How Taking a Detour May Get You to Your Dream

jordan-johnstone-the-mirror-stageTalents, passions, and making your dreams a reality. This is often a long road with lots of twists and turns. Today, we are talking to one of our own team members, Jordan Johnstone, the mastermind behind Friday Faves and other copywriting endeavors here at 4word, about her newly released book, The Mirror Stage. Jordan gives us some insight to her career goals and how she is achieving them through any means possible.

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4word: How have you developed your passion and talent for writing?

Jordan: I’ve always loved stories in general. I know this comes from the fact that my mother surrounded me with reading and books from toddlerhood on. Actually, my first memory is from when I was about 18 months old and my mom and I would climb underneath my crib and listen to a book on tape.

I started writing when I was around eleven or twelve. It wasn’t anything official, just me putting a series of scenes down on paper. But I think that was when I caught the writing fever. I loved coming up with characters and locations, thinking up storylines and plot twists. I would sneak my mom’s catalogs up to my room and scour them, looking for the perfect faces for the fictitious people in my stories.

Fast-forward to end of high school, and I had to pick a degree to pursue. More than anything, I wanted to do something with writing. All of the aptitude tests I had taken during high school had indicated that a career in writing or English was where I should go. However, I couldn’t really find a major that I liked, and I was afraid that creative writing was a career that would never allow me to make much of an income. So I deviated from what I really wanted to do and decided to go after an Advertising and Public Relations degree. I quickly learned that writing is very much a part of marketing, and I developed an understanding and appreciation for copywriting, which is what I do now.

4word: What has the journey to the publication of The Mirror Stage been like?

Jordan: The Mirror Stage began during my work on my Masters degree in Creative Writing. Full Sail University (where I got my degree) is an entertainment-focused school, so the thesis project for the degree was to write a script. I chose a One-Hour TV script, mainly because that’s the type of show I watch the most, so I felt like I had a good grasp on the amount of content needed to fulfill the assignment.

For my thesis project, I wrote The Mirror Stage as a script. My thesis also included writing a show bible, which featured detailed character bios, location information and ideas for all thirteen episodes of season one, among other things. I spent almost a full year researching and tweaking and manifesting the characters featured in The Mirror Stage.

After I turned in my thesis, I was hit with a kind of let-down feeling. I was sad that the story was over and that I was no longer going to be able to live in that world. One Saturday, I spent hours looking through all of my research and I started to wonder, “What if?” I remembered how much I enjoyed writing when I was younger, and figured that now that I had the training, I should give fiction writing another go. So I transitioned The Mirror Stage from script to manuscript and never looked back!

4word:  Did you have any unexpected challenges along the way?

Jordan: Definitely! When I decided to start writing the book, I was completely clueless. When you self-publish (like I did), you are everything. The author, the publisher, the agent, the PR person. While it’s nice to have total control, it also means you have to wear a million different hats. My biggest challenge I’ve faced to date is just getting the word out. I’m brand-new at this, so no one knows who I am or cares that I wrote a book. So it’s been my job ever since I published to make people care.

4word: Was there anyone who mentored you along the way?

Jordan: A friend I’ve known since middle school, Katie Camp (Kate Avery Ellison), is a very successful author with quite a few books under her belt. When I first decided I wanted to take a stab at this author thing, I reached out to her through Facebook, totally on a whim and completely expecting her to be way too busy to be able to answer me. I was so surprised and honored when she not only responded to my Facebook message, but continued to write back and forth with me over the next few months. She talked to me about everything, from self-publishing know-how to story arcs to writing practices.

Without her mentoring, I would never have had the courage or the drive to keep going. I would have felt like I was all on my own, trying to achieve the impossible. When she came alongside me and politely and thoroughly answered every question I furiously typed her way, she really helped bring my writing career to life. I’ve thanked her over and over for her guidance and friendship through the tedious process of writing The Mirror Stage, and it still doesn’t feel like I’ve conveyed enough gratitude.

4word: What was your inspiration behind The Mirror Stage?

Jordan: The story stemmed from my love of gritty crime shows and novels. Shows like The Following and Hannibal, and novels like Gone Girl and Dark Places sucked me in and didn’t let go. I wanted to create a story in a similar vein to these shows and novels, because nothing is worse than writing something that you yourself wouldn’t want to read!

One of the main attractors for me to these shows and novels is strong characters that I really get invested in. With every character in The Mirror Stage, I really tried to make them as “real” as possible. They’re real to me because I created them, but I wanted my readers to create a connection with them, too. I really analyzed what characteristics and story lines I was most drawn to in my favorite shows and novels, and incorporated my strongest findings into my characters and the story.

4word: Your career path hasn’t been the most traditional. Can you share that with us?

Jordan: I worked in advertising for the first three years after college. Then the agency I was with downsized and I found myself unemployed for around six months. I looked everywhere for another advertising position. One day, while I was trolling job boards, I saw a posting to drive a school bus for Gwinnett County Public Schools. At first I passed over it. Then I saw it again on another site and took a closer look. Health benefits, paid holidays and summer break. I decided it was worth a shot and applied.

Jumping from advertising to being a school bus driver was met with lots of speculation and raised brows from those who knew me. But the entire hiring and training process went off without a hitch, and I just knew and felt that this was where God wanted me to be. Was it what I thought I would be doing? No. But driving that school bus became one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I became part of dozens of students’ lives and that blessed me more than I thought it would.

4word:  What’s next for you?

Jordan: I’m working on wrapping up the first draft of Book Two of The Imago Trilogy (which The Mirror Stage is the first book of), and then that will be ready for my beta readers and editor. After that, I get to work on outlining Book Three! It’s a vicious cycle but I love it.

4word: Any closing words for our readers?

Jordan: Never forget your dreams. You may not be able to achieve them at the time you think is best, but that’s just because God has a better time for those opportunities to show up. Be ready for detours and enjoy them. They are unexpected spice for your life that will enrich you more than you could ever imagine or plan for.

Pursuing a calling and a dream can be challenging and unpredictable. It’s also a rewarding journey filled with many lessons and rich blessings. Keep climbing those mountains and celebrating the milestones.  

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When did you recognize your talent? How have you used that passion in your career? Let us know in the comments!

Jordan Johnstone (J.J. Stone) holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Full Sail University. Currently a freelance copywriter, she wears multiple hats for a variety of clients. Her journey as an author is one that she has dreamed of since she created her first story at the age of 11. She is currently working on the next chapter in The Imago Trilogy. Her debut novel The Mirror Stage is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks

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Look Out: Smart Christians Ahead

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Most of what I really needed to know about operating a business I learned working at the family orchard and fruit stand starting around age five.

Later in life, I also earned a degree from Harvard Business School. My time at Harvard was hard and wonderful, and I’m so grateful for it. But over the years, I’ve seen that having a place like Harvard on your resume can change the way people treat you, and not always in positive ways.

In professional settings, Harvard tends to open doors. Clients and coworkers who learn about it look at me with a little more respect, they consult me more, listen more closely when I speak, and are generally less likely to interrupt me. There’s plenty that can be said about whether this is fair or not, all I really know for sure is that it works.

At church on Sunday, that same degree tends to have the opposite effect. There, if someone happens to hear about my connection to Harvard, they generally react pretty predictably: “Oh wow!” they say, and then, “you must be smart.” Usually this is followed by something to distinguish themselves from that “smart” label: “Not me! I only went to State School.” I also went to “state school,” but that’s not the point. Just like that we’re “us” and “them.” It doesn’t always happen this way of course, but it happens a lot.

To me, these disparate reactions are telling, and somewhat troubling. On one hand, I see a work environment that worships the intellect to an unhealthy degree. On the other, a Christian culture increasingly likely to politely distance itself from intellectual pursuits.

It is terribly important that we figure out how to bridge this gap and show the world that you can be smart, educated, reasonable, and have a vibrant Christian faith.

Let’s start by embracing our smarts. The world overvalues beauty and undervalues intelligence, especially for women and girls. And the church doesn’t always do a great job of countering those cultural messages. Nevertheless, as Christians, we are directed to love the Lord fully, engaging not just our hearts but our minds as well. (Mark 12:30).

A strong intellect is a gift from God, and what’s more, it’s a spiritual gift, right up there with more “churchy” sounding ones like faith, healing, and prophesy (1 Corinthians 12:8-10). You don’t have to be some sort of genius to qualify, I’m certainly not! God gave you a mind to use for His glory. That mind is just as precious to Him as a “servant’s heart” or a beautiful singing voice lifted in worship.

Respect your colleagues. Today’s workplace is a diverse place, including a variety of religious groups, as well as people who want nothing to do with religion. You need to respect that.

Don’t hide the fact that you’re a Christian, but you needn’t try to prove it either. Let your faith be known in non-aggressive ways, and then seek to live it out fully through your actions. I like to abide by a “one cross rule.” Wear a cross necklace if you like, but not a necklace, bracelets, lapel pin, and earrings. By the same token, if someone asks what you did this weekend, feel free to give an answer that includes church, but don’t expound on the sermon. Is there a risk that some people might get offended or put-off? Maybe, but all you can control is your approach, not their response. And I tend to think that if your attitude is one of honesty and openness rather than judgment or disapproval, people can tell.

Invest in your reputation. If you want to share Christ in the marketplace, you need to worry less about what coworkers think about your faith, and more about doing the very best job possible. Dig in. Do excellent work. Be reliable. Take responsibility for mistakes. In these ways, you’ll build relationships of trust with people.

If you’re a lazy unreliable worker or you treat people poorly, your Christianity will ring hollow to those around you. Great results and diligent work, on the other hand, will stand behind your name and your faith.

Improve the world around you. Use your position and influence, whatever they may be, to make a positive difference for the people around you at work. Even though I don’t tend to talk a lot about God while I’m at work, my faith forms a basis for values I can put into action. Over the years, I’ve sought to make the workplace more inviting for the people around me by advocating for diversity and mentoring programs, improving training and communication standards, and simply striving to treat people with kindness and respect.

As you activate your faith in your workplace, you build a natural platform to discuss your faith in a positive way. Over time, these are the things that will cause others to take note and become curious about you and what “makes you tick.”

When it comes to representing God at work, your brain is one of your most valuable assets. Embrace it. Then put it to work!

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Rudeness, Raises and Reality in This Week’s Friday Faves

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Happy Friday, 4word friends! Check out our favorites from the past week, and don’t forget to sign up for the fall session of the 4word Mentor Program. The deadline to submit your application is September 5, 2014!

Take Notice

  • BE A PART OF THE 4word MENTOR PROGRAM!: The 4word Mentor Program is now accepting applications for mentor and mentee spots! Take the next step in your professional journey by investing in a mentorship with a fellow professional Christian woman! To apply, send in your application by September 5, 2014 by clicking this link.
  • STRANGE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS: 13 CEOs share on LinkedIn some of their favorite questions to ask when conducting interviews, and some of them might make you scratch your head.
  • UNREASONABLE DEMANDS: Dr. Suzanne Gelb writes on The Muse about the proper response steps to take when dealing with the sensitive issue of an unreasonably demanding boss.
  • RUDENESS IN THE WORKPLACE: John Kyle with Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics lists four methods colleagues can practice to foster a more unified work environment.

 

Video of the Week

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This inspiring video “Investing in Our Future” was shown at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, and features the story of Agnes Netunze with Sseko Designs. Watch and share this powerful story of hope and perseverance.

 

Top Three

 

4word Local Group Events

Take a look at these upcoming 4word Local Group event dates and see which one(s) you can attend. We’d love to see you there!

  • Phoenix - Summer Nights Book Study - August 18 @ 6:30PM
  • Atlanta – After Work Gathering – August 26 @ 5:30PM
  • Tulsa – WLP Book Discussion – September 15 @ 7:00PM
  • Chicago – Luncheon with Jamie Janosz – September 18 @ noon
  • San Francisco – Summer BBQ – September 21 @ 2:30PM
  • Dallas – After Work Event – September 23 @ 6:00PM

For details on these events, please visit our 4word Events page.

 

A Pinterest Find

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Want an easy and delish Saturday morning breakfast? Here’s a recipe for Cinnamon Roll Casserole that will leave everyone asking for seconds.

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Victim? NO! Be a GameChanger!

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Women in America have made tremendous strides in workforce equality. Gone are the days when a young girl’s only aspiration was to be a wife and mother. Now, we are afforded that opportunity and so many more. Today, we’re speaking with Cynthia Nwaubani. Her heart is for her home country of Nigeria, whose workforce differs greatly from America. Cynthia wants to see women find success inside and outside of their homes, regardless of where they live.

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4word: Can you describe what it is currently like for working women in Nigeria?

Cynthia: Traditionally, men have always been the major breadwinners of the family in Nigeria. The woman’s role has always been to stay home and raise the children. As more women have become educated and entered into the workforce, we have seen a shift in this trend.

Even still, women in Nigeria face a lot of discrimination and sometimes harassment in the workplace. It takes a strong woman to succeed in a typical Nigerian work environment. Nonetheless, we have seen more Nigerian women rise to the top than in the past, especially in financial services and government. For example, the current Minister of Finance of Nigeria is a woman by the name of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

4word: How does the workforce in Nigeria differ from America?

Cynthia: Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa. According to a 2010 World Bank report, Nigeria has one of the lowest rates of employed women, as percent of the total population, among selected countries with similar gross national income. As of 2010, 61 percent of the population was living on less than a dollar a day. Contrast that to America, where women are projected to account for 51 percent of the increase in total labor force growth between 2008 and 2018.

There are also fewer youths in the Nigerian workforce than you will find in America. In my opinion, I would attribute this trend to a lack of job opportunities in many states in Nigeria. Most people have to go to the big cities to find a meaningful job. There just are not as many job opportunities as there are job applicants. As a result, most college graduates take on less meaningful jobs just to survive. In America, you don’t have to travel to New York or Dallas to get a job. You can be successful anywhere in the country.

Nigerians also put a lot of emphasis on education. Masters and PhDs are the norms for anyone aspiring to rise to the top in the Nigerian corporate world. In America, you don’t have to be a college graduate to at least get a decent job. It amazes me how many people in America decide not to go to college despite the many opportunities afforded them. In Nigeria, the starting point to success is a college degree and even with that, one has to work hard to find a meaningful job. So you might be surprised to see a taxi driver with a college degree in Nigeria.

However, with the recent economic boom in Nigeria, more foreign-educated Nigerians are returning home to apply their skills to the country’s development. Most go into private equity and venture capital in a bid to tap into the growing economy.

4word: What type of career resources are currently available and what do these women need?

Cynthia: There are many career resources available for women in Nigeria. Most are targeted towards teaching basic life skills to women in the rural areas. This is good, but to achieve the level of success we so desire, we need to change the way most women think. I believe what most women in Nigeria need is a confidence boost. Women have always been taught to keep quiet and let men speak. If you are an assertive woman, people may look at you as being rude or disrespectful to your husband. We need women who are successful as mentors for younger women. We have so many high profile successful Nigerian women, but they are so high up in the organization or society that it becomes difficult to connect them with the average woman. We need women role models and mentors at every level of an organization, not just at the pinnacle.

I am working with some successful women in Nigeria to introduce the 4word group to Nigerian women. No matter how much career success a woman achieves, an average successful Nigerian woman judges her level of success based on her family relationships.  Thus, a group such as 4word – founded on the premises of work, love, pray - will resonate well with an average Nigerian woman. The group provides a platform to bring women from all over the world to mentor, share ideas, and encourage other women to rise to the top, not only in career, but also in their relationships and family.

4word: How do you define progress for Nigerian women?

Cynthia: Undoubtedly, progress for the Nigerian woman starts with giving her the education she needs to succeed in life. By education, I mean both formal and informal. Education empowers women to create the life they want and fight to achieve it.

4word: How do events like last week’s U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit help shape and change the future for women, both here and in Nigeria?

Cynthia: I am excited to see the increasing support for growth in Africa. People have long referred to Africa as the Dark Continent partly because of the negative media representation of the continent. Like every other continent, Africa still has a long way to go; however, the continent’s development is necessary if we are to achieve a seamless cross-border economic development.

Europe and China are already creating strides in Africa, because they see the continent as the next investment center of the world. The recent U.S.-Africa Leader’s Summit is a case in point that showcases the need for U.S. partnership with Africa. The event follows another milestone event, the African First Ladies Summit, that brought several First African Ladies alongside First Lady Michelle Obama and Mrs. Laura Bush to the Bush Presidential Institute at SMU Cox Business School. Both events highlight the fact that one of the keys to strengthening Africa is investing in her women. We need to see the light at the end of the tunnel to keep forging ahead in our efforts to empower women in Nigeria. I believe these events may have been the switch that turns on that light.

There’s no doubt that progress has been made for working women with lofty career and family goals, both here in America and in Nigeria. Career resources and mentoring are crucial to continued growth. 4word is honored to be able to advocate for women like Cynthia, Sseko Designs founder Liz Bohannon and Brittany Underwood with The Akola Project. These women are striving daily to help better the lives of women across the globe. How can you support working women around the world?  

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Have you ever thought about how you can influence women around the globe?

Cynthia Nwaubani was born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa. Born into humble beginnings, Cynthia was forced to live on the street for several years. Despite being homeless for that long, she still found the courage to get off the street to complete her education. She later attended the University of Nigeria, where she got her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting.

During her undergraduate studies, she was one of the founders of the University’s first radio station, which later won numerous awards in Africa, including the Pan-African radio station award at the community level. Cynthia started her career at the Nigerian Finance Ministry office, working as the Secretary for the Adviser to the Minister of Finance. In that capacity, she handled the operations and logistics of the Ministry, which included case conferences, seminars, and research analysis. She worked in the financial sector until 2008 when she moved to the United States to be with her husband. In Dallas, she started a career in the healthcare industry, working in the capacity of account executive, marketing strategist and recently, business management.

Cynthia is a recent MBA graduate of the Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business and an active member of the 4word women’s group. She lives with her husband and two daughters in McKinney, Texas.

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Why Are We Not Good At This?

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Are you looking to be promoted? Do you wish there were more women in senior management at your firm? Do you feel like you just need a tiny nudge, and then things in your career would be amazing? Well, my experience is that there is one ingredient missing … and it’s not that hard.

OK, this might sound harsh. But data shows that despite great advances in racial, cultural, and gender diversity in recruiting, the UPPER echelons of American business have remained stubbornly and disproportionately populated by white men. It’s true. And that’s despite research showing a wealth of talented, qualified, ambitious women and minorities clustered just below senior management.

This data suggests organizations struggle to identify, source, and promote diverse talent. For any business leader, this challenge represents a frightening and frustrating waste of potential talent and resources … and at the end of the day, it’s a competitive disadvantage. So what’s the missing ingredient?

A recent wave of research says the missing ingredient could be something that’s been around a while … though rarely discussed. Major studies from the Harvard Business Review and Catalyst have concluded that SPONSORSHIP, not Mentorship, is THE most critical factor in one’s career advancement.

Mentorship focuses more on the mentee’s personal development, which is fabulous. This focus, however, may ultimately distract from what is needed even more … THE ACTIVE PROMOTION OF TALENT.

So I offer up the idea of Sponsorship, which in many ways is the opposite of Mentorship. Sponsorship is based on the presumption that the Protégé’s potential and skill are already there so the energy is spent on advocacy and networking exposure, THE most crucial components to promotion.

Now, I am sad to say that Sponsorship does not seem to come naturally to most women. We are too busy, it seems fake and awkward, or we are not willing to put our reputations on the lines for others. For women to harness the power of Sponsorship, we need to understand it is not just something people do in secret to butter up management for their buddy.

SO WHAT IS A SPONSOR?

A Sponsor is really someone “with clout” who can actively and publicly advocate for someone. Sponsors usually, but not always, work at the same company as their Protégés and know them pretty well. Sponsors actively … and without embarrassment or shyness … leverage their own influence to promote their Protégés’ advancement, visibility, and connection to senior leaders.

The primary role of a Sponsor is not to develop their Protégé but rather place them in positions that maximize their talent and exposure. And I am sure it’s NO surprise that having a high-level Sponsor has been shown to be a powerfully effective tool for career advancement.

THE PROBLEM WITH OLD-MODEL SPONSORSHIP

I want to be very clear. Sponsorship is not new. It occurs everywhere, but usually inconsistently and below the radar, shrouded in mystery. It suffers from a kind of self-selection bias that tends to disproportionately exclude minorities, women, and new employees.

Various studies explain why Sponsorship is so heavily skewed towards white men with several practical, psychological, and organizational factors in today’s business environment. Women should understand these factors so we may correct for them:

  • First, the most basic human psychology dictates that people tend to be drawn to others who look and act like them. Since most executives with the clout to be effective Sponsors tend to be white men, it is then human nature that they would be more likely to form close Sponsorship relationships with others of the same race, cultural/economic background, and gender.
  • Next, women and minorities may be reluctant to seek out Sponsorship relationships because we don’t want to attract undue scrutiny, spawn peers’ resentment, or be perceived as “selling out” our culture.
  • Lastly, the Hewlett Study found that women are much less likely to seek out Sponsorship than men, because we tend to feel that leveraging relationships is fake and unfair. AND because truly effective Sponsorship usually indicates a close working and often social relationship between the Sponsor and Protégé, men and women alike tend to fear that cross-gender Sponsorship may be seen inappropriately.

OK. So now the question is HOW DO WOMEN NATURALLY SPONSOR OTHER WOMEN?

5 WAYS TO TAKE THE LEAP AND SPONSOR

  1. Actively and constantly look for ways to CONNECT women to others that can support them in their current job, project, goal, and company … and then stop and TAKE THE TIME TO DO IT.
    • Recently, I connected Liz Bohannon, Founder of Sseko Designs, with Charity Wallace, Senior Advisor to Mrs. Laura Bush. It occurred to me that what Sseko is doing in Africa would be interesting to Charity as she helped organize the Symposium for African Spouses hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush at last week’s U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The outcome was that Sseko was majorly featured and in fact, a company video was the intro to the First Ladies event.
  2. Unabashedly and assertively ALERT a protégé’s senior management when they do something well … DON’T BE SHY.
    • I just love it when women I know from the real estate industry get involved in 4word. Last week, I had the chance to let the most senior management of CBRE know that Kellie Hill, one of their team members who is also a 4word woman, did an awesome job on our weekly radio show “Mentoring Mondays with 4word” on Rick Tocquigny’s Life Lessons radio. The CEO of CBRE wrote Kelli back thanking her for her great work, exposure she was unlikely to get on her own!
  3. COMMUNICATE openly and confidently with your Protégé’s peers about what they are doing well, have accomplished, and are launching … because women aren’t always great at SELF-PROMOTION.
    • Well, I’ve been blessed that connecting people and proactively promoting them to others comes naturally to me. Again, a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to promote Dad, Here’s What I Really Need From You, the new book from Dr. Michelle Watson, a 4word woman, to all of 4word and many in her region of the country. Michelle has received a warm jump start to her book, something for which all authors pray.
  4. RECOMMEND women for open jobs when you see a great potential fit … often it just takes you GIVING SENIOR MANAGEMENT THE IDEA.
    • I’m always on the look out for people looking for jobs, for open jobs, and the opportunity to sponsor someone. My mentee this year in the CREW Mentor Program wanted to get a job with a large tech firm in Silicon Valley. It just so happened that the global head of real estate of THAT very firm is a friend of mine, so I connected them via email and voila, she got the job … a job she is more than qualified for but would probably have never had the chance to interview.
  5. Proactively PUT SKIN IN THE GAME because we must risk some of our own hard-earned capital to become a Sponsor. It means putting ourselves on the line for the sake of someone else … so JUST DO IT.
    • If you’re anything like me, you’re not going to take that risk lightly but look for the opportunity. When I was with Cassidy Turley, Shelley Radomski was my mentee. It was clear she had amazing skills with the ability to work with almost anyone. As the new CEO took over, I put myself  “on the line” by pitching Shelley as his perfect CAO. He moved her into that role, which put her in the perfect position to take over as COO earlier this year.

Because we are busy and so intent on being genuine and beyond reproach, women don’t always enter into Sponsorship roles. When we can step into that role, talented young employees gain access to the experiences, training, and networks necessary for successful advancement. Once Sponsorship becomes less of a mystery, women will be more likely to proactively seek it out.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

Sponsors have much to gain by getting out there and just doing it. Shortly after I started with Cassidy Turley, I identified a need for a new management position. Even though I hadn’t been with the company long, I’d had the chance to work with a talented young woman in one of our other offices and knew she had the skills that would be crucial. I lobbied to get her into the position, and she has excelled. It’s satisfying to know that I served the company well AND helped advance a talented future leader. It also helped me establish myself in a new professional environment.

Effective Sponsors also gain a reputation as discerning leaders that are invested in talent development. They increase their knowledge of company needs and opportunities, learn from employees at every level, and gain leadership skills that can further enhance their own careers.

So, why NOT? Get out there and SPONSOR SOMEONE THAT IS WORTHY OF YOUR SKIN IN THE GAME!

 

To begin your journey of Mentorship and Sponsorship, join the 4word Mentor Program now! The deadline for the fall session is September 5, 2014, so start the application process now!

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How to Be Confident, How to Succeed, and How to Relax in This Week’s Friday Faves

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Happy Friday, 4word friends! For those of you who sent the kids back to school, congrats on making it through the first week back. As you unwind and get ready for the weekend, check out our favorite articles, video and pin from the past week.

Take Notice

  • BE A PART OF THE 4word MENTOR PROGRAM!: The 4word Mentor Program is now accepting applications for mentor and mentee spots! Take the next step in your professional journey by investing in a mentorship with a fellow professional Christian woman! To apply, send in your application by September 5, 2014 by clicking this link.
  • BE CONFIDENT!: May Busch helps us grasp how to feel, display, and give confidence in this video on her website.
  • BALANCE WORK AND LIFE: Do you want a career that lets you effectively balance work and life? Kathryn Dill with Forbes lists 25 companies that you might want to consider applying to.
  • FEMALE SUPERHERO?: Amanda Hess with Slate digs deeper into the common excuse from Hollywood studios when asked why there aren’t more female superheroes.

 

Video of the Week

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Katie Couric interviewed Brittany Merrill Underwood and talked with her about The Akola Project and her passion for uplifting families living in Uganda.

 

Top Three

 

4word Local Group Events

Take a look at these upcoming 4word Local Group event dates and see which one(s) you can attend. We’d love to see you there!

  • Los Angeles - Morning Brunch - August 9 @ 10:00AM
  • San Francisco - After Work Gathering and Discussion - August 12 @ 6:30PM
  • San Diego - Monthly Lunch - August 13 @ 11:00AM
  • Phoenix - Summer Nights Book Study - August 18 @ 6:30PM

For details on these events, please visit our 4word Events page.

 

A Pinterest Find

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For some of you, it’s back to school time! Here are 10 quick and easy dinner ideas for school nights.

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Even Grown-Up Girls Need Their Dads

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Fathers and daughters. This is a unique relationship with powerful implications. Dr. Michelle Watson of The Abba Project is helping us understand exactly what this means. Michelle created The Abba Project with a desire to strengthen and improve father-daughter relationships across the country.

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4word: Why is the father-daughter relationship so important?

Michelle: Where do I begin?! There are so many aspects to the father-daughter relationship that are key to a daughter’s identity that I could talk your ear off for the next hour. But I’ll rein it in and give you some basic highlights!

First, there is mounting evidence to support the fact that a girl’s sense of herself largely ties to the quality of her relationship with her dad. A father’s role in his daughter’s life impacts everything from her academic success to career decisions, from selections in romantic relationships to her sexual choices, from her self-esteem to body acceptance, to name just a few. Our individual core beliefs and core identity as women is directly shaped and fostered by our connection (or lack of) to our dad.

Now, let’s add in the spiritual realm to say that the way we interface with our dad sets the foundation for how we come to understand God as a Father. If that human relationship has been secure, consistent, fair, loving, and safe, we will most often project those qualities onto Father God. And when the opposite is true, it makes sense that God would be the last person a wounded woman would want to trust. Horizontal injury with our dad easily lead to vertical confusion, angst, and mistrust with our heavenly Dad.

4word: What are some common causes for poor relationships?

Michelle: There are two main ways that our dads can leave scars: father wounds (what our dad did do to hurt us) and father voids (what our dad didn’t do that negatively impacted us). Of course, we all have these realities in varying degrees, and our dads do as well when it comes to their own unhealed injuries. And because our dads grew up in a generation where fathering looked different than it does now, they may lack a clear template of what a good father looks like. Of course, I’m not saying that a father is exempt from dialing in now if he didn’t have a great male role model, but I am saying that this is a common cause for poor dad-to-daughter relationships.

Then, add in the fact that a lot of dads may relate better to their sons than their daughters, with them implicitly or directly saying to mom (in terms of parenting their daughter), “you’re a girl; here, you go in.” This especially happens during the turbulent years of adolescence, which I believe is the key time when many dads back off. I always say that men would rather do nothing than do it wrong, so when they think they are making things worse, they usually take a step back rather than step toward their daughter.

One other reality for us as girls is that when our dads have hurt us one too many times, we tend to put up self-protective emotional walls. It’s easy to then go into a mode of telling ourselves that we don’t care anymore (which is a crock, because every woman cares about every relationship all the time; God made us that way!) The downside of building a hard wall around our heart is that we bear the negative impact of that hurt, anger, resentment, unforgiveness, and sadness. We weren’t made to isolate and hold all that pain inside. All this to say, it is worth addressing these realities honestly, since we’re the ones who suffer most, not always our dads.

4word: What gave you an interest in the father-daughter relationship?

Michelle: For me, most of my “father wounds” came from my grandfather. He sexually abused me when I was a young girl, and for those of you with this same history, you understand how abuse complicates everything.

In my life, it led to not only to mistrusting men but also drove my desire to prove my strength in wacky ways (like thinking that lifting heavy sound equipment when I was in a band meant I was strong) while craving their approval, because I didn’t really know how to feel it or connect with it from God. Out of desperation in my late 20’s, I finally went to see a counselor, because I wasn’t coping very well. The miraculous happened (over the course of many years—there’s no quick fix, that much I know for sure): Jesus came into memory after memory and walked alongside me while helping me rework the lies that had been embedded in my wounds. Finally, I was able to reject my grandfather’s mirrored reality about me (and the distorted reality from stupid boys I dated) as my brain got rewired with Jesus and Abba Father’s truth. It was a long process, but I stuck with it even when I wanted to quit. You’ve got to believe me when I say that I started out as one big mess. If true healing from a painful past can happen for me, it can happen for you too!

One other thing I want to say about this theme comes from my friend Paul Young. He said that it took him 50 years to wipe his father’s face off the face of God. Like Paul, I had a misperception of God as Father and didn’t think I needed His love since I had enough of it from Jesus. But now that there’s no longer a gunky projection of my grandfather onto my Abba Father’s face, I completely trust His heart, and it’s awesome! Consequently, I am passionate about seeing women get their love tanks filled from their Abba Dad, because whether or not you had the best father in the world, we all need more than an earthly father can give.

4word: What can dads and daughters do to overcome these common pitfalls?

Michelle: Typically, it is women who have more motivation to look inward than men (this isn’t a stereotype but is based more on empirical data). I cite this to invite those of you who are reading this to consider taking the initiative by writing a letter to open up dialogue first with yourself and then with your dad. Consider both the hits and the misses and identify the cost that each one of those things has had on you. You don’t have to give this letter to your dad. You are giving a voice to yourself most importantly.

After you have done this you can consider doing one of three things:

1. Give the letter to your dad.

2. Rewrite it and only use some of the content.

3. Decide not to give it to him at all.

You might want to send him the letter or perhaps read it to him face-to-face. Regardless of the option you choose, allow yourself to be honest about the impact that your relationship with your dad has had on you, all the while opening your heart to the unconditional, healing love that your Abba Father has for you as His daughter!

4word: What do you do if you’re a daughter who wants to engage with her dad, but you don’t know where to start?

Michelle: Men often connect by doing something rather than talking (typically as women, we’re wired just the opposite), and if you’re the one who is initiating contact this would serve you well to come up with an activity that allows you to share in something together as a starting point.

If you want to engage in conversation and don’t know where to begin, I would suggest trying something that I have been doing with my dad for about three years. I call it: Opening the Closet Door. I ask my dad to tell me one or two stories from his childhood, often that correlate to the current time of year. The awesome thing is that I have heard stories about my dad that even my mom hasn’t heard! I limit these conversations to our ten-minute car ride home from Costco and can assure you that I have bonded with my dad in a new way (and I believe he has with me) through this. Then, I come home and type out his responses, because I am taking my role as historian very seriously! It’s really fun!

4word: How does The Abba Project address these areas?

Michelle: Over the course of nine months, I provide each group of dads with tools to better connect with their daughter’s hearts. As a “band of brothers,” these guys also support and challenge each other along the way. Every month, we address topics to help expand their understanding of issues their girls deal with (body image, self esteem, personalities, dating, romance, etc.) while I tell them things like, “your daughter didn’t come with a playbook, but you’re going to write the playbook.” I teach them about the vital importance of asking questions, followed by active listening, and all the while learning to pursue their daughter’s heart intentionally and consistently. My goal is to help them succeed in reaching that goal through a process that builds their confidence as they engage in action steps that increase competence.

4word: Why did you create The Abba Project?

Michelle:  Obedience to God’s call is the first reason I started The Abba Project. I started this group when, during my quiet time in December 2009, I was reading about how Zechariah was told that his son John would help turn the hearts of fathers to their children. I heard the Father whisper to me and say, “Michelle, that’s what I want you to do.” Two days later, while blow drying my hair, I heard the name “The Abba Project.” Abba means “Daddy” in Aramaic, and men love a project. Hence, the name! And with that I’ve been off and running, having led five groups of dads through this so far, with the sixth group ready to start next month.

The second reason is because I am passionate about girls and women. I long to see our country restored from the ground up, which I believe has to do with fathers engaging intentionally and consistently with their children. Because daughters too often go “looking for love in all the wrong places” in an attempt to numb a father wound or fill a father void, my desire is to help dads heal, restore, and nurture their relationships with their girls. The means to my end of seeing America healed is helping equip dads with better tools to succeed in being or becoming the best dad he can possibly be to his daughter by dialing in to her heart.

4word: Where can 4word readers receive more information about The Abba Project?

Michelle: You can go to my website at www.theabbaproject.com. If you would like an additional resource, my first book is coming out on September 1st and is titled Dad, Here’s What I Really Need From You: A Guide for Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart.

It is written specifically to dads of daughters (I primarily target ages 13 to 30, but this can be a resource for dads with younger daughters, because it gives a template of where he’s headed so he gets the road map in his mind early) and gives them practical tools to use in building a more solid bridge to their daughter’s heart.

The father-daughter relationship is unlike any other relationship. It has the power to hurt or to heal. Michelle’s wisdom, experience, and insight into why men will act certain ways have helped her provide tools to dads and daughters alike for better relationship building. We encourage you to check out The Abba Project for more specific tools and ideas.

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What is your relationship with your dad like? Have you ever written a letter to him identifying your wounds? Don’t be afraid of healing the wounds and building a better relationship.

Dr. Michelle Watson approaches life and relationships with one ear turned upwards, listening to her Abba Father’s voice, and another turned horizontally towards His kids. Whether in her counseling office or speaking to teens, women, or dads of daughters in their teens and 20’s, she seeks to keep it real while pointing to her Healer. Valuing humor as a way to joyfully engage with life, she loves telling her God-written redemptive story while standing in awe that God uses her to be a truth-teller. Her first book will be released on September 1, 2014 as a resource to help dads with daughters entitled Dad, Here’s What I Really Need From You: A Guide to Connecting with Your Daughter’s Heart. You can read more about The Abba Project and her ministry to dads at drmichellewatson.com.  

 

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Put Your Cell Phone Away

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On a scale of 1 to 10, how much of a multi-tasker are you?

Honestly? I’m probably an 11.

And I’m not entirely sure how my life would work if I weren’t that way. Sometimes, doing two things at once is the only way I get anything done at all! I get caught up on work emails while I run on the elliptical in the mornings. I listen to a devotional while I eat lunch. If I’m driving, or in an airport, I’m making phone calls. The impulse I have to do, do, do is part of who I am, and it’s a big part of how I built a successful career.

It can also be a huge liability.

I am constantly trying to figure out how to be even more efficient with my time so that I can do more.

But there are times when what I really need to be focusing on is how to do less.

Times when I need to be still. To focus solely on the moment. To listen with my whole self, rather than just taking in information.

Like when one of my kids has something on her heart that she really needs to share. Or when my husband wants to connect with me over a romantic dinner. Or at work, when someone is asking for help with a complex problem.

My daughter Annie is actually an incredible listener; the kind of person who is able to put everything aside in order to make you feel heard and understood and cared for. She knows right away if she doesn’t have my full attention, and she’s not afraid to call me on it when she catches me “listening partially.”

The truth is, I’m not a naturally gifted listener. It’s something that I’ve had to work at, and I’m still working on it. To help myself stay focused, I’ve invented a little listening mantra for myself. When a situation comes up where I know that I need to listen carefully, I say to myself: “Diane, put your cell phone away.”

I mean it literally, but also figuratively. For a multi-tasking addict like me, the cell phone is a big deal. That one little piece of technology holds and organizes and enables so much of my life. Physically removing it from my field of vision—or even turning it off altogether—is usually enough to jolt me out of the “do-do-do” zone and into listening mode. It’s my little way of mentally flipping the switch.

Now, there are going to be times when you do need to be available by phone, no matter who you’re meeting with. When Annie was very sick last year, I often apologized to people for keeping the phone handy, explaining that I had a child who was very ill and might need to reach me, and asking if that was okay for them. I found that explaining the situation and asking permission goes a long way towards making people feel like I valued them and the time they were taking to meet with me.

Since I started mindfully setting my phone aside whenever feasible, I’ve noticed a lot more when other people do it too. I’m always especially impressed when young women make a point of doing so.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to see a “master listener” in action. I was visiting with Brittany Merrill Underwood, founder of The Akola Project, a nonprofit that ministers to the people of Uganda through skills training and other development initiatives. Brittany founded Akola while she was still an undergraduate. Now 30, she travels throughout the world, sharing her vision and promoting Akola products. She is constantly being asked for her time and attention. She is busy, seriously busy. The day I met with her, it was late on a Friday evening, she had just returned to Dallas from L.A. and was preparing to leave for Uganda on Sunday. We’ve met once or twice before, but we aren’t close friends. She had every reason to let her attention wander, but from the minute she walked through the door until she left two and half hours later, she was wholly present, and totally focused on our conversation, checking her phone only once when she knew it was her husband texting.

I was impressed that someone as young and as pressed-upon as Brittany would be so attentive and focused. It brought to mind one of my own mentors, Frances Hesselbein. Frances, a renowned leadership expert, believes that focused listening and leadership go hand in hand. She loves to quote Peter Drucker on the topic: “the leader of the future asks; the leader of the past tells. Ask, don’t tell.”

Are you a natural-born listener or do you have to work at it? Tell me in the comments, and then ask a question of your own!

 

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Pinterest, Productivity and Playdates In This Week’s Friday Faves

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Happy Friday and First Day of August! Check out our favorites from the week, and don’t forget to sign up for the upcoming 4word Mentor Program session by September 5!

Take Notice

  • BE A PART OF THE 4word MENTOR PROGRAM!: The 4word Mentor Program is now accepting applications for mentor and mentee spots! Take the next step in your professional journey by investing in a mentorship with a fellow professional Christian woman! To apply, send in your application by September 5, 2014 by clicking this link.
  • LEADERSHIP QUIZ: Want to know if you’re ready to be a leader? Take this Leadership Quiz from 3Plus International and see what leadership qualities and skills you have.
  • GET ON PINTEREST!: Jeff Sieh with Brainy Marketer offers up three reasons why businesses should be on Pinterest and shares a few tips on how to get started.
  • BUILD YOUR DREAM CAREER: Kathy Caprino writes on LinkedIn about how to refocus your current job situation and head toward the dream career you’ve always wanted.
  • GMAIL PRODUCTIVITY: John Brandon with Inc. has three tips for Gmail users to implement that will help streamline their inbox.

 

Video of the Week

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Really, what is cuter than babies and dogs? How about putting them together in one video? Charlie the Beagle tries to sneak off with the baby’s toy and goes overboard trying to make up for it.

 

Top Three

  • Starting A Business Is Just Like MotherhoodAnne Day with She Owns It writes about the similarities between raising a child and raising a business from the ground up.
  • Banish The PlaydateChris Bernholdt with The Huffington Post strongly urges parents to stop stunting their children’s imagination and social skills by arranging “play dates” with other children.
  • How To: Deal With Negative FeedbackShauna Mackenzie with Best Kept Self shares her tips for taking negative feedback and processing it properly.

 

4word Local Group Events

Take a look at these upcoming 4word Local Group event dates and see which one(s) you can attend. We’d love to see you there!

  • Portland - BBQ - August 3 @ 2:00PM
  • Dallas - After Work Event - August 5 @ 5:00PM
  • Los Angeles - Morning Brunch - August 9 @ 10:00AM
  • San Francisco - After Work Gathering and Discussion - August 12 @ 6:30PM
  • San Diego - Monthly Lunch - August 13 @ 11:00AM
  • Phoenix - Summer Nights Book Study - August 18 @ 6:30PM

For details on these events, please visit our 4word Events page.

 

A Pinterest Find

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Need to whip up a quick dessert that you won’t feel guilty about eating? Here’s a recipe for Coffee Caramel Chip ice cream that takes 20 minutes and is vegan and gluten-free. Yes, really.

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Once Upon a (Career) Dream

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What is your dream career? As a child, what would you tell people you would be when you grew up? For many of us, those answers and what we are doing now don’t align. Maybe your interests changed, or maybe life just led you in a different direction. Today, we are speaking with Patti Callahan Henry, author of The Stories We Tell.  She shares with us her journey from pediatric nursing to becoming a New York Times bestselling author.

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4word: Tell us about your career path. What led to your interest in writing?

Patti: I was a nurse for years. My graduate degree was in Pediatric Nursing. When my three kids were born, I decided to take time to be with them, and that’s when I started writing in earnest. I’d always written — I think I wrote my first “book” when I was ten years old. But I had not thought of it as a viable career until my mid-thirties. Or maybe I just wasn’t brave enough to pursue this dream until then.

4word: What sacrifices did you have to make in order to make your dream of being an author a reality?

Patti: Time and sleep. When I wrote my first novel, the kids were five, three, and newborn, so I awoke at 4:30 AM to write for two hours before the day started. There are, of course, many “extra-curricular” activities of my own that I must forgo if I am going to produce a novel. But I don’t necessarily consider it a sacrifice as much as something necessary to follow my passion.

4word: How do you balance the demands of writing with your family’s needs?

Patti: Family first. Period. Of course there are times when I must be gone on book tour, or at a speaking engagement, but my husband and I work as a team, and our kids know that they are our priority. I also believe it is important for my kids to see me pursuing my passion and gifts, because of course I want them to do the same.

4word: Your newest book, The Stories We Tell, has some interesting themes, including truth and fidelity. Why did you choose to write about these topics?

Patti: I usually don’t know the “theme” of the book until I am almost done. I write character driven stories, usually inspired by a “what if.” The themes of truth and fidelity found their way into the story as the writing progressed. I believe we all struggle with these subjects in our life in one way or  another. As they say, “The Universal in The Particular.”

4word: How was writing The Stories We Tell different from your other books?

Patti: This book was different as I usually start my novels with a “what if,” but this time I started with inspirations: I was inspired by the beauty and handmade world of letterpress and typography. In our fast-paced world where image is everything in social media and branding, where does the handcrafted, honest life fit in? I imagined a woman who valued not only the image of her life and family but also the creative life that nourished her. I saw these two worlds colliding as she struggled to keep both worlds alive in a tension of opposites. Eventually something had to unwind, which of course it did.

As an ex-nurse who specialized in closed head injuries, I was also inspired by the constantly wavering life of memory and imagination. What is real? What is imagined or remembered? How accurate is our memory, especially after a head injury? These fascinating questions pulled the story along as I uncovered the answers. I’m always inspired by storytelling and the ultimate ability of creativity to heal a heart, a life, and an injured brain.

Balancing your dreams and the needs of your family can be challenging, but it can be done if you are creative and persistent. There will be sacrifices along the way, so be ready for them and know what you are willing to give up in order to achieve your dreams.

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What is your passion? How are you pursuing it?

New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry has published ten novels: Losing the Moon, Where the River Runs, When Light Breaks, Between the Tides, The Art of Keeping Secrets, Driftwood Summer, The Perfect Love Song, Coming up for Air, And Then I Found You, and the recently released The Stories We Tell. Hailed as a fresh new voice in Southern fiction, Henry has been shortlisted for the Townsend Prize for Fiction, and nominated four different times for the Southeastern Independent Booksellers Novel of the Year. Her work is published in five languages and in audiobook by Brilliance Audio. She is a frequent speaker at fundraisers, library events and book festivals. A full-time writer, wife, and mother of three—Henry lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama.

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