Both/And vs. Either/Or

I believe in both and NOT either or

 I refuse to believe humanity is this intellectually poor.

How did we get here?

Where your fear 

is translated as me not having a care 

and leads to despair.

Impulse is to react, react, react.

It’s like we've signed a contract that we can’t retract to overact. 

Meanwhile, we've lost sight of the many voices around us. 

Voices that can’t compete because they aren’t loud enough. 

Now THEY think they aren’t enough. 

But even YOU must admit that being this invisible is pretty rough. 

These days, it seems like we only have two options 

My way or your way. 

It doesn’t matter what I say, anyway.

We have created binary systems to govern the nuance.

Where is the balance? 

I’m just as guilty. I’m no innocent. 

But as I sit with my thoughts and inspect, 

I can start to see the cause of the confusion

and the blurry vision.

The whole picture just isn’t being seen and no one is clean.

We need to examine our lenses and take down our fences.

If we address our blind spots, 

we can connect the dots. 

Next time you want to tell a story from your perspective, 

be more inventive and think of the collective. 

Next time you ask a question, let it be open ended instead of close minded. 

Step back to look at the whole picture.

You'll see that we are a beautiful and complex mixture. 

Examine the canvas frame by frame 

It will be hard, but do it all the same.

Move past homogeneity and create spaces for more forms of identity. 

We all need to apply this sensitivity.

Please don’t ignore this because that’s how we got here in the first place

where what’s limited now is grace.  

Seek to affirm not and not to confirm.

Remember, people want to be heard. 

They don’t want to be a part of your herd.

Life should be liberating and enriching 

not selective and elusive. 

Your presence should invite other forms of existence. 

I believe in both and NOT either or. 

Walls vs. Bridges

I reached out to connect. 

But I was met with no interest. 

My bridge came crashing into your wall. 

I wondered what caused this stall. 

Will it ever fall?

So I sat and observed

as you continued to layer your walls 

with bricks of sameness, fear, hate and a false sense of security. 

This is how you found your happy. 

To you, I’ve never been an option 

I seem to be as dark and unknown as what’s hidden in the depths of the ocean. 

Instead of getting to know me, 

you’ve weaponized your friends and family to be afraid of me. 

These stories you tell of me 

They are exaggerated and limited. 

These walls you built to protect yourself from me. 

 They are enclosed spaces with the same ole faces. 

Here’s what you’ve missed while living in your bubble.

your barriers have become outliers. 

your limited scope has inspired hope.

I will not just be tolerated. I will be appreciated

As your walls continue to crack, and you continue to attack,

my revolution will be televised and I will no longer be generalized.

I reached out to connect. 

But I was met with no interest.

My bridge came crashing into your wall and caused it to fall.

I looked behind me and I saw I wasn't alone.

Together, we built a bridge and knocked down the walls.

The Lost Art Of Nuance

What will society look like in the future? This is a question I ask myself often. Particularly because of the increasing digitalization and globalization of the world.

Will we be more divided or united?

Will we be more tribalistic or inclusive?

I ask myself this question a lot because I notice that many systems today promote a binary way of thinking. You have to choose this or that, and if you choose that, you’re an enemy of this.

There’s no room for nuance, it seems. What this does is put up invisible walls and barriers before we get to know others.

The reality is that we live in a world of nuance governed by binary systems. We promote a culture of debate and division without critical thinking. I am not saying debate isn’t good. My friends will tell you that I love debate as much as the next person. What I’m talking about here is when we debate things we fully don’t understand. I see this a lot on TV, whether it’s sports or politics. A lot of what I see seems to be the promotion of caricatures, generalities and stereotypes instead of individuality and intersectionality.

All you need to say is a trigger word, and boom. All gloves are off. Some people know this and use it to rile people up in order to perpetuate certain narratives, and others don’t feel like they can say anything because they risk offending others.

I fear that we are promoting an us-versus-them narrative instead of a us-with-them narrative.

That’s why we get into this bad habit of viewing states, countries, cities and nationalities as one personality.

“Oh, you’re from here, so you must be this.”

“You look like that? There’s no way you’ll understand this.”

“That’s your religion? Then you must be conservative.”

Growing up in two dictatorships, I saw how governments used these types of binary thinking to advance a message or policy to promote propaganda. It’s how colonialism and slavery grew — divide people into groups and label them enemies before even knowing them or giving them a chance to connect.

I want to promote a different way of thinking though, one I call “Nuanced Intersectionalism.” It is a framework for understanding how a variety of beliefs and identities can exist and intersect simultaneously.

In order to train our minds to practice this, I propose the following methods: Reconcile paradoxes, have a growth mindset and create room for growth.

Reconcile Paradoxes: Reconciling paradoxes involves questioning conventions and considering unorthodox perspectives to us. Some of the foundational concepts in life contradict each other. For example:

You need to fail to succeed.

The more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know anything.

Sometimes the things we hate in others are the things we hate in ourselves. So, this being the case, why not consider going into environments that on the surface look like places you wouldn’t find yourself in regularly. I think you’ll surprise yourself with what you learn. If you’re a man and there’s a conference for women, go. If you’re not a person of color and and there’s a conference for people of color, go to it.

This is how empathy, perspective taking and humanization starts.

You’ll find yourself separating your stereotypes from reality if you make this a habit. You’ll also start to see people as full humans instead of exaggerations.

Have a growth mindset: People with fixed mindsets seek to validate themselves while people with growth mindsets seek to develop themselves. Every day you wake up, understand that there are well over 7 billion people in the world. That alone means that there are more than seven billion thoughts. This coupled with the fact that our brains are neuroplastic, or malleable, means that everyone can change and grow through application and experience.

Understanding these two things will help keep you humble and remind you that there’s always something to learn. A habit you can work on developing throughout your day, even in mundane moments, is asking yourself about the other sides to conversations you have regularly. Being able to do this will help you see the larger picture of things as opposed to just your view.

The last habit I’ll suggest under this point is to learn how to ask open-ended questions instead of leading questions. Ask questions that invite people to share their stories instead of ones that force people to confirm your beliefs.

When you learn to love a life different from your own, the world becomes a little closer.

Create Room For Growth: This one is so important — so, so important. Mistakes are inevitable, particularly when you’re dealing with people with different values. A lot of times your intent may not match the impact and as a result of that impact, you may be tried in the court of public opinion.

Another potential scenario is that you or someone you know might make a mistake out of ignorance and that can cause you to look at that person in a different light.

I’ll tackle these two scenarios:

First up is intent versus impact. When your intent doesn’t match up with the impact, it is imperative to understand that we all have different ways we see and hear things. We have different filters we see the world through. So one thing I recommend doing is always asking if what you heard is what you think is happening. You could say something like, “I’m not sure if you meant this, but I just want to understand because this is how I translated what you said.”

Commit to open dialogue.

Also, if you make a mistake, own up to it. Clarify what you meant, and then ask for ways to adjust next time. It’s important to know that it’s not about you and how you feel when you make a mistake. It’s about about how your words and actions affected the other person. Learn from your mistake, and adjust for the future.

Speaking of mistakes, what if someone does something insensitive that attacks your identity? How do you decide whether to forgive or not?

My ultimate role model for this is Nelson Mandela. After being jailed for nearly three decades, he personified forgiveness by meeting with some of the people who jailed him and choosing reconciliation over settling scores. By so doing, he helped move South Africa to a better place. Mandela realized that the ignorance came from archaic beliefs and a lack of exposure, so he chose to be the bigger person.

Before Nelson Mandela left prison he said "As I stand before the door to my freedom, I realise that if I do not leave my pain, anger and bitterness behind me , I will still be in prison". How many of us have imprisoned ourselves inside the walls of anger and bitterness. Holding grudges does not make you strong, it makes you bitter. Forgiveness does not make you weak, it sets you free. Don't imprison yourself forever.

That type of act admittedly is not the easiest, but that’s why it’s important to understand intent and impact. So how do we get to a level where we can forgive and allow room for growth? It’s by learning how to see the big picture and reminding ourselves of the humanity in people. It doesn’t mean that we excuse immoral behaviors. I’m saying that we can start to recognize that humans can make very poor decisions and whenever we recognize a desire to change, let’s use those situations as teachable moments.

The cost of not forgiving can sometimes lead to a culture that prevents growth because people will start to keep things to themselves. Forgiveness restores hope and not forgiving creates separation. Through forgiveness and embracing differences, we can heal a world and help it move past its mistakes.

Reconcile paradoxes, have a growth mindset and create room for growth.

All of this takes patience, reflection and curiosity, but the effort and time is worth it. Everyone has a place in the world. Let’s create spaces for multiple stories. Let’s acknowledge that we are more than just one thing and it’s OK. Just because we are not the same doesn’t make anyone less than or more than. Let’s stop attacking identities, individualities and values. We need to respect differences. Just as we shouldn’t be ashamed of who we are, let’s not let others be ashamed of their differences.

I’d like to encourage us to regularly practice seeing the world through fresh eyes. Let’s also regularly ask ourselves what traditions are worth maintaining and what traditions are worth evolving. Let’s adopt a fluid way of thinking.

They say those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, so in order not to repeat history, we should strive to be informed by the past and cater to the future.

Examine your own behaviors, and see how you are contributing to the culture of black and white instead of gray.

We are at a critical space in time. The culture that we live in allows for certain types of behavior, and we sometimes don’t support the ones trying to express themselves.

Don’t be too focused on justifying your actions instead of understanding the impact of your actions.

Don’t be so concerned with being well-meaning people that you don’t invest in the well-being of others.

What we have to realize is that we create the collective socialization of certain behaviors and the only ones who can help us, is us. So let’s be better, and fight to create a better place for us.

It’s not our differences that divide us. It’s our inability to recognize, accept and celebrate those differences.

Embrace nuance.

The Power Of Now

I think too many people wait for other people to tell them what to do before they do it. It's almost like there's some sort of gratification we receive from hearing the words "it's your time. Go get it!"

The only problem with this is that this type of succession rarely happens!

Seriously though! It rarely happens. Other than in relay races and some family run businesses, it's not a very common thing. 

What's even more interesting to me is that a lot of us know that this succession does not exist.

Yet... we wait.

Why do we wait?

  • We think we have more time.
  • We are afraid of failure
  • We are afraid of success
  • We don't feel ready

What are the consequences of waiting?

  • Our dreams die everyday
  • The world doesn't wait
  • We miss out on a chance to grow
  • We miss out on a chance to make an impact

Doing nothing while the world around us changes makes us victims to excuses. We begin to give ownership of our dreams to outside forces and before you know it, you become lost in a world you never imagined for yourself.

So how can we change this?

It all starts with self-discipline or self-love or self-discipline...

AHHH... They are the same thing!!!

Self-love = Self-discipline.

Will Smith once said, “when you say that you love yourself, that means that you have behavior towards yourself that is loving” and he was right. That's exactly what discipline is.

OK let's get started on that loving.

State Your Legacy: The first thing you need to do is to state your legacy. What do you want to be remembered for?

Set Targets: Give yourself deadlines for goals you plan to achieve in three months, six months, 1 year, 3 years and 5 years. You need to give your brain and heart something to train for.

Rearrange Your Environment: Get rid of your depressors and surround yourself with elevators. Your depressors are people who constantly bring you down by whining, complaining or being negative. Your elevators are those who elevate and challenge you to be the best version of yourself. You're the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Create Accountability: Find someone you can trust and respect and tell them about your mission. If you're feeling ambitious, find several people for different goals but whatever you do, be clear with why you chose them and why you want to achieve this dream. This makes them feel part of your mission and it builds trust. Great accountability is a two way street.  

Examine your day to day habits: Keeping track of your day to day habits. This not only helps you form new habits to achieve your goals; it also helps you break  your bad habits as well. Track your activities everyday and see how they relate to that legacy plan you set for yourself.

Don't get stuck with paralysis by analysis! Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try. It doesn't matter what others are doing. It matters what you are doing. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. As Ralph Marston once said, "what you do today can improve all your tomorrows." There is power in the now so START & USE YOUR DIFFERENCE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE.