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Nurture Your Entrepreneurial Journey with William Hawkes-Robinson, a Legendary Recreational Therapist

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Nurture Your Entrepreneurial Journey with William Hawkes-Robinson, a Legendary Recreational Therapist

Hawke Robinson is a Washington State Department of Health Registered Recreational Therapist. He has a strong background in neurosciences, computer science, research, psychology, music, recreational therapy, nursing, and other knowledge domains. Connect with Hawke on LinkedIn to learn more about his services and how he can help you be a better human.

Hey Hawke. We’re glad to have you here with us. Please tell us a bit about your background and what you do.

Hawke Robinson: I’m a recreational therapist typically introduced by peers at professional conferences and conventions as the “grandfather of therapeutic gaming.” Because, as far as we know, I’ve been tracking and involved in the therapeutic and educational applications of role-playing games for longer than anyone else.

My first foray into the industry was in 1977, when I was introduced to role-playing games. Then by 1979, I began studying how to optimize the enjoyment and immersion of role-playing games in tabletop, live-action, and electronic formats. In 1983, I started learning about their potential benefits and uses in educational and therapeutic settings. Later on, in 1985, I expanded my application and research to include the pedagogical use of role-playing games in actual classrooms. In 1989, I discovered their potential use for conflict resolution with incarcerated populations. And since 2004, I’ve been broadening the research and evidence-in-practice for the therapeutic use of role-playing games to meet the needs of a wide range of populations.

I’m also a founder and CEO of RPG Research, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit research and human services organization dedicated to determining the impacts of all role-playing game formats for their potential to help improve lives around the world. We have over 200 regular volunteers across six continents and many others that have helped us from many different countries. We have had more than 35 PhDs around the world directly involved with our programs. Our research and community programs are continuing to help us better understand multicultural uses, influences, and benefits of different role-playing formats, including tabletop, live-action, electronic, and various hybrids and mixtures thereof. We also have the world’s largest free and open research repository on the effects of role-playing games, as well as an RPG Museum and RPG Community Center.

What an incredible feat, Hawke! We’d love to know how you got started in your profession and how RPG Research got started.

Hawke Robinson: As I stated previously, I began participating in role-playing games around 1977. My quest began when a cousin introduced me to them. I enjoyed the cooperative social interactions and challenges so much that by 1979, I began experimenting with methods to maximize immersion and enjoyment. Later I learned that this work was directly related to maximizing the potential for individual and group “Flow State” experiences related to the extensive research by the Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi.

By 1983, I was earning income as a professional game master, running several paying groups each weekend. By 1985, I was running role-playing games five days a week as an educational in-school last-period course at Realms of Inquiry, a school for gifted and talented children in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was also around this time that I began organizing and running role-playing game conventions independently and for the Role-Playing Game Association, aka RPGA. 

Later on, around 1989, I led role-playing games with incarcerated populations, including rival gangs and different ethnic groups, at the same game table. I discovered the inherent nature of role-playing games and their rules structure were highly effective even with these “high risk” populations. “The game rules, and style of cooperative problem-solving inherent to role-playing games,, encouraged” them to put their differences aside and work together to overcome challenges. They also significantly helped improve frustration tolerance and anger management, as well as built resilience through delayed gratification.

I have also served as Chief Technology Officer for multiple companies, including a Silicon Valley-based online digital publishing company that was ultimately acquired by Barnes & Noble. I have always had a strong acumen and passion for tech and how technologies provide the potential to multiply human endeavors, for good or ill. My overarching goal in life has been to do as much as I can to improve the overall human condition during my brief existence. So, I found myself increasingly looking ahead at the next stage of my life, which included considering music and recreational therapy. That’s when I began to formalize the concepts that would eventually become RPG Research.

I didn’t originally go into recreational therapy with the intention of using role-playing games as an intervention paradigm. Instead, it was the use of diverse recreational activities. I already had a very diverse background in music, sports, martial arts, a wide range of recreational and crafting skills, as well as a variety of other outdoor and non-gaming-related hobbies. However, the literature consistently convinced me of the fact that there was a dearth of intrinsically motivating cooperative activities that people would engage in without having to compete. It was already clear to me that cooperative RPGs were strongly self-motivating for the participants and seemed to have great untapped potential for addressing the need for more effective tools to develop social skills, empathy, cognitive function, resilience, frustration tolerance, anger management, conflict resolution, reading, math skills, and much more.

As I was raising my three sons as a full-time single parent, in 2004, I established the RPGResearch.com website as the RPG Research Project. The site compiled all available studies on the impacts of role-playing games, as well as my own research and evidence-in-practice. 

What’s noteworthy is that there were just 50 or so research studies at that time. In contrast, now, our research repository has more than 10,000 content items between books, research studies, videos, audio, essays, published peer-reviewed papers, and more. We have content in our archives that is not available anywhere else in the world. For example, we recently received a donation of the entire Paul Cardwell collection, which documents the media’s treatment of role-playing games and gamers, as well as the history of hobby games from 1970 to 2020, including original letters from the USA Centers for Disease Control and many others. Our volunteers are cataloging, indexing, and uploading to the website as fast as we can. With such massive archives, we always need more volunteer archivists to help spread the work around.

The research has not only disproved the negative claims about role-playing games and gamers, it has actually been proven that RPGs are highly beneficial to the general public, and can be especially powerful intervention modalities for specific populations and a long list of measurable goals. We provide a long list of these factors in our public research archives, but just a few show reduction in risk of suicide, violent, and antisocial behaviors. We also found strong indicators that RPGs significantly improve empathy, resilience, communication, social, and cognitive function.

In addition to the research repository, we also significantly increased the number of original research and community projects focused on. cooperative music and role-playing games. We created these project-based programs in partnership with other organizations. 

As we implemented various tabletop, live-action, electronic, and hybrid role-playing game programs at colleges, community centers, libraries, parks, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, long-term care centers, retreats, camps, and other partnerships with other organizations and nonprofits, the data increasingly indicated that RPGs actually helped in remarkable ways. Furthermore we increasingly found they provided more dramatic beneficial impact than originally suspected. Several of these initiatives brought amazing results, some in as little as a few hours, which was quite exciting. We freely and openly share these results, and any caveats we discover, on our website.

However, there was a problem with this project-driven approach. We had to keep training new people and organizations. We also would have to start over with each project, gathering donations for equipment and finances and other resources for the projects. Then once the research or community project was complete, the resources and people were not retained. So at the next project, I would once again have to train a new batch of people from scratch, gather new finances, equipment, facilities, other resources, etc. We needed the means to carry over the resources across projects so we could move forward more efficiently.

After decades of collaborating with many different agencies on individual projects around the world, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, various universities, community centers, elementary and high schools, rehabilitation, and many other institutions, we decided to find a more efficient approach become more formally
organized as a non-profit company.

In 2017,  we formally incorporated RPG Research as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, volunteer-run, open, charitable, research, and human services organization. We did this to reduce the duplication of effort of the previous project-by-project approach and accelerate moving the body of knowledge forward,

Our organization consists entirely of unpaid volunteers, relying heavily on the generosity of our members and contributors. As with many small nonprofits, we certainly need some help in the donations area, but we’re growing every day thanks to such wonderful supporters.

Running a nonprofit is not easy. What obstacles are you currently dealing with and what gives you the motivation to keep going?

Hawke Robinson: RPG Research is a nonprofit but RPG.LLC — RPG Therapeutics — is a for-profit company. It began as a private practice for me as a Recreational Therapist and has expanded to include a growing number of employees. So, in addition to thousands of other supporters who have been contributing throughout the years, RPG Therapeutics donates 20% of its income to help support RPG Research.

Every dollar we raise through our initiatives benefits at least three people directly and much more indirectly. To date, we’ve been able to help tens of thousands of individuals throughout the world improve their lives via the power and potential of role-playing games, as well as our continuous public research, our community programs, and many outreach initiatives. For years, the capacity of RPG Research to help others has been directly proportional to the number of donations we receive. The number of people we can serve fluctuates considerably from project to project because we use other organizations’ facilities.

This year, we have taken a huge leap by acquiring actual real estate property to grow and stabilize the nonprofit’s ability to serve the community. During this challenging transition of this massive growth phase, I, alongside other volunteers, are temporarily loaning much of our own personal property for use by the nonprofit, including furniture, thousands of RPG-related books, accessories, computers, etc., to help fill the gaps for RPG Research to use while it steadily grows and acquires its own assets from financial and physical contributions of our donors. We hope that within the year, it will once again be able to fully stand on its own, thanks to these generous donors.

RPG Research needs a minimum of $3,500 per month just to cover rent, utilities, and insurance to reach this new “break-even” level. We are taking a big leap in relying on our generous donors more than ever before.

As a Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, in my years of work experience at various brain injury, spinal cord injury, and other rehabilitation centers, I realized an urgent need for the creation of mobile wheelchair-accessible facilities in order to provide cooperative music and role-playing games programs to the people who would benefit the most. Thus, I took out personal loans for nearly $100,000 to create this small fleet of “RPG Mobiles” that provide accessible, environmentally-controlled, safe, comfortable, mobile therapeutic and gaming facilities. These are basically living rooms on wheels, with comfortable sofa-like seating, bathroom, kitchenette, etc. 

Over the years, I have been freely loaning the use of the “RPG Mobile”, pronounced “moh-beel”, like the “Book Mobile. This is a small fleet consisting of wheelchair-accessible RPG Bus and RPG Trailers. We don’t transport people, though; that’s extremely complicated due to licensing, insurance, etc. I drive these mobile facilities around the country to raise awareness about accessibility in gaming and to provide services to those in under-served and unserved rural and remote locations. I freely loan their use to RPG Research to help further the nonprofit research and community programs. When I finish paying off the loans, and someday when I pass away, I will bequeath them directly to RPG Research. Until then, I use them for my for-profit RPG Therapeutics to better serve clients and meanwhile loan them to the nonprofit as much as possible.

In 2022, RPG Research needs help to cover the rent, utilities, and insurance costs for the non-profit’s brand new facilities at the RPG Center for the RPG Community Center and RPG Museum, until it is receiving enough donations to fully stand on its own. I’m doing what I can to help cover the costs, but we need to become self-sustaining through donations as soon as possible.

We have found that almost every time we interact with participants through any of our programs, including those ranging in age from two years old non-verbal to senior adults struggling with functional decline, and everyone in-between, they improve their functioning and overall quality of life in observable and measurable ways! We see their minds and hearts open up, and they show significant cognitive improvements. In other words, their brains function better. We observe significant improvements in their social skills and empathy, as well as safe spaces for them to take on different roles and simulated risks that enable them to overcome challenges they never imagined they could. This imparts an incredible impact on so many lives, including our own. We feel empowered to keep going, thriving, and serving humanity. 

Finally, we’re really struggling to get insurance for RPG Research. RPG Therapeutics doesn’t have this problem as a for-profit recreational therapy professional services company, but we have discovered that insurance for nonprofit community organizations is very different and much more difficult to acquire for RPG Research. Since we are project-based, we have always relied on being covered by the insurance of the other organizations with whom we were partners. For example, our live-action role-playing game programs for non-verbal Autism Spectrum, ASD, and PDD toddlers from ages two years old through five years old, were through Eastern Washington University and another organization I am under perpetual NDA about and it was their insurance that covered our programs. When we ran the summer camp tabletop and live-action role-playing games for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, we were covered by their property and liability insurance, etc. 

As I mentioned, over forty-plus years, RPG Research grew very organically as a 100% volunteer-run non-profit. We also keep our administrative overhead costs to a minimum, using as much as possible directly to benefit the participants. I have always been very careful with our research and community programs,  so we have well-developed world-class programs globally, supported by our high-quality research and evidence-in-practice combined with extensive decades-long experience. Because of this rigorous approach, with more than forty years of running our public programs, we have never had an incident requiring an insurance claim, even with the at-risk and high-risk populations. 

However, now that we have acquired our own property, we are finding it nearly impossible to get property and liability insurance. As of April 2022, after months of reaching out to scores of agents and companies, filling out more than one hundred pages of application forms, we still haven’t been able to get even a minimal quote that will cover the property or our liability so that we can open the RPG Community Center.

According to the insurance companies, because they don’t have a column listing the “risk rating” for role-playing games, they default it to a higher risk activity. Besides this, as we are a nonprofit 100% volunteer-run organization, we offer online resources and work with so many different disabilities, ages, and populations, they keep giving us automatic “declinations,” declining to even provide a quote. 

As of late April 2022, we have been forced to temporarily suspend almost everything we do in order to get basic insurance coverage for the property and liability coverage to cover very minimal services. We are hoping this temporary reset to providing only the most basic services will allow the insurance companies to give us a quote, so we can budget to purchase the insurance we must have in order to open up the Community Center.

Once we get very basic insurance coverage in place, we will apply for additional riders, or expansions, to add to the policy so that we can incrementally bring back the wonderful things we have been providing, without incident, to the public for over 40 years.

Despite all the obstacles, including financial, logistical, and negative public perception exacerbated by the media lingering from the 1980s and 1990s, as well as general outright hatred by a disturbingly large number of the public, we carry on, inspired by all the positive impact we see these programs having for so many people worldwide.

In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

Hawke Robinson: I also have a background in information security, but initially, I was reluctant to be the face of RPG Research. For many years, almost no one knew who was working behind the scenes. It was me facilitating many other volunteers and organizations, but I always preferred to serve as a facilitator in the background, not the foreground. Like some other information security specialists and even some recreational therapists, I was averse to being in the spotlight. I wanted the work to speak for itself and the people involved in my research and programs who benefited from the skills and experiences to go forth as the proof and message carriers.

That was especially true online from 2004 to 2012; I was much more involved in the background. People increasingly commented and searched, trying to figure out who was behind the scenes. They were inquiring about the legitimacy of RPG Research and why there was no information available about who was conducting so many programs and research projects around the world.

My attempts at anonymity, unfortunately, exacerbated a deeply inculcated skepticism. As a result, there was a dire need for me to go out in front of the camera as the spokesperson for RPG Research. Though I continued to be uncomfortable with that role, it significantly helped the overall domain of role-playing game studies, accelerating awareness and adoption. From 2012 to 2016, it grew exponentially through media coverage, word-of-mouth, and the addition of new people and organizations taking on the research.

We endeavor to keep freely arming the public with the ability to get out there and spread the word in person, letting naysayers know that this is a real thing, with real people and supporting data behind it, furthering this research and these community programs. Doing so earlier might have helped by leaps and bounds.

In hindsight, I wish I had started out by being out there publicly earlier. We might have been much further along the way in terms of adoption and expansion of the tools developed over the years to communicate what research increasingly indicates. It might have also resulted in more interesting dialogue and earlier acceptance.

Also, I wish I would have published more books more frequen We have constantly receiving requests from professors, universities, and other organizations to release our works in published physical book format. We were waiting until we felt the data and research was solid enough. In hindsight, it would have been prudent to have published more frequently. Nevertheless, better late than never, we’re releasing a collection of our works, Including the latest aggregate of research, assessment tools, model diagrams, etc., this year to help address many of these requests. The collection will be available in both print and Kindle formats very soon. While all of it is already freely available on the RPG Research website in electronic form, the paper books meet a very specific need from academia.

Additionally, in hindsight, I wish we could have afforded to get the property and liability insurance we now need much earlier in our evolution, so we wouldn’t have to undergo the  massive program “reset.” This is temporary but very painful for all of us, and we need donations more than ever right now to help us get through these growing pains.

Are there any accomplishments you’re particularly proud of?

Hawke Robinson: I have a fairly substantial list of accomplishments I am proud of over the decades, but the real-world benefits we see each day to the lives of those participating in our programs, have turned out to be some of the most rewarding. Each day that we can afford the time and money on our part to run these community programs and see people’s lives improve, grow in their joy, resilience, and empathy, and create meaningful relationships and friendships, we incidentally benefit from our happiness soaring. It was not our intent or motivation, but it does help me and fellow volunteers get through the more challenging times.

We’ve done some amazing and fun programs with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and other camp programs with live-action role-playing and tabletop games that were by far the favorite of all campers, counselors, and supporters.

We have reached many milestones over the decades and happily share them on our websites, email lists, social media, video streams, and documents. We have had some really remarkable successes with a variety of program initiatives through multiple schools, universities, care centers, and other organizations. We have often been surprised by the degree of the difference our efforts have been able to make in people’s lives.

As the decades of data acquisition, analysis, and dissemination continue to aggregate, helping us iterate through improving our programs, we have been able to develop, arguably, the world’s most effective and measurably impactful professional training, research, and community programs using role-playing games as intervention modalities in recreation, education, and therapeutic domains. 

In 2020, when COVID-19 caused the cancellation of all RPG-related conventions, as well as threatening the cancellation of the New Zealand WorldCon and the Gen Con Film Festivals, we expanded an interactive community platform we had built for The Fantasy. Network’s founder, Ben Dobyns, merged our learning platform with it to create a platform that assisted us in advancing our network to support more than 20,000 people at once in online activities, panels, presentations, discussions, and tabletop role-playing games, simultaneously in New Zealand and in Indianapolis. Over that year, with only about 50 volunteers back then, we received donations of about $18,000, with all of our annual costs being about $10,000. I remember that year we were able to help at least 30,000 people directly and exponentially many more indirectly.

We have also been growing a small fleet of wheelchair-accessible, environmentally controlled, mobile facilities, including the RPG Bus and RPG Trailers. We drive these around the country, raising awareness about accessibility in gaming and discussing many of the topics we have touched upon in this interview.

Another endeavor I’m very excited about is a pet project of mine, the Brain-Computer Interface Role-Playing Game, BCI RPG. When I was a nurse’s aide and LPN trainee at Doxie Hatch Medical Center back in the early 1990s, in addition to many terminal patients, I also had patients with Locked-In Syndrome (LIS), and Complete Locked in State (CLIS). These are people with severe injuries or degenerative disorders, like Stephen Hawking. They have full mental awareness but no control over their bodies. Some are completely trapped inside their own skulls, unable to communicate at all. This always haunted me. So, I initiated a program for them that eventually became the BCI RPG project in the mid-1990s and evolved in the early 2000s. 

The BCI RPG project is now an open-source endeavor on GitHub.com. We are creating an online, multiplayer, turn-based role-playing game where you can interact with other players with just your brain using electroencephalogram (EEG) brain-computer interface technologies, combined with Artificial Intelligence, and later to include Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR), and even robotics interfaces. We have a wonderful team of software developers now several years into this project, and we are excited that the initial alpha version might be playable by late 2022. People can learn more about this endeavor at www.bcirpg.com.

Also, in 2022, we are now opening up the RPG Community Center and the historical RPG Museum as further steps to improve our ability to share the benefits of role-playing games, research, and our applied RPG programs. By all working as unpaid volunteers, we keep our administrative and overhead costs to a minimum, and by providing so many free programs, these facilities, utilities, insurance, licensing, and equipment all add up to significant costs. This means, more than ever, the number of people we can provide the benefits of role-playing games to is directly related to the number of trained volunteers who join us and the donations from the public. The more donations we receive, the more people we can help! Thank you very much for helping me spread the word about these endeavors.

You’re welcome, Hawke! We appreciate you taking the time to share your incredible endeavors with us and wish you a fantastic future ahead!

Interviews

Interview with Danielle Levy, Founder of The Boardroom League

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Interview with Danielle Levy, Founder of The Boardroom League

Danielle Levy is the CEO and Founder of The Boardroom League and a sought-after executive who has helped six and seven-figure businesses expand with clarity and efficiency. Danielle established The Boardroom League to give other entrepreneurs a little black book of trusted industry professionals to help them implement and scale their businesses. The Boardroom League consists of experts in a variety of fields; including metrics, design, copywriting, strategic pricing, funnels, social media, and more.

Where did the idea for The Boardroom League come from?

I had a very very successful corporate career in advertising and marketing working for well-known brands and at some of the hottest digital agencies. It was wonderful for many years but I ended up completely burnt out. When I accidentally got into the online space, all of my previous success meant nothing. Suddenly I was responsible for things that I didn’t know anything about or how to solve certain problems that were very specific to my clients. Having a trusted group in my network to partner with taught me so much about the industry and allowed me to show up as a trusted partner to my clients. The results were far better than anything that I could have done on my own. I wanted to bring that same experience to other entrepreneurs just starting out who had proven revenue models but didn’t know how to scale profitably or how to handle specific niche areas of their business.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’m a mom to 2 teenagers so my day is very much structured around a school schedule and their after-school activities (cliche but true). They aren’t little babies anymore but I certainly don’t have total control over my schedule either. I’ve also learned to really listen to my body about when to work. By nature, I have a really hard time turning my brain off and I really love to work. Some people have hobbies like reading, solving puzzles, or a sport, I just love to work! However, I quickly found that for me working late leads to really unproductive mornings, poor eating habits, and a vicious cycle that drains my energy. So I try to be mindful of real deadlines instead of self-imposed deadlines and how much time I’m actually spending on things. To do this I keep a small notepad for things that have to get done on a given day. This is reserved for true must-do items. I’m a people pleaser by nature so keeping a critical shortlist helps me with boundaries. I’ve also realized that I am best at certain kinds of work based on my schedule. For example, I handle, generally, emails and administrative items between conference calls and items that I really need to think through late in the day or over weekends. I really need my head to be quiet and focused to do my best work and also this helps me get my “rocks” done because I could spend endless hours trying to catch up but not actually getting my work done. It is a balance for sure.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always start with a project plan. It is a template that I developed years ago and isn’t anything fancy. Even though it’s just for my own purposes, it helps me to define what I want to accomplish, put together a reasonable schedule, and helps me to create boundaries for myself, and dissolve unnecessary pressure. It also allows me to think about who else’s support I need so they have time to plan as well. It really helps me to get the idea out of my head and know that it will come to life in a thoughtful and healthy way. It also helps to keep me on track prioritizing my own work and keeping to my client’s work as well.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I think The Great Resignation has really forced companies to examine their values and policies and truly operationalize them. As someone that has worked hard (really too hard if I’m being honest) her entire career, companies being forced into alignment and integrity with what they say they are is super exciting to me. In the end, I think it serves both the company, the team, and the end customer most optimally. As a hiring manager, I’m definitely feeling the pain of the Great Resignation but as an individual, it’s really exciting to me.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Acknowledging my own zones of genius and when to outsource. I often work with entrepreneurs that are afraid to outsource and I can never understand the concern of losing control or that someone can’t do something as well as they can. When I hire the right people they always produce end results that are way better than whatever I could do and I am freed up to work on the things that only I can do or really enjoy doing. It also re-energizes me to see what other people can do with the inputs that I give them. For me, outsourcing is definitely the way to go!

What advice would you give your younger self?

It’s ok to set boundaries with my clients and team. Setting boundaries will serve you better in terms of completing more, disappointing less (even if the expectations were completely out of whack), and not burning yourself completely out. I had this idea that if I worked hard enough for long enough it would really matter to some of my clients and the reality is that it only became detrimental to me and set the tone for many unhealthy relationships.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

The customer isn’t always right. Great client service is important however not at the expense of the team behind it, other customers, and the long-term profitability of business practices. Further, not all customers are right for the business and are worth keeping. It’s ok to professionally disagree with a customer and to stand up for the company.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Every day I do one thing that is uncomfortable for me. As an introvert, this can be really hard. Whether it’s physical or emotional, I always try to push the boundaries and my own safe zone. It’s very specific to me and things that other people might not find hard but for whatever reason, I have a blocker. I’ve learned that many things aren’t nearly as hard as I build them up to be in my own head and when I fail it’s never as bad as I thought it would be.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Not saying yes to every client. Over the last several years I’ve really focused on only working with clients that align with my professional and personal values and goals. Every time I’ve strayed from that profile I’ve ended up frustrated and burnt out and my personal life and work quality always suffers. Having the experience to know the circumstances under which I can show up as my best has really given me the confidence to grow my business, show up as a trusted partner, and go after things that I really want.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Early on in my journey as a service provider, and sometimes a generalist, I’ve tried to be the answer to too many things and often thought of myself more with an employee mindset than as a partner. I’ve since niched in my services, become more forward in my conversations about how to move things forward or prioritize, and have really started calling out inconsistencies and making recommendations on how businesses are run so that they can be addressed. Slowing down and taking control of the conversation, even though it can be intimidating, has served me far better than I could have ever imagined because I know a lot more than I give myself credit for.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Commit to teaching something new about something you are passionate about every month. People are looking for information on what you consider to be mundane. For example, I had a conversation with someone about how they train their cat and another conversation about video editing. Both people said what they did was “easy”. It may be true for them but it was priceless information for me. We all have gifts and sharing information about what we are passionate about is contagious. I don’t think teaching has to be fancy either (in terms of course setups or others). We have so many tools at our disposal. Just go with whatever feels comfortable.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I pay 14.99 for Chrome’s Pro Boomerang extension for my inbox. I love it!! I am able to get through items in my inbox and have them come back when I need them to be there. It takes all of the remembering and list-making away. I love that it comes back and is totally in my face until I deal with whatever the email is and also allows me not to worry about things until I need to.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Ha! See above. I really can’t say enough about Boomerang. I also really love Asana as a project management and organizational tool.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

“Never lose a customer again” by Joey Coleman. The book applies to every size of business and provides sound, rationale, and examples of how to provide an exceptional customer experience. The book digs into the real emotions and impact of the relationship between customers and business owners and digs into the first 100 days of the customer experience. We’ve all been customers and this book really demonstrates to business owners how to create an amazing experience.

What is your favorite quote?

“Great oaks from little acorns grow”. This reminds me to keep taking small steps because everything great generally comes from humble beginnings. It also reminds me that it also takes several seasons before things end up in the right place. Being small in stature myself, it’s a great visual reminder for me of why I keep going and the impact that I want to make.

Key Learnings:

  • One’s professional journey is a continuous process of learning and growing, hopefully getting every individual closer to something most impactful and meaningful. It really does take time, experience and reflection to step beyond what we think we are supposed to and to start doing what inspires us the most.
  • Everyone’s professional success is a very unique blend of how they choose to spend their time, the tools they use, and a process of trial and error to show up to do their best work.
  • Understanding and acting in alignment with an employee mindset vs. vendor mindset as a service provider is incredibly difficult but important. Ultimately, greater transparency and boundaries, if done correctly, can lead to a more productive and meaningful work relationship.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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Interviews

Interview with Jill Koziol, Co-Founder of Motherly

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Interview with Jill Koziol, Co-Founder of Motherly

Jill Koziol is the co-founder and CEO of Motherly, a wellbeing destination empowering mothers to thrive with expert content, innovative product solutions, and supportive community. Motherly engages an audience of 40 million+ readers and viewers a month, with on-demand parent education classes, Webby-award winning videos, The Motherly Podcast, essays, and articles, and a highly-engaged social media community.

She is also the co-author of “The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama: Redefining the Pregnancy, Birth, and Postpartum Journey” and “This Is Motherhood: A Motherly Collection of Reflections and Practices.”

Jill is passionate about serving and empowering women and mothers because when mamas are successful, everyone wins. She is an advocate for families, female founders, and how to thrive with multiple sclerosis. Jill lives in Park City, Utah with her husband and two daughters.

Where did the idea for Motherly come from?

The short answer is that I cofounded Motherly simply because it didn’t exist and women were being significantly underserved by the parenting resources that were available to them back in 2015. The idea was born from a call with my now cofounder, Liz Tenety, an award-winning journalist and editor. She called to discuss the seedling of an idea she had for a platform that would speak to today’s modern mothers. On that first call we discovered we had a shared mission to support women as they become mothers and decided to build a next-generation brand that would redefine motherhood for the modern woman, that differentiated as woman-centered, expert-driven, and empowering.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I live and die by my calendar, scheduling every detail from work meetings to workouts to ensure I optimize every moment. The below is a typical day though increasingly I am having in person lunch or coffee meetings a couple times a week.

6:45am I start each day giving myself about 15 minutes in bed to check the news, emails, and my calendar for the day.

7:20am I’m dressed and ready for the day and in mom mode getting my daughters ready for the day and taking them to school

8am Call with my Chief of Staff to discuss any pressing matters and align on priorities

8:30am Workout

9:15 Email Check before returning to my home office

9:30 – 3pm Back to back internal and external video calls and meetings with hopefully a little time between to keep on top of email

3pm Pick up my daughters from school and bring them home for my husband and/or au pair to manage afternoon activities

3:30pm Email catchup, strategy work, occasional west coast calls

6pm – 8:30pm Family time!

8:30pm Final email check

9:30pm Shower & relax with my husband

10:30pm Bed, typically reading a bit before sleeping

How do you bring ideas to life?

I believe in sprints to timebox an idea, providing an opportunity to test and iterate, failing or succeeding quickly before scaling the idea.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Remote-first work policies. Motherly has been remote-first since our launch in 2015.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Timeboxing – I block time out for nearly everything on my calendar giving tasks defined periods to accomplish them – this allows me to stay focused and avoid multitasking too much.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I’d tell myself to lead authentically, not to try to be a man or anyone other than who I am, leading with a full heart as my most authentic self. It took me a while in my 20s to learn that people sense authenticity and they follow it.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Nearly 50% of today’s mothers are the primary breadwinner in their families – it’s a fact that many are surprised to learn and have difficulty believing. Because of this it’s a business and competitive imperative that we find ways to support working mothers in the workplace – our economic future depends on it.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Cancel meetings – at the start of each week I cancel as meetings as possible. If it can be accomplished with an email, the goal isn’t clear, an agenda not established, or someone else can handle it as well or better than me, it’s canceled.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Hiring great people and getting out of their way, seeing my role as helping to unblock them so they can be successful.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I believe that success is created when passion and persistence combine and that sometimes the key is to simply stay alive long enough to be successful. So while I fail in little, and sometimes big, ways each day, I see this as part of the journey vs failure. For example, we launched our first digital video class for parents in 2016 and it wasn’t successful because the market wasn’t ready, our audience wasn’t large enough, etc. So we killed it. But now in 2022 much has changed and we are now building the largest expert-driven digital parenting education platform.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I’ve had this idea for a few years and haven’t found a solution yet – with so many streaming services featuring original series I find it hard to know when a new season of a favorite show is launched. I’d love for someone to launch an app that I can flag series I love across all streaming platforms that will notify me when a new season is released. It would be great if it also made recommendations for similar series. If this happens to already exist, please send it my way!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I buy fresh flowers weekly for my home office and while it may seem indulgent, I find that it brings me joy and encourages mindfulness during the day, both important for me to find each day to motivate me.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Trello – I keep track of to-dos and 1:1 topics for my direct reports, as well as notes from meetings.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Reshma Saujani’s new book, “Pay Up”, is an important read on the future of women in the workplace. The ideas she outlines are things Motherly has implemented over the last 7 years, proving they work and can be scaled.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote is, “there’s nothing like 10 years of hard work to look like an overnight success.” This has been a critical mantra for me and Motherly because I so often compare myself and our business to others that have been around for a very long time.

Key Learnings:

  • Success is created when passion and persistence combine.
  • Time is your most valuable asset and should be protected fiercely.
  • The only person that you can truly be authentically is yourself. Spend time figuring out who you are, not who you should act like.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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Interview with Naz De Bono, Founder of Xali

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Interview with Naz De Bono, Founder of Xali

To Naz de Bono, 50, health and fitness has never been just a job, it’s an innate, fire-in-the-belly passion. A passion for the physical body within herself, and that of helping others reach their best place of physical health.

After an early life feeling disaffected by sport, Naz turned to personal training as a way to understand both the strengths and limitations of her own body and mind, and how to work with those challenges to get the best out of herself every single time. For over 20 years, Naz has worked and studied alongside specialist trainers, nutritionists, and mindfulness experts to do the work and learn the lessons.

Cut to a few years ago where Naz had her own very lonely and confusing experience of Perimenopause and Menopause. Naz realised that she wanted to combine her knowledge with her own personal journey to drive the creation of Xali, and build a safe, supportive community for women to access.

Naz’s way of training – the XALI way – is not to challenge you to push beyond your limits, to drag you through the grades to the point of injury or exhaustion. Rather, she will align with your goals and expectations, supporting you every step of the way.

Where did the idea for Xali come from?

When I started going through menopause my whole world seemed upside down. Things that had usually worked for me no longer did. Even my own 14 day challenge programs, which always got me results in the past and left me feeling great, weren’t having the same impact anymore. There were so many fitness apps out there that may be great, but didn’t seem to be helping women like me. On any given day I didn’t know which woman I was going to wake up as. On top of that I suffer from Elhers Danlos Syndrome, which means I have had many injuries, tendon and ligament tears which my doctor confirmed were being exacerbated by menopause.

The more I researched, the more I realised there was nothing out there to address my ever changing emotions (hormone emotions!) So I set out to build a platform with (New Beach) that would serve you up a daily workout based on HOW YOU WANT TO FEEL!

Xali is founded on the realisation that our bodies need many things. We need to have variability in our training but in the right dosage. We need Strength, Cardio, Power, Recovery Pilates and Yoga. I wanted to write an algorithm for each level of woman with different sets of goals to give them a 6 week training program that focuses on ALL their needs for vitality, health longevity and happy movement.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I’ve always been an early riser. Some of my best work is done in the morning before anyone else is awake. I used to jump out of bed, grab my coffee and a big glass of water and hit the gym. Since going through perimenopause, I have adapted my routine to suit me better and I take more time to set out my intentions. This has proved important with my new menopause body which is more prone to joint pain.

Before I even open my eyes, I take a few deep diaphragmatic breaths, whilst repeating this simple serenity ‘prayer’.

I then let the dog out, boil the kettle and turn the coffee machine for my double shot espresso. A very quick body brush to boost lymphatic if time allows, shower finishing with cold burst and then have 1 litre of warm water with a teaspoon of good quality sea salt. Check what my XALI tailored workout is as I drink my coffee. Workout – no matter where I am, I always make sure I have an area set up for me to do my morning session which makes it so much easier to do! Go for a walk and either listen to a podcast or music.

I then meet up with the team and take them through Wimhof breath work and visualisation every Monday to set us all up for the week. I built our team of women from love, and all of us are pretty spiritual, so I am free to expose all my ‘woo woo’ as we call it!

I spend time with each person in my team and we go through what needs to be done / addressed that day and then it’s all systems go updating the platform.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I love that you ask this as I know my best ideas happen when I am moving rather than static. Walking, cycling or doing an intuitive workout session. I always keep voice memos that I store for later as stopping and writing things down will interrupt my flow.

I use otter.ai to play back my recordings into Word documents. I work very closely with my husband, Leo, who has a genius and analytical mind. It has to be said, he winds me up because he questions everything and makes me look at every idea from all sides. This can make the process very lengthy but my attention to detail has improved so much. It can make things slightly annoying for 2 young girls, who feel we are constantly talking work at the dinner table.

When I begin to design workouts and programs for XALI, it can take months. My process begins with jotting down the workout basic outline on my iPhone or a scrap piece of paper. Once I have trialled it physically and passed the feel good factor, it gets written on to a massive A3 post it note and stuck on the wall of our home. Every single workout is colour coded. I think in colours. I learn in colour. It may make no sense to anyone else, but is how all my ideas come to life.

Each workout is designed with music. By creating a playlist for each one I know that I can perform and film the workout with the right emotion and tempo for the particular XALI woman I am creating for, hence it is a true tailor-made emotional platform for women.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Whimhof! But not rigidly. When I first tried, I didn’t like it so much. It felt very male in its energy. Then I met an incredible human being on one of my retreats that I go on regularly to reset myself. He brought a softness, emotion and surrender so that it became much more about breath work, followed by a surrender to the ice. Rather than the fight I had always felt before. I have never liked the cold. I am Egyptian and love to bask in the sun and feel the heat of it on my skin, but when I felt the benefits in my body and joint pain I decided to bring it into my self-care regime. Although now it’s winter, I focus on the breath work and not so much the cold!

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Remembering my WHY. There’s not much in the way of resources for women going through perimenopause and menopause and I want to create a solution for this. Like any entrepreneur, identify a problem and find / make a solution.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Trust your intuition. That voice inside is your wisdom. Don’t try to be like everyone else, fit the mould. Be you, because everyone else is taken. Stay curious about everything. Always listen before speaking, I know that your words have a big impact so choose them carefully. Love yourself, as hard as that may seem, you cannot love anyone else until you love YOU. Find and connect with people who make you laugh, who make you feel good about yourself, who inspire you, challenge you but do not wish to compete with you. When you find your people, your tribe, that’s when your visions and dreams come true. Be kind, always.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Hardly anyone agrees with my own unique way of working on things. It has been said over and over that I work too hard and need to step away from it. While this may be true, I feel it is my tunnel vision when I am working on any project close to my heart (including XALI) I cannot think or work on anything else. I am in the zone so no, I don’t multitask when I am in flow because I am fully present. And I feel that is what people deserve when they ask something of me.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

IRT which has changed my life. It is unlike any other spiritual work I have found, because it is instantaneous and effortless. IRT bridges science and spirituality.

The reason I love Maureen Edwardson’s work is because it is a formula of questions that activates a part of you that knows your authentic self. Think of IRT, as a defrag and anti-viral program, for your human supercomputer (yes that is what we all are!). Once we allow the part of us that knows who we are, there are no boundaries. Then you can achieve all that you want. Why wouldn’t I share this secret with you?

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Realising I needed to step into a place of leadership without expecting to be out front shouting CHARGE!

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Launched an online fitness app during COVID, when every gym, personal trainer and Influencer went on line. I no longer think of this as a failure but as an expanded opportunity to launch a more complete service to women of the world.

If there is one thing that COVID has taught us, it is we need to be more in touch with our emotional side. This was the birth of XALI.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Two things I think someone needs to invent or develop. Firstly a range of shirts or tops that’s designed for women’s shapes to still be figure hugging in a flattering fashion, but that doesn’t get makeup stains all over it when you take it off. I think so much women’s fashion is designed to look great but you take off a jumper or t-shirt and it drags along your face, taking with it, half your makeup and then it’s ruined. Another thing I think should be invented is a fabric that doesn’t show the white deodorant marks on black tops. There are deodorants out there that supposedly don’t show up on black fabrics but I am yet to find one that actually works. So let’s flip that concept and create a fabric where the deodorant doesn’t stain the material. Working in the fitness industry, these are real world annoyances that someone needs to solve!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

A facial. Because it makes me feel good and I love the beautiful Parker at Aesthetica, Byron who does it!

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Otter.ai. I listen to so many podcasts, I keep a journal on my iPhone voice recorder – all kinds of ideas, to play back my recordings into Word documents. I also record all conversations I have with my mentor.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Your Magical Evolutionary Code Unleashed – The Science of Inner Resonance by Maureen Edwardson. This book automatically activates your subconscious with the science of who you are. Dr. Bruce Lipton said “Maureen’s pioneering work is vital to our Evolution”.

What is your favorite quote?

Nothing is impossible, the word itself says “I’m Possible”
Audrey Hepburn

Key Learnings:

  • Trust your intuition!
  • Taking time for yourself and prioritising your needs is not selfish, it’s empowering!
  • Always remember your WHY and understand it’s ok to do things differently to everyone else – that’s what makes you YOU and what will likely create your success.
Originally published on IdeaMensch.
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