“Cultivate creativity every day”, with Sally Poblete and Dr. Ely Weinschneider

My approach to dreaming big is to cultivate creativity every day, letting big and small ideas come out, and refusing stereotypes. I think that when kids are free to imagine openly and broadly every day, the big ideas will naturally emerge. This is a magical time for my kindergartener who is now able to articulate […]

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My approach to dreaming big is to cultivate creativity every day, letting big and small ideas come out, and refusing stereotypes. I think that when kids are free to imagine openly and broadly every day, the big ideas will naturally emerge. This is a magical time for my kindergartener who is now able to articulate a lot of ideas and dreams — she has stated that she intends to be both a ballet dancer and an engineer. Rather than make any positive or negative judgements about those ideas, I curiously ask “why” and “how” and let her elaborate. She’ll obviously have 50 more new ideas about what she wants to be when she grows up — and having the freedom to explore is part of the process in dreaming big.

As a part of my series about “How extremely busy executives make time to be great parents” I had the pleasure to interview Sally Poblete, CEO & Founder of Wellthie. Sally is also the chief visionary, growth officer, insurance geek, and cheerleader at Wellthie. She spends most of her time listening to customers, envisioning new ideas, and building the best team. She envisions a future world where purchasing insurance is a satisfying and confident experience.

Prior to starting Wellthie, Sally spent close to a decade as an executive at Anthem BlueCross BlueShield where she led product development and launched large enterprise initiatives across the country. With a builder’s DNA, Sally spent the first decade of her career wearing business development, marketing, and product hats at successful startups like Medscape and another insurance start-up Healthmarkets.

Sally received her MBA from the Wharton School’s Health Care Management program where is an active alumna and mentor. She received her B.S. in Management magna cum laude from the Stern School of Business of New York University. She is a licensed insurance broker.

She is the proud mother of two strong daughters from whom she derives endless inspiration.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us your “childhood backstory”?

I was born 7,000 miles away in the Philippines, and I was named after my grandmother, Salud. Salud is a Spanish word that means “good health.” Salud was orphaned at age 6. She never finished high school. She worked hard enough and saved enough to be able to send all of her children to school.

When I was 3 yrs old, our house burned down. I was in the kitchen while my mother was baking a cake, and our gas stove exploded. Thankfully, I only suffered third-degree burns on my legs and my arms as did my mother. I don’t remember much about the accident itself, but I do remember being made fun of as a kid. The scars are still on my legs and I look at them every day and I remember that I survived that fire and that I am different but no less than anybody else.

I was raised by my fierce single mother, who hustled every day, worked a full-time job during the day and went to grad school at night. She instilled in me the value of education, and she dreamed that if I could ever come to the United States I could have a better life than my family before me. I immigrated to the United States when I was a teenager. I figured out the way to work hard, graduate at the top of my class, and even manage to get into an Ivy League business school, all accomplishing my mother’s wildest dreams for me. My mother and my grandmother were both the breadwinners in my family. And that, as a kid, was all I knew. And so while I didn’t grow up with the typical toys and treats of a typical kid, I had a rich and strong foundation because the women before me were very strong role models.

Can you share the story about what brought you to this specific point in your career?

My first job was to run my father’s home health business, sending home health aids to Medicaid populations in the inner city. I then went on to work at other healthcare startups where my role was only limited by how quickly I could learn. I got a great job at one of the largest health insurance companies in the country, where I had the opportunity to build insurance products for millions of people. I built my expertise, I build my network, and most importantly, I built my passion for the people that this healthcare system serves.

Around 40, my second child was born. And my plan was to go back to work and balance career and family, but something else was stirring inside me. It was time to start my next act, it was time to start a new company. All of my experiences as a professional in this industry and as a consumer, as a patient of a high-risk pregnancy saddled with a mountain of medical bills, having to navigate the healthcare system even as a well-trained healthcare expert, affirmed my resolve that this new company was where I wanted to spend my energies.

We all know that insurance is complicated and convoluted and very stressful for people. And this is why I have chosen my life-long commitment to increasing healthcare access. For having insurance is the foundation for building one’s own healthcare and financial security. My confidence is rooted in my gratefulness to be a woman with skills, with a voice, and with my own unique opportunity to make a difference.

Can you tell us a bit more about what your day to day schedule looks like?

I wake up around 5:00 AM — it is my personal time to get peace and quiet, sip my coffee and read a book or exercise. Around 6:30, the rest of the family starts to wake up and get ready for school and work. I like getting to work early, so that I can do my deep work in the morning — the work that requires high concentration — matching when my brain is fresh. I try to schedule meetings in the afternoon, if I can. When I get home, we have dinner and hang out with my girls. My kindergartener likes to play card games or chess, do art projects, or read books. I try to check-in with my teenager who is inevitably doing homework. Like most working parents, my days are full and I purposefully try to get a good night’s sleep.

Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. This is probably intuitive to many, but it would be beneficial to spell it out. Based on your experience or research, can you flesh out why not spending time with your children can be detrimental to their development?

My girls really like and benefit from the physical, emotional and mental presence of their parents. Doing things together or being in the same place I think gives them a sense of security and belonging.

On the flip side, can you give a few reasons or examples about why it is important to make time to spend with your children?

In addition to the benefit to the kids, I genuinely enjoy their company and find joy in listening to them express their thoughts and their uniqueness. From being a parent, I have grown to be more humble and grateful in life than my pre-parent self.

According to this study cited in the Washington Post, the quality of time spent with children is more important than the quantity of time. Can you give a few stories or examples from your own life about what you do to spend quality time with your children?

My eldest daughter sings with a choir at school and outside of school. One of my priorities is to not miss a concert or an opportunity to hear her sing. She knows that we are very proud of her but I also prioritize this because I derive immense joy from it, my mood is always lifted, and I’m a happier person and parent as a result.

My youngest daughter loves to play games — card games or board games in particular. We play a lot of games together at home or we play tic tac toe when we are waiting for our order at a restaurant. We have a great time, and it is also a chance to discuss winning and losing, sportsmanship, honesty and fairness.

One of my favorite activities with both daughters is making breakfast together. We make a full breakfast including pancakes, eggs and bacon or sausage. Everyone has a part in the process including setting the table and clean-up. Developing a positive relationship with food and learning how to be self-sufficient in the kitchen are important life skills.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed and we may feel that we can’t spare the time to be “fully present” with our children. Can you share with our readers 5 strategies about how we can create more space in our lives in order to give our children more quality attention?

Given the demands of time from my work and family, I’ve taken a serious look at the other things that I spend time on and cut them back significantly. For example, I watch TV very rarely, unless it is a cooking show or documentary that we all want to watch together. I’ve also reduced the time I spend on social media so that I can put down my phone when I’m home.

My girls notice when I’m paying full attention and when I’m not by our eye contact. They are looking for the simple (and powerful) act of being listened to.

I run an errand like grocery shopping with one daughter and turn it into our “date.” We take our time, we talk, we discuss how to shop for healthier options, and put the groceries away together. Trying to elevate the mundane activities and turn them into special ones really delights them.

How do you define a “good parent”? Can you give an example or a story?

I think a good parent is one who sets a positive example for how to live one’s life that reflects the families values. In my family, one of the core values that my husband and I strongly believe in is diligence and hard work. My kids see and live this everyday and rather than verbally nag my teenage daughter about how important diligence is, we discuss how hard work has played an important role in getting to where we are now.

How do you inspire your child to “dream big”? Can you give an example or a story?

My approach to dreaming big is to cultivate creativity every day, letting big and small ideas come out, and refusing stereotypes. I think that when kids are free to imagine openly and broadly every day, the big ideas will naturally emerge. This is a magical time for my kindergartener who is now able to articulate a lot of ideas and dreams — she has stated that she intends to be both a ballet dancer and an engineer. Rather than make any positive or negative judgements about those ideas, I curiously ask “why” and “how” and let her elaborate. She’ll obviously have 50 more new ideas about what she wants to be when she grows up — and having the freedom to explore is part of the process in dreaming big.

For my teenager, we talk about why I chose my career as an entrepreneur and the courage and resilience required each and every day. My goal is not to influence her to be an entrepreneur or follow a business or health care path as I have, but rather to instill in her that courage and resilience are foundational ingredients to dreaming and accomplishing anything significant. Every successful writer, engineer, doctor, chef, artist, lawyer, entrepreneur, or whatever, had to put themselves out into the world fully, be vulnerable, risk failure, and persevere through challenges daily.

How do you, a person who masterfully straddles the worlds of career and family, define “success”?

I don’t think I have “mastered” career and/or family — I would prefer to call myself a diligent student, working on integrating my work and family lives.

Each day, I am striving for impact — and whether I have used my skills, energy, and expertise towards improving the lives of others. I’ve chosen my career as an entrepreneur in health care to accomplish this, and my family discusses ways we can be advocates for the causes we believe in.

I’ve also recently read that Warren Buffet’s ideal for success is in measuring the love of the people you care most about. This does not mean seeking popularity or being a people pleaser, but rather choosing the most important people in your life and working towards meaningful loving relationships with them.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to be a better parent? Can you explain why you like them?

I’ve learned a lot from the research and writing of Lisa Damour, a psychologist who is an expert in the topic of raising teenage girls. I’m finding that adolescence is a pivotal and very complicated time in a girl’s life — gaining strength, confidence, positive habits and self-love are crucial. It is also the hardest for them and for us parents to navigate with the intense pressures, social media, and mixed messages they receive. Lisa offers a wealth of strategies and ideas on the topic.

I’m also enjoying the insights from Brene Brown, a psychologist and an expert in vulnerability, courage and resilience. I’m reading her book on leadership, but her insights are applicable to parenthood as well. I was raised in a way that celebrates perfection — getting straight A’s, going to the best schools, etc. — and I’m finding that the pursuit of perfection has actually been a limiter to both my achievement and happiness.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Rather than one quote, I’ll say that the Dr. Seuss’ “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it for the first time when my eldest daughter was still a baby — and I’ve now read it countless times to both daughters and I even read it by myself from time to time. It celebrates optimism, courage, resilience in life. I just love it.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

For me it is about fostering more diversity in our lives— honoring and celebrating differences in people as a source of strength in business, arts, government and society as a whole is a cause I deeply believe in. When a group of people or a way of thinking — defined by race, gender, political, religious, social, economic, or ideological — believe that they are superior than others, I think it is a root cause for distrust, war and other bad outcomes. On the other hand, we gain the best ideas, most interesting lives, and achieve peace by embracing all of our differences as people. Many movements are underway, but it is obviously a very hard goal to achieve. I think frequent small acts of kindness towards others, especially to those who are most different from you, is a powerful way to make positive change.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

Dr. Ely Weinschneider is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist based in New Jersey. Dr. Ely specializes in adolescent and adult psychotherapy, parenting, couples therapy, geriatric therapy, and mood and anxiety disorders. He also has a strong clinical interest in Positive Psychology and Personal Growth and Achievement, and often makes that an integral focus of treatment.

An authority on how to have successful relationships, Dr. Ely has written, lectured and presented nationally to audiences of parents, couples, educators, mental health professionals, clergy, businesses, physicians and healthcare policymakers on subjects such as: effective parenting, raising emotionally intelligent children, motivation, bullying prevention and education, managing loss and grief, spirituality, relationship building, stress management, and developing healthy living habits.

Dr. Ely also writes a regular, nationally syndicated column about the importance of “being present with your children”.

When not busy with all of the above, Dr. Ely works hard at practicing what he preaches, raising his adorable brood (which includes a set of twins and a set of triplets!) together with his wife in Toms River, New Jersey.

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