Life Balance

How to Feel Successful in 2020
An Exclusive Conversation with Esther Wojcicki

excited, young business woman celebrating success in the office with her arms up in the air

If there’s anyone who can put the idea of success in perspective in 2020, it’s Esther Wojcicki, the author and educator who raised three wildly successful daughters and wrote the book, How to Raise Successful People.

So, here’s what she says: “We have to back up on our idea of success now because maybe we had long-term goals but now success is getting through this week without having problems. Maybe it’s getting enough food. Maybe it’s making sure that your child has a good sense of self this particular week. … I think we have to redefine success as being able to cope effectively with your family in this environment that we’re living in today.”

But “cope effectively?” How exactly do we do that in this dizzying year?

Wojcicki—who learned early on that looking for the positive was a good alternative to being depressed—has some ideas about that.

A woman who knows

This, after all, is the woman who as a young girl growing up in poverty took the initiative to get a lawnmower and mow her lawn so that her home, in her words, would look less like a dump.

It’s the woman who, when her parents told her at the age of 15 that they would not pay for her to attend college because they wanted her to get married, took it as an opportunity, through work and scholarships, to pay her way.

And, this is the woman who raised two Silicon Valley CEOs (Susan of YouTube and Anne of 23andMe) and Janet, a professor at UC San Francisco—and has taught many accomplished students over more than 35 years while helping build Palo Alto High School’s world-famous media arts program.

Small wonder people seek out her advice. Here are three key points that Wojcicki shares in the latest episode of the Conferences for Women podcast, Women Amplified.

Wojcicki will also be a speaker at the 2020 virtual Pennsylvania Conference for Women, where she will join award-winning actress Viola Davis, bestselling author Tara Westover and many other inspiring speakers. If you haven’t secured your tickets, learn more here.

  1. Start by looking for the opportunities
    • “See whether or not you can’t take every crisis as an opportunity to do something new and different. That is one of the things that I’m doing right now, and that I think we all are forced into doing.
    • I think you have to do that, because the world is so difficult, and has so many challenges for so many people. I think it’s important to spend at least part of the time thinking about what opportunity this challenge is giving you, and there are lots of opportunities.”
    • “For example, we’re all living together, so you have to get along with the people that are your family, or your friends, or whoever your significant other is. You have an opportunity to practice a lot of skills, interpersonal skills that you might not have had that opportunity to do before.”
    • Another opportunity: “What can you do to make other people’s lives better? The other day I went up and down the street. I have a lot of neighbors who are elderly, and I ended up getting a lot of extra organic tomatoes. I delivered a little care-package to them, and it was incredible.

      One of them sent me a note and said how that made her day: just a little care package of tomatoes. … I think you can do little things like that every day to try to make your day better and other people’s day better.”

  2. Recognize this as an opportunity to be a more effective parent
    • “I think the most important thing that parents can do today is to make their child feel like they are part of the team. It’s a team effort. We’re all in this together, and we all have our role, and we’re all working together to make our lives better.”
    • “One of the courses U.C. Berkeley instituted last year was called ‘Adulting.’ The reason they implemented that course was that they were getting hundreds, maybe thousands of kids who were entering the system and didn’t have the basic skills for how to be an adult: how to do their laundry, how to cook, how to clean, how to do basic things that people do. It was because of the helicopter parenting syndrome where parents were doing pretty much everything.”
    • “The crisis we’re in now is an opportunity for us to use kids’ free time to teach them adulting skills. David Brooks wrote a column [in The New York Times] in which he said: ‘The Age of Coddling is Over.’
    • We’re no longer coddling our kids because we can’t coddle them the same way that we coddled them before. We all need them to be part of the team. We need to think of this as an opportunity to change the way we parent that is more effective for our kids rather than less effective.”
    • “That’s what I’m trying to do, and that’s what I try to do in my classes is to teach kids how to think. How to think no matter what situation you are in.”
  3. In work and family life, focus on T-R-I-C-K (Trust. Respect. Independence. Collaboration. Kindness)
    • “Trust is the first part: trust and respect. And, the first person you need to trust and believe in and respect is yourself.”
    • “You also want to make sure that the people that you surround yourself with are people who also trust you, and support you, and allow you to achieve whatever it is you want to achieve.”
    • “I think TRICK – trust, respect, independence, collaboration, kindness—works even more effectively and is even more important in the corporate world during the crisis because we’re all working from home.
    • And, when you work from home, you can’t micromanage the other person. You have to trust them and respect them. And, the fact is that if the team feels like they are trusted and respected by their leader, they will rise to that occasion.”
    • “Team psychology is so important these days, and trust and respect are part of that. And then giving people independence, and then allowing them to collaborate—and honestly, kindness. Kindness and compassion. That’s what the world needs today. We all need that. We all make mistakes.”

A final word of advice

  • “You have to believe in yourself and the world—that it’s going to get better. The world has gone through a lot of serious epidemics in the past, and two terrible wars and people made it through, and we’re going to make it through this.”

Tune in for the entire conversation with Wojcicki on the Conferences for Women podcast, Women Amplified. Wojcicki will also be a speaker at the 2020 virtual Pennsylvania Conference for Women. Learn more here.


More from the August 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Life Balance, Goals & Priorities, Success & Leadership, Innovation Tagged , |

Elizabeth Gilbert: On Fear and Creativity

rear view of young woman staring at abstract sketch of left and right brain concept (analytical vs creative)

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creativity, fear, and more in the latest episode of Women Amplified. While this conversation was recorded at the end of 2019, what she says about fear, in particular, is a welcome balm in this moment.

Here are highlights:

“I think we live in a society that really fetishizes the idea of being fearless and that you’re constantly being told that in various, really violent, almost aggressive language to kick fear in the ass and to punch it in the face and to show it who’s boss and to wrestle it to the ground. It’s this constant war. The language is one of war.

But in my experience, anytime I have fought against my fear, it has won because it fights back harder. It just digs in, and it shows me who’s boss—which it is. And, the only way that I’ve ever been able to “conquer” fear has been to allow it to exist and to come with a much softer energy and to see it for what it is, which is not really a terrorist monster, but an orphaned child, a small little part of you that just is so fearful.

And, to just mother it and to say:

‘Look, I can see that you’re really scared, and I see that you don’t think that you’re worthy, and I see that you are terrified that this whole thing is going to bomb and blow up and that everyone’s going to know that you’re a fraud. And, I acknowledge and respect that as being very real and you are part of this family. You, fear, are part of this family and you have a place here and you’re just as much a part of the family as creativity is. You’re just as much part of the family as longing and all the other human emotions. I will never tell you to leave. You get to be in the minivan with the rest of the family. I just can’t let you drive because you’re seven years old. You’re too little. You’re not allowed to drive. You can be with us, but you’re going to have to sit in the back with the other kids: anxiety, panic, terror, all of them.

They’re all in the minivan. They’re always going to be in the minivan, but we’re doing this anyway and you can come with us and you’re going to do this anyway. And I know, fear, that your role in the family is that as we’re on this road trip toward creativity or adventure, the new or the big new thing that we want to do, I understand that your role is to sit in the back and scream that we’re all going to die, and you do it really well; and you just keep doing that, and we’re going anyway, and I love you.’

There’s something about the ‘I love you, you’re welcome, you’re part of this’ that somehow makes it quiet down. It doesn’t go away, it just quiets. I think all it wants is to belong like the rest of us. It’s just the part of you that doesn’t believe that it belongs. And, you just have to keep coming at it with that really mothering tone.

And, when I say mother, I don’t mean the mother you actually had. I mean the universal loving, compassionate, kind mother that you wish you had. The one who said: ‘Whatever happens, I love you. Whatever happens, you’re welcome. Whether this is a success or a failure, you belong to me, you’re mine.’ That sort of language that we have to learn how to bring to ourselves because all too often we actually didn’t get that when we were kids because we were raised by people who themselves were terrified.

So, it’s just a love contest really in the end, I think. And, it’s not the way that our culture teaches you to deal with fear, but it’s the only way I’ve ever been able to get anything done.”

Listen to the entire episode on Women Amplified.


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Life Balance, Innovation, Inspiration Tagged , |

How to Unleash Your Creative Genius – with Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert

Take an exciting and inspirational journey with Eat, Pray Love phenomenon Elizabeth Gilbert in this episode of Women Amplified. This intimate conversation will explore challenges facing women today, and offer insights to better navigate decision-making, productivity, communication, relationships, career paths and so much more. Read More

Posted in Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance, Podcasts, Women Amplified: A Podcast from the Conferences for Women Tagged , |

Resilience Expert Valorie Burton: On the Power of Self-Talk

Valorie Burton

“At the core of resilience is how you think,” says author and life strategist Valorie Burton. “That’s the thing we can control the most. You want to know: Is what you’re saying to yourself helping you or hurting you? A huge piece of resilience is what you say to yourself, and changing it if what you’re saying isn’t helping.”

Burton, author of 13 books, including Successful Women Think Differently, and her forthcoming Let Go of the Guilt, spoke with us recently about how successful women can think about these times.

Valorie Burton will join Melinda Gates, Issa Rae and other amazing speakers at the Oct. 1st virtual Texas Conference for Women. If you haven’t secured your ticket, learn more here. We’re expecting more attendees than ever this year!

Q: After writing 13 personal development books, what insights have you found most helpful for navigating these extraordinarily challenging times—and still being able to move forward toward your goals?

First and foremost, this is a real test of resilience. The pandemic was such an unexpected and shocking turn of events. Now with all of the social and racial unrest, it feels like: Oh, my goodness what is next? The emotional toll is very real. I think it is important to give yourself extra emotional space to deal with all of it.

As women, we are hard on ourselves. We expect ourselves to keep going in the same way as if nothing has changed. But things have changed. Being able to pivot is very important. We need to take stock of what has changed in our relationships, parenting, job or business, and health.

Asking yourself, “What do I need right now?” is also a really important question. Then understand: This isn’t forever. And look for the opportunity in it for you. There are opportunities. Not in every situation. But in many, there are opportunities and messages. You don’t want to miss them. You have to look for them.

One of my favorite mantras when dealing with something hard is “What is is.” Fighting against it just ends up draining more energy. Obviously, things are harder for some people than others. But if you’re fighting against what is, you can’t focus on what to do to minimize the negative impact.

Q: You have spent more than 15 years studying resilience. What is the most important thing that women should know and do to cultivate the resilience that can help us in this moment?

Understand the power of a decision to get through it. When I went through a divorce 11 years ago, I thought my life was over. I was crying to my mom, and she said, “You’re 36! I hope your life’s not over!”

Then I came to a decision: I said, “I will walk through this fire but it will not consume me.” And, I decided that I would be better because of it. What I look for now is how can I grow through this difficulty and not just go through it.

At the core of resilience is how you think. That’s thing we can control the most. You want to know: Is what you’re saying to yourself helping you or hurting you? A huge piece of resilience is what you say to yourself and changing it if what you’re saying isn’t helping.

Q: As women, many of us find we take care of family, work, the house, the dog, and everything and everyone else—and then have little energy left for our own self-care. But if that’s not a helpful habit in ordinary times, it’s a seriously bad strategy in long challenging periods like this one. So, how do we use this moment to truly make self-care a priority?

I don’t want to use the cliché about putting the mask on yourself first. But taking the time to rest, to eat well, even to walk for 30 minutes: those things make a difference. So, I would say think of self-care as a resilience skill and a strategy for being able to accomplish everything else you need to accomplish and feel good while doing it. Then make it something enjoyable and doable and part of your to-do list.

Q: In Successful Women Think Differently, you identify nine habits that successful women practice. If you were to rewrite that book now, what ways of thinking could help us more successfully navigate these uncertain times?

Successful women see the big picture. Although they may not know how things will turn out, they understand there is a bigger picture. I think in these times, it’s about imagining yourself looking back and thinking about what you will wish you had done in these times. It is about making wise choices and not because you are panicked about something.

I understand that these times are stressful but we make choices everyday about the attitude we bring to what is going on. Cultivating positive emotions (through having something to look forward to, play, gratitude, movement and so on) is one of the most important strategies we have for dealing with stress.

Research tells us happiness isn’t just correlated with success. It causes success. So, in midst of all of this, I think it is even more important to do things that bring you joy because it will help you deal with all stuff that saps your joy.

Focusing on what is beyond your control is what leads to hopelessness. Successful women are always looking for internal locus of control.

Q: You have a new book coming out in September, called Let Go of the Guilt. Can you tell us about that?

A few years ago, I was asked to do a breakout session on work-life balance for parents. It was not my expertise. I was trying to figure out myself. I mentioned guilt because I was feeling it. The collective groans from women just struck me. I started bringing the subject up. The response from women was always the same.

Women are very hard on themselves—not because they did something awful but because of all of the expectations that society puts on us. I did some research and realized women are more guilt-prone than men. One study showed that women have a guilt-deficit until they are in their 50s.

So, I created coaching for letting go of guilt. I worked with a number of women who used the process. It worked. Women felt like a weight was lifted. I am very excited about this book.

Valorie Burton is the author of 13 books on personal development, founder of The Coaching and Positive Psychology (CaPP) Institute and an international speaker on resilience and happiness. Learn more at www.ValorieBurton.com.


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance, Goals & Priorities Tagged , |

Why You May Be Better Equipped to Navigate Today’s Changes Than You Think

natural haired black woman smiling while looking away onto the street and thinking

If you’re like many people these days, you’ve been dealing with change as you never did before—changes that you didn’t seek out as the next positive step in your career or personal life but had thrust on you by outside circumstances.

But here’s a little good news:

The skills you need to deal with today’s unexpected changes are the same as the skills you likely have already tapped to create positive changes in your life. In other words, you may be a bit more prepared for the turmoil of 2020 than you think.

“I think the real difference between this type of transition and one initiated by your own desire is just in how you approach it,” Erica Williams Simon says in the newest episode of Women Amplified. “It’s about attitude,” the author of You Deserve the Truth: Change the Stories that Shaped Your World and Build a World-Changing Life, says.

“If the life that you thought you were living no longer exists, there’s a moment for grief, a moment to recognize that you weren’t expecting to have to make a shift here. But once you get there, however you get there, you have the power to determine your direction,” she says.

William Simons is host and CEO of Sage House, a company that creates spaces and content to surface wisdom about “who we are and how we want to live.” She is also using this moment to encourage women to make decisions that align with their needs but also their values, passions, desires, and vision for life.

Some years ago, Simon recognized that she was “successful” by most standards. She was listed on several “30 under 30″ lists as a rising political star and TV commentator. But she wasn’t happy. So, she quit and dove into a period of exploration that helped her understand that there were certain cultural narratives that shaped her idea of what it means to be successful; but they had nothing to do with what she wanted out of life.

Since then, she has been on a mission to help others understand the stories that shape their lives and create new ones that lead to the life they actually want— encouraging women to ask questions, such as: How does it make me feel when I use it? What am I seeking? What validation does it bring me? What is the impact? Does the impact match up with my vision for my life?”

This often takes a lot of experimentation, she says—and, as these times make clear, the need and willingness to pivot and pivot again.

“There is no yellow brick road anymore, if there ever was one. And so, the idea that you can talk and plan and think your way into your dream life is just unrealistic because the world is so unpredictable,” she said. “What you have to do is take steps and then put your finger up, check the wind like Moana [the character in the 2016 Walt Disney movie of the same name] and see what’s happening and how am I feeling and where am I going.

“I think that’s how you end up in the life that you want, which ultimately—and this is the mind-blowing part for me—may be different than what you think you want today. You only gain that perspective and that insight into what a new dream for yourself could be by living, by experimenting, and by doing.”

Listen to the entire conversation with Erica Williams Simon on Women Amplified.


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Career Choices, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |

A Futurist’s Predictions about the Coming World of Work

Lisa Bodell

In times as uncertain as these, there’s something calming about speaking with a futurist—someone who, as Lisa Bodell describes it, knows how to marry strategic planning with scenario planning about possible, probable and preferable futures.

So, here are three things Bodell, award-winning author and CEO of futurethink, are possible outcomes we will see in the post-COVID-19 world of work that the popular Conference for Women speaker shared in a recent interview:

1. More remote work

At the basic level, I think the office is going to change—not just physically but how we work. I think there will be more remote work because people have experienced it and realize they can do it. Employers will say it is about creating work-life balance but the real reason is employers will see it as cost-efficient.”

2. Less work-life balance

“The ugly side of more remote work is that people will work longer hours. The work-life boundary is going to go away. I am already working more.”

3. More re-invention—and stronger businesses

“I think there is going to be a lot of reinvention to come out of this.” While in ordinary times, people tend to resist change, Bodell says COVID-19 has forced us to embrace it and do things we never would have done.

I think what will come out of this is a stronger business. I know that sounds ironic but I think business will become more relevant and bigger problem-solvers because we are moving into comfort with change, and this time has really forced people to re-evaluate what they are doing.

Greater comfort with change, on the individual and organizational level, is what Bodell sees as the third phase of our adapting to life in a global pandemic.

First, many of us were plunged into fear and felt frozen. Then, we started to adapt, even as we felt exhausted from change. Now, she says, we are moving toward figuring out how to get stuff done and build businesses again.

Going forward, she adds: “Change will be the norm, and we will settle into that norm.”


More from the July 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance Tagged , |

Standing Together, Now More Than Ever

a group of diverse women standing together in unity

Our nation has been rocked by tragedy and unrest in recent weeks and months—shaken by a tipping point in racial injustice, a global pandemic, and widespread economic devastation.

We stand with those mourning the senseless killing of George Floyd and the countless other Black lives lost needlessly. We join the voices calling for change, and we call on women to support one another in fighting for equality for people of color.

As an organization, our core mission has been to promote inclusive equality for working women—across race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, and political affiliation. But we realize we must go further.

In the coming weeks, the Conferences for Women will be using our platform and sharing resources dedicated to amplifying the voices of Black women and women of color.

Every woman, of every race, can make a difference. By standing shoulder to shoulder in the fight for justice, by taking actions to promote diversity and lending our voices to calls for change. By participating in the civic process and by providing support to groups fighting for change when possible.

Let’s find our strength by joining together. Support each other. Volunteer. Donate. Read. Learn. Vote. And remind ourselves every day: We are the women the world needs now.

Posted in Latest News, Life Balance

Making It Easier for Women of Color to Get Support from a Therapist of Color

Black female mental health professional listening to patient as she lays on the couch and talks freely

Charmain F. Jackman is a licensed psychologist who grew up on Barbados, where many people of color, she recalls, had an all-or-nothing view about mental health: You had it, or you didn’t. There was no in between.

Today, she says, there is still a stigma about mental health among people of color that makes women of color less likely than white women to access mental health services. For example, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health, mental health services are used by:

  • 21.5 percent of white women
  • 10.3 percent of black women
  • 9.2 percent of Hispanic women
  • 5.3 percent of Asian women.

But over the past several years, that has been changing, according to Jackman, who has made it her mission to destigmatize mental health services—and make it easier for people of color to access to therapists of color.

“There has been a real groundswell of people being more open about mental health issues, and understanding that therapy can be helpful,” Jackman said in a recent conversation with the Conferences for Women for Mental Health Awareness Month.

Superstar rapper Jay-Z has publicly spoken about the benefits of therapy; and Taraji Henson, the actress who appeared in Hidden Figures, started a foundation to help her father who suffered from PTSD.

Jackman also has been working to educate people of color about the benefits of therapy—and dismantle

The cultural message that if you seek therapy, it means you are crazy or weak;
The idea that you shouldn’t share family business with strangers; and
The cynicism bred of infamous historical events, such as the Tuskegee Experiment.

Another big obstacle that Jackman has been working to overcome is helping people find a therapist of color—since most people prefer to speak to someone from their own background.

This year, she launched a new nationwide directory that makes it easy. Check it out here.


More from the May 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Life Balance, Health & Wellness Tagged , , |

How to Be Brave, Not Perfect with Reshma Saujani

Laysha Ward interviewing Reshma Saujani for Women Amplified podcast

In this special episode, Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, talks with guest host Laysha Ward, executive vice president and chief external engagement officer for Target, about her new book, Brave, Not Perfect. 

This conversation took place before the outbreak of COVID-19. But we’re airing it now because it clearly speaks to the challenges many of us face today. Tune in for practical advice and inspiration from Reshma to help you navigate away from the pull of perfectionism, which will only make you more anxious, and toward a life that is bolder, braver, and ultimately happier. Read More

Posted in Life on Your Terms, Embrace the Unknown, Transitions, Life Balance, Podcasts Tagged , |

How to Stay Meaningfully Connected

a cheerful young woman staying connected and chatting via laptop while enjoying a bite to eat on the balcony

During another crazy time in our world, Emily Morgan had a newborn and a husband suddenly out of work because of the financial crash of 2007-2008. She’d been working at the University of Pennsylvania but wanted to give remote work a try. Twelve years later, she is a successful entrepreneur who leads a team of 40—and an expert in the remote work that has suddenly become a reality for so many.

Here are five suggestions from Morgan, a Conference for Women speaker, about how to stay connected in meaningful ways and be a leader in times like this—followed by tips from the Conferences for Women team on how to make working at home work.

  • Create brief opportunities for everyone to see each other. Her entire team comes together over Zoom for 15 minutes once a week, with various team members taking a turn hosting. They cover core values, one positive development, organizational updates, shared learnings, and a story of values in action.
  • Offer small, more in-depth chances to connect. Morgan’s team is divided into packs of five to seven who meet on Zoom one hour a week where they have an opportunity to share—including, as she puts it, to “complain to and encourage”—one another. This, she says, helps create the culture they would have if working in the office together.
  • Think creatively about how you can support your team now. For example, she is organizing a virtual camp where volunteers teach topics that will aim to keep children engaged while their parents focus on work.
  • Establish clear boundaries and expectations. Being clear about metrics the team should be focused on over the next 30, 60 and 90 days. This helps everyone stay focused on priorities and know what they are accountable for.
  • Try to model calmness. Morgan says she meditates, limits her news intake, and reflects on whether how she is leading and acting is aligned with how she wants to see others act. “I don’t,” she adds, “want to be leading from a place of reaction.”

Morgan is the founder and CEO of Delegate Solutions, which offers premium-level virtual assistant services for entrepreneurs.


More from the April 2020 Newsletter

Posted in Speaker Articles, Embrace the Unknown, Life Balance Tagged , |

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