Successful Women Learn to Empower Themselves – Part 3

This post is a continuation of a previous article, “Successful Women Learn to Empower Themselves.”  We continue with Mala Chandra’s interview of Bonnie Miller, who shares three thought-provoking insights and tips for women on how to lead happy, successful, fulfilling lives.

An Unshakeable Belief in Oneself

Bonnie loved to play volley ball in school. She is petite. Her team-mates typically towered over her. Many were skeptical about her ability to hold her own, to contribute effectively, but even more inhibiting to her than the skepticism of others was the limitations she artificially placed on herself.  She remembers thinking, “Oh, I will never get to that ball. “  She didn’t trust her brain to determine the speed and trajectory of the ball, and make decisions about how, when and where to intercept the ball for maximum success.  She limited herself.  One day, she just pushed these limitations aside and decided to try to dig out every ball even if she thought that it was impossible to reach.  What she discovered was that she could often reach about 45% of the balls that she thought were impossible to get to.  She was limiting herself by low expectations.  From then on, the game became exciting, life became exciting:  “What can I do that I never thought I could do before.”

In summary, Bonnie would suggest that women wanting to live successful lives cultivate self-confidence, choose their actions mindfully and seek mentors to help them along their way. If life puts you in a situation where mentors are hard to find, read books, she suggests.  Literature has a tremendous power to inspire and empower.  Many lessons can be learned from characters in a novel.  How do they overcome their trials and tribulations? What characteristics or skills did they acquire and how? “Books are wonderful teachers because you can learn lessons from such a wide variety of people overcoming their life challenges throughout the ages.

“The world puts enough limitations on you. Don’t put any more on yourself. Believe in yourself. Be passionate. Be open-minded, choose wisely and deliberately,” says Bonnie.

Our guest writer is Mala Sarat Chandra, a faculty member of the University of Washington’s iSchool and CEO of MyMobilife, a consultancy focusing on the convergence of mobile, location and social media technologies. Prior to that she has held executive positions at several F100 high tech companies. 

Successful Women Learn to Empower Themselves – Part 2

This post is a continuation of a previous article, “Successful Women Learn to Empower Themselves.”  We continue with Mala Chandra’s interview of Bonnie Miller, who shares three thought-provoking insights and tips for women on how to lead happy, successful, fulfilling lives.

The Conviction to Do the Right Thing:  A life worth living

The hardest task in life is to learn what matters most, what we care about deeply, what principles will rule our lives. Our value system is often formed by our society, culture and beliefs of right and wrong, which are taught implicitly or explicitly.  Our value system underpins our actions and colors our behavior as leaders and role models.

If you are going to lead, you have to decide how you want to lead.  Leaders with unbridled ambition focus on beating the competition at all cost, demanding employees prioritize their work above everything else and worry more about their own self-promotion rather than the good of the team. Employees become tools, rather than real people with needs.   People working for such leaders are driven by fear rather than loyalty.    Bonnie believes that women are particularly vulnerable in this kind of atmosphere because they haven’t historically been taught to stick up for themselves. “This is the real reason, I believe, for women making less money than their male colleagues.  They do not speak up for their rights.  If you, as a woman, know that your co-worker who is a man, makes more money for the same job but achieves inferior results, you should speak up.  It may not be an easy thing to do, but it is the right thing to do,” says Bonnie.

When one of her twins was facing a health crisis, Bonnie faced a difficult choice – slowing down her career ambitions to prioritize the health of her child and the well-being of her family unit or continuing on, putting her own ambitions first.  An early lesson she learned from her father that guided her thinking at the time and indeed, throughout her life, was that the only reason to do anything is because it is the right thing–not the most popular thing; not the easiest thing; just the right thing. Knowing what the right thing is requires that you know yourself and deliberately and mindfully choose your actions.

Becoming involved in your community is also important.  Bonnie is part of her community’s Emergency Preparedness Team on Mercer Island, which was chosen two years in a row as local heroes for their dedication in preparing the community in the event of a disaster.

Stay tuned for installment three of Bonnie’s insights on a joyful life!

Our guest writer is Mala Sarat Chandra, a faculty member of the University of Washington’s iSchool and CEO of MyMobilife, a consultancy focusing on the convergence of mobile, location and social media technologies. Prior to that she has held executive positions at several F100 high tech companies. 

Successful Women Learn to Empower Themselves – Part 1

Empower:

1. to give or delegate power or authority to; authorize

 2. to give ability to; enable or permit

Recently, I had lunch with Bonita Miller, quintessential woman of the world. With an MSc in Neuropsychology from the University of Wales, U.K., she has successfully balanced many roles over time as wife, mother of twins, and Research Scientist of Neuropsychology at the University of Washington.  She is also actively involved with two organizations devoted to educating, developing and recognizing women achievers, Women of Color Empowered  and Women’s University Club of Seattle, of which she is a past president. Bonnie, as she is known to her friends, has traveled widely, lived in many places, had many adventures, and met many people.

As I am not familiar with neuropsychology, I looked it up on Wikipedia:

Clinical neuropsychology is a sub-field of psychology concerned with the applied science of brain-behavior relationships. Clinical neuropsychologists use this knowledge in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions, as well as other cognitive and learning disorders.[1] Assessment is primarily by way of neuropsychological tests, but also includes patient history, qualitative observation and may draw on findings from neuroimaging and other diagnostic medical procedures.

Bonnie’s work as a research scientist is a challenging combination of brain science and psychology – investigating the impact that various neurological disorders, primarily brain trauma, have on skills and abilities and the recovery of these skills and abilities. She has co-authored several published scholarly articles and led workshops related to neuropsychological assessment in both the United States and in Europe over the course of her career.

When one of her twin boys fell ill, she chose make the well-being of her family her top priority as she helped him get well and supported her husband in achieving his career ambitions. She has made her life an integrative learning process with the counsel of her father, pastor, friends and most importantly, her own indefatigable efforts spurring her forward.

Bonnie shared three thought-provoking insights and tips for women on how to lead happy, successful, fulfilling lives.

A Quest for Lifelong Learning
Learning comes in many forms, from many situations and in many places.  It can come from reading books (even novels), conversations or classrooms. The key is to stay active, be curious and exercise the mind to think differently about the world around us.

When her sons chose to enroll in a private college, Bonnie realized that she would need to limit her travel, and she would miss having the opportunity to meet people of different backgrounds.  While discussing this with a friend, she quickly realized that Seattle is a microcosm of the world with its many neighborhoods of distinct ethnic and cultural diversity. There is Scandinavian culture in Ballard, Japanese and Chinese culture in the International District and many more cultures to experience and enjoy.    She joined the Women of Color Empowered Committee sponsored by the Northwest Asian Weekly.  This committee recognizes women of color who have achieved excellence through various professions and pursuits, such as preserving our environment, heritage, medicine, business and leadership.  Through this organization she learned to better understand people from various ethnic backgrounds.  “If we don’t understand the reasons why something is the way it is we cannot break down prejudices and get along with each other,” says Bonnie.

The Women’s University Club of Seattle has been another way to continue her quest for knowledge.  She has received mentoring, unquestioned support and encouragement to develop latent skills such as public speaking.  The goal of this organization is life-long learning and personal development, and is a supportive atmosphere where you are encouraged to ask questions. “I learned to not be afraid of appearing ignorant.  Through my association with this organization, I became more concerned with actually being ignorant.  My favorite tag phrase became, ‘Educate me.’” As past president and an active member of the Club, Bonnie takes every opportunity to support and encourage other women.

This post continues… be sure to check back in soon!

Our guest writer is Mala Sarat Chandra, a faculty member of the University of Washington’s iSchool and CEO of MyMobilife, a consultancy focusing on the convergence of mobile, location and social media technologies. Prior to that she has held executive positions at several F100 high tech companies.