Fighting For What You Believe In: How Big Is Your Brave?

Whenever you stand for a cause, raise your voice in connection to an issue or movement, pick a side, there will always be opposition.

When you have a cause that does not hurt others, the next step is figuring out how to get others to care. There will be those who do care automatically because the same issue may be close to their hearts but how can you appeal to people who just do not agree?

I wholeheartedly believe that in order to make true, lasting change in this world, you cannot strong arm your point.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

People argue all the time when they feel so strongly in how right they are and the person they feel is wrong just needs to see, believe and follow.

Last summer, I flew to London for the Aspire Foundation, Trailblazing Leadership conference. It was one of the single most impactful and inspiring trips I have had in my life.

Even months later, I am still practicing and preaching what I learned. I still go over my event notes and reflect on the goals I set during that event and get excited about the goals I made progress on. 

One page in my notes inspired today’s post. Session 6 of the event was titled “The M.A.D. Leadership Movement.” M.A.D. stands for Making A Difference.

That session was led by Brita Schmidt, Exceutive Director of Women for Women International. She talked about her challenges traveling the world and having difficult conversations with people who do not see the value in equality for women. She also talked about how necessary those challenges are in order to make a difference and achieve the goals to achieve equality in nations all over the world.

Brita has outstanding energy and passion for what she does. It is easy to talk about your passion with like-minded people but how do you keep that same passion and impact those who do not care?

Brita talked really practically about how we could make differences in our own respectives movements. Your movement could be gender, wage or racial equality. Your movement could be linked to education, the arts, workforce development, the criminal justice system, environmental issues or whatever you are passionate about getting others to care about too.

Brita talked about sometimes needing to dial down her energy and meet people where they are before turning up the volume up by a little. It is important to:

1. Know Your Audience
She talked about having to discuss why people should care about what she was fighting for. She would try to discuss women equality in nations where that is not the norm or with powerful business investers who were men and wanted to see the numbers over hearing the powerful life stories of the women she worked with and wanting change because of that.

Brita had to know her audience and use that to build their trust of her and thus her influence with them. She had to gain their respect and offer solutions instead of just telling them they were wrong and she was right. She did not change her passionate message but sometimes had to package it differently. Have you ever needed to do that? 

In countries where it is difficult, Brita might appeal to the men with training, resources and ideas that are helping them see the value in treating women equally without directly disrespecting traditions or values. When she meets with men who will ignore her emotional stories, she prepares the reports and numbers so she can still provide the stories but in a form that grants her an audience with the policy and changemakers.

Sometimes it is necessary to be creative about making a difference if you want to be taken seriously.

The other big thing to remember is:

2. Be Patient
When we see the need for change whether at work, at home, major worldly injustices or anything else, patience is required. To right injustices, seeds of justice must be planted and cultivated to outgrow the injustices. When the new tree is mature, it can no longer give root to what came before it.

I want it to happen overnight too. But it won’t even when you have waited far too long already.

3. Be the Change You Wish to See
Take action today.

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. …We need not wait to see what others do.”

Mahatma Gandhi

In this world today there is a lot of hurt. Hurt people, hurt people. A lot of little changes would make all the difference. There will always be opposition but when there is opportunity to make change, take it and include others along with you.

Every chance to make the world a more thoughtful, safe and welcoming place will increase your brave. May you always be brave and wise enough to navigate the complicated streets we all live on.

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Life Is Not A Game Of Luck: What I Learned From Losing $1.6 Billion

So unless you have been living under a rock in the US, you have probably heard about the insane Powerball jackpot that kept rising and rising.

We now have news that at the highest powerball in history, there were 3 winning tickets pulled last week.

As the jackpot grew so did the eyes and greed of anyone who could throw $2 as many times as possible towards a ticket.

I, too, fell for the hype. I brought 3 tickets when the Powerball was about $400-something million. I did not even fully understand if I bought the tickets right but that did not matter. I was part of the gold rush of it all. I did not win of course after that so I said, screw it. Clearly gambling my future with 6 numbers is not for me.

A few days later when the jackpot rose, my work comrades had joined forces to buy a ticket for everyone in the pool. If one ticket in the group won we would split it evenly which at the time amounted to something like $47 million each.

I refused for days until I was like, what if they do win and I turn out to be the sucker who lost a chance at $47 mil over $2? I drank the peer pressure kool-aid and joined the crowd, thinking maybe we had a real shot. Statistically though, the chances were like 1 in 175 million at least. The office energy around it was high and fun.

I normally would not do a group thing but my co-workers are amazing, trustworthy, honest human beings and I knew the chances of us being on The First 48 due to a lottery winner snapping off, was low. This was the right crew to do business with. I was on the ready to call my student loan providers to settle all my college debt fully and finally. I was skeptical of really winning but wanted it for all of us. It was fun to take a chance.

That’s the thing, it’s taking a chance. I lost $8 total in my first and last Powerball craze but some people spend $500, $100K or much more for just a shot…a chance to go big or go home. Unfortunately, almost everyone ends up at home looking sour in the face.

We want to believe we might have gotten the magic touch that day and this will be the one to change everything. I want to believe in the magic too and wish if I wished hard enough, things I want would just happen.

Maybe they don’t because the chances are too slim and they always have been. Maybe they don’t because what I think I want won’t be as satisfying if it comes without earning and preparing for it. Maybe they don’t because life just doesn’t work like that.

I hope the people who did win the lottery have their priorities in order and respect the immense life alteration they fell into. I hope they are not ravaged by those around them and will maintain dignity. I hope they gain wisdom and lose vultures. I hope it adds good to their lives and they do not end up poor, unfortunate souls who gave up their privacy and life for fame and fortune.

We all know money is necessary and nice to have more than enough but money itself does not bring joy. If you do not have joy without money, you probably will not find much long-lasting happiness with it either. 

One of my favorite sayings is “Be Still and Know.” I am using that to close up the $8 hole I opened up in my expectations. Be still and know that what is for you, is for you.

There is no need to toss a dice of chance to get more quickly to any destination before my time. I will be still and know so instead, I will stay steady at busting my butt to work hard for what I want and need. Life is not merely a game of luck.

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Tell Me Your Story: Getting to Know Humanity One Tale at a Time

I always find myself wondering people’s stories.

When I meet someone new, I would rather jump right in. That’s probably the introvert in me. If you want to keep my attention in conversation, let’s talk about something with meaning. Leave the surface level topics for someone else.

Even when I meet up with friends or family, instead of asking, “How are you?” which never gets me anywhere near the truth, I would rather ask, “What’s your story?” or “Tell me something new.”

And the story always changes right? The story is ever evolving. I want to know whatever you’re willing to share.

I am eager to hear what lessons you have learned that could help me or anyone. I wonder how many would tell me if I asked questions like this. Like the stranger sitting next to me on the bus. I know asking in such a setting is not encouraged. Or what about that person on the street who intrigues me for one reason or another. What’s your story?

In a humorous way, I see myself walking through the streets like that random guy in Pretty Woman. What’s your dream??

Sometimes I just want to switch it up from Hi, how are you? Too many generic answers with no depth or truth or honesty most times. I hate that I do it too. It is such a habit to reply GOOD or FINE. What happens when we actually have a real answer but the asker already moved on?

So I love the work I do helping unemployed job seekers find work. The company culture of my office relies heavily on the power of stories.

We start every morning with a time of sharing stories in a daily meeting called Motivations. There is a new topic every day and the topic never allows anyone the chance to keep things surface level. The purpose of sharing a story in Motivations is to touch, move and inspire the group with your experience.

It helps energize everyone, gives a glimpse into your life and helps us relate more to one another. It builds community in our fast-paced work culture.

I think one of our challenges in the world today is we do not share enough with each other. We can use a lesson in walking in other people’s shoes to understand that their struggles, challenges, fears, anxieties, loves, joys, etc may not be so different from yours.

At the basic human level, we can share so much. We choose not to and instead build walls in an attempt to never welcome an “other” into our world.

Instead when we share, though our stories may still differ on many levels, we find a way to empathize and connect with one another in new ways. I do not have to live your life or have gone through all of your experiences but I can be impacted by your story.

I remember years ago I was in a grocery store line and an older couple was checking out in front of me. They said something to the cashier about being married over 60 years. So I started asking questions. Curiousity got the best of me and I was fascinated by their story.

I want to learn from the people around me as much as I can. I can only learn from people if they are willing to share with me.

Last year I was introduced to the StoryCorps organization and app. It is a cool way to capture recorded stories of anyone. You can ask them questions you create or use a pre-made list. It is a great way to do what I spent this whole post enouraging…hearing people’s stories.

I used my mom as my first subject after I downloaded the app. I learned so much more about her in just the 20 minute interview and it was inspiring and moving. I look forward to asking many more questions and learning plenty more from all those around me. I hope you will consider taking up the challenge.

So, what’s your story?

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Quieting the Inner Critic

The beginning of a year intimidates. It overwhelms. Well, if you let it.

We have to break the beast down to consume in smaller bites. It’s just 52 weeks and you handle it one day at a time.

The “new year, new you” and all that business should not be the focus. Yes, it’s a new year but why does it have to be a whole new you?

We should all evolve with time and so Jan 1 is not a reset on who you are or how you live.

Jan 1 is an opportunity to continue expanding on what you have already built. The project may take a different turn with a new year but no need to scrap the project altogether and start over.

I cannot, will not and did not throw away 2015 as soon as 2016 arrived. Instead I choose to build on it. It is a new 365 day journal that will have ups and downs, victories and failures. But having arrived at the beginning of the yearlong journey I cannot help but think of the saying, “How do you eat an elephant?  A: One bite at a time.”

Every year we express bewilderment in how quickly 365 days go. I was just toasting champagne at the final countdown into 2016 with what feels like 3 hours ago but in reality we are already 3 days into January.

We must mentally prepare for everything that lies ahead of us. The mind is brilliant and amazing. It works well for us but sometimes the mind seems to work against us.

We intimidate and limit ourselves at times with just our thoughts. Do you find yourself being your biggest critic? I know I do it far too often but it never does me any good.

The time I spend complaining or being critical of myself, I could be making real changes or positive impact in my life and others. I get some of it is human nature and not easy to turn off or walk away from our inner critic but we have to learn to quiet it so we can be productive.

As necessary as it is to be kind to others, it is also so important for you to be kind to yourself. You already have to fight so many battles and the courage to do so can best be found in the most trying times if you are kinder to yourself.

When the critical voice gets loud, tell it to be quiet or get lost.

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