Plus, a special Father's Day column
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Good morning and happy Monday! Here’s what you’ll find in today’s newsletter:

  • I wrote a bit about what it takes to be a successful advocate in 2021. Spoiler alert: It requires the willingness to have difficult conversations.
  • Drew McClellan wrote this week’s guest opinion – just in time for Father’s Day festivities – about his daughter’s fearlessness.

Don’t forget to sign up for this month’s Fearless Friday event! Join me, Business Record Editor Emily Barske and other community members for a conversation about advocacy and community involvement this Friday at 8 a.m. Registration is free!

One last thing: I'm still looking for stories to share about a time that you've taken a risk (whether in your personal or professional life) or how you've overcome failure. If you have a story to share, or know of someone who would be willing to share, please reply to this email!

Have a great week.

– Emily Blobaum, Fearless editor

The importance of having difficult conversations
I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be an advocate in 2021. To me, advocacy is the actions you take in order to effect change. I once read somewhere that the difference between advocates and activists is that advocates are people-oriented, whereas activists are action-oriented.

So, to be a successful advocate, you must be able to work well with others, even with people you disagree with. However, that’s becoming increasingly difficult these days.

There are a plethora of news stories that illustrate the divisiveness that we’re currently experiencing. One of the best I've read is a series from the Associated Press called Divided America, which was published in 2016 but I think still holds up today.

"It’s no longer just Republican vs. Democrat, or liberal vs. conservative. It’s the 1% vs. the 99%, rural vs. urban, white men against the world. Climate doubters clash with believers. Bathrooms have become battlefields, borders are battle lines. Sex and race, faith and ethnicity … the melting pot seems to be boiling over," its intro reads.

The killing of George Floyd last summer spurred a nationwide uprising of demonstrations and civic unrest. It wasn’t the first time that Americans witnessed a widespread social justice movement, but it felt different, partly because it ignited a reckoning within the business community about the role that corporations and companies play in influencing action.

Conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion policies and practices suddenly were everywhere you looked: on social media, in the news, in the workplace and at the dinner table.

Earlier this year in our annual women’s survey, we asked whether conversations about social issues have a place in the workplace and why or why not. The vast majority – 75% – of respondents said yes. Seven percent said no; the rest said they weren’t sure.

One person wrote, "We as a society need to have more conversations with people who hold different opinions and not just dismiss them as ignorant. Both sides of the current partisan divide do this today."

Another: "We spend a large portion of our lives in the workplace and it can serve as a space where we all can practice having civil conversations. Instead of encouraging people to leave their feelings and convictions at the door, we can encourage employees to have meaningful dialogue in a place with differing perspectives."

Which leads me to the reason why I want to rerun the Business Record’s first installment of the Power of Us series, hosted by Business Record Editor Emily Barske and Urban Experience Editor-in-Chief Dwana Bradley.

In a recorded conversation with guests Joshua Barr, director of civil and human rights for the city of Des Moines, and Scott Raecker, executive director of the Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, they talked about the importance of having difficult conversations and how we can come together – despite our differences – to advance our collective goals. I encourage you to watch the full thing!

I think it’s safe to say that for many people, talking about inequities and how they’re perpetuated, be it on purpose or by accident, are uncomfortable. When people feel uncomfortable, they tend to retreat to a place of familiarity and status quo, and that gets us nowhere.

How can you be a successful advocate if you always operate from a place of comfort?

How can you be a successful advocate if you don’t interact with people who have different perspectives?

How can you be a successful advocate if you don’t use your voice and speak up, even when you’re afraid?

As Luvvie Ajayi Jones said in her 2017 TedWomen talk, "We’ve got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable."

So if you want to be a successful advocate, whether it’s for equal pay, freedom of speech, LGBTQ equality, voting rights, ending police violence, maternal health, racial equity, food insecurity, disability discrimination, ageism … you name it, uncomfortable conversations are a necessary ingredient.

My fearless daughter
When I held my infant daughter Kelsey for the first time, I distinctly remember pressing my lips to her forehead and thinking, "I will protect you forever."

I had never done this parenting thing before, and it took me a while to accept that I actually couldn’t protect her forever. Instead, I would need to help her learn how to protect herself. To protect her spirit. To protect her confidence. To protect her heart. The threats to those turned out to be the real boogeyman out there.

I was completely caught off guard by all the landmines she’d face as a girl, a young woman and now as an adult. I naively worried about strangers putting her in harm’s way. Little did I know.

I didn’t want my daughter to have a contained, "be seen but not heard" life. I wanted her to have unbridled triumphs and take scary risks and to love unabashedly. I wanted her to confidently speak her mind, to take a stand for what she believed in, and to be recognized and rewarded for her gifts and accomplishments.

Just like boys and men get.

I had no idea how to raise a daughter to be fearless. But fortunately, she did. As she navigated through her life, she encountered roadblocks. Biases. Stereotypes. She was told she couldn’t, or she shouldn’t. Or worse – she should. Traps and cages lined her path. Each one a boundary, set to keep her from being all she was capable of being.

At the dinner table, we’d dissect those boundaries. We played a game called "what’s the worst thing that could happen?" We’d imagine her pushing back on whatever was in her way and envision how it might go off the rails. What truly was the worst possible outcome? What we discovered together was that, in most cases, the worst outcome was to comply with the constraint in front of her.

And so, she learned to be brave. Bit by bit. Experience by experience. She got comfortable being uncomfortable if it mattered enough. She realized that no one was going to fight alongside her if she didn’t start the fight. She challenged the status quo and she led with her heart, on behalf of herself and others.

She talked to a teacher who graded her unfairly. She drew boundaries with family members. She got politically invested in causes she believed in. She had tough conversations with roommates. She did a double back on her education because she could not and would not settle.

My daughter learned that being fearless isn’t about not being afraid or anxious. It’s about being afraid but not letting that fear or anxiety become yet another boundary.

She joined an improv group in college, and I can remember watching her first performance. They get on that stage and just trust in themselves. No script. No idea where the moment will take them or what the other people on stage will say or do. It’s like free falling. In front of an audience. I remember watching her, marveling at her courage. I wouldn’t have done it in a million years. And there was my brave, funny, totally-comfortable-in-her-own-skin daughter, boldly sharing herself with the world. She was fearless.

We set a goal to travel to every continent before she was done with school. She has scaled Machu Picchu, she has bathed in a river with a herd of elephants, and she has braved a violent Antarctic storm on what felt like a very small vessel at the time. All along the way, she embraced each new experience and culture with curiosity and empathy. She was fearless.

Kelsey graduated with honors from nursing school in May of 2020. She stepped into a job as a hospital floor nurse as COVID was ravaging our country and doctors and nurses were on the front lines. She wanted to care for people who were scared and alone. She was fearless.

Because of her journey, I am more fearless. I’ll probably never reach her level of proficiency, but I’m working on it. We still play the "what’s the worst thing that could happen" game because life isn’t done throwing boundaries at her.

But what we’ve both learned is the worst thing that can happen is her not being true to herself. To let anyone diminish who she is or what she believes is right or true.

She has learned that tenacity blended with tenderness is a potent combination and when she approaches any situation with both, she is unstoppable.

My daughter Kelsey is fearless, and the world is better for it.

Drew McLellan is the owner of McLellan Marketing Group and writes a weekly column about marketing for the Business Record.

Left: Rep. Jennifer Konfrst. Center: Pulitzer Prize winner Darnella Frazier. Right: CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour.
In the headlines
‘Protecting Hands, Wise Counselor’: Romonda D. Belcher
Romonda D. Belcher doesn’t know how she stumbled across her dream to become a judge — only that the calling came early. The path to becoming an attorney, much less a judge, is long, but Belcher never lost sight of the judiciary as her end goal. Belcher attributes her persistence to her faith.

"Being a judge is what I do, not who I am," she says. "Who I am on the inside — my values, how I treat people, my character, my compassion — makes me the judge I am. I don’t just put on a robe and put on certain qualities. Who I am is who I am." READ THE FULL STORY>
Worth checking out
What it’s like to be a teenage mom during the pandemic (New York Times). Women now drink as much as men — not so much for pleasure, but to cope (NPR). I’m a woman who runs on rural roads. The fear is always there (Washington Post Opinion). Brooke Baldwin: How female leaders are ending the tyranny of the résumé (Fortune). These Black doulas are taking on Iowa’s maternal mortality crisis (Vice). Why women everywhere are delaying motherhood (New York Times).

Join us this Friday at 8 a.m. for this month’s virtual Fearless Friday event, where we’ll talk about advocacy and community involvement. Registration is free!
Other stories from the Business Record team
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