The 5th Human - April Seifert of Minneapolis, Minnesota - Data Analyst, Podcast Host

Image: Photography from Eileen
I distinctly remember April's big, beautiful smile from childhood. It's the first thing I recognize when we reconnect on Facebook last year. I tell her over Skype video call that I think it must have been in the later grades at Custer Elementary that we last knew each other, but she says she was only there for grades one and two.

What I know for sure is that she and I had formed a jump rope club, which met at recess on the playground. It would have probably involved kickball as well, and April was the club's president.

Now here she is speaking with me from her work space at home in Minnesota. She's wearing a T-shirt, her brown hair is tucked behind her ear on one side, and there's that same smile.

Midwest, Not Exactly by Choice

April was born in 1980 and grew up in the small town of Mandan, North Dakota. It was one of those towns, she says, "where everybody knows each other and everybody sort of knows each other's business." Mandan was "very white, very Christian, and it felt—I don't know what the right word is to describe it," she explains, "but it felt like that is where everybody stayed; even when they left ... they just naturally gravitated back to that place."

She left Mandan after high school and moved to Fargo for university, where she lived for four years. She would come back to Mandan only during the summers and holidays. "I tried so hard to get out of the Midwest," April laughs, but she received a full scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, so that's where she stayed for the duration of her graduate education.

April now lives on the western side of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, which she describes as being more diverse than her hometown. And though she lives in a quiet area on a couple of acres, where she can look out her window at a pond and at deer roaming in the yard, her home is only a 15-minute drive from downtown. "It's just a neat balance, but there's a lot more options here."

Other places she and her husband might consider moving to one day include Australia and the Pacific Northwest.

The Joy: An Inspiring Woman Inspiring Women

In 2016, April left her 9 to 5 "normal, corporate job" and branched out on her own, launching her own data science company. Though this self-employment venture has been a success that has defied her expectations, April's most recent pride and joy is her Women Inspired! podcast, featuring weekly interviews with inspiring women from around the globe.

"I'm really, really passionate about [the podcast]," she says. What drives her is her commitment and strong drive "to help people show up really well every day, and live really great lives." We don't have all that many days on Earth, April explains, so she wants people "to live them in the most optimal way they can."

When I ask her what other profession she might like to attempt, she responds, "Now that I've started interviewing people for the podcast, and I'm a serial networker—I just love it, I would do it all day long for my job—I think it would be fun to be a journalist." She loves meeting people and getting to know their stories.

Knowledge Leads to Growth and Change

Though April was raised Catholic, she began to identify as atheist midway through graduate school. "There were always pieces of the religion that didn't quite jibe with me, but it's just kinda like where I grew up and what everybody did, and it didn't really occur to me that it was a decision I could make," she says.

When I ask her what the main turning point was in her change from Christian to atheist, she says that she was becoming increasingly concerned about aspects of the Catholic faith that were huge turn-offs, such as "the child molestation and the cover-up of it," along with "the views toward women within Catholicism—some of the views toward really any outgroup ... gays, the LGBT community, it was just so unaccepting."

"I went to graduate school to study stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination," April continues, "And it was so hard for me to see how a religion that would say that they were accepting and about this figure named Jesus who was this accepting, wonderful person, could have those sides of it as well." That, she says, was the crack in the foundation that led her to start thinking and reading more about the topic of faith and belief.

Due to her love of science-driven nonfiction, she was drawn to books such as Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne, which "widened the crack." April then read Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation, to which her response was, "Oh my god, I can't argue with any of this! What does that mean?!" This new information, she says, was difficult for her to reconcile in her mind at first, but had a kind of "trickle effect." She reached a point where she could no longer call herself a Christian.

The Sorrow: Healthcare and Civic Responsibilities

April works primarily with healthcare companies in her job as a data analyst, so she is particularly concerned about the effects that the Trump administration might have on healthcare. "The way I try to talk to my mom and other people about it," she explains, is that healthcare legislation "has so much less to do with who the person is who inhabits a particular office; it's more about what legislation are they putting forward and how will it impact people." Healthcare, April continues, is "so fundamental, and so important to people and to their lives."

Near the end of our 54-minute interview, we discuss the recent US election. "What was one of the toughest things about the election to me is the number of people who didn't participate," April says. "How many countries," she continues, "are people not given the option to participate, and a lot of people in our country just decided not to."

She understands that maybe people's ideal candidate wasn't running this time around, but that's the time "to buck up and be a grown up, and make the best decision given the hand you're dealt." We all have to make decisions about what is important to us and to our families, she concludes, but "you can't do that by sitting on the couch."

Image: Photography from Eileen

April, Word for Word

Q: Tell me about the little things in life that give you the most joy.

A: "I love, love, love mornings. I like how quiet they are. And I do everything I can to not be rushed and frazzled in the morning, if that means that I get up at 4:45—for whatever reason, so be it. I like being out in trees on a trail, so if you can get me out among trees, I love that. I like living in a place where there's seasons. I like watching the seasons change each year. It's funny, because I tell people that I'm—yeah atheist, but sort of a spiritual atheist, and I think a lot of people use that term, but for me what it means is that I'm really impressed by this one shot at this place that we've been given. As much as possible—it's really hard on a day to day basis—but try not to take it for granted, and I think life hands you little lessons if you're willing to recognize them, and sometimes they come with very strong negative emotions. And if you're willing to sit with those and process them and feel them without pushing them away, you can learn a lot."

Q: Would you consider yourself to be more introverted or extroverted?

A: "I definitely do need time away from people, and it's a marker of an introvert where you get tired sometimes by a lot of social interaction. I find that that's less the case now, though, that I'm self-employed, so I do get time, that part of me is fed. And now that my daughter—she's only a year—so there's no conversation there, so my alone time is filled, like that tank is full. So I think these days I operate much more like an extrovert, like I said—love networking, love meeting people, love getting to know them … I would do that for my job if I could, all day, every day."

Q: What do you perceive as your top virtue and vice?

A: "Kindness for sure on the virtue side, because I like how [the chart you sent me] was talking about friendship for its own sake, without prejudice and without resentment, so that definitely describes me. … Maybe [my top vice] is envy, I guess. … It's been sort of a personal transition to move beyond, to be able to really, authentically support somebody else when they are doing something great, and to not actually feel that little bit of envy for that person. I feel like I'm way, way further now, but it was something that has been a journey, realizing that someone else's success is not a zero-sum game. Them being successful has nothing to do with my level of success."

Q: Do you have a favourite TV show or film?

A: "I hate movies. I don't watch them. I really do. I can't do it. I don't dissociate from like—most people in a movie theatre, my husband will make me go once in a while, and everybody else that's there is immersed in the movie and watching, and I'm still in the room. I can't dissociate from the room, and I'm like, 'God, we've been here a long time.' So I don't watch any movies hardly at all. TV, it's either the news and things like that, or it's like way at the other end of the spectrum, The Real Housewives. ... I think I go, go, go, go, go at just as much capacity as I possibly can, until I just can't anymore, so at some point at the end of the day, I'm like click ... and that's when The Real Housewives come on. (laughs)"

Q: What is your favourite book?

A: "Oh man, that is really, really, really hard. This is gonna sound so cheesy, and maybe it's just because it has a special place in my heart, and it got me through a really rough time period in graduate school, and maybe it's because I'm excited to read it to my daughter. Super cheesy, not like me, the Harry Potter series. I just loved those books. I love that since they've been out, there's been a lot of research showing that kids who read them are more accepting of other people and of diversity. I love that, and I'm really excited for my daughter to be of an age where I can read them to her. And I love J. K. Rowling's story of just going from nothing to this titan that she is now, and the way she's handled herself when she's gotten there."

Q: [With the exception of the Harry Potter series] it seems like you don't really like fiction. Was this always the case, or was there a moment when you decided you weren't doing that anymore?

A: "I think I have always really loved to learn, and I've always loved the mental challenge of learning. I mean I'm never not taking a class, even now. I'm a Coursera junky. I'm completely addicted to that type of thing, and so I like nonfiction because it does that for me. ... I joke that if I ever retired now, I would have 10 PhD's by the time I was dead, because I would just go to school, like I wouldn't stop."

Q: If you had one message for the world, what would it be?

A: "Life is short and take this experience that you have here—take it seriously. And by that I mean show up every day and make the most of it, as much as you possibly can. You can take risks with it, you can try new things with it, like go out and get some experiences, because your time here is just so short. I would encourage everybody to use it to its fullest, and take it seriously that your time here is not guaranteed and it's not long. … Most of the time the risks that you are contemplating taking, usually the worst case scenario isn't actually that bad, and usually the worst case scenario is not likely to happen. More so, you are likely to miss out on an amazing experience by being afraid of taking a risk. That ability to move forward in the face of fear, to take the risk even though you're nervous—'cause everyone's scared, everyone's nervous, but some people act even though they are—it's a muscle, and you can elevate your threshold and your ability to handle fear responses. And your risk tolerance, you can push that level up if you work on it, and it's so worth it. I think about where I was when I was living in my small hometown, when I moved to undergrad, just the fears that I had, the anxieties that I had, how that felt and how I feel now, having diligently worked on my risk tolerance and the way that I react when I'm afraid. I'm so grateful for every experience that I've had, because literally if I died tomorrow, I'd be like, 'Damn, that was fun. Yeah, I got a big list of stuff I still wanna do, but damn, that was fun.' And I really want that for everyone, to be able to feel that, that they didn't avoid doing everything because they were so afraid of it."

Q: What are you most afraid of?

A: "Like legit, things that scare me, I'm afraid of fish. I scuba dive and I'm afraid of fish, like a lot afraid of fish. I have these weird little phobias, like I'm afraid of—these all sort of package together—I'm afraid of balloons popping, I'm afraid of pulling chopsticks apart, I'm afraid of opening champagne bottles, anything where I'm like, 'Oh my god, when's it gonna happen?!' I can’t handle the anticipation. I can't do it. So like stupid things day to day. Broader, and this is getting sort of deep a little bit, but I'm afraid of losing people that I love. I lost my dad growing up when I was very young. I lost my stepdad more recently, and I think when you go through those experiences, especially given the non-religious leanings that I have, you realize how precious it is when we're here."

Q: When you're not working, what are some of your hobbies?

A: "Well, I am sort of an experience junky. These days I spend a tonne of time chasing after a one-year-old. She started walking at 10 months, so I chase after her, but in general I really like adventure sports, so I have my skydive licence. I haven't jumped since I had the baby. … My husband and I are both scuba-certified, so we love that kind of stuff. I love to cook. I love really complicated new recipes, and I like reading nonfiction related stuff. I fill up every minute of the day. I'm not a very good person to sit still. I don't allow myself to have any margin."

Q: What's your most prized possession?

A: "I'm sort of a believer in tangible things that help remind me of people. So I have my grandmother's recipe book from when she was married to my grandpa, who I never met. He passed away when my dad was 16. This was her recipe book that she cut out recipes from the newspaper decades ago. She only went to school through I think the fifth grade, so she can't spell very well, and she would write these notes in this recipe book about which recipes were really good and who was there when she served them. And it's funny because growing up German, we ate a lot of German food, and it was a lot of her food, but the recipes are like indecipherable. 'Step 1: make a good dough.' There's no ingredients, you should just know how to do this. So it's always fun to take on the challenge of making one of her recipes, because it takes me like nine times before it starts to look like food, (laughing) because I can't figure out what is in it, and how much."

Random April Facts

If she could pack up right now and live in another country for six months she would choose Vienna, Austria, where one of her great friends lives; Tanzania, where she and her husband went for their honeymoon; or to Iceland, which she says looks so beautiful and the hiking looks amazing.

April is currently reading Tools of Titans by Timothy Ferriss, about the things he has learned from all the amazing people he's interviewed; and The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women by Valerie Young, "all about thriving, even when you have sort of the impostor syndrome."

She believed that she would never get married, and remembers thinking, "I will never ever, ever be able to say 'yes' to somebody, I'll never be able to be certain enough about somebody that I would say 'yes' to them if they asked me to marry them." But then when her husband proposed, April says that saying yes "was the easiest thing" she's ever done.

Follow April:

The Official Site of April Seifert