I drove through a very strong thunderstorm for the entire two hours it took me to get there. The thunder, lightning, and torrential rain seemed to mirror that exact moment of my life. It was dark, turbulent, and cold. My soul was numb.

Seeing Dad’s face after I walked in the door added to the pain. He was the one who found Mom—his wife of forty-five years, the woman with whom he had raised six kids and spent most of his life. I was the first one he called…and I was not there for him. While Mom was dying, I was running through the sprinkler with my daughter. It was the beginning of a very dark time in my life.

Events such as someone’s untimely death make you question your life. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked myself about the purpose of life since June 22, 2010. Sometimes life itself doesn’t even seem real. It seems more like a dream.

I started questioning my religious beliefs and career choices. There were so many things about Mom’s death that made me question everything, including my life purpose.

My parents had just celebrated their forty-fifth wedding anniversary the month before we lost Mom. We celebrated the anniversary on the day of my daughter’s third birthday party. It was a fun day—a beautiful day. The six of us kids tried to surprise Mom and Dad with champagne and cake, but of course she had packed a cooler with champagne too. Mom was hard to surprise, because she knew us all so well.

The six children and their families bought a gift certificate for my parents. It was for a rock on which they could have their names inscribed. They could place it at either their house in town or on the acreage they purchased after my grandma’s death. The acreage is part of the Reimers family farm, which has been in our family for over one hundred years.

Mom and Dad spent a lot of time working on the acreage. When I called in the evening, they usually told me they were “farming.” My parents both grew up on farms and had farming in their blood. Mom and Dad’s “farm” is truly a historical and spiritual place for my family. My dad grew up on it, and all six of us kids spent time there as children. We all have great memories of the farm and still spend a lot of time there enjoying our large family.

A few weeks after the combined birthday/anniversary celebration, my parents went to my husband’s hometown to celebrate his parents’ fiftieth anniversary. It was a Saturday, and Dad had to work. I told Mom several times that my in-laws would understand if they couldn’t make it. She really wanted to be there, so Mom and Dad made the two-hour journey to the anniversary celebration after he was done working.

It was a busy day. I spent most of my time taking care of our two kids. I could not get our infant son, Jagger, to take a nap. He was very fussy, and I tried everything I could to comfort him. Mom took him, and she put him right to sleep. Thank God for grandmas!

While Mom snuggled Jagger, my sister and I took pictures of the celebration. Mom asked me to take a picture of her and Jagger. I took a few shots, and she asked me to take some more. I remember thinking Ugh! I already did this. Why is she being so insistent? But she was determined to get a good shot of the two of them together.

That was the last time she held my son. It’s one of the few pictures I have of the two of them together. It was the last day I would see her alive.

My sister’s little boy was having fun with the camera and took the last picture of Mom that weekend. She was sitting on a chair in their living room, waving at him with a wonderful smile on her face. Mom passed away ten days later. Fate is a strange and fickle trickster.

According to the autopsy, Mom’s death was “undetectable and unavoidable.” She didn’t know it was coming, and neither did the rest of us. I was the last one to talk to her. Mom and I finished our call a little after 5:30 the night of her passing. Dad had to work late that night, which rarely happened.

Mom passed away in those few hours between my hanging up the phone and Dad’s coming home. Dad has felt guilty for not being there with her, and I have felt guilty about hanging up the phone. We still do not know exactly what happened, but we do know she was alone in her final moments.

We know Mom was in the middle of making dinner and had her suitcase half packed. She was getting ready for a meal with Dad and to travel to a grandson’s baby shower.

My brother and his wife were expecting their first child—a boy. Mom had already started packing, which was strange for her. She was usually very last-minute. Mom was really excited about the baby. In her suitcase was a box of Matchbox cars my brother played with as a child, and it was time to pass them on to the next generation. She was simply going about her day when she died. I guess that’s what happens with a death that is undetectable and unavoidable.

Mom made sure we had a family picture taken in April of 2010. She had wanted one for some time. According to the hairstyles, our last formal family picture was taken in the late ‘80s or early ‘90s. It was my parents’ forty-fifth anniversary, and she was determined to make the picture happen to commemorate such a tremendous milestone. Mom, Dad, and the six of us had a fun day taking pictures. It was just us again. No spouses, no kids. We took pictures, goofed off a lot, and had lunch together. I can’t remember the last time we had a day like that!

The goal was to get a complete family portrait taken after my brother’s baby was born. Then each of us six kids would have at least one child. It never happened, and it never will. We used the family picture we took in April for Mom’s funeral. Mom’s insight had been right again. We are all so thankful to have one last family portrait. It would have been better to have a picture with all the spouses and grandchildren too, but it was not meant to be, I guess.

One of the things I noticed most after Mom’s sudden death was the odd assortment of sympathy cards. I kept reading phrases like “Be thankful now that life’s anguish has ended” and “Your loved one is now in Heaven where they are in pain no more.”

Why do we assume people are in so much pain and anguish while they are living? Mom was not sick. Actually, she appeared to be very healthy. She did not have a long-term illness or any apparent health concerns. Were the sympathy cards supposed to make my family feel better by trying to tell us that her sucky life finally ended? Truthfully, I could not relate to many of the cards. The only one that would have really worked would have read something like this:

“Sorry to hear of your Mom’s sudden death. That really sucks, and you have every right to question everything and be pissed off at the world. Your family was totally awesome, and your Mom was an amazing woman. Let us know when you want to come over and have a good cry. Your favorite bottle of wine is chilling in the fridge.”

Everyone has challenges, but shouldn’t life be grand? Life is a gift, not a burden. Contrary to what most sympathy cards seem to portray, life is a journey. It should not be viewed as a seemingly endless challenge filled with misery and pain. Mom’s death was the first thing in 2010 that made me want to fulfill the wishes on my “bucket list.” A trip to Costa Rica was the second.

Fortunately, I work for a great organization. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) helped me take care of my travel arrangements after Mom died in June and rescheduled my trip to Costa Rica for November. That set the stage for event number two. The wheels of fate kept moving forward.

It was a fantastic trip. I experienced a new country with numerous cultures for the first time with two other faculty members (and friends) with whom I went to graduate school. The spouse of one of the faculty members, who is also a good friend, made the trip with us. It truly was a great experience both personally and professionally.

We toured two different campuses of Earth University, spending time in the urban area of San Jose and in rural Costa Rica exploring the relationships between agriculture, natural resources, leadership, and education. Our group also visited a farm family in the rainforest, which ended up being a highlight of the trip. The day before we arrived, the family we visited had access to electricity for the first time. They were excited to show us their progress.

The house itself was what many of us living in rural Nebraska would consider a machine shed that needed work. Picture a worn wood frame covered with rusty pieces of corrugated tin on top of a dirt floor that turned to mud when it rained. Wooden planks were used for a partial floor in the tiny living area, where two parents were raising three children and taking care of an elderly parent. Blankets and curtains substituted for walls.

We talked with the woman of the house. She was a wife and mother as well as a leader in the agricultural community. She and her husband were building a very diverse farming operation, which was growing more successful each year. She was a tiny woman with big, beautiful brown eyes, glowing skin, and a gorgeous smile. Her young son clung to her while we were standing in their kitchen.

With the help of a professor from Earth University, she told us all about the advances they had made in their farming operation. It was a great story. They hooked into electricity a couple of days before we visited, and they also recently had access to methane. She turned on her stove, and a huge flame came shooting out of one of the burners. The look on her face said it all—the thrill of success! It was a great tribute to the hard work her family had invested in their farming operation. It was a wonderful sight. I didn’t have the guts to ask for a picture, but wish I had. What a great moment!

It was raining quite hard while we were there. The woman’s husband was out tending to some business and met us just as we were leaving to head to our next destination. He was wearing a torn plastic bag to protect himself from the rain. The torn bag was not working well. He was soaked! We were finished touring the rainy side of Costa Rica and moving to the drier side, so we gave our ponchos to the family. Amazing how the disposable poncho I purchased for ninety-nine cents could be so valuable. Yet another reminder of how spoiled many of us are without knowing it.

Driving through the rainforest is a thrilling experience. The scenery there is very different from the views we have in Nebraska. Both are beautiful in their unique ways. We drove on very narrow, winding roads that were heavily traveled. Many semis were on the road because it was the best route to the main ports. We were driving around a sharp, narrow curve and nearly hit a vehicle that was coming around from the opposite direction. The vehicles on the opposite side had to cross the centerline to get around the sharp curves. Phew! The first semi that crossed the centerline had missed us. We weren’t so lucky the next time.

It all happened in what felt like slow motion. We were driving around the next curve when a huge semi came from the opposite direction. Our driver, Walter, took our midsize SUV as far to the right as possible. There was a sharp drop-off on our side of the road, so he could get over only so far without either sending us off the side of the road or rolling the vehicle. I was sitting behind Walter and could see the semi coming right toward my window. It’s one of those life moments when you know what is about to happen and can’t do anything to stop it.

My young family flashed through my mind. Jim’s worst fear was something happening to me in a foreign country, leaving him with two young kids to raise by himself. In that moment, I was afraid that was exactly what was going to happen. As the semi barreled toward my window, I thought about my family and braced for impact. I closed my eyes when the semi was about to hit. Crash! The impact was on the side of my door and the rear bumper behind my seat. I opened my eyes and realized we were miraculously spared. I do not use the word miraculously lightly. To this day, I have no idea how we walked away from that accident.

It really didn’t make any sense. The semi had swung way beyond the centerline to make the curve, and we didn’t have a great deal of room on our side of the road to maneuver. I truly believe Walter’s amazing driving skills and divine intervention were at work. We were safe and didn’t have any injuries. I still can’t believe it when my mind flashes back to that moment.

Let’s just say we all felt lucky to be alive and truly enjoyed the rest of our trip. I delicately broke the news to Jim after I returned from Costa Rica, having waited so he would not worry about me while I finished the work assignment. Experiencing Costa Rica was great, but coming home was awesome!

We touched down in Omaha on Saturday. One of my fellow travelers was not feeling well on the trip and was diagnosed with cancer right after we returned. How do you survive a crash with a semi on a narrow road in the Costa Rican rainforest only to be diagnosed with cancer a few days later?

Mom’s death, the semi crash, and a friend’s cancer—all these events caused me to rethink my life to the deepest depths possible.

The Purpose of Go Wild with Confidence

The year 2010 changed the direction of my life forever, and I am now focused on living my best life. As a researcher and coach in the areas of leadership and innovation, I have noticed one issue my clients struggle with most: confidence. Many people have great ideas and a wonderful sense of what they want to do with their lives, but they lack the confidence and inner strength that enables them to move in the right direction.

After Mom’s unexpected passing, I received a mini-book on grief from the pastor of my church. The book, Grief…Reminders for Healing by Gale Massey, was perfect! I could read it quickly and easily when I needed help dealing with Mom’s death. I also gave a copy to Dad, who found himself suddenly struggling with being a widower after forty-five years of marriage.

For those of you reading this right now, I hope you can use this short publication in the same way I used the mini-book on grief: as a simple tool to help improve your life. I now realize how important it is to live a fulfilled life every single day. I no longer take any day, hour, or minute for granted. It is my calling to help others do the same…

Innovation always begins with people. Self-confident individuals filled with passion, purpose, and confidence are the most creative and innovative. They have strong Inner Leaders and the confidence it takes to lead personal, organizational, and community change and innovation.

My research on entrepreneurial individuals and innovation identified personal fulfillment as one of the most important factors associated with motivation and success. I have also found that individuals must discover and define success for themselves. True personal fulfillment and innovation flourish when individuals have the confidence to realize their own passions and take inspired actions. Personal fulfillment is becoming more important to individuals and organizations. It serves as the foundation for a sort of “happiness factor” for individuals and employees. Personal fulfillment also encourages entrepreneurial behavior and innovation. Personally fulfilled employees are more creative, innovative, and engaged, which translates into healthy, vibrant, and successful businesses, organizations, and communities.

The world needs entrepreneurial leaders who have the capacity to nurture personal fulfillment and sustainable innovation. Before you can successfully lead others, you must first lead yourself. So invest in yourself. Focus on developing your Inner Leader by strengthening your confidence and living the life you want for yourself. And, make sure you spread the wealth! Great leaders invest in their confidence as well as the confidence of others.

This book is designed to be used. Record your notes, thoughts, and ideas as you move through the material. Make copies of the pages that speak to you, and place them where you can read them daily. Keep your work in front of you. Take note of your dreams and progress many times per day, especially first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Constant focus on your intentions and progress will help you embed powerful thoughts into your subconscious mind, which is a great way to strengthen your confidence and your Inner Leader.

Confidence is one of the keys to personal fulfillment and happiness. I sincerely hope this book helps you strengthen your Inner Leader and confidence while enjoying life to the fullest. Feel free to share this work to help build the confidence of others. A world of confident people living with purpose and passion is a world of unique gifts and talents that are being used to help us all live in a better place.

Do yourself a favor, and Go Wild with Confidence!
-Dr. Connie

The above passage was published in my first book, Go Wild with Confidence!: Strengthen your Inner Leader and live your best life with purpose, passion and fun!

I wrote Go Wild to process my Mom’s death and my own brush with it.  Today marks the anniversary of her death, and I am working hard to celebrate her life instead of reliving her sudden and traumatic departure.  It’s still not easy.  I am writing this with gratitude  today remembering my Mom and all that she taught me.  Her legacy lives through me, my Dad and siblings as well as her grandchildren.  I am a better person and mother because of her.  Our family will always celebrate and cherish the great memories.  Her legacy will live on for future generations.  This fact demonstrates the importance of parenting!

Below are parting thoughts from Go Wild with Confidence!: Strengthen your Inner Leader and live your best life with purpose, passion and fun!   The scientific side of me likes data and facts; however, I have discovered the rich world of the unknown in the years since Mom’s death.  Miracles do happen.  I also believe in the power of intuition and think we receive signs if we are open to them.  More on this in future posts.

 

Parting Thoughts

There are many ways to develop your confidence. Ultimately, you have to decide what is right for you. Journaling, meditation, goal setting, visualization, art, nature, healthy eating, physical activity, fun, the use of personal mantras, affirmations, Visual Visions, Personal Confidence Statements, and Personal Confidence Teams can all be great tools to help move you forward. You may also want to consider hiring a coach. Whatever you decide, just make sure the strategies and structures you put in place work for you and are focused on what you truly want to accomplish and experience. Many people set false goals they never achieve because they left their heart and personal desire out of the process.

Setting and pursuing false goals leads to a lack of interest and motivation, which leads to goal abandonment and ultimately to a feeling of failure and self-doubt. Feelings of failure and self-doubt can seriously erode self-confidence. Goals should be set for you as an individual and based on personal fulfillment, not simply on what you think you should do based on the thoughts and influences of others or society. Establish your personal definition of success. When creating a plan to achieve your definition of success, be sure to develop goals, strategies, and structures that are holistic and recognize the importance and power of the mind-body-spirit connection.

After Mom’s sudden death, I had many conversations with Dad about living life. He told me he had no regrets. My parents celebrated forty-five years of marriage a month before Mom’s passing, and Dad said they did everything they wanted to do together. I will never know Mom’s true thoughts on this subject; I just hope she felt the same way.

Life-changing events have a way of putting things into perspective. My philosophy about life has become this: Life should be a journey filled with wonderful experiences, and we must define success for ourselves. Many of us tend to focus too much on accumulating titles and stuff rather than experiences. Our individual journeys should be what we want to experience and enjoy. Life should not be a daily grind. Life should not be a to-do list.

My family gathered together on the family farm for the 4th of July after Mom’s death. The Fourth was her favorite holiday, and celebrating it was always a big deal. This time, there was a cloud of deep sadness over my family. We wanted to be together on her favorite holiday, but celebrating without her was incredibly painful. As a thick sadness filled the air, it began to sprinkle and a beautiful rainbow appeared. We all stood there in a sort of surprised and unsettling awe. Then, a reassuring feeling came over everyone. We were all thinking it, but my cousin Dann was the only one brave enough to say it out loud. It was a sign from Mom. I later read that rainbows and butterflies commonly serve as after-death communications. Some believe rainbows are the connection between heaven and earth. All I know for sure is that it was a very special moment for my family. We have a picture of Mom’s rainbow over the farm on her favorite holiday. Every time I look at it, I think of Mom, that moment, and the gift of life. Reimers-Hild, Go Wild with Confidence! 101 Your time on this planet is short, so enjoy it. Go Wild with Confidence! Strengthen your Inner Leader, and live your best life with purpose, passion, and fun!

Be You & Do Something Cool!

-Dr. Connie

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The Future of Women: Goddesses Never Age

My new book crush for women over 40 (or women of any age!) is Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being by Dr. Christiane Northrup.  I have listed to a number of her talks on YouTube; however, this is the first in-depth experience I have had with her work.

She covers the gamut of topics in Goddesses Never Age: The Secret Prescription for Radiance, Vitality, and Well-Being.  Dr. Northrup addresses everything from health and nutrition to sex and the importance of mindset in the aging process.  There are a few beliefs that she has that I do not totally agree with at this point in my life; however,  this book is one of my absolute favorites!

One of the topics she covers has been impacting my own life lately.  I recently learned that my psoas muscles needed some TLC.  I didn’t even know what the psoas muscle was until a few weeks ago!   I sit a lot and had to make some lifestyle changes.  I changed my workouts and now have a standing desk.  You can learn more about the psoas muscles on Dr. Northrup’s blog:  Why your psoas muscle is the most vital muscle in your body.

One of the themes I noticed through the book was the importance of having fun.  Yes, I am not the only person discussing the importance of fun for everyone!  I am convinced that fun is the fountain of youth.  Think of the healthiest and happiest people you know.  Now, think about how they act and behave.  Are they having fun?

I also realize that “fun” is a little different for everyone.  I want to understand this in greater detail and need a little help.  What are your thoughts about the importance of fun?  What do you enjoy doing?  What does “fun” mean to you?

Go Wild, Act Like an Ageless Goddess and Have Fun!

-Dr. Connie

 

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The Future Leadership and Women on Pure Nebraska

I had the wonderful opportunity to stretch myself yesterday on Pure Nebraska with Jon and Taryn Vanderford.  I was all set to discuss the future of leadership with a focus on women.  My goal was to point out the important contributions women have been making for a long time in the area of leadership.  I also wanted to note that their contributions have often gone unrecognized, and that it is time to change the mindset and conversation around women and leadership.   It is critical for us to redefine leadership while realizing  that people want to connect with their purpose and issues that matter to them.  I also wanted to talk about their participation in the growing #GigEconomy.  Research by the National Women’s Business Council noted that 91% of female entrepreneurs are in businesses for themselves.  I related this to their participation in growing #GigEconomy.  Women are participating in the #GigEconomy  in an effort to make economic gains while building lives they enjoy, which often involves balancing income generation with family time.

Let’s just say that the three minute segment went faster than I thought, and I did not make my key points very well.   It was so different from recording videos that are edited. However, it was an amazing experience!  I left thinking about all the ways I should have/could have, etc.  Then, I realized how much of a stretch experience this was for me.  Recording a live, three-minute segment was a first.  I had fun, learned a lot and would love to do it again.

My experience yesterday reminded me of the importance of taking risks and enjoying the ride.  I tend to be very critical of myself but also realize it is hard to do well when taking on new experiences.  The point is to have the new experience!   Being entrepreneurial requires us to take risks, learn, tweak and repeat.  Was it perfect?  No.  Was it cool? Yes!

I am not sure I have been living entrepreneurially lately. The Pure Nebraska interview was a great reminder that I need to intentionally incorporate more risk into my everyday life!  And, I have to live my mantra:  Be You & Do Something Cool!  Life should be lived as an amazing adventure.

Thanks Jon, Taryn and the Pure Nebraska crew for the opportunity!  And, a BIG thanks to the Rural Futures team for your support and help getting the interview out to the world.  You are all amazing!

Go Wild, Take Risks and Have Fun!

-Dr. Connie

PS:  Check out the Pure Nebraska segment below.

 

 

Watch more on Pure Nebraska here:  http://www.1011now.com/purenebraska

Also, connect with the Rural Futures Institute at RuralFutures.Nebraska.edu and Nebraska’s Community Vitality Team at CVI.UNL.EDU

 

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The Future of Women & Megatrend 3: The Decentralized Global Marketplace

Business is in the age of the “Empowered Consumer” who has a buffet of buying choices. Empowered consumers decide how they want to purchase goods and services. Big Data [collecting information (data) from multiple sources to detect trends, identify patterns and make decisions] is one tool that can be used to develop marketing campaigns, study human behaviors and determine patterns. It is also being used to examine and redesign various areas of the consumer experience.

Entrepreneurs and leaders can use Big Data to capitalize on consumer patterns and demands while creating more customized consumer experiences. Data is collected with every click, and some metrics can be used almost immediately. In 2014, Black Friday was November 28. Data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Black Friday Report was available almost immediately and was published on December 2, 2014. According to IBM, online Black Friday sales grew by 9.5 percent from 2013 to 2014. Retail ecommerce (orders via computer) and mcommerce (orders via mobile device) are predicted to increase by double-digit margins well into 2018 (eMarketer, 2014). Data demonstrates the continued growth of the digital marketplace, and rural businesses must find ways to capitalize on these trends.

The world is fast-becoming an “Add to Cart” society for anything and everything. 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 commerce and communities in new and innovative ways.   The definition of community is not limited to a physical location. 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, and when, where and whether or not to meet face-to-face. They are also connecting around common causes. Commerce, along with so many other areas of life, is becoming increasingly decentralized. Savvy consumers seek and create value they crave to transform their lives. Technology enables the delivery of information, goods and services anytime, anywhere, and from anyone in a way that makes sense while adding value to the lives of consumers.

For example, companies like Stitch Fix (http://www.StitchFix.com) initially get to know their customers with a personal style quiz and continue to gather information about the clientele every month by sending them personalized clothing selections. Orders are delivered to clients and customers pay only for what they keep. Stitch Fix tracks the feedback on likes and dislikes after every shipment and learns how to better serve its customers with the data it continuously collects.

Consumer demands are shaping the marketplace and future trends. Empowered consumers want unique experiences that add value to their lives. Future-focused leaders and entrepreneurs 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.

Coaching Tips for Female Entrepreneurs and Leaders:

  • Connect and work together online and offline. Build your support network to generate ideas and get help growing your business.  The most successful entrepreneurs and leaders help one another.  I see this all of the time with authors too!  They promote one another while helping each other grow their businesses and ideas.
  • Get rid of assumptions and use data to make decisions. Take a few ideas from places having success in the marketplace, such as Stitch Fix.

Future-Focused Entrepreneurs and Leaders:  

Take Action with Cooperation, Creativity and Purpose

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

Future-focused, entrepreneurial leaders can use megatrends and technology to change the game of life. One person cannot do it alone in a world that continues to change at an increasingly rapid pace; rather, rural entrepreneurs should innovate in communities with a spirit of cooperation, creativity, and purpose. Together, with a common purpose, female entrepreneurs and leaders can examine megatrends, utilize emerging technologies, and monitor analytics while creating meaningful experiences and innovating rural businesses in ways not yet imagined.

Go Wild with the Decentralized Global Marketplace!   Watch the video below for more details on how you can innovate your companies and communities with cooperation, creating and purpose!

-Dr. Connie

PS:  Share your thoughts, ideas and actions with the Ask Dr. Connie community.  We would love to hear from you!

 

The Future of Women & Megatrend #2: Living with Purpose and Meaning

The tools and technologies that help people create their own businesses and design their lives in ways that best suit them, are also fueling Megatrend #2:  Living with Purpose and Meaning. Purposeful living is shaping everything from healthcare to education.

Our society is quickly evolving into an era characterized by shared purpose and meaning. Personal fulfillment is a growing trend in business and entrepreneurship. People are looking to decrease their levels of stress and strengthen their healthy habits while finding greater fulfillment.

Ben & Jerry’s is an example of a company that integrates purpose and meaning into its core existence by creating “linked prosperity” for everyone involved with the business. The company supports “linked prosperity” by establishing and aligning social, product and economic missions (benjerry.com/values).

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. What does this mean for female entrepreneurs? They may be able to grow by connecting to people through purpose and meaning. Technology may be one way future-focused entrepreneurs can holistically add more purpose and meaning to the lives of both clients and employees.

For example, a forecast by Carbone and Nauth in The Futurist (2012) describes the evolution of the “cloud” from a repository or information to an intelligent resource that can help make decisions and provide assistance. 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.

Weekly Menu

This forecast provides an example of how entrepreneurs 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 is an opportunity for female entrepreneurs to create new profit centers and customer experiences while strengthening employee engagement in a more holistic manner.

Three trends supporting the Living with Purpose and Meaning megatrend include: 1) minimalism, 2) life increasingly flowing together instead of being compartmentalized into work, family, recreation, etc., and 3) the quest for greater well-being, health and vitality.

Minimalism is one of the trends shaping the Living with Purpose and Meaning megatrend because people are seeking less stuff and more life. Trend-setting places like the Silicon Valley have embraced minimalism, and this approach to living is influencing everything from living spaces, to workplaces and web design.

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. Research has demonstrated that happiness is a precursor to success. These findings question the view that hard work will lead to success, which eventually leads to happiness. Raising levels of positivity in the present creates a “happiness advantage” in the brain, leading to better outcomes in the areas of education, business and well-being.  To learn more, check out Shawn Achor’s 2011 TED Talk:  The Happy Secret to Better Work.

How do these trends influence entrepreneurship? As more people want to connect with their purpose, find meaning in their lives, and increase their vitality, businesses and communities 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 business practices in an effort to create better employee and customer experiences and to create more value in products and services.
  • Providing coaching for employees to help them uncover their purpose and to create strategies and structures to support meaningful actions designed to improve their careers and lives.
  • Adding physical activity and fun into the workday in an effort to stimulate creativity, decrease stress, build camaraderie and strengthen overall wellness. 

It’s time to focus on the whole person and what life means to each individual. Helping people find their fulfillment, purpose and definition of success may provide future-focused leaders and entrepreneurs with tools to innovate their organizations and communities. Businesses should find new ways to add increased value to the lives of customers, employees and families. People can choose where they want to work, shop and live. They also choose how to invest their time and money. Businesses that add the most value, including those in rural areas, will have the competitive advantage.

Coaching Tips for Female Entrepreneurs:

  1. Develop a clear purpose. Clarity of purpose creates a meaningful path to success. A great coaching tool to use: Create a vision board with your “why” in mind.
  2. Define core values. A business should develop core values that truly represent its brand. Empowered consumers connect with brands and businesses that have core values similar to their own. Outline the core values of your business and what each value means. A great strategic plan can evolve from clear core values. Create visual images for each value and make your values public. Share them with world. They help tell your story.
  3. Make self-care a priority. Physical, mental and spiritual health and well-being are all important. Successful entrepreneurs and their teams need time for creativity and a lot of energy to grow their ventures!
  4. Get positive. A positive mindset has been scientifically proven to support everything from creativity and innovation to increased sales and employee engagement.  If you need more help learning how to be more positive, begin coloring your way to happiness with Blue the Bee Learns to Be Happy! (Reimers-Hild and Wetizenkamp, 2015).

Blue the Bee Cover

  1. Practice gratitude. Keep a physical or digital journal and write in it daily.  Writing down 3-5 things you are grateful for everyday will help your brain focus on the positive while helping your notice new opportunities!
  2. Share the stories that enhance the brand with your team and your customers. Use social media platforms to create and present meaningful content worth reading and sharing. People connect with experiences and stories behind the products and services they use!
  3. HAVE FUN! Fun is absolutely invaluable. It decreases stress and improves relationship. Fun is also a foundation to creativity and innovation.  This is an area I expand upon in my first book, Go Wild with Confidence! (Reimers-Hild, 2013).

Check out the video below focusing on Megatrend 2:  Living with Purpose and Meaning.  And, let us know what you are doing to improve your life.

Go Wild with Your Future! And, as always-Be YOU and Do Something Cool!

-Dr. Connie

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

 

At current trends, it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap

Welcome to “The Future of Women” blog series.  The Future of Women focus on AskDrConnie.com will highlight current and future trends impacting women around the world.  

The first part of this series highlights a recent publication by the International Labour Office (ILO).   Women at Work:  Trends 2016, focused on examining gender equity globally.  As ILO mentions in their report, gender equity and women’s empowerment are critical to positive global transformation.  Below are excerpts from the report, please read, reflect and share your wisdom by clicking on “Leave a comment” in above!

Let’s dive into the report.  One of my favorite quotes and excerpts from the Executive Summary (beginning on p. xvi) will hit home with many of you:

At current trends, it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap

Globally, the gender wage gap is estimated to be 23 per cent; in other words, women earn 77 per cent of what men earn. Even when considering hourly wage rates (given the fact that women are working shorter hours than men), women continue to face a persistent gender wage gap, amounting to 10 per cent or more in countries for which data are available. These gaps cannot be explained solely by differences in education or age, but are also linked to the undervaluation of the work that women undertake and of the skills required in female-dominated sectors or occupations, the practice of discrimination, and the need for women to take career breaks to attend to additional care responsibilities, for instance after the birth of a child. Recently, some progress has been made in reducing these gender wage gaps, but improvements are small and, if current trends prevail, it will take more than 70 years before gender wage gaps are closed completely. Reductions in the gender wage gap are mostly attributable to explicit policy actions to address gender imbalances in the labour market, rather than to general improvements in living standards. In fact, the gender wage gap is unrelated to a country’s level of economic development, as some of the countries with high per-capita levels are among those with the highest gender wage gaps. Economic development alone will not ensure an equitable distribution of the gains from growth between men and women.

 

The above information does not come as much of a surprise. I published an article, Entrepreneurial Career Development:  Using Human Capital, Social Capital and Distance Education to Achieve Success, in the Advancing Women in Leadership Journal with two of my distinguished colleagues at the University of Nebraska in 2007.   The issue of pay inequity between genders has been a point of discussion for many years.  However, the conclusions of this report focused on not only the role of women but men as well were bold statements that I really appreciated (p. 94-95):

Conclusion

The present report undertakes to demonstrate that, for substantive gender equality to be achieved, it is essential that societies recognize that both women and men have a right to work and care. In particular, failures to address workers’ family responsibilities underlie sectoral and occupational segregation, gaps in wages, working hours and access to social protection. Thus, gender inequalities at work can be eliminated only by neutralizing the disadvantages stemming from women’s reproductive function and promoting the equal sharing of unpaid care work between women and men, and between the family and society at large. This requires integrated and transformative measures guided by ILO international labour standards that put the elimination of discrimination and the achievement of gender equality at home and at work at the very heart of policy interventions.In view of the implications of the economic crisis on the global care economy, as discussed in the preceding pages, international policy action also entails a profound reorganization of the relations between the fi- nance, the production and the reproduction spheres, with the objective of guaranteeing a sustainable, crisis-free and gender-equitable global economy. In this shifted paradigm, finance and production should serve the needs of reproduction, namely the realm of care which is core to human well-being (Elson, 2014). Achieving gender equality also depends on positioning the issues of the global care deficits and chains and their ramifications in the care economy on the migration agenda, as this issue goes to the heart of the demand for and supply of migrant workers in many contexts. Ensuring that migration, labour and social protection policies are harmonized to protect the rights to care and be cared for will be fundamental in this endeavour (Hennebry 2014; ILO 2014l).As discussed in the present report, genuine gender equality benefits our societies and economies in terms of increased job-rich economic growth, reduced poverty, inequality and social exclusion, and overall improved well-being. It is therefore time to take action. The following overview summarizes the key policy measures discussed in the report and informed by ILO Conventions and Recommendations that would be needed to realize, in line with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, a sustainable development that leaves no one behind.

Overview of the main policy interventions to achieve gender equality at work in line with ILO international labour standards

Tackling the root causes of sectoral and occupational segregation

  • Encouraging young girls and boys to break gender stereotypes through education and outreach;
  • Offering training to women and men to enter into non-stereotypical fields;
  • Promoting women’s entrepreneurship;
  • Supporting women’s participation and leadership in decision-making, including in governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Addressing the gender wage gap

  • Eliminating unequal treatment of men and women in the labour market;
  • Promoting equal pay for work of equal value through wage transparency, training and gender neutral job evaluations methods;
  • Supporting adequate and inclusive minimum wages and strengthening collective bargaining;
  • Promoting and normalizing good quality part-time work;
  • Limiting long paid hours and overwork;
  • Transforming institutions to prevent and eliminate discrimination;
  • Changing attitudes towards unpaid care work to overcome the motherhood wage gap.

Overview of the main policy interventions to achieve gender equality at work in line with ILO international labour standards

Tackling the root causes of sectoral and occupational segregation

  • Encouraging young girls and boys to break gender stereotypes through education and outreach;
  • Offering training to women and men to enter into non-stereotypical fields;
  • Promoting women’s entrepreneurship;
  • Supporting women’s participation and leadership in decision-making, including in governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Addressing the gender wage gap

  • Eliminating unequal treatment of men and women in the labour market;
  • Promoting equal pay for work of equal value through wage transparency, training and gender neutral job evaluations methods;
  • Supporting adequate and inclusive minimum wages and strengthening collective bargaining;
  • Promoting and normalizing good quality part-time work;
  • Limiting long paid hours and overwork;
  • Transforming institutions to prevent and eliminate discrimination;
  • Changing attitudes towards unpaid care work to overcome the motherhood wage gap.

Implementing a comprehensive framework to achieve the harmonization of work and family responsibilities

  • Providing maternity protection to all women according to international labour standards;
  • Guaranteeing adequate social protection to recognize, reduce and redistribute unpaid care work;
  • Ensuring the provision of basic infrastructure, in particular in rural areas;
  • Implementing gender-transformative leave policies: increasing leave entitlements for fathers and boosting their take-up rates;
  • Making quality early childhood care and education a universal right;
  • Creating and protecting quality jobs in the care economy;
  • Promoting decent work for care professionals, including domestic and migrant workers;
  • Extending long-term care coverage for older persons;
  • Promoting family-friendly flexible working arrangements;
  • Encouraging individual income taxation to increase women’s labour force participation;
  • Offering work reintegration measures.

This report goes into great depth on a number of topics.  I have only highlighted a few on this post.  If you are interested in the details, please download the full report, Women at Work:  Trends 2016, directly from the ILO’s website.   

Why is this information and The Future of Women series important to women over 40?  Women over 40 have had many of the experiences this report highlights.  We have experienced lower pay for equal work, we have put up with inappropriate comments and we have knowledge about what it takes to balance work, family and everything else we have going on in our lives.   We also have the opportunity to make work and life better for younger women, men and families.  Women over 40 are leading massive change and reform globally, and together we can do more to shape the future!
Please share your leadership reflections, insights and experiences by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” button at the beginning of this post!  
Go Wild with the Future of Women!
-Dr. Connie
 
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Fun is Valuable: So Just Say “Yes!”

Now, there is even more proof that fun is valuable!  Media titan, Shonda Rhimes, recently gave a compelling TED Talk, “My Year of Saying Yes.”  She discusses the value of saying yes, but also provides valuable insights on why we should play and have fun-especially with our children.

Ms. Rhimes is a leader and role model for women in the modern age.  She is bold enough to call herself a titan (AWESOME!) but also cool enough to admit that she enjoys working and playing with her kids.  Shonda is a single mom who knows the importance of building a leading a team to make this all work.  She gets help from others (i.e.:  her nanny) and admits that even she needs to recharge her batteries with fun to get her “hum” back so she can continue to create and grow.  Titan Rhimes is using her talents and power to build not only her personal brand but an entertainment dynasty that is empowering women in an number of different ways.

Let the AskDrConnie.com team know what you learned from her TED2016 talk in the comment section below.

Go Wild with Saying “Yes” and Enjoy the Video!

-Dr. Connie

Want to eat well? Forget about willpower

I think this is a critical message for women over 40.  One food I can’t seem to get enough of these days is chocolate.  Turns out, it’s not all me!

Our environments cue our behaviors and wire our brains.  Looks like I better make chocolate a bit harder to find in my kitchen, car and office redesigns!  Learn more by clicking on the link below.

Go Wild with Healthy Design!

-Dr. Connie

 

We know surprisingly little about what we want to eat, and why. Researcher Brian Wansink has been leading thousands of studies to understand more.

Source: Want to eat well? Forget about willpower

To Change Yourself, Change Your World (and Your Brain)

Science can help people stick to their goals.  I posted a SMARTER Intentions coaching guide on Ask Dr. Connie on December 31, 2015 to help people set their true intentions for 2016.  If you are already struggling a bit, brain science offers a little help!

Kira Newman, from the University of Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center, suggests changing your environment.  Newman suggests some simple tips, and I added a few more of my own.  The real goal here is to create new habits and behaviors that will ultimately influence your subconscious mind.

A few key takeaways from the article:

Map your goals and support your transformational journey by using the following techniques:

  1.  Add goals and reminders to your calendar and keep them posted where you can see them.  Newman notes that 10% of people forget their resolutions, so consistently keep them in front of you!
  2. Steer clear of temptation.  Notice obstacles and roadblocks that get in your way and move them!
  3. Surround yourself with inspiration (and I would add others who have the same mindset).  Create living and working spaces (I also have to add social networks to this list)  that fuel your soul and your goals.  Use cues that you see and hear throughout the day.  Newman suggests finding a piece of jewelry that holds meaning to you.  I have used this idea for years!  I wear a ring with a large, light blue stone that reminds me to play big and follow my dreams each and every day.

In addition to surrounding yourself with great people, or your social networks, I have to add another coaching tip:  Celebrate Your Success!  Many of us women over 40 are extremely busy and rarely take the time to recognize and celebrate our progress.  Get creative and do something for you!  Celebrating your success will keep you motivated and energized while helping you stay connected to your purpose.

Get the details from Kira Newman, editor and web producer at the Greater Good Science Center online: To Change Yourself, Change Your World

If you missed the SMARTER Intentions Coaching Guide on December 31, 2015, you can download it here:  

AskDrConnie.com 2016 SMARTER Intentions Coaching Guide 12.31.15

Happy New Year

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