D&I - diversity and inclusion & depth and innovation

In life and in situations at large, the way out is through - it’s that keep at it attitude, for the win(FTW).  However, when you are a kid who discovers that showing up fully self-expressed makes you a target for angst and hostility - staying the course, does not feel like the good way out. As a kid, I didn’t have braces, big glasses or look like Urkel, but I was picked on, pretty much every time I opened my mouth. I was not so typical, and that not-typical-ness made me an easy target. I was a girl and I was loud. I didn’t have much regard or awareness for the importance of building meaningful friendships. I was literally oblivious to what would make me likable to others. I wore my hair short. I was attentive and super vocal. I desperately wanted to be the teacher’s favorite and have all of the right answers. Furthermore, It always seemed that I was alone in my struggles. Singled out by others, and then feeling isolated, feeling pain, and feeling different - was my normal, for years (and still is sometimes). I was held back from recess as punishment for not remaining still in my chair. I was in detention for shoving a boy, who was badgering me, followed by warning after warning on the volume of my voice. Struggling, when things seemed effortless for everyone else, was the situation. Eventually, I realized that my FTW survival tactic was blend in and get thick skin, for the win.

I got good at the - look away, ignore, pretend that nothing is happening, turn the other cheek, change the subject of conversation, just smile, apologize and move on... But, my getting good at not engaging and raging - didn’t halt the actual getting picked-on. In early high-school this group of boys would taunt me - mocking how I held myself, and the speed in which I shuffled down the hallway. I really liked wearing ball caps on backwards, and that lead to teasing and name calling. I was made fun of for my outfit choices. I was unwilling to supply my younger brother with beer or drive him and his friends around in my car, so his friends would call me gay, as an insult to my character.

And, let’s face it, I never actually became masterful at truly tuning out hate. I just learned tactics to dampen conflict. Hate seemed to keep finding me, and thus I kept running away from it.

Turning my back to hostility, steered me toward people, groups, environments, jobs, and organizations where it seemed super unlikely that I would not be the one, who was different. This meant that I sought places where people looked like me, thought like me, did things I liked to do. If I looked for places where assimilation seemed highly probable, which meant i blended in, and meant avoiding diversity, I could consequently avoid being hated-on - and not just cope with the pain that followed.  

The compounding impact of leaning into my desire to avoid being othered coupled with desire to seek out a sense of belonging, was a network of people around me that were, literally, just like me. I found myself in communities of white, wealthy, highly privileged, gay, jewish, urban dwellers who were educated, voted blue, get their media fix from NPR and the New York Times - amongst those who have traveled often and far, who have health insurance, who are interested in healthy habits, and who do not differ on whether or not, civilian gun laws in the US should or should not be sensibly tightened. In my world, the everyone opposes the religious right, and has an sincere  interest in their own unconscious bias.


When I was 22 I got heavily involved in a yoga organization - I first participated in every yoga training they offered, and then worked for the organization. This group was so attractive to me - I aspired to be like all of the senior leaders.  I associated qualities inside myself that were alike to others inside of the organization. I was attractive, didn’t wear a ton of make-up, was athletic in stature, was stylish, had boundless energy, was really curious and open to new things, was seeking deeper meaning from life - and so was everyone else. I looked, sounded, and felt totally typical.  There was a strong commonality amongst everyone in the group - the lens in which we saw the world was glaringly similar. For maybe the first time in my life, I really felt like I fit-in, and it was the best feeling in the world. I wasn’t waiting to be picked-on or bullied, I wasn’t putting on a mask and tense with anticipation and desire. I was at ease, and able to relish in a feel good environment.


When an organization/brand has a strong specificity within the people they attract [and aim to attract], they intentionally or unintentionally breed exclusivity. If you don’t identify with the core-sameness of the group, you are likely a culprit of exclusion from specificity.  If you are an employee or consumer akin to the unique set of specific qualities emanating from the brand, then it is likely that you feel seen, identified-with, a sense of attraction, a desire for immersion, a sense of belonging, and maybe a need to attach. The “omg,yes,that’s me!” draws you in and feels good. On the other hand,  if the essence that is projected by the brand is something that you aspire to identify with, yet the identity(s) that you claim are not represented - your pull toward the brand will be less substantial. History teaches us that when we see ourselves as different, we approach with pause, will-I or will-I-not be welcomed?

Inclusivity occurs when people who fit the brand image and those who don’t fit the brand image feel welcomed. Diversity occurs as we expand brand messaging to attract a more diverse crowd. But diversity does not bread inclusivity, sometimes diversity breeds assimilation. Sometimes diversity breeds segregation. Exclusivity is prevalent when those who want in (1) knock on the door but are not welcomed inside (2) are not encouraged to come to the door and knock (3) walk right in, but look around feel ‘othered’.

In 2015 I was participating in a leadership training with this yoga organization. It was a classroom style setting - the facilitator was presenting with slides, my peers and I were sitting in rows, in chairs. The facilitator presented a scenario to amplify her message - the example was gender normative, gender binary, heteronormative, and absolute. I felt instantaneously isolated. I was in a place where I had a history of feeling the utmost sense of belonging, through the absence of feeling othered, and her words landed like an earthquake in my body. Everything was not copesetic, I could not relate to what she was saying. When I took a look around the room at my peers, I immediately saw that the intensity of my feelings was different, and was not what was happening for the rest of the room. I was in my seat, unsure if what was happening for me would be welcomed or shunned. In this moment, I had a choice  - use my voice or don’t. Contribute a point of view that was different than the one being presented, or don’t. Continue to allow my individuality to be over-ridden by my desire to belong, or risk being ‘othered’.

In the year following that experience,  I was at a conference, where the c-level HR exec took the stage, and in her speech she said, something like — show of hands, who considers themselves a minority? Even with pause, I didn’t raise my hand. I am gay. I am jewish. I am in recovery from a childhood of gender representation discrimination. I was also the only gay jew in my peer group, also within my bosses peer group. But, I could easily pass as one of the majority. The majority of my peers where het-norm female identifying athletes and I am a white female identifying athlete. I was not privileged to declare myself as a minority, I have the privilege of looking like I fit in.  In this situation, wealth, education, priviledge, assimilation, and the color of my skin stopped me from identifying as a minority.


I wrestle with a strong desire to emphasize what makes me fit, and not what ‘others’ me. I value connection over (just about) everything.

Coming-out, speaking-up, standing-proudly-in who you are - means getting really real about what makes you, you, and then embodying the value of it. When we choose to nurture our appetite for assimilation over cultivating courageous communication - we hose our communities and organizations of the positive impact that diversity inherently generates. When we couple the capacity to speak about who we are, with vigor and a true willingness to risk, that in order to find connection you don’t need to seek or draw-out sameness.

I am still afraid of being being picked-on, teased, mocked, and misunderstood when I speak-up. But I know that no one sees the world exactly as I do. And, it might be my job to use my point of view as a tool to generate diversity and risk emotional pain for the potential of positive transformation.



really now, say it how it is.

What if future generations learned to lean into courage and not perfection, and what if we support and develop leaders who create conditions that don't foster excellence derived from perfection...

I admit bluntly that I spent YEARS building an efficacy in my ability to provide the perfect response, to an obviously unfavorable result.

I have a bad-ass arsenal of comebacks - I’m so good, I got it, I can handle it,  I’m fine, I learned so much, it’s handled, It was great and now I am so clear on what to work-on, I’m totally fine, I can handle anything- really,  it was such a good experience, I got it, it’s no problem, I got that too.

 

It is not probable to always be on top, to not make a mistake, to always have it handled. But damn, did I try my absolute hardest to deal with my imperfection, perfectly. 

Take every blow like a champ and I'll be real winner.  

Taking it back, to the 90s and 00s - I swam. I was a great swimmer, and I was not the best swimmer. I started my love affair with chlorine at age 7, as a default because I wasn't walking well enough to join the soccer team due to a sorta major ski accident. This, then default, activity ruled my world for the next 11 years. Everything revolved around performance in the pool, and my performance in the pool was more important to me than anything else. I was invested and committed and loyal to my path toward achievement. I achieved over and over, getting faster, getting new accolades, implementing new ways of training to yield new results. By most standards, I excelled. I was fast, had solid technique, and was committed. Yet, I was never the fastest, the one with the best time, the best credentials, or the one favored to excel. On the school-front, in academics, my results were kinda-similarsimilar. Like SuperGood, Not Gold Medal Winner or Valedictorian - and, to me it was disappointment, frustration, and failure a-plenty. Now, know I was never shunned, or made wrong for not being the one on-top, the Champion, or a 4.0er.  I was trained to know that It was ok to not win, to not be the favorite, to not be at the top, and that sometimes unfavorable things happened.

In my world, there was a right way and a wrong way to handle any level of disappointment, failure, and frustration. The right way was to have a i'm not-bothered, I'm not broken, I'm not hurt, I'm good, I'm happy with myself no-matter what, and I'm fine way of being. The clear expectation was - demonstrate absolute ease and positivity, always and no matter what. 

Overtime, this meant that what was happening for me emotionally was NOT what I was demonstrating to the world. I was so practiced in communicating the champion answer, I was so un-practiced and im-mature in authentic communications skills. I didn't have an efficacy in expressing my range of emotions. I didn't know how to actually translate what I felt into what I said. I was good, always good, no matter what good, the answer - good. I had no training in identifying my real answer.  Today, my favorite question to ask someone who is inside of an experience of failure or frustration or disappointment is - How is this [whatever is happening] working out for you? It is almost impossible to answer the question with a good, when you're actually experiencing something that doesn't feel so good. 

Two things happen when we play pretend :  (1) we discover that we have buried ourselves under some seriously thick armor. (2) we don't ever get what's needed to recover - because we can't even identify what to ask for. 

As a human, when your words don't line up with what your body is saying, it becomes very weird to communicate with you. When you say things like, "it's no problem", to the friend that bailed last minute on the dinner plans that you had been looking forward to with excitement all day, but what you want to say is "i'm bummed, can we reschedule?", the trust that your people have in you fades - because you are not telling the truth.

I now know that I love to win.  Sometimes I am good with not winning, and find joy in the process without attachment to the outcome. Other times, I get upset, angry, and frustrated that my performance didn't cut it and that I wasn't picked and I wasn't the champ - and, in these times I now know that I have options. (1) Pretend I'm not upset, angry, or frustrate (2) Bring forth courage to experience myself as fragile and delicate. 

When we learn how to communicate the truth - we experience that the truth will set you free - and, even rescue you from the downward spiral that identification with failure creates. 

To have compassion and acceptance for your range of emotions and to greet others with compassion when the expression of their emotions, ain't sitting' so well with you - is the real kind of superb human strength.

 

 

 

 

 

 

a learnings list - NOT an advice column.

1 - see yourself in everyone, and don’t collapse yourself or your POVs (point of views) onto anyone - your work is to help your people see more than the POV that they already have - expand their POV and don’t give them yours, it’s just yours.

 

2 - F*ck the agree/disagree game. Play in the seek to understand mode. Share-share-share, even when what you want to share doesn't appear to be directly relevant. When you lead with, what you agree-on or disagree-with, you inherently shrink and limit the conversation.

3 - body language and cadence of communication will give you insight - insight into your inner-workings and insight into others. So, get present enough that you can witness yourself AND who’s around you.

4 - pick one thing to rally people around, stick to it, tie all of your other strategies and projects to it. It’s a way to get all of your people in-on and connected to a bigger picture. Buy-in goes a long way.

5 - create a measure for everything - it will generate a healthy achievement driven culture.

6 - not all feedback needs to be shared. period.

7 - get yourself clear everyday, and all of the time. If you don’t, your sh*t will start to get out onto your team, and everything will stink.

8 - whatever you create the conditions for, you will get. If you create the conditions for complaint, you will get complaint, if you create the conditions for open communication, you will get open communication.

9 - alignment produces desired results, not balance. Balance is an inside-sport, don’t let other people tell you what it is and what it isn’t.

10 - keep one eye 6 months out. It keeps it fun and keeps your quick-fix mode in-check.

11 - teach people how to communicate from, what happened - their stories will drive you crazy and leave you confused.

12 - watch for excitement in others.

13 - remember everyone’s name.

14 - know your end-game ( and filter for it - this is my way of saying learn what isn’t a fit, and say no, early).

15 - always create new shit, and pull a take-2 card any-time you need a re-do.

16 - generate - generate - generate, but don’t reinvent unless you are solving for something.

17 - you are either on the up-tic or the down-tic, there is no such thing as chilling on the flat-line. Keep people close who will call your bullshit, and don’t cry wolf.

18 - learn how to get behind ideas and plans that you don’t like - when you fail at this, you will like yourself and your circumstances even less.

19 - people come into see people. We can buy a better everything online ( product and information ). Make the experience in your physical space your value-add.

20 - the best measure of success is when you witness that your creation produces joy around you.

21 - know your cash flow, know how many people you need to interact with in order to make the money you want to make.

22 - stay away from the one-up game - in conversation and in action,  it’s shady business.

23 - allow your people to leave.

24 - business is not fair and the rules of the game are not fair. Hire people who get that.

25 - everything changes, so you are only as good as you are with change.

26 - put aside time to meet new people, people hold the keys, the keys that unlock anything that you want to open.

27 - always come from right now is all you’ve got. Stand tall so that you can be heard.

28 - be ok with rejection, and you don’t have to make it look pretty, or smell good - just be ok with it.

29 - look the part, perception is gold.

hashtag live your best life.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is by David Foster Wallace, he says, “True freedom means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to, and to choose how you construct meaning from experience. Because, if you can not exercise this kind of choice in adult life, you will be totally hosed.”

Here’s what I think is true: the more that people are courageous enough to share about themselves, and share the direct experiences they have, the more mindful we become as a collective group of humans. As individuals, the more practiced we become at understanding where we direct our attention, moment to moment, the more fruits will be produced by your labor. This is a free-will planet, which means that at the crux of it, we have the ability to shape and direct the course of our lives. It’s easy to see that in moments where there is an obvious decision to make, like to or not to get divorced, to-or-not-to take your mother off life support, to or not-to take a pay-cut for a dream job -  you exercise your innate free-will to choose a course. For most of us, our capacity to exercise free-will is less obvious moment to moment. We make thousands upon thousands of choices everyday - some we make with the utmost level of attention, others, happen on default and in reaction.

 

 

 

There are a whole heck of a lot of people out here in this world who will preach and preach about the human spiritual, logistical, and emotional capacity to make your future, and your whole life, the life of your dreams. I have a deep seeded fear of becoming a glib voice, behind a feel-good good url, or one of the many life-coaches, speakers for hire, and motivationalists who are ready to tell you all about limitless potential and freedom - that you can create anything you want for yourself. Dear human who is after the ra-ra self-expansion package, go pick-up the full collection of  Florence Scovel Shinn’s pre-depression era writings and you will be ahead of the curve , and on your way to intellectual proficiency of transformational self-talk.

 

In my professional experience thus far, not as a life-coach, but as a boss, a recruiter, and a strategist, I have learned that someone who consistently shows up unreactive, unmessable with, unencumbered by the art of making their services look good, not seeking the production of pleasure for others, and without attachment to their desired outcome - is the best illustration of the kind of freedom that I’m after - efficacy in ability to expose your experiences.  The work behind the scenes to produce the courage to speak from I, to tell people how you extract meaning, to share the objective and subjective clearly, to produce an impact, to share themselves generously, with gut-wrenching truth, with others.


To know yourself is to know what you want; to know when you show-up for others as your best, as one-hundred-percent; to know what circumstances you thrive in; to know when you occur for others as powerful; to know how you leave people feeling, to know what’s missing from a party when you are not in attendance; to know what your unique gifts are; to know what you want to contribute to the planet - and to live your adult life, without this knowledge, you are about to be totally hosed...