Monday, October 27, 2014

What A White Guy Taught Me About The Future Of Inclusion

A few weeks ago, I saw something you rarely see in public.

A white male expressing his feelings of marginalization.

No, this was not related to race or economics what so ever. Rather, it was a long-time resident of a community expressing how much of an outsider one can be made to feel in that community with a rich heritage and tradition toward one particular group.

It was fascinating to me as a black woman in America listening to him explain minor instances of bias and slighted feelings he'd experienced as a member of this community. He concluded with a very convincing argument on why a more inclusive environment was needed and how he wanted to be part of the solution. He even challenged others in the room to join him. Further, it was more intriguing to watch his reaction as his peers marveled at his observations and bristled at his thoughts. That did not sit well with him, at all.

"I hear what you are saying, but I am telling you what I have seen and experienced first hand," were his exact words when questioned and pushed on his assertion that the community was not very inclusive.

As a facilitator of the discussion, I reeled it back in and guided the touchy moment to conclusion. However, it is swirled in my mind over and over again since that moment.

That is THE experience of women, minorities, people with disabilities and members of the LGBT community most every day of our lives in the United States of America. This ongoing discussion in our country on race, poverty, bias and discrimination is one that everyone has a vested interest in.  Especially white guys. And here's why:

That fear that we hear from the Tea Party and all those folks on Fox News about "taking our country" back is embedded in the thought that we (minorities) will somehow return the exclusive and biased behaviors we have faced for centuries. People are afraid that when we are the majority we will act toward them as they have acted  - passively and actively - toward us.

Let's be real.

Much like that man I heard speaking the other week about inclusiveness and equity in storytelling from his "marginalized" view, the minorities in our country feel the exact same way. We won't have time for revenge when our country gets its act together and brings us to the table in a meaningful way.

We, like the gentleman in my story, will be looking for ways to better contribute to a society that wants and appreciates our contributions. And also, like that man, we will move forward in this new reality that we helped bring about. Too many times a week, I hear people tell minorities, women or fill-in-the-blank-marginalized-group-in-America to "get over it," or "move on."

Well I'm here to tell you we won't. Just like the man in my story. You see, until he had a chance to express himself and get acknowledgment to what he was saying, it was going to be very difficult for him to see himself as part of the solution. Those "oppressors" (read long time community members who before he pointed it out - did not even KNOW there was a problem) in the room had to look him in the eye and agree or disagree - acknowledge that what he felt was real and needed to be addressed before he was going to "move on" from his hurt and feelings of being disenfranchised. He was not accusing anyone of that marginalization, just stating that it existed and needed to be addressed.

That is where we a nation need to start. Conversations. Discussions. Open dialogue about this crazy cycle we are in with each other. There are signs of hope. Lots of pockets of the country are beginning to have frank discussions about racism as an institution versus racist people. But more is needed. 

I am looking forward to the progress I know this community group will make because they had that tough discussion.

I'm also looking forward to the day we as a nation collectively have the same discussion.

Monday, October 20, 2014

No Online Scrapbooks For Me, Ever

My scrapbooking process could never be replaced
For the first time since December 2010 before I had my right arm surgically repaired for radial nerve damage, I sat down to create a scrapbook. It was a daunting task that I'd started preparing for since late spring.

Once I decided this was going to be the weekend to crank out a book, it was on. During my initial layout process, I was quickly overwhelmed at how much work, time and effort goes into these lovely masterpieces. My oldest has 7 of these to my baby's 3. And he cherishes the ones he has looking at them at least once per month. My intention is to finish two for him and catch both kids up to the calendar year 2010 and I'm on 2008 now. I'd even posted on social media that I'd only "catch-up" the old fashioned way until 2010 after which I'd buy the more efficient online versions of my scrapbooks.

Yet, once I started my creative process, saw the gorgeous photos of my sweet little boy and all the colors, stickers and markers - I ate those blasphemous words. I'll NEVER substitute my masterpieces for an online scrapbook and here's the reason why:

I love putting these books together.

These books represent much more than the pictures, scraps of paper and shells that hold them. Every loving moment I spend cropping pictures, reliving the moments I'm immortalizing - I am closer to my family. The process itself puts me in a state of gratitude that is rarely replicated with any other activity in my life. I only discovered that after NOT doing it for almost 4 years.  It really got me to thinking about how we replace things that are essential to our growth with lower value alternatives. I also love that for a fleeting moment, I thought I could replace this treasured process with a quick online substitute.

Thank goodness I cannot.

And while the process is much longer now with the urge to document it in social media, a nosy dachshund walking all over my materials and curious kids asking questions and giving input to photo selection, I would not ever change it.  My goal to get one book done this weekend looked more like 4 of 12 pages completed. I am completely overwhelmed at the thought of "catching up" and have no idea how, when I'll do it, but I know that I will complete my good old fashioned scrapbooks in due time.

No Shutterfly short cut will do.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Power of The Surrender

The white flag is not so bad in many situations
As a person who does not shrink from conflict nor passes up a fight, my whole psyche around the word surrender was so skewed.

Surrender was not a part of my vocabulary. The very thought of surrender takes me back to my childhood days of watching Tom and Jerry cartoons when after 10 straight minutes of abuse, Tom would wave that flag from around some corner signifying he was "done." Jerry had won. 

That imagery was my only frame of reference for the word surrender until a few years ago.  During one of my first Bio Energetic Synchronization Techniques (B. E. S. T.) sessions, I was enlightened to understand surrender a different way.  Looking at dictionary definitions only reinforced my resistance to surrender in the way that is truly healthy and life affirming. Then I found this definition online:

Surrender: To give yourself up to a new emotion or course or influence.

That definition captures beautifully the true power of surrender. For type A, Eneagram Type 8 or ENFJs like myself, it is the only way to look at surrender. Here are two ways I have converted surrender into a powerful life tool for me.

Better Energy Management

Surrendering has enabled me to better manage my energy. Without question, one of my biggest assets as a person is my high powered, influential and positive energy. I get so much done when I direct my energy well.  Over the last 3 years as I learned to surrender outcomes - specifically not being married to the "how" something comes about, I have been able to focus my energy in ways that are too numerous to list. The best area I've learned this has been in my relationships. Surrendering outcomes with people has benefited me the most and enabled me to focus my best energies on being with and enjoying the people I choose to do life and business with daily. Additionally, as a entrepreneur, it has benefited my bottom line. My prospecting and sales process has been transformed. Focusing my energy on what I do best and telling that story well consistently, has fueled my young business's growth. All my new energy management efficiencies can be attributed to my ability to surrender.

Broadened Possibilities 

With my energy free from resistance, I see bigger and better possibilities for almost all situations that come my way. Good or bad. Personal or professional. The power of surrender has enabled me to broaden my perspective on everything in every way. For example, more than a year ago, I made a decision for myself. I shared it with my husband and he was not too keen on it. Instead of focusing energy on convincing him, I gently withdrew the subject from our airspace and focused on my part of the decision. I focused my energy on bringing it about and let go of the specifics. Fast forward to now, not only are we moving in the direction I originally desired, but my entire family including my husband are all excited about the new possibilities that await us. Further, we have not been shaken by the unfortunate set of circumstances that have enabled the change of direction. We can all see how every bit of this transition has purpose for each one of us.  Without releasing my narrow view of surrender, I am certain this would not be possible.

Today, I challenge you to look at ways you may employ surrender - the way I have defined it above - in your life. Are there areas of your work life that need surrendering? Could a personal relationship of yours use some surrendering powers?

Wherever you find yourself running into similar circumstances with familiar results - take a moment to look at ways where you may surrender and take back your energy and broaden the possibilities.

Monday, October 6, 2014

How Well Do You Pivot?

Are you ready for any of the paths that lie before you today?

Over the last month, Relationships Matter Now forged a new stream of work that has been very fulfilling and intriguing. Stemming from a relationship we've been cultivating all summer, we now have entered an area of work that did not exist for us when 2014 began. As exciting and terrifying as it's been, I am so impressed that we were able to take advantage of the opportunity when it presented itself to us. This whole experience got me thinking and inspired me to ask the question of my tribe -

How well do you pivot?

The dictionary definition of pivot did not quite fit exactly the context by which I am using this word but the number one synonym does: turn. How well do you or your business "turn"? In the 4 year history of Relationships Matter Now, we have evolved and grown simply due to our incredible ability to "turn." Here are three things we've done to make that possible.

Have Purpose 

Relationships Matter Now has always had a solid purpose in place - to "change the world, one relationship at a time." I can remember when folks questioned our purpose and I stood firmly in my conviction for my company. While it may be "squishy" to some or seem like a "tag line" - our purpose is real and every decision we make hinges on it paying off that purpose.  When you are crystal clear about why you exist, it is easy to create opportunity for yourself.  Now, please be sure and note that I am speaking about purpose - why you get up every day, why you open the doors of your business and the very thing that motivates you to do what you do. Purpose must be in place as a very first step to being able to pivot.

Develop Clear Repeatable Model

Before late in 2013, the way Relationships Matter Now delivered services was clear but it was not articulated. Because of this lack of articulation, there were times when we deviated from our delivery methodology and it hurt us. Once we captured, documented and branded our delivery model, we saw an immediate boost in our business. Without a clear repeatable model, you are doomed to "recreate" your work each time. This has personal implications as well. Think about the way you make decisions or operate. If you are not consistent, you will find yourself creating extra work each time you encounter a situation - perhaps the same situation you faced before. Having a clear and consistent way of executing saves you time and effort.

Be Ready

Readiness is the most important aspect of being able to pivot toward opportunity. Readiness looks different for different people and businesses. For Relationships Matter Now, we recognize readiness in our ability to apply the previous two items to a new area of work. Does the possible opportunity align with our purpose? Can we see ourselves making an impact quickly? Does our methodology work with this new area? Can we apply our expertise with this audience? After answering most or all of these questions in the affirmative, we immediately go to work building time to brainstorm around the new possibility. Then we quickly decide if it worth pursuing. Readiness also consists of being open to new ways to apply our talents and skills. We are not married to how or where we apply our work, just married to the ability to do it often.

The ability to pivot toward opportunity can be the difference between existing and thriving. Many people and businesses struggle to pivot and thus have difficulty growing and changing in the ways that could benefit them most. We hope you will that the time to discover what it takes to pivot in your life and/or business today.