Standards And Norms

I want to discuss what we have come to define as standards and norms in our lives today. Off the top of my head, I think about how we see beauty, professionalism, status, gender roles and education. On some level, we have attached certain expectations to these things and decided what should be the standard or what should be considered normal.

We have built institutions and industries based on these so called "standards" and "norms." But how did these things even become standards and norms?

To understand this, one has to really dissect what these two words mean. Standard is defined as a level of quality or attainment and a norm is defined as something that is usual, typical, or standard.

As you can see, these words are synonyms and they suggest that there is something to attain in order to either be normal or elite. In every generation, a group of people over a period of time agree that some things should be considered quality and then culture is formed as a result of these shared values.

These shared values are often not inclusive in nature because they are typically a reflection of the biases of whoever has power at the time. But what happens when these standards and norms we live by are outdated? What happens when they are harmful? Who decides to refresh our conditioning and biases to let us know that we need to update our thinking? Do enough of us care enough to change the status quo?

What happens when these standards and norms become overtly and systematically beneficial to one group over another? Will people be brave enough to acknowledge this and shift things in order to balance the equilibrium? Will people be willing to admit that they have been part of the problem?

What happens is that we hurt our world. We see things through limited perspectives. We stifle originality. We erase cultures. We promote self-hatred by advocating for conformity at the expense of self.

So, Instead of blindly following standards and norms that we have been taught, perhaps we should question, challenge and expand those standards and norms to include more people being themselves. I have a feeling that we will see ourselves more if we commit to making this a habit.

Being considered conventionally beautiful shouldn't be a thing because what is convention when it comes to beauty in a world of 7.5 billion people?

Being professional shouldn't mean that you have to hurt the natural texture of your hair to fit a standard.

Being educated shouldn't have to involve only going to schools.

So I ask you this world: what standards and norms are you willing to update today? Our very existence depends on your answer to this question.

Become an Effective Cross-Cultural Communicator & Connector

2 Leadership Lessons From Prime Minister Jacinda Arden

Jacinda Kate Laurell Ardern, the 40th and current Prime Minister of New Zealand is synonymous with what leadership should be. 

Why do I say that?

Well let me break it down. 

The first thing is she’s not driven by convention: One of the things she initially dealt with was her perceived lack of experience. Opponents thought that because of her age, she wouldn’t be able to handle being a leader but that’s not what happened. Two months after Jacinda Ardern became the youngest-ever leader of New Zealand’s Labour Party, she became the country’s youngest Prime Minister in 150 years, and its youngest female Prime Minister ever. The whole thing was known as Jacindamania. 

Another example of her not being driven by convention is how she became the first leader of a country in nearly 30 years to give birth while in office. This sparked dialogue about whether prospective female employees should  inform employers about plans to have children. Some reporters were more forceful than others when asking these questions and shall we say, sexist?! 

Yea... sexist that works. 

Anyway, here’s her response to a reporter that was being persistent about this question after apparently not being satisfied with her first answer. 

“I decided to talk about it, it was my choice…, but for other women it is totally unacceptable in 2017 to say that women should have to answer that question in the workplace. It is the woman’s decision about when they choose to have children. It should not predetermine whether or not they are given a job or have job opportunities.” 

Being a leader often means that you’ll defy convention. It requires bravery to go against the status quo and stand firm in your beliefs. You’ll almost certainly face opposition but don’t lose yourself in the process of trying to become more  appealing. 

Number 2. She’s a champion for inclusion and values: In one of the most heinous terrorist attacks in recent times, a white supremacist orchestrated a series of attacks that took the lives of 50 people and injured 50 others in Christchurch New Zealand. It was a low for us as a world and it highlighted how dangerous ideologies can lead to divisiveness and hate. 

It was also the moment Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ascended from New Zealand’s Prime Minister to Global Leader. First of all, she called the Christchurch anti-immigrant attack what it was, “a terrorist attack.” Believe it or not, not many leaders are willing to call terrorists, terrorists. 

Second of all, she chose that moment to remind the world and New Zealand that it was a time to unite and not be divisive. Her rallying cry for New Zealand and the world was “they are us” referring to the victims. 

She reminded us of the power we have when we come together.  While addressing the country, she said of New Zealand, “we were not a target because we are a safe harbour for those who hate. We were not chosen for this act of violence because we condone racism, because we are an enclave for extremism. We were chosen for the very fact that we are none of these things—because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion, a home for those who share our values, refuge for those who need it.”  

In a moment that was incredibly difficult and still is for many families, she stood in solidarity. 

Another gesture of her championing inclusion was when she chose to wear a headscarf while visiting the families of those affected by the attacks. She didn’t have to but she did so as a sign of respect. She continued this trend as she addressed her parliament in the Arabic greeting. As-Salaam Alaikum".

Last but not least, as she addressed the crowd in Hagley Park post Christchurch. You’ll notice that she wears a Maori cloak, opens up the speech in the Maori language and continues in English while having an interpreter sign the message in New Zealand sign language. 

English. 

Maori.

New Zealand sign language.

The three official languages of New Zealand. 

No one was left alone.  

Some of you might not think that this level of cultural sensitivity matters but they do. They show that you’re more than words. They humanize people and let people feel seen, heard and understood. They prevent an ethnocentric way of looking at things or evaluating other peoples and cultures according to the standards of one's own culture.

You can tell a lot about people based on how they respond to situations. Some people shrink away and some people step up. Prime Minster Jacinda Ardern stepped up and reminded us that each of us can do so too! 

She reminded us of our humanity and the importance of living our values. 

We are not immune to the viruses of hate, of fear, of other. We never have been," she said, "but we can be the nation that discovers the cure".

                                      ~ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern

A true leader is not driven by convention and is a champion for inclusion and values.

Till next time, use your difference to make a difference. 

Become an Effective Cross-Cultural Communicator & Connector

4 Lessons From Beyoncé's Homecoming

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter, queen Bey or as many know her, Beyoncé just released her Netflix film Homecoming and it was simply brilliant. I mean brilliant even seems like an understatement. While the 2 hours was an incredible journey down memory lane for many of us, what I enjoyed the most was the behind the scenes moments we got to see. 

You know... What makes Beyoncé Beyoncé. Here are 4 things I noticed. 

The Importance of Visualization. 

Beyoncé knew that as she was prepping for Coachella, she was also going to be directing this film so this had to be an incredible experience on stage and on screen. 

Do you get that? That means that you need to be able to see what you want so you can achieve it. She lived out the future in the present and her reality came true.

There Are No Short Cuts.

While it is one thing to visualize, you've got to follow through by actually doing. You’ve got to give your all to what you say you want to achieve. Think about this, for Coachella, Beyoncé had four months of music rehearsals followed by four months of intense dance rehearsals. My favorite part of the film was when she said the following as she was working on something that she hadn't yet achieved yet. 

She said “That’s why people don’t like to rehearse. You gotta be humble. You gotta be willing to look awkward and you gotta study, be a student.” 

If you want to be the best at something, develop your skill sets. Do the reps. 

You want to be so good at what you do that when people are done watching you they say what my good friend Dani Veras likes to say all the time "look at God." 

Have An Appreciation of The Moment. 

They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Beyoncé knew the significance of being the first black woman to headline Coachella and she didn't shy away from making it a display of her roots as was displayed with the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) homages. When you have an opportunity, don't be afraid to be fully yourself in that moment.

Find Your Balance. 

One of the most poignant moments of the film was when Beyoncé reflected on the importance of balance. She remarks “I have children. I have a husband. I have to take care of my body. I definitely pushed myself further than I knew I could...and I learned a very valuable lesson: I will never, ever push myself that far again.”

Find your balance.

There you go: visualize, don't take short cuts, appreciate the moment and find your balance.

Till next time, know that you're irreplaceable. You are the dragon breathing fire. Beautiful mane, you are the lion. Use your DIFFERENCE to make a DIFFERENCE.

Become an Effective Cross-Cultural Communicator & Connector

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. 

Become an Effective Cross-Cultural Communicator & Connector