Author Archive

Be Present to the Good Stuff with Chris Carlson

 A Conversation with Entrepreneur Chris Carlson

Chris Carlson is an entrepreneur, actor,  lawyer and the founder of NarrativePros.  We had the opportunity to chat with Chris about his life as an entrepreneur and the upcoming program Soft Skills Revolution that will be at the Hill Center on June 1st.

What is your business and how did you begin your entrepreneurial career?
I think the best way to describe Narrative Pros, is to think of it as a high tech health club for soft skills. Just like you can go to a gym to feel better and improve your health, we work with people to feel better about their connections with audiences and improve their skill at doing that. Like the personal trainers at a gym, we have what you could call “connection trainers”—professional communicators from theater and business who continue to make their living from connecting with audiences. Instead of treadmills that tell you your pulse, we use audio and video tools to measure your progress. Just like we all know we have to get in shape, pretty much everyone realizes that they can be more genuine, confident and present.

My career as an entrepreneur started as an extension of my work as a professional actor and an attorney. After working professionally as an actor, I went to law school to get some more control over my career (I was sick of waiting tables). At law school, I saw how poorly trained law students were in how to communicate effectively. We spent nine months learning how to write like an attorney, but only a few weeks on how to speak like one. Ever since then, I have worked to bring my acting colleagues as well as other artists together to work with business professionals to help them connect with their audiences more effectively.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
I think that one of the most significant hurdles of entrepreneurship is the periodic isolation. One of the great things about being your own boss is also one of the hardest—you’re always on the job and you’re always scrutinizing your own work. A network of like-minded people is an invaluable resource to get feedback,  verify assumptions, and provide moral support.

How do you manage being an entrepreneur and what advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
I ask myself how I manage that almost every day… I guess I would have to say it’s a combination of persistence and some sort of cultivated ignorance of the downsides. The more present I can be to the good stuff—doing what I love, having more control over how and when I work—the more I am able to put up with all the other b.s. that goes with being an entrepreneur.

There are a lot more entrepreneurs out there with a lot more experience and accomplishments, but if I had to give advice it would be just that: be present to the good stuff. Hold on tightly to your passion and vision, but let go loosely of the things that don’t matter. The best way I’ve found to do that is to go out and share what I’ve found with as many people as possible. Especially other entrepreneurs. You are not alone and can stand on the shoulders of giants when you open up for advice and feedback.

You come from a diverse background of acting, Improvisation and law.  Can you tell me how those worlds have informed what you do know?
I have come to see each of these diverse disciplines as united by the same thing: listening to, crafting, and retelling stories. Whether it’s an audience or a judge, a play or a client’s claim; many professions primary value can be traced back to their ability to connect with their audiences in a way that moves them to action.

Tell me why you think business professionals could benefit from skill sets that actors and improvisers uses?
Everyone can benefit from increasing their skill to connect better with others. Even though that’s something we do quite naturally with the people who are close to us, many people find that connecting at that level of effectiveness with people we are not as comfortable with is very difficult. The first hurdle to overcome is to recognize creativity, collaboration and communication as skills, not talents. Just like when you learned to ride a bike or tried to perfect your golf swing, these soft skills are skills that can be developed through deliberate practice.

Over centuries, actors have developed a pretty efficient system of developing their abilities to be creative, collaborate with others under pressure and connect with audiences. This is a mental and physical process that is open to anyone who wants to develop the same skills.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I am fiercely proud of Minnesota. I made a conscious choice about 10 years ago to remain here because of the people and the great quality of life here. Looking back, I may have missed out on some big opportunities by not moving to New York or L.A., but I have been happy with the trade-off. I have enjoyed a much steadier flow of opportunities that I can imagine I ever would have had elsewhere. And, as the world takes more notice of the excellent talent and people here, the larger opportunities are finding their way here as well.

You can find out more about Chris Carlson and his company at NarrativePros.com OR join us at the Hill as we host him and his team on Thursday, June 1st from 1pm to 5pm in a half day intensive training on Soft Skills Revolution. Learn the key steps to unleash your efficiency, effectiveness and maximize your input.

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Cabinets of Curiosity

With some recent archival projects on our plate an article from MPR News caught the attention of Lindsey Dyer our Director of Library Services. “File this under nostalgia: New book pays tribute to the library card catalog shares information about a new book from the Library of Congress entitled,  “The Card Catalog: Books, Cards and Literary Treasures.”  It celebrates catalogs “as the analog ancestor of the search engine.” Library of Congress author, Peter Deveraux, states that “There’s tens of millions of cards here.  It’s a city block long.” This was a very timely article considering some of the historic catalog items we recently found here at the James J. Hill Center.  Lindsey recently took some time to dig up and share a few iconic treats from the vault.

Lindsey: Card catalogs are indeed “cabinets of curiosities” as are the ways we have kept track of information over time. Librarians worked tirelessly to create calm in the chaos of information, cutting and pasting any relevant facts and tid-bits. Take these snapshots in time from the 1980s – gems of nostalgia for Gen Xers and older millennials. What research paper would be complete without the help of the card catalog?

At the Hill, business librarians had a special task of identifying and capturing industry trends – like how Nike is taking over the sneaker industry, or the rise in fax machine sales. While the methods have certainly changed (we aren’t cutting out and taping facts to cards, though I have to admit that sounds cathartic), we still aim to find the best industry information there is, combing databases (paid and free), and translating that information.

We have been, and always will be, an entrepreneur’s best resource!

Visit the James J. Hill Center and it’s reference library Monday through Thursday 10AM to 5PM and check out all of the current resources.  Also, ask one of our business librarians for some assistance with a database and see what gems of knowledge you can find to build you business success.


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Reference Transformation & Relevance

We can’t officially wrap up National Library Week without reflecting on the week’s theme of transformation, and what that means to reference libraries like ours at the Hill Center.

When the value of a cultural institution is in question, it’s really the relevance of the institution that’s at stake. For reference libraries many times their relevance is translated into the number of visitors, number of clicks, and number of positive survey results – but even with this data, the impression of relevance can often times be missed. In order to truly understand relevancy, we need to understand our impact on a case-by-case basis and this is often times qualitative.  We need to ask questions like – have we transformed to meet the real needs of our community? Are we providing an inclusive space to think differently, share ideas and take risks? These questions are hard to measure but at the Hill Center we have begun to see the results.

James J. Hill has played a pivotal role in introducing me to the start-up culture. From presenting at 1 Million Cups and attending its many thought-leader panels, I have richly benefited from the proactive resources and seemingly infinite networking opportunities”  Entrepreneur

“The fact that I have this resource available to me, both the facility and research staff, is an absolute relief.”
Business Owner

According to IBISWorld, the Library industry forecasts a slow and steady growth in the next five years – whereas the online database and print book industries are forecasting a decline. This tells us that the nature of the traditional reference library is already transforming into new arenas. At the Hill, this means that beyond offering key business information, we don’t just rely on what we have – we rely on who we know – and what we can do.

At the Hill Center, we meet our community at every point in their entrepreneurial journey. Whether you’re thinking about starting a business or find yourself needing data to branch out into a new market – we have the “secret sauce” that will get you to the next level. What’s the recipe? We like to think our people make all the difference.

Being relevant isn’t just about having relevant information – it’s about having a welcoming space for ideas to fly. The Hill Center creates a space for meaningful engagement in our business community – and it shows. Come to a 1 Million Cups presentation on a Wednesday morning, and you will see the space transformed into a conduit for idea and talent sharing, and just sometimes that right connection to take your idea to the next level.

What I appreciate most about the Hill Center, is the continued commitment from staff to uphold the entrepreneurial spirit of our “founding father,” James J. Hill. The original entrepreneur, Hill didn’t take hard work for granted, and neither do we. We’re here to make that hard work a little easier for you, forging a path that will make a difference – and hard work is always relevant.

“Work, hard work, intelligent work, and then more work.” – James J. Hill

Composed by Lindsey Dyer, Director of Library Services, James J. Hill Center. 
It you have more questions about the Reference Library at the James J. Hill Center please contact 651-265-5500 or hillreferencelibrary@jjhill.org.

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Transformation from Innovation

“It must be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to management than the creation of a new system. For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely the lukewarm defense in those who gain by the new ones.”  –  Niccolo Machiavelli (1469–1527), Philosopher and playwright

I recently ran across this quote by Niccolo Machiavelli at the Hill entrepreneurial center and would have thought it was written today.  Not so, it shows that change has been a process of mis-acceptance for as long as man has innovated on new ideas.  

 I define innovation as the introduction of new and improved ways of putting ideas into action. In an economic sense, an innovation is accomplished with the first commercial transaction involving a new or improved product, process, or organizational business model. Innovation is then intentional attempts to bring about value from change. These values include; economic benefits, personal growth, increased satisfaction, improved group coherence, better organizational communication, as well as productivity and economic measures.  

Sound like entrepreneurism?  I think so, to the entrepreneur that means transformation of creative ideas to accountable, actionable changes.  Maximizing customer value and experience is a core principle in innovation.  The entrepreneur needs to understand that ‘emotion trumps logic’ and that their audience needs to feel and experience the value brought by their innovation.  

We are a society of habit and as Nicolo Machiavlli’s quote shows of the past, the same is currently true.  The creation of new must provide a value proposition that goes beyond current habits to prevent sabotage from those who feel threatened by change.  

To generate “Transformation from Innovation” identify and target market your change agents early so they may become your evangelists to help you articulate and promote your values. 

Jeff Brown p
ositively transforming the way people grow their personal business brand.
• Board Member, Coaching, and Strategy for Fortune 500 companies to start-ups
• Developing and transforming ideas into something superb
• Creating accountable strategies to helping clients where they are stuck or want to go

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The Heart of the Hill

In association with National Library Week we are celebrating our hard working Business Librarians, Leah Kodner and Alex Ingham.  Come in and visit with them and see how they can help you explore your next business steps.

How did you get connected to the James J. Hill Center?

Leah: I first learned about The Hill from reading the job board at St. Kate’s during my last semester working on my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree. The more I learned about the library, the more I wanted to work there. I was hired in March 2014, shortly after finishing my MLIS, and this became my second professional library job.

Alex: I began my career at the Hill as an intern. Later a position opened in library services and I pursued it.

What does your day as a business librarian look like?
Leah: Throughout the day, I respond to reference inquiries via email, phone, chat, and in person at the library. I spend the majority of the day teaching patrons in the library how to use our databases and introducing them to new sources of information. During my downtime, I work on other projects, such as cataloging and organizing our print and archival collections.

Alex:  No two days are alike here at the Hill. While answering visitor inquiries – whether in-person, on the phone, or virtually – takes up the bulk of the day, a significant amount of time is spent on special projects, too. The Hill is home to a physical collection numbering in the hundreds of thousands and spanning nearly a dozen sub-collections, so tending to its upkeep and organization can be a colossal task at times.

What is your favorite part of your job?
Leah: I love the satisfaction that comes from helping the patrons. It’s great to help someone out who comes into the building stressed and apprehensive about the project they’re working on, and helping them find the information they need quickly and painlessly. Watching somebody leave  with a relieved smile on their face at the end of the day is the best!

Alex: I revel in a challenge and am always eager to give attention to the unconventional question that might come across my desk.

What do you want people to know about you?
Leah: I want people to know that they can approach me!  I’m happy to answer any questions about the library and about our resources. Remember, there’s no such thing as a stupid question!

Alex: I come from a teaching and learning background and have always been drawn to libraries. The concept of community is one that equally excites me. The James J. Hill Center balances these two elements well and I could not feel more at home here.

What sets our reference library apart from others?
Leah: We’re a really unique institution. We’ve got the best publicly available business reference databases around. Using our resources, you can gather industry and competitive data for a business plan, build sales lists, learn the demographics of your target market, find funding sources, and more.

Alex:  The one-on-one support offered at the Hill is unparalleled. Our reference librarians are very knowledgeable and familiar with the resources we offer.

The James J. Hill Center mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer research, programs, and networking for each stage of business development. Our efforts also include services to the broader community through the hosting of cultural and artistic programming and events.  Visit us in downtown Saint Paul at 80 West Fourth Street, off the corner of Market and Fourth.  

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Introducing: Lindsey Dyer

Lindsey Dyer is the new Director of Library Services at the James J. Hill Center, and comes with experience from both public and academic libraries, as well as Target, Corp. and the Minnesota Historical Society. Lindsey lives in St. Paul with her husband and is the mom of three kids.  We took a few minutes to chat with her about her new position at the Hill.  Come in and join us at the Hill next week during National Library Week to meet Lindsey and her team and participate in free programming.

How did your journey with the James J. Hill Center begin?
The Hill Center inspired me to pursue a career in libraries back in 2005, when I worked here as a volunteer. It is easy to see why – the building draws you in and speaks for itself. Though I had since moved on to new professional opportunities, I maintained an admiration for the mission and staff – particularly the Hill Papers Archivist, Eileen McCormack, whose job I aspired to at the time. I am honored to be back!

What do you want people to know about you?
I am very interested in how library services fit into the broader user experience landscape when it comes to looking for and using information. Libraries have an important task, especially now, to be conduits for authentic and unbiased information that we use every day in business decisions. I think we’ve lost sight of why this is important to talk about. At the Hill Center, we have a unique opportunity to narrow that down to information that entrepreneurs in particular need to get to the next step in their business planning. It’s exciting and inspiring when our information becomes the turning point for a startup.

What has made the biggest impact on your career so far?
Working for both Target and the Minnesota Historical Society gave me a unique perspective on service and management. I like to think that I took the best from both worlds, specifically non-traditional approaches to what accessibility looks like, and have been working to implement some of these things at the Hill Center.

What has been the largest hurdle and success you have experienced in your career?
I’ve had the opportunity to work alongside some talented entrepreneurs, and have had some real conversations about what they need to be successful. I am working towards the hurdle of transforming reference services at the Hill Center to best fit those needs. I want the library to not only give entrepreneurs information – I want us to be the difference between success and failure.

What is it about Minnesota and more specifically Saint Paul that keeps you here?St. Paul – or “Small Paul” – has been my home for 13 years, and it’s the ultimate charmer. I am especially drawn to historic homes, and in fact used to be the Site Manager of the James J. Hill House – the historic house museum to rival them all. This city has a rich history, and it shows.

The Hills’ mission honors the legacy of its founder by continuing to support entrepreneurial spirit in the 21st Century. We offer research, programs, and networking for each stage of business development. Our efforts also include services to the broader community through the hosting of cultural and artistic programming and events.

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Don’t Tweak, Transform

James J. Hill Center Community Engagement Specialist, Maggie Smith, shares her experience at her first “design session” with 1 Million Cups. 

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a design session. If that sounds vague, it’s because it is. I honestly wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I was told it was a “participatory workshop, wherein diverse stakeholders co-create solutions.” Over the two-day session we used a variety of collaborative activities to break down the posed issue, and come up with viable solutions based on questions and concerns relating to the issue.

Simply put, it was a room full of strangers working together to create actual solutions to a problem that connected all of us.

A concept we heard over and over during our session was “don’t just tweak, transform,” meaning don’t just edit the existing structure to make it better, completely rethink and rebuild. This concept really resonated. As entrepreneurs, our ideas are often born from seeing a problem and wanting to solve it. Some succeed, many do not. The reasons for this are varied, but this mantra, if you will, changed my focus and lens for looking at why ideas succeed and how to ‘up’ your creative game.

It seems many solutions and ideas for startups are simply tweaks, upgrades and adjustments made to an existing platform. But what if everyone who saw a problem they wanted to solve took a step back and broke it down before building the idea back up? Our design session started with breaking down how the problem made us feel, finding themes within those feelings and then finding questions we could solve related to the themes. Questions like, “how might we create an experience that pulls people into deeper engagement?” “How might we reduce isolation and increase inclusion? “How might we make resources both educational and community focused?”

Once these questions were established, the brainstorming began. A lot of problem-solvers head straight to actual brainstorming. But next time try adding these few steps beforehand and see if you get different ideas, or if the problem/solution goes in a direction you weren’t expecting.

From there the brainstorming took a normal path. Narrowing down ideas, deciding how viable they were and road-mapping for the future.

The process was intensive and surprisingly tiring, but fun. And most importantly, it worked! Our small group of strangers came up with four solid, viable and feasible ideas.

Imagine what you could do with people you knew, and more time.

The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday. You can hear from new startups each Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul.

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Mobilizing for Action with Jamie Millard

In celebration of Women’s History Month and the dynamic female leaders we have here in Minnesota we have been sharing insights and stories from some of Minnesota’s most influential and game-changing women.  Please enjoy our visit with Jamie Millard as she share’s her perspective, experience and profound beliefs regarding mobilizing a community. 

Jamie Millard is executive director of Pollen, a digital platform that breaks down the barriers of narrative, networking, and opportunity to build better-connected communities.  Jamie has been identified as a “2015 40 Under 40” by the Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, as a “100 People to Know in 2015” by the Twin Cities Business Magazine. Nationally, Jamie was recognized in the Huffington Post as one of four millennial leaders, “doing important work to move us toward a more just and equitable society.”

How do you mobilize for action?
Over the past five years, I  have poured my soul and energy into the Minneapolis / St. Paul region by working closely to criss-cross networks. With connection comes relation and empathy. And as communities begin to cross-pollinate, we connect across our differences, and we begin to unlock the potential of universal possibility. There is no better world  than one where we each focus more on supporting those around us than ourselves. A world where we each work to be in greater relation to one another. Where we live to relate the unrelated.

What is your strength as a Leader?
Ever since I was little, I have always found myself as someone who speaks when there is a void or a lack of direction. I’m good at rallying the troops and I enjoy mobilizing for action. I see leadership as knowing how to be in tune with the moods and energy of those around you—adjusting everyone to be in tune together.

What have been some challenges and opportunities being a women in a leadership role?
Work culture was designed by the white, male breadwinner. It’s not designed to value empathy—and especially not vulnerability. When leadership doesn’t reward traits that are often stronger and more centered in women, then we have to hide those parts of ourselves. Or worse, if we can’t hide those traits, then we can experience serious consequences professionally.

This is also where I see great opportunity. In dismantling the traditional internalized work culture, we can make room to build a new culture. A culture that is less capitalistic and more human-centered.

What inspires you?
My Work Wife, Meghan Murphy. We co-founded Paper Darts together and we run Pollen Midwest together. She’s my go-to work partner on any and all projects. She’s also my best friend and honorary aunt to my daughter. When women can fully support and love other women in their projects and dreams, that gives me so much life, hope and inspiration. Work Wives are the future.

What Insights & advice do you have for other women?
Ask for help and fiercely support other women. And remember, everyone cries in the car (link: http://minnesotabusiness.com/everyone-cries-car).

For more information about Jamie Millard’s visionary work visit Pollen  and sign up for their monthly newsletter or attend an upcoming event.  In addition to her work at Pollen, Jamie serves on a Greater MSP task force to address the retention and attraction of emerging talent in our region. She is also a current member, and former board chair, of the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network — Twin Cities. In 2009, Jamie co-founded the literary arts magazine Paper Darts, which is now a premier Twin Cities literary institution and has published more than 700 writers and artists. 

For more inspiring conversations about ground breaking professionals in our industry review some of our previous stories at jjhill.org/blog


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Fizzy Energy: A Passion with a Prize

Sarah Nichols is the Founder and CEO of RSVTea,  She is a powerful, poised and passionate Minnesota entrepreneur on a mission to revive the power of celebration where everyone is invited. She took an idea with fizzy energy to a full fledged business.  In celebration of Women’s History Month we had the opportunity to ask Sarah about her success so far.   

What is your Business and how did your entrepreneurial journey begin?

My business is RSVTea, a startup beverage company that makes fizzy energy teas! I started brewing the company concept when I was a Junior at Macalester College and studying abroad in Vienna, planning for a career in international relations. I was prepping for the LSATs and tired of drinking too much coffee. I needed a pick-me-up, but I wanted something healthier than energy drinks and more exciting than flat iced tea. So I decided to make caffeinated tea bubbly and better for me with natural sugar substitutes. I prototyped recipes and had so much fun sharing them with my friends, that tea became my focus, and by the end of my study abroad program, I had a recipe, the start of a business plan, and a very dusty LSAT prep book. I left that book in Vienna and returned the U.S. excited to brew and bring a new kind of tea to town.

What do you want people to know about you and your business and what sets it apart?
I am a young founder. Although I just turned 23, my age combined with my entrepreneurial spirit gives me a dynamic energy that propelled the launch RSVTea. I graduated in May 2016 and began incubating the company in the Mac Startups summer program, and now have a strong board of directors, a strong brand, a product ready for distribution, and swelling momentum. We’re on a mission to revive the power of celebration, and we’re ready to bring a new type of tea party to the Twin Cities.

What or who has made the biggest impact on your entrepreneurial career so far?
My big brother, Taylor. He was born with severe disabilities and has been nonverbal his whole life. Although he can’t speak, Taylor has taught me more about this world than anyone else. More importantly, he showed me how I want to make a lasting, positive impact on this planet. The motto for RSVTea, “everyone’s invited” stems from my childhood with Taylor. I grew up seeing him intentionally and unintentionally excluded- but excluded nonetheless, and I wanted to change that with an inclusivity initiative. I wanted to bring people together to celebrate ourselves for what we are and not what we aren’t. So, this is a toast to Taylor for being my inspiration to change the world, the best hugger when I’m scared I may fail, and my biggest reminder that I am a powerful, poised, and positive force in this world.

How does your entrepreneurial spirit contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem and Community?
I contribute to the Twin Cities Business Ecosystem by being a young woman professional who is engaged with her community and building a resilient, local brand. I am an example that regardless of generation, the Twin Cities are a fertile place to start a successful company. I want to make opportunities like mine more accessible and dynamic for new and emerging entrepreneurs. I am especially focused for new graduates or current college students. I am still very involved with entrepreneurship at Macalester, and I am a firm believer that linking the Twin Cities institutions of academia with entrepreneurship initiatives is a paramount addition to the Business Ecosystem.

What has been the largest hurdle and / or success you have experienced as an entrepreneur?
My biggest hurdle and success as of now was starting RSVTea. The odds were certainly stacked against me. I was young, a solo founder, a first-time CEO, inexperienced in the beverage industry, staring down the barrel of student debt, little accumulated wealth, and a woman. I faced the odds, took a bet on myself, and dove all in. There was no time for me to fear failure. Fear is crippling, but failure is something one can get up from. I certainly stumbled and fell over the past 10 months, but I persevered because I was not afraid to take the bet on myself, even with all odds considered.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs just getting out of gate?
Start something for the sake of passion and not the sake of prize. Stories of Silicon Valley and Shark Tank deals give a luster and allure to entrepreneurship. But, there are times when it is not so glamorous or thrilling. There are times when things are rough, unstable, and in severe need of capital. But, if you really care about the problem you are solving, that flicker of passion will keep you navigating the dark and depressing scenarios all startups inevitably face.

What is it about Minnesota and how has it managed to keep you here?
I grew up on a farm in southern Missouri and came to Minnesota for college. Missouri is very similar to parts of rural Minnesota, but I fell in love with the Twin Cities. They are alive with countless new experiences, a swelling economy, and a cool patchwork of Midwesterners, East/West-coasters and newcomers. I consider Minnesota my home now, and I’m proud to be a T.C. Entrepreneur!

Sarah presented RSVTea at 1 Million Cups in 2016.  For more information on 1 Million Cups or to present your start up at the James J. Hill Center please visit jjhill.org or apply now

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Steps Towards Confidence and Empowerment

Jenny Evans is the Founder and CEO of Powerhouse Performance.  She is a speaker, award-winning author and on-air expert on resiliency, stress, confidence and human performance.  She is obsessed with human performance and has created a career and life designed around maximizing her own potential, and helping others do the same.

My computer made the familiar ding of a new email. I clicked on the message and found a request to do a speaking engagement on women’s confidence. I speak on resiliency, and this was not the first time someone had asked me to talk about confidence and empowerment. I realized it was finally time I started listening to the Universe…and the marketplace.

After chatting with the client and getting excited about their needs, I said “Absolutely! It’s something I feel strongly about and I’d love to do it!” Then in an ironic twist, as I reflected on why others perceive me to be self-assured, I began losing confidence on what made me the expert. Confidence is incredibly personal, malleable and individualized.

For me, knowledge leads to a sense of confidence. So I created a hypothesis, jumped into research mode and conducted interviews. According to one of the most comprehensive business case studies ever conducted, companies that perform best financially have the greatest numbers of women in leadership roles. Unfortunately, only 1 in 5 senior executives is a woman. I could fill pages with statistics and explanations on the gap between women and men in business, education, politics, pay, health and finally confidence, but instead I’d like to share four important things I learned during my research.

#1: Confidence is influenced by how well we know our values and purpose.
When we lack clarity, we typically lack confidence as well. It is difficult to feel confident in our abilities when we are uncertain about why and how we make decisions. Every woman I interviewed had a strong sense of purpose and internal knowing that what they do is not only meaningful, but also an extension of their values system, who they are and what they believe. Once we truly understand ourselves, our decisions can align with our ideals. We grow in confidence as we learn to trust our internal locus rather than be swayed by external forces. We are fueled to step into uncomfortable situations, take risk and overcome fear.

#2: Confidence is shaped by what we consume.
Who we surround ourselves with and what we watch, listen to and read can make us feel either positive and empowered or inadequate and insecure. Unfortunately, much of the input we “eat” is junk, filling us with empty “calories” and making us weak. The confident women I interviewed have networks of “up-lifters”, mentors and friends that are essential forms of professional and personal support. They have a growth mindset and love to learn and try new things. In order to build confidence, we must provide our minds with nourishing input.

#3: Confidence is affected by recovery.
Our days are filled with incessant obligations and habitual time wasters. How can we feel confident when it seems we are not doing enough or not doing it well enough? Each woman talked about losing confidence when they’re feeling overwhelmed and the importance of doing things that made them feel grounded. Recovery means granting ourselves permission to refuel and recharge. Only then will there be time and space for confidence to grow.

#4: Confidence is linked to our physical being.
In particular, we can use movement in strategic ways to connect and change. Our movement needs vary from day to day and person to person, but every woman I interviewed mentioned some form of regular physical practice being essential to their state of mind. Gentle forms of movement help us center and connect to the inner power within ourselves. More challenging types of movement allow us to build grit and tenacity—if it doesn’t challenge us, it doesn’t change us.

In the end confidence does not mean you are bullet proof or infallible. It’s stronger in some aspects of our lives and weaker in others. When you build it in one area of your life, it transfers to ALL of them. It is a complex trait, shaped by both our personalities and circumstances. While I can’t completely change everything about society’s framework around women, I can help women thrive where they are until things change systemically.

To view more information on the confidence gap and jenny’s video research please visit her website or follow her on twitter @PowerhousePC #theconfidencegap.   To keep up on to date on the latest James J. Hill Center blog please follow us on Social Media.  We can be found Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn

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We are pleased to announce the completion of our elevator renovation at the James J. Hill Center. This project was financed in part with funds provided by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund through the Minnesota Historical Society and the F. R. Bigelow Foundation. It will greatly increase our ability to serve patrons with accessibility needs.

Please access our ground floor elevator entrance via Kellogg Ave at the back of the building. Please ring the doorbell on the right hand side of door and a Hill staff member will assist you. If you have questions or concerns please call 651.265.5500. We look forward to having you visit our brand new elevator!