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.

Dissecting the Cultural Code of Japan with Andy Molinsky

Back at it again with cultural codes! We are continuing our series with cross cultural expert Andy Molinsky.  Andy's series is highlighting the cultural codes of 10 countries. The country of choice today is Japan.

Japan is an island nation in the Pacific Ocean with dense cities, imperial palaces, mountainous national parks and thousands of shrines and temples. Shinkansen bullet trains connect the main islands of Kyushu (with Okinawa's subtropical beaches), Honshu (home to Tokyo and Hiroshima’s atomic-bomb memorial) and Hokkaido (famous for skiing). Tokyo, the capital, is known for skyscrapers, shopping and pop culture. Capital: Tokyo.

He uses the following six-dimensional framework to capture the differences across cultures.

  1. Directness: How straightforwardly do people typically communicate in this culture?
  2. Enthusiasm: How much positive emotion and energy do they typically show?
  3. Formality: How much deference and respect do people typically demonstrate?
  4. Assertiveness: How strongly do people typically express voice their opinions?
  5. Self-Promotion: How acceptable is it for people to speak about their accomplishments?
  6. Personal Disclosure: How much do people typically reveal about themselves?

Be sure to grab Andy's free E-book for mastering 10 cultural codes from around the world: http://www.andymolinsky.com/download-cheat-sheet-to-10-cultural-codes-from-around-the-world/

If you missed last week's episode on South Korea, check it out here.

Without further ado, check it out here or below:

The DBCs of Making A Global Impact In Today's World by Tayo Rockson

“Traveling the world is one of the greatest things you can ever do for yourself. It will shatter all illusions, stereotypes, and notions you have of the world and the people in it. You will unlearn, learn, and relearn things you will never discover through a book, a classroom, or a degree. It will humble you, shake you, wake you up. It will seep into your pores and find its way to your heart, and it will find it fast. The veil over your vision will come off and you will experience things that fringe over magic. And you will never ever be the same again in the best way possible. So do yourself a favor, and just buy that d**n plane ticket.” ~ Satori

By the age of 17, I had lived in five different countries and four different continents. Several words even though they sound the same mean two different things and invoke two different emotions. You know them?

Chips...

Football...

My point is I’m a minority everywhere I go even in my passport country but when faced with the option of celebrating my difference or conforming to what was considered the norm, I chose to celebrate my difference and I haven't looked back since.

You see growing up everywhere the way I did, I initially had an identity crisis. You know. Who am I?

Why am I not like them?

Why is my accent different?

But I came to realize that there is true beauty in our world. I also came to realize that even though the world is full of differences, many of us use these differences to drive people apart. With this realization, all of a sudden I had a sense of purpose. I saw my identity crisis as a gift. I saw my difference as an opportunity to show the world that there is beauty in having the mindset of a nomad. Not only in the way it opens our minds but also in the perspectives it gives us.

Many of today’s world’s problems today are caused because of people’s unwillingness to accept change whether it’s race, religion or ethnic background. Why can’t we use OUR DIFFERENCES to make a DIFFERENCE."

I believe there are 3 ways we can do this. It’s what I like to call the DBC. Read more here.