Yitzi Weiner

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http://socialimpactheroes.com
Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder of Authority Magazine, one of Medium’s largest publications. Authority Magazine, is devoted to sharing interesting “thought leadership interview series” featuring people who are authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Magazine uses interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable. Popular interview series include, Women of the C Suite, Female Disruptors, and 5 Things That Should be Done to Close the Gender Wage Gap At Authority Magazine, Yitzi has conducted or coordinated hundreds of empowering interviews with prominent Authorities like Shaquille O’Neal, Peyton Manning, Floyd Mayweather, Paris Hilton, Baron Davis, Jewel, Flo Rida, Kelly Rowland, Kerry Washington, Bobbi Brown, Daymond John, Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Lori Greiner, Robert Herjavec, Alicia Silverstone, Lindsay Lohan, Cal Ripkin Jr., David Wells, Jillian Michaels, Jenny Craig, John Sculley, Matt Sorum, Derek Hough, Mika Brzezinski, Blac Chyna, Perez Hilton, Joseph Abboud, Rachel Hollis, Daniel Pink, and Kevin Harrington Much of Yitzi’s writing and interviews revolve around how leaders with large audiences view their position as a responsibility to promote goodness and create a positive social impact. His specific interests are interviews with leaders in Technology, Popular Culture, Social Impact Organizations, Business, and Wellness.

Young Change Makers: Why and How Lauren Chante Is Helping To Change Our World

It’s OK to be the only one with your message. Right now, there are a lot of really popular trends in wellness that my method doesn’t jive with. It was scary to be the first voice with my message and there were so many times I felt like running to hide. The truth is, innovators are always going to be the first voice on the scene and will always be speaking counter to what’s currently out there. Don’t rely on anyone else to validate your work. Have the confidence that what you do is right and it matters.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Chante.

Lauren Chante, of LaurenChante.com, is a health strategist with her master’s degree in Exercise Science. She helps people stop jumping from diet to diet and find what works for their unique body and life, through her signature wellness coaching program called Cracking The Wellness Code. She created her method after struggling to diet, herself, and having a close call with developing an eating disorder.

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Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in West Suffield, CT, on a beautiful 9-acre pond surrounded by trees. I spent lots of time outside and lots of time reading. Entrepreneurship runs in my family — my mom was a single mom and started her own businesses, both so she could earn income and be present with me. As a kid, I would sit on her bedroom floor and help her sort receipts for business taxes. At the age of 12, I made the decision to apply for college instead of going to high school. After a rigorous interview process, I was accepted to Bay Path University at 13 years old. I ultimately graduated from the University of Hartford at 16, with a degree in biology. Along with school, I was a competitive dancer and spent most of my free hours in the dance studio. Ultimately, I auditioned for Broadway and lived in New York City.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

As a young teen, I participated in the Miss America Scholarship Program. As a dancer, I loved the opportunity to get on stage. As part of the program, we had to choose a social platform to support. It was the first time I was exposed to all the problems that exist in the world and was directly challenged to do something about them. It made a big impact on me and started me on the path to serving others.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me, making a difference is about solving a problem. Some problems are big ones, like preventing eating disorders and solving our health crises. Some problems are harder to see, like a neighbor who is lonely or a small business that’s barely staying afloat. Whether you tackle a big problem or small problem, you’re making a difference.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I help women stop jumping diet to diet and find what works for their unique bodies and life. This mission is about more than getting physical results — when people experience repeated “diet fails,” they start to internalize their failures and think that they’re the problem. They feel shame and frustration. Sometimes the frustration is so bad that it leads people to make extreme choices that endanger their physical and mental health, like crash dieting, and can even lead to eating disorders. The sad part is, it’s not their fault. The way we teach and talk about weight loss is broken.

As an exercise scientist and certified nutrition coach, I’ve seen the gaps in the traditional methods. I try to fill those gaps through my work. Over and over, my clients tell me that this new approach takes a huge weight off their shoulders and finally allows them to pursue their wellness goals in a way that doesn’t jeopardize their happiness.

The #1 Mindset shift I ask people to make is: There’s no such thing as the perfect diet. Dieting is a modern issue. Thousands of years ago, humans gained or lost weight based on how much food was in our environment. With good problem solving, we always try to get to the root of a problem instead of treating the symptom. For example, if you have chronic headaches then you should try to understand why you’re having headaches instead of just taking ibuprofen all the time. With dieting, we can’t do that — fixing the root of the problem would mean making a choice to live where there’s not enough food, which we’re not going to do!! As a result, scientists, dietitians, fitness companies and nutrition companies are all just trying to find the next best thing to fixing the root of the problem. So, nothing is going to be the perfect fix. It can’t be! Letting go of the search for the perfect diet allows you to look inward and focus on what’s working for YOUR body. I teach people my exact system for learning what works (and doesn’t work) for YOU.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

A short time after my first child was born, I was struggling to lose weight. Even though I was in the fitness industry and had my master’s degree, I felt out of control and I just couldn’t get the results I wanted. I got so frustrated that I made myself throw up for the first time. At that moment, I knew I wasn’t acting like myself and that *I* wasn’t the problem. From that moment, I’ve made it my mission to understand every facet of the issues of wellness, weight, dieting, body image and diet culture. I knew that if I needed help then other people did, too. That’s how my personal approach to wellness was born and what I teach, now, in my signature wellness coaching program called Cracking The Wellness Code.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

As a coach with nearly 14 years in my field, I had often used other organizations and programs to work with my clients. Every time I used someone else’s program, I found gaps that were preventing my clients from being successful. Eventually, I developed a vision for something completely different than what was currently on the market. The idea was like an infection that I couldn’t get rid of. Every nerve in my brain was on fire and I thought about it obsessively. I literally HAD to create my programs if I wanted to get my brain back and sleep at night. I had no choice!

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

The first thing I did was start. I know that sounds simple, but it’s the hardest part for most people. I embraced the idea of progress, not perfection, and just started building anything I felt capable of building immediately. You learn SO much from simply taking action. You start to get a feel for what’s going to work and what’s not going to work. You can never get back the time you spent waiting for the perfect time to start.

After that, I made sure to find a mentor. I’m so blessed to work with Nicole Walters of Inherit Learning Company and star of She’s the Boss on USA Network. It’s so much easier to build on the experience of others instead of trying to figure it all out on your own. Working with a mentor saved me years of frustration and helped me get my business started on a strong foundation, so I could immediately serve my clients well and change the world faster!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

People recognize me, which is crazy! I’ve had people say they recognize me from podcasts I’ve been on or seeing me on social media. I’m not a superstar, so it floors me every time.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

Live video was really big when I first got on social media. At the time, I was a stay at home mom and my kids were really little. It was really tricky to figure out how to fit live videos in with my kids at home. One time, I thought I had a moment “alone” to do a video, but turns out I was wrong — one of my kids ended up streaking across the live video, completely naked!

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Nicole Walters, CEO of Inherit Learning Company and star of She’s The Boss on USA network, is my “official” mentor and I literally would not be here if it wasn’t for her. Through Nicole, I’ve seen firsthand what it means to have a business that’s built on serving others and is rooted in integrity. I learned that there’s so much white noise online that makes you feel like you should be an overnight success. She’s taught me to slow down and to recognize there’s no substitute for doing the work. She also taught me how to apply my incredible work ethic in the right direction.

Even though Nicole is “big time,” she doesn’t outsource her relationship with her students. She has “talked me down” so many times when I was getting frustrated with my work and, on top of that, she has the best advice in the industry. She always knows exactly what to say, exactly when I need it most, and she’s never been wrong. In a world that’s super saturated with business coaches, I’m so grateful to have someone I can truly trust with my legacy and my purpose.

I’m also grateful for my cheerleader Allie Casazza, the creator of the course Uncluttered Home, CEO of the Purpose Group and Harper Collins Author of the upcoming book Declutter Like a Mother. Allie and I met through Instagram (basically through divine intervention) and she invited me to be a guest on her podcast. I was floored by Allie’s commitment to helping other female “baby entrepreneurs” get a leg-up. Over time, we’ve become “real life” friends. Her story is amazing — she went from a stay at home mom of 4, so broke they didn’t always know where their next meal was coming from, to the powerhouse behind a multi-seven figure company that changes women’s lives in massive ways. Seeing her success has helped me to know that it’s possible to have a beautiful, purpose-driven business that serves the world in more than one way.

Allie has a quote I love (which I am sure I am butchering), that goes something like “Change the world twice — once with your message and the second time with the money you make from it.” Both Nicole and Allie have helped me work on my money mindset and see that money isn’t evil, it’s crucial. Business profits help you do important things like create jobs, give to organizations you care about and continue spreading your message in an even bigger way.

Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

One of my clients felt she had tried absolutely everything to lose weight — every diet, supplement and workout program you can think of. She had begun to get really, really down on herself and felt like her body was broken. She was starting to feel resentful of it and was so frustrated. It was making her miserable. Through working together on her mindset and her approach to caring for her body, we broke through her sticking point. She lost 35 pounds and kept it off. Most importantly, she was happier and calmer — not just because she lost weight and felt better in her skin, but because she had a completely different mindset.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. Become someone with a growth mindset and believe that your problem can be solved. So many people believe life is just hard and problems just exist, so they never look for solutions. The truth is, there are so many incredible people doing amazing work to change the world and solve problems. Do yourself a favor — find them
  2. The next best thing is to get comfortable being counterculture. Changing the way you approach your wellness or weight loss isn’t easy when you’re surrounded by people who aren’t doing what you’re doing. You have to get comfortable seeing yourself as a thought leader in your circle and get used to being the odd one out.
  3. Take my courses! I believe wellness is generational: Like we pass down money from parents to children, we pass down our habits. That means we can change the way whole generations care for their bodies, just by starting with us.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).

  1. It’s OK to be the only one with your message. Right now, there are a lot of really popular trends in wellness that my method doesn’t jive with. It was scary to be the first voice with my message and there were so many times I felt like running to hide. The truth is, innovators are always going to be the first voice on the scene and will always be speaking counter to what’s currently out there. Don’t rely on anyone else to validate your work. Have the confidence that what you do is right and it matters.
  2. Let your dreams grow with time. After a decade of looking at inspirational quotes on pinterest (“Reach for the stars, land on the moon?” anyone?), I had trouble seeing the big possibilities for my work immediately — and I felt like I was a lame entrepreneur. I needed time, and exposure to other female entrepreneurs who are doing epic things, before I could visualize the magnitude of the potential for my work. I wish someone had told me that it’s OK to start small — with one client, one neighborhood, one part of the bubble of the world. You don’t have to “go big or go home.” Just start and let your dreams grow organically.
  3. Success is an invisible scale that hasn’t tipped yet. Every time you put effort toward your goals, an invisible stone gets added to one side of the scale. You may feel like nothing is happening in your organization, but stones are piling up behind the scenes. You have no idea how close to your tipping point you are, but you have to keep piling on the stones and know that the scale is going to tip one day.
  4. Serving others requires money. If you want to keep doing your life changing work, it requires a strong financial foundation. You can’t be a life changer for others if you can’t keep your lights on and food on your own table; You can’t take your mission and scale it so it’s large enough to change the world. Whether you’re a business or a nonprofit, mind your dollars and work on your money mindset. No one wins if your organization goes under from poor financial management.
  5. Ask for the opportunities you want. We live in a generation where people are sitting on social media just hoping they’ll be discovered, or sinking tons of money into social media ads to gain an audience. Instead of waiting for opportunities to come to you, identify the opportunities you want and ask for them.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

There’s nothing more wonderful than waking up everyday to a job that has meaning. When you love what you do, it’s not even work. However, don’t force it if you’re not sure what you’re passionate about doing. Your “aha” moment will come! It took me 12 years in my field before I even started having a vision for my personal contribution.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d love to have lunch with Jessica Alba. I’ve followed her since she was an actress and I’m so impressed with how she made a transition from Hollywood to running the Honest Company (we used her diapers for years, and their conditioning detangler is the only one that works for my girls!) I feel like we’d have so much to talk about and we’d be friends in real life.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best way to keep in touch is to go to LaurenChante.com and join my Lifechangers club, so you’ll get e-mails from me directly to your inbox. You can also follow me on instagram, facebook and clubhouse as @laurenchanteofficial (http://www.instagram.com/LaurenChanteOfficial and http://www.facebook.com/LaurenChanteOfficial)

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Young Change Makers: Why and How Lauren Chante Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Unplug to reconnect: Social media has become the main outlet and focal point for so many people, yet it’s anything but social. For millions of Americans, their community has been taken away from them and replaced with something inherently isolating, keeping them tethered to a screen. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining a divide. Add to that the onslaught of misinformation and algorithms designed to feed us a one-sided narrative, and we find a landscape designed to trigger discourse and reaction. This has led us to becoming more accustomed to speaking at each other, rather than with one another. It’s the responsibility of each of us to pick our heads up from the screen, and talk to our neighbors and community that surround us. And not through online forums…I’m talking about real world interactions. These relationships are critical to our own mental health and well-being, as well as taking a step towards healing as a collective nation.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ryan Manion of Travis Manion Foundation.

Ryan Manion has dedicated her life to supporting our nation’s military, veterans, and families of fallen heroes. She is inspired by the character, leadership, and sacrifice of her brother 1st Lt Travis Manion, USMC, who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Al Anbar province of Iraq while drawing fire away from his wounded comrades on April 29th, 2007.

Serving as the President of Travis Manion Foundation since 2012, Ryan leads a national movement focused on assisting veterans and families of the fallen to take the next step in their personal journeys, and inspiring the next generation of leaders. Ryan is the co-author of The Knock at the Door, in which she shares her personal story of grief, and how she moved forward to be the best version of herself. She is also the host of The Resilient Life podcast, where her guests discuss their experiences with resilience and how they have turned their challenges into opportunities of growth.

As a highly regarded advocate for the military community, Ryan has been invited to address national audiences on numerous occasions — including Good Morning America, CBS this Morning, CNN, The Today Show, The View, Fox News and many more.

Carrying on the legacy of her brother Travis, Ryan continues to lead a life of service to others. This was most notably recognized in 2015 when she was selected to receive the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Volunteer Service. Ryan served on the Advisory Committee at Arlington National Cemetery and remains committed to their mission. As a leader in the Veteran Non-Profit sector, Ryan serves on the Advisory Boards of the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation and With Honor.

Ryan began with Travis Manion Foundation as a board member, but as national recognition increased, her calling was to become even more involved. Ryan left a position in government to dedicate herself full-time to TMF. She would go on to eventually follow in the footsteps of her late mother who started the Foundation, where Ryan remains to this day as the leader of the “If Not Me, Then Who…” movement.

Ryan resides in Doylestown, PA with her husband and three children, Maggie Rose, Honor and Travis Brendan. Ryan continues to serve her local community by serving as a Township Supervisor since elected in 2011. While responsibilities of this position are focused on deciding issues of public safety, growth management, environment, etc., Ryan most appreciates the personal connection with those within the community she is able to directly serve.

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Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in a military family with a Marine Corps father, a strong mother and a competitive brother who was one year younger than me. We moved a few times which was always tough to leave friends but I liked getting to experience different parts of the country. Because of having to constantly make new friends, my one constant was my brother so he and I were best friends. I played every sport growing up including lacrosse all the way through college. We spent as much time as we could with our extended family and I would describe us as a very close family.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

My brother, 1stLt Travis Manion, USMC, is my inspiration. On April 29, 2007, he was killed by an enemy sniper fire while rescuing his injured teammates after they were ambushed. My brother was a great leader that truly lived to serve others. Before leaving for his final deployment, he responded “If Not Me, Then Who…” when asked why he had to go back. These five words have become my ethos and my daily reminder to be a person for others.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

After losing my brother, I was asked to speak at his high school. Instead of speaking solely about him for an hour, I used him as one example of a person of character among other examples. Following that talk, I began going around to high schools throughout Philadelphia delivering this presentation which I named “Character Does Matter”. In the 10 years that followed, we’ve trained 2,000 veterans and family members of fallen heroes throughout the country to deliver this presentation as well as a more in-depth course on character and leadership impacting almost 400,000 young adults. This past summer, I also launched a podcast called The Resilient Life, where I have the honor of having authentic conversations with people who have dealt with real life struggle — death, illness, career and financial hardship — and come out stronger on the other side.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My mom was a fiercely strong woman. Following the loss of her only son, she started Travis Manion Foundation to support veterans and other families of the fallen. She was determined to use her grief to do something good and ensure that Travis’ mission continued. And you would have thought starting a small family foundation in the suburbs of Philadelphia would have been enough but my mother was never satisfied. She had a dream of Travis Manion Foundation becoming one of the top national non-profit organizations serving veterans and families of the fallen. After my mom was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in 2012, I took over her vision and today the Travis Manion Foundation has over 130,000 members across the country continuing my brother and my mom’s legacy of service.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

A few years ago, we were approached by someone with a very impressive resume that told us how he helped other non-profits connect with some of the most well-known philanthropists that would take our organization to the next level. We worked with him for about a year and were amazed by his rolodex of who’s who in America’s corporate leaders. After a couple of questionable interactions, we decided to do a little research and discovered that he was not who he claimed to be. Fortunately for us, we broke ties before his plot unfolded and no one was hurt. But my lesson through that experience was that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. Success is the result of hard work and there are no shortcuts.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I am a big fan of the book Extreme Ownership, by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin. This book is all about personal accountability, which is something that is too many of us overlook. Nothing will be handed to you in this life.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I’d have to go back to my brother’s five words “If Not Me, Then Who…” that he spoke before his final deployment. At the time, my husband had asked him why he would have to go back to Iraq for a second deployment, and that was Travis’s response. Those words really drive my decisions in life because they remind me that if I want to see change in myself, my community, or the world, I need to be the one to step forward and serve. While I more than realize the significance of these 5 words today, I was a different person before my brother was killed. My biggest regret is that it was only after Travis was killed that I became the woman I wanted to be.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is inspiring others to accomplish the mission. A good leader focuses on developing herself and her team in order to have the biggest impact serving others. The best example of leadership was my brother. He worked hard his entire life developing himself to be the best leader of Marines and he was prepared on his final day when his team needed him the most. He ensured that every other member of his team survived.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

I think that people have lost important connections and the ability to effectively communicate as our lives have become increasingly more digital over the past couple of decades. While technology has improved many things and made us more efficient in many ways, it’s eliminated many of the old ways that we used to connect and communicate. Text messages and social media have a use but they don’t replace in-person experiences which help to build trust and improve relationships. Add to that a divisive media, a polarizing presidential election and a global pandemic, and it’s like you’ve added gasoline to the fire which is the current situation where we find ourselves.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

One of the big surprises last year was how people’s reaction to the pandemic became political. Each of us is in a different situation and have different risk tolerances which should dictate our reaction; however, instead it became about political ideology and which news source you watch. For my family, we’ve tried to stay in the middle of the risk spectrum. My children go to school in-person, I continue to go into an office or meet with people for work, and my family traveled over the holiday. We wear masks and follow social distancing and other CDC guidelines. However, I have other extended family members that refuse to leave their house and therefore get left out. If someone is vulnerable due to a health condition, I understand. But, unfortunately, in most cases it’s due to the partisan media, misinformation and politics.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

I think divides that have occurred in families will be bridged over time as we start to spend more time together, as the vaccine rolls out, and as our country moves forward from the pandemic. Genuine relationships, along with having a sense of purpose, are the most important factors that determine well-being. With the lack of social interaction and increase in subsequent mental health problems, small problems have become big problems. We need to get back our in-person connections in order to bridge the divides that have become exasperated over the past year.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

First, professionals should not feel the need to share every thought over social media. At Travis Manion Foundation, one of our organizational values is “Out of many, One” which speaks to respecting others and leveraging our differences to make us better. But publicly stating every thought or opinion over social media is not productive and is often divisive. I encourage our team to sit down in-person and truly listen to each other if they want to have a discussion about a difficult topic. But trying to communicate complex issues in 140 characters will lead to fractured relationships. While working from home has been necessary at certain times this past year, we need to get back to safely working together in-person collaboratively to improve relationships and build trust.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

At Travis Manion Foundation, we’ve invested hours of training into topics of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion which help people understand the different ways that we identify ourselves and see each other. I think this type of training should become commonplace in order to overcome some of the political and social divides that we are experiencing. People will find that we have much more in common than may appear at first glance. And what unites us is so much stronger than what divides us.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

Social media is a great tool, but too many have begun to use social media to create a community, where in reality it is a forum. Nothing will take the place of real community through genuine interaction. It is not a great way to try to communicate complex topics. I think people need to rethink how they use social media and which topics deserve more intimate communication channels such as face-to-face. These relationships are critical to our own mental health and well-being, as well as taking a step towards healing as a collective nation.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

In my house, we purposely try to get multiple perspectives on an issue by watching or reading about it on different networks or outlets. You can’t rely on any single source to get the full story. While the idea of discussing issues like race or politics has become uncomfortable, especially among family members, the trick is to not go into a conversation trying to win or change their mind. Instead we need to listen to all sides before coming to an informed conclusion.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

I think it starts by educating ourselves on the systems that our country has in place to protect us from ourselves. Our government was created with checks and balances that purposely make it difficult for any single person to achieve their agenda without the support of elected officials that represent a diverse population. Within all government agencies, we have career professionals dedicated to the American people without regard to politics. We should have faith in our great country and understand that the only threat to our existence is our own divisiveness.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Unplug to reconnect: Social media has become the main outlet and focal point for so many people, yet it’s anything but social. For millions of Americans, their community has been taken away from them and replaced with something inherently isolating, keeping them tethered to a screen. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining a divide. Add to that the onslaught of misinformation and algorithms designed to feed us a one-sided narrative, and we find a landscape designed to trigger discourse and reaction. This has led us to becoming more accustomed to speaking at each other, rather than with one another. It’s the responsibility of each of us to pick our heads up from the screen, and talk to our neighbors and community that surround us. And not through online forums…I’m talking about real world interactions. These relationships are critical to our own mental health and well-being, as well as taking a step towards healing as a collective nation.
  2. Commit to your community: At Travis Manion Foundation, we’re actively building a community that is made up of more than 130,000 veterans, families of the fallen, and inspired civilians who all have something in common — they all exemplify character by being part of something bigger than themselves. These individuals come from a wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds, races, religions, and cultures — every sense of the word diversity, and we’ve pulled them together to accomplish a common mission of BEING the good in our own communities. Everything that we do, whether its volunteering at a soup kitchen, cleaning up a neighborhood park, organizing a food drive, or even just holding the door for someone, are actions we take to honor the service and sacrifice of our fallen military members. They are the inspirational backdrop to everything we do. By carrying on their legacies of service and character in our own communities, we’re not just doing good, but we’re also setting an example for our next generation of leaders.
  3. Have constructive conversations with those who think differently: Many of us are less practiced with having conversations with those who have different beliefs than us which has made us resistant to seeing other perspectives. While the idea of discussing issues like race or politics has become uncomfortable, especially among family members, the trick is to not go into a conversation trying to win or change their mind. Instead we need to listen to all sides before coming to an informed conclusion. Even if there continues to be a difference of opinion, when we have conversations with those who may have different beliefs, we can’t go into it assuming that person is out to get us. Right now there is a real fear that the other side is strictly out to slander the opposition. We’ve gotten away from the idea that we’re all Americans looking to solve a problem, and instead see it that anyone with a different mindset is out to get us. Yes, there are actors on both sides of the divide who are maliciously leaning into this narrative, and that makes it even more important that we look to our neighbors, friends, and family members who we’ve built trusting relationships with already, to bridge that divide. At the end of the day, everyone is striving for a better life for ourselves and our family, security, and equal opportunity, which is the common ground where we can start these conversations.
  4. Don’t stand on the sidelines: We’re often looking to a small portion of the population, being our politicians and local leaders, to fix the problems that afflict our country. Clearly that’s not working. We need to have real life conversations at home and with our friends first, because that is where we have the strongest connections. We cannot allow relationships to be torn apart simply over political disagreements. Just because someone supports a different political candidate, it doesn’t make them your enemy. We will all have varying beliefs about an infinite amount of topics, but to allow political affiliation to fracture our bonds with those we care for can only lead us down a dangerous and lonely path. Embrace all that life has to offer beyond politics, and even if someone has different beliefs, it’s vital that we maintain those connections. But to do that, it’s up to each of us to take the first step
  5. Don’t wait to change: Through all these ideas of how we can all help unite our country, I urge you to take action today. Don’t put off finding the best version of yourself. I lost my best friend and only brother, Marine 1st Lieutenant Travis Manion on April 29th, 2007, when he was killed by an enemy sniper in Iraq while pulling his wounded teammates to safety. In the years following Travis’ death, I channeled my grief through countless actions I had never imagined I could do, like running a marathon, building homes in underserved communities, and now leading one of the nation’s leading veteran nonprofits, which bears his name. There are so many things I wish Travis and I could have done together, because I am definitely not the same woman he knew when he was alive. I’m better. I’m stronger. I’m more purpose driven. But I wish I didn’t wait for him to disappear before I became the woman I wanted to be. Every day I set out to be a positive force, because that’s what Travis and all our fallen military members sacrificed their lives doing. So to carry on their legacies, I challenge you to be the change today that takes another step towards uniting this country which they loved enough to give their lives for.

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

Start with one action. Say a kind word to someone or perform an act of kindness. If you live in the northeast (or Texas), go shovel your elderly neighbor’s driveway. Hold the door open for a stranger. Smile and greet people as you walk by. Be big in the small things and they will add up to big change.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I’m an eternal optimist. Of course this issue can be resolved but it relies on each of us being the change that we seek. Don’t wait for others to do it for us. Political leaders won’t fix our problems. Before my brother left for his final deployment to Iraq, he stated “If Not, Me Then Who…” when asked why he had to return for a dangerous deployment. Each of us has the opportunity to have an “If Not Me, Then Who…” moment every day. If we each adopt this ethos, we will be fine.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

When I speak with young adults, I share the stories of this generation of fallen heroes who stepped up when our country needed them and bravely sacrificed their lives for us. Now it’s our turn to pay it forward and serve others.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have a private lunch with Reese Witherspoon. She is such an incredible role model for young females. Many may see her as just an actress, where in reality she has changed the landscape for what it means to be a female in business. From her book club to her media company, she elevates stories of women across the globe. I also love how in the face of all the divide in our country she has managed to maintain a balance of sharing her thoughts and opinions, but not alienating others that may think differently than her.

How can our readers follow you online?

Travis Manion Foundation’s social media handles are @travismanionfoundation on Instagram and Facebook, and @TMFoundation on Twitter. You can also find more information on our website, www.travismanion.org. My personal social media handles are @rmanion on Instagram and Twitter and @rmanionTMF on Facebook. My website is ryanmanion.com, and I also host a podcast called “The Resilient Life” that can be found on all streaming platforms.

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ryan Manion of the ‘Travis Manion Foundation’ On… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Author Karen Tibbals On The 5 Things That Each Of…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Author Karen Tibbals On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

Prepare: If you are stressed, go into an encounter by doing whatever you can to de-stress. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, meditate, or pray or whatever you do to help calm down. And prepare by learning what you can about the person you are disagreeing with. Don’t read the news obsessively, it will make you more stressed. Do read about what makes people different, read about potential solutions. You’ll need that information later.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Karen Tibbals.

Karen is an author and public speaker whose mission is to help other people bridge the cultural and political divide. She developed an expertise is human behavior during her long-time career in marketing. Karen left that career to go to seminary, intending to start an organization to support businesspeople in her faith community. After she discovered that wasn’t a good fit for her, she decided to help people in a different way — by taking her understanding of human motivation to a broader audience. Her most recent book, Persuade, Don’t Preach: Restoring Civility Across the Political Divide, teaches people how to apply the latest social science research in their own lives so that they can understand each other better and talk to the other side more productively. She is also writing a newsletter which accesses information from a variety of experts on how we can mend our fractured relationships.

https://medium.com/media/c021d228e600bc29a90c75cbbee597a4/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was a shy, self-conscious child, the oldest of three girls. My dad loved all kids but especially loved his kids and encouraged us to stretch. He pushed me to talk to people even though I was shy. I remember him making me get out of the car and ask for directions, even though I resisted it strongly. Even though he was born early in the 20th century, he still supported the idea that women could do great things. My youngest sister and I were the first women in our extended family to go to college and we both went on to masters’ degree level programs, because of his encouragement.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Well, I have had several careers. My shift to a career in the pharmaceutical industry was inspired by the thought that I could really help people. I interviewed for a job that supported a cancer product and I had visions of saving people’s lives. It turns out even though I got a job with the company, I didn’t work on a cancer product until a long time later. But I like to feel that I have had a positive impact on society through the work that I did.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am working on a newsletter that summarizes what various experts say about how to help people come together. I draw from experts in various different fields, not just psychiatry and psychology, but also hostage negotiators, historians, political scientists, religious leaders, conflict resolution specialists, anthropologists and so on. I call the newsletter Mending Fractured Relationships.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I’ve had a number of really good bosses in my career who encouraged me in many ways. People don’t realize that many people in corporate America are kind caring people who do a lot to help develop employees’ skills. But a more recent story that most comes to mind is when I was in seminary, my thesis advisor called me a “philosopher”. I never realized that was what I was doing, but that is what I do. I work hard to understand why things happen and then explain them to people.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

In one of my assignments in corporate America, I was working with a colleague who consistently behaved badly towards a person from another company. It started to create problems for the alliance between the two companies. I knew I needed to do something, but, because I don’t like confrontation, I delayed for a long time. I spent a lot of time asking people’s advice. I wanted someone else to solve the problem for me. I asked both my boss and her boss to talk to the person who had created the problem, but they all told me I had to do it myself. Finally, I made an appointment with her, told her what I had observed and the problems it was causing. It was like magic! She said she didn’t realize the problem and said she would apologize! The lessons I learned were don’t put off confronting conflict, it doesn’t get any easier, and don’t expect others to solve your problems for you. This is a crucial lesson because the problems in our society aren’t going to go away if we don’t confront them. We each need to take a part, one conversation at a time.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature had a significant impact on me. I loved how he summarized what has happened to violence over the centuries and identified the factors that contributed to that. That method matches the way I use evidence to come to conclusions. I also loved that it was contrary to common wisdom and that it was based on data, not just opinion. Moreover, it was there I discovered Moral Foundations Theory, which set me on the path that I am on.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

A quote that I use often is: “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all,” by Helen Keller. I have a tendency to hide and be very private. Becoming public feels risky to me because I am afraid of conflict and I know people are going to disagree with me. This quote is one of the tools I used to get over the fears, to remind myself that unless I take the risk I won’t be able to achieve my goal. My life has certainly gotten a lot more interesting since I started on this path.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

A leader does and says what is right for his organization and for his followers, not what is right for him. I’ve known several leaders who have recommended actions that stripped themselves of power or influence because they believed it was the right thing to do. But leaders also need to pay attention to the needs of their followers. The really difficult situations where true leadership is needed are when there is a conflict between the organization’s needs and the followers’ needs. In that case, leaders need to do what they can for all parties. However, if they can’t do what is best for their followers, at the very least, the leader needs to take the followers’ needs into account and talk to them in a way that takes into account their concerns and their values.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

I would say that there are two underlying societal factors that have contributed to it, which created a powder keg just waiting burn. The powder key was lit by a match from Donald Trump.

The two social factors creating this powder keg are social sorting and social media. By social sorting, I mean that people used to routinely encounter people who weren’t like them. The stereotypes of the boss marrying the secretary and the boss living next to the factory in the small town and sending their kids to the town school were not wrong. Back then people got to know people who weren’t like themselves and had to get along with them. But now, the factories have been bought up by major corporations and the big boss is no longer the owner, and the headquarters is based in a big city. People are more likely to marry people they went to college with, not the secretary. People are freer to move to live near people just like themselves now. And people who don’t want to move, don’t. One key indicator of how liberal or conservative a person is how far they live from where they were born. Those who live within 50 miles of their birth are more likely to be conservative. Conversely, the cities have become very liberal, as liberals move there to be with people like themselves.

The second factor, social media, has also made it so that we don’t need to talk to our neighbors, we can talk to people just like us online, so we are less likely to encounter someone who has attitudes that are different than ours.

This situation was ready for a match, like one provided by President Trump, to ignite it and make it explode. Because we already had the factors of social sorting and social media, we had lost the skills of how to get along with others who weren’t like us and were more likely to buy into what he said. When Trump called people with different ideas the enemy, that triggered the explosion.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

Our homeowner’s association has had a long-standing policy of restricting signs including political signs. One homeowner was so enthusiastically partisan that he put up a banner promoting his candidate that violated those rules. This promoted a long-drawn-out discussion at our association meeting, where it was finally decided to pay a lawyer to revise the by-laws to loosen the rules to allow political signs but put limits on it. Luckily, the person complied. People were fed up at the end.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

On my last ever visit to my elderly aunt, I called her rude, and walked out. She had gone into a rant against immigrants, even though her immigrant caregiver was sitting in the same room with us. I never spoke to her again. I didn’t call her and she didn’t call me. She died eighteen months later. I wish I had had the tools in my book, because then I would have been able to talk to her in a such a way that she might have been able to listen to me differently. Instead of focusing on what was offensive to me, I wish I had recognized that underneath her rant was a love of her country. If I had seen that I could have named it and agreed with it. After all, I love our country too. Then, once we agreed, I could have used the tool of reframing to communicate some of my views but use her values to make it easier for her to agree with. For example, I could have asked her if immigrants like her caregiver who work hard should be allowed to come into our country. I think she probably would have agreed with that. But even if she didn’t, I wouldn’t have stormed out and would have been able to continue the conversation. By being in relationship with each other, we have an opportunity to change each other. When we cut off contact, we lose that opportunity.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

My sister got into a heated discussion with an employee of hers who had a different political view. They had had a good relationship before that. My sister “solved” it by setting a boundary that their conversations would only be about old movies in the future. She can do that, she’s the boss. But what I suggested when I wrote about this situation in my newsletter is to use an episode like this as an opportunity to start a conversation about media literacy. Especially if the person is a knowledge worker, employees need to know how to evaluate the information they take in, and media is just one source. Then you can apply my five-step model of preparation, asking questions, listening, affirming and reframing that I talk about in my newsletter, by making the questions about media literacy.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this? We need to get to know other people so we can recognize that people are multifaceted and not one-dimensional. Look for the other parts in people’s lives especially people you disagree with. I have had political discussions with one particular neighbor, but I also know her husband has cancer, she has a disabled daughter, and she has worked with me on a project. I see how afraid she is of change. She is real person. The more you can get to know a variety of people in real life, the less we will be tempted to see them as one-dimensional.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us? We need to rebuild our relationships in real life so that social media doesn’t dominate what we know about people. We need to stop seeing the “other side” as the enemy. They are all Americans. Most of them are warm, caring people who contribute to world. Look for the good in everyone. Participate in community efforts to make the neighborhood or town or city you live in a better place. Get to know your neighbors and contribute yourself.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

Volunteer in your community to help make your little piece of the world a better place. Use this as an opportunity to get to know a variety of people, especially ones you might disagree with. Talk to them about their lives and try to understand what events shaped them.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

I found a suggestion for healing our nation that came from two different sources, anthropologist Joseph Henrich, and historian/author Anne Applebaum. They both have separately identified working towards a common objective is a way to bind a society together after conflict. Henrich has cited examples of how it worked in indigenous societies and Anne Applebaum has identified it as recommended by peace advocates and seen in her experience in Eastern Europe. I’ve also seen the effect of that in my personal life. I know the discussion I got into with a neighbor right after the election was less heated because I had already worked with her on a joint project. We already had had a shared experience. Henrich further suggests that a ritual with shared movements and music is particularly powerful. The choreographed dance of the witches that a few of my neighbors did for Halloween 2019 probably helped bind them together.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Prepare: If you are stressed, go into an encounter by doing whatever you can to de-stress. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, meditate, or pray or whatever you do to help calm down. And prepare by learning what you can about the person you are disagreeing with. Don’t read the news obsessively, it will make you more stressed. Do read about what makes people different, read about potential solutions. You’ll need that information later.
  2. Ask questions: Too often, we make assumptions about what is driving the other side. But often those assumptions aren’t true. Or if they contain a grain of truth, they are exaggerated. After all, the news focuses on the extreme examples, because most people aren’t news. The saying about assuming — that it makes an “ass” out of you and me — has some truth to it. When you ask the right kind of questions, you are opening up the conversations on a very different note. There are many types of questions you can ask that can help, but an all-purpose good opening question is: “I really want to understand what you think. Can you explain your ideas to me?”
  3. Listen: It doesn’t help to ask questions if you don’t listen. Too often we aren’t actually listening, but instead preparing our arguments. Listening is hard. It isn’t about a technique; it is about being truly willing to slow down. Hemingway had it right when he said: “When people talk, listen completely.” The retired British hostage negotiator, Richard Mullender, says that a good listener needs to look for facts, emotions, and values. But unless you have done your preparation, you may not recognize the values.
  4. Affirm: We are so used to trying to poke holes in people’s arguments and defending our own, that it is hard for us to step back and figure what we agree with people on. But if you can affirm at least something about what the person said, you will change the conversation. The other person will relax and they become more able to hear what you have to say. But more than that, you might also change yourself.
  5. Reframe: Here we come to the key step where you apply the preparation in the first step. Once you understand the values that the person holds from listening and from doing your preparation, then you can put that into action. You need to use a value that is important to the other person and tie to the issue you care about. Research shows that using this technique will make it more likely that people will listen and pay attention and, at least sometimes, change their mind. On the other hand, using our own values instead, like we usually do, makes it more likely that they will resist.

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’? I know it sounds too simple to say apply the Golden Rule but it’s true. There’s a reason why just about every religion has some version of the Golden Rule, which is: “Do unto others as you would wish they would do unto you.” What’s even harder is the newly named Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they would wish it to be done.” You may not want to do it because it sounds like you lose when you do that. What actually happens is that it helps you in the long run. The concept of karma encapsulates this, that helping others actually pays off in the long run for the helper. This has been validated in academic research, which Adam Grant talks about in his book, Givers and Takers.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I have hope that we can learn to talk to each other in a new way that can help us to solve our issues. As I have been giving virtual talks around the country, I keep running into people who are hungry to learn how to bridge the divide and who want to find a way to make it happen. And I run into others who have similar missions, so there are a lot of people who have a lot of ideas on how we can solve this. Plus, your project to bring attention to these types of efforts gives me hope.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

They can make the world a better place, one community at a time. That’s where their power is. We all need to belong and belonging in person is more powerful than online. Substituting online interaction for in person contact has led to poorer mental health and an increase in suicide. But no community will be perfect, we have to be willing to work at it, be open to differences, to work through conflicts and be forgiving.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂 🙂

I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with Melinda Gates. I love the work the Gates Foundation is doing but I think they could garner a lot more support or that work if they learned more about how to talk across the cultural divide. One example is the COVID-19 vaccines. People in the US on the right are less likely to be concerned about the disease and less likely to get the vaccine. But if you applied the techniques in my book and my newsletter, I think you could convince some of the vaccine resistors.

How can our readers follow you online?

My website www.persuadedontpreach.com, my newsletter: https://fracturedrelationships.substack.com/ and you can follow me on Linked in or Twitter or the Facebook group, Persuade, Don’t Preach.

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Author Karen Tibbals On The 5 Things That Each Of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

If you haven’t been, be kinder to yourself. That doesn’t mean indulgence. That means if you’ve been taught to be harsh and unforgiving of your mistakes or shortfalls, you’re going to subconsciously have similar judgements of others. Try to extend some compassion to both yourself and others.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ardell Broadbent.

Ardell Broadbent has a Master’s Degree in Psychology. She is currently marketing and expanding on a game-based politics curriculum. The intent is to provide a platform for lighthearted discussion and understanding of the strengths and contribution of the four largest parties, with the intent of transcending the entrenched divisiveness of public media messages. She served seven years as a board member and one year as president of La Vereda, a community-centered non-profit in Del Norte, Colorado. She is a court-rostered mediator.

https://medium.com/media/19a188f7d4bb0c57774bbb49431097a1/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

Yes. I have a sister and brother who don’t talk to each other anymore. There are a lot of similarities between them. They are only two years apart in age, both have four kids, belong to the same church, and make their kids take music lessons. My sister’s family is in some ways a typical liberal city-dwelling family, drives a hybrid, eats vegan, and posted Bernie signs. My daughter and I lived with them eight months in their mother-in-law apartment, so we know their beliefs pretty well. Prior to the pandemic, they refused to visit the family home for gatherings because of my brother who lives there with his family. It’s rural. Although my brother and sister-in-law both work other jobs, they keep a small hobby farm and have a few horses. She processes chickens herself. I lived in the separate unit of the house for two summers, and there wasn’t any soundproofing. I pretty much know their business, and I consider them responsible parents. But the issue for my sister was that they let their children own and handle guns, and reportedly one wasn’t put away at a time that my sister visited. The gun issue is just a symbol of a rift that seems political, to the point that they couldn’t talk to work out an agreement. The family helped work out an agreement about guns put away at family gatherings, but there wasn’t trust that it would be adhered to.

Before we go further into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Yes. It’s actually relevant to the topic. I’ve lived in a variety of locations or communities that epitomize the four largest political parties of the U.S.

  • I was raised in semi-rural staunchly conservative and religious community, in Utah, which for nearly six decades has voted Republican.
  • In college I fell in with a crowd who supported every conservationist cause. The value of frugality and long-term planning fit with my pioneer heritage. This immersed me in Green party ideologies. During and after the college roommate communes, many of us continued these ecologically conscious ideals including permaculture gardens, green architecture, minimalism, and beekeeping.
  • Next I became conscious of Democrat ideals. A couple of years prior to and during my graduate studies I lived in large cities where I grew to appreciate public transit, worked for government social services, and benefited from federal school loans. I married a public school teacher who became a professor of multicultural education, and I had a minor in multicultural and women’s issues from my undergraduate degree as well. I lived in Los Angeles for 5 years, the epitome of ethnic and cultural diversity, working closely with clients of a variety of nationalities.
  • Then back to Green. I wanted to raise my daughter in a location that offered more connection to nature and a sense of community. Her earliest schooling was in the small town of Crestone Colorado, a unique place that grew out of a land grant donation to any certifiable major religion. An ashram, zen center, native American ceremonial group, and monastery, brought a variety of experiences to the community. Tie dye, music festivals, new age spiritual beliefs, UFO sightings, government conspiracy theory like chem trails, and abundant cannabis use were all part of the culture.
  • I’ve also had a solid Libertarian training. At one point I lived in a small mountain town that to me represents this outlook. My cousin in LA tells me I just am not acquainted with the urban libertarian type, and she’s right, but anyway, I’m thinking of a friend describing a road trip during which they saw Hillary signs in every city and only Trump signs in between. The insistence on self-sufficiency, in addition to some lack of economic opportunity, created a specific look characterized by a lot of rusted metal and weathered wood. The look of the town was wild west, with garages or yards of hoarded clutter subject to neighborly sharing. There and in nearby communities I had friends with family-owned ranches, small farms, cottage industries such as cheese-making, the type of artisan work that big business continues to push out of the market. They value their independent livelihoods and tend to be fiscally conservative, but they can’t compete with the low prices offered by government-subsidized big agribusiness. This worldview ties back into my childhood. My dad was a prepper and John Bircher, intent on raising a family without negative cultural influences such as TV and popular music. I grew up hearing about the illuminati, the mark of the beast, and the new world order.

So I’ve been in more than one bubble.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I developed a set of games to help give a platform for families, friends, classrooms, or any small group to have a more lighthearted way to discuss politics. These are role-playing games. You can take a stance and explore ideas without wondering if others will think you are deluded or evil, because you’re just playing. The website is fractioNation.US. For the most part, it’s not presenting you with prepackaged ideas but inviting you to respectfully debate, to share examples and experiences, or figure out a compromise.

What or who inspired you to pursue this interest?

It was my daughter. She was 11 in 2015, and I was trying to figure out how to help her understand the issues she was hearing about, in a way that didn’t dumb it down but also wasn’t so complicated. I found it was really fun to work on game-based learning, and it just took on a life of its own even though I didn’t really have time for another project.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

As far as the games project, there was a local game-maker’s guild that would get together weekly to playtest each other’s games, and they had a lot of good feedback and encouragement.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Can’t think of anything relevant.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Lemme mention one relevant to this topic. The title is We Must Not Be Enemies, by Micheal Austin. The title is from a quote by Abraham Lincoln. You can get a good overview on the Amazon description of the book. Among his main points are that we need to learn how to be better friends with people we disagree with. I’ve tried to do that. It has been maddening sometimes. Also, he says we should argue for things and not just against things. Be part of a solution, rather than opposing others’ solutions.

Another is Cultivating Peace by James O’Dea, who was the Washington DC director of Amnesty International. That book influenced me to go thru training to become a court-rostered mediator.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

There’s one framework that has been important for me while working on this project. It’s Carol Sanford’s idea of four levels of operating an organization. The lowest level is extracting value: You try to get as much out as you can while putting in as little as necessary. It’s a self-serving strategy, and it is often a short-term strategy. An example in the energy business would be continuing to extract and burn coal to convert to electric. The next level is arrest disorder. You try to stop some of the damaging effects while you’re extracting value. You provide housing and reparation to those whose family members died from black lung, and use better smokestack filters to stop externalizing costs. Better than that is a commitment to do good. Here you try to adopt best practices in the business. You might build some solar farms or windmills and try to phase out fossil fuels. You may even reverse some of the damage by planting trees. But solar and wind tech have their own extractive impact. The top level is regenerative, meaning to use systems thinking to consider how the various parts work, and how to heal. In this case, we would look at the regulation of insulative values for buildings, include rooftop solar costs in the mortgage to avoid power loss thru transmission lines, use glass brick windows for lighting and passive solar heating, and in general use structural design to maximize comfort and minimize the need for external energy.

So applying this principle to politics, we wouldn’t be trying to drain the swamp. We would look at how the political system incentivizes behaviors that are exploitative, on both sides. We would look at how the economic system interacts with the political system, on both sides. On the “do good” level we could work on election reform to enable third party candidates or examine the strengths of other nations that are functioning as social democracies, to adopt best practices. On the regenerative level, we notice that fundamentally it is the doctrine that “greed is good,” “might makes right,” and “winner takes all” that has permitted a culture of exploitation to become accepted, which has damaged trust in business interactions, replaced it with reliance on lawyers, and obliterated the social contract. Then we can start the slow work of rebuilding culture at the level of values.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The organizational leadership literature has an important distinction between position power, which is more a manager role, and leadership, which is more an influencer role that doesn’t necessarily rely on position power. Obviously, you can be both at the same time, but everyone with position power I believe should strive to not exert coercive power but to instead influence by example and persuasion. When you think about the people who have made an important positive impact on your life, it’s more likely to be a family member, a school teacher, or a mentor rather than someone famous. I love Brene Brown’s books on leadership, including Braving the Wilderness, which talks a lot about not allowing yourself to be pigeonholed into one side or the other. There’s a lot about being truthful and respectful, which is both daring and vulnerable.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Collectively we’ve been living beyond our means, and we could argue whether it’s because of peak oil or the growing wealth disparity, but as the easy credit dried up, many are getting uncomfortable if they’re not already at the point of barely scraping by. At the same time, we see so many on social media living enviable lives, and a lot of people feel the economic opportunities are unfairly distributed. However, few have the time to really dig into the historical trends of economics and social changes that got us here, so instead we play a blame game. It’s easier to pass along phrases that are partly true and that jive with our views than to take a balanced perspective.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

Well, this is where I can put in another plug for those educational games. With my politically diverse family, there was one time we assigned everyone to play the political role pretty much the opposite of what we knew them to be. It was fun, and I came away from it realizing that those whose views are most different from mine knew more about my favored positions than I thought they did. I also played many times with my mom, because who else would have enough patience and love to playtest games over and over? We both learned a lot. She has never voted the same as me, but we began to see that we had a lot more areas of agreement than we had differences.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

One of my sisters deleted her Facebook account because she was using up too much time arguing on social media and just couldn’t quit the habit. Even if you make a snappy comeback and feel some satisfaction from it, it isn’t helping you or them if it’s antagonistic. You just make people more defensive and dug in. That adage from educators applies: “They don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care.”

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

Focus on something we can all agree on. Everybody from every party can agree that human trafficking is wrong, and it’s a lot more pervasive than most are aware. Let’s unite to work on something we agree on and table the other discussions until we fix that.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

There are some great movies that are entertaining and also show nuances of social and political stances, and people’s interactions around them. Crash is a brilliant example, super relevant to the current conversations. Beware of Children is a more recent one.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

We can try to find the most unbiased news sources possible using monitors such as allsides.com. Don’t support other news outlets.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

This is not going to be the answer you want to hear. The problem isn’t out there. It’s inside each of us. I don’t think there’s any way to lower the ante beside becoming more mature ourselves, and getting our own anxiety under control. If we’re less reactive and less antagonistic, then those we talk to won’t be as threatened. Also we won’t be bothered as much by the idea of deluded people who need to be persuaded or stopped. We don’t want to be stressed out by something we have almost no control over. We can work toward our own version of a solution without convincing the opposition. I also wonder if it’s not as bad as it sounds from the media. Those with extreme positions get a lot of press, but they don’t represent the majority.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

First, if you haven’t been, be kinder to yourself. That doesn’t mean indulgence. That means if you’ve been taught to be harsh and unforgiving of your mistakes or shortfalls, you’re going to subconsciously have similar judgements of others. Try to extend some compassion to both yourself and others.

Second, set boundaries. Boundaries show self respect. I love how Brene Brown insists that “clear is kind.” Don’t make others guess. This can reduce the potential for hurt feelings and conflict. Without making others wrong for their views, you can say “that doesn’t work for me” or “that’s not a topic I’m open to discussing.” Get some support if some aren’t respecting your boundaries.

Third, see if you can get some mediation or therapy to work through whatever rifts you have between members of your family. This may seem harder than fixing the national political divide, but it’s where unity starts. There’s no guarantee, but you can at least know you gave it a chance. Again I love Brene Brown’s reminder that family isn’t replaceable. It’s not your political allies who are going to help watch your sick kid or join in to help pay for a family member’s rehab.

Fourth, once your own backyard is tidied up, you might be ready to expand your influence. Find how you can contribute your talent and interests to make your neighborhood better, maybe thru clubs, church groups, activist groups that are non-violent, or just a volunteer effort that your workplace or social group might take on. For example, as a way to unite in an important goal that isn’t politically charged, on the website fractioNation.US there’s a free download of a role-playing game that helps talk thru emergency preparedness by setting up potential disaster scenarios that you have to navigate with limited supplies.

If you manage to do the first four, then it might be time to get even more involved locally in your community. You might attend local government meetings. You might hire a local mediator to guide a discussion between two groups that have been at odds about a local issue. This is where it counts, where you can actually make a difference. Trading insults on social media is not how you can make an impact in changing anyone’s mind. This is where it becomes obvious the need to speak respectfully face to face. James O’Dea, an author mentioned earlier, said that when faced with another’s rage, an important question to diffuse the situation is, “What do you need me to understand?”

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

Every major religion has some version of the perennial philosophy, to treat others as you would want to be treated, which means offering respect even if and when we need to set boundaries.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am optimistic. I think it might get worse before it gets better, but I am confident in the overall trajectory of cultural evolution. It might be that climate change, wealth disparity, loneliness, and the mental health epidemic all becomes so challenging that we quit focusing on trivialities and pull together.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

There’s an organization called Cultures of Dignity that’s created resources especially for young people, to help them emotionally deal with tough cultural issues, including politics. I would point them to resources they can access online.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

What a helpful question! I’d say Jo Jorgensen who was the Libertarian party’s presidential nominee AND Ralf Nader, who of course was the Green party presidential candidate a while back. I’d want to get them at the same table to see where they could agree and possibly unify the anti-establishment. That could provide us with a qualified candidate who stands a chance of challenging the duopoly.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’ve got a lot of projects going, but relevant to this topic, check out fractioNation.US, or Google-search my name.


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Ardell Broadbent On The 5 Things That Each Of Us… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kendra Davenport of Operation Smile: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our…

Kendra Davenport of Operation Smile: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness

Commit to leading with gratitude — that is, consciously commit to looking for the positive in things and striving to look on the bright side and be grateful, rather than the opposite — lamenting the challenges that crop up and overfocusing on the negative. Adopting a positive mindset is an important step toward reaping the benefits of gratitude and restoring our mental wellness. Gratitude improves peoples’ well-being because it helps reduces negative emotions like envy and resentment.

As we all know, times are tough right now. In addition to the acute medical crisis caused by the Pandemic, in our post COVID world, we are also experiencing what some have called a “mental health pandemic”.

What can each of us do to get out of this “Pandemic Induced Mental and Emotional Funk”?

One tool that each of us has access to is the simple power of daily gratitude. As a part of our series about the “How Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kendra Davenport.

Kendra Davenport, CFRE, is the Chief Development Officer for Operation Smile, a global surgical nonprofit that brings families renewed hope through cleft surgery and comprehensive care. She previously served as president of the Children of Fallen Patriots Foundation and vice president of institutional advancement and external affairs at Africare. Kendra has supported development at Project HOPE, the Population Reference Bureau, and other organizations. Recently, she earned an Executive Master of Policy Leadership from Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into our discussion, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about you and about what brought you to your specific career path?

In my senior year of college, I attended a career forum hosted by my school and listened to a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer speak about her career path. I was completely enamored with her from the confident, engaging way she spoke, to her manicured nails, perfectly coiffed hair, right down to her black patten leather Ferragamo pumps. I wanted to be like her and thought it would be terrific to learn from her and watch her in action. So, I wrote her a letter (you have to remember this was 1988, and there were no cell phones or Internet) asking if she would consider letting me serve as an unpaid intern for her. She enthusiastically agreed and a few months later, I was taking the train from Chestnut Hill to downtown Philadelphia, where I worked alongside Caroline Stewart, Business Buzz columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer, for several wonderful months. At least a few days a week, she would take me to business lunches with her and she always very graciously introduced me to whomever she was meeting, as her “incredible intern.” Most people would politely ask what my plans were after graduation and on more than one occasion, people very generously offered to arrange interviews for me with their company. I interviewed with a shipping company, a hedge fund, the Chamber of Commerce, a major insurance company, a big eight accounting firm and a children’s museum. Caroline was intent on helping me identify a first job that would be educational at a minimum and fulfilling at best.

I didn’t realize how lucky I was at the time to have in Caroline such a wonderful mentor, but three decades later, I strive to be the same to young people who cross my path.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I graduated from a small then women’s college and immediately entered the working world as an associate in the development (fundraising department) of the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia. It was one of the nation’s first tactile, participatory museums designed exclusively for children. I honestly had no idea what development was, but I was grateful for the job and quickly found that I enjoyed helping the museum advance its mission and goals through fundraising and brand raising. Thirty-two years later I am still working in nonprofit development. One of my mentors says I am either a masochist or an eternal optimist. I think I am probably a little of both.

Since that first job, I have been immensely fortunate to have worked for many amazing national and international nonprofits. I think the reason I never veered from the nonprofit sector to the for-profit arena is that I find nonprofit work challenging but exceptionally fulfilling because it has purpose. I believe helping people is a terrifically compelling and rewarding way to spend a career.

There have been many things I have had the good fortune of doing throughout my career, and I have been truly blessed to have worked alongside many incredibly impressive people whose experience and expertise I have taken to heart and emulated. Choosing a particular story that I think would be interesting to others is tricky because I feel so close to my work — it’s personal for me and it always has been. I think that’s why I have been able to forge a pretty nice career for myself … because I am devoted to what I do. I have found that whatever I give of myself to my job tends to come back to me tenfold, time and time again.

Several years ago, when I was working for Africare, I was deep in rural Liberia, touring maternal waiting homes that my D.C.-based development team and I had worked hard to raise the money to construct. I was with a gentleman who now works for Operation Smile, Ernest Gaie. At the time, Ernest was Africare’s Country Director for Liberia. We had been driving literally all day and had participated in several meetings with village officials along the way to a maternal hospital on the Guinean border. I was exhausted, and I can still remember hoping to myself as we approached the very remote hospital that our stop would be brief because I was tired, sweaty, hungry, and longing for a hot shower, and I knew we still had a very long drive to make back to Monrovia.

As we got closer, Ernest telephoned the hospital to let them know we were almost there. When we arrived, we were greeted by a throng of women dressed in white. They broke out into song as soon as we exited the vehicle, welcoming us as a show of appreciation and hospitality. They were so genuine and kind, I was deeply moved. I quickly learned, they were traditional midwives, trained by Africare to safely deliver healthy babies and help ensure mothers were healthy as well. To this day, maternal mortality rates in West Africa are the highest in the world. When I went into the hospital, mothers-to-be were equally happy to see us and welcoming. Many of them had just had their babies and offered to let me hold them. They were also very willing to take pictures with me, which I was just blown away by. I felt very guilty for initially hoping the visit would be quick. I enjoyed talking with them, listening to their stories and seeing their newborn babies so much. The memory is indelibly etched on my mind as one of the most powerfully moving professional experiences I have ever had.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why do you think that resonates with you? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“Success is never final, and failure is never fatal.” To be successful in development, you need to put yourself out there. You need to try new things and not be afraid of rejection. The same I think is true in life. If you want to achieve your personal and professional goals, you need to take some risks. If you don’t, you’re not apt to advance in any measurable way. I also think it’s important to constantly reassess and reset those goals — both personal and professional. How else do you stay fulfilled? This line of thought does not resonate with everyone, but I am an ambitious person and once I have attained a goal I established for myself, I move on to another and then another. I think my career is illustrative of the drive and energy I devote to my work. Ambitious women often find that what is applauded in their male counterparts is frowned upon in women. I believe things are getting better and that opportunities to lead in the private and nonprofit sectors are opening up for women, but the working world is still largely dominated by men.

At this stage in my career, I feel obligated to encourage young female professionals to aim higher and to push forward, especially after suffering a setback. I think the best thing female leaders can do is to help pave the way for younger women professionals to overcome barriers to success, while encouraging them to constantly set new goals for themselves. I have been fortunate to have had so many pivotal people throughout my career believe in me, take chances on me, and help create opportunities for me. I am grateful to this day, for the many opportunities other people facilitated for me. Gratitude and my acknowledgement that I would not be where I am today without the help of many others motivates me to pay it forward.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story about why that resonated with you?

I love to read and have read all my life. When I was younger, I read a great deal for pleasure, but as the pace of my life and my career picked up, I found it more difficult to find the time to read for fun. Now that my children are grown and I have more time to devote to my work, I find myself reading more for work than for pleasure, but I admit to stealing time to enjoy a work of fiction every now and then. I am always looking for ways to inspire the team of amazing people I manage, to be more effective in some area of my professional life, or to address something I feel I need help tackling. Most recently, my team and I have been reading Atomic Habits, by James Clear. It’s about the aggregation of marginal gains — how over time, small changes that become habits can add up to big impacts. We have an informal book club that anyone on our team can participate in and the discussions this book has spawned have been remarkable. My original intent in selecting Atomic Habits for my team to focus on and read, was to encourage them to work on the things during the pandemic that they could tangibly influence. Together, we have learned about the benefits and control we could realize if we focused on making small but impactful changes that over time would amount to significant achievements.

Holding book club discussions with members of my team is also a nice way of convening them and inspiring fun, relaxed, participatory discussions that inevitably get people laughing. Facilitating good team communication has taken on greater significance since we began working entirely remotely and laughter in midst of the pandemic has become a soothing tonic that everyone can benefit from and use.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The nature of our work — fundraising, brand, marketing, and communications makes — for an assortment of simultaneous projects that are exciting. For example, we are having early planning discussions about launching a capital campaign through which we will raise at least $40 million in the next two years. The campaign will be a very large, global project that will engage almost everyone on our team of 50. In addition to helping Operation Smile raise its brand awareness and tens of millions of dollars, the campaign will provide most everyone on our team great experience and opportunities to work on new things and to do things that we excel at, in new ways. Projects like this keep our team motivated and enthused about our work, which is critical because development is like the nonprofit version of sales — only it’s much harder and much more subtle.

Another project we are launching, is called the VUCA Workshop series. VUCA, stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. The intent of the workshop series is to facilitate meaningful discussions about everything people are going through as a result of COVID-19. Because I am very concerned about the mental strain and stress the pandemic is having on my team, I thought we could all benefit from working with experts who through a series of discussions and hands-on exercises will give people some mechanisms and tools to better cope with all that life is throwing at them right now. I truly believe in planning and implementing this series, we are proactively addressing the things that are on everyone’s minds and which are potentially creating mental anguish and anxiety for people that inevitably spills over into their work life. If we can equip them with some helpful ideas and tools to better handle the stress and uncertainty and fear they may be experiencing, we can improve their outlook and possibly their well-being, which is very important to me. I think it’s incumbent on employers to do as much as they can to help employees cope in this crazy time we’re all living in and the VUCA Workshop series is one small initiative aimed at doing just that.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Fortunately, I have many mentors whose guidance and support has helped me throughout my life. My father has served as a guiding star and is a major influence in my life. My husband of 32 years is also a source of near constant guidance and advice, especially regarding management. I believe both he and my father are two of the best managers I know. I frequently seek their advice and while I don’t always abide by it, I sincerely value it.

As I think I said earlier, I have been blessed to work for some wonderful mentors/bosses. One in particular, Judith Jacobson, was my supervisor for nearly 10 years when I worked for the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Alliance. Like many nonprofits, shortly after I began working the Alliance, it experienced a very austere period during which all travel was halted, a hiring freeze was instituted, and money to operate was scarce. Judy took over as CEO during this trying period after the former CEO was let go. She had a very difficult job, and yet, she infused humor into the most challenging of circumstances and was throughout the two-year period incredibly positive and resourceful. I was in awe of her fortitude and mental and emotional strength throughout that time, but it was not until years later that I learned she didn’t pay herself in order to be able to pay me and my colleagues without bankrupting the organization. To make that kind of self-imposed, long term sacrifice for the benefit of her employees and the organization is something that to this day, inspires me to be a better person.

Judy remains one of my most trusted confidants and advisors. I have incredible respect for her.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now that we are on the topic of gratitude, let’s move to the main focus of our interview. As you know, the collective mental health of our country is facing extreme pressure. We would like to explore together how every one of us can use gratitude to improve our mental wellness. Let’s start with a basic definition of terms. How do you define the concept of Gratitude? Can you explain what you mean?

I believe gratitude is more a state of mind than an act and to live a life of gratitude, to me, is more about paying it forward, sharing your gifts and time with others. It is a consciousness of the many ways in which you are fortunate and an active commitment to renew that awareness by sharing your bounty and your gifts

It is also about maintaining a positive attitude. Leading with gratitude is empowering. When you consciously acknowledge how fortunate and blessed you are, it’s easier to shrug off the things you cannot control, to ignore little hurts or aggressions we all experience every day — from someone cutting us off in the car, to being left off an email chain you feel you should have been included on.

I frequently remind my team to embody and espouse an attitude of gratitude and to avoid assuming malintent whenever they might feel slighted. Actively striving to live a life of gratitude helps promote a happy, grateful, mindful culture that people enjoy working in.

Why do you think so many people do not feel gratitude? How would you articulate why a simple emotion can be so elusive?

I like to believe that there is good in everyone and that we all just experience life in different ways. For some, gratitude is an emotion that is present in everything they experience, in all they do, and in everything they believe. I think people can learn to put gratitude at the forefront of their lives, but I think it comes more naturally when we are raised to be grateful for all that we have, for the gifts we have been given, and for everything good that comes our way.

If it is truly elusive and I am not altogether sure it is, I think that has a lot to do with the environment in which people exist, the influencers they tap into and surround themselves with. I have worked in some of the poorest countries in the world, but felt while there, an omnipresent sense of gratitude in everyone I met. Again, I think it’s about perspective. The India Arie song, “There’s Hope,” illustrates perfectly what I experienced — perspective and taking nothing for granted.

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be constructive to help spell it out. Can you share with us a few ways that increased gratitude can benefit and enhance our life?

Expressions of gratitude come in all shapes and forms. When I encourage my team, for example, to put gratitude first, I don’t mean that they should all break out their good stationery and stamps and send people thank you notes — though I don’t think that is ever a bad idea. Gratitude can be expressed in countless ways including giving someone your time when you don’t necessarily have it to spare, putting someone else’s needs ahead of your own because you know or sense they need something more than you do, acknowledging everyone who worked on a project you led, even if their collective contributions do not equal what you alone may have devoted to the effort. These are the small acts and gestures that convey gratitude and promote a culture of kindness, trust and empathy.

Let’s talk about mental wellness in particular. Can you share with us a few examples of how gratitude can help improve mental wellness?

I believe mental wellness is a critical, but all too often overlooked component of health — not just here in the U.S. but all over the world. I think attitudes about mental health and how important it is to just about everything are changing for the better, but there is a long way to go before, as a society, we assertively champion mental health as a means or barrier to well-being. Stigmas around mental health prevent many employers from openly addressing issues such as depression or anxiety.

If the past year has taught me anything with respect to work and my team, the primary lesson has been about the importance of helping people create a culture at work that enables and encourages mental wellness.

When people feel appreciated, it boosts their spirits, so being mindful about recognizing when people have done something special or achieved a goal can change their mood for the better. I know of no one who does not like their efforts recognized, and recognizing people publicly is even more effective. Infusing gratitude is a game changer because if done frequently enough in meaningful ways, it inspires a lightness and happiness. It helps create a culture of kindness. Wouldn’t everyone want to work in an environment where the guiding principles are gratitude, kindness and empathy? By virtue of inculcating gratitude as a highly desirable quality and trait that is valued, respect for one another is facilitated, which is the foundation on which a caring atmosphere is established.

Ok wonderful. Now here is the main question of our discussion. From your experience or research, what are “Five Ways That Each Of Us Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our Overall Mental Wellness”. Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Commit to leading with gratitude — that is, consciously commit to looking for the positive in things and striving to look on the bright side and be grateful, rather than the opposite — lamenting the challenges that crop up and overfocusing on the negative. Adopting a positive mindset is an important step toward reaping the benefits of gratitude and restoring our mental wellness. Gratitude improves peoples’ well-being because it helps reduces negative emotions like envy and resentment.
  • By proactively and deliberately striving to thank people for the small and the not so small ways they might help you, you can completely alter the way you are perceived for the better. Acknowledgement is a powerful tool that can touch even the hardest person to get along with. Gratitude is a relationship builder. My husband and my father were active-duty, career officers in the Coast Guard and Navy. I moved frequently as a child and my nomadic lifestyle continued after I married. Many times, shortly after we moved to a new place, thoughtful neighbors would bring baked goods or plants to welcome us to the neighborhood. Their thoughtfulness always touched me and helped me envision my life in our new surroundings. I would always return the gesture within a few weeks and make a point of acknowledging how much their kindness meant to me and my family. Everywhere we have lived, we forged strong and enduring relationships with people who reached out to us almost as soon as the moving truck departed — or sooner! To this day, we remain friends with several of these thoughtful souls and I marvel at the fact that our relationships, now decades old in many cases, began with a simple but kind gesture of gratitude.
  • Sometimes, a small gesture of appreciation can yield unexpected dividends. This is surely true at work but almost everywhere in life as well. Recently, my husband and I helped our middle child move into her first post-college apartment. Because she had not yet applied to the city for a parking permit, she had to park her car in a lot near her apartment. The parking lot attendant was an older gentleman and when my daughter went to pay him, he struck up a conversation with her. They talked for about 10 minutes and at the end of their conversation, he told her he would keep an eye on her car, gave her a “family discount” on the parking fee, and thanked her profusely for taking the time to talk. He told her he got lonely and bored sitting alone all day and that her bright smile and willingness to chat had made his day. By simply treating the older man with respect and kindness, my daughter developed a friend, who in just a few minutes, helped her make the transition to her new independence and home a little easier.
  • I am a practicing Catholic and my faith is integral to every aspect and fiber of my life. I think of it as the greatest gift my parents have ever given me, because Catholicism is predicated on gratitude — we thank God for everything He has given us — from the basic and most banal everyday things to the more amorphous things that are harder to quantify but mean so much to us and define and shape who we are — our intellect, our talents, our health, and our creativity to name a few. I learned at a very young age from Sister Leilia, an Irish Sister of St. Joseph of Cluny, that regardless of how badly I thought my day might have been going, the most important thing I could do to turn it around was to thank God for giving it to me. At the time, I truly struggled with her logic, but as I matured and moved up to Sister Rachel’s fifth grade class, I began to understand how much I really had to be grateful for and that understanding became a guiding principle that remains salient to me today as I approach my 55th year on the planet. I attribute the fact that I am not an envious person to my gratitude for who I am, who God made me, and for the many gifts He has given me. It might sound simple and I suppose it is, but I believe gratitude might just be my north star.
  • My mother drilled into me and my siblings the importance of writing and mailing thank you notes. It often felt as though no sooner than we had blown out our birthday candles than we were required to sit at the kitchen table, write a draft on scratch paper and then pen a formal note of appreciation to everyone who had given us a gift. Today, my dear mom is nearing 80 and our family jokes about writing her a thank you note before we get whatever she has mailed us from the mailbox to the house. We all write thank you notes that sometimes seem superfluous, but more often than not, become treasured, sometimes humorous or sentimental mementos. The act of putting your feelings on paper is powerful and tangible expression of gratitude that means a lot to people. As soon as Operation Smile began working entirely remotely last March, I became concerned about how I was going to help my team stay connected, feel supported, and maintain the elusive esprit de corps we enjoyed. I began writing and sending each of them cards once or twice a month and I have tried to maintain that written, fun, very personal communication. I often include favorite quotes in the cards I send that might be references to things we’re experiencing as a group. The responses I have received have been very positive. While written communication is not nearly the same as speaking with someone in person, I think sometimes it’s more meaningful. I try to express how grateful I am for each member of my team and to provide a little encouragement as well.

Is there a particular practice that can be used during a time when one is feeling really down, really vulnerable, or really sensitive

I think it can be helpful to write about feelings, especially feelings of sadness, frustration or hurt. Journaling is proven to be a cathartic activity that can help people process their feelings and reflect on past experiences, which can be very elucidative. One of the things I started doing a few months ago, was writing in a gratitude journal I originally purchased to give to one of my children for Christmas. Upon reading some of its contents, I decided I needed it much more than my daughter and I gifted it to myself. One of the suggested ways of practicing gratitude I found in the journal is writing a gratitude list. The simple act of making a written list of all I am grateful for helps me recalibrate when I am feeling stressed or anxious or angry. It’s a practice I now do regularly — sometimes very deliberately and other times more absentmindedly.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that you would recommend to our readers to help them to live with gratitude?

Instagram:

Touker Suleyman’s Instagram Feed

Dr. Elvis Francois’s Instagram Feed

Stay.Positive.In.Life Feed

LinkedIn:

Gratitude Company LinkedIn profile

Books:

Ambition, Leading with Gratitude, Seth Buechley

The Practice of Finding, Holly Whitcomb

Gratitude Journal, by Chronicle Books

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would amplify the notion that kindness in the workplace is essential to making vulnerability acceptable. I believe demonstrating real vulnerability is not reflective of weakness. I believe it demonstrates strength of character. If more people felt they could truly share the way they feel at work without repercussions or judgement, I think people would be healthier mentally and physically, and that work would become less of a necessary evil and more of an avocation for more people. I am not suggesting we make work a substitute for therapy. I just think there is a lot more room for the workplace to be a kinder, more empathic place for everyone.

What is the best way our readers can further follow your work online?

LinkedIn.com/in/kendradavenport

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Kendra Davenport of Operation Smile: How We Can Leverage The Power Of Gratitude To Improve Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How JP McNeill of Ando Is Helping To Change Our…

Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How JP McNeill of Ando Is Helping To Change Our World

It takes a village. Grow your village as fast as you can because your business will depend upon it. Our village consists of our team members, investors, partners and customers.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing JP McNeill of Ando.

With more than 20 years of experience in executive leadership roles at early-stage and high-growth companies, JP is skilled at combining vision and pragmatism to transform concepts into thriving businesses focused on reversing climate change.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I was born in Mexico City to a Mexican mother and an American father and moved to the United States (Ohio) when I was four. My family and I frequently traveled back and forth to Mexico to visit family and friends; to this day I feel so grateful to have grown up with influences from both of these cultures, as I feel it truly shaped me to be who I am today.

My parents started and ran a Mexican restaurant for 35 years, treating their employees and community with kindness, respect and courage — and also great food and margaritas! I began working there when I was 14 years old and was able to learn so much about hard work and cultivating a positive work environment. Much of what I learned working under my parents has shaped the way I run my own business and interact with my peers and colleagues.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Our goal is simple: we want to empower everyone, everywhere to combat climate change. We do this by making everyday banking a force for good that benefits people and the planet.

Banking works under a simple principle: for every $1 in a checking account, savings account, CD or other bank account, a bank is able to invest and make $1 worth of loans. Unfortunately, of the $1 trillion in total loans issued each year by banks in the U.S., less than 2% support green initiatives. Most loans fund companies and assets which create more emissions and further harm the environment. This problem exists not only in the U.S., but throughout the world. Our money has been utilized, and continues to be utilized, to fund trillions of dollars in loans which harm our environment.

The good news is it doesn’t have to be this way. What we need is a method in which our money solely gets utilized to fund green investments which will create a thriving sustainable economy. Ando introduces two new principles which have the power to transform the banking industry on a global scale.

1.) Loans should be green, not brown. 100% of customer bank balances in a checking and savings account should be green. Green loans exist across every major economic sector. For example, in the energy industry, banks can provide loans for renewable energy investments. In the building industry, banks offer residential and commercial green mortgages. In the transportation sector, banks offer loans for electric cars, hybrids, busses and trains. In the agriculture and forestry sectors, loans exist for sustainable agriculture and forestry. In sustainable industry, banks make loans to reduce waste, increase recycling, increase sustainable materials.

2.) Banks should provide 100% transparency on what they finance. When you buy food, they tell you exactly what’s in it and provide the nutritional facts. Transparency is important so consumers know exactly what they’re buying into. The same should be true of banking. Banks should be transparent about what they do with customer deposits. If I have $2,000 in my checking account, I would like to know how my $2,000 is being utilized by the bank. Is 1% of it going to finance green loans, 5% or 100% of it? This level of transparency helps inform customers on what happens when they hand over their paycheck to the bank.

When enough people join Ando (and other banks who follow these additional two principles), we hopefully will create a social tipping dynamic, whereby other banks will need to incorporate these principles so that they don’t lose their customer deposits. This transformation will shift trillions of dollars away from funding brown loans to funding green loans thereby stopping global warming, improving our environment and creating a sustainable global economy.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

In August 2000, my wife and I heard Bill McDunough speak at a conference in Palm Desert, CA. He described that our economy was broken; it creates significant waste that harms our well-being and all life on the planet. He went on to describe how through better design we could create an economy modeled after nature, where there is no waste and a tremendous amount of abundance. After hearing him speak, I was forever changed. I realized my purpose in life was to work on solutions which promote sustainability and improve life for everyone on this planet.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

In the fall of 2019, I had a conversation with my 13-year-old son who is very concerned about the environment, global warming, and the implications of both on his future. I explained to him how banks operate, how much money they hold, and that people actually hold the power by choosing whom they bank with. When I was done, he looked at me and sighed and said, “Dad, I feel like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders.” I knew that if a 13-year-old boy understood Ando, we were going to connect with enough people for Ando to be successful.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I reached out to people who have been extremely successful, many of whom I have worked with in the past, to ask for advice, guidance and insight. I presented the concept to them, invited them to join and gave every person an equity stake in Ando. Admitting that you don’t always have the answers and learning from people who have been successful in their respective endeavors is what has helped me get to where I am today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

It takes a village to do almost anything. Our purpose and opportunities enable us to connect with people who I never thought possible of reaching, mostly because of the team of people I have behind me. When you start something new it may feel like you are climbing Mt. Everest alone. I am in constant awe and extremely grateful for those who have joined the Ando team and continue to play a critical role in its development and success.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I had a key team member once say that they maybe were not the right fit for the role because my ideas were too “out there” or too heavy. I didn’t know how to control and express my passions effectively, leaving him overwhelmed by my ideas. At the time, I didn’t think it was funny, but we look back on it now and laugh. For me, the lesson was and is now to lead with curiosity and seek first to understand and to apologize when and if you’ve made a mistake.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I am fortunate to have a number of people who have mentored and advised me along the way. First my spouse and children, both of whom inspire me and support me on my journey each and every day. Second, my co-founders and the entire Ando team who are experts in what they do and keep the machine running. They each influence and shape the company, and myself for that matter, on a daily basis.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The community and society can do two very important things to help address the root of the climate crisis. First, raise awareness of the connection between banking and the environment and the role we each play. We enable banks to either harm the environment or heal it by simply giving them our money. Second, to encourage people to take action. With awareness comes responsibility, but many people don’t follow through on this or don’t know where to start. It’s important we each support each other and encourage one another to be a participant of change rather than a spectator.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Today more people care about sustainability and the environment than they ever have before. As such, I think the biggest impact sustainability and environmental care have on a company’s bottom line is their role in defining a company’s culture. As Peter Drucker said, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” In the last company I started and grew to 650 people, we had an intern program for MBA students. In our first year, we had 300 people apply for only nine spots. By the end of the program, the nine participants had offers from some of the top firms nationwide. Each intern we extended an offer to stayed in the industry because of our mission.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Love what you do. Challenges occur regularly. When you love what you do, it makes it much easier to work through them.
  2. It’s not what happens, but how you relate to it that matters. I wanted to launch our services in the summer, but this was not realistic. I could have been angry or disappointed, instead I reevaluated my expectations and moved forward.
  3. Trust in your community to spread awareness. Ando is now a community of people who I have never met and are joining in the conversation and contributing in ways I had never imagined.
  4. Fail quickly and fail often. There have been a lot of trial-and-error periods while launching Ando. For example, we came up with many different names for the company. It was important to “fail” quickly and realize what names worked vs. what didn’t as to not waste time and money building supporting assets for a name that didn’t stick.
  5. It takes a village. Grow your village as fast as you can because your business will depend upon it. Our village consists of our team members, investors, partners and customers.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Fantastic! The world needs lots of people to participate in making a positive impact. Your participation will propel others to do the same!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As mentioned above, “It’s not what happens, but how you relate to it that matters.” For me, this life lesson comes into play almost every day. There are so many things that happen in life, and how we relate to them makes all the difference. I wish I would have learned this life lesson early on in my life.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Billie Eilish and Greta Thunberg. Two young passionate climate change agents.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jp-mcneill/

https://twitter.com/jpmcneill_ando

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How JP McNeill of Ando Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author S Mayumi “Umi” Grigsby Is Helping To Change Our World

Leave it all on the floor. This book is deeply personal and revealing. I am also hoping to prove to the women who entrusted me with their stories that they made the right choice. At this moment, if things don’t go the way I hope, it is not just about this moment, it’s not just that I have not been an effective storyteller. For someone like me who overachieves to mitigate imposter syndrome, it is also about my identity as a Black woman and not wanting to disappoint my family, my friends, my mentors, my boss, colleagues, team, or others who look like me. However, even if people don’t like the book, I know I have left it all on the floor and so, it won’t be for lack of trying. And so because of that, I feel good.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing S. Mayumi “Umi” Grigsby, an attorney with a long history of advocating for policies that empower marginalized communities. She currently works in policy in the city of Chicago and sits on the boards of Between Friends and GirlForward. After she experienced dismissive treatment while seeking answers for a mysterious and ongoing health issue, Ms. Grigsby decided to expand her advocacy by addressing disparities in the US health care system in her first book EmpowHERed Health: Reforming a Dismissive Health Care System. Born in Monrovia, Liberia, and raised in Houston, Texas by way of Paris, France, author, Ms. Grigsby intersperses her personal story and that of other Black women when interacting with an often dismissive health care system to both highlight the need for immediate action and to propose community-led solutions. Bilingual, in French and English, Ms. Grigsby is a graduate of Georgetown University and Northeastern University School of Law. She describes herself as an author, advocate, attorney and joyful warrior.

https://medium.com/media/182d104f168ed58c74618446b44b9b5b/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

My drive to find solutions to problems facing women and children was inspired by my own mother. Prior to the onset of the 13-year civil war that decimated Liberia’s infrastructure and killed so many, she walked out of the country with my father and whatever money she could carry in her “lappa,” a piece of cloth Liberian women wear around their waist. My sister and I immigrated to Europe on the last KLM flight out of Liberia before the civil war and we reunited with our parents in the United States years later. My mother was the one who managed to navigate the impossible chaos of that period and keep our family together. Her ability to keep our family strong in the midst of external turbulence has allowed my sister, my father, and me to thrive despite the negative effects of war. In my adult life, I have tried to honor my mother’s strength by seeking innovative solutions that create systemic change for women and youth. My work is driven by my commitment to empowering marginalized communities to be the drivers for their own sustainable social change. To me, that has meant working at the intersection of law, public policy, and social change.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

There were two books — Le Petit Prince by Antoine de St. Exupery and Harriet The Spy by Louise Fitzhugh. I am so jealous of children who have access to a plethora of children’s books with diverse representation these days but unfortunately I wasn’t exposed, even while growing up on the continent of Africa. I read both Le Petit Prince and Harriet the Spy when I was in 4th grade in France. And, as the new kid who spent a lot of time alone, I appreciated that they both made me think about the world and my place in the world. Le Petit Prince reminded me that all grown ups were children once even though only a few remembered. And, Harriet the Spy made me want to be a writer, retreating into my thoughts and the world I created with my writing when people around me were not as welcoming.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I decided to research memorable opening statements for a moot court trial once. I was very proud of myself when I found one that seemed perfect and everyone appeared to be very impressed by my rendition. That was until the judge for the day told me he had heard that opening before — many, times. The lesson there was to always, always make something my own.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

My vision of good public policy and sustainable, positive change involves empowering marginalized communities with the tools required to be their own advocates. When society turns their back on marginalized communities through historic disinvestment or systemic racism, these communities often find ways to survive. Their means of survival sometimes includes paths outside of established economic or social avenues. However, those means are usually suited to the unique challenges of the community and are therefore best articulated by members of these communities. For any solution to work, these solutions should originate with these community stakeholders.

2020 was a consequential year for all of us but I finally realized that I can achieve this vision through using storytelling to build a community of changemakers, providing those who are most impacted with the data and resources required to be the engineers of their own change. That is why my book, EmpowHERed Health: Reforming A Dismissive Health Care System is a mix of personal stories, data, research and proposed solutions. I hope that people see themselves in those stories, realize they are not alone, and consider my solutions as potential paths to reform.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

All of the stories were interesting and I appreciate everyone who shared their story with me. I believe the one that resonated the most with me is about a woman I called “Sheila” in a chapter entitled “Make Sure They Know You’re a Lawyer.’ Sheila is a lawyer like me and also someone who will always do her research. She picked a doctor with experience working with women like her who had suffered from miscarriages, hoping that she would receive compassionate care when pregnant with her son. Instead, as she asked more questions, her doctor became colder towards her and Sheila was left questioning whether she was being paranoid. Ultimately Sheila realized that she was not being paranoid and that something was wrong. Sheila was right. What followed was 50 hours of tortuous labor. Sheila drives home why education or income or quality of insurance does not matter in the face of implicit bias.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

For years I was ignored when expressing that I was in pain. My most vivid memory involved crawling on the floor to grab a remote control because I could not stand up due to unbearable pain. I went to see a doctor and she told me I was ‘fine’ and she ‘didn’t see anything wrong.’ I decided that I would no longer accept doctors’ diagnosis that I was ‘fine’ while dismissing my pain. I left the doctor’s office and spent hours ‘googling’ my symptoms. That night I knew and later, a specialist confirmed that I had been living with 30 fibroids — benign tumors that grow in the uterus and would need surgery. Saving the doctor from the inconvenience of having to go further in diagnosing me ended up inconveniencing me.

I knew I couldn’t be the only one who had been treated that way and I was right. Women in my circle, women connected to women in my circle, allies in the LGBTQ+ community all approached me with their own stories. I decided that now, when we as a society are having very real conversations about why a global pandemic can have such a devastating impact on women; and, facing long-simmering tensions around racism and bias, could be the time to change things for the better.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

A woman I called ‘Willow’ in the chapter ‘I Was Doped Up And I Liked It.’ I wrote about her first experience giving birth, which was not a magical nor a positive experience. She called after giving birth to her second child and told me the experience was much better than her first time giving birth. She told me that her husband was more vigilant this time and that she thought it was because of books like mine. More people were sharing their stories and health care workers seemed to be listening.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Yes. Health disparities are prevalent in the United States, particularly as it relates to Black women and especially within the context of the maternal mortality rate. While maternal mortality is declining elsewhere in the world, the rate of maternal mortality in the United States has been increasing. And Black women are up to four times more likely to die in child-birth than their White counterparts. These deaths are preventable. These deaths happen to Black women more than their White counterparts in the US. The disparity between Black and White women is consistent at all income levels. We should do what we can to empower communities to fight back and hold the health care facilities who receive funding to serve them — accountable for prioritizing and addressing disparities in the maternal mortality rate and improving women’s health overall.

So. 1) Believe women and others belonging to similarly marginalized groups when they tell you that they are on the receiving end of dismissive treatment. 2) Tie the funding health care facilities receive from the government to steps they take to address health disparities based on race 3) Empower community groups and leaders to hold them accountable to act to address health disparities.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

People will tell you I considered myself a servant leader before it became a ‘buzzy’ term. My role as an attorney and as an advocate is to use my skills to amplify voices and not to displace them. I believe a good leader is compassionate, innovative, and leads by example. An example of positive leadership for me, is when you empower the people you work with to push themselves to work harder and to think outside of the box.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

5 things I wish someone told me when I first started:

  1. Listen to your Instincts — in this book, I talk about interactions with doctors that left me feeling dismissed. While I recognize that doctors are experts in medicine, I am the expert on my body. I wish that I had stopped the first doctor who told me I was fine and told them to continue working to find out what was wrong.
  2. Check in with your community — I didn’t tell anyone outside of my doctors about my pain and my symptoms, and once I did, I found that I was not alone. I wish I had checked in with my community earlier and crowd-sourced answers or just asked for support.
  3. Give yourself grace — I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel. And, when I miss the mark, I magically forget all of the wins. I find that that happens with a lot of women I know and the women in my book, who felt they should have done more to advocate for themselves. Life is tough, especially for those of us who belong to marginalized communities — celebrate the small wins, and, give yourself grace.
  4. This is also from the book but, Find Doctors you trust. Find Specialists you trust. Find Mentors you trust. — It takes a level of vulnerability to ask for help and advice so make sure the people you seek out are worthy of your vulnerability. So often in the book, people felt like they were at fault — they were being demanding. Or, they were being paranoid. And all along, they were on the receiving end of dismissive treatment.
  5. Leave it all on the floor. This book is deeply personal and revealing. I am also hoping to prove to the women who entrusted me with their stories that they made the right choice. At this moment, if things don’t go the way I hope, it is not just about this moment, it’s not just that I have not been an effective storyteller. For someone like me who overachieves to mitigate imposter syndrome, it is also about my identity as a Black woman and not wanting to disappoint my family, my friends, my mentors, my boss, colleagues, team, or others who look like me. However, even if people don’t like the book, I know I have left it all on the floor and so, it won’t be for lack of trying. And so because of that, I feel good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I will go back to Le Petit Prince — “Il est très simple: on ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” Translated to — It’s simple, we can only see well with the heart, what is essential is invisible for the eyes. There have been so many times in my life when the path to success was not immediately clear. I did not know how my life would turn out on that last flight out of Liberia. I did not know that I would be here, an advocate, an author, an attorney and a joyful warrior. However, I felt compelled to take the path that I did and knew that whatever life threw at me, I would meet it with everything I had.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

OPRAH! I am her biggest fan.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I am at @empowheredhealth on instagram; @GrigsbyUmi on twitter, https://linktr.ee/smayumigrigsby, and, https://www.linkedin.com/in/smayumigrigsby/ on LinkedIn.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author S Mayumi “Umi” Grigsby Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Clemencia Vargas of Vive Bailando Is Helping To Change Our World

It is time to prioritize solidarity, empathy, adaption to change, collaboration and teamwork as well. The government, politicians, society…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Brandyn Campbell On The 5 Things That Each Of Us…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Brandyn Campbell On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

The hard truth is that in situations where your worth as a human being is disregarded, the divide may never be bridged. This is an important reality we have to understand.
That said, there is hope. But it requires vulnerability, humility, and the ability to actively listen. All of those elements are key, but there can be no healing without truly hearing each other. We’re not great at doing that as a society — we tend to listen to respond. We need to practice listening and truly hearing the thoughts presented by this person we care about. We have to care about people and have interactions that reflect that.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandyn Campbell.

Brandyn Campbell combines her passions for communications and diversity to help businesses build and articulate their commitment to racial justice. The founder of Brandyn Campbell Communications, she has worked with clients including the Philadelphia Eagles and the NFL. Drawing on 15 years of experience focused on education and cultural competence, Brandyn’s Antiracism Consulting helps organizations identify opportunities to infuse diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout their communications and cultures.

https://medium.com/media/855158ef9fa967d4c1c0c82e67dbd8b6/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up as an Air Force brat and was well-suited for that lifestyle. Until I moved to Philadelphia as an adult, the longest place I had ever lived was for four years. That experience fostered a lifelong love for travel and learning about different cultures. I was born in Guyana, and lived in Japan and England for a substantial part of my childhood. These experiences led me to study politics and international relations for my undergrad and graduate degrees and are a clear path that led to the work that I currently do.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

There are two inspirations in the work that I do: my mom and my children.

My mom was a single mother who raised two girls on her own while taking us around the world, and added a third master’s degree and a Ph.D to her already impressive list of academic qualifications. She was a teacher, and that passion for education is present in every aspect of my work. Though never a classroom teacher like she was, I know that, through my experiences as a trainer and presenter, I am indeed a teacher.

I’ve always had a strong sense of self, and I credit this to my mom. There was never any option for “I can’t,” so I grew up knowing that anything I wanted to achieve was possible.

The decision to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion in my work was inspired my wonderful children: my seven-year-old son and three-year-old daughter. Very simply, I don’t want them to have to have “The Talk” that every Black parent has to have with their kids with my future grandchildren. I want this world to change quickly to allow kids the ability to remain children as long as possible. Every child deserves to have the comfort of knowing that they are not only free, but safe to be themselves however they look or identify.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

The real blessing with my work is that every project is exciting. I work with people and organizations who strive to build more inclusive workplaces to help build a better world — that’s pretty incredible. My networking calls are often with other DEI practitioners who are leaders examining and refining ways to facilitate change. The push for positive change surrounds me, and I love it.

I’m currently in the midst of two long-term projects with organizations to help them become more inclusive from top to bottom. I’m creating a new workshop for universities to help students navigate issues of diversity and inclusion as new members of the workforce. I’m also wrapping up a couple of inclusive marking consulting projects.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My sister Paige has been my biggest cheerleader in adulthood and entrepreneurship. We are similar in a lot of ways — she is also in communications and an entrepreneur. Her opinion means everything to me, and there are times when she’s helped me realize the progress I was making when I was stuck chasing an ever-changing goal.

There are so many examples, but one story is our practice of having business brunches. We catch up, talk shop to help us problem-solve issues in our businesses, and celebrate our wins. As women, we do not take enough time to acknowledge our progress! When we began doing these brunches last year at the start of the pandemic, it was to help us see the many bright spots in the work we were doing and pursuing.

When I get stuck overcomplicating things or nitpicking successes, Paige stops me and chides me in the way only a big sister can and makes me stop in my tracks. She helps me get outside of myself and appreciate when I’ve hit my goals. She is the absolute best!

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Before I ran my business full-time and did freelance writing, I made the mistake of not having contracts in place for every assignment. I had no issue with that — until I did. My biggest client at the time, a local magazine, began paying me more and more sporadically…and then the payments stopped completely.

There were excuses and unanswered emails, and no progress was made. Then I decided to sue them. I went to small claims court in Philadelphia and submitted my paperwork. Here comes the fun part: within days, I was receiving UPS and FedEx letters from shows like the People’s Court, Judge Mathis, and even — wait for it — Judge Judy! They have staff who scan lawsuit filings around the country and try to recruit them to be their next guests.

I didn’t follow through with any TV appearances, but I am proud to report that I got all of the money I was due. Because of that hard lesson, I have agreements for all projects, no matter how small. That is the best way to protect everyone involved.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X in 8th grade, and it had such a profound impact on me. It was one of the first autobiographies I ever read, and perhaps the first time I was presented with a broader context to the many lessons and stories my mother taught to me about Black history, race, and racism in the United States.

Reading his words about his life helped me critique depictions of him in textbooks and the media. I remember doing so much of what is now my practice: consuming information from a variety of sources through a critical lens.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” -Maya Angelou

I love this quote for so many reasons. So much of what women are taught is about being passive and to politely accept and endure. That has implications in areas like how we’re treated in relationships or the compensation we receive. If we want change in our minds, lives, and worlds, then we need to claim it and go for it. Change isn’t a bad word. It’s empowering to set your boundaries and know what you will not accept.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership, like anti-racism, is a practice. A leader is not made simply by virtue of a title. A leader cares about those in her or his charge and builds trust and relationships that move a collective toward a common goal. Caring about and cultivating the people in your care requires humility, vulnerability, and wisdom. True leaders allow themselves to be vulnerable, which is ultimately a sign of strength.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

We’ve been taught to run away from hard things. Fundamental human rights issues are labeled as political. And of course, you can never talk politics! So the cycle of burying things that need to be addressed continues.

So when do we get to speak openly about the things that really matter? The things that are wrong?

That’s what’s happening now. And it’s long overdue.

As a society, we have never acknowledged the uncomfortable truths of the creation of this country and the ongoing impact on our existence. Conversations about genocide and systemic racism are hushed and swept under the carpet. We’ve literally white-washed history, and now we have generations who can’t separate fiction from inconvenient truth.

All this is the backdrop of the racial justice protests of last summer and the reality that the white majority will become a minority in 2045. Gen Z is 48% BIPOC. Change is here. We’re seeing the foundations erupt because people are no longer willing to stay quiet about racial violence. And that fact is threatening to the very foundations of American society.

When we can acknowledge hard truths, we can begin to heal.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

As James Baldwin says, “We can disagree and still love each other, unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” The attempt to dodge difficult conversations in America is couched in the damaging social “norm” that we shouldn’t discuss politics. When issues like your right to wear your hair as it naturally grows out of your head are topics of legislation, there is no ability to be non-political. I don’t have that privilege.

I am married to a white man, and my children are biracial. I am fortunate that I have not had to deal with issues of racism with my immediate in-laws. But the past four years have revealed some ugliness in the extended family.

I was a political science major in school and can talk political theory all day. However, there has been a dangerous blurring of lines between fact and fiction.

If your opinion is verifiably false, then no, you’re not entitled to hold onto a falsehood as your flag. If you voted for Trump, then racism isn’t a deal-breaker for you, which means that my life and my children’s lives don’t matter to you. As Ibram X. Kendi says, there is no non-racist middle.

So the extended family that voted for Trump twice are those no longer in my circle. They no longer get cards, calls, or visits. My safety and that of my children doesn’t matter to them, so there is clearly no love or care there. That’s not something I will negotiate on.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

The hard truth is that in situations where your worth as a human being is disregarded, the divide may never be bridged. This is an important reality we have to understand.

That said, there is hope. But it requires vulnerability, humility, and the ability to actively listen. All of those elements are key, but there can be no healing without truly hearing each other. We’re not great at doing that as a society — we tend to listen to respond. We need to practice listening and truly hearing the thoughts presented by this person we care about. We have to care about people and have interactions that reflect that.

It takes a lot of practice, and it requires a desire to listen more than to speak. But if we can do that and understand that discomfort is a necessary part of life, we can begin to cross the bridge toward healing.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

We have to be careful in what we characterize as partisan, and what is in fact discriminatory. We learned about the workplaces of many of those involved in the Capital Insurrection on January 6. There were CEOs and politicians and bosses who now face criminal charges.

Those are not partisan divides that need to be repaired. That is white supremacy that needs to be addressed and removed.

We have to have workplaces that care about people as humans. We need to allow employees to bring their full selves to work so that they can feel safe for both the person and the community to thrive. It’s another example of needing to face hard truths for the benefit of healing.

A general example is the shift we’ve seen in many workplaces cultures due to COVID. The American workplace has been the same since its inception, designed to serve white men who had unpaid labor to take care of children and the home. As women and marginalized populations entered the workplace, there were never changes or updates. We had to duck our heads and try to fit into these structures that were never built for us as best we could.

We have been long overdue for a shift to the way we do business, and the pandemic forced us into that. Mothers could no longer hide their parenthood as children barged into home offices during Zoom calls. Anyone’s status as a parent shouldn’t have to be hidden, but again, businesses were not traditionally built to care about those balancing career and parenthood.

For the first time in many corporate cultures, we saw managers talk about feelings and create space for their teams to come as they were. It happened again at many organizations last summer after George Floyd’s brutal murder.

Ask your people if they are okay, and care about the answer. Make that a practice. We are not machines and shouldn’t be expected to be. Make time to connect as humans in your check-ins. Building professional relationships that value humanity first are the way that we will heal divides and begin to create inclusive cultures.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

This was certainly the case during the election cycle, and the cult of personality that developed around some candidates helped this reality remain beyond the election. We have to look at each other as family, friends, and labels and not political opponents. We have to want to heal and address the damage that this division has created in order for this to happen.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

The problems we see on social media are a symptom of the wider problems over the past several years. Ultimately, it’s people who are behind social media. It’s the way that folks act on social media that’s the challenge. Sitting behind a keyboard and being anonymous emboldens people to say things they would never say in person. It’s not just divisive, it’s dangerous. I’m glad that social media platforms have finally started to moderate comments and accounts making clear threats.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

So much goes back to how much we undervalue as a society. We need to value education. We need to value independent thought and critical thinking skills. We need to be able to critique the information we’re fed to identify misinformation. Clear lines need to be drawn between fact and fiction. Falsehoods should have no role in our political discourse and should be called out wherever they appear.

It also points to the importance of sustaining independent journalism. Our media landscape has completely changed by the decentralization of our news. News is big business, and being loud and bombastic gets ratings. What do we want to stand for as a society? The challenge isn’t for the pundits. It’s on each of us to consider, live, and advocate for our values.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

There are some long overdue changes need to our political system, that’s for sure. I can’t pretend to have the answers. I think the divisiveness prevents some of the best leaders from pursuing public service, which is a problem that impacts us all. Perhaps that challenge alone can spark change on some level.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

1.) Listen. It’s time to return to fundamental communications skills. Practice active listening — don’t just hear, but listen to understand what’s truly being said.

Example: Conversations are a two-way street. We listen partially for content, and also to know when it is our time to respond. To practice active listening, do only one of those things. Don’t plan to interrupt every few seconds with an “mmhhmm” or “uh-huh,” or with your objection to what is being said. Stop and stay silent until the other party has completed their remarks. Nod to indicate that you are present and paying attention, but let someone else fully have the floor.

2.) Learn. To heal the divide, we need to adopt a learning orientation in all that we do. We have to learn more about our family, friends, and colleagues. We have to understand more about ourselves, including how we react to conflict. Then we must be willing to learn about the facts at the heart of our disagreements by reading from reputable news sources and, in some cases, making a concerted effort to learn about history.

Example: When we get into arguments, we don’t care about facts or nuance. We just want to be right. We generally don’t have information to cite to support our stances in the moment, but this is where differentiating between fact and falsehood is critical in discussing our opinions. We must be willing to learn and challenge ourselves. If we find that our arguments are verifiably false, we must then be willing to adapt our views.

3.) Empathize. A large part of the divide we’ve seen is that we’ve slowly dehumanized our opponents. Instead of friends and family, it’s blue or red, patriot or socialist, and on and on. Stop with the labels and remember that you are speaking to people first. We are long overdue for heart-centered interactions where we not only recognize the humanity of those with whom we have conversations, but also try to put ourselves in their shoes to understand their perspective and experience.

Brene Brown puts it so well: “In order to empathize with someone’s experience you must be willing to believe them as they see it and not how we imagine their experience to be.”

Story: I once had to address a pattern of microaggressions and disrespectful treatment with a former boss. When we discussed the incidents, there was no opportunity to hear each other’s experience. Instead, her approach was, “I re-reread the emails and you’re wrong. Here’s why.” Then it was my turn to do the same, and nothing was resolved. Instead, it made the situation worse.

Taking an entirely different approach and creating space for each of us to feel heard would have been an entirely different experience that may have marked a turning point in our relationship. The conversation may have started with, “I understand that you’re disappointed, and I’d like to better understand where you’re coming from. Can you talk to me a bit more about what you experienced after receiving my emails?”

After I shared, there would have been an opportunity to acknowledge the obvious truth — that I was very hurt by what happened. Her reply to this could have been, “Thank you so much for sharing that with me. I better understand why that was so upsetting, and how my reaction contributed to your feeling hurt.”

Particularly when there is a power component at play, it’s up to leaders to take extra steps to understand team members to determine an appropriate, empathetic response. In our personal lives, we must consider that it is a person and not an object or enemy that we are talking to who is making themselves vulnerable to try to be heard. At the very least, let’s respect the trust they’ve put in us.

4.) Love. This is a really hard one to embrace when we’re angry. With family and friends in particular, think about why we care about them in the first place. Has hate helped the situation? Probably not. Then why not try another approach?

Example/story: When having challenging conversations with someone I love, to keep my anger in check I think about and try to picture the word “love” during the interaction. I think about the reasons this person is valuable in my life and know that it’s easy to risk all of that with words of anger. That happens so easily when look at the problem and not the person. Center the human and focus on the relationship you’d like to have to try to heal to guide you through your interactions.

Act. If we want to heal relationships, communities, and our country, then we each have to take action. Each of the ways outlined here requires action, focus, and reflection. If you are committed to fostering healing, what will you do to get there?

Example: In an argument with a friend who you found out was not on “your” side on an important political issue, you say something extremely hurtful and inappropriate to them. You feel awful about it. But that feeling alone isn’t going to change anything. You have to take ownership of what you said, and reach out to apologize. If it’s a line you don’t want to cross again, what is your plan to make sure that you don’t get to that place again? There is a list of action steps presented to you here. You can read and forget them, or you can start thinking about how to use them to repair relationships and divides in your life. Which will you choose?

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other?

Fortunately, there are many things we can do. Start out by just picking one of the 5 things listed here.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am hopeful. As in our personal lives, there will always be hills and valleys we experience as a society. We are most certainly in a valley, but we’ll climb back up.

We have faced Civil War and survived as a country. In 1918 a pandemic was experienced alongside a world war. That must have felt like the end. But it wasn’t.

If we are willing to learn from this experience individually and collectively, we won’t just survive, but we can emerge as a stronger nation. If we learn to listen to and value each other as friends, family, colleagues, and community members, there is a path forward. But we must take the time to reflect. We have been forced to be still during COVID-19, which revealed many uncomfortable truths hiding in plain sight. Let’s not bury them under the carpet again.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

Be true to yourself and be kind to others.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Oh my goodness, there are a few, but my daughter would kill me if I didn’t say Michelle Obama. My little girl loves Michelle just like her mommy does! When I put on one of her PBS Kids Read Aloud videos that featured Michelle with President Obama, my daughter was visibly annoyed and said, “Who’s the boy?”

I admire Michelle Obama so very much. Her hard work, leadership, kindness, and vulnerability under immense scrutiny were awe-inspiring. The honesty with which she raised issues about the challenges of being a Black women in America in her career, and then the added challenges of being a mother. Though I don’t know her, I feel like I do. Her authenticity and genuineness in the face of immense fame is astounding.

How can our readers follow you online?

They can visit my website at brandyncampbell.com, or follow me on Instagram at @brandyncampbellcomms. I’d love to meet you!

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Brandyn Campbell On The 5 Things That Each Of Us… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Mike Jones Is Helping To Change Our World

Everyone’s life I’ve had a role in saving at work or helping in some way has been impacted. Not sure if it’s helping but they are definitely impacted. I have been told that some of my songs help people define moments in their life. I’ve had people reach out from across the world to say that the music rings true and honest for them. That is really amazing.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Mike Jones from The Mike Jones Band.

Mike Jones is an American singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based in Leesburg, Virginia. He also happens to be working as an ER Nurse. With a roots-rock/Americana focus, Mike Jones plays an eclectic mix of blues, folk, and rock music and is known for his unique guitar-playing, vocals and live performances. Jones is currently self-producing and releasing a compilation of debut singles while working in a busy emergency room that serves the immediate Washington DC area.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in Purchase, NY. It’s a small town about 40 miles NW of New York City. The Metro North was a 5 minute drive from my house so my friends and I spent a lot of time riding trains in and out of the City. I’ve been playing music since I was 13 years old and I played my first live show at an old club called Kenny’s Castaways in Greenwich Village on Bleeker St. I grew up with a lot of freedom that I’m not sure I’d give to my own kids.

I left New York in 2002 when I was 22, and went down to Washington DC. I crashed on my sister’s couch for a month or so and then found my own place in Columbia Heights NW, DC. I rented out a basement apartment with one of my old high school friends. The place didn’t have heat or A/C. It didn’t even have a lock on the front door. But it had a yard to drink beer in and we could play music as loud as we wanted. I lived there for 10 years. I kicked my roommate out the day after a house fire that I shouldn’t have survived. He was crazy as hell, even by my standards.

The band I formed, The Jones, has been together since then. We have played all around the DMV. It was in 2014 or so I graduated from Nursing School. Music is not an easy way to make money as I’m sure your readers know. Nursing has been a means to an end. My mom is a nurse and it seemed like something I could do. I have always felt comfortable in chaotic situations. So I became an ER nurse. Still feels VERY weird to say that. There really wasn’t much else to It. I think it shows I can basically be talked into anything.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been a musician since I was 13 years old. I play drums, guitar, bass guitar, a little bit of harmonica, super simple keys and a few others. I’ve always been able to make some organized noise come out of stuff. I’ve been writing songs since then. I wrote all of the music for The Jones, and co-wrote the music for my other band The Creaky Bones. Now I am doing my solo thing. It feels like I am getting back to my roots with this current effort. Mostly acoustic and stripped down. I’ve released a few electric songs but they are simple. I’m keeping it simple on this one.

In regards to nursing: The Honest answer is that I was sitting on my couch in my cold and dank basement apartment with a budweiser in my hand and I said, “screw it, I’ll go to nursing school.” Five years later I went. . . It ended up being this thing that kind of nagged at me for that time so I finally did it. I always joke about it being a calling. My coworkers and I constantly joke about it being a calling when we are restraining psych patients or keeping patients hovering only slightly above death while we are titrating their sedation meds, with blood pressure meds and preventing them from jumping off the table and pulling their ET tubes out. No person in their right mind would want to do this job if they knew what it was before going into it. In all sincerity though, It’s probably almost as much of a calling as music is for me. I definitely define myself as an ER nurse as much as I define myself as a musician, and I’ve been a musician much longer.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I’ll give you a funny thing in music and a funny thing in the ER. A funny music thing is when I was in my first college I did a talent show that the fraternities and sororities sponsored. My friend and I got up on stage and I sang “Masters of War,” by Bob Dylan. They didn’t have a microphone stand so the little sorority girl had to hold the mic for me. . . for 7 minutes. “Masters of war” is a very long folk song. Technically I didn’t get booed off because I didn’t leave and I finished the song. But the crowd was pissed. No one talked to me on campus after that. I can’t step foot on that campus ever again. The lesson is the ole’ “don’t give up” and sometimes life presents a person with really uncomfortable situations. Best learn to wallow in them. Be prepared to lie in the crappy beds you make. Life is a series of moments. You gotta take the good with the crappy.

Funny work story. There are so many on a daily basis. There was the time that a guy was having a heart attack and died (I know, not funny yet) but then we defibrillated him back to life. We shocked him right back to talking. He was like “Thank you, thank you, It’s ok I can die a happy man but thank you.” I guess this story isn’t as funny as it was incredible! To have that kind of clarity after literally dying for a few minutes. The lesson I learned here was that happiness is attainable. He wasn’t afraid. It was crazy. I’ve seen some amazing things both good and bad. There is a guy that comes through that slips into a cardiac rhythm called SVT. It’s where the heart pumps at 160 beats per minute and higher. Everytime we cardiovert him he wants us to put on “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC. We shock him on the chorus, naturally. “. . . Thunder ZAP!!” The lesson I took from him is to always be a badass and AC/DC is medicine. Next time I’m gonna suggest Motley Crue’s “Kickstart my Heart.” I doubt he’ll take me up on it.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

First of all it is important to decide how one defines success. I know that my definition has changed dramatically. By my definition and perception, I have become successful. It has taken me a long time to feel this way though. I get to do what I love in playing music, I have a supportive family, and as my wife and I say, “We have two kinds of water that comes out of our faucet. Hot and cold.” Define what success means to you. When you think you have figured it out it will change on you and you’ll have to redefine it again: Wash, rinse, repeat.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My wife. I don’t know where I’d be. I’d probably be dead. I came close a few times but those stories are for a different interview. When we got together I was floundering as a musician and I was a dog walker in DC. Great physical exercise but terrible mental exercise. I needed something. She was the one that pushed me to getting my nursing degree while I was working on music. She realized that I can do the work but I can’t organize. Hell, I’ll out-work almost anyone. But I am terrible at planning. I can GO to class, I just suck at SIGNING UP for them. I can GO to gigs, I just suck at KNOWING WHEN TO GO HOME. I still have that problem. Having a real partner is priceless. I’m very lucky in this regard.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I’m an ER nurse in a pandemic. At the time of this interview my state of Virginia is the only state in the country experiencing a rise in COVID cases. It might end up being our turn on national TV showing refrigerator trucks outside of our hospitals to store the dead. Grim, I know. I don’t mean it to be. But the truth kind of sucks right now.

That being said I’m going to work and doing what I can to help who I can. All of the medical staff I know are tired. My hospital is a community hospital and the community it serves is a little rough around the edges. Not many people have insurance, significant psychiatric illness runs rampant and living conditions could definitely be improved. COVID has had a deeply significant impact on the population that my hospital serves and it has taken an insurmountable toll on the community. I think I’m having more of a local social impact than a global one. Ultimately, it all starts in the community anyway.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

The Pandemic was a perfect opportunity for me to do my solo thing. I’ve been in my bands The Jones for 15 years and The Creaky Bones for the last year or so. COVID shut down the live shows so I have the time to record my solo stuff and the time to start Toss and Turn Records, my new record label. The change to our collective way of life is obviously awful but I’m trying to use the time to do something positive. I can’t sit still. It’s both a blessing and a curse. My debut single “Wild Heart (Calamity Jane)” was released and since then I’ve been off the ground running.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Everyone’s life I’ve had a role in saving at work or helping in some way has been impacted. Not sure if it’s helping but they are definitely impacted. I have been told that some of my songs help people define moments in their life. I’ve had people reach out from across the world to say that the music rings true and honest for them. That is really amazing.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

Everyone needs to chill out. That would help so much. We have to get through this pandemic. We (I and the people with whom I work) need some breathing room or you (Society, individuals, and the government) won’t have us any more. We are tired. we are quitting at an alarming rate and that puts your lives at risk. The virus doesn’t care if you are blue or red. Either way it can make you dead. Rhyming intended. Wear a mask and social distance and don’t sweat the small stuff. Stop flashing your guns when someone cuts you off on the highway. That’s a metaphor.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Stay at it: Many of the people who I used to play music with don’t do it anymore. It is evident. It is obvious when you see someone that has passion. It keeps them young in mind and body.
  2. Be patient: I spent so much time rushing towards a goal that wasn’t really defined. Getting “famous” is a stupid thing to wish for. I think back to the dude I shocked back to talking. He wasn’t famous but he was happy. I’d rather be that guy than some person that was just famous and miserable. It must be lonely to be a shell of a person. That took a long time for me to learn.
  3. Find spaces that allow for your true self: You are at your best when you feel comfortable. It shouldn’t be that hard to be yourself. If it seems hard then you’re in the wrong situation, job, crowd, relationship etc. Change it.
  4. Jump: You have to take risks. Sometimes you have to jump and hope a safety net will appear rather than waiting for the parachute. Sometimes you’ll fall flat on your face but go back to that part where I talked about learning how to wallow in your own disasters. You’ll learn from it and you never know what might come.
  5. Don’t flash all your cards and move in silence. I wish I was better at this.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d love to see people get medical care and not go bankrupt. Sucks to get cancer and also go broke trying to stay alive. This isn’t a unique idea but It’s close to me. The most amount of good I can think of giving would be that of health. The old expression, “At least we have our health!” The thing is, we don’t.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

I’m going to quote Method Man because that’s who first heard it from, but I think it’s an old Italian proverb. “At the end of the game the king and the pawn go in the same box.” The theoretical hierarchies, and perceived social ladders that we are all faced with are illusions. No one is ”better than.” Run your own game. Trust me when I tell you that we all end up as just a bag of bones.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Neil Young. I haven’t seen anyone else rock harder and leave it all out on the stage every show like he does. The Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Rust Never Sleeps tour was my first concert. It was at Nassau Coliseum in 1986 and I was 6 years old. He started with his own electric version of the “Star Bangled Banner.” All I smelled was stinky weed and the stadium shook for 2 hours. At 6 years old it was quite the experience that left a major impression on me.

From the interviews that I have seen he says his personal life keeps him grounded. Despite his very obvious genius and astronomical success he seems to be a normal guy. I know that I said earlier that no one would out-work me but Neil Young has clearly outworked many many people. I was weaned on him as a kid. He is tremendously musically multifaceted and I try to be like him in that way. He rocks so hard on one hand and on the other he can pivot and play some of the sweetest songs ever written.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Mike Jones Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How MAUMAUMAU Is Helping To Change Our World

The motto and heart of this project are to encourage anyone that has ever felt like the underdog. That means standing up to injustice, even when it looks like it’s too big to tackle. BLM has been a big one this past year, and together with my good friendS Curtis Kelley and Devin Runco, we wrote a song advocating for justice because it was all-consuming. It IS all-consuming. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t have to be a movement, but it is, and we are excited to participate with sharing our artistry and our presence.
Showing up to protests and learning our place in the midst of it as a white Mexican immigrant, white native American, and white American. I am also a full-fledged advocate for mental health and how shame plays such a massive role in our society worldwide. It’s what my music is about, it’s what my conversations with fans and people nearby get to deal with, and it’s what I look for from my immediate group of friends. I’m still exploring how to truly get involved with an organization, and it’s something I look forward to as I continue to put out more music and affect more and more of my surroundings. I’ve always had it in my heart to get involved with homelessness, so I’m currently gearing up for an online fundraiser/festival called United Friends of the Children. The festival looks to raise awareness in the foster care system community and how it is currently failing the youth transitioning out of it. 36% become homeless 18 months after leaving.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing rising LA-based, Mexican singer-songwriter and producer, MAUMAUMAU.

MAUMAUMAU is a solo endeavor by Night Lights’ lead vocalist, Mauricio Jimenez, and at its core, the project strives to provide a soundtrack for the underdogs and a voice for the underrepresented. Imbued with a spectrum of influences ranging from 90s pop-rock to Mob Rich, Gorillaz, Oliver Tree, Tame Impala, and others, MAUMAUMAU’s distinct sound will stick with you and have you coming back for more.

Following two standout releases, “Heartbreak Police,” a commentary on current events, and “Mouth Breather,” a vulnerable, 90s-inspired song about the anxieties and identities experienced through social distancing, MAUMAUMAU returns with “B!L!NGVAL,” an alt-rock smash that examines the complexities of finding common ground with people of opposing political views.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I was born and raised in Mexico City until about age 6, at which point my dad got a job in Williamsburg, VA. My whole family moved to the small colonial town and lived there for about six years. I got a weird and colorful cultural upbringing because of it. I never really realized until I got older how much impact it would have on my two brothers and me, but it is blatantly apparent now that I have done a full circle and moved out to Los Angeles. Anyway, if it’s not clear by now, I also grew up with a clinically diagnosed case of ADHD, and it is what led me to write and live for music. Growing up, it was hard to find ways to express what I felt clearly, and I always felt misunderstood. It wasn’t until I wrote my first song and witnessed the impact it had on my family when they heard it that I got hooked on writing songs. Even if my words were clumsy and my voice was pitchy, I felt like they got what I was going through, and it was amazing. Since then, I’ve polished my craft and dialed in on my ADHD (somewhat) and have kept writing to try and help others process their feelings and hopefully also help them navigate the complexities of coexisting.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I love this story. I studied Mechatronic Engineering for a year, a mechanical/electrical engineering major in La Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. Although my passion was music at this point, I (like most people who go into music) feared I would struggle to make ends meet as a musician. After failing programming (twice), I decided to drop out of the major and told my parents I needed to figure out what I would do. They were very supportive, and I’m sure they thought I finally stopped fighting my desire to pursue music. Needless to say, they were surprised that I came back and told them I wanted to study industrial design. They slapped me on the side of the head and insisted I pursue music. My mom challenged me and asked me to leave it to God. She said, “apply to one school you think is the best of the best and if you get accepted, take it as a sign.” So I did. I applied to Berklee College of Music, and to my surprise, I got in. God, I still don’t know how. I’ve been finding my way ever since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I was on tour with my other band, Night Lights, and everyone has to carry their gear and are responsible for it. I am renowned for forgetting things. The first night of the tour, I forgot the power adapter to my vocal effects pedal, which to me, is essential. It’s part of my appeal when I sing. It was not funny at the time, but now in retrospect, I can laugh about it. We ended up having to go around the city looking for a music store that carried the power adapter, which was specific to this pedalboard in a foreign city (I think we were in Buffalo, NY), 2 hours before showtime. The worst part is that thanks to that event, I was so anxious about losing stuff that I’m pretty sure it just set off the scatterbrained-ness, and I ended up losing a camera, a go pro, a microphone, and a lot of cables. I’m not proud of it, but it made for a good laugh. Also, it set in motion a checklist that my bandmates go through for me after every show.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

I think success is a tough thing to pinpoint nowadays in the music industry. Of course, you can measure it in quantity and all that. However, I find that to be an empty response that doesn’t quite fulfill everyone in their pursuit. I know I still haven’t hit my benchmark, though, and it’s an ever-evolving concept. So, I think my first and most significant suggestion is to understand the responsibility that comes with choosing to share your opinion. Artists influence society. At all levels. And I don’t think people realize that that’s what they’re signing up for. Once you make peace with that, I think defining what success is to you is paramount. To some, it’s hitting Billie Eilish’s status. Others, it’s getting 1,000 streams, making millions with their music, headlining a bar gig, or being referenced as a sound for other artists. Whatever it is, it’s valid, and it will evolve. After that, it’s a game of patience and intention because it’s like any business. It takes an investment of money and a lot of time. You gotta chip at it. If something happens that helps you grow fast, take it. If not, you have to keep making what you love and keep strategizing and taking the thing seriously. Winded answer, but I mean it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many! Although people in the industry have bet on me and have pushed me and invested in me along the way, the people who have done it for me from ground zero (and it’s not always the case) are my parents. They have supported me when I was afraid of the industry’s climb and when I didn’t even think music was a viable form of a career. Hands down, my parents are the number one. It might not be an extravagant answer, but it’s facts. The list of people I am grateful for is extensive, and they all deserve to be named here. However, that would be cheating!

I will make an honorable mention to Gianna Vona. She’s not in the industry, but she has been the closest person to my music and my vision for the last three years, and her impact on my music and my mental health is without a doubt palpable. Thank you.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

The motto and heart of this project are to encourage anyone that has ever felt like the underdog. That means standing up to injustice, even when it looks like it’s too big to tackle. BLM has been a big one this past year, and together with my good friendS Curtis Kelley and Devin Runco, we wrote a song advocating for justice because it was all-consuming. It IS all-consuming. Black Lives Matter shouldn’t have to be a movement, but it is, and we are excited to participate with sharing our artistry and our presence.

Showing up to protests and learning our place in the midst of it as a white Mexican immigrant, white native American, and white American. I am also a full-fledged advocate for mental health and how shame plays such a massive role in our society worldwide. It’s what my music is about, it’s what my conversations with fans and people nearby get to deal with, and it’s what I look for from my immediate group of friends. I’m still exploring how to truly get involved with an organization, and it’s something I look forward to as I continue to put out more music and affect more and more of my surroundings. I’ve always had it in my heart to get involved with homelessness, so I’m currently gearing up for an online fundraiser/festival called United Friends of the Children. The festival looks to raise awareness in the foster care system community and how it is currently failing the youth transitioning out of it. 36% become homeless 18 months after leaving.

With B!L!NGVAL, the focus is on the mass manipulation that former president trump instilled on people and the frustration I’ve experienced confronting a brainwashed population. I don’t mean to insult you if you are reading this and you stand with Trump. However, as a professional communicator, I witnessed firsthand the language and techniques specifically used to manipulate people and the narrative his campaign tried to push. It’s the same language I heard used by the people who believed in him. As a resident alien in this country, my approach was purely observational and bore no interest in changing someone’s mind but instead to try and understand it. Even still, that was frustrating and confusing. So this song came from those frustrating interactions, and I hope it encourages people to seek that discomfort for the sake of our society. It’s also incredibly catchy and fun, so regardless, it’s something you can enjoy.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Well, I think the trick is to find a way to make your dream sustainable. A lot of us think we want the rockstar life (and by no means am I living that) but don’t realize how lonely that road can be or how scary it is. I think for me, it was a “grass is always greener” scenario where when you realize the loop, you can decide to tend to your own damn grass. So I guess what I’m saying is, I don’t think the dream and responsibility are mutually exclusive. If you want to write and create or paint or build a farm or grow things or become a chef, I think there’s a way to live a wholehearted life where you get to pursue those things and also tend to your family or build up your wealth. There’s no reason you should stop. However, if that’s what you want to do for money, it’s an arduous and trying road.

For me, it was an all-in kind of thing. I didn’t just want to make music for me or those close to me. I wanted to write to strangers that feel stuck like I have. I felt the urge was enough to tighten the belt and sacrifice a steady, comfortable life. Pick your battles I guess.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I get a lot of DMs from people who feel affected by my music. It’s large in part what keeps me going and where I find success. The other day I got a DM from a fan that felt encouraged to come out to his parents. I was so deeply moved by somehow being involved in such an intimate moment of a stranger’s life. That one marked me. I got to connect with a fan who has had to deal with paralyzing amounts of anxiety, and we have talks about it now, but at first, it was just an effect from my music that got her through a tough time. I’ve gotten to listen to and support people going through depression and rejection and insecurities. I have gotten messages from fans about how the music I make has talked them off a ledge and into safety. I in no way pretend to be able to navigate the complexities of psychology, nor am I qualified to actually help them through that journey other than sharing my experiences with them, but it gets a conversation going that I think positively impacts them. It’s really special, and I’m eternally grateful for that. I get to live these intimate moments with people who have been affected by my intimate moments in music, and if they feel up to sharing, we get to talk about it and form some sort of bond. It’s awesome.

Are there three things that individuals, society, or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I think the immediate call to action for individuals is a call to be bold and patient in talking to people about these tough conversations. Listen to B!L!NGVAL if you need a little pump-up music before diving in! I wish to encourage you not to stop having them. I encourage you to learn about communication methods so you can go in untethered to an opinion and instead be encouraged by curiosity. I highly recommend reading Daring Greatly by Brene Brown if you seek to learn more about vulnerability and hopefully empathy.

I think the individuals would greatly impact society. But just in case, I think society could be more okay with being offended. The fact that I can partake in ruining a restaurant through Yelp because I didn’t like the way a waiter looked at me is heartbreaking. We feel so empowered in our opinions and forget that they affect people, and it’s not fair to take out our shortcomings on others. Be less entitled, Society!

As far as the government goes, I’m curious to see how our new president does in unifying the nation and all the steps they’re going to take. I believe Trump being out of office is a HUGE step in the right direction that will allow for fewer conflicting (I hope) confrontations between family members and neighbors. But an active thing the government could do is to put more money into mental health. It would be incredible to have access to a shrink without emptying your wallet, and honestly, some of the toughest cases of mental health issues come from the anxieties of financial strain. So the lower-income population, among many others, could really use the government’s support in that.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  • People just want to connect with honesty, not with flashiness.

It’s easy to see people blow up overnight nowadays because of Tik Tok and to think that maybe writing what you think people want to hear is the quickest way to get noticed. Doesn’t work like that.

  • Being yourself and finding your voice is the best way to make art that people will want to hear.

Finding your sound is a weird one. The first step I think everyone takes is to imitate other things you like, and I think that process is incredible. However, there comes the point where the instinct starts telling you to mix things or to explore new horizons. I think those instincts and desires are what lead people to make new sounds and to stand out. Respect the process.

  • No one really knows how the industry works.

Man, this one is scary. I think no one at any level truly knows how to make an artist big. ESPECIALLY nowadays. It’s about trying new things and exploring your art. I think I’m still working on this one, but I’m becoming more and more comfortable with just throwing things at the dartboard and seeing what sticks.

  • It’s a really lonely road.

Pursuing something like music is a lonely journey. You can have a lot of friends and all that along the way, and a ton of people that mark and improve your chances. However, it’s a lonely journey where the person that has to believe in what you do the most is you. It’s a heavy weight to carry, and I think it’s worth it, but it will crush a lot of people out there, and news flash, making it WON’T CHANGE THAT.

  • Learn the business

Sounds obvious, but I think all artists want a magical man that will calculate and contact everyone to make things work. That a team of super lawyers will keep you from making mistakes and that the music is all that matters. Learning about the music industry’s ins and outs is essential, and it’s a lesson most of us learn through failure and trial/error.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think I’d love to do a movement where every day you have to do an act of kindness, however small. To start working that muscle in the brain to look for opportunities to intervene. It can be cleaning all your roomies’ dishes, paying an expired meter for someone who forgot, or buying lunch for a homeless person. Or something bigger like helping a family member or lover pay off their credit card debt and creating a culture of not only paying it forward, because I think that sets a limit but of just thinking of others consistently. I’m not sure that can be a movement or anything like that, but I think that would vastly increase people’s happiness, and if it spreads wide enough, you can create a new sense and meaning to community.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

My dad always told my brothers and me, “Life is good always,” which has always stuck out to us. It’s a lesson about gratitude and perspective. As we grew older, both of my brothers became writers and directors involved in Mexico’s film industry. My younger brother is a man full of wisdom that, in his musings, added to the quote, “life is good always, even when it’s not.” I love that quote. I believe in that quote. It’s a decision to see the good in your life. To acknowledge the bad and to keep going in gratitude.

Being a musician is not easy. Most months, I struggle to find a way to pay rent and balance all my checks and still maintain creativity. That’s the truth. However, if I can keep that mantra in the forefront of my mind, I can enjoy the path and confront these things from a place of gratitude for the opportunity I DO get to pursue. It makes life worth it because you are present every step of the way.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Wow, no pressure, huh? I know you asked for one, but on the off chance we can send a shotgun blast, I will name the top 3 people I admire that advocate for significant movements in the social, ecological, and economic fields in hopes I could meet just one of them. I could use some guidance, ha!

  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Brene Brown (DUH)
  • Daniel Ek

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

Thank you guys so much for what you do and for giving our stories a platform. It has a massive impact on our lives.

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How MAUMAUMAU Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is…

Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is Helping To Change Our World

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. There was a time — 2015, actually — when I almost had to retire from pro cycling simply because the pay gap was so horribly imbalanced I had to work two other jobs just to stay afloat. Had I been a man, that wouldn’t have been the case. (All the men on World Tour teams had a base wage. The women at the same level did not.) We survived on peanuts. I used to think, “What if there were a place where women could live and train for free, while we fix the broken parts of the system?” That’s when the idea for Homestretch was born. We’ve been around 5 years, and we’ve helped 70 athletes from 17 different nations. And in 2020, our fight for a women’s base salary in professional cycling was finally granted.

As a part of my series about sports stars who are making a social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kathryn Bertine, an author, athlete, activist and CEO of Homestretch Foundation. On the bike, Bertine had a five-year career in professional cycling, three-year pro career in triathlon, and a year-long career as a pro figure skater. Off the playing fields, she was a columnist for ESPN, senior editor for ESPNW and author of four nonfiction books, All the Sundays Yet to Come (Little, Brown), As Good As Gold (ESPN/RandomHouse), and The Road Less Taken (Triumph Books) and her new book, STAND (New Shelf Press), which arrives February 2021.

Her award-winning documentary, HALF THE ROAD: The passion, pitfalls and power of women’s professional cycling gives a glimpse into the trials women face in this sport. In 2017, she founded and currently serves as CEO for Homestretch Foundation, a 501c3 which provides free housing to female professional athletes struggling with the gender pay gap.

A native of Bronxville, NY she lives in Tucson, AZ. She holds a BA from Colgate University and an MFA from the University of Arizona.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to your career path in professional sports and activism?

As a kid, I played all sorts of wonderful sports: softball, running, skiing, skating. In college I was a competitive Division 1 rower, and a figure skater. After my pro skating career, I became a pro triathlete, which segued into a five-year career as a professional road cyclist. Because all the other sports before cycling provided an equal opportunity for women, I was shocked how many road blocks there were in the world of professional cycling. That’s what sparked my initiative to change the sport for equal inclusion.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

As an athlete, the answer is simple: work your ass off and rise through the ranks. As an activist, the road to equal opportunity is a bumpy journey, so my best advice is to form a team, a thick skin and a strong sense of humor. I write more about this topic in my new book, STAND.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life? Can you share a story?

At 45, I’m now able to understand that people affect us in a plethora of ways. I have amazing role models I look up to, and they’re responsible for motivating me with joy. There have also been people who stood in my way, trying to block my path. In the beginning, these were obstacles. Now I see the opposition as inspiration. The people who make us question our path are the ones who help us keep our eyes on what really matters. They’re not a challenge, they’re a gift.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about what it is like being a professional sports player?

For women in pro sports, many of us struggle with the gender pay gap. It’s important to call out this inequity. Not every pro athlete is rollin’ in luxury. The quicker we can dispel that myth, the better and closer we are to fixing it.

Ok super. Let’s now move to the main part of our discussion. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting causes you are working on right now?

I’m the CEO of Homestretch Foundation, a nonprofit which assists female pro athletes who struggle with the gender pay gap. Behind the scenes, we fight to eradicate this hurdle. Makes me feel pretty great to be part of the solution instead of the struggle.

Can you share with us the story behind why you chose to take up this particular cause?

As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. There was a time — 2015, actually — when I almost had to retire from pro cycling simply because the pay gap was so horribly imbalanced I had to work two other jobs just to stay afloat. Had I been a man, that wouldn’t have been the case. (All the men on World Tour teams had a base wage. The women at the same level did not.) We survived on peanuts. I used to think, “What if there were a place where women could live and train for free, while we fix the broken parts of the system?” That’s when the idea for Homestretch was born. We’ve been around 5 years, and we’ve helped 70 athletes from 17 different nations. And in 2020, our fight for a women’s base salary in professional cycling was finally granted.

Can you share with us a story about a person who was impacted by your cause?

I’m honored to say we have many stories where we’ve affected the lives of our residents for the better. From helping them rise through the pro ranks, becoming Olympians, and even helping them transition to careers after their sport… it’s such an awesome thing to be part of someone’s life journey, to see how helping others helps society move forward.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“Together we all move forward.” So true. No one achieves anything great alone.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the U.S. whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Is Madam VP part of your readership? Because I would love to shake Kamala Harris’s hand and discuss some of the work I’m doing with bills in the Senate on equal opportunity! I’m also a huge fan of Colin Kaepernick, for standing up for his beliefs. I’d also love to have lunch with Margot Robbie, Charlize Theron and Geena Davis not because they’re amazing actors but because they produce films on women and stories that matter. If I could get a copy STAND into their hands, I’d die happy. Ok, I’ll stop there. For now. The list goes longer…

How can our readers follow you online?

Yes! I’m on social media @kathrynbertine and I’ve got a website / mailing list where I enjoy keeping people posted about the latest project I’m working on. www.kathrynbertine.com

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Sports Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Kathryn Bertine of the Homestretch Foundation Is… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Rachel Lauren of Diversified Is Helping To…

Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Rachel Lauren of Diversified Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

Yes, I use my platforms (mainly Instagram and Clubhouse) to educate my followers on the realities of various causes. I work to provide tangible solutions that they can become involved in to assist with the efforts of the things I speak out on. I largely dedicate my social media to social justice related causes and advocate for the progression and acknowledgement of Black life and the experiences of all Black People. Being an adoptive mother of 3 Black children I am transparent, not only about my own journey, but about the need for focus on children within the system, especially children of color.

As a part of my series about leaders who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rachel Lauren.

Rachel is a conscious social influencer who is passionate about racial equity, Black life, women’s rights, foster care/adoption, and holistic wellness. By profession Rachel is a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department head within the Tech Sector and also a founding partner and Chief Programming Officer for Diversified, a boutique DEI consulting firm. Through her popular social platforms and various contributor positions, Rachel speaks out against racial injustice and advocates most commonly for the lives of all Black people.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I have always been focused on being a voice for the voiceless and fighting for people and communities that need it. This pull to make a change is what led me to my career in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and ultimately what has enabled me to grow my social media presence and influencer platform. I use my personal experiences to influence my following and draw attention to issues I believe in and advocate for. Specifically, my journey as a Black woman in corporate America as well as my path to becoming an adoptive mother are what truly led me to speaking out and leveraging my resources.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Speaking out about my foster to adopt journey opened the door for many valuable conversations with individuals who have either been impacted by the system or are interested in impacting the system. I often receive DM’s from people telling me their stories and asking for my advice. I once had a woman reach out and share that her journey with infertility was a source of her depression. She was able to find comfort when she heard me mention that the method to mommyhood can be unique and doesn’t have to be biological to be filled with love. That woman is currently working on becoming licensed to foster and adopt.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I once went live and didn’t exit properly so the video stayed on. Luckily nothing inappropriate occurred! But I learned the importance of double checking you are off camera.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

My advice wouldn’t be limited to Social Media Influencing. I think that the life of an Activist, Advocate, or any Professional can fall into the category of influence. The reality is we all have a responsibility to use our experiences and our expertise to positively impact people, communities, and organizations. Every person’s circle of influence will not be the same, however, that does not mean that the outcome won’t be felt in a major way. I recommend that everyone take time to identify what they can contribute to and how they can make a difference with that contribution. It is often the case that the thing we do well, our gift or our passion, is the thing that we ignore or don’t consider using as a tool in the fight to make a difference.

Remember that if you can help one person, heal one person, hear one person, and even lead one person you haven’t failed at all. It isn’t always about the size of your contribution but about the change it can make and the evolution that change can take.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

Yes, I use my platforms (mainly Instagram and Clubhouse) to educate my followers on the realities of various causes. I work to provide tangible solutions that they can become involved in to assist with the efforts of the things I speak out on. I largely dedicate my social media to social justice related causes and advocate for the progression and acknowledgement of Black life and the experiences of all Black People. Being an adoptive mother of 3 Black children I am transparent, not only about my own journey, but about the need for focus on children within the system, especially children of color.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

I do not like to share “who” I help out of respect for them and because this work isn’t for advertisement. I will say that I have been able to assist several organizations with accessing donors to support the work they do within our community.

Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

My tipping point came from a place of pain. Being a Black woman has meant oftentimes not being acknowledged, heard, considered, respected, or supported. Our country has largely denied the effects racism and systemic racism have had on the opportunities and access people that look like me get. I grew tired of fighting for others to recognize the value of Black women and the power our voices bring. If a seat at the table is not saved for us then we have to create the table and believe in the foundation of it. My focus on growing my following and using it is essentially me defying society’s box. It is me saying you will hear, respect, and make space for me and those that share the same story.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

There are more than 3 however I will say:

1. Use your voice and your platform. I don’t want to hear that Social Media doesn’t matter nor that you speaking up and out to the people you have access to has no weight. The truth is 2020 proved that smartphones and social platforms can actually be used to communicate across differences and reveal hard truths that many want to ignore. Living in a pandemic has meant many of us can’t mobilize in traditional ways. When a problem is presented you have to be the solution, use what you have. I often say that silence speaks volumes, my call to action for all people is to speak up and show up there should be no question where you stand in the face of racism.

2. Reform policy and adjust budgets. There are SEVERAL reformations that need to be addressed, however, policies surrounding police brutality and mass incarceration are at the top of the list. We need to divest dollars that support our current police system and re-invest into the community, end police violence and require that officers be held accountable, end no knock raids, fund public defender offices, establish more sanctuary cities, invest in mental health and school systems. The list goes on!

3. Support Foster Care. The foster system needs not only more funding that can assist with educating the public, properly paying case-workers, and investing in impacted families, but also, it is in dire need of more people. Individuals and families can work to find ways to support the system whether by becoming licensed to foster/adopt, serving as a respite home (temporary placements), volunteering to be a CASA worker, or simply mentoring and donating time and/or dollars to our youth.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

In addition to posting and speaking regularly I create content for the African Diaspora News Channel on YouTube. I also run an email club called “The Conscious Club” that individuals can sign up for and receive weekly emails that include updates, advice centered on how to make an impact, and tangible opportunities to act. For example, I often send out petitions for various causes or volunteer opportunities for organizations related to the causes I advocate for.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Start no matter how many people seem to be watching. If one person hears your message it is worth it!
  2. Don’t give up. It is easy to feel like your message isn’t landing and this can cause you to stop trying altogether. However, you never know who might share your content or when you may just reach the “right” person.
  3. Hashtags are important. I used to post and not give much thought to adding these but tags really help get your content in front of the individuals who are looking for it. They also serve as a great way to network and find people with similar interests or careers.
  4. Pay attention to trending topics. Oftentimes topics, challenges, holidays serve as a wonderful opportunity to get your message in front of people that are in the space to see or interact with it.
  5. Always have places to point your audience to. Social platforms tend to connect to one another which enables you to grow more than one space at a time, you can always direct your followers on one platform to the net and find ways to make each profile unique. It is also important to connect websites and action items to your profile to keep your followers engaged and give them opportunities to support what you do in more ways than one.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My message and purpose centers on advocating for and reforming Black life. At the end of the day every cause, movement, and demographic I support leads back to this central point. However, I believe that Black women are at the core and deserve to have focus that doesn’t evolve into everyone else. We are daughters, sisters, wives, birthers, nurturers, fighters, professionals. We do it all but never get the attention, assistance, and respect due us. I truly believe if Black women could receive equity and in many areas justice much of the fight for all Black people would be actualized.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Shirley Chisholm. Shirley Chisholm was a member of my sorority Delta Sigma Theta and the first Black woman elected to congress, the first candidate elected to a major party for Presidential election, and the first woman to run for the democratic party’s Presidential nomination. Shirley is a reminder to me that I have a right to take up space and that I can make room for my authentic self even when others fail to do so. It is easy to choose not to try something if a precedent hasn’t been set by someone before you, Shirley Chisolm is proof that you can be the precedent setter.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many people that I would absolutely love to just learn from! However, i will say Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She is bold, wise, determined, and unapologetically herself. Maxine Waters is my literal Shero and I am so impressed with her legislative efforts and lifelong service to our community. I literally feel like she is my long lost Auntie and I would be honored to meet her one day!

How can our readers further follow your work online ?

My handle on most Social Platforms is @theonlyrachel. I prefer Instagram and Clubhouse! My bios have links for more information on me however my website www.theonlyrachel.com provides opportunities for individuals to work with me and/or join my mailing list.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Rachel Lauren of Diversified Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Dr Dona Biswas Is Helping To Change Our World

For me, leadership stems from authenticity. Leaders who inspire and motivate people are those who are inspired by a vision of a better future themselves. Authentic leaders believe in themselves, believe in their people and believe that change is possible. I have come across many leaders who think leadership is a game and try to manipulate people. Such leaders eventually meet their downfall sooner or later. Authentic leaders usually spend considerable time on self-reflection and self-improvement and are open to feedback. They have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their tribe and they take time to get to know their people, no matter how big the organization is. Authentic leaders are also not afraid to try new things or accept their mistakes. They are transparent and down to earth. They lead from behind and remember their roots always.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Dona Biswas, author of ‘The Quantum Psychiatrist: From Zero to Zen Using Evidence-Based Solutions Beyond Medications and Therapy’. Dr. Dona Biswas specialized in Psychiatry in India, where she practiced for a number of years before moving to Australia. After gaining her Fellowship in Australia, she worked in several reputed public hospitals in Sydney, before moving into her own private practice at Blacktown. While in private practice, she realized the limited impact that conventional psychiatric treatments were having on her clients’ lives and began to train in several cutting-edge interventions to help her clients. She has gained expertise in modalities like neurofeedback, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), emotional freedom technique (EFT) and RESET therapy among others and integrates these modalities with conventional treatments in her practice. She is also an experienced energy healer, being a Reiki Master for more than 15 years and a Seichim Master as well. Her passion is to help people not only overcome their mental illness, but also encourage them to fulfil their untapped and unlimited potential.

https://medium.com/media/76d30a8bfe1536f1f739f376771feb61/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in India and as my father travelled a lot, I spent several years abroad, and got to travel to many countries. This experience helped shape my global outlook, while maintaining strong roots in my cultural heritage. As I grew up, I became very interested in psychology and the power of the mind. I was an avid reader and devoured books like there was no tomorrow! Yet, socially, I was very awkward and self-conscious and absolutely dreaded public speaking. It took me years of working on myself to overcome my self-consciousness and accept myself completely.

I developed debilitating asthma toward the end of high school, which affected my school years significantly. My father, frustrated by many trips to the doctor, took me to a homeopath, who prescribed me some homeopathic remedies which drastically reduced my asthmatic attacks and allowed me to continue my studies. This was the beginning of my passion for holistic healing. I explored alternative and traditional modes of healing and went into medicine to pursue my passion for healing. I was particularly drawn to mental health and decided to specialize in Psychiatry, hoping eventually to explore the power of the mind in physical and emotional healing. Yet, I became frustrated by the limited therapeutic options available in mainstream Psychiatry, mainly medications and psychotherapy.

I moved to Australia a decade back to continue my search for better therapeutic modalities here. I realized that conventional Psychiatry is quite limited worldwide, and I needed to walk down the path less travelled in order to realize my goals. I have been very fortunate to have had opportunities to train in many different modalities of mental healing and integrate them into my clinical practice.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

As a teenager, I read ‘The Road Less Travelled’ by the American psychiatrist, M.Scott Peck, which had a tremendous impact on me and inspired me to take up Psychiatry later on. It is a classical and inspiring book on Life’s meaning, developing a higher understanding of self and spiritual growth, and it left a deep impression on my mind.

Peck believes that the spiritual path, or the ‘road less travelled’, is rockier and more dimly lit than the regular highway of life, yet, the rewards are enormous. But unlike many self-help books today, he emphasizes that this path is long and difficult and requires a lot of self-discipline. As a young adult, I often questioned what most people accepted as ‘normal’ or ‘usual practice’. Sometimes I was afraid of the repercussions of my questions, but this book was the beginning of my journey into authenticity and I learnt not to be afraid to ask the tough questions.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Psychiatry is usually a somber profession as we mostly get to see the vulnerable side of people, so it is rare to find humor on a daily basis. As a female psychiatrist, I have learnt to work in a man’s world and take it in my stride, but sometimes I get thrown off by unexpected incidents, like one session in which the client actually proposed to me. It was awkward, to say the least, and I tried to dismiss it as a joke. That client never returned for another session; I guess he was embarrassed about his faux-pas too! From a client’s perspective, it is easy to develop feelings for one’s therapist, as they show their most vulnerable side to us. I wish I had not dismissed it as a joke but rather discussed his feelings openly and why it was common in a therapeutic relationship, so that he could feel comfortable and continue to get help.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

The idea for my book, The Quantum Psychiatrist, came to me in 2019, a few years after I started my private practice. At that point, I was researching a range of new and effective solutions for mental health problems and wondering why I had not heard of these techniques during all my years of training. It struck me that many mental health professionals would be in a similar situation like me and might not be aware of many effective treatment options that they could be offering to their clients. I thought that all mental health professionals as well as people with mental illnesses deserve to know about some of these amazing techniques which can impact their lives. I wrote The Quantum Psychiatrist to spread awareness about a range of treatment options available to address mental health problems, which you won’t find in mainstream psychiatry or psychology literature. I hope that there is an increased uptake of these techniques among mental health professionals as I believe these techniques can be absolute game-changers in the mental health arena. Today’s psychiatry practice is to focused on pharmacology and I hope to stimulate research into non-pharmaceutical options to heal mental illnesses.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

By far the most fascinating technique I have come across and trained in is RESET therapy for PTSD, developed by Dr. George Lindenfeld, a Clinical Psychologist in the US. I did a single session of RESET therapy for a young girl who had experienced sexual assault in school and was distressed by nightmares and flashbacks about it. After the session, when I asked her to visualize the event and rate her distress, she said “I can’t see it anymore!’ Her nightmares and flashbacks reduced drastically after this session, she was happier and ready to move on from the traumatic experience. I have not seen such quick results with any other therapy in my career! Such effective methods deserve a wider audience.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

It was 2017 and I had just started part-time private practice. There were a number of clients who had experienced severe childhood trauma and were coming to me for help. I felt that conventional treatments like medications and psychotherapy were inadequate to address many of my clients’ problems. I was beginning to get frustrated by my lack of success with these clients, yet I felt stuck.

In December, I had an accident and broke my right elbow and was forced to take a month’s leave from my otherwise hectic schedule. I truly believe the Universe wanted me to slow down and reflect on my practice. I spent most of my month reading and I came across Dr. Bessel van der Kolk’s book, The Body Keeps The Score, where he described a range of lesser known interventions for developmental trauma. I also devoured books by Dr. Norman Doidge, a Canadian psychiatrist who talks about harnessing the power of neuroplasticity to heal mental illness. I heard about techniques like neurofeedback, which used the brain’s neuroplasticity to create deep and lasting healing. My first response was ‘Why wasn’t I taught about these techniques during my training?’ I began to train in a range of techniques which were rapidly gaining evidence of efficacy in treating mental illnesses.

I realized that most people, including mental health professionals, were not aware of many of these techniques which were worthy of getting into mainstream mental health treatment. This inspired me to bring awareness to the public and inspire people that change is possible, no matter how chronic or difficult the illness might seem.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In my book, I share stories of a number of clients who have been impacted by these little-known therapeutic techniques. One of my clients had severe treatment resistant depression and a lot of childhood trauma. She had been seeing me for a couple of years and had tried a range of antidepressants and mood stabilizers without improvement. She was frequently suicidal and struggled with even the simplest chores. Her family life was severely affected by her illness. On my advice she started neurofeedback and in 6 months she had made progress that she had not seen in the last 10 years. Her depression was in sustained remission, she was functioning well and was able to work towards goals she had only dreamed off, like holding a job and learning how to drive. I don’t believe she would have seen these changes if I had only stuck to conventional methods like medications and psychotherapy.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

I think the community as well as political leaders can do a lot to help address the root problem. The root problem is not that there are not enough effective treatments for mental health problems, but that there is not enough awareness of the different techniques available. Since these techniques are not usually available in the mainstream mental health system, innumerable people with mental illnesses are deprived of the benefits. Individuals who try to spread awareness about these options are met with skepticism. Most of the research today is on medications, which is backed by significant funding by pharmaceutical companies who stand to profit from these medications.

Unfortunately, many of these novel and inexpensive therapeutic modalities do not have the funding and backing required to produce high quality studies, and research is limited to case reports, pilot studies or small trials, which are then dismissed by ‘experts’ as inadequate evidence. It is important to realize the politics of healthcare and if our society and politicians are truly motivated to find effective solutions to vexing mental health problems which costs the economy billions of dollar, they can help in the following ways:

1. Help create an awareness about effective mental health solutions, whether through websites, social media and other platforms. Provide accurate information to consumers so that they can make an informed decision about which modalities they would like to opt for.

2. Encourage and fund more research into these novel modalities of treatment. Many of these techniques are backed by anecdotal evidence or small trials but would benefit from more robust research to gain acceptance in the mainstream.

3. Governments and insurance companies should not discriminate against mental health providers who want to provide these treatment options at their practice. Currently, funding is skewed to only mainstream modalities, but this limits the ability of providers to impact clients more meaningfully through cutting edge tools and techniques.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

For me, leadership stems in authenticity. Leaders who inspire and motivate people are those who are inspired by a vision of a better future themselves. Authentic leaders believe in themselves, believe in their people and believe that change is possible. I have come across many leaders who think leadership is a game and try to manipulate people. Such leaders eventually meet their downfall sooner or later. Authentic leaders usually spend considerable time on self-reflection and self-improvement and are open to feedback. They have a genuine concern for the wellbeing of their tribe and they take time to get to know their people, no matter how big the organization is. Authentic leaders are also not afraid to try new things or accept their mistakes. They are transparent and down to earth. They lead from behind and remember their roots always.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

I am a true believer in unlimited human potential and it pains me to see people accepting a limited life due to constant negative societal messages. I wish people appreciated the power of words and how they can impact others. Messages like ‘You can’t’ or ‘You’re not smart enough’ or ‘You’re not good/old/young/capable/intelligent enough’ when repeated often, can limit people and make them resigned to a mediocre life. So here are five things I wish I had been told when I first started out in my profession:

1. Dream with your eyes open: Dreams are not what you see in your sleep, dreams are what you conceive of with your eyes open and make into your reality. Where people ask “Why?”, ask instead ‘Why not?’. All progress that humanity has made has been because people had the courage to dream of something that wasn’t conceivable to others. Daydreams are the stuff the future is made of, so dream on!

2. Make your passion your purpose: When you love what you do and do what you love, work will be a ball, not a chore. Too many people work at jobs that are not aligned with their purpose to pay their bills. When you focus on your passion and grow it, the money takes care of itself.

3. Take the path less travelled: The need to conform and the need for social approval often limits our potential. Be brave enough to march to a different drummer and be who you are!

4. Be a bubblegum brain: People who do extraordinary things are people who have a growth mindset. They are not afraid to learn new things and explore new solutions, even if it means moving out of their comfort zone. Life is a mystery that keeps unravelling, no matter how much of it we solve, so keep challenging yourself and keep expanding your mind! You don’t need to be perfect, just curious.

5. There is more to truth than meets the eye: In this age, we are being bombarded with information constantly, whether it is on TV, written media or social media. People are constantly vying for our attention and it might seem reasonable to pay attention to those that shout the loudest. But sometimes the truth is not so obvious and often the truth is tucked away in a corner waiting to be found out. So don’t accept everything at face value, but do some digging yourself to find out the truth!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite poet is Robert Frost and my favorite life lesson quote is from his poem ‘The Road Not Taken’. It goes as follows:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — 
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The quote, of course, is also the title of the book by M Scott Peck, which had a great impact on me since my teens.

Growing up, I was always questioning and contemplating why things were the way they were. And I felt like a misfit because I was not interested in the things other kids my age were, and found it difficult to conform to societal standards. This quote gave me hope and inspired me to follow my heart rather than the herd. And that truly has made all the difference to my life.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Well, there are many thought leaders who inspire me and it is difficult to pick just one person! One person I wish I had met, but unfortunately has passed on, was Dr. Wayne Dyer, a truly inspirational figure in the mental health sphere. I do hope to meet Dr. Deepak Chopra one day, as his work inspired me on my journey into healing. His book Quantum Healing is truly a masterpiece. He is a prolific writer and original thinker and I would love to someday have a chat with him!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

My book ‘The Quantum Psychiatrist” is available in paperback, Kindle and audiobook formats from all major book retailers. My website www.thequantumpsychiatrist.com has more information about my work, including my blog and my online courses. You can also subscribe to my newsletter on my website to follow my work online.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Dr Dona Biswas Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Sandra Goldmark of Barnard College: Five Strategies We Are Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable

The most important thing a parent can do is teach by example. Show your children the importance of living sustainably by practicing what you preach. Teach them that you don’t have to throw something away just because it’s broken or outdated. Think carefully about what you buy, where it comes from, and who made it. If it can’t be fixed, maybe it can be used differently. If you get a new one, does the old one still work? Can someone else use it? These are important questions to consider when you have little eyes learning from your every move.

As part of my series about companies who are helping to battle climate change, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Goldmark. Sandra Goldmark is a teacher, designer, and entrepreneur. In her role as Director of Campus Sustainability and Climate Action at Barnard College of Columbia University, she is leading efforts to achieve net-zero emissions. In 2020, she published the book Fixation: How to Have Stuff without Breaking the Planet.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’m the Director of Sustainability at Barnard College. I’m also a theatrical designer, a professor, an entrepreneur, and an author, so my path has taken some interesting turns!

Here’s how I got here: About seven years ago, while I was home on maternity leave, a bunch of stuff broke in my house: the vacuum, a lamp, the toaster, my backpack — nothing special, I could have just ordered replacements, but I felt strangely stubborn. I didn’t want a new vacuum, a new backpack, a new lamp; I wanted the old ones to work. I remember calling the vacuum manufacturer and asking about repairs, and the representative told me that the nearest service center was in Hackensack, New Jersey, which is a long drive from my home in New York City. Needless to say, I was not about to drive to Hackensack with a newborn and a toddler to get my vacuum fixed.

So (perhaps a little sleep-deprived), I wrote a letter to Walmart recommending that they open a repair shop in every Walmart in the country. I felt sure that many people were, like me, frustrated with a broken system of consumption that forces us towards the cheap, the new, the shiny and makes it so ridiculously hard to simply keep the things we already have.

Long story short, it didn’t seem that Walmart would listen to me without a bit more data, so my husband and I, along with some help from our colleagues in the theatre field, launched a social enterprise pop-up repair shop. We wound up operating more than a dozen short-term shops around NYC, fixed thousands of objects, and diverted tens of thousands of pounds of stuff from landfills. More important than the statistics, however, were the stories we heard from our customers: they too were frustrated with our broken system, and hungry for an alternative.

Those stories from my repair shop customers intersected with my ongoing work as a theatrical designer and a professor at Barnard. As a theatre designer, I had been telling stories with stuff for years. I knew that objects placed onstage speak volumes — and in listening to my customers in the repair shops, I realized that the same was true for objects offstage. We speak with our stuff, and the stories we are telling are, too often, ones of waste, exploitation, meaningless consumption, and clutter. All of this turned into a book called Fixation: How to Have Stuff without Breaking the Planet, which explores these questions and charts a clear path forward to a more sustainable, equitable, and circular pattern of consumption.

My years in the repair shops also influenced my sustainability work at Barnard; I became interested not only in the stories we were telling as individuals, but also in the ones we were telling as a community and as a campus. I had taken on the role of Director of Sustainability and began to work with campus partners to reduce our emissions and incorporate climate considerations into our teaching, our operations, and our decision making. I was particularly interested in our “Scope 3” emissions: food, goods, travel, and waste. This very broad category is often undercounted, but it represents a very significant portion of any institution’s emissions — in our case as much as two-thirds. In many ways, these emissions are the ones that most directly relate to the way we live, our habits, our daily choices — our stories.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

Barnard is a college for women in New York City with a singular relationship to Columbia University. We are a close-knit community, with an incredible faculty and a strong commitment to social justice. Barnard College joined the NYC Carbon Challenge in 2009 and, in 2013, became one of the first institutions in New York City to reach the initial goal of 30% emissions reductions from 2005 levels. In December of 2019, Barnard released a comprehensive Climate Action Vision, and committed to defining a timeline for carbon neutrality. This fall, we began working with consultants from Energy Strategies to lay out potential pathways, timelines, and order-of-magnitude costs for achieving net-zero emissions. This road map will focus on emissions reductions in Scopes 1 and 2 (largely electricity, heating, and cooling), and will also support our aggressive and innovative approach to Scope 3 emissions.

One key pillar of our strategy for Scope 3 emissions — which, again, includes food, waste, material goods, and air travel — is our “Circular Campus” framework. Barnard faculty, students, and staff have begun developing this systems-based approach to tackle emissions and waste while supporting student access to affordable supplies. Barnard was selected as the winner of the Build Back Circular competition, and will receive ideation support and technical expertise from Bloxhub, a Danish hub for sustainable urbanization, in developing this regenerative model.

One key component of our emissions reduction approach is the intersection of the Circular Campus model and our commitment to social justice. We believe that a holistic and circular approach will not only benefit the planet, but also support our students’ access to affordable supplies, our local community, and the communities around the world where our stuff is made. Emissions reduction isn’t just about greenhouse gases; it’s about rethinking the existing extractive model and building a regenerative one.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

Barnard College is making it a priority to highlight the intersection of climate change and issues of race, gender, and class, both in our operational decisions and in our teaching. By offering an environmental humanities minor and a new political ecology track within the Anthropology department, along with courses like Workshop in Sustainable Development in Environmental Science and Climate Justice Observatory in Architecture, Barnard is giving our students a chance to explore the roles of race and gender when discussing climate change and developing responses to the climate crisis.

One of the first initiatives in our Circular Campus framework is to promote our new partnership with Rheaply, a reuse and exchange platform for the Barnard community. Starting with arts departments and Access Barnard, students, faculty, and staff will be able to post and exchange materials and supplies. In the long term, Rheaply can save thousands of pounds of emissions, thousands of dollars, and will facilitate access to affordable and sustainable materials for our entire campus.

This spring, the Center for Engaged Pedagogy, in partnership with the Sustainable Practices Committee, will hold four virtual workshops. These sessions are designed to support faculty in their efforts to integrate environmental issues, sustainability, and climate change into curricula while helping us come up with interdisciplinary ways to structure collaboration across departments, such as through funded, team-taught courses. These virtual sessions are open to faculty and students, and will explore a wide range of topics, including Environmental Justice, Theorizing the Environment, Design Decarbonization, and Climate Change and the Anthropocene.

Barnard faculty and students are also participating in the design process for a new climate school at Columbia University. For this initiative, members of the Barnard community will contribute to working groups and roundtable discussions aimed at developing a “school like no other” that will tackle the trans-disciplinary challenge of climate change.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

When I opened my repair shop in NYC, I discovered that people are holding on to broken things in a very interesting way; not just heirlooms or sentimental items, but humble plastic fans and greasy toaster-ovens. As human beings, we have an emotional attachment to our stuff. Just like food, our stuff is not only necessary for our survival, it’s part of who we are — as a species and as individuals. Market forces are constantly pushing us towards the newer, better ‘thing’ but what if we began to see our emotional attachment to our stuff as a valuable part of our economy? If businesses recognized our deep connection to the things we already own, and made reuse, repair, and service a core part of their business models, this would establish a healthier way to make money and grow the economy.

This is the core of the circular economy — a system where we no longer have “waste,” but where we value what we have, maintain it, and share it. This is a model where we can earn money while taking care of the stuff we already have, which would allow us to extract value from an object, in both an emotional sense and in an economic sense, more than once.

Just imagine, for example, if there was a reuse section and a service center at all the major retailers, like Walmart, Target, and Home Depot — whether online or brick and mortar. Every company that makes and sells new stuff can (and should!) shift its business model to also include maintenance or service of the products that are sold. Reuse, repair, and remanufacturing are crucial components of any credible climate solution because making new products requires an incredible amount of resources and energy. The three Rs are also a way to diversify and expand revenue streams while creating local jobs. It’s a win-win-win.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.

The most important thing a parent can do is teach by example. Show your children the importance of living sustainably by practicing what you preach. Teach them that you don’t have to throw something away just because it’s broken or outdated. Think carefully about what you buy, where it comes from, and who made it. If it can’t be fixed, maybe it can be used differently. If you get a new one, does the old one still work? Can someone else use it? These are important questions to consider when you have little eyes learning from your every move.

Find ways for them to be involved and engaged with their community so they see the connection between individual actions and collective action. For example, I do regular park clean-up days with my two boys. It’s a simple activity, but it’s a way to put ideas into practice in a concrete way that kids can understand.

Explain the benefits of a circular model of consumption that values more than just the latest, greatest product. Again, showing is better than telling. For my boys, we found a source for used legos (their main area of consumption). We’ve also discussed with them why we buy used instead of new, so that it’s clear to them that it is possible — and important — to find toys in a way that is more responsible.

This is a big one, but I think parents need to start helping children analyze the impacts of their actions and the motivations behind the decisions they make. What do we buy? How do we travel? How should we think about representation and policies? (Though for my kids, I might say rules or government instead of policies!) The best way to do this, of course, is use real-world examples — so take them to vote, explain why we are buying the used legos, talk about how we can’t eat red meat very often, etc. It’s more about instilling a pause — a moment of reflection to consider our impacts — than it is about instilling any one particular behavior.

Finally, children can get rather discouraged about climate change. They hear very depressing facts and figures all the time — in school, on the news, even in the cartoons and videos they watch. So it’s important to also build a sense of hope, and acknowledge that while these challenges are daunting and the future can seem scary, many of us are very blessed right now, and should be using the present moment to make things even better for everyone.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  • Take the extra time to build trust in working relationships. It’s well worth it in the long run.
  • “It’s not ‘show friends’…It’s ‘show business’…” This is a theatre phrase reminding us that, at work, no matter how friendly people are, it’s still work, and the work comes first. We must invest in our working relationships, but we can’t lose sight of our goals.
  • Don’t worry too much. At some point I realized that life is long; there is always another show or another project, and I shouldn’t get too attached or too stressed out. I wish I’d had this insight when I was younger.
  • Have gratitude: I’m incredibly blessed, and I’m not sure I realized it early on.
  • I wish someone had taught me to actually hear and TAKE all the great advice people gave in my youth. So much good advice was wasted on my younger self!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Wow, so many people have helped me get where I am today. My husband, Michael Banta, is a Barnard colleague, a theatre collaborator, and my repair shop co-founder. He’s been a partner in everything I have done as well as a source of comfort and support. My husband also provides what we call “quality control,” from thinking through ideas, to slowing me down when I rush things, to helping with final line edits on a piece of writing. From making dinner, to figuring out a complicated bit of scenery, Michael and I have been very lucky to be able to work together, help each other, and grow together.

I also have an amazing network of friends, mostly women, two sisters, and amazing parents. I am incredibly blessed in terms of the people around me.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think the number one thing I hope for the world right now is that all of us, each and every one, begin to consider our fragile, shared planet in every decision we make. From the toasters we buy (and maybe repair) to the way we travel, the way we treat each other — especially those who are most vulnerable to climate impacts — and the policies we create. We don’t have any more time to waste, so we need to bridge the divide across groups, politics, and disciplines. We can no longer make decisions without considering the impact.

Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

My background is in theatre, so when I came across this quote from playwright August Wilson I was very moved:

We can make a difference. Artists, playwrights, actors — we can be the spearhead of a movement to reignite and reunite our people’s positive energy for a political and social change that is reflective of our spiritual truths rather than economic fallacies . . . What we do now becomes history by which our grandchildren will judge us.”

Wilson was speaking about race in America, not climate change. But the injustices of race in America are deeply intertwined with the climate crisis; our history of exploitation and extraction is written both on the land and in our deeply unequal society. Wilson’s words are a call to action and a step towards empowerment. What can a theatrical set designer possibly have to say about climate change? How can one professor-turned-repair-shop-owner ever hope to make a difference? What does one small campus matter? Wilson reminds us that we can make a difference — and more importantly, that we must.

What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?

My website is https://sandragoldmark.com

You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter at @SandraGoldmark

Find me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fixupnyc

This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Sandra Goldmark of Barnard College: Five Strategies We Are Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Janice Lamy Is Helping To Change Our World

My mission is to positively impact a generation of women by providing career success guidance through my book and online resources. Currently, I see a convergence of activity from many sources coming together to address the disparities between women and men in leadership roles. By helping women create their Success Plans, my intention is to contribute to that movement in a meaningful way.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Janice Lamy.

She is an accomplished marketing professional with more than thirty years of experience leading successful marketing programs and mentoring young professionals. Lamy brings in-depth expertise in creating programs and processes aimed at fueling exceptional productivity and generating fresh revenue. She is a creative problem solver, instructor, team leader and communicator, Janice has a proven ability to develop marketing and communications strategies designed to increase efficiency while substantially heightening performance levels. Lamy has enjoyed serving as a mentor to others and offering guidance based upon her experience and observations. She finds fulfillment in watching young professionals grow into their careers and achieve their goals and aspirations. Lamy is keenly interested in positively impacting a generation of women by providing career success guidance through her book and online resources. She sees a convergence of activity from many sources coming together to address the disparities between women and men in leadership roles. By helping women create their Success Plans, her intention is to contribute to that movement in a meaningful way.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Growing up as the third of three children and the only girl, I felt I had to be strong and stand out from my brothers. I had to play tough and keep up with them yet fill the role of being the “girl” and “daughter” in the family. My mom was the caretaker of the family and didn’t get much of a chance to pursue her dreams. I decided early in life that I would not let that happen to me, I wanted more out of life. As a result, I’ve had an amazing career and have worked with some brilliant people along the way. It hasn’t always been easy, and I made some missteps along the way, but I’m very proud of what I’ve accomplished. I know that little girl who thought “I want more” would be proud.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Jane Eyre by Emily Bronte really made an impact on me. I haven’t thought about that book in years, but as soon as I read this question it immediately popped into my mind. I love the way Jane argues throughout the novel about women having the opportunity to pursue their aspirations, express themselves completely, and chart their own pathways to what success means to them. Jane was probably the first feminist figure I encountered, she inspired me to be determined and take action toward my goals. She has sort of stayed in the back of my mind my entire life, urging me on. That foundation is what led me to write Creating Your Success Plan — it’s all about empowering women to take charge of their life and make it what they want it to be.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I moved into management in my twenties, due to my intense drive to advance my career. At the age of 27, I was a division marketing leader overseeing the marketing programs at 14 hospitals in the south-central United States. Looking back, I know that happened too early for me. Even though I had no idea of what I was doing, I certainly thought I did and evidently convinced others I was the right candidate for the role. During that experience, I made a series of mistakes centered around being “right” and having to “know it all.” I overcompensated for my youth and lack of management experience. I was probably a difficult person to work with. Fortunately, I learned a lot from those experiences and had some pretty frank conversations with myself. I’ve learned there is no way to know it all, and no reason to try. I enjoy learning about what motivates others and helping them to pursue their goals. I’ve had the chance to mentor several women during my career and find that process very rewarding. Another foundational reason why I wrote Creating Your Success Plan, is due to my love for mentoring women.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

My mission is to positively impact a generation of women by providing career success guidance through my book and online resources. Currently, I see a convergence of activity from many sources coming together to address the disparities between women and men in leadership roles. By helping women create their Success Plans, my intention is to contribute to that movement in a meaningful way.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

In the second half of Creating Your Success Plan, I offer Success Tips and guidance for navigating your career effectively. One of the tips is about attracting success and creating the culture you want, even if it’s a microculture. I share the following story about Angie, a woman I had the honor of working with for four years:

Angie created her own microculture in order to remain positive. Her approach to what was a very difficult working environment with ever-changing direction, continual crises, limited resources, and very demanding internal clients was nothing less than inspirational. She had every reason to give in to the negativity that became somewhat rampant within the organization due to constant turmoil, ongoing reductions in force, and a lot of leadership turnover. But she chose not to, and I’m certain that was a choice she had to consciously make each day.

Angie created her own micro-culture, and it was the first time I had witnessed this in action. She kept her thoughts positive and stayed out of the rumor mill as much as possible. When she found herself involved in a negative conversation, she pointed out the positive aspects of the situation under discussion and helped shift things to the positive. When she felt stretched due to the lack of resources and ever-increasing workload, instead of complaining she said, “The work is the work; we will get it done.”

Because of her approach, people were drawn to her and thought very highly of her — not only as a colleague or coworker, but as a person. Team members within the department often sought her guidance in dealing with difficult people and situations. Even though she was very busy, she always took the time to talk with them and help find a solution to whatever was troubling them. She was seen as a shining star in the department and organization. And she was highly respected by leadership.

Angie’s micro-culture was pretty amazing to experience. I learned a lot from her and since the time she and I worked together, I have made a point of carrying her approach forward. It has proven to be one of the key learnings of my career.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I never intended to write a book, It was never on my radar. I’ve spent the last 30 years in healthcare marketing and really enjoy what I do professionally. I’ve had exceptional career opportunities and have worked with amazing people. Simply put, my life has been dynamic and fun. However, I kept getting this feeling that I needed to do something more, not just something different but something more. It occurred to me that one of the main things I love to do is mentor others, specifically women as they navigate their careers. Taking this idea further, I began to think about how I could do it on a larger scale, and my “mission” came to me. I wanted to positively impact a generation of women. Out of nowhere, I received a very clear message: I needed to write a book designed to provide mentoring and guidance for women in their early and mid-stage careers. I began writing and the content seemed to just pour out of me. Through an invigorating process I wrote Creating Your Success Plan in less than 60 days.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The Creating Your Success Plan (CYSP) System is designed to help women get very clear about what they want to achieve in their career, within a specific timeframe. They start by identifying their core values and then determine where they want to be in the next 3, 5 or 10 years. The next step is setting goals that will help them achieve their aspirations. I have witnessed women going through the process and it is as if they wake up from a fog. Women find a confidence they’ve never felt before, because they realize they are in charge of their future. These women understand that they alone are responsible for their success, and the only thing that can ever hold them back is themselves.

A couple of women that I worked with prior to completing their Success Plans, went through the process. Today, they are completely different people. These women are driven, focused, and confident in achieving their goals. A light has been switched on. I can’t begin to explain how amazing it feels to watch that transformation and know that I was able to help make it happen.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The problem I am focused on the most consists of the disparity between women and men in leadership roles. The roots of this problem are threefold, as I see it:

  1. Society’s continued general belief that men are more valuable than women in the workplace. We are making strides here, slowly. There are numerous conscious and subconscious reasons for this stigma, ranging from the distraction’s motherhood can bring, to fears brought forward by the “me too” movement, to the lack of a “good old boy network” for women. We must drop these beliefs and open our eyes to the many useful and unique qualities women bring to leadership roles.
  2. Women not fully stepping into their power and taking responsibility for their success. We’ve been taught to be nice, sugar, and spice. We’ve learned that being assertive comes off as bossy. Women let distractions take our eye off the ball, for example motherhood, taking care of the family, etc. A Success Plan is the perfect tool to remain focused as life tries to pull us in different directions.
  3. Women not supporting each other to achieve goals. I see this changing, and it makes me happy. Women are bonding together more than ever to offer support, laugh through the tears and frustration, and celebrate our successes. That’s what the Success Tribe is all about. It’s the online community included in the CYSP System.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is hard, confronting, and sometimes a bit scary. It’s also exceptionally rewarding when done correctly. By that, I mean a leader encourages and motivates her team to achieve greatness. A leader lets an individual fail without repercussions and helps them learn and grow from the experience. A leader doesn’t take themselves too seriously and maintains a good sense of humor about life in general. A leader steps in to provide guidance when needed, and steps away when the team doesn’t need guidance and celebrates their successes. A leader is strong, fair, objective, and personable. A leader is a role model for their team.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. You don’t have to know everything. We feel vulnerable and weak if we come across as “not knowing.” Yet, when we actually admit to our team that we don’t know the answer and ask for their help, they get a chance to grow and share their wisdom. I’ve learned that a true leader lets their team be the expert when possible. In the end, everyone wins.

2. A sense of humor goes a long way. Don’t take everything too seriously. It just adds stress into your life and makes everything harder. Laugh, especially at ourselves, creates space to step back and realize that no one and nothing is perfect. It’s through our imperfections that we connect and build strong teams.

3. Thick skin is essential. Don’t take things personally. Although criticism can hurt and may not always be on target, there can be some kernel of truth. Instead of letting the critic get under your skin, thank them for their insights and discuss strategies to make improvements. Show an individual how the concept of criticism is occurring, one might not understand those processes. It always helps to see things from their perspective. Reframe criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow.

4. Let people fail. The best lessons learned come from some sort of failure. By letting your team members fail (small failures, hopefully) and helping them see the lesson it brings, teams grow to be more strong, smart, motivated, and loyal.

5. Network. Networking is an essential skill that I did not fully appreciate until later in my career. It takes time and intentional nurturing to build your network of contacts and mentors, as well as those you mentor. Focusing on a networking program early in your career, will create a circle of valuable resources to reach goals more effectively.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Each day, in everything that you do and say, you are interviewing for your next opportunity”, Janice Lamy.

This is a key theme in Creating Your Success Plan. We must hold ourselves accountable and capable of achieving our goals. This includes being intentional about how we come across throughout our day. It is similar to managing your personal brand. A key leader could be sizing you up and considering whether you are ready for a promotion, an assignment, or an important project that could help progress your career.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Melinda Gates. As part of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s mission to help all people lead healthy, productive lives, she has devoted much of her work to women’s rights. In her next chapter, her mission is to close the funding gap for female founders, through her investment and incubation company, Pivotal Ventures. I would love to meet her and learn more about the amazing things she is doing to advance women, and if there is a way I can help.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I’m available via email at janice@creatingyoursuccessplan.com. You can also schedule a free 30-minute consultation with me through the website. https://creatingyoursuccessplan.com. I reserve a couple of hours each evening and over the weekend for those calls, and I’d love to hear from you!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Janice Lamy Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Shari Botwin Is Helping To Change Our World

I broke my silence about being an incest survivor. The article was written for survivors, advocates, teachers, doctors, therapists and loved ones. I wanted readers to know that “the sooner someone speaks, the less damage is done over the course of a lifetime.” I went on to say “I propose we start a new revolution and come together as a society and help people be less afraid to come forward about abuse done to them.”
After I released that article, I attended both Cosby trials and his sentencing. I spoke to reporters about the pathology of a predator and the impact his alleged victims suffered for decades. I continued to speak out about the importance of believing survivors. I continued writing about the process of healing in the aftermath of tragedy. I have been determined to share messages of hope that comes from speaking up and asking for help after living through any type of trauma.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shari Botwin, LCSW. She has been counseling survivors of all types of trauma in her Cherry Hill, New Jersey private practice for over twenty-three years. Her second book, “Thriving After Trauma: Stories of Living and Healing, Rowman & Littlefield,” (Rowman & Littlefield, November 8, 2019) deals with overcoming trauma including physical and sexual abuse, war-related injury, loss due to tragedy or illness and natural disasters. Real stories and practical tools shed light on how to let go of the shame, guilt, anger, and despair after a traumatic experience. Shari has conducted Keynote presentations for Monte Nido, International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals, Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Organization, Hoftstra University and Bay Path University. She has given expert testimony on breaking stories related to trauma (Covid-19) on a variety of international media outlets; including, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, The Today Show, CBS This Morning NBC News Now with Dr. John Torres, NBC Stay Tuned, ABC News, CBS News, MSNBC Live, CTV News, CP-24 News, CNN, Sports Illustrated, Prevention Magazine, The New York Times, Newsbreak, Greatist, The Associated Press, Philadelphia Magazine and Radio Europe. Shari has also published feature articles in Thrive Global, Medium, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Toronto Star and Sage. Botwin has dedicated her life’s work to helping survivors after living through years of childhood abuse and multiple traumas in her early adulthood.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in an upper-middle class Jewish home in the suburbs of Jersey. I decided very early in my life that I wanted to remember and share events I experienced during my childhood. I am a childhood sexual abuse survivor. I developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depression before I hit puberty. I journaled a lot during my teens and I kept these entries in a safe place. When I was growing up I spent a lot of time dancing and performing in musical theater. I never felt like I fit in with my peers. I gravitated towards adults who seemed caring and interested in what was going on in my life. I watched a lot of television, mostly family sitcoms.

I did not understand what was happening to me or why I felt unsafe at home. Most of the abuse I endured happened in the middle of the night. I could not process or find words to what was being done to me. I started watching movies about sexual assault and incest before I went to middle school. I remember running to the mailbox every Thursday when the TV guide arrived for the next week. I searched through the pages looking for television shows and movies that I could watch to help me feel better. I had a couple of good friends growing up. Unfortunately these relationships were not healthy because I transferred my need to be heard and protected onto kids who could not take on that kind of responsibility.

I moved into the dorms at Hofstra University my first year of college. My freshman year was terrible because I was so insecure and distrusting. I found my way into a sorority my sophomore year at Hofstra. I developed connections with women who were like sisters. I began to open up about my poor-self-image and struggles with depression and anorexic behaviors. My recovery began during college. I did not know it at the time, but when I was at Hofstra I was building strength so I could face my trauma when the time was right. I knew I wanted to help people. During my childhood I searched for kids who needed help. I wanted to find other people that could relate to the pain and shame I was burying deep in my physical and emotional being.

Within a year after I graduated with my Masters in Social Work from Rutgers University, I began working in the psychology field. I knew I needed help. Rather than just focus on my career and helping others, I found myself the best therapist in the world.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

During my childhood I was constantly searching for books and television shows that would help me feel less alone. I wanted to read about people who had suffered adversity and made it through. I wanted to know that there was hope, and how people kept fighting through circumstances that were unimaginable. When I was around eleven years old I was assigned the book, “Night,” by Elie Wiesel for Hebrew school. (https://www.amazon.com/Night-Elie-Wiesel/dp/0374500010) At that time the isolation and confusion about my home life was beginning to take a toll on me. Thoughts about suicide and wanting to give up became a daily occurrence in my world. I felt like such a misfit and I could not tolerate the changes happening in my body as I was facing puberty. I was also ashamed to tell people that I was Jewish.

In Hebrew school we watched a lot of movies about the Holocaust. Teachers did not talk to us after we watched these films. I was left with harrowing images of hatred, violence and inhumanity. I did not feel safe at home. I did not feel safe at school. And, I was terrified to walk into my synagogue. At first I did not want to read Elie’s book. I was afraid to hear about more stories of horrible things happening to Jewish people. From the moment I began reading “Night,” I was hooked. I noticed Elie’s strength and determination to be heard. About a year before I read his book I promised myself that “Someday someone will hear me.” I was standing on the playground in the 4th grade. I was apart from most of my peers who were doing inappropriate sexual behaviors at the bottom of the hill. I did not want to participate in what I began to understand as an adult was normal sexual experimentation. I felt hopeless and alone. I did not have the words to describe my abuse. At that time and for many years to follow in my childhood, my brain stored many memories of my abuse as a way to protect myself from going insane. My brain was unable to shield me from the layers of pain and shame I felt in my body almost every day. When I read Elie Wiesel’s book I felt affirmed. I remember thinking to myself, “If he found a way to stay hopeful, so could I.” I felt grateful for my ability to create a sense of safety at school and in my dance classes. I tried to understand how he could survive in a concentration camp while being ripped away from his family. I was intrigued by his story telling and his determination to make sure his story was heard. There were a couple of quotes from his book that stuck with me!

“There’s a long road of suffering ahead of you. But don’t lose courage. You’ve already escaped the gravest danger: selection. So now, muster your strength, and don’t lose heart. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity.” “…I believe it important to emphasize how strongly I feel that books, just like people, have a destiny. Some invite sorrow, others joy, some both.”

When I read Elie’s book I had no idea I would become an author or a trauma therapist. I did know I would find my voice. I knew when the time was right I would begin sharing my story in the hopes I could help hundreds or thousands of others understand that it is possible to live a full, happy life after surviving incest.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Through the years I have had many bloopers or mistakes that have happened during therapy sessions. Just a few weeks ago as I was conducting a tele therapy session and one of my pictures fell off the wall and practically landed on my head. Rather than be embarrassed I cracked up. My patient was anxious and we had just met a couple of weeks before this happened. It actually broke the ice because my patient could see things happen and therapists are human too. Another moment I will never forget during quarantine happened during our first snowfall this winter. My almost ten-year old kiddo was so excited because it has not snowed where we live in 655 days. He was finishing up at home school and I was still conducting sessions in my “home office.” I was talking to a teenager about her home life and she was telling me a story about feeling judged by her dad. Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she told me about an incident when she felt like, “no matter what I do, I will never be good enough for my dad,” As she was telling me this story my almost ten-year old knocked on my “home office” door. He entered the room and said, “Mom I have a surprise for you.” Seconds later he threw a big fluffy pile of snow on my head, face and desk. I was so mad for one second. Then, I burst into laughter. My patient looked at the screen and said to me, “Now that made me feel better.” She laughed as I brushed the snow off my glasses and laptop screen. We talked about my reaction and she told me how amazing it was that I did not scream and holler at my kiddo. This moment reminded me of the importance of having safe, trusting connections through childhood. That was healing for my patient because she gained more understanding about her father and how his judgments on her are more about him!

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

I started working on my book in 2015. I spent two years putting together a book proposal and seeking representation by a literary agent. Like most authors, I faced a lot of rejection by agents and publishers. I held onto my goal of getting my voice out into the public, with the hopes I could reach survivors of trauma. Rather than get discouraged I worked my bum off, reaching out to journalists and writing features for a variety of online platforms. On the two year anniversary of #Metoo I published a feature article in Thrive Global. I broke my silence about being an incest survivor. The article was written for survivors, advocates, teachers, doctors, therapists and loved ones. I wanted readers to know that “the sooner someone speaks, the less damage is done over the course of a lifetime.” I went on to say “I propose we start a new revolution and come together as a society and help people be less afraid to come forward about abuse done to them.” (https://thriveglobal.com/stories/metoo-turns-two/) After I released that article, I attended both Cosby trials and his sentencing. I spoke to reporters about the pathology of a predator and the impact his alleged victims suffered for decades. I continued to speak out about the importance of believing survivors. I continued writing about the process of healing in the aftermath of tragedy. I have been determined to share messages of hope that comes from speaking up and asking for help after living through any type of trauma.

I will never forget the day I signed my book contract with Rowman & Littlefield. I felt like my dream had come true. I flashed back to moments when I stood on that playground in the fourth grade promising myself “someday someone will hear me.” My book released worldwide in E-book, audio and hardcover on November 4, 2019. Within weeks of the book’s publication I went on social media platforms and I began hearing from therapists, survivors and journalists from all over the world. I was booked to do a feature presentation on abuse recovery with Judge Rosemarie Aquilina (Judge who sentenced Olympic doctor Larry Nassar to life in prison after being convicted of sexually abusing hundreds of young women) and renowned book author Abigail Pesta on March 12, 2020 at The Wing in New York City. Two days before the scheduled workshop the country shut down due to COVID 19. Rather than sit in the disappointment about that event being canceled, I shifted my focus onto online outreach. During the last year I have continued to publish articles and give commentary on the impact of the pandemic, especially for anyone with trauma histories. Readers and listeners from around the world have asked me to share more about how someone can move into a life of thriving after living through domestic violence, childhood abuse, sudden loss, war-related injury, child loss and related issues.

One of the reasons I wrote “Thriving After Trauma,” was “to unite all of us: survivors, family members, bystanders and helpers. No one walks away from trauma feeling the exact same thing. There are things we have in common and things we cannot comprehend. It is not about understanding exactly what someone feels or remembering every detail. It is about hope. It is about acceptance. It is about understanding the impact of our traumas. And it is about fighting for our right to live fully and freely no matter how horrific the trauma or our experiences were.” (https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781538125601/Thriving-After-Trauma-Stories-of-Living-and-Healing, Discount code RLFAND30 for thirty percent off hardcover or E-book

Throughout the last year I have been going on a variety of podcasts, IGTV Live and Zoom events for the public. All of these events have been free of charge. Topics of focus have been on staying sane during insane times, domestic violence, childhood abuse prevention, suicide awareness, intimate dating violence and eating disorders. I have been connecting with therapists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, doctors, nurses and loved ones seeking support, encouragement and education. During the Pandemic, more people have been coming forward about their mental health issues and asking for help. In August I spoke out about my suicide attempt at age 14 and the long-term impact of PTSD. I appeared on a podcast, “Understanding Suicide,” (https://anchor.fm/paula-fontenelle/episodes/Ep--37---Healing-from-trauma-even-if-you-dont-remember-them--Interview-Shari-Botwin-eifkus/a-a30mblc)

The podcast host focused on how to cope with suicidal ideation and helping loved ones support family members with severe depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Earlier this winter I started a Video cast series with Judge Rosemarie Aquilina which focuses on the legal and psychological aspects of domestic violence and childhood sexual abuse. During the next several months we will continue to offer free, Live Zoom’s which can be accessed via YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. (https://youtu.be/QXYAZwRaGn4)

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

That is a hard question to answer! I loved writing this book and sharing stories of men and women I have met through the years that have overcome enormous challenges. The hardest chapter to write was the one that focused on my abuse recovery journey. At times I found myself welling up with sadness and anger as I wrote about the impact of my abuse. The most healing part of this chapter was writing about the birth of my first and only child, almost ten-years ago!

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

My “aha moment,” arrived within weeks of giving birth to my son. As I observed myself parent my son I realized that I am so much more than an abuse survivor. I remembered times when I changed his diaper or gave him nebulizer treatments for his asthma as an infant. I felt so much love for this little bundle of joy. When he smiled at me my heart exploded. The last thing I wanted to do was anything that would scare him or make him feel unsafe. I took notice to his vulnerability and could imagine the thoughts of a pedophile. At first I was terrified when I pictured my abuser and what kind of crazy thoughts were going through his mind when he abused me. In therapy I had many conversations about the differences between how I parented versus how I was parented. The light bulbs went off as I realized it was in facing my abuse that I could make different choices. I have met many people through the years that never had children because of their abusive past. Patients have told me they were convinced they could not be good parents after some of the events they survived as young children. My heart would break for these patients before I became a mom. I did not give birth until I was forty-years old. I always wanted a family and I was not going to let my history of incest and trauma stop me from having a family. Months after I became a momma I decided I wanted to tell the world about all the miracles that could come from facing our worst fears. I wanted to scream from the rooftops that it is possible to break the cycle of abuse. During these last ten years I have had many more of these “aha moments” as a parent. If I could I would tell millions of people that anything is possible if we believe in ourselves. I wished childhood abuse did not exist. However, I would not change a thing about my past and how I use my story to help myself and others move into a life of thriving!

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

During the last twenty-five years I have met many people in the psychology field who have made such an impact. I have had the opportunity to talk extensively with colleagues and mentors who have been a steadfast support from my earliest moments of breaking my silence. The person who has had the biggest influence on me has been my therapist. I met Dorothy when I was twenty-five years old and I stayed in treatment with her throughout my journey. When I met Dorothy I sensed she had a huge heart and that she would not judge me, no matter what I shared with her. It took me a couple of years of sitting in session with her to find the courage to tell her what happened to me. Dorothy stood by me during turbulent, dreadful times of my life. She never gave up on me. She never told me I was crazy. She accepted my feelings and reinforced the importance of sitting with my feelings so I could move into a place of acceptance about my past. I have internalized her words of support and love and I think about things she has said to me every day. I learned how to be a better therapist and how to access my voice. I learned the importance of setting boundaries and that I had the right to say no. Dorothy became the biggest gift I received after surviving years of abuse. I learned that there are good people in this world and that not everyone wanted to hurt me. After years of sitting in her office and sharing my heart I learned to trust myself. Recovery is a lifelong process and at times I have slipped into old ways of thinking and feeling. Rather than beat myself up for these moments, Dorothy taught me how to use the mistakes I have made to be a stronger and happier woman moving forward.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

There are many things the community can do to prevent trauma and abuse. For example, holding mandatory trauma-informed workshops could be incorporated into programs geared towards healthcare and education. Politicians need to re-evaluate the legal system and offer more rehabilitative support to people charged with crimes of sexual assault and abuse. Many criminals have come from families where they have dealt with neglect, abuse and abandonment. There are people sitting behind bars that will continue to repeat cycles that are familiar to them if they are not given the chance to get some type of therapy or intervention.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is about taking your strengths and helping others learn from your prior mistakes. It is not about using your power to control those around you. A true leader is a flawed human being that uses his/her experiences to make a positive impact on others.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. That I need to develop a host of self-care strategies to keep my energy and avoid burnout. I love my job and sitting in sessions with patients. At times colleagues ask me how I can work with so many people who are in trauma recovery and not suffer from vicarious trauma? Through the years I have developed a variety of self-care strategies to rejuvenate and release the tension in my heart and body. My Peloton Bike, which I have named “Polly the Peloton,” has become my best friend when I am not working or helping my kiddo with is homeschooling.
  2. That it takes persistence and hard work to get the message out. At times I want to see instant results. I have learned that being a published author requires determination, especially after a book is released.
  3. That being self-employed requires ongoing-PR in addition to providing therapy and writing articles.
  4. That being a single-parent and owning a business is like having two full-time jobs. I knew that owning a business was a risk once I became a momma. However, I did not learn how to manage my time and schedule until my kiddo arrived almost ten-years ago. I love having the freedom to make my schedule around my kiddo’s activities and I love being my own boss! No one can tell me I cannot leave work early to attend one of my kiddo’s sporting events. To this day I have only missed one of his basketball games. And I hated every second of not being there. Moving forward I do not plan to be at work when I could be at the soccer field or basketball court watching my kiddo smile, dance and run down the field going for his next goal or basketball hoop.
  5. That I will always need mentors and colleagues to share my work with to manage the stress and challenges. I still remember sitting in a workshop being run by one of my favorite colleagues. At the time I had only been working in the psychology field for three years. She told her audience, “Always have someone to consult with. You are never too experienced to need help.” I heard her that day and have given myself permission to reach out to colleagues when I am overwhelmed or dealing with a situation that is causing me stress!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to sit down with Dr. Brene Brown. She has spent the last couple of decades studying feelings many trauma survivors grapple with; such as, shame, vulnerability and distrust. I would love to know her backstory and what led her on this path to help millions break free from feelings that lead to self-destruction and isolation. Shame is the biggest obstacle to moving into a place of acceptance and self-love. I would love to sit with her and pass on her messages to patients, friends and colleagues.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow me on all of my social media platforms listed above and also on my website www.sharibotwin.com

The best way to stay up to date with my work is to follow me on my social media platforms. I have also created a website to highlight media interviews, online events, speaking engagements and publications on www.sharibotwin.com I can also be found on the following social media handles

  1. https://www.instagram.com/warriorbotwin7/
  2. https://www.facebook.com/sharilcsw
  3. https://www.twitter.com/shari_botwin
  4. https://linkedin.com/in/shari-botwin-901172a

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Shari Botwin Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Michelle Enjoli Beato On The 5 Things That Each Of…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Michelle Enjoli Beato On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

Find a mutual connection. We are all connected by something. Take the time to find it with others. Whether we belong to the same family, work in the same company, live in the same neighborhood or share similar interests, we can all connect somehow. Use that connection to positively impact each other.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michelle Enjoli Beato.

Michelle Enjoli is a bilingual international speaker and career coach who motivates and teaches strategies on how to successfully connect for career and business growth and development. She was a first-generation college student who was able to get her dream job before she graduated as a television producer. Since then, she has worked for global brands in television broadcasting and marketing like Univision, Telemundo, ABC, NBC and CBS, Mercedes-Benz USA and Delta Air Lines. In 2016, she created the first all-inclusive business resource group at Mercedes-Benz USA to connect leaders and professionals with each other for growth and development. She soon created her second dream job with the launch of Connect with Michelle Enjoli. Michelle has an idea worth sharing and will become a speaker at Southampton, England’s inaugural TEDx event this year. She is featured in a new book called “Hispanic Stars Rising. The New Face of Power” and is currently working on her first book.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born and raised in NJ in a town outside of New York City surrounded by a large Hispanic family. My first language was Spanish and I didn’t learn English until I entered kindergarten which made it an interesting year. I grew up in a very diverse environment filled with lots of laughter, love and support. I credit that as a contributing factor to why I pursued the career I did.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity about people and stories which made me an avid reader since I was a child. When it was time to make a decision about a career to pursue, I did some research and decided I wanted to pursue a career in journalism. I loved the idea of finding, creating and telling stories. It was a perfect match!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I have a few and they are all very exciting. I am currently working on my TEDx talk scheduled later this year, expanding my curriculum and writing a book. My goal with all of these projects is to motivate and inspire people to envision a future they might not be able to currently see for themselves.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My family has been the primary source of help and encouragement. I grew up in a very loving and supportive environment where I watched my grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles work hard and give openly to others. I grew up watching people from all walks of life enter our home and become family. I learned from a very young age how to connect with others.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

I have so many but here is a memorable one that I think can be found on tape somewhere. I was working on a live television segment for a morning show early in my career. It was a fashion show featuring Oscar Look a Like dresses and the casting and confirmation of models was my responsibility. On the morning of the segment, one model didn’t show up. I’m pretty sure I forgot to confirm her so, guess who ended up being the model? Yours truly! I had to think quickly and become one. This mistake taught me to think on my feet.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Yes! I read a book by Suzy Welch called 10–10–10 over a decade ago and I still use the principles I learned in this book today in my decision making. When I have a decision to make, I look at how the consequences of that decision will affect me in 10 minutes, 10 months or 10 years. Based on that, I make the decision I think is best. I don’t like to sit on decisions and therefore this has helped me make plenty of decisions over the years.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Yes, I resonate most with one from Steve Jobs. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” I have lived by this quote my entire life and is the reason I have pursued three different avenues in my career. I began my career with my dream job and have continuously explored since then.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is the ability to inspire, motivate and connect with others. A great leader inspires others to create and believe in themselves. They also motivate others to improve in some way and have the ability to genuinely connect with others.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

I believe that it has evolved to this point due to differences in perspectives, communication styles, media consumption, information processing and how people manage their emotions.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, coworkers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

I personally haven’t experienced alienation with anyone due to politics but know many others who have. The alienation has stemmed from the differences I mentioned above and the inability to communicate productively and be considerate of different perspectives.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

I think the most productive thing that can be done is to make an effort to leave politics aside and reconnect with each other. Remember why you are connected and focus on nurturing that part of the relationship. The goal of any healthy relationship is to be able to have a meaningful exchange of ideas, thoughts and perspectives in a respectful way. If that cannot be done for some reason, focus on the commonalities.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

As mentioned above, I think the most productive thing that can be done is to make an effort to leave politics aside and reconnect with each other. In professional situations, the connection might not be as deep as in a personal relationship but you are still connected to a purpose professionally. Remember why you are connected and focus on nurturing that part of the relationship. The goal of any healthy relationship is to be able to have a meaningful exchange of ideas, thoughts and perspectives in a respectful way. If that cannot be done for some reason, focus on the commonalities.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self-identify. But of course there are many other ways to self-identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

Personally, I feel like a political party should never be a source of self-identification. We should focus on who we are as individuals. We each have a unique set of perspectives, backgrounds, experiences and goals that should be the focus of our self-identification.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

I think it is the responsibility of every individual to determine the role social media plays in their lives.

Social media is a tool that is a form of media which needs to be curated as you should do any form of media and do your own research.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

I think we must first understand that media pundits are part of a business with specific goals.

Whether we agree with their sentiments or not, we should take ownership of our behavior and emotions. We don’t have to agree with everyone but should respect differences in perspectives and opinions. We do have a choice in how of if we engage.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

I think we need to redirect and focus our energy on the common thread between all of us. As you mentioned in your question, we all face dangers or have problems to solve that are much greater than a political debate. The responsible and productive thing to do is come together to discuss those and find solutions that can benefit us and future generations.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

1. Have grace

We all have different perspectives and opinions based on the differences in our backgrounds and experiences. There is a reason we all don’t look, act or think alike. I think it’s best to first acknowledge that and try to learn more about those differences.

If you are interacting with someone who is expressing a different opinion or perspective than you, be graceful and show interest in learning more about why they feel the way they do.

2. Be curious

If you don’t understand something, ask questions in a thoughtful and productive manner. We all have a story to tell and something to learn from someone else.

We can all learn something from every conversation we have with others if we take the time to ask real questions.

3. Be authentic

Consistently reconnect with yourself and proceed to live and connect with others according to your values, goals and priorities.

We sometimes tend to lose a connection with ourselves throughout the course of our lives for many reasons.

It is important to take the time to reconnect often so we can live and find others to connect with.

4. Find a mutual connection

We are all connected by something. Take the time to find it with others.

Whether we belong to the same family, work in the same company, live in the same neighborhood or share similar interests, we can all connect somehow. Use that connection to positively impact each other.

4. Assist others

If there is an opportunity to assist someone, do so.

There is no greater unifier than helping someone else.

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

If we follow the 5 steps above, I think we can all make a difference in some way.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am naturally an optimistic person so my answer is yes but that will require individual and community efforts. I think there will be people who can resolve their issues and those that won’t be able to do so. Since we can’t control the actions of others, it’s best to focus on what we can do to improve the situation for ourselves.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

We all get one shot at life and that time is limited. If you want to live it purposefully, appreciate it, enjoy it and aim to make a difference.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Yes, Brendon Burchard. He is a world class teacher, author and personal development coach. As a coaching student of his, I consider him to be a mentor and would love to meet him in person.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find out more information about me and my services on my website and follow me on Instagram and LinkedIn.

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Michelle Enjoli Beato On The 5 Things That Each Of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Shelli Johnson Is Helping To Change Our World

Stop shaming people: it doesn’t work as a motivational tool and, overall, it makes a person’s life worse. Shame will never motivate anyone. Shame is one of the most painful emotions there is, according to a psychologist friend of mine. Most people who have been shamed will do anything, including abuse food (overeating, bingeing, purging, starving, and the like) to make the shame stop as soon as possible.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Shelli Johnson, a wellness entrepreneur, weight-loss expert and coach, author, and founder of Start Where You Are Weight Loss®.

At her heaviest, Shelli weighed 304 pounds and wore a size 26. For over twenty years, she was a yo-yo dieter with two eating disorders, bulimia and compulsive overeating. She lost the weight naturally and now she weighs roughly 130 pounds and wears a size 2. She has kept the weight off for 9 years and counting. She’s also been free of all eating disorders for over a decade.

Shelli’s book, Start Where You Are Weight Loss®, details in easy-to-understand steps the process she went through to lose the weight and maintain that loss.

Shelli is currently featured on the front page of the Half Their Size section on People.com. She was also featured on 3 separate covers of PEOPLE magazine’s Half Their Size in 2020. She has also been featured in PEOPLE TV, FOX TV, National Public Radio, The Charlotte Observer, among others.

https://medium.com/media/5259b538a298de069d86c426b5729dd2/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was overweight starting at about 6 years old. I began dieting around age 10. By age 11, I was incredibly self-conscious about my body and ashamed of the way I looked. That’s also about when I turned on myself, pinching at the fat on my body and calling myself names in the mirror. By the time I was 13 years old, I ended up with two eating disorders, binge eating and bulimia*. By the time I was 16 years old, I weighed over 200 pounds.

*Binge eating is when you eat extremely large quantities of food in a short amount of time. Bulimia is when you binge eat then purge by either self-induced vomiting, excessive exercising, and/or misusing laxatives or diuretics.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Really young, maybe five years old: The Rescuers. That’s the first book I remember reading over and over again. I’d get to the end, close the back cover, take a breath, then I’d crack open the front cover and start reading it again. That’s when I knew I loved stories and I started writing my own.

The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (a.k.a. Stephen King). I found that book underneath a bed in a cabin in Maine when I was twelve. I stayed up the whole night, reading in the top bunk with a flashlight until I finished the story. That’s when I knew I wanted to be a professional writer (especially a novelist) for a living so I started studying the craft of writing.

A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The first adult book I read more than once, doing the same thing I did when I was a kid — finishing it, taking a breath, then cracking open the front cover again. That book helped me realize what kind of stories I wanted to tell and I started writing historical fiction.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Well, it wasn’t funny nor even interesting per se. It was, however, one of the best lessons I ever got even though it made my life a lot more difficult at the time.

I got presented with an opportunity and needed to make a decision.

My intuition was saying this:

  • Don’t do this.
  • This is not a good idea.
  • This will get you further from where you want to be.

But my head was saying this:

  • It’ll be a good opportunity.
  • It could help you get other opportunities.
  • It’ll be okay.

The opportunity was shiny and promising. I truly wanted it to work out like I had envisioned it in my head. I did a list of pros and cons, writing down every pro I could think of no matter how tangentially related. I scribbled down a few cons. I did my best to convince myself it was a great idea. I got busy working toward that opportunity and did my best to drown out the hollering voice of my intuition. I was sure, totally sure, it was going to work out.

And so I ignored my intuition and listened to my head and plowed forward.

As you can imagine, it didn’t turn out well. It cost me time, money, energy, focus, and other resources. It turned out to be a huge mistake that took a toll on me mentally and emotionally too. It was a mistake that could’ve been avoided had I just listened to my intuition, which knew it was a bad idea from the get-go.

All that to say: trust your intuition every single time. Yes. Every. Single. Time. It will never steer you wrong.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Obesity is at epidemic levels worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people who go on diets of any kind gain all the weight back within 5 years. Hope is also in short supply as studies have shown that more and more people have given up trying to lose weight at all.

But there absolutely is an answer that works.

For over 20 years, I was a yo-yo dieter, losing the weight only to gain it all back plus more. I tried everything to lose weight, no matter how detrimental it was to my health and well-being, but nothing ever worked long-term. At my heaviest, I weighed 304 pounds, had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of nearly 46 (which got me labeled as morbidly obese), and wore a size 26.

Finally one day, in exasperation, I wrote in my journal: if it’s not about food, then what is it?

That question started my final weight-loss journey. I did some deep introspection as to why I was using food in a way it was never intended to be used. That introspection — the answer to the question, if its not about food, then what is it? — eventually became a book I wrote called, Start Where You Are Weight Loss®.

I believe, from having lived it, that weight loss has very little to do with food choices and mostly to do with healing your mindset about food. Mindset is what my book aims to help you heal.

I lost the weight naturally without dieting, surgery, pills, disordered eating, expensive health products/interventions, or anything along those lines. I’ve kept it off for 9 years and counting.

I just listened to my body and let it be my guide, eating only when I was hungry then stopping when I was comfortably full.

That’s how I started and that’s what I do today to maintain the weight loss. I don’t have any restrictions on food except if I’m allergic to it. I eat whatever I want without judgment. That’s what I needed to do to heal myself and my relationship with food.

Women have said that my approach to weight loss has: given them hope, helped them address and heal their relationship with food and with themselves, lose weight without dieting, given them faith they can reach their goals, helped them stop abusing themselves with food, set them free, among others.

My book teaches people how to have long-term weight loss so they can improve their health, live longer and more-fulfilling lives in a body that feels comfortable to them, and heal their relationship both with food and with themselves.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Memoir sections comprise about 10% of the book. Here’s one of those sections because it illustrates quite clearly how people turn on themselves. Shaming yourself is absolutely one of the most damaging things you can do to yourself and also a major reason that people continue behaviors with food that don’t serve them in any way (like overeating, bingeing, purging, starving, etc.)

THE MIRROR ON the back of the bedroom door isnt wide enough for me to see all of myself at once. Naked, I spin in a circle like the ballerina in a music box. I angle my body, frown at each sliver of reflection. A belly that pooches out. Thick thighs that rub together. I pinch my inner thigh so hard I wince. I frown. I slap my behind, watch it jiggle. I frown again. Red indents at the waistband of my underwear. I snap the elastic. I frown for a third time. Two stretch marks snake up along my hip. I pinch a roll of fat hard enough to leave red marks. I give another frown. Double chin. Round face with cheeks that make me think of the gerbil at school, the way it looks when it gets done hoarding its food. Sad eyes behind oversized glasses. I frown so hard that the muscles of my face hurt.

Out loud, I say: Fat.”

Then I say,Ugly.”

I twirl again, pinching here and there, frowning.

After I spin in a complete circle, meeting my eyes once again, I say, You are fat and ugly.”

I say it over and over: fat, ugly, fat, ugly, fatuglyfatuglyfatuglyfatugly.

Its the first time I turn on myself, chipping away at my own self-esteem.

I am eleven years old.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I was standing in front of the refrigerator one day, deciding whether or not I was going to binge. I had already lost 100 pounds. But I still had so far to go to reach my goal of wearing a size 6. I wanted to ease my frustration and shame over the fact that I wasn’t where I wanted to be right at that moment.

Then I got the call (as an insistent voice in my head) to write a book and teach others in easy-to-understand steps how they could eat what they want, lose weight, and keep it off. The book is called Start Where You Are Weight Loss® because I realized I needed to stop wishing I was somewhere in the past or in the future and instead to just start right where I was.

That idea has now grown from a book into a website (startwhereyouareweightloss.com), YouTube channel, coaching business, and I’m currently working on an online course.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

One of my clients told me that my book “literally changed her life.” She’d been yo-yo dieting* on-and-off and battling her weight for nearly 40 years. She told me that after reading Start Where You Are Weight Loss®, she was finally free from struggling with food and being obsessed with food for the first time in her life. She told me she now has hope for a better life for her future.

*Yo-yo dieting or weight cycling is when you lose the weight then gain it all back again, often gaining more weight than when you started.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

1. Stop calling obesity a disease. I know many medical professionals and organizations have deemed obesity a disease. Having lived through morbid obesity (a BMI of 46), I don’t believe obesity is a disease at all; I believe it’s a choice. In order to overcome obesity, a person must acknowledge that it was his/her choices that got them to where they find themselves today. Calling obesity a disease takes that personal responsibility away from people and instead puts the responsibility on the “disease” over which the person likely has no control. I can tell you, without a doubt, you have full control over what foods you choose to put in your body and how much and when.

2. Stop shaming people: it doesn’t work as a motivational tool and, overall, it makes a person’s life worse. Shame will never motivate anyone. Shame is one of the most painful emotions there is, according to a psychologist friend of mine. Most people who have been shamed will do anything, including abuse food (overeating, bingeing, purging, starving, and the like) to make the shame stop as soon as possible.

3. Stop dieting, just stop. I spent over 20 years on what I call the diet-go-round®, jumping from one diet to another, and never found one that worked long-term. Stop especially restrictive dieting, where you cut out foods or entire food groups. Dieting and especially restrictive dieting leads to obsessive thoughts about food and a damaged relationship with food. Dieting is also a major factor in the development of eating disorders.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me leadership is serving people by showing them a way that works then helping them to make their own path.

I’m a big believer that in order to be successful at weight loss (and pretty much everything else too), you need to find what works for you and do that. I believe leaders should have that same approach: guiding people in a direction that will get them where they ultimately want to be but letting them have the freedom to decide the best way for them to get there.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me about successful weight-loss when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

YouTube Link:

https://youtu.be/fXjeLINnq_Q

1. Know your strong reason why.

Your strong reason why is a declaration to yourself of why what you’re doing deeply matters to you. Your strong reason why is a guide to help keep you on the path you want to be on. It’s also an anchor to keep you steady when life becomes a storm around you. It’s the reason behind why you do what you do, and it’s only for you. That means it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of your reason why, because you’re doing what you do for you and you alone. You need to know your strong reason why: I mean really know it deep down in your bones and take it to heart and repeat it to yourself as needed.

When I started my final weight-loss journey, I wrote down exactly why losing the weight and keeping it off deeply mattered to me. I wrote that I would be healthier and fit into pretty clothes and feel comfortable in my own body. I also wrote that I wanted freedom and peace and to pursue my passions without the weight holding me back. Having that strong reason why has been instrumental in my ability to keep going, to reach the goals I set for myself, to continue growing, and to reach for bigger and better things.

Knowing my strong reason why has also made decision making a lot easier. It’s really helped me focus on what matters to me and in which direction I want to be headed. So if something comes up and it doesn’t align with my strong reason why, then it’s a no. In the same way, if it does align or at least intrigues me that it might, then it’s a yes. In that way, my reason why keeps me focused on the path I want to be on so I can keep moving forward.

2. Realize you’re going to face opposition.

You need to prepare for that opposition NOW so it doesn’t derail you later.

You’re going to meet people who may feel threatened by you and what you’re doing. They may feel intimidated by you. They may tell you that what you want is ridiculous or your goals are unattainable or that you aren’t capable of doing what you say you want to do. They will likely take shots at you in an attempt to make you smaller and less threatening in their eyes. I believe that usually has something to do with you reaching for your goals while they sit around not reaching for theirs. No matter the reason, all that strife isn’t about you. That’s about them. It has nothing — I repeat nothing — to do with you. So don’t take it into your heart at all. Don’t dim your light at all. Stand in your truth no matter what.

I have met people who told me I’d never lose the weight and keep it off because weight loss is the hardest thing in the world. Some people said there’s no way to lose weight naturally without dieting and struggle. Others said that I needed to accept an overweight body that felt uncomfortable to me because that’s just who I was. Still others told me I didn’t have what it took to lose over half my body weight. Sometimes, I even told myself that. Here’s the truth: none of those things said by others or even what I said to myself was true. None of them. Here’s another truth: all of those things were opposition.

You need to decide NOW how you’ll handle those situations, because they will come. What will you do if someone, even someone you may care about or love deeply, thinks your goals aren’t worthwhile? What will you do if someone doesn’t agree with your assessment of your life? What will you do if someone tells you that you aren’t capable of achieving what you want? What will you do if someone actively rallies against you? Will you stand in your truth and let your light and your message shine bright? Or will you agree with them and slink back into the shadows and stay quiet?

There will be a choice to be made. That’s not a matter of if but of when. Do yourself a kindness and make that choice now while you are calm and can think rationally, make that choice now when you’re not in an emotionally-charged moment. Then remember the choice you made for when that moment of opposition comes.

3. Do the work because it matters deeply to you.

Do yourself a kindness and don’t worry about the outcome and don’t focus on the numbers.

I used to worry about the outcome and if what I was doing was really going to work. I’d get myself all worked up about it, telling myself stories about a future that hadn’t happened yet, mostly focusing on what might go wrong. All that did was add all kinds of stress to my life that didn’t need to be there. Worry doesn’t serve you at all. It just expends your time, energy, and focus on a fruitless pursuit because all the worry in the world won’t change the outcome one bit.

I used to gauge my success solely on a number. I’m here to tell you that focusing exclusively on the numbers doesn’t serve you either. By looking solely on the numbers, including my goal weight or a clothing size or any other number or statistic, I made my focus very narrow. What that did is confine my vision for my life into a number instead of expand it into how I felt in my body or how I felt about my life, which are the most important things.

Instead of worrying about the outcome or focusing on the numbers, just make sure that what you’re doing deeply matters to you. That way, it’ll be fulfilling work to you no matter what the outcome or the numbers. The second thing you need to do is make a commitment to yourself to start it and see it through all the way to the end. That means you need to finish and put your work out in the world.

Honestly, the only thing you have complete control over is the actions you take. Looking at your life that way will alleviate stress and bring joy back into your work again. I know that because that’s what happened for me when I started focusing on doing things that deeply mattered to me while letting go of the outcome and the numbers.

4. Know that the temptation to quit will come.

You need to prepare for that temptation NOW so it doesn’t derail you later.

This goes back to number one and knowing your strong reason why. You need to let that strong reason why be your focus and pull you along and be a light in the darkness, showing you the way out. You need that strong reason why to hang onto.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to quit, and not just with weight loss either. It took me two years to lose 174 pounds naturally. Two years in which I dealt with setbacks and challenges and obstacles and self-doubt and the list goes on. Two years of facing my emotions when I didn’t want to and not using food as a crutch when that would’ve been so much easier and having life come at me hard some days with no one to fall back on but myself and on this list goes too. I’ve maintained that weight loss for 9 years now, and every day I have to choose to keep going and not give up on myself and quit.

You really do need to decide, right now (even before you start), what you’re going to do when the temptation to quit comes. Make no mistake, that temptation will come; it’s not a matter of if but of when. And if you’re not ready with a solid reason as to why what you’re doing deeply matters to you when that temptation comes, then you’ll likely get derailed and you may even end up quitting. It’ll be much better for you to decide now, while you’re calm and thinking rationally, what you’ll do when an emotionally-charged situation comes around. Then remember that choice when the temptation to quit comes.

And always remember: quitting will never get you to where you want to be.

5. Take to heart that this is about saving your own life.

This isn’t about anybody else; this is only about you. You need to be your sole motivation. Period.

Any other motivation will eventually let you down, I assure you that’s true. Why? Because people are fallible and make mistakes. They aren’t always there when you need them. They push your most painful buttons. They leave your life. You need to be your sole motivation because the only person you can 100% count on is you. You have to be the rock you lean on and the strong foundation on which you build your life. And you are absolutely capable of being those things for yourself, I assure you that’s true too.

I used to make others my motivation — because my friend wanted me to, because my doctor said it would be a good idea, because my kids needed a healthy mom, and on the list went. I also used to let those same others be the excuse I gave when I inevitably gave up on myself and quit. Those excuses went something like this — that friend left my life, my doctor didn’t react the way I thought he should, my kids gave me a hard time and weren’t grateful, and on that excuse list went too.

When you are your sole motivation, the only one you’re responsible for is you. The only one you’re accountable to is yourself. And the only one you hurt by giving up on yourself and quitting is you.

Know this: your worth and value are innate — that means you were born with them and nobody can ever take them away from you. You are worth being the only reason that you do what you do. So you write down your strong reason why and focus on that. And you remember two other things: first, wanting anything for your life is reason enough to pursue it, and second, you are reason enough to have what you most want for your life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Theodore Roosevelt once said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

There are always going to be people who don’t like you no matter what you do. I once read that it’s something like 10% of people will dislike you. Do yourself a kindness and don’t make them your focus.

This quote is on my desk because every piece of writing I’ve ever produced has gotten criticized at some point. Many of those criticisms came from people who have no experience with writing a book. It takes a lot of courage to sit down for weeks or months or often years to finish a piece of work. It takes a tremendous amount of bravery to open yourself up and be vulnerable and share parts of yourself in that work And make no mistake, whenever you write anything, a piece of you goes into it. It takes the most daring of all to then publish that work and let others read what you’ve written.

Judgment is easy; understanding is harder.

The critics are the ones who judge, and they don’t count.

You, who are showing up and doing the work and honoring yourself in the process, are the only one who counts. Remember that when you decide whether the risk is worth taking to put yourself out in the world. It is worth it. You are worth it because you’re the one who counts.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Brené Brown.

I chose her because her work on shame and vulnerability resonates with me.

You can’t be a great leader unless you can open yourself up, risk letting others see the real you, and lead from a place of authenticity. Likewise, you can’t be true to yourself unless you use your own voice, risk following your true passions, and show up in the world as your real self. All of that takes vulnerability.

It’s been my experience that shame is what keeps people from being vulnerable. Shame is what says there is something wrong with you and you shouldn’t be who you are. And in that way, it’s shame that causes people to start hiding their true selves and creating a facade to keep themselves safe and moving through their lives as a figment of their imagination. Shame, I believe, is a major reason that people, myself once included, lead unfulfilling lives.

And Brené’s work shows people how to overcome shame, be vulnerable, and create the life they want for themselves.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

shellijohnson.com

startwhereyouareweightloss.com

facebook.com/shellijohnsonauthor

instagram.com/shellijohnsonwriter

YouTube.com/shellijohnson

twitter.com/shelli_johnson

pinterest.com/startwhereyouareweightloss

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


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Take stock of your home. I don’t just mean your literal home; I mean your sphere of influence and your own habits. Where do you get your information? How do you ensure you’re not spreading disinformation? When Twitter rolled out its “Want to read the article first?” feature, I realized how much commentary I was sharing on headlines alone, though I considered myself to not be “the disinformation spreading type”. We must think deeply about our own habits first; it’s impossible to be perfect, but it’s necessary to be self-aware.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nivi Achanta.

Nivi Achanta is the Seattle-based founder and CEO of Soapbox Project, a platform that makes social impact easy for busy people by sending them bite-sized action plans. Prior to starting Soapbox, she worked as a tech consultant at Accenture and spearheaded a cross-industry disaster response program in their San Francisco office. In her free time, she takes circus classes, doom scrolls on Twitter, and experiments with new recipes.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

When I was younger, I thought I had no passions (seriously). Everyone around me wanted to become a doctor or an engineer. I wanted to be a teacher, but it didn’t seem financially feasible.

I got accepted into UC Davis for college and pursued a double major in managerial economics and statistics because I was told it would help me “get a good job”. At Davis, econ was super easy and stats was super hard, but I had smart friends, so I floated through almost four years of college feeling like I had no passions.

Everything changed my final year when I founded a chapter of an international non-profit called Net Impact, dedicated to social and environmental sustainability. It was my first time starting a venture like this.

Our Net Impact Davis team (who became the inspiration for my career) accomplished SO MUCH in less than a year. One of our teams even designed and secured funding for a culturally competent sustainability seminar that I believe still runs at UC Davis today. In this 2017 article from our student newspaper, we actually addressed the importance of cultural competence in an increasingly polarized world.

I finally found something I was passionate about: connecting people with impact.

When I graduated from Davis, I got my wish of securing a high-paying corporate job at Accenture, where I worked as a tech consultant for three years. I learned a lot, but there was this daily nagging thought: I found my passion, so why am I not pursuing it?

Ultimately, in September 2020, I went full-time on my startup, Soapbox Project that makes social and environmental impact easy for busy people. Now I’m here, showing up for people, causes, and communities I care about every day!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

One of our main initiatives at Soapbox is Changeletter, our bite-sized newsletter that helps people fight climate change in three minutes each week. As I said earlier, I never felt that I had a “passion” for sustainability. I just realized I have a knack for distilling complex information and convincing people to do stuff. So each week, I write these action plans, and I try to make them as concise, fun, and non-judgmental as possible. The climate movement can be so polarized and overwhelming, and that deters people. It deterred me for YEARS until I found that I, too, had a place in it without needing to be an expert.

This work is helping people feel like they belong. We help people feel like they can channel their climate anxiety into action. We help people feel like they can find meaningful and local solutions for a global problem.

Something else exciting in my life is serving on the board for Disaster Tech. I’ve been sporadically working on disaster-related projects since my volunteer work in the 2018 Camp Fire and observed how fragmented the disaster management space is, especially with data governance. Once again, my superpower is communication and connection, and I’m excited I get to bring it to Disaster Tech, literally helping out in the effort to save lives!

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

In 2017, mere months after starting my consulting job at Accenture, I was already mid-existential crisis. I felt that my work was purposeless. I could NOT figure out where to go or how to channel my talents of “making stuff happen”.

I reached out to a friend and former supervisor, Michelle Murakami. We worked together for a few years at Camp Galileo, an innovation camp for kids, which was the best job I’ve ever had.

Michelle and I sat down at a coffee shop on a foggy San Francisco evening. I think I ordered an overpriced lavender latte. We talked about the 2016 election and how frustrated we were to not be able to do anything about it.

During that one conversation, Michelle affirmed and validated everything I was feeling. Most importantly, she spoke as if she had no doubt whatsoever that I could communicate complicated political issues to my friends, family, and people who’ve never met me, even persuading them to take action.

The farther I get from that conversation, the more I understand how pivotal it was to have someone be 100% on your side. It’s hard, especially as a woman of color, to not be constantly doubting myself. I’m so grateful I sat down with Michelle that evening and she told me, without question, that I could make a difference.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

While I was at Accenture, I was on a project working for a national sports team. We spent about six weeks on the project, and every week, the director in charge of leading the work had “other engagements” come during our meetings. My teammate and I had a bunch of questions to clarify the scope of the work, but the director never got around to answering them.

We went from an 8-slide executive deck to a ~100-slide technical walkthrough based on our middle manager’s recommendation. My teammate and I disagreed with this approach, but neither of us knew how to push harder for our director’s time or to get more meetings with our client.

The end result was a total mess! Despite having done most of the work, I was left out of the client call since I was “too junior”, but I heard that we’d misunderstood the request from the start. I heard there was lots of yelling.

Here’s what I learned from that experience:

  1. Ask as many questions as you need to. Over-clarify if you must. It’s better to sound stupid in the moment than to mess things up down the line.
  2. If middle management isn’t doing their job, be courageous and take initiative. Demand your leaders’ time.
  3. Never assume employees are “too junior” if they’re meeting or exceeding expectations. I’ll never leave my future employees out of important meetings just for optics. If I was on the call that day, or trusted from the beginning to liaise with our clients, I’m certain I could have ensured a different outcome.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

A book I read recently that shifted my worldview is The Color of Law. It’s about how the government segregated America through housing legislation.

It made me realize that many of the problems we have today don’t come from accidents or “bad people”, they come from exploitative systems that fully intend to produce discrimination and other adverse effects, for the sake of wealth protection for the wealthy.

I learned that even something as universal (now) as highways were a means to exercise racism — they were openly declared as “slum clearance” tools to remove “less favorable” individuals from metropolitan areas!

The book that first blew my racial consciousness wide open, and a much more manageable read than The Color of Law, is Things That Make White People Uncomfortable by Michael Bennett, former Seattle Seahawks player.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“All that you touch/ You Change./ All that you Change/ Changes you.” — Octavia Butler

I came across this quote recently as I was reading All We Can Save. It resonated with me because it shows how dynamic change is, and how everyone has a hand in the outcome.

I’m mulling over how we can be more intentional about what we touch — not only thinking about what we’re changing, but thinking about what all we’re letting change us.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

To me, a leader is someone who can organize people’s interests and skills into positive outcomes.

In our society, we have this idea of a “charismatic leader”, someone who speaks loudly, boldly, and with confidence. Someone who acts on their vision at all costs. Someone who’s always in the spotlight. We’ve seen this in recent politics; whatever you think of either of them, this applies to both our previous presidents.

I disagree with that notion.

Leadership can be collaborative, and it doesn’t have to be one person’s voice above the noise. Some of the quietest people I know, in my opinion, have made the best leaders — they thoughtfully communicate their ideas, actually listen to what team members can and want to do, and use that information to chart the best path forward.

When a leader listens actively and leverages people’s skills, they are far likelier to protect their team’s best interests and prevent burnout. These are the people that inspire hope and keep movements going!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

My view is pretty straightforward, having learned a lot in the past few years on political and financial incentives:

  1. Social media encourages polarization. Companies like Facebook and YouTube get more clicks on clickbait-y content (hence the name). That content is often filled with misinformation, which, when spread, can have violent outcomes.
  2. Politics is finally a dinner table topic. I remember, growing up, you weren’t supposed to discuss politics or religion in casual conversation. After the 2016 election, all bets were off. Our political leadership has never been perfect, but with our most recent president openly putting down women, Mexican immigrants, and other historically marginalized groups, many of us felt like it was finally our responsibility to speak out. This put a voice to the things we used to think are better left unsaid. Speaking out about oppression inevitably leads to polarization in a society accustomed to denial.
  3. Politicians have no incentive to create unity. As we’ve been learning, there are no consequences for driving wedges between groups of people. In fact, many politicians learned that appealing to extreme bases helped them win elections. It doesn’t help that we have no truth commission in the United States.

The polarization we’re seeing isn’t about simple issues like disagreeing on whether or not fries taste good dipped in ice cream. They’re about people’s rights and dignity. Our humanity shouldn’t be up for debate or for auctioned off for ad spend. Unfortunately, our lives are being used as such by politicians and media companies alike, because of the way our economic system’s incentives are set up.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

One of my roommates and closest friends, let’s call him John, comes from a rural town in California. When I first met him, our political views were diametrically opposed. In the four years of knowing him, much has changed — he attended a large public university, met people with different backgrounds than him, and had more conversations about issues his family ignored.

It’s a completely different story with his family. His mom is a conspiracy theorist. She gets all her news from Facebook and trusts it more than mainstream news sources (because it’s based on “real experiences”). After a child died in their detention facility, his extended family posted on social media about Trump’s greatness, not once sharing concern for the child.

John has had to end relationships with his extended family. His relationship with his mom has become increasingly strained during coronavirus times, since she’s against masks, likely won’t want the vaccine, and doesn’t believe COVID is “that bad”.

When I’m around John, I feel like I’m watching the world’s trickiest balancing act — how do you truly love your loved ones when their actions actively cause harm to people around you?

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

Going back to John, there was a point in our relationship where he mentioned that he didn’t support abortion, and I couldn’t get past that. Many fights and tears later, we got to an understanding. The conversation process sucked. It required me being vulnerable about my experiences and not giving up on him. It required him being open and listening actively.

The end result was worth it, especially because of how close we are now. This process, which is similar to deep canvassing, is very effective. But we don’t do it because it can be triggering and demands so much energy from us.

I think some form of deep canvassing/active listening is one approach for people who have the capacity to ask questions, share trauma, and listen. A far simpler (but equally important) solution is promoting media literacy and having conversations about separating fact from fiction. The Factual and Tangle are two places to find news that people across political beliefs can align on.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

I don’t have an example of fractured relationships in the workplace, but I actually have a positive story to share: in the summer of 2020, during the Black Lives Matter protests, Accenture put on a company-wide event that invited Black employees at the company to share their stories and experiences if they were willing.

For the first time during my career there, I saw genuine emotion from company leadership. It was absolutely wild to see how people who were 50+ years old, well-educated, with great experience in the workplace, were realizing for the first time what privilege actually means.

The racial justice proposals that followed the call seemed more promising than empty words. Accenture leaders proposed data-based solutions from hiring to inclusion to promotion and more. I don’t know what they’re up to now, but I do know that holding space for authentic, honest conversations is critical to bridging divides.

It’s much easier said than done. I don’t have a simple solution — the event I described necessitated emotional labor from our Black colleagues and it also required that our non-Black leaders listen without being defensive. I think the solutions are unique to each company, but building a culture that prioritizes employee safety and inclusivity is a good place to start.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

Actually, millennials and Gen Z are turning farther away from political affiliation as a self-identifier. In our two-party system, many of us feel disenfranchised and disillusioned, like none of our candidates have our best interests in mind. I think that is a net positive — we’re ready to fight for a new system and demand structural change, not duct-tape solutions.

Another really positive trend I’ve been seeing is the bias towards local action. Sunrise Movement has likely been a driver, as well as the rising knowledge that you can do a lot with your vote locally vs. nationally or even statewide. I think the more we affiliate ourselves with keeping our communities happy and healthy, the less we have to rely on party labels. Engaging on a local level will likely lead to more healing, agreement, and even consensus when done right.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

We must have tech ethics standards and invest in humanities educations for all. As a society, we’ve over-indexed on STEM educations at the cost of the humanities; at the cost of critical thinking. We shouldn’t give people the tools to build the most powerful thing in the world (software can model the universe!) without giving them the tools to know how to wield it in the right way.

We all know Facebook was started more or less as a toy; as a game for college boys. Now it’s one of the most powerful platforms in the world. Facebook, and other tech companies, will NEVER internally govern. Because they have no reason to. I started a Tech Ethics Coalition to meet other technologists, academics, journalists, and leaders thinking deeply about these issues. I don’t have the solution for what tech ethics standards would look like, but I know we need cohesive solutions with cross-industry and government buy-in. We also need technologically competent government officials.

Investing in the humanities, and raising generations of youth who ask questions and think critically, can keep us from being divided as easily. The typical American public school does not teach us how to deeply reflect upon our values, use dialectical thinking, and navigate conflicting ideas.

I love social media for all the good it can do. In many ways, it’s brought me closer with people. But there’s a responsible way to do it, and we must demand that companies don’t repeat the same mistakes of their predecessors, like Clubhouse is already doing, with no significant investment in trust and safety.

If Mark Zuckerberg, in his dorm, had thought deeply about what his website would mean and the implications it may someday have; if he built Facebook prioritizing safety over speed, I believe the world would look different.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

On an individual level, we have to take stock of where we’re getting our news. Nothing is unbiased, so we should take note of our biases as I mentioned with The Factual and Tangle. We have to ensure the people we’re getting news from are diverse and reflect the experiences of our world.

We can also do better at calling people in, rather than calling them out. We have to shift our focus away from wanting to be right to actually finding solutions to heal our communities. I also wish that every internet user would act online as they would in person — people are unnecessarily mean!

I won’t drag this point out again, but we really have to change our structures and systems if we hope for a less partisan media. Instead of focusing solely on our own habits and reactions, let’s think about this together: what industry-wide incentives can we come up with to encourage pragmatism and truth?

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

Yup. It seems that we’re increasingly pitted against others. At this point, it’s not just Democrats vs. Republicans, it’s also the left against the moderates and much, much more. I can hardly keep up with who’s “on my side” anymore, and it really does feel like there’s way more room to be wrong than there is to be right.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is how increased civic engagement could offset these “high-stakes elections”. Politicians use heated rhetoric and “us vs. them” campaigns because they know it gets voters’ attention, especially if those voters are only paying attention every four years. It’s much easier to pick a party and vote accordingly than to stay civically engaged. Politicians know this.

If Americans were more civically engaged — if we held civic engagement as a cornerstone of our society — we would have a far better shot of coming to our own conclusions about candidates. We would fight for values, not parties. We’d keep voting as an important tool in our democracy toolbox, but not as a standalone, hardly-used weapon.

I’m seeing some exciting innovations around civic tech and outcome-based donations. It makes me really happy to see tech being leveraged for social good, especially when it creates a bridge between our daily lives and the politicians who actually represent us — not just in Congress, but in our local courthouses and city legislatures.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Take stock of your home. I don’t just mean your literal home; I mean your sphere of influence and your own habits. Where do you get your information? How do you ensure you’re not spreading disinformation? When Twitter rolled out its “Want to read the article first?” feature, I realized how much commentary I was sharing on headlines alone, though I considered myself to not be “the disinformation spreading type”. We must think deeply about our own habits first; it’s impossible to be perfect, but it’s necessary to be self-aware.
  2. Be an active listener. I struggle with this; it’s easy to go into a conversation already knowing what I want the outcome to be and wanting to be more right than the other person. Active listening may not always lead to agreement, but it’s helped me find common ground and truly understand others’ points of view instead of pushing through with pre-prepared points.
  3. Think structurally. When we’re thinking about our polarized nation, we can’t put all the burden on ourselves to simply “be better”. Of course, we have a responsibility to increase our media literacy and find a path to unity, but this polarization has been intentionally pushed on us by corporations and government alike. If we hope to proactively heal our country, we have to focus on the problems that actually led us here, not band-aid solutions.
  4. Act locally. Democracy isn’t a one-time process that happens every four years. It’s stunning how few of us exercise the power that we have — the majority of us don’t go to town hall meetings or serve on city committees even though that’s where real change happens. One easy step: go sign up for your city’s Chamber of Commerce email list or attend your next town hall!
  5. Try deep canvassing (if it’s for you). I don’t recommend this to everyone, because deep canvassing requires us to engage with radically different viewpoints. When the other person’s viewpoint threatens your rights and your safety, it can be triggering — which is why, though effective, deep canvassing isn’t always used as a tool for change. If you want to learn more about what this means or how to do it, here’s a good resource.

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

I disagree with the premise that we need to be nicer to each other, at least in real life. I think the reason so many tensions have festered un-dealt with for years is because we prioritized “niceness” over accountability and real change. People shouldn’t be jerks, but we should focus our energy on building equitable, inclusive solutions, not worrying about other people’s feelings.

(I’m not saying feelings don’t matter. I do think that delivery is important — how we deliver the solutions we come up with will play a part in how they’re perceived and accepted — but our emphasis on “niceness” has made us over-index on sugarcoating. One example of how niceness can be the enemy of progress is the pervasiveness of tone policing, especially during discussions of racism, where we may dismiss people of color as “too angry” instead of asking ourselves how to learn from our past and create new systems.)

I do think we must be nicer on the internet. If we hope for societal healing, acting online as you would in person is SUCH an easy way to start. Nowadays, social movements can begin and gain momentum digitally, especially after the onset of COVID-19. And an easy way to shut people out is by being mean online. I see this a lot with the climate movement. Someone will celebrate making the switch to beef from turkey, but be labeled a Bad Person because they’re not vegan.

This negative online energy sucks. It’s draining, discouraging, and divisive. I believe we must all find ways to be kinder to each other, state hard truths in gentle ways where possible, and stop being mean on the internet. The last part is the easiest to do.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

Kind of. I don’t think this is something that gets “resolved”. Humans have been in conflict for longer than any of us alive can remember, but the way that manifests has evolved over time.

I am optimistic that we will make significant progress on the issues facing us. I feel that to do socially impactful work, you have to be optimistic — hope is the fuel that keeps us going without knowing the outcome.

I also know that people much smarter than me, including many technologists, ethicists, academics, journalists, and some government officials, have been paving this path for a long time. We’ve had courageous women of color like Ifeoma Ozoma and Timnit Gebru stake their reputations and jobs on calling out dysfunctional and unethical leadership at massive tech companies like Pinterest and Google.

Many argue that these women calling out those in power is divisive. And it is, but only because some see it as “us vs. them” instead of wanting to fight for more equitable corporate structures. My optimism comes from the support I see for these difficult, powerful movements; from the increased emphasis for unions at large tech companies; from executives resigning in protest; from people doing what’s right instead of what’s profitable or convenient.

I’m optimistic that we’ll hear more stories of courageous people like Ifeoma and Timnit, but in the future, instead of staking our reputations or losing our jobs, we’ll make equity, inclusion, and accountability the new normal.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

I don’t think young people need to be sold on the “why”. Gen Z has realized far more quickly than most of us that, in order to be successful, you don’t have to get a job in Corporate America, doing damage on behalf of a company that doesn’t fulfill you.

I would tell young people to not let others make them jaded. People are quick to poke holes in idealistic visions of the future, but we need these visions to dream of a better world — a world we can deserve if we work for it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

AOC, without a doubt. There are about a zillion reasons why, but one of the things I admire the most about her is how well she communicates complex political processes with millions of people, like on her Instagram Lives. I would love to know what her vision is for a more accountable and unified country, and how we could put that into practice.

How can our readers follow you online?

For better or for worse, I’m online all the time — oops. I’m @niviachanta on most major social platforms like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram in order of preference. I’m also very responsive over email for my free newsletter readers.

I love making new friends who want to have conversations like these, so I hope people reach out!

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thanks so much! I loved this thought-provoking conversation and I hope we can all work together to build a better society.


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Nivi Achanta of ‘Soapbox Project’ On The 5 Things… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Zurriane Bennett On The 5 Things That Each Of Us…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Zurriane Bennett On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

Remove big money and influence from politics on all levels. For the people and by the people means just that. Yet we live in America that is for the corporation and run by it corporations i.e. Big Money. People who continually share and spread lies that hurt the nation and that nation’s people should be very heavily fined, jailed and then banded from any and every platform

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Zurriane Bennett.

Zurriane Bennett is a remarkably interesting man. He served in the United States Marine Corps for 22 years. Starting as an enlisted man and working his way up to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer while in the Marines became a Emergency Services Officer, Aircraft Firefight and Recuse Officer and an Anti-terrorism Officer. Once his military career was over, he transitioned next career and his need to continue learn and grow he because officer with the New York City, Department of Corrections there he became a Fire Safety — Occupational Safety and Health officer. Still not yet done he changed career again and became a Program and project manager managing multi-million dollars contracts as a contractor with over 380 staff members. He worked with various Federal agencies like the Federal Motor Carrier Administration, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. State Department, and others. While doing this he also continued to train in, and teach martial arts, and self-defense. Matter of fact he is a speaker, trainer, and author of 4 books. He teaches and works with for individuals and groups. Here are some of companies and organizations he has worked with and provided training for Google Inc., Franciscan Mission Service, Northern Virginia Sexual Assaults Victims’ Advocacy Service, U.S. Army National Guard, Library of Congress, National Girl Scouts of America, Prince William Manassas Regional Detention Center, U.S. Marines, Lifetime Fitness, Computer Associates Inc., Lifeways. and more. He has had the opportunity and the honor being a mentor, and positive role model to thousands.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am what you would call a project kid. For decades some of the poorest people in the US have lived in subsidized housing developments often known as “projects”. Many of these projects, however, are now being torn down and studies suggest only one in three residents find a home in the mixed-income developments built to replace them. My childhood started in New York in the City of Mt. Vernon, which is in Westchester county. Growing up I believed that my childhood was normal and happy. We spent most of our time in school and playing outside playing with friends. Yet later in my life I found out that I was wrong. Like many children at a young age, I was bullied.

At the age of 7 I saw a man get shot by his wife in my house where I live with my mother, father, and four-year-old brother. Interesting story as this man who was shot was a police officer. At the age of 8 while standing outside of my second elementary school I saw a little girl run into the street and get hit by a car. She was killed when the horns on the hood ornament hit her in the head. The hood ornament was the shape of a jumping bull

When I was 9, me and my best friend Brent were outside on the side of our building throwing a football back and forth to each other playing catch, when we were startled. I a woman who landed just feet from us. She had jumped from her 7th floor window hit the ground at the spot where Brent had just been standing about 5 seconds before, I had, thrown the ball to him he ran towards me with the football in his hands. Right after the woman hit the ground, she made a sharp inhalation of are through her nose and mouth that was her last breath. That same year my parents got me in to the martial arts, I loved it and it helped me a lot. During my childhood I sadly experienced several things that would have a great effect on the way that I saw the world to include violence, racism, and other types of inequality.

Then when I was about 13, I had a man who was upset with my little brother. At the time I had no idea what was going on I just saw my little brother running toward me at full speed. It appeared that my little brother and this man’s daughter who may I add was about 3 three older than my brother had, had some type of problem. When the man ran up to me and my brother I tried to talk with the man and find out what had happened. The man did not want to talk he wanted my brother, so with my little brother behind me I told the man that he could not hit my brother and that our parents should be home soon and that he could speak with them. Then the man punched me in the chest and then after I hit him back in self-defense, I won that fight. The man left and then returned after a few minutes in his hand he had a hatch-hammer and tried to hit me with that in the parking lot next to my building. I ran across the street to area where they were building and started grabbing and throwing bricks at the man. Luckily for me some one who had seen everything from the start had unknown to me had call the police. (Thank you martial arts training)

When I was 15, I came to the aid of pregnant women who was being beaten by a man in the street in New York. I got in between them in the hope of getting stopped and listen to reason. The reason that I got involved was because not one else looked like they were going to help this woman. Sadly, he would not stop or listen and then tried to direct his angry and fist at me. Luckily, my use ability to use my hands and feet to defend myself was better than his. So once the man had lost his ability to fight, I redirected my full attention to the woman. We walked away from the area together we then ran into a friend of hers the two of them left in a car. Woman told me she was going to her mother’s. Every time that I saw the women that I helped again she would thank me for my help. Many years later I ran into her and her then teenage daughter she introduced me to her daughter as “the man who beat her daughter’s father’s ass when she was pregnant with her.” But with all that and more I still believed that my childhood was normal. However, my wife to this day does not agree with me on that point.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

There are several things, characters, and events that have inspired me. Here is one of them when I was a young boy, my family and I were visiting some people in Connecticut it was a day trip. During that visit I met these two girls they were close to my age. While playing with them one of the girls told me that her sisters very shy and nervous around people she did not know. I said okay and we all continued to play later the older sister told me that their father had done things to them and that was why her sister was that way. Later I talk with my parents and told them what the girls had shared with me. I remember my mother getting terribly upset. She they told me that the man was hurting the girls and it was wrong. He told me that her and my dad were going to call the police and get the girls some help. What my mother told me later made me want to help people anyway that I could moving forward.

I still remember what my mother said you me. She said to me “you would never want anyone to hurt me or your sister, would you?”

Careers, I have pursued several careers. In all of them I have experienced a good amount of success. Each of my, pursues I have faced with a positive, can do, will do mindset. Ready forward mindset!

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

Presently I am working with the Franciscan Mission Service in Washington DC helping them training their missionaries, when they have volunteers and missionaries that they are sending to locations around the world. Help them to be better able to defense and protect themselves from harm as they work to carry out their mission and helping others very fulfilling for me. I am also working with safe houses in the New York City area. Help organizations like Lifeway Network who help women who are survivors of human trafficking not only by teaching them self-defense, awareness, and mindset. These things help to empower them to take by control of their lives. I had also had a great time working with Google and their staff at their officers in Northern Virginia, and Washington D.C.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

There are several stories of people who have helped me to achieve success my wife of 31 years, my 4 children, and the many mentors who have stepped up even when they had nothing to gain personally for themselves by helping me. Two of the people who helped me a great deal are Mr. Reginald Brown and Grand Master Reno Morales, these two men continually stepped up to help me in ways that I not only did not ask them to, but they did it again and again. Many times, and in ways that were of great help and in some ways and areas that I did not even realize I needed help. One of the ways that they help me was several years ago they suggested that I have a seminar martial arts and self-defense seminar. The original goal was to just have a good learning and growth experience.

That simple goal grew to an event to bring martial artist and their arts together under one roof so that they, their students, and the community could learn and grow. Then it again grew to an event where we had outside companies donating items and products that we away to the event’s volunteer presenters and to attending guests. Then we donated the proceeds from each event to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. During this time Grand Master Reno was told that he has stage 4 colon cancer and only 3 months to live. He told the doctor that gave him that news “Young lady next year when I come back, we will talk about that”. Yet even as he was going though radiation treatments, he would call me as upbeat and positive as a man with a clean bill of health that had just collected his 30 million dollars that he had won on the lotto.

On days when I was feeling sad or sorry for myself then out of the blue, I would get a phone from him. He would usually start off with “Hey Jar Head what are you up too?” or “Hey Kid what are you up too?” This man in his 70s was still active as an Executive Protection Specialist working in the field with his clients. A little short of two years later the cancer took him but he faced it with a smile and fought with his last breath. Him and Mr. Brown are great, and amazing men.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Once I was asked to come to a meeting in Washington D.C. so said sure I can come just give me the date and time. The person that had invited me had communicated with me about 7 times in the past via e-mail about 6 times and once on the phone. Now I am one of those people who believe if you are not early to an appointment you are late, so on the day of the meeting I got there about 35 minutes early. Once I got there call the office and a woman informed that I was early and that she would be coming down shortly to get me. I told her to please take her time and there was no rush. This was a government building so I walked over to security told them who I was coming to see and why then presented my information. A few moments later the woman came and escorted up to a conference room. She then asked me if I would not mind waiting in the room by myself in the room until the meeting start time. I said sure plus I my computer and there were a few things that I could take care of until start time. About 20 minutes or so later people started to enter and or peek into the room. Most of the people knew one another and they started talking among themselves. As the room filled not one person said anything to me.

Then I saw the person who had invited me he peeked in and in a flash was gone. Then he looked in again few minutes after that this time we met eye to eye, but he turned his head again and was gone. Then a third time he came in and this time he said hi everyone we will be starting in a few minutes we are just waiting for one person to get here and we will start. On his fourth visit back to the conference room his said to everyone we are just going to have to get started. He said it appears that the person that we are waiting for must have gotten stuck in traffic or something. Then one of the people in the room asked the man so who are we waiting for? The man then said to us all that was were wait for Zurriane Bennett and as soon as she gets here, we will get to the meat of the meeting.

So, I raised my hand and said in a truly clear, and manly voice you all are not waiting on me I have been sitting in this conference room for the last 30 minutes. {There were a few other things I wanted to say but I kept it professional.) I then said you know a lot of people see my name and assume it is the name of woman. The host then red faced said I am so sorry that is my mistake. I told him no worries that is not the first time that has happened to me. The man then reintroduced me to the group and explained that I was there to speak with them.

The wild part was I was not told I would be speaking I was only asked if I could attend. I had also communicated to the man in 4 of the 7 communications via e-mail that I was not Ms. Bennett I was Mr. Zurriane Bennett. After the fourth time and a short talk on the phone I figured he had got it. I also later found out that this man believed that I was a white woman.

Lesson learned it is just too hard to make up a made mind. Once some people have certain believes in their heads, they will swim oceans and climb mountains to keep believing what they want to believe.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One book series of books are by Pires Anthony, these are all fantasies books about the incarnations: Mother Nature, Time, Death, God, The Fates, etc. The first book in the series that I read was, On A Pale Horse

The second book was Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus. That book really hit the mark on relationships and communications within the sexes.

There have been many other books over the years as I try to read two to four books a month.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychologist and Holocaust survivor said, “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” That space.

Note: My version is a little different but this it where mine originated. The meaning for me is that your actions and the end responses guide your life

The Art of War, Sun Tzu

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will know defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

Prepare not only yourself but for the expected and unexpected.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership to me listening, having an open mind, being honest, fair, taking reasonable and timely action, and taking responsibility for your actions and deeds.

Face the real facts always look for ways to get and be better, be honest with yourself/others and learn from others and your own experiences.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Sadly, we are a nation that has been built on lies. These lies have fueled distrust and hate.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

In 2019 was saw a post on Facebook from a man that I considered and brother and a friend. The man broke my heart. You see I served in the United States Marine Corps for 22 years. I eventually retired as a Marine Chief Warrant Officer. During this time, I served with thousands of people some good, some great and some not so good but each, and every one of them I consider family. Well in the Marines there is a true bond between each of the men and women that wear the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. I believe that bond is one of the strongest in the United States Armed Forces. The gentlemen posted a very hateful and racist comment on his Facebook page. Then I saw it I became angry so much so that I reach out to the person and told him that was not something that I would have ever expected him to post.

He responded to me by saying “well I guess you should just get over it.” I looked at the reply and then had to walk away from my computer for a short while. Upon my return I said to him I just want you to know that my wife is black, my children are black. I then told him you served with me in some pretty, serious situations you have a pretty good idea of my abilities. Then said to him if the Sh_t ever hit the fan I guess I should find you first? I then got an instant reply, back from him that said sir you know I would take a bullet for you and your family. I did not reply and still have not replied to him. We are still connected on Facebook.

You see two years after we had last served together, I got a call from the jag that this Marine and two others were up on military charges for some racial stuff. I submitted a statement in there defend that they were not racist, and I had served very closely with him for years. Now today I am not sure.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

Families white and nonwhite need to face the truth as the real, truth. Lied, misinformation and disinformation have fueled the present crazy we see today.

The truth about Slavery to emancipation 1619 to 1890

The truth about Jim Crow Society 1870 to 1935

The truth about 40 Acres and a mule/The homestead Act

The truth about Separate but equal education 1896 to 1954

The truth about Labor Market Discrimination 1935 to 1965

The truth about GI Bill 1935 to 1965

The truth about the rewriting history of America

Those that are people of color need to also see things as they are and understand that they need to step up, work together and step by step take back their power. Rebuild their families and communities. Invest and reinvest in their people and their communities first on all fronts. Economic is one of the keys to gaining power. Working together as a people for their own people is another. Waiting, hoping, and praying for things to change is not and has not worked. We need to work with those that will really work with us and move forward.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

Be fair and honest. The decks have been marked for hundreds of years against the many by the few for way to long.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

People want to one belong, and two believe that they are right, sadly many want these things more than everyone could imagined and at a price that is higher them the rest of us are willing to pay. They believe that just because they and their associates say it is true it must be true.

We must face the real facts and address them as a nation. It is clear that they are here, and they will not go away as long as we continue to act like they are not real. These cancers have been eating away at us for generations. One day there will be nothing left to save worth saving. The work needs to start immediately.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

We need to Stop it all! These media companies and partisan media companies need to lose their means of sharing and inseminating their failures and damaging content. They should also be sued and heavy fined for the damages caused. Let be honest if I sell you a product that I know can and will cause harm am I not responsible.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

Call it out and deal with it directly. Stop supporting these companies and they will go away. They do these things for power and control. Remove their ability to profit and like un-watered plants they will fade away. At the same time place a light on them that is so bright and strong that it burns them off the surface.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

Here are my five things.

  1. Make racism and all things like it, real crimes and enforce the laws behinds it. Presently racist, homophobic, actions go unpunished and/or excused.
  2. Place term limits on all public officials’ positions. These career politicians and judges are destroying our nation there should be term and age limited. On all branches of the government. If we find they are doing wrong, they should be removed once the wrong (s) are proven.
  3. Pay reparations to African Americans and improve education for middle and lower classes. There have been generations of wrongs done to black people and many are still happening today.
  4. Remove big money and influence from politics on all levels. For the people and by the people means just that. Yet we live in America that is for the corporation and run by it corporations i.e. Big Money. People who continually share and spread lies that hurt the nation and that nation’s people should be very heavily fined, jailed and then banded from any and every platform
  5. Believe in change, pay attention, and take positive action every chance you get. Read, research, invest in yourself, step outside of your comfort zones and grow.

This must be a team effort and each of us has to take responsibility, action, and play our parts.

  • Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’? We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am optimistic and I am also realistic. So, in that regard I follow, Sun Tzs Art of War

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

Mindset your present and that will help you to create your future. Plan but always remember and understand that change will always appear. But ready to adjust and take corrective action.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Former President of the United States Barack Obama and Former First Lady Michelle Obama

Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, U.S. Representative for New York’s 14th district

How can our readers follow you online?

www.positiveselfdefense.org

https://twitter.com/Zurriane

https://www.facebook.com/Positive-Self-Defense-PSD-393404150760102

This was very meaningful and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for this opportunity.

Best,

Zurriane A. Bennett


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Zurriane Bennett On The 5 Things That Each Of Us… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Author Yvette Dubel On The 5 Things That Each Of Us

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Author Yvette Dubel On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

Find the courage to listen and reflect when you get push back on your perspective. When I do interviews and I feel that some questions are “off” I embrace the opportunity to start a conversation. The folks that move the ball forward are the ones who reflect on the feedback and use it to learn more. This happened just yesterday in a Take Notice Podcast interview and we had a great conversation!

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Yvette Dubel.

She has been called your go to person for the perfect blend of creativity, insight and ability to connect. Yvette Dubel is a speaker, artist-researcher, and personal innovation mentor, founder CEO of WebAntiphon Group, author of “Why Brand Risk Management Innovation is a Game Changer”, and creator of the Empowered Innovation System[CFAaP]. She serves conscious leaders looking for outside box thinking with vision and wisdom to drive triple bottom line success (profit, people, planet). For more than two decades Yvette has built a reputation as a big picture thinker and social innovator that knows how to drive short term goals without letting what matters most fall by the wayside. Dubel is also Artist-Researcher in Residence Coordinating the We,the World Freedom Campaign and Founding Director of the [We] Freedom Film Fest. As part of this collaboration on MLK Day 2021 she launched “ a cure for racism” project powered by the Empowered Innovation System[CFAaP].

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in a community I never felt a part of and so early on I wanted nothing more than to escape. My early experiences with institutional racism were my first lessons in advocacy as I witnessed how my mother relentlessly fought to have my intelligence acknowledged and prevented attempts to stifle or discourage my potential.

When I started kindergarten, I think schools in the county were only 5 or 6 years into integration. Mind you Brown vs Board of Education was a 1950 ruling and I am talking about the mid70s.

At any rate, in preschool as Mrs. Smith demanded we master our basics (writing our name, knowing shapes, counting to 100, ABCs, colors etc) before graduation she drilled into me that when we (black children) went into the world good enough would never be good enough so we had to get used to being better. When I entered kindergarten the confidence this gave me made me a target for the teacher who took every opportunity to punish me (physically) for things I hadn’t done or for going to the bathroom when she wouldn’t give me permission to go. She also refused to allow me to be transferred to the gifted program. When I alerted Mom to what was happening she wasted no time addressing the matter with the teacher and the principal after she had assembled her case.

My Mom went to the library after working in a factory job to look up federal, state and county statutes that applied, she got statements from the teachers aid and teacher in the next room who were witness to my mistreatment. When she arrived it was with the threat of legal action and that teacher never hit or put her hands on me again. And the teacher’s aid worked with me in the back instead of moving me into the gifted program.

While that was the first it wasn’t the last time I watched my mother put together a legal defense on my or my brother’s behalf.

And so that put me on course to do better learning on my own than in class environments.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Noni (Andrea) was the first black woman I knew who made her living from her art. She was a dancer and mother of four that I befriended shortly before her murder. She had escaped a domestic violence situation and was starting over when her abuser found her — stabbing her multiple times before shooting himself and orphaning their four children. Our friendship helped solidify my interest in ending domestic abuse/violence because of its connection as a risk factor for so many community/personal problems.

Her dance with life the way she balanced motherhood and working gave me an example that changed how I thought about my success and my pursuit of it…not to mention motherhood and womanhood. It all came together to inform my understanding of black feminism as a humanitarian movement that is shaped by intervention/prevention orientation towards program development.

But it was performance artists William Pope L. and Yoko Ono that sparked something that made me believe it was possible and worthwhile for me to give life, in collaboration with Ron, to begin [CFAaP] and discover my SoulFood framework to follow where it would lead me with “Business as Ingredient” and the notion of building an inclusive art series/movement that would operationalize Art as Solution.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

“a cure for racism” powered by Empowered Innovation[CFAaP] System

The project is a collaboration with NYC nonprofit WE The World.

It helps those allies in the Black Lives Matter movement who want to be better allies. The project helps folks develop a more meaningful understanding of racism and it empowers them with easy to digest takeaways to begin taking action on. It also helps address some of the most challenging obstacles for allies asking “what next?” and it does so with a sense of joy and hopefulness.

“a cure for racism” project focuses on what you have to gain by putting allyship and advocacy into a new framework and it explains why doing so is important in dismantling systemic racism.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

My Mom of course, but since I shared a story about her already my thoughts turn next to my Aunt Yvette. She was the first person other than Mom who really supported my artistic endeavors. They invested in my first run of prints and my first art trade show booth when I started my first company in art publishing. Aunt Yvette was also the one who first took me to art galleries and museums when she took me on summer trips that allowed me to see beyond the place I was growing up in. She was also with me on a trip to Detroit a couple years ago when I had this intense realization that made me quite emotional. It is hard to explain but essentially I felt some kind artistic vindication during a visit to the Detroit Institute of Art Museum. There was something about reading some of the artist statements and seeing how the artist expressed their ideas or aspirations gave me the insight that I was the only one who needed to give me permission to discover my artist destiny. It didn’t matter if no one understood yet, I felt certain some day it would be.

She listened as I tried to explain, I don’t know if she really understood but it was meaningful that she was with me for that moment. She has always supported me being myself and made me feel embraced because of not in spite of who or how I am. Since feeling genuinely accepted and embraced has been hard to come by for me, having their unconditional love and support meant everything growing up and even today continues to be part of what sustains me.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

In my early days as a consultant I was an avid bubble gum chewer. So much so that folks would gift me boxes of my favorite, Bazooka Joe bubble gum.

It was not unusual for a colleague or client to alert me in the parking lot or the elevator that I’d forgotten to get rid of it as I blew a ridiculously large bubble that threatened to disturb my expertly applied makeup.

Well, one day no one sounded the alarm. Sitting at a conference table with members of our U.S. Congress I was startled when someone said my name just as I was about to blow a bubble but when everyone looked my way, it flew out of my mouth.

I learned I needed to stop indulging my Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum habit.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Physics For The Rest Of Us. by Roger S. Jones

1.It made me realize how different my life might have been if I had had a better physics teacher in high-school.

2. It sparked my interest in quantum computers and innovative approaches to cryptography and data security

3. It encouraged me to develop a couple of ideas into proposals and explore getting patents.

4. It expanded my vision/understanding of social innovation and socio technical infrastructures

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Sure. The one that comes to mind is actually one my Empowered Innovation Principles. I call them EIPs.

EIP#2 — Seeing what may not be obvious but needs to be seen opens new possibilities for growth (and healing).

When consulting on a support services initiative where I was trying to increase inclusion with a resistant group I gained important clarity about what might activate this principle.

  1. Scattered confused thinking
  2. Shutting down mentally or emotionally
  3. Favoring blind spots or biases

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Often being charismatic is enough for someone to secure a leadership position. I think leadership is hard to pin down because there are so many flavors that depend on context. But I think we recognize it when we see it.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

In CFAaP we have been exploring these kinds of things through the lens of Attention (as a personal intangible asset). This kind of boiling over aka Attention:Conflict has to do with both staking claim on the same thing, The Truth. Since both believe there is only one then one has to be right and the other wrong. Meaning one has a rightful claim and the other does not. And so with this view Conflict is the only option.

This rift however is not new it is the continuation of the divide that led to the Civil War and it is the same “partisan divide” that destroyed the progress and potential Reconstruction

offered to live up to the American ideal The Constitution describes as our United aspiration as a nation.

And failure to acknowledge this rift as part of our national historical legacy that was cemented by the decision to forgo accountability for treason and the domestic terrorism that followed for the next hundred years, demonstrates more than tolerance but complicity.

Continued denials or enthusiasm to make excuses only make matters worse.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

I have unfriended and unfollowed colleagues who have been radicalized. Some inlaws that have gone that route are less of an issue since their racism led me to cut ties just prior to the 2016 election. As things have gotten worse I felt clearly my call is to help those who want to be allies and help build those bridges, but I lack the patience to focus on overcoming the resistance of those that are stubbornly stuck in a pool of lies or loyal to systemic bigotry and racism. I think it is a mistake to coddle them or indulge their alternative reality. It seems this enabling is discouraged with addicts for example but treason, insurrection and domestic terrorism have always found those with the most political power and influence eager to forgive national sins or even crimes against humanity as long as the offenders are white and the victims brown or black.

At this point I think when you compare response to any black led resistance to institutional racism and city/state sanctioned murders to what we are seeing with rioters and seditionists that attempted a political coup when they besieged and desecrated the Capitol building the difference in police force/security response and much of the rhetoric by politicians is noticeable. The repeating of history, support not to hold the inciters of sedition/treason and domestic terrorists accountable does say that is who the U.S. has been and is choosing to be. It is time to face this and finally do something about it and stop looking the other way.

Here’s a personal story….

While on vacation in Minnesota one morning, out of the blue, my father in law (a loyal Fox News viewer) said Lincoln shouldn’t have won. Instead he said his opponent should have been president because he wouldn’t have pushed the country into the Civil War. After over 25 years it seemed he wanted me to know where he stood on the issue of the war fought to end the enslavement of black people. Did my presumption of my equality offend him?

I was stunned then angry and hurt before getting angry again. The next day in an email after cutting our visit short I presented my case drawing a parallel between WWII and the Civil War to end the brutalization, torture and murder of human beings. I asserted that the humanity of my ancestors was equal to that of the Jewish people liberated from concentration camps as my ancestors were from plantations.

He chose not to respond. When asked about it, I was told he said he didn’t know what to say and would not discuss it further.

I haven’t spoken to him since and my life (and marriage) have been better for it.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

If you can find compassion extend it with a bit of tough love. I think a mix of the kind of accountability required of a recovering addict plus applying lessons from parenting since what we have is the equivalent of a tantrum in the face of changing reality where the majority favor progress and inclusion. Unwilling to adapt, grow or evolve some have preferred radicalization to find validation aka a place where the tantrum is indulged. When my kids had tantrums they had two choices…1. Use their words to separate facts from feelings and I will do my best to help find resolution and some peace or 2. Cry and scream until they got tired of denying reality in a world that will move on without them.

In How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk it encourages natural consequences.

When my boys were young they were careless with their aim in the bathroom. I would complain every time I cleaned their bathroom until one day I decided to let them deal with the consequences. When they had to clean their own bathroom their toilet aim improved dramatically.

Failure to hold folks accountable after the violent tantrums that ended Reconstruction is why we continue to struggle with this unresolved karma and pain. So a more honest or informed understanding of the divide may be needed. This means the necessity of accountability for reconciliation to be meaningful and avoid repeating past mistakes.

Why is there so much longing for fake unity rather than truth (based on facts) and accountability that can lead to understanding needed for collective progress? There is something essential in the framing of the issue that needs to be seen as the perpetuation of historical bias, a willingness to excuse the inexcusable.

Why is what the nazis stand for and things they’ve done, treated with recognition for accountability and disdain but the same accountability was not required of confederates (domestic terrorists united by commitment to racism and bigotry as law of the land) and their supporters — then or now?

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

While I understand the desire to move on and let by gones be by gones. I see that being a repeat of past failures because failure to hold folks accountable after the violence and domestic terrorism that ended Reconstruction is why we continue to struggle with this unresolved issue of our national identity (see White Rage by Carol Anderson) So a more sophisticated or informed understanding of the divide may be needed and folks need to get comfortable with uncomfortable conversations if there is to be any real bridge building.

Again I don’t think ignoring the problem so folks can play nice is the answer. That attitude is the problem because it expresses the persistent blindspot that has created national complicity required for systemic racism to continue. It is the reason I launched the “a cure for racism “ project with We the World, a non-profit working to amplify global voices and organizations working towards a better world that works for all of us.

However businesses would do well to provide training and events to increase and encourage self awareness and mindfulness. I favor personal innovation because unlike personal growth/development it includes impact on others in evaluation of successful outcomes.

And so personal innovation mentoring can help people develop holistic strategies for owning and processing their feelings and beliefs without projecting blame for their failures or problems while still addressing practices of inequity and bias and getting better outcomes from their goals.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

Again I point to my previous answers. Because politics is a driver and protector of injustice for some this can’t be set aside as a non issue but agreed it doesn’t have to be central to every conversation.

However, it may prevent deeper connection or deter them and I think folks may just need to be willing to let it be what it is until its ready to become something better. As mentioned prior, understanding the historical context and not denying the connection is progress.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

Exploring personal Innovation as a lifestyle to get folks to stop using social media like a journal you make public….encouraging them instead to keep a real private journal and take personal inventory so they come to understand you don’t need to share every thought or opinion.

Somethings need to be expressed and explored privately for reflection

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

Stop relying on them to digest information and policy and instead cultivate a more inclusive socio technical infrastructure that increases community capacity to aggregate and digest information…and focus on how to cultivate more intellectual vigor at the community level

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

Summon the courage, the heart, the vision…whatever is needed to understand systemic racism and how it dominates, limits and shapes the lives of black people in particular but POC as well.

Questions like that feel like they have something embedded that feels like willful ignorance or lack of compassion/care about the PTSD we live with and face on a regular basis because racism is something we are expected to tolerate despite paying taxes and voting for better, this most basic acknowledgement of what “taxation without representation” has meant for us for generations gets pushed aside and overlooked. As if we don’t have the right to expect better and should just shut up already and vote your agenda.

My (white) husband and I were followed and had a gun pulled on us last year while looking at lakeside properties for sale. After filing a report with Wilson County Sheriff’s dept where it happened and several follow up calls a deputy laughed and told me I had been watching too many tv shows, insisting it was on us to identify the individual and there was nothing they could do with the description of the car, the gun and individual.

This attitude is well known about that dept when it comes to dealing with black and brown folks.

Now why should our tax dollars be used to enforce our subjugation? Would white people be expected to tolerate that?

Again let’s look at the nazis and Jewish people, after they were liberated can you imagine asking that question if over a hundred years after the nazis were still essentially in power shaping the culture/laws to embody their antisemitic views and allowed to just go on living like nothing happened?

Why is this considered reasonable when it comes to black and indigenous people?

People who are struggling to survive still…fighting for their right to LIVE after so many generations have done the same only to still be told to get over it and help us save the nation/world whatever that means at the time…by people who seem oblivious to the fact that it comes across as….No we don’t care about you but you should care enough about “us” to help us save the planet/nation/ etc. And never realizing the hornets nest they kick with the request/plea/demand.

Now if you or anyone wants to be more effective, educate yourself about the history of environmental racism to understand that BIPOC have been in that fight for a healthier planet but the media didn’t really pay attention until white communities were directly negatively impacted.

See Janica Barrett’s post Books about Environmental Racism, White Privilege, and Climate Justice

here :

https://www.zerowastewisdom.com/post/books-about-environmental-racism-white-privilege-and-climate-justice

So who is noticing how this bias gets perpetuated in current initiatives intended to address climate change challenges?

Hopefully my response to your question helps clarify why the battle for the soul of our nation persists

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

1. Find the courage to listen and reflect when you get push back on your perspective.

When I do interviews and I feel that some questions are “off” I embrace the opportunity to start a conversation. The folks that move the ball forward are the ones who reflect on the feedback and use it to learn more. This happened just yesterday in a Take Notice Podcast interview and we had a great conversation!

2. Learn to be ok with uncomfortable moments and be willing to move through them with greater understanding.

EIP #5 Your choices express what you are (really) saying not your words.

Some people freeze up when “real talk” starts or they get defensive. Instead this is an opportunity to reflect and witness. This is part of the problem my We the World collaboration “ a cure for racism” project aspires to help folks who understand they benefit from systemic and institutional racism to address.

3. Developing a better understanding of what racism is and how to recognize it.

This was another part of why my “ a cure for racism” project is a fundraiser for We the World FreedomCampaign. It is accessible because it is free or with donation to qualify for bonuses — supporters get a more meaningful understanding that actually chips away at why systemic racism persists and what to do about it.

4. Build a practice of peace and compassion by building momentum in that direction.

I posted a video for MLK 40 Days of Peace that shared the strategy of focusing on the path of least resistance (like with my dogs featured in said video) to get compassion momentum going instead of trying to force it on a path of resistance.

5. Learn about cultivating more adaptable mental models.

There is a segment of folks who can’t or refuse to imagine a future unlike our past. That is the result of not knowing how to access new mental models to allow them to conceptualize a more flexible identity and sense of self. Instead for too many their sense of self relies on political whiteness and a distorted historical narrative that justifies it. Cultivating new mental models would allow such a people to develop a more truly humanitarian identity.

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

Find opportunities to be kind but that doesn’t mean excusing the inexcusable. Those espousing and upholding racism and bigotry should not be made to feel comfortable in their beliefs or attempts to make them policy.

Kindness can be given freely but respect and trust are earned. This approach keeps interactions superficial and eventually that becomes problematic if we don’t develop skills for deep work.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

Yes, most days. I launched “a cure for racism “ because I saw the same thing President Biden expressed in his inaugural speech. “Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed. In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward. And, we can do so now.” — President Biden Inauguration Speech (2021)

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

If you think about how your success impacts others now you can avoid a mid-life crisis confronting an unwanted legacy when you’re older.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jenifer Lewis…increasingly in recent years her truth she brings to her work and activism has been a guiding light for me. When I decided to go all in with my “a cure for racism “ project she served as a major inspiration as I worked out how I could do this without relinquishing my own joy and agency.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://empoweredinnovation.org/

https://www.webantiphon.com/

Folks can also tag or DM me on most social media platforms

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Author Yvette Dubel On The 5 Things That Each Of Us was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls On The 5…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

Find charities consistent with your values to support — whether it is a free independent press, public radio & TV, youth sports, local food bank, help the organizations you believe in get through this period so they can thrive and continue on their mission

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing interviewing Paige Arnof-Fenn.

Paige is the founder & CEO of global marketing and digital branding firm Mavens & Moguls based in Cambridge, MA. Her clients include Microsoft, Virgin, venture-backed startups as well as non profit organizations. She graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Business School. She is a popular speaker and columnist who has written for Entrepreneur and Forbes.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I am a child of the 60s and 70s who grew up in the Deep South. I am the oldest of 3 and was always a good student and athlete growing up, responsible and hard working. My father and both grandfathers were in business so I always thought I would go that route too. From a young age I loved sports, movies, TV and travel. I was an exchange student in France in high school and Italy in college. As an adult I have lived and worked in NYC, LA, Bay Area, Atlanta, DC, Cincinnati, etc. but have been in Boston for the past 20+ years. After graduating college with a degree in Economics, I started my career in finance on Wall Street in the 80s and had a successful career in Corporate America at companies like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola and worked at 3 different startups as the head of marketing before they went public or were sold. I took the leap into entrepreneurship right after 9/11 when the company I worked for cut their marketing. I had nothing to lose. I have never looked back and love being an entrepreneur.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

I was raised to be responsible, honest, hard working, and confident all great qualities for an entrepreneur. Both my grandfathers were successful entrepreneurs and only one graduated from high school. My dad took a more traditional corporate path and my mom stayed at home and I had always assumed I would. go into business (vs law or medicine) and follow in my dad’s footsteps. After college I took a series of corporate jobs and got an MBA like my father but by my early 30s I knew I had more of the entrepreneurial gene in me so I took the leap and started my company. My parents always supported me to challenge the status quo and question authority when I had done my homework and could make a strong case which is also great training to becoming an entrepreneur. They were also very proud of me and encouraging when my high school guidance counselor told me I needed more back up schools because I was shooting too high for college and I went ahead and applied to my top choices anyway. My mother reminded that man every time she saw him how much I loved going to college at Stanford and getting my MBA at Harvard Business School so I come by my renegade tendencies naturally I guess. My parents seemed to get me when I tried to bend, break or change the rules if I had a solid argument so I learned early on to not stop just because someone says no. That is such an important part of being an entrepreneur and has served me and. my business very well.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I think every project is exciting! That is the beauty of running your own business, if you are not genuinely excited by the work then you can pass on it. I only take on work that I find interesting and worthwhile. Finding the right words and pictures to tell great stories that attract more customers to our clients’ products and services is incredibly fulfilling. We have had a few delayed projects during the pandemic but for a professional service firms like mine we will recover even if our revenues slow from the crisis. Current projects include PR for a tech services firm, market research for a B2B tech company, a new website for a B2C company, and creative development for a nonprofit. We do anything a marketing department, ad agency, market research shop or PR agency does on an outsourced basis. We have resources in 14 cities in the US and major metro areas overseas. Everyone in the group comes out of industry so our heads and hearts are much more aligned with our clients than a typical agency or consulting firm. We are not professional PowerPoint makers, we have actually done the job as marketing and communication leaders so our recommendations come from having been in our clients’ seats before. We are an extension of their team and spend their money the way they do, not as a vendor so I think that is a compelling angle when they hire us. We do not see marketing as a necessary evil, we believe in the power of great brands and think all organizations regardless of size or budget deserve great marketing advice. Our passion comes through in our tag line and everything we do.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I have been so fortunate to have great mentors, champions and role models throughout my career including former bosses, my father, senior women in organizations where I worked but the person who has always encouraged and supported me as an entrepreneur and has my back every day is my husband. He started a company too so understands the journey of an entrepreneur and has been my sanity check and thinking partner every step of the way. He is both a cheerleader and butt kicker depending on the situation and I trust his judgment and advice because I know he always has my best interests in mind. I am very fortunate to have him in my corner.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

It can be hard to laugh at mistakes but looking back I remember one week early on when I had 3 or 4 talks lined up over a couple of day period so I went from one evening event to a breakfast the next morning to a lunch and evening talk the following day. I enjoy public speaking and get a lot of referrals and business that way. The morning after my final speech I showed up at a meeting with a prospective client along with a few of my colleagues and I realized I was completely out of business cards. I was so embarrassed and my team laughed at me since I always remind them it is important to be professional and prepared all the time. I ended up sending a hand written thank you note to the prospect with my card enclosed and we won the business so I turned my mistake into a good outcome plus I have never run out of business cards again! It is a great lesson in the power of humility, resilience, persistence, manners and having a sense of humor.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I love books by and about strong women. Two of my favorites are:

Notorious RBG — Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a national treasure, every woman in this country owes her a huge thank you

Atlas Shrugged — by Ayn Rand

I could not put it down it inspired me and fueled my interest in business in college

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I saw this quote from Angela Davis, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept” and it inspires me to turn my ideas into action. Another great quote is “For it isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” Eleanor Roosevelt said it and it is still true today.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership today is about being resilient. The world has been forced to pause and hit the reset button while the pace of life and business has slowed. The current crisis has provided a stage for our leaders to rise to the occasion. Between the pandemic and the possible recession, leaders have an opportunity to further connect with anxious people and focus on the true relevance of their message. We have to acknowledge that now things are different so we need to communicate in a way that will give our audiences better focus, helping them to create a bridge from today to the future. We need to communicate in a way that combines information and need, synthesizing feeling and facts. I feel leaders have a tremendous responsibility because never before has communications had the power to help society in the way that it does right now. Words are part of the healing process and we can see which leaders are doing the best job every day with messages that touch not only the mind, but also the heart and soul. There has never been a more important time to provide accurate, empathetic communication with transparency, truthfulness and timeliness. I think being authentic, confident, empathetic, providing substance, and staying relevant are all the qualities we need right now.

Compassionate leaders attract the best talent and I predict the most trusted leaders and brands will have a big competitive advantage in the new normal that evolves in a post-Corona world. Employees, customers and clients will remember who treated them well during the crisis and they will be rewarded with loyalty from earning that trust during the bad times. The current crisis has provided a stage for our political and business leaders to rise to the occasion. We have learned that it is about touching people in meaningful ways which may mean being less busy not more for a while. Online meetings, webinars, social media, etc. are a smart and productive way companies like ours can continue to have conversations that educate and inform, build relationships and move forward during this crisis period. Once we lay this groundwork it all will be in place to continue moving forward as the economy reopens and some businesses come back quicker than others. Maybe the silver lining is that this crisis reminds us that we have always needed each other and we have learned that everyone is struggling right now to find a new normal so the key is to show our humanity and compassion while we look out for one another. With Zoom, social media, cell phones, etc. we see that technology does not have to be isolating it can be used to build our real world communities and relationships too!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

It is like the story of the frog in the pot of water that gets turned up one degree at a time and it does not realize it is getting boiled alive by the water around it. It is easy to see now so the frog would jump out if thrown in but because it happened slowly over time it was not so clear. I always knew I had family and friends who voted differently than me but it was never taken as personally as it was in the last 2 elections before. Political party preferences became a proxy for so much more but the truth is I believe most people are more centerist than the extremes of either party. The problem is we got our news and information from different sources, social media spreads misinformation so quickly, the global pandemic hit and we spend more time now with technology and devices than each other so it was a perfect storm for hitting the tipping point. There are friends and former colleagues I no longer stay in touch with now I guess if the relationships were important we will reconnect again but somehow I doubt it. I do hope the elected officials across the aisle in DC though can find their way back to a productive working relationship even if they no longer socialize together.

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

I think every family has been affected by this. Ours is still on speaking terms but we do not discuss politics at all. I have definitely lost some friends though. You have to weigh the depth of the relationship and history on a case by case basis though. I have clients who stopped working with people across the aisle because it got so uncomfortable.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

Find places of common ground and shared memories and experiences. When you talk do not discuss third rail topics at all. If you want to rebuild or maintain the relationships then focus on sports, weather, funny memories of relatives or holiday traditions past. Remember when Grandma…How about those Patriots?…Sounds like a big Nor’easter in on the way can fill time and keep everyone connected to the conversation.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

Same advice works here too by finding places of common ground and shared memories and experiences. When you have small talk before/after meetings do not discuss third rail topics at all. If you need to rebuild or maintain the professional relationship then focus on sports, weather, and past projects where there was shared success. How about those Patriots?…Sounds like a big Nor’easter in on the way…Wonder if we should try the same strategy on this project that worked so well on the last one? can fill time and keep everyone engaged in the conversation here too.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

I agree if we can open our hearts and minds to people with shared hobbies, interests, volunteer opportunities, neighborhoods, alma maters, sports teams, etc. we can build trust again by getting to know people beyond their voting record. No two people agree 100% on everything but by seeing where your interests do overlap is a great starting point for conversation and in my experience once you get people talking again there is space to move forward. The door has to be open to start rebuilding trust.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

Regulation may be the only way at this point to turn the ship around. The amount of misinformation spreading online and across airwaves is dangerous and our society was built on people following the rules so we clcarly need to agree on a process to move forward. The same rules apply to men and women, black, white, brown, Republican and Democrat and everyone in between, We have a Constitution, Bill of Rights, speed limits, rules for sports, dress codes, stop lights, parking restrictions, etc. so we need to develop a code of conduct and laws around proper use of technology and communication waves so we can rebuild trust in the information being shared. It is going to take time but we need to start now and make it a priority.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

Beware of echo chambers and be open to opinions that are uncomfortable, try to see things from others’ perspective. Think for yourselves and tune pundits out or at least listen with a grain of salt. We all have to take responsibility and hold ourselves accountable going forward. Find people who push you out of your comfort zone to stay connected with and commit to being part of the solution not adding to the problem.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

For me it comes down to leadership. For our democracy to work we need leaders who understand that leadership is about transforming self-interest to shared interest. The starting point, however, is not the leader’s self-interest, but the self-interest of others. That requires the act of empathy. A leader’s word is only as good as the last promise kept. Leaders need courage (the strength in the I) while empathy is the connection in the we. If someone is only empathetic, they may lack the courage to make tough decisions. And if someone is only courageous, they may be disconnected and interested in only their own heroics. Leaders today need both courage and empathy.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

Our country will only rebuild from the inside out, from the bottom up where everyone helps us become our best selves. As the President says this is not about red and blue states this is about the United States! Like most people today I am deeply saddened and concerned by what is going on around the country. Most of us are in the center not extremists, there is a lot of middle ground to work with. Here are some ways we can come together again and find common ground:

* Support local and independent retailers and businesses — for the country to be strong our local communities must be healthy too so shop local, spread the word and be generous

* Find charities consistent with your values to support — whether it is a free independent press, public radio & TV, youth sports, local food bank, help the organizations you believe in get through this period so they can thrive and continue on their mission

* Volunteer — every community needs help so find the organizations you can give your time and talent to make a difference, together we can accomplish so much

It is up to each of us to raise our hands and roll up our sleeves, set goals and stop making excuses. These problems are not going to fix themselves it is up to each of us to be the change we want to see in the world. The time is now. As Nike says, just do it. You have permission to change the world.

My ancestors came to this country to build a better life so I believe we will get through this but it really will take everyone to play a part in our future to make it better. We are all connected and must join forces and rise together to succeed. Our future depends on it, it is up to each of us to leave the world better than we found it so do your part and leave your mark. Everyone has a gift to share and a way to contribute so find yours and get started today.

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

When in doubt be kind and take the high road.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

I am an optimist by nature and believe there is more good than bad, more light than dark ahead. As we move to a more remote/virtual world trust becomes an even more important currency and building trust will determine your success so lack of trust will be a huge obstacle I think after the pandemic ends. When it comes to relationships the currencies that really matter are trust, respect, credibility, loyalty and gratitude which are all free. Our job is to get through this period together intact so that when this crisis is over if I remain healthy and have stayed tight with my inner circle of people who mean the most to me and we all find a way to incorporate the lessons of gratitude, simplicity, friendship and love into the new normal I will be incredibly happy that we did not waste the crisis. If we can hold on to the very best parts of this lockdown the world will be a better place for it.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

I keep a running list of inspiring quotes on my computer at all times. Here are a few that resonate with me I would share in hopes of inspiring them too:

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” — Mother Teresa

It is a great reminder of the impact you can have in small ways everyday by touching someone’s life or inspiring others to take a chance or just be better.

“We must become the change we want to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Every one of us can make a difference to make the world a better place.

“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” ― Nelson Mandela

Anyone can make a difference in the lives pf others.

“We all have ability. The difference is how we use it.” ― Stevie Wonder

Find your gift and share it with the world.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot nothing is going to get better, it’s not. — Dr. Seuss

By caring about something you can make a difference for the better.

“Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
― Buddha

All it takes is one person to share their light and make a difference.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I’d choose Michelle Obama I think her perspective and experience will be critical to our future success and she will be part of the solution to many of our problems now. She is smart, kind, and makes things happen. Michelle can be the catalyst that lights the spark on our new path.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.MavensAndMoguls.com and https://www.linkedin.com/in/paigearnoffenn

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thanks so much it’s been my pleasure!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Paige Arnof-Fenn of Mavens & Moguls On The 5… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Jennie Lee On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do…

Putting The United Back Into The United States: Author Jennie Lee On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society

…If we accept that every aspect of life is, at its foundation, our teacher, then we can take accountability for learning what we are here to learn. Consider that all the people and events of your life are there because you have drawn them there in some way. Pay attention to the people and occurrences life has placed before you. They contain the lessons you must learn. What you choose to do with them is up to you. It is futile to blame circumstances for what you are. As long as you are blaming anyone else for your state of being, you are denying your power. Think of a difficult situation in your life. Consider where you might be assigning blame rather than taking responsibility. Even if something has been done to you, you hold the key to freedom through how you choose to respond to the circumstance. Take a giant step into radical accountability for all of your choices and reactions. Let any dissatisfaction you feel be motivation to change. Then get up and create yourself as you want to be.

As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennie Lee.

Jennie Lee is a multi-award winning author of 3 books: SPARK CHANGE: 108 Provocative Questions for Spiritual Evolution; TRUE YOGA: Practicing with the Yoga Sutras for Happiness & Spiritual Fulfillment; and BREATHING LOVE: Meditation in Action. She is a spiritual coach and certified yoga therapist who has worked with a diverse clientele, from CEOS and celebrities to military officers and housewives, teaching tangible practices to shift people’s awareness and experience of unity consciousness. Jennie also facilitates international wellness retreats and is a regular contributor to numerous national magazines and other yoga related books. For more, visit www.JennieLeeYogaTherapy.com

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Pasadena, California in a middle class, hard-working family. I was an only child and my parent’s relationship was explosive so I felt a lot of fear and isolation. From a very early age, I became interested in how to ‘keep the peace’ and have spent the majority of my life studying human psychology and helping people to develop practices that foster inner and outer harmony.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Since high school, I have studied world religions, philosophy, and spirituality, seeking answers to the big questions in life about who we are and why we are here. The tradition that really satisfied my search is classical yoga philosophy. In texts such as the Yoga Sutras and the Bhagavad Gita, I found wisdom and practices that gave me strength to weather life’s challenges, such as loss, grief, depression, and financial hardship. My personal application of yogic wisdom began when I lost my second child at birth, was facing divorce, and living in an unfamiliar region of the country without friends or a source of income. The practices helped me heal and then I began my career as a spiritual coach/ yoga therapist to help others overcome their suffering too.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I am excited to have a virtual book club launching in April through the Hiitide platform for my latest book, Spark Change: 108 Provocative Questions for Spiritual Evolution. I call this book ‘a year of coaching in your own hands’ because it gives people the tools to self-reflect and make positive inner changes. I am also working on my fourth nonfiction book which focuses on helping people connect to their soul wisdom and define their true purpose. It is based on my 40,000+ teaching/counseling hours working with clients to overcome inner obstacles and find joy.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

Over the past 8 years of writing my books, my husband has been my greatest supporter, cheerleader and muse. His unfailing belief in my work has made it possible to continue when I have felt frustrated and burnt out. And he has an amazing ability to make me laugh, even in the middle of the night! I think we woke my son more than once after midnight giggling over the absurdities of being human!

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

With my first book, True Yoga, I encountered rejection for seven years before we sold the proposal to a publisher! Although not a ‘mistake’ per se, this definitely taught me how to cultivate resilience and how to hold tightly to what is most important to me. Life isn’t easy and if we don’t have solid convictions and values that sustain us during the dark days we will just get swept away in the tides of negativity. Serving the evolution of consciousness on the planet is what keeps me going no matter what.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, by Paramahansa Yogananda was a pivotal book for me. It sat on my shelf for 14 years and then I finally got rid of it because I thought I would never read it. Within a month of doing so, I signed up for a yoga philosophy course and the Autobiography of a Yogi was required reading, so I had to buy it again! When I actually started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. It changed my understanding of what yoga is really all about and it clarified the spiritual path and practice of meditation that has become essential to me. That yoga philosophy course also brought me to Hawai’i, which is where I now gratefully call home.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

This quote sums up what I believe we must do in life: “Make your love greater than your pain.” Yogananda wrote this and it truly encapsulates what I teach and strive to live every day. I have lived through many losses, two divorces, and numerous deaths of loved ones including my grandparents, parents, friends, a lover and a child. The pain can be so great, but it has been through developing an ever-deepening practice of conscious loving that I can honestly now say that I have made my love greater than my pain.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

We can only ever lead through example because actions speak so much louder than words. I know this well from parenting! People, but especially kids, easily see through contradictions between our words and deeds. My son, who has grown up hearing the yogic wisdom I teach, is the first to remind me if I am ‘off my mat’ in some way in how I am responding to a situation. I appreciate the accountability though because the best way any one of us can contribute to society and lead others, is by becoming the most truthful, loving, and peaceful person we can become. I strive for this daily. I also believe that true leaders empower others to become their very best, drawing forth their unique gifts and attributes.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?

Human thinking is generally ego based- focused on self versus other — so when our agenda or needs are threatened, we often become vicious in defending ourselves or attacking the perceived threat. This is just the nature of the ego-mind and why much of the teaching I do is to show people how to switch from the level of ego consciousness to the level of soul consciousness. In soul consciousness, we remember our inherent unity and the whole dynamic shifts..

I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?

I have witnessed family members who hold differing political views become so rigid in their hate of the other party, that they project that hate onto their own children. A few are no longer speaking to one another and that is sure to leave regret when the end of life comes.

In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?

The only way to overcome these sad perspectives is to remember there is a reality greater than the human dimension of existence. At the level of energy or consciousness, we are all connected and differences of expression of that energy are part of the cosmic plan. They do not need to tear our relationships apart. When the desire for love and harmony becomes our greatest value, then compromise, understanding, or at minimum, mutual acceptance can be reached.

How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?

The other night, a colleague confessed she wasn’t sure why I was her friend, because outwardly we have little in common. I am her friend because I believe in our unity and I want to connect, soul to soul. To do this, I have had to learn how to suspend judgment and look at the person across from me with acceptance and unconditional love. Both personally and professionally, I have sat with people who held vastly different values from me, in politics, ethics, and religion. By choosing to relate to them from the soul level, I have chosen harmony above all else. When I do this, rapport builds quickly, and they feel seen, heard, and validated. I am able to build bridges of commonality rather than argue about our differences. As a result, some surprising and trusted relationships have formed.

I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?

Most people self-identify through the external roles they play or with the affiliations they hold to this religious group or that political party. The focus is often on tearing down that which is different, or maintaining ignorance around it, and so conflict is perpetuated. By shifting self-identification to an awareness of our shared spiritual heritage, we will find ways to work together toward solutions that accommodate differences rather than creating more division.

Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?

Social media reflects the consciousness of the people engaging with it. It can be used for good or for harm, and will shift only if more individuals choose to practice compassion, understanding and a respectful interchange of ideas. With every post or comment, we each have a choice to engage conflict or take the higher road of kindness. If someone is spewing hateful messaging then we can just move on, and not engage at all. When energy is withdrawn, the hate loses traction.

What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?

I think we can recognize that all media is somewhat partisan at this point and take the time to see what the ‘other side’ has to say as well as the side that aligns with our beliefs and values. That way we start to create some balance of understanding and can at least have a basis for conversation with people who hold differing viewpoints. If we don’t do this, then we just continue feeding our bias and never take in any new perspectives.

Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?

As long as self-interest is being served at the expense of any other, we will not come to resolution on this. Fundamentally, we need to value life, all life, each other’s lives, as greatly as our own. We need to remember that it is through unification that we will thrive. In division, we will just experience more of the same destruction and hardship we are currently experiencing.

Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.

1. Focus on similarities rather than differences between you and those around you.

Notice your tendency to look for, or concentrate on, similarities or differences between yourself and those you meet. Instead of defending your paradigms and self-protecting by avoiding those who are different, practice compassionate acceptance and seek the connective tissue between you. Strive to learn new ways of seeing or doing things from those who have alternate customs, cultures, or beliefs. Drop any judgmental comparisons and look for connections that you can forge with people today, especially with those who seem the most different. The same life force energy flows within us all. Regardless of skin color, political orientation, religion, or socioeconomic status, all humans share common experiences and emotions. By appreciating each person’s uniqueness, you create connection instead of conflict.

2. Use the power of questions to engage curiosity instead of judgement.

We all fall into habitual patterns of judgment, but we can start to replace these with curiosity instead. Practicing ‘beginner’s mind’, we can call upon a childlike sense of wonder to build new bridges of understanding. Curiosity invigorates relationships by opening the door to possibility. Upon contact with another person, whether family, stranger or colleague, see them through wondering eyes. Ask yourself, “I wonder how they feel right now? What has their day been like today? What stress is on their plate?” Feel how this diffuses judgment and allows for more open communication.

3. Develop an attitude of service.

Selfless service benefits both the giver and the receiver, because what we offer to another, in essence we are offering to ourselves. Look for ways to make a meaningful contribution by uniting what you love to do with the needs you perceive around you. Ask people how you can help, what support from you would look like to them. Ask them to tell you what they need and then watch for any unwillingness in your ego that tries to hold you back from this service. Throughout your day, offer empathy and understanding to those around you, especially if disagreements arise. There are innumerable ways to serve, but as simple as it sounds, kindness is one of the greatest acts of service we can undertake. Much progress can be made by just being kind, and what a sweeter world it becomes when we serve one another with kindness. If we all gave, then we would all receive. It’s just that simple.

4. Quit the blame game and accept accountability for your life experience.

If we accept that every aspect of life is, at its foundation, our teacher, then we can take accountability for learning what we are here to learn. Consider that all the people and events of your life are there because you have drawn them there in some way. Pay attention to the people and occurrences life has placed before you. They contain the lessons you must learn. What you choose to do with them is up to you. It is futile to blame circumstances for what you are. As long as you are blaming anyone else for your state of being, you are denying your power. Think of a difficult situation in your life. Consider where you might be assigning blame rather than taking responsibility. Even if something has been done to you, you hold the key to freedom through how you choose to respond to the circumstance. Take a giant step into radical accountability for all of your choices and reactions. Let any dissatisfaction you feel be motivation to change. Then get up and create yourself as you want to be.

5. Actively choose a peaceful response to every situation.

To approach every relationship and situation in life with the intention of peace and compassion is revolutionary. Of course, it’s easy to be nice when people are nice to us, but to love when it is inconvenient, uncomfortable, or imbalanced, is when we really start making progress. Sound impossible? It’s actually not. It is simply a paradigm shift. We begin to chart a totally new experience of life when we stop looking at it from the viewpoint of what we seek to get, and start looking at it as an opportunity to serve the highest good through what we can give in terms of peace. When we choose peace as our guiding life philosophy, we stop defending our positions. We seek harmony over being right, or getting validation. In the moments when we feel most needy of understanding, we stop and connect to the peace that lives deep in our core being. At the beginning and end of each day, affirm: ‘I am a peaceful person. I live peace through all of my choices, actions and words.’ Then strive to meet every daily challenge with a peaceful heart. The beauty of this practice is that it benefits us immediately, rewarding our efforts with a greater sense of inner wellbeing and ease.

Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?

“Love your neighbor AS your SELF.” It is a profound yet simple instruction Jesus, and all great masters have given. As we commit to the practice of loving without condition or recompense, the benefits are felt throughout every aspect of our lives. Rather than walking through our days dodging conflict and seeking to get our desires met, we flow easefully through our activities and conversations, with a genuine smile in our hearts. We no longer waste energy in defensive posturing for attention or for acceptance, and any feelings of rejection become less intense if someone does not return our nice gestures.

We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?

Yes! It really just takes a small shift from each individual, like picking up your own trash. Just handle your own psychic garbage — prejudice, selfishness, judgment — do your inner work. If everyone did this and practiced more compassion and kindness, we would see a new world in no time.

If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?

Never underestimate the power of one kind word or action. Your small contributions have a ripple effect that you may never know the full effect of. There have been so many times, when I felt discouraged, like what I was doing was having no effect, and then out of the blue I get an email from someone telling me how much a certain post or teaching meant to them. I am sure there are more who just haven’t expressed it. We have to give and give and give some more because like Ram Dass said, “We are all just walking each other home.”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I have been a long-time fan of Brene Brown and find her work on vulnerability to be deeply needed in today’s world. There are so many people operating from the level of shame consciousness, which contributes to the widespread narcissism and defensiveness that is dividing us. This is a root issue that needs to be healed and I would love the opportunity to sit with her to discuss how to do this collectively to facilitate a more vulnerable and compassionate exchange among us.

How can our readers follow you online?

Website — https://www.jennieleeyogatherapy.com

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/jennielee_author/

Facebook — https://www.facebook.com/JennieLeeYogaTherapy.StillnessInMotion

Linked in https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennieleeyogatherapy/

This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Putting The United Back Into The United States: Jennie Lee On The 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Loreen Hwang Aims To Help Change Our World

I have always been passionate about helping others. I have sat on the boards of charities, I volunteer at so many non-profits and try to help where I can. I have been doing that since I was a child with my family. Using my platform to bring awareness to topics that I care about is a no brainer. It’s important to get people involved, sometimes people don’t know how to volunteer or where to start and I am there to help them.
I like to talk about things that are meaningful. I feel like I have a responsibility to bring light to topics that are important. I love sharing information on charities that I love and volunteer with, I also talk about things like social justice, our environment and other topics I am passionate about. It is important to use your platform for good and to help educate others. You never know who might read something you are talking about and want to encourage people to do the same and the idea could grow into something bigger than you have imagined.
I personally started two initiatives that I think are important. I am passionate about our planet and the environment and the other is about racism.

As a part of my series about leaders who are using their platform to make a significant social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Loreen Hwang.

She is an LA-based Lifestyle Influencer who has been blogging for over 10 years. She has been featured in Forbes, Refinery29, Parade Magazine, Yahoo! Life and many more. She focuses on beauty, travel, food and wellness. She also is an advocate for sustainability and uses her page to start online initiatives like eliminating single-use plastic in your household. She started a campaign called #oneloveoneplanet challenging her audience to post a selfie with a reusable item. She loves to use her platform to help spread the word for good causes, encourages her audience to do the same and pay to it forward. One of her more recent initiatives has been during the pandemic and she had her audience use the hashtag #riseaboveracism to help end the stop of racism. For everyone who participates in any of her ongoing initiatives she plants a tree for them and has planted hundreds of trees.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I use to be in bio-tech and I had a life-changing moment that made me stop and change my career path. I started blogging as a hobby and I was one of the first beauty blogs out there. It really took off and I wanted to expand into more. I rebranded and turned my blog into a lifestyle blog to cover all the things that I love such as travel, beauty, food, health, wellness, self-care and more. I’m really grateful that I could turn my hobby into a career.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

This was a huge career change for me. I went from board meetings to working for myself. It was a very scary change. I am someone who likes stability and being organized, with blogging it was very different. I had to learn to be really fluid. I started blogging as a hobby and in a matter of 3 months it turned into something more because I was contacted by a Johnson & Johnson brand to become a brand ambassador. That’s when I knew this hobby was more than a hobby. I really put a lot of work into my first blog. I wrote a post every single day. I have to say the most interesting thing has been the people that I have met along the way. I am constantly learning from everyone I meet. My advice is be open. You never know who you meet. I said yes to every opportunity and it took me to some very fun places.

You have been blessed with success in a career path that can be challenging. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

There is room for everyone. If you want to start blogging just create your blog and start writing about things you know and love. Learn from your mistakes and grow from them, don’t let them hinder you. Be consistent, try new things and know that you will fail at some of the things you try but that’s ok we all do. Find your voice and use it. When I started I said yes to everything. I did work for trade and it eventually lead me to paying jobs just make sure everything you are doing is aligning with your brand. The biggest mistake I see is influencers who are just one big ad with no voice. No one is following pages that are just all ad’s be authentic to yourself and have fun. We all go through points where you feel uninspired remember to take a break a and rest and do something that will get you inspired and for me that is getting out in nature and reading. I would also say that don’t let people bring you down. There will be a small amount of people who will leave negative comments, don’t let it bother you. Focus on the good and keep going.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the core focus of our interview. Can you describe to our readers how you are using your platform to make a significant social impact?

I have always been passionate about helping others. I have sat on the boards of charities, I volunteer at so many non-profits and try to help where I can. I have been doing that since I was a child with my family. Using my platform to bring awareness to topics that I care about is a no brainer. It’s important to get people involved, sometimes people don’t know how to volunteer or where to start and I am there to help them.

I like to talk about things that are meaningful. I feel like I have a responsibility to bring light to topics that are important. I love sharing information on charities that I love and volunteer with, I also talk about things like social justice, our environment and other topics I am passionate about. It is important to use your platform for good and to help educate others. You never know who might read something you are talking about and want to encourage people to do the same and the idea could grow into something bigger than you have imagined.

I personally started two initiatives that I think are important. I am passionate about our planet and the environment and the other is about racism.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted by this cause?

We are all affected by both topics that I started campaigns for. That’s why they are both so important to me. I am here to start the conversation and help get others to talk about it too.

The first campaign I started is about the environment and leaving less of a plastic footprint. Plastic pollution is growing everyday. We consume so much as a population that it effects everyone and everything around us. It’s harming not only the environment but the animals we love and the air we breathe, to the water we drink. There are small things that everyone can do and we can all start off small and do what works in our lifestyle. We need to be responsible as a community for our actions to make sure that we have a planet for the next generations. For my #OneLoveOnePlanet this affects us all. We all share the planet and live here and as a community we are all responsible for it. We need to do our part to make a difference and make more responsible decisions. That’s by making mindful decisions on what we buy and consume.

My second campaign #RiseAboveRacism hit closer to home. As a Chinese-American, I was hearing terrifying stories of Asians of all ages being attacked for being Asian. My friends told me they were being called racial slurs and I had a few friends who had been physically attacked. A friend and I talked about it and I asked her if she wanted to create a hashtag on Instagram to get people to spread the word to rise up against racism. The campaign was successful and we had hundreds of people re-share, post and support us around the world.

Was there a tipping point that made you decide to focus on this particular area? Can you share a story about that?

For my initiative on single-use plastic there was no tipping point. Since I was in high school I have always had a passion for the environment. I started a recycling program at my boarding school. I always pick up trash and throw it out, I do beach cleanups, and try to encourage others do their part as well. Single-use plastic has been on the rise and it is really hurting the environment. I wanted to bring light to the subject and inspire others to eliminate in their households. It could start with bringing reusable bags to the market when you shop. Using a reusable water bottle, not using straws. Repurposing items and reusing them. There are so many ways to start and I just want to encourage people to be mindful with they buy things to help our planet. For everyone who participates in my campaigns, I plant a tree for them so that we are also giving back in a positive manner.

My more recent initiative is Rise Above Racism. This started because of all the violence that happened towards Asians all around the world. Being a Chinese-American, I had to speak up about this. I was hearing horrifying stories and reading them in the news. I had friends who had experienced attacks and I felt the need to talk about this. Racism has to stop. Many people experience it, it’s 2021 and this seems like a thing of the past but unfortunately, it is not. I would like to see an end to racism and I that starts at home by teaching your children.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Three things people can do is read & research about topics and don’t just get your information from Twitter or headlines. A lot of the time people are creating misleading titles so that you can click the article but many times people don’t read the article. Which leads to huge misinformation in our society. To talk intelligently about anything read and create your own opinions and don’t be scared to correct misinformation. Educate yourself.

Lead by example. If you are saying racist slurs about people at home then your children learn that. Teach them to be kind to people. No one should be discriminated for race, sex, or religion. No one should feel less about themselves for things that can not change. Teach your children to stand up for others, to be kind and compassionate. We all deserve the right to walk down the street without fear because of our race, that should never be an issue.

Use your voice. You may talk to a neighbor about single-use plastic or someone at the market and that may inspire them to eliminate it in their lives. They will talk to someone else about it and it goes on. You have the power to get others to be better. It only takes one person to make a difference.

What specific strategies have you been using to promote and advance this cause? Can you recommend any good tips for people who want to follow your lead and use their social platform for a social good?

If you have an idea that you want to implement online an easy way is to create a campaign getting others involved it could be by using a hashtag that others can share. Creating online videos, getting your friends & family to support you and post. I always make sure I ask my friends beforehand if they will post to make sure I have a certain amount joining right at the kick-off so that it will grow through their followings as well. When creating a hashtag make sure it isn’t one that is used by a bigger organization because you want to create a unique one.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Five things I wish someone would’ve told me before starting are:

1. Just start, there will never be a good time to start something. Don’t worry about things like how much it may cost if you do things you love it will come out in your work. Everyone has to take that first step and the rest you just figure out as you go.

2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I am someone who never asks for help. I probably would’ve gotten further faster if I had asked for advice and help from friends. Even if that is just running ideas with someone.

3. Don’t be afraid of no’s. You will get a lot of no’s when you start. Don’t let that stop you from trying. When you do get the yes, celebrate it no matter how small it is. Sometimes the smallest victories are the most meaningful.

4. Have a plan. Even if it is a loose one. When you meet your goals it will really help you feel accomplished. When I started I really just took it day by day and if I had a plan I probably would’ve done a few things differently.

5. Find a healthy work-life balance. If you don’t you can burn out pretty quickly. I am the type of person who will respond all night to emails. You need to know when to close your laptop. Set boundaries for yourself and you will find more joy in your work.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

There are so many things that I am passionate about. Taking care of our planet, being mindful of what we buy so that we can eliminate waste. That is also with everything from food, single-use plastic and recycling. I also would love to see people be kinder to one another. That could be with helping someone, standing up for people, and using your voice. If you have millions of followers or just one follower you have a platform. Acts of kindness will inspire others to pay it forward. Lead by example and others will do the same.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Never stop learning.

If you take the time to listen to people and hear their point of view of topics even if it something you know about you might understand it in a different way. I learn something from everyone that I meet. It’s such an important thing to do or else we don’t grow.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Michelle Obama because she seems so vibrant and motivating. I would love to work with her.

How can our readers further follow your work online ?

They can follow me on Instagram @coucoujolieblog

and my website is: coucoujolie.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Social Media Stars Making a Social Impact: Why & How Loreen Hwang Aims To Help Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Emiliano Villa of YR Media Is Helping To Change Our World

Don’t take edits personally! The first time I got edits, it felt like my work got ripped to shreds and I wasn’t good enough, but that’s never the case. There’s always going to be changes made to make it the best.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emiliano Villa.

Emiliano is a multimedia journalist born and raised in Oakland, California. In his time at YR Media, he’s covered the intersection of queer arts & culture and politics, with a focus on addressing inequality. His work has been featured on NPR, San Francisco Chronicle, and The New York Times.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Of course! Thank you for having me. I grew up in East Oakland, California. Ever since I can remember, I was consuming media voraciously and was very aware of it. I knew I could turn on the TV for news, radio music, and more. Naturally, I was captivated. Pop culture in particular always drew my eye as it was most accessible to me, be it MTV or tabloids.

You are currently part of an organization that aims to make a social impact (YR Media). Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

YR Media works to provide inner-city high school students with media education to prepare them for successful careers in journalism, music and video production, and more. Through YR Media’s programs, they give students real-life tools needed to find their passions and get a head start on their careers with real relevant work. Many of these students aren’t able to learn these things in school, so it’s the access and support that makes the difference.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about journalism and the YR Media cause?

As I mentioned, I’ve always been extremely passionate about the media world and always knew I wanted a part of it. I grew up watching TRL on MTV, which honestly isn’t too different from most kids, but I wasn’t too interested in the celebrity guests. I was more infatuated with the VJs! I wanted to be them! I loved the idea of standing in the studio, on-camera interviewing the celebs and getting to know all the news firsthand. Back then, I had no idea how one would even get that opportunity but I knew I wanted to and would do all I could to make it happen. I also loved reading and writing from an early age, and it didn’t take long for me to put the two together.

I joined YR Media when I was in high school, starting as a media education student and later becoming an intern. It came to me so easily and I finally felt my passion flowing out. I was excited and proud to spend my free time researching, interviewing and getting tape, putting together radio pieces. This is really when it was cemented that I wanted to pursue journalism further.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

It was really finding YR Media for me. But once I had the tools and the knowledge, I knew it was what I had been waiting for. One of my first pieces was sent to national radio, so the day someone I knew told me they heard my voice and recognized me made me realize the impact I could have. It was a lot of work at first, but I knew it was what I wanted and that it would be an uphill battle of learning by doing.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new project, organization, etc. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I knew my end goal, which was a successful career in journalism. I knew what I was starting with, which was my passions and interests in queer culture, politics, addressing inequality. These became my beats! Perfecting my voice and style of writing through practice at YR Media definitely helped me find myself.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you became a part of YR Media?

I was able to report on my first red carpet! I covered the 2018 GLAAD Awards in San Francisco and got to meet some big inspirations like Michelle Visage and Ross Mathews of Rupaul’s Drag Race and Kim Petras. It was like the confirmation that everything I was doing was the right path for me, because there I was interviewing celebrities and TV personalities that I grew up watching. It really was one of the highlights of my career.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

I write a lot of pieces for radio, and part of that style is simplicity. You have to write things in a straightforward fashion that someone driving a car or out on a walk could digest quickly. Some of my earlier pieces were a bit wordy, painting out scenes pretty dramatically. I’ve learned to shy away from theatrics and try to stick to the point!

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I did! The YR Media staff is incredible. They serve as mentors in a way that feels very mutual. They aren’t teachers or professors, moreso just professionals who meet interns and students at their level, working alongside them and helping them learn by doing. My mentor Shawn helped me find my style by never shooting down my ideas but helping me tailor them to make them better. Sometimes dismissive attitudes can lead people to want to give up, but that was never the case.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I can’t think of just a single individual, as there’s so many YR Media alums who go onto greatness. Pendarvis Harshaw, host of KQED’s Rightnowish podcast is an amazing storyteller, Iamsu! Is a rapper who came up through YR’s Arts department, as well as Sayre Quevedo who’s an amazing journalist who’s worked with VICE, Latino USA and more. YR alums are really out here killing it!

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Inner-city high schools need the same funding as suburban and private high schools. Kids who are already predisposed to do well, be able to afford college or internships, and not have to work go to schools with media academies, new auditoriums, and more. Inner-city kids are rarely afforded any of these. This intentional defunding of education harms these students by taking away their right to opportunities and makes it so much harder for them to pursue college or trades. Schools need to provide all students with access to training programs, technology, and higher education.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t take edits personally! The first time I got edits, it felt like my work got ripped to shreds and I wasn’t good enough, but that’s never the case. There’s always going to be changes made to make it the best.
  2. Let it all out. The worst thing a writer can do is hold in their ideas and try to sort them out in their brain. Pour them out and sort through later.
  3. Jump on a story idea. News is like a firehose these days, so if an idea hits you have to strike while it’s hot.
  4. Listen intently while interviewing, hold onto the best bits. Adapt your questions to the answers you’re getting to go deeper and get as much information as you can.
  5. Network, don’t social climb. Networking is a scary idea to some because it can easily be perceived as transactional and fake, and if you’re only looking at people as steps to your goals it will be. Meet new people sincerely, introduce them to your work, and opportunities will come your way.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Doing good for the world will bring good to you. Selfish, individualist thinking may seem like it will get you far but it only leads to conflicts and creates enemies. Being kind and helping others will get you much farther. People will like you and never have anything bad to say about you if you genuinely treat people well and how you would like to be treated. Bring a positive attitude and you’ll go far.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

To be honest, probably Britney Spears. She’s a huge inspiration and completely underestimated for her own role in her rise to global power. She was the most famous woman in the world at one point, so her energy had to resonate with those millions of people. I’d love to know about the ins-and-outs of her career and her views on the music industry today that is following the blueprint of her career. She was seen as having a fall from grace but really she was just human, reacting to the enormous pressures placed on her while under a microscope. Plus, I’d love to just sit back and laugh with her!

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m on Twitter @EmilianoOAK.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

Thank you for having me!


Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Emiliano Villa of YR Media Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Phyllis Zimbler Miller of Miller Mosaic Is Helping To…

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Phyllis Zimbler Miller Is Helping To Change Our World

Although my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT — an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist — deals with overcoming religious, racial, class and geographic prejudice, my current social impact project is a play rather than a book — THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE — to combat anti-Semitism and hate while encouraging critical thinking in young people.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Phyllis Zimbler Miller, a screenwriter, playwright and published author in Los Angeles whose free nonfiction theater project www.ThinEdgeOfTheWedge.com has been developed to combat anti-Semitism and hate while encouraging critical thinking. She is also the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in Elgin, Illinois, the oldest of four children. Because I was the only Jewish child in my school classes I was mostly protected from the anti-Semitism from which many years later I learned my parents had protected my siblings and me.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

I took my A.A Milne books to college (Michigan State University) with me — THE WORLD OF POOH and THE WORLD OF CHRISTOPHER ROBIN — and I still recite some of the poems.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

During high school, I purposely missed the deadline for applying to attend a summer pre-college program. I should have applied, seen if I got accepted, and then decided whether I wanted to go. I have tried not to make this mistake again.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

Although my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT — an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award semifinalist — deals with overcoming religious, racial, class and geographic prejudice, my current social impact project is a play rather than a book — THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE — to combat anti-Semitism and hate while encouraging critical thinking in young people.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

When my husband and I were stationed with the U.S. Army in Munich from September 1970 to May 1972 we several times visited the nearby Dachau concentration camp. I will never forget the moment I looked over at the gate leading from the main camp to the crematoriums and saw three silhouetted Romani — a man on either side of a woman. I remember thinking that they were also at Dachau to honor those murdered by the Nazis.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

A couple of years ago I told a fellow writer how upset I was that the compelling firsthand testimonies of Holocaust saviors and survivors I had published as an editor at a Philadelphia Jewish newspaper would be lost because the accounts were published before the internet. She said, “Write a play.” I did, and rewrote it, and rewrote it. Then the project grew to being much more than just the play.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I met via a Zoom sci fi discussion a 10th grade history teacher in Heidelberg, Germany. He was so impressed with the THIN EDGE OF THE WEDGE project that he is paying to have the play professionally translated into German.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Education, education, education. Educating young people on: 1) how the Nazis’ systematic implementation of virulent propaganda turned an entire nation into murderers and silent bystanders; 2) the importance of critical thinking and “speaking up.”

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Being a leader is the willingness to speak up when something is wrong as two non-Jewish high school seniors did about a reprehensible school assignment in 2017 in Oswego, New York.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Have a growth mindset as described in Carol S. Dweck’s book MINDSET: THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY OF SUCCESS.
  2. As a writer getting feedback, don’t try to immediately explain why you are right; take the note and later consider what was really being said.
  3. Go to the top if possible when pitching a new idea as I learned from a “brown bag” lunch while getting my M.B.A. at The Wharton School.
  4. Try to remember information from as many different fields as you can even if the fields aren’t of immediate interest; you never know when a piece of information can clinch a deal. (Learned at the same “brown bag” Wharton lunch.)
  5. When you are about to disagree with a company senior at a meeting, first acknowledge what the senior said before presenting your POV. In this way the senior is much more likely to “hear” what you have to say.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Everyone has an interesting story about himself or herself (if you ask the right questions). As a journalist and later a researcher, I learned that asking the right questions is imperative.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-

Nico Hofmann — CEO of UFA Fiction (www.ufa.de/die-ufa/team) — because his company produces numerous German television and film projects; many of my writing projects take place in Germany.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

The best place for this social impact project is at www.ThinEdgeOfTheWedge.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Phyllis Zimbler Miller of Miller Mosaic Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Kelechi ‘Kay Kay’ Uchendu Is Helping To Change Our World

A leader inspires people to reach their greatest potential by their actions and the decisions that they make every day. For example, I am…

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How April Preyar of ‘JustUs Junkie’ Is Helping To Change Our World

How to procure capital from large investors: Black women start businesses at a higher rate than any other demographic in the U.S. However…

Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Michael Coleman Is Helping To Change Our World

Everything around has the potential to be your next song, so look and listen constantly. When I first started, I primarily focused on writing songs that reflected my truth and my experience and it was not until I started paying attention to what was around me that I developed what has become my signature of channeling others’ emotions and writing about the human experience. You open yourself up to a whole other level of writing style by just observing what is already around you.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Michael Coleman, Artistic Director of See Your Shadow Songwriting.

Michael Coleman also known as “The Metropolitan Cowboy” runs the Phoenix based music creation entity, See Your Shadow Songwriting. Writing and producing all the organization’s work, Michael has breathed life into many different styles of music and his pedigree includes many things, among them three iTunes Number 1s on the country chart in South Africa, songs in film and television, as well as a top 20 single on the Christian Radio Charts. Michael is a renaissance artist, as not only is he a professional songwriter and producer, but he is also a filmmaker, photographer, author, and the only professional songwriter to be nominated for the position of Poet Laureate for the State of Ohio.

https://medium.com/media/bae40509cf0d634dab4a3cf7732548ee/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

You know they say that there is a correlation between life and art and how I grew up probably could be some of the themes in my work. Especially since our focus now is country and western. I am originally from San Diego and that is my hometown. My mom was a teenage mother and I never knew my father, other than knowing who he was. At times things were difficult and I grew up faster than I probably should have. I was able to find solace in the arts however and joined the band and orchestra. That really laid the foundation for me to be able to understand music theory and things like that. I was part of the original MTV generation and would spend hours watching and taping music videos as well as watching old movies and that gave me the foundation for my love of the visual arts. For all intents and purposes, I should be a statistic, but through good decision making and God’s grace I was able to avoid the pitfalls African-American men with my beginnings often find themselves in. While my story isn’t Brady Bunch, Leave it to Beaver or Cosby Show, all of it was necessary for me to be able to write the songs I write and tell the stories I tell with authenticity.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

What took me in this direction was something quite simple. I was managing a law firm in San Francisco when I had a milestone birthday. I will not tell you which one it was, but when that hit, I was at a point in my life where I thought to myself, I have too much talent that is going to waste and I need to be doing something with it. So, I was always a good poet and my love of music was always there as well, so it seemed natural that I would try my hand at writing songs on a level that was more than just fooling around, and I focused on country because it was the genre that always told a story.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

There have been many, but one that always makes me chuckle is the time I received death threats over my song and music video, “Rug Burn”. Now “Rug Burn” is a song I wrote put out by dance and disco duo Red Carpet Premiere. It is an LGBT themed dance track about oral sex. After we recorded the track, it was time to do the music video. For the music video I decided that we would do a tribute to trash filmmaker John Waters. Most people know John Waters for Hairspray, but it was his early work that he did with Divine that was so over the top and I love, and we decided to take the zaniness of his early work and put it on steroids. I mean we did some over the top stuff and it was the most fun I have ever had on a video shoot. So, the video comes out. One of the actors in the video gets so enraged they threaten to beat me up and kill me, one person gets so offended because the end-product was not something he could present to his grandma, and our singer refused ever to perform the song. Keep in mind they knew exactly what they were doing the entire time from the project’s conception to the end of the project. In any event we release the song and the video, and it shoots straight to the number 1 spot on the CD Baby Dance and Disco Chart and is played at LGBT dance clubs around the nation. The lesson that was learned was an important one and it was this, and I tell this to all artists, never apologize for the work you create. If you are inspired to take a certain direction on a project go with your vision and let the chips fall where they may, but always hold true to yourself as an artist. Incidentally, the premise I came up with for the music video, I turned into a live action game show that was being filmed here in Phoenix prior to COVID.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Always be professional and always do what you say you are going to do. What I mean by that is, show up on time, show up ready, and show up. Plus, your character counts, doing what you say you are going to do and being a person of your word is paramount to any success.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

Years ago, I wrote a song called “One Life” and the opening line of verse two is, “Erase the words, I can’t from your mind”. I simply fell in love with that line, so much so that I adopted it as the See Your Shadow trademark and I really do apply that to every aspect of my life. I do not let the words “I can’t” stand in my way instead I ask myself, “how can I” and then put in the work to make it happen. The funny thing is I had always lived my life that way, but never thought about it in those terms until that line was written, which is probably why that line resonated with me so much.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There is a myriad of folks who I am grateful to, but some not in the ways you may think. First there is my grandmother. When I was young, I landed a really great job with the government making a salary that was unprecedented for someone my age at the time and she would always say for me to be satisfied with what I got, but I knew I was destined for more, so if I had not been defiant, I probably would still have that job and not have taken the path that has brought me here. Additionally, and I always say this and am proud to say it, I would be nothing without everyone who is a part of the See Your Shadow Network of Stars. All the vocalists that sing the records and all the musicians I have worked with over the years that play on the recordings. I owe everything to them. Although I am at the top of the See Your Shadow pyramid as the one who writes all the work and produces the vision, they truly are the support that holds me up.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

Well, our latest single is the female empowerment anthem, “I Know My Worth” in anticipation of International Women’s Day. I have always been a huge advocate of women’s empowerment and just fostering confidence and self-esteem in people in general, but it seems that women and young girls have a more difficult time with this. I have observed the women in my own family struggle with this issue. The message of the piece is so powerful, and while it was a difficult piece to write, I feel it is one of the better pieces in the See Your Shadow catalog, both in the writing and the production. We did a lot of things that were never done before as the record is the first hick hop record done by a person of color and the first time a danceable record has used the banjo as its lead instrument. Then we decided to do an inspirational video just celebrating womanhood with a diverse look.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

Well, the “I Know My Worth” project is a fundraiser for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network which helps survivors of sexual assault. When we put the record together, I knew I wanted it to be used to help raise money for a women’s centered charity. I lost my mom in 2019 and while I was taking care of her, she shared with me that she was a multiple occasion sexual assault survivor. Now I knew of some of the stories throughout the family, but I had no idea of the extent. I was conceived through one of those sexual assaults and it was not until my mom and I started talking about this that it really gave me insight into her and the dynamics of our relationship. My mom never sought help and carried the trauma with her, and while she was a successful woman in her chosen career, the trauma had a huge impact on how she lived, and I do not want other women to suffer the way she did. I felt it was important for me to speak up as well because it is important for us as the children of the survivors to gain a better understanding and insight as to why our parents may not be what we expected them to be.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

Well, I think that a lot of times passions and dreams do not manifest as a lot of times people do not know what they are passionate about. If you were just to ask the simple question to someone in a conversation, “What are you passionate about?” 8 times out of 10 you will not get an answer. I have done that as an experiment before, so I know it to be true. For the “I Know My Worth” campaign it actually did not t hit me until the recording was in the can that I was going to do the tie-in with the Rape Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). Once the recording was done, I knew the project and the message of the project was bigger than myself and that it was the vehicle I was looking for to not only foster my passion for female empowerment, but also to do a tribute to my mother.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

When you use your art as your vehicle, sometimes, you do not know how the art you create makes a difference in a person’s life. There was a woman who commented on our YouTube Channel that displays the video about how she just had a baby and was feeling down about herself until she heard our song, and it was just what she needed. It is those types of victories that really let me know that we were spot on in the creation of the work.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

I think we need to continue having an open dialogue about sexual assault and the impact it has. I mean it got some attention with the METOO movement, but we need to go a step further and talk about the impact it has on the children of those who survived it. Especially how it impacts the male children. It is a tough conversation to have, which is probably why we do not talk about it as much as we should. You would be surprised by how many families are impacted. I have been a long time advocate that therapy should be free. A lot of times those that need therapy to get them through an issue do not get it because they cannot afford it. If the government did offer free therapy, I think so many people could be helped and the stigma of going to therapy would be erased as it would be more commonplace.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. The word NO does not mean you have no talent.

In show business probably more than any other business we hear the word NO so often and when you are just starting out all that rejection can play with your confidence and make you think that you do not have what it takes.

2. Rely on strangers and not your friends.

Most times strangers treat us better than those that are closest to us. I remember in those early days my circle of friends gave me no support and really could not grasp what I was trying to do. I think it is important early on for people seek out those that have the same passion and keep them close by. Doing that will lessen conflicts with your current circle of friends and reduce the harsh feelings you may have towards them when you do not get the support you thought you should.

3. It takes both sides of your brain to do a project.

In those early days I concentrated so much on the creative aspect of what I was doing that I was sometimes lax on the business aspect of what I was doing. It is easy to get caught up and so excited about a project that you forget there are more elements than just the creation of the work and you need to focus on both simultaneously.

4. Everything around has the potential to be your next song, so look and listen constantly.

When I first started, I primarily focused on writing songs that reflected my truth and my experience and it was not until I started paying attention to what was around me that I developed what has become my signature of channeling others’ emotions and writing about the human experience. You open yourself up to a whole other level of writing style by just observing what is already around you.

5. Success is born through sacrifice.

When you are first starting out there are a lot of sacrifices you must make, and one needs to be willing to make those sacrifices. It could be having to two or three jobs to pay for studio time, it could be not paying a bill to use that money for headshots, it could be breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend because the relationship is standing in your way, all of those tough times that you are guaranteed to go through and those tough decisions you will have to make will be the foundation for your success and make you appreciate it more because when success comes too easy, you are not grateful for it.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Boy I just think you helped me decide what See Your Shadow’s next release will be. I am a big supporter of diversity and inclusion and what we do not realize is that making our circle more diverse and building bridges with those that are different from us, starts with something so simple and that simple thing is an introduction, the word hello. That simple word is that catalyst to every dialogue and relationship and we have a song in our catalog titled, “It Starts with Hello” that speaks about the power of that word so if I could start a movement, it would probably go something like, “Diversity and Inclusion — It Starts with Hello”.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are so many. One person that I would love to sit down with and share a Popeye’s chicken sandwich with is Gayle King. I really did not know much about her until this pandemic hit, but since I have been staying home more and have been able to catch the CBS morning show, I love the way that not only her, but both of her colleagues on that show interject humanity in their reporting. What caught my attention was one time when she was reporting on a story about a police shooting and she cried, and it was that kind of raw realness that I just love, and I would welcome the opportunity to sit down with her.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.


Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Michael Coleman Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Emily Lauren Dick Is Helping To Change Our World

You can always change your mind! Nothing is set in stone. We are all capable of growing as people, which means that our beliefs and opinions can change. Never feel like you can’t believe in something or do something because you previously didn’t. There is nothing shameful in becoming a more informed and open human being. You are allowed to change!

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Emily Lauren Dick, a body image expert who is committed to making girls feel comfortable in their own skin. Her book, Body Positive: A Guide to Loving Your Body, is the number one resource for young adult women who desire to redefine and understand true beauty. Emily believes that educating young people about body image, teaching resiliency, and normalizing real bodies is critical in combating negative thinking and improving self-esteem.

https://medium.com/media/0200c0b0ca1356b549bb079a2edcb3ab/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I was born in Mississauga, Canada, to two hardworking and loving parents who taught me to be the passionate and empathetic woman I am today. My dad owned his own design business and later became a restauranteur. My mom took care of all of the company administration and also stayed at home with my brother and me full time in our early years. My family is all about entrepreneurship and philanthropy, so many of our dinner conversations are about how we can make a meaningful impact in our community as a business. After quitting my job nine years ago, it was a very natural transition for me to work for my parent’s restaurant group. I’ve unofficially been involved in local store marketing since I was young and enjoy the multi-faceted role I have today. Some days, I help with daily store operations, and other days I create artwork, write copy and develop ideas and events. I also eat A LOT of pizza! So much has changed because of COVID, so for the time being I am primarily focused on social media marketing. Working for my parents is sometimes difficult because I am overly invested and want to ensure I do an excellent job for their business. However, it’s also given me the flexibility to create my own hours to run a part-time photography studio and work on the body image projects I am passionate about.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

Two authors significantly impacted me, Dr. Jean Kilbourne and Jessica Weiner. Firstly, reading Dr. Kilbourne’s Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel opened my eyes to a whole new way of understanding the world. The pressure that the media puts on girls and women is done all in the name of consumerism. She taught me that challenging what we see is empowering, and when we can understand the way things work, we have an opportunity to create change. Jessica Weiner taught me that there are never enough opportunities for women to learn about positive body image. From her book, Life Doesn’t Start 5 Pounds from Now, to her role as a feminist brand consultant, she has committed her life to making a better place for women. Every time I thought about giving up on my idea to write Body Positive, I kept going because these women reminded me that our society still needs to change.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

There wasn’t a significant mistake that stands out, but it did take me nearly seven years to complete this project! There were times I lost motivation, took breaks (like when I had two children), or when I felt like I wasn’t getting enough participants for the amount of diversity I had dreamed of including. I photographed more women in 2018 than I had in the five years leading up until then! I was finally speaking to the right people, surrounding myself with friends who were excited to help, and I felt more confident in what I was doing. I’m not sure the book would be what it is today if it hadn’t taken me as long as it did, though, so I don’t think I would change anything.

In 2017, I opened a photography studio, and it helped to have a legitimate space to invite participants to. I used to book women to photograph individually, and that took a lot of time and resources, so I began holding these long shoot days and would even overlap some of the bookings. I sometimes would book 15–20 women, and often many of them would no show. It’s very intimidating to be photographed in your underwear, so I understood why some women changed their minds about participating. I expected the best but started to learn to prepare for the worst!

My friend, Jessica Camboia, who assisted and did makeup for some of the participants, also helped me stay on track. It was nice to feel like I had a partner in this, and having someone so invested in this project was a game-changer for me.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

I want to create a world of happy daughters! I am sick of women hating themselves, hating their bodies because they’ve learned that their value is tied to their appearance. If we start young, we can provide girls with the tools needed to be resilient against social body ideals. I believe that education is key to making this happen! We learn from the media, our families, schools, and other social institutions that we have to strive for perfection. It’s so embedded in our upbringing that very rarely anyone ever stops to ask WHY. Why are girls killing themselves to fit into a standard that is impossible to meet? When we learn the HOW, we become active participants in these situations. We can choose who and what we engage with; we can learn to challenge the status quo and maybe even feel inspired to help others do the same.

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

It’s hard to choose just one because there were so many amazing stories shared with me by the participants. I interviewed and photographed women who battled cancer, Paralympians, amputees, non-binary people, mothers, teens, and those battling anorexia and agoraphobia.

It was inspiring to photograph women who I could tell were physically battling internal turmoil, just being in front of the camera. I remember how anxious many of them seemed and despite their nervous shaking, they pushed through because they knew how important it was that others saw bodies that looked like theirs. Sadly, society has made it so that it’s considered bravery to show your real body. Every time that someone shows up as their authentic self, they show us that it’s okay to be ourselves.

The sessions that started full of nerves and fear but then transformed into pure confidence are the moments that stay with me the most. The times where I could literally see the moment they recognized their inner power and beauty were so meaningful to me.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I had two aha moments leading up to my idea to write the book. The first was in university, where I had the privilege of learning about sociological theories, like the male gaze. It was incredible to finally understand that there was actually a system behind how women learn about being objects (of male desire). It is upheld by diet culture, an industry that profits off of female insecurity. I wondered why this information had not been taught to me in elementary school or even high school and thought it would be eye-opening for young girls to learn about. Over the next couple of years, I continued to educate myself in body image research and funnily decided to write the book after watching Pitch Perfect, the movie!

While the movie was not a great example of diverse bodies, its cast of misfit persons inspired me to create a book that included multiple perspectives alongside sociological information that was easy to understand and could be taught to girls as young as pre-teens. I knew that there had to be a visual element to inspire self-love, and that’s when I decided to become a self-taught photographer. There was no one better than me to bring my vision to life!

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I queried many companies, networked, made credible contacts yet still struggled to find a publisher interested in my book. I was often told that I needed a bigger platform or that they loved my idea but couldn’t visualize what the book would look like. I decided that I might just as well self-publish the book and started working with Beth Marchant, a local graphic designer, on the layout. Eventually, I saw the layout as an excellent opportunity to show a potential publisher what my book could look like in print, so instead of self-publishing, I pitched Familius. I had been following their company for some time because they have some fantastic books so I decided to reach out. I did not send my manuscript to any other companies because I felt so invested with them already that I wanted to see the outcome of my query.

I had read something about Familius that said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that they don’t pick authors because they have massive platforms; they select books with meaningful content and great authors. Familius cares about making a difference for families, and all of their titles represent their mission. I personally spoke to Christopher Robbins, the founder and President of the company, to talk about my book proposal. The fact that he took a chance on me is why I am where I am today with Body Positive: A Guide to Loving Your Body.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  1. We need stricter guidelines for advertisers regarding photo manipulation. Girls of all ages are bombarded by images of ideal beauty, most of which are modified, so that already thin models look slimmer, whiter, and more flawless. We also need more companies like Dove and Aerie stepping up so that advertising features a variety of representations of bodies in the media to combat negative body image.
  2. We need to add body image to the elementary school curriculum. There is no system in place currently to educate both girls and boys about the media and social ideals that enforce stereotypes that promote harmful standards for everyone. Toxic masculinity, violence against women, and negative body image are just a few of the reasons why we need to start educating children about these issues.
  3. We need to start challenging, as a society, what we accept as normal. Stop accepting the sexualization of young girls, teaching boys it’s okay to view us as objects and demand that the companies we support start marketing responsibly. There will be no change if we do not go after it ourselves.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

I used to think leadership was about being a charismatic extrovert. Now I know that true leadership is displayed when someone provides compassionate guidance and has the vision to show us the way, whether on a given path or one yet not defined.

My husband likes the quote, “a good leader is the last to speak,” and I think that’s a perfect explanation. A leader listens to what everyone is saying first, takes into consideration all of the moving parts, the emotions, the passions, and frustrations, and then makes a decision that provides the most benefit to everyone.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

YouTube link: https://youtu.be/UfGBNE2GH4Q

  1. You are never too under qualified to do something that matters.

Our society often gets stuck on titles and status, which, yes, in some cases they are essential (like having a trained surgeon perform a surgery). Still, often we have the ability to learn about things from a variety of sources. I’m a self-taught photographer, writer, and content creator. I wish I had the confidence in myself earlier on to know that I can make a difference regardless of how much formal education I have.

2. You are never too young or too old to be taken seriously!

I’ve often felt like I’m too young or that I’ve passed the stage in my life where I could do something. Some people go back to school in their 50’s, and there are also teenagers accomplishing great things. Never let where you think you should be in life fuel where you are going.

3. You can always change your mind!

Nothing is set in stone. We are all capable of growing as people, which means that our beliefs and opinions can change. Never feel like you can’t believe in something or do something because you previously didn’t. There is nothing shameful in becoming a more informed and open human being. You are allowed to change!

4. You don’t have to do it all

I am the type of person who wants to learn, understand and control every aspect of my work. I don’t think that will ever change, but what has changed is my willingness to ask for help when I need it or for the things that I don’t particularly enjoy. I am part entrepreneur, part creative, and have to balance my time wisely, which sometimes means sourcing out assistance for certain tasks.

5. Even if you work hard, there will always be people more successful than you. Don’t compare yourself to them!

I read somewhere once that if someone is doing the job you want, that means that they have paved the way for you to do what you are passionate about. No one is going to do something quite like you, and there is room for everyone! They might appear to be more successful than you, and they might be but what matters most is that you are doing something that fulfills you. Everything else is a waste of your energy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I recently wrote about my favorite Brené Brown quote, “Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are,” so I am going to share another. I used this quote by Iyanla Vanzant in my Body Positive book. She says that “Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” This ties in nicely with the above question because we truly disservice ourselves when we waste time comparing ourselves to others. This can be applied to any aspect of life, from body image to career success or even familial happiness. Often when we compare ourselves to others, we don’t have all the facts. Especially the age of social media dominance, where we all present a perfectly curated version of who and what we stand for. Each time we think about someone else’s life as better than our own, we teach ourselves that we aren’t good enough. We ARE good enough. You are all good enough! It’s never okay to think otherwise because we all have a unique path to follow, and that is what makes human life so incredible.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to sit down and eat with Dr. Jean Kilbourne! She is one of the first people to bring attention to how women are perceived in the media, and she continues to fight for this important cause. I was lucky enough to have connected with her over email, and I received her endorsement for my book. She said that it “will improve many lives and could save some as well.” I would love to have a lengthy discussion with her on the next steps for change!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on Instagram @realhappydaughter or my website www.happydaughter.com

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Emily Lauren Dick Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Tracy C Gold Is Helping To Change Our World

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Tracy C. Gold Is Helping To Change Our World

Don’t let rejections stop you. I have received HUNDREDS of rejections for my writing. There were many times I thought I should just give up. But I didn’t, and now I have two books coming out. I know they will be the first of many. The “Yesses” might be fewer than the “nos” but they matter more.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy C. Gold, author of two picture books coming out in 2021, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” which will be published by Familius in March, and “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” which will be published by Sourcebooks in August.

https://medium.com/media/fbd243e76dcec879510e1252e600486a/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Absolutely! I’ve loved writing ever since I was a kid. I was born and raised in suburban Baltimore, and now I live right inside the city line. I used to write books about talking fish and trees…and now I have a book coming out about a bat on Halloween, so I suppose I haven’t changed much.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

I adored “The Rainbow Fish” by Marcus Pfister. I hadn’t realized it before, but it must have influenced my own childhood writing about talking fish! Now, I love reading that book to my daughter, who’s almost three. The message about finding happiness through sharing your most prized possessions instead of hoarding them has always stuck with me. Of course, my parents and community played a huge role in shaping my attitude toward giving as well, but I’m sure reading that book over and over again helped the message sink in.

We definitely lived that message in my family. My brother and I heard about a factory closing in a town where we vacationed and asked if we could give all the money in our piggy banks to the people losing their jobs. My parents helped us send it along. The workers mailed us a giant thank you card that they had all signed. I’m sure mailing the card cost more than whatever change we sent, but I think the important thing was that two little kids cared. From that experience, I learned that doing whatever I could, even if was just a little, mattered.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

Oh goodness! I am a people pleaser and a perfectionist so even really small mistakes seem like huge deals to me. I think one of biggest mistakes I ever made was back when I worked in marketing. I accidentally spent tens of thousands of advertising dollars on the wrong client’s credit card. I was lucky I didn’t lose my job, but in 2011, Facebook ads were new and no one at the marketing agency where I worked knew how to run them. It was an honest mistake from a 23-year-old learning as she went. Honestly my blood pressure rises as I think about it even all these years later. One lesson there is that if you are learning new things you are going to make mistakes, and sometimes all you can do is beg for forgiveness.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

With two different books coming out in 2021, I have two slightly different goals.

My first book, “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby,” is targeted toward kids from 0 to 3 years old. When I was a new mom, a nurse from a nonprofit called Family Connects Maryland came to visit my house for free to help me learn to care for my baby. I was struggling mightily and she literally wiped some of my tears away. She also brought some diapers, clothes, and baby books from ShareBaby, a nonprofit that helps secure baby goods for families in need. Ever since then, I’ve taken all our extra diapers to ShareBaby, and I’m excited to give them hundreds of copies of this board book as well. I am giving them a copy for every preorder receipt I receive at tcgpreorders@gmail.com before the book launches on March 2. I am hoping that this campaign results in not only free books going to babies in need but also raising awareness about ShareBaby. As I write this in early February, I am up to 105 donated copies, and I am hopeful that I will be donating several hundred — which also means that several hundred new people will know about ShareBaby.

On a broader level, I hope the book provides some solace to new parents who struggled as much as I did. I mean, my baby would really not sleep. Unless she was supposed to be eating, and then I couldn’t wake her up. Hopefully the book will bring smiles when we can safely have in-person baby showers again. I also hope sharing my stories about struggles with new motherhood in interviews like this will help other new parents who are struggling feel a little less alone.

For my second book, “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” I am continuing my mission of helping get books in the hands of kids in need. Because this book doesn’t come out until August, I don’t have all the details figured out yet. The book is about a bat searching for yummy bugs on Halloween, so for starters, I’m going to get a couple dozen books to give out at my house on Halloween. My neighborhood tends to draw families from all over Baltimore. I’m also hoping to give away “Halloween sets” to people who live in neighborhoods where kids might not have many books on the shelf — details pending!

The other layer of social impact I am hoping to make with “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat” is spreading the word about how important bats are to the ecosystem. They’re particularly vilified at the moment because the Covid-19 virus may have originated in bats. Trust me, you want bats around! Bats eat insects, including mosquitos!

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

Well, they’re very short books! “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” includes something very special to me — my dog passed away when I was editing the book, and the publisher asked the illustrator to make the dog in the book look like him. My favorite page of the book is the image of the dog and the baby in the tub!

For “Trick or Treat, Bugs to Eat,” the main story is about bats all flying out from a cave in a wave. This is directly inspired by the bats of Congress Bridge in Austin, Texas, where hundreds of thousands of bats fly out at sunset. If you’re ever in Austin at the right time of year, make sure to see this!

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

I wrote “Everyone’s Sleepy but the Baby” when I was really struggling as a mother. My daughter just would. Not. Sleep! I was questioning my identity, my intelligence, my sanity. I hope this sweet little story will help other new parents or caregivers feel less alone in the struggle. The “a ha” moment for giving back to ShareBaby was when that nurse came to my house with diapers and clothes. I was so grateful for her help and I wanted to help other moms, too.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

Well, I am case study number one: because of a community program designed to help new parents, my transition to new motherhood was a little less hard. Even though the book isn’t out yet, I’ve published several essays about the difficulties of being a new mom. Each time I share those struggles, other new moms reach out to me to tell me it is great to know they aren’t alone in struggling to breastfeed, get their baby to sleep, or whatever the issue is. There is definitely a taboo that if you don’t “love every minute” as a mom, you’re a “bad mom.” That’s not true. Motherhood is hard. Getting help and being honest about your struggles makes you a better mom.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Ahem, let me draw up my soapbox.

One: Give parents money to help with the cost of raising children. The week I am writing this, Mitt Romney suggested giving families with children under a certain income level a credit of either $350 or $250 a MONTH, depending on the age of the child. $350 dollars a month buys a LOT of diapers. It buys a lot of books. It can pay rent or childcare or put gas in the car so a parent can get to work more easily. In a country with as many rich people as the US, there is no reason why parents should be reusing dirty diapers or unable to provide books for their children.

Two: Subsidize childcare costs. Elizabeth Warren proposed subsidizing childcare costs over 7% of a family’s income. Childcare for infants in my area is extremely expensive — most of the local daycares are in the range of $16–22,000 a year for an infant under a year old. Many moms I know dropped out of the workforce because they wouldn’t be bringing home any money after childcare and taxes. A subsidy like this would make a huge impact for families in need. (Can you believe I’m including ideas from Mitt Romney and Elizabeth Warren in the same answer? Maybe we’re less divided than we thought!)

Three: Expand programs like Family Connects Maryland to provide home visits post-partum. I never knew it was an option to have a nurse visit my home after I gave birth until I found out about Family Connects at the hospital. With financial stress from buying lots of baby gear — not to mention health care costs from a C-section — I don’t think I would have paid for something like this on my own. I also would have felt shame and guilt for admitting that I needed help taking care of my baby, when the truth was I’d never even changed a diaper before having my own child (except for on a doll at baby class). At the time of the home visit, I was still in pain from my C-section and it would have been difficult for me to get my baby to a doctor’s office on my own. Additionally, home visits allow the nurse to check health and safety conditions in the home and keep an eye out for signs of domestic abuse. If we normalize free home visits from medical professionals after birth, our families will be much happier and healthier.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

“Leadership” is not only seeing a problem but doing something about it instead of waiting for someone else to act. There are many ways to do something and they don’t all look like traditional leadership. One of my neighbors recently organized a “toy swap” for our block, for example. We all brought over our extra toys and kid gear, and whatever we didn’t want to swap, she donated. It only took a few hours of her time to organize that, but she needed to be a leader to make it happen.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

5 things I wish someone told me when I first started writing are:

  1. Don’t put yourself in a box. I never thought I could write a picture book. I wrote novels for EIGHT years before switching to picture books, without getting any published. Now I’m publishing two picture books this year! Who knows what I could have done if I had started writing picture books earlier!
  2. Do good things for the universe and the universe will do good for you. I found out about one of my publishers because I volunteered for a writing group in my area. I met an author there who told me she loved her publisher. Now they’re publishing my book! I never would have known about that publisher if I hadn’t volunteered. And I’m giving many copies of those books to babies in need. Keep the circle going.
  3. Don’t let rejections stop you. I have received HUNDREDS of rejections for my writing. There were many times I thought I should just give up. But I didn’t, and now I have two books coming out. I know they will be the first of many. The “Yesses” might be fewer than the “nos” but they matter more.
  4. Sleep more! Yep. I am a night owl and a perfectionist. I have given myself so much stress! Everything doesn’t have to be done ASAP. I recently stayed up until midnight learning about advertising on Pinterest, and then I felt awful the next day. Could I have gone to bed earlier? YES!
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You don’t have to do everything by yourself, either! I am fiercely individualistic! However, I have learned that if you ask for help, you will get it. Just this week I wrote to two amazing authors to ask them for help promoting my books and they BOTH AGREED! You don’t know what can happen unless you ask.

Here is a link to a video of me chatting about these 5 things: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZ-lV5tGPAI

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Perfect is the enemy of good.” This goes along with my message to sleep, ha. If you spend too much time trying to get any one thing perfect, you will run out time to get other important things done at all. That’s something I have to tell myself all the time, especially when I think about whether a book is ready to send to an agent or publisher, or even crafting a message to reach out to a non-profit I am interested in partnering with. If I tried to make everything perfect, I would never send it out.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Ooh, I got to host a panel that included author Linda Sue Park and I would love to have lunch with her (I am not a morning person but would do breakfast if it meant I got to know her more!). She’s an award-winning author for kids whose books have a huge social impact. Her book for middle school kids, “A Long Walk to Water,” is novel based on a true story about the Lost Boys of Sudan and is a heart-wrenching way to introduce the concept of refugees to kids. I’ve read the companion book, “Nya’s Long Walk,” to my toddler, which has helped me teach her about the challenges of getting clean water in South Sudan. Not only does that increase her empathy for people all over the world, but I hope it will help her learn to conserve water where we live, too, and see it as the precious resource it is.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can find out more about me at tracycgold.com, by following me on Twitter and Instagram at @tracycgold, or by liking my Facebook page. I do lots of book giveaways via my newsletter!

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About The Interviewer: Growing up in Canada, Edward Sylvan was an unlikely candidate to make a mark on the high-powered film industry based in Hollywood. But as CEO of Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc, (SEGI) Sylvan is among a select group of less than ten Black executives who have founded, own and control a publicly traded company. Now, deeply involved in the movie business, he is providing opportunities for people of color.

In 2020, he was appointed president of the Monaco International Film Festival, and was encouraged to take the festival in a new digital direction.

Raised in Toronto, he attended York University where he studied Economics and Political Science, then went to work in finance on Bay Street, (the city’s equivalent of Wall Street). After years of handling equities trading, film tax credits, options trading and mergers and acquisitions for the film, mining and technology industries, in 2008 he decided to reorient his career fully towards the entertainment business.

With the aim of helping Los Angeles filmmakers of color who were struggling to understand how to raise capital, Sylvan wanted to provide them with ways to finance their creative endeavors.

At Sycamore Entertainment he specializes in print and advertising financing, marketing, acquisition and worldwide distribution of quality feature-length motion pictures, and is concerned with acquiring, producing and promoting films about equality, diversity and other thought provoking subject matter which will also include nonviolent storytelling.

Also in 2020, Sylvan launched SEGI TV, a free OTT streaming network built on the pillars of equality, sustainability and community which is scheduled to reach 100 million U.S household televisions and 200 million mobile devices across Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TV and others.

As Executive Producer he currently has several projects in production including The Trials of Eroy Brown, a story about the prison system and how it operated in Texas, based on the best-selling book, as well as a documentary called The Making of Roll Bounce, about the 2005 coming of age film which starred rapper Bow Wow and portrays roller skating culture in 1970’s Chicago.

He sits on the Board of Directors of Uplay Canada, (United Public Leadership Academy for Youth), which prepares youth to be citizen leaders and provides opportunities for Canadian high school basketball players to advance to Division 1 schools as well as the NBA.

A former competitive go kart racer with Checkered Flag Racing Ltd, he also enjoys traveling to exotic locales. Sylvan resides in Vancouver and has two adult daughters.

Sylvan has been featured in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and has been seen on Fox Business News, CBS and NBC. Sycamore Entertainment Group Inc is headquartered in Seattle, with offices in Los Angeles and Vancouver.


Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Tracy C Gold Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Robert Beaucage of Array Entertainment Is Helping To…

Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Robert Beaucage of Array Entertainment Is Helping To Change Our World

I’m a producer who’s raised money for films and other projects in the past, but a fundraiser for a friend with cancer is certainly a whole different kind of thing, with a learning curve of its own! That said, I’d say my producing experience is useful in the sense of having learned how to figure out how to make things happen in whatever way works.

As a part of our series about stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Robert Beaucage.

Robert Beaucage is an award-winning director and writer, and co-founder of Array Entertainment, a company dedicated to filling the demand for a greater number and variety of female-driven movies with the development, production, and delivery of high-quality movies with wide commercial appeal and strong female protagonists. He is also a co-founder of Symbolic Arts, an entertainment design and build studio specializing in creature and makeup FX, specialty costumes, and production design.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share with us the “backstory” that led you to this cause?

Breast cancer in the entertainment industry — and in the world in general — is more pervasive than people think. In the U.S., one in eight women develop invasive breast cancer. After my good friend Tonya Kay was diagnosed, I wanted to help her, and in the course of that journey, I learned things that I want to share to help other people with their own friends who have breast cancer.

What would you advise people who want to help their friends who have breast cancer?

Tonya’s health insurance is covering only a fraction of her medical costs, and so her financial burden weighing on top of her health burden is the primary thing I wanted to help her with. For people who want to organize a fundraiser to help their friends financially via gofundme or other campaign platforms, please feel free to check out the campaign for Tonya Kay for inspiration. I would give the advice to collaborate with a nonprofit organization, if possible, to funnel the funds through (in my case I was able to enlist the help of Kalopsia), which allows people’s donations to be tax-deductible.

On a deeper level, during the course of raising funds for Tonya I have been able to see a little of people’s interactions with her when they discover that she has breast cancer, and I’ve seen how the interactions affect her, so, based on that, I can offer some advice on how to interact with your friends with cancer. People who’ve given Tonya emotional support have been helpful to her in ways that can’t be measured. Simply telling her that they love her or that they’re rooting for her, or anything emotionally positive like that, does so much good for her. Additionally, helping to spread the word so that others will know what she’s going through and will also have the opportunity to offer her support is incredibly positive. That’s how I would advise people to interact with their friends who have any type of cancer. On the other hand, I’ve also seen people offer Tonya advice on what to do about her cancer, and I know that what they’re saying comes from a place of good intentions, but I would really advise against offering any kind of suggestions about how to treat cancer. There are many types of breast cancer and many types of people, so even if you are a breast cancer survivor there’s no way to know whether the advice you are giving would really help — and it could potentially be very dangerous. Tonya is already getting all the medical advice she needs or can handle from her doctors! So unless you’re their doctor, please don’t offer your friends with cancer medical advice, and instead please offer them all the love and emotional support you can.

Is there a person that made a profound impact on your life?

Tonya Kay is a person overflowing with love to such a great degree that I have rarely seen in anyone. Integrity, diligence, and creativity are virtues she has in abundance. It’s all rooted in love — love for her relationships, her work, her art, and for the world and the great potential of the people in it. The profound impact she’s had on my life has been cumulative, just through the way she lives every day. She genuinely listens, in every conversation. She is a generous, nurturing spirit. She wants the best for everyone around her, and she does whatever she can to help make that happen. She has played a lot of villains, but in real life she is one hundred percent Hero! I’ve known Tonya for twenty years, and over the course of that time she has helped me become a much more loving person by her example.

How are you using your experience to work on this cause?

I’m a producer who’s raised money for films and other projects in the past, but a fundraiser for a friend with cancer is certainly a whole different kind of thing, with a learning curve of its own! That said, I’d say my producing experience is useful in the sense of having learned how to figure out how to make things happen in whatever way works.

Are there things that individuals, society or the government can do to support this effort?

Individuals can support Tonya (and others with breast cancer) by spreading the word, and by reaching out with emotional support, and of course by offering donations if they are able to. (The fundraising page for Tonya is here.) As far as society as a whole goes, I’d love to see less of a stigma around cancer patients — don’t stop hiring them, don’t treat them like there’s something intrinsically different about them; statistically, really it’s only a matter of time before you or someone you love is afflicted with cancer. And certainly, the government could do a couple of concrete things to help. They could make information more publicly available about doctors providing clinical trials and/or alternative therapies for patients who are not good candidates for traditional approaches. The government could also fund cancer studies rather than those studies being almost exclusively funded by private entities. This is an issue much larger than just cancer. In America, federal funding for biomedical research has declined over the years, and, at the state level, universities and nonprofit research institutes have experienced funding cuts. This is a bigger issue than I can address here, of course, and, while we can be grateful that there are private companies funding medical studies, there should also be other sources contributing to such important research.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

So many women in entertainment have gone through this, I would love to offer my gratitude to them for their courage in helping to raise awareness, such as Shannen Doherty, Robin Roberts, Melissa Etheridge, Olivia Newton-John, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Kylie Minogue, Betsey Johnson, Suzanne Somers, Jaclyn Smith, Diahann Carroll, and so many more.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!


Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Robert Beaucage of Array Entertainment Is Helping To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Mike Werner, Caleb McGuire, & Trey Washington of NewBreath Are…

Mike Werner: Great leaders lead by example. They always do the right thing even if it’s not good for them. A leader doesn’t take shortcuts…

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Susan Koehler of Footprint Is Helping To Change Our World

The community can get involved by buying sustainable products and asking your favorite stores and restaurants to carry sustainable packages. Society at large can help make sustainability inclusive and mainstream for everyone. We must address environmental injustice from regional inequities from chemicals in their communities to food insecurities. Politicians can create legislation for materials change to eliminate single use plastics causing harm to the planet and human health.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Susan Koehler.

Susan Koehler is the Chief Marketing Officer at Footprint featured on X4Impact, the hub for social impact innovation. Footprint, a material science engineering company, exists to create a healthier planet with it’s plant-based solutions that replace single use plastics. X4Impact showcases their plant-based technology as a solution addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #12 and #14, Responsible Consumption and Production and Life Below Water.

Susan is inspired to change the world through innovative thinking and technology. Her past executive positions include global corporations such as Microsoft, where she spent a decade, and successful startups like Rover.com. She loves creating environments that foster learning opportunities for herself and others and has an award-winning track record of building trusted relationships with industry leaders in business, government and community.

Now based in Arizona, Susan serves as a Microsoft Alumni Ambassador. In the past, she has taken on roles with the Women’s Leadership Board of Harvard University, Taking IT Global and iSAFE.

Susan holds an MBA from Rutgers and a BA & BS from Syracuse University.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up in Lockport, NY, right outside of Buffalo. It was a small town of about 30,000 people. Public education was top-notch. The teachers had master’s degrees and it felt like a private school education. I loved everything about it. My parents both had their Master’s in Education and were teachers in nearby towns. We traveled on school breaks which definitely influenced my curiosity and gave me a global perspective. I was exposed early on to the magic of museums and art and was bit by the travel bug. After high school graduation, I attended Syracuse University because of their top ranked SI Newhouse School. Growing up the youngest of four kids was exciting, as they were wonderful role models. My oldest brother was an astronaut who piloted STS-67 on a mission that spent 18 days in space. My other brother was an Associate Vice Chancellor at UCSD, coordinating the light rail extension from downtown San Diego to campus, and my sister is a nutrition & fitness expert and active mom of 6.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

We exist to create a healthy planet. We have engineers creating plant-based solutions to eliminate single use plastic. Footprint was founded by two Intel engineers, best friends over the last 25 years, who saw the opportunity to address a problem. They noticed dust caused by plastic off-gassing during shipping of the chips. They got curious about the harmful chemicals and realized the same thing was happening in our food supply. I joined Footprint two years ago after being introduced to one the co-founders. I was hired on the spot and never looked back. I brought in several investors from my time at Microsoft and even personally invested in Footprint. Our innovative and disruptive technology is becoming an iconic master brand in sustainability because Millennials and Gen Z’s reward social purpose companies. We are scaling Footprint to meet our global customers orders, create lower carbon emissions, and thus create a healthier planet and people. I even moved a mile away from the corporate headquarters, because these next few years are a critical inflection point in sustainability.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

I think we all knew plastic wasn’t not good for the environment, and had heard we shouldn’t microwave our food in plastic. But the first week I was working with Footprint, a groundbreaking report came out from the Center for International Environmental Law titled Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet That’s when I realized that the plastics story wasn’t just about the environment, it’s also about human health. Up until that point, only scientists really knew about this phenomena. Once I was exposed to the detailed science and research, I dove in head first. I ensured that Footprint was invited to a first of its kind conference called UNWRAPPED, and then The Kloster’s Forum. Both included international scientific and health experts to increase global recognition of the known health risks of plastic and other single-use food packaging, while promoting a culture shift to safer reusable alternatives. The conference also highlighted NGOs doing important education, advocacy and legislative work. I wanted to come to the table and show that we had a real solution. From there, I built trusted relationships while creating an ecosystem to scale through partners. This grew to include scientists, celebrities, and anyone in between who could help create awareness of the problem and the fact that solutions do exist. After speaking at the 2019 Health Summit in Amsterdam, our company credibility grew and I created an advisory board for Footprint where we brought together renowned authors, PhDs and experts in the field. I also established the Footprint Foundation in January 2020, and we are building out our advisory board. We joined an industry standards coalition and will be launching and advocating for a scorecard to help purchasing decision makers at companies to compare solutions. Globally, only 10% of all plastic created has been recycled; in the US, it’s only 4.5%! Part of our responsibility was to educate leaders in consumer-packaged goods to recognize the tradeoffs between plastic and our innovative plant-based compostable solutions.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I have had many “Aha” moments. I grew up watching Jacque Cousteau and enjoying the ocean. Now, watching National Geographic’s Planet of Plastic, with photos of plastic killing turtles, whales, and birds, I’m encouraged by Millennials and Gen Z demanding change for a healthy planet. Recently, I read a scientific article about babies being born with 200 chemicals, because of their mothers’ exposure during pregnancy. One of our advisors, Dr. Leo Trasande, wrote a book, called Fatter, Sicker, Poorer which shows the endocrine system disorders which can be correlated. A recent “Aha” moment is in environmental justice. Just like racial injustice, power plants and oil fields have historically been placed near poor communities. These same disadvantaged families are also the ones that lack the finances to shop or eat organic foods with environmentally-friendly materials. We are working hard to mitigate these issues with our customers that span fast food, salad to go’s as well as top food companies. Our pricing is very close to parity with plastics, but so much better for the planet and people — including being biodegradable, compostable and recyclable.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

We started as a B2B company, so that’s been the primary focus; supporting our customers success in a move to plant-based materials is most important. But, I knew we would evolve to B2C, so I wanted to ensure we were building an iconic master brand along the way. I didn’t just want our packaging to become part of someone else’s product marketing. I wanted people to know that Footprint is the sustainability leader, innovative for this plant-based packaging and what our logo stood for. We invest in engineering to create revolutionary new ways to develop, design, formulate, manufacture and now print directly onto plant-based products. We provide our customers with the data showing their reductions in carbon emissions and energy by moving from plastic to Footprint. So, I focused on what we could control. We had a breakthrough when Footprint was named a sustainable partner in last year’s Super Bowl. After that, we won awards including Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company and Fortune’s Change the World. Our CEO and Jim Cramer had a great sustainability conversation on Mad Money. In each opportunity, we highlighted partners such as ConAgra’s Healthy Choice Power Bowls, McDonald’s, PepsiCo, Beyond Meat, and Sweetgreen, so that we could continue to build trust and show the value of partnering with Footprint. I operated with 3 core strategies pillars. 1) Customer success — Help our customers be successful with our plant-based solutions 2) Become a Trusted Brand — Provide expert knowledge, claims substantiation and positive PR for our customers. 3) Social Purpose — create a foundation, work with influencers (both scientific and celebrity) to join in advocacy campaigns.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Like most people and organizations, none of us could have predicted a global pandemic on our roadmap. But COVID has really brought people together for a common purpose. We all started to understand that airborne particles can make you sick. It’s the same with plastic. This pandemic actually brought attention to our issue area and the discussions are so powerful that people want to help. The world has changed. You won’t be successful if you only think of profit. The most successful companies care about ESG (environmental, social and governance) — that’s what being a responsible business leader is today.Stay tuned for ways to be involved and take positive actions.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

We wanted to take our brand to the next level and ensure we were living our mission, so we commissioned a 100% compostable display booth for last year’s Super Bowl Sustainability Village. What we didn’t anticipate was the torrential Miami rain that would come on the final day! The booth was virtually flush to the ground, so the bottom of our booth was soaked and started breaking down. The lesson I learned is to stick with showcasing your mission (this was an environmentally-sustainable booth) but have a backup plan. We had hired a local, diverse company to build it, so they were ready to go with replacement parts if needed. If the rain had collapsed the booth, it would have made the news and that could have been contrary to the goal. Lesson learned: Be prepared for everything!

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Working at Microsoft 1995–2005 helped me build my strategic thinking and leadership skills. I was a sponge observing and soaking in all the knowledge from iconic thought leaders of this century. Living in Europe as EMEA Chief of Staff, reporting to Jean-Philippe Courtois (now EVP of Executive Vice President and President, Global Sales, Marketing and Operations, Microsoft Corp.), allowed me to understand global issues both from a company perspective and also through the lens of the World Economic Forum. Three of my favorite learnings were: complex problem solving, addressing inequities through engineering and corporate social responsibility.

Also, I was fortunate growing up with loving parents, both educators, who loved learning. I learned anything was possible and to always pursue your passions and dreams. Helping others was a part of my influential youth whether it was volunteering with Meals on Wheels, March of Dimes or American Cancer Society drives.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The community can get involved by buying sustainable products and asking your favorite stores and restaurants to carry sustainable packages. Society at large can help make sustainability inclusive and mainstream for everyone. We must address environmental injustice from regional inequities from chemicals in their communities to food insecurities. Politicians can create legislation for materials change to eliminate single use plastics causing harm to the planet and human health.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

The proof is everywhere that being a more sustainable and environmentally conscious company will drive profits. In 2018, Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that firms with a better ESG record than their peers, produced higher three-year returns, were more likely to become high-quality stocks, were less likely to have large price declines, and were less likely to go bankrupt. Our customers, like Conagra, who switched to plant-based Footprint packaging on Health Choice Power Bowls, have seen significant increase in sales and customer expansion with millennials. According to Kanton, Brands with higher purpose have grown 2x those with no higher purpose. In the workforce, we know that employees are 3x more motivated to work for companies with a higher purpose. Our future workforce of Gen Z consumers overwhelmingly believe that brands should care about something bigger than profits and should make lives better according to WundermanThompson’s 2020 Gen Z survey. The time is now to make your company sustainable and environmentally conscious.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. Intellectual curiosity is the elixir of life.

2. To have the largest global impact, you have to tackle the largest problems.

3. Engineers are “superheroes” but they too need an ecosystem of other experts to beat Thanos

4. The future is visible through the eyes of youth.

5. Your loving family (and/or beloved dog/cat) gives you oxytocin when you need it!

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that plastic is not only harming our planet, but that science has proven plastic is harming their bodies.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I was young, I read the poem Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier and it continues to inspire me today. I live by this mantra and encourage others to do so as well.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I would love to have a meal with Greta Thunberg and Klaus Schwab. We could discuss climate change and solutions to eliminate single use plastics. If you haven’t seen the documentary I am Greta, it is a good start to understand the power of one person to change hearts and minds.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-koehler/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/planetfootprint/

https://twitter.com/planetfootprint


Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Susan Koehler of Footprint Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Tori Ford of Medical Herstory Is Helping To Change Our…

Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Tori Ford of Medical Herstory Is Helping To Change Our World

Don’t be afraid to do things yourself. Before starting my not-for-profit I had no idea I would have to learn so many new skills! Starting on such a limited budget, I decided to teach myself website design, illustration, grant writing, and filing legal documents. In the end, I gained so many amazing skills and was proud to do it myself.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tori Ford.

Tori Ford is the founder of Medical Herstory, a youth-led not-for-profit advancing gender health equity through patient advocacy, medical education, and undoing stigma. She holds an MPhil in Health, Medicine, and Society from the University of Cambridge and a BA in Gender, Sexuality, Feminist and Social Justice Studies from McGill University. She is an outspoken sexual health advocate who is passionate about empowering and educating others.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

Thank you so much for having me. I’m from Montreal, Canada and growing up I became really interested in sex education. My grandmother was a nurse and sex-educator so the topic was never taboo in my house. By the time I got to high school, I myself became a sex-educator at the very school where my grandmother used to work. Sex-education wasn’t required or standardized in Quebec at the time, so I had the opportunity to design and implement a curriculum that would be relevant to my peers. Then, I decided to study a BA in Gender, Sexuality, Feminist and Social Justice Studies from McGill University, which was soon followed by an MPhil in Health, Medicine, and Society from the University of Cambridge. Through these degrees, I started exploring the academic side of sexual health and further developed my passion.

You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

Too often, our health experiences are doused in sexism, shame, and stigma which presents complex and gendered barriers in healthcare and medicine that must be dismantled. Medical Herstory, an international youth-led organization composed of over 70 volunteers, is leading the way to advance gender equity by amplifying the voices and stories of those most affected by these biases — because everyone deserves to feel cared for and listened to in the healthcare system. We want our stories, and the people sharing them, to inspire others to know they are not alone and to feel brave enough to share their own stories. Our social innovation project is breaking down barriers everyday through our online publication, workshops, events, and social media campaigns.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

Medical Herstory started as an online publication in 2019, after I shared my own experience of living with chronic yeast infections in my school newspaper. I was frustrated and felt others would benefit from my story, and after sharing it I was met with so many other people who had similar experiences. A platform didn’t exist for these stories to be shared, so I created one. From there I started hosting events to tell stories out-loud and then it grew into the impactful organization that it is today.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

Seeing how people responded to my story, and how they connected with it was truly the “Aha Moment.” Just realizing how many people there were out there who may have their own stories to share, and thinking about all those who would benefit from hearing these stories was enough to justify my need to start this organization.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

To put it simply, I knew that I was the person to do this work. My intention wasn’t to found a non-profit, it was simply that I felt so much passion for the topic of gender health inequity that I needed to speak out. I knew I had the drive and once these stories were resonating with people, I began to expand this project to new heights. Since then, I’ve consulted a handful of youth wanting to found non-profits and given presentations on the topic. One of the main steps for me were assembling a team with diverse perspectives and experiences, because I’m only living my own story. I had to learn to not be afraid to DIY things, I taught myself skills such as web-design, illustration, and grant writing. As a founder, you’re going to need to know how everything works and have the curiosity to want to explore it. I knew how to lead and I knew how to mobilize volunteers to create change, from my years working at a sexual violence response center. I learned how to directly support people in empathetic and trauma-informed ways, which is really at the heart of all our work.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

When I first published my story of living with chronic yeast infections, I felt empowered to talk about this taboo topic, but afraid of how others would react. I was so surprised when my classmates and friends opened up about battling the same condition. We had all thought that we were alone! This experience showed me how important it is to discuss our bodies and our health because your story can help others more than you could know.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

When we were first recruiting submissions, I had the opportunity to meet with authors to hear their stories and help them develop their narrative. I remember meeting with the author of the story that was eventually published at “Ouchie” in a local coffee shop. It was only after an hour of talking about painful sex, numbing cream, and doctors who wear pearls that we realized the coffee shop had fully cleared out, and maybe we had been discussing vaginas a little too loudly. But I have no regrets.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

I worked with an amazing team at McGill’s Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support, and Education — so when I graduated, I took them with me! I invited Ashlee and Melissa to be editors for Medical Herstory because I knew we had different perspectives and our working styles complement each-other. From there, people who were passionate about our mission reached out to get involved. From there, we did formal recruitments and were lucky enough to generate a huge interest and hire extremely qualified individuals wanting to help us reach our goals.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I’m always inspired by other student activists and young people leading the charge. I think our generation is really inspirational in our tireless efforts to inspire change and speak out about the issues we care about. Our project would not be possible without all the brave individuals who have chosen to share their stories through Medical Herstory. Every time that an author thanks me for giving them a platform, or someone reads a story and tells me this is the first time they felt seen, it solidifies the importance of this cause.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

The problems we are addressing: sexism, shame, and stigma are big. Therefore, they require big solutions. We tackle this problem from three dimensions. First, medical education is so important. We directly target future and current healthcare professionals about gender bias in medicine, because it takes all of us to improve patient care. Second, we promote patient advocacy by empowering young people to stand up for themselves in healthcare through our workshops and events. Third, we aim to undo stigma through public engagement. Through education, advocacy, and empowerment Medical Herstory addresses the problem of gender health inequity, and when you support our work, you do too.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Don’t be afraid to do things yourself. Before starting my not-for-profit I had no idea I would have to learn so many new skills! Starting on such a limited budget, I decided to teach myself website design, illustration, grant writing, and filing legal documents. In the end, I gained so many amazing skills and was proud to do it myself.
  2. Remember that you are not your brand. Whenever you start something, it truly does become your baby and you feel very protective of it. One of the lessons I’m still learning is how to balance work and taking time off, especially when it feels like this work never ends!
  3. Things will go wrong! No matter how much you prepare and plan, it is inevitable that mistakes will happen and you have to learn how to go with the flow and improvise.
  4. Never underestimate youth! When we think about not-for-profits and businesses we always assume that’s off-limits for youth, but it’s not. Our organization is 100% youth-led and I’m so impressed with everything we have accomplished.
  5. Ask for help! Medical Herstory is just now starting to partner with large organizations and I wish we had done it sooner! There is a great community of feminist organizations out there.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

I would recommend to anyone to get involved with projects that speak to them. I would say it’s never too late to join. I only got involved with the majority of clubs I led in my last year of university!

I would especially encourage women to put themselves in leadership roles and not be afraid to try out things that might be difficult — those are often where we learn the most; you never know where these small beginnings might one day lead!

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

There are so many amazing youth activists I would love to learn from! We had the pleasure of hosting an event with Amika George of the Free Periods Movement last year who I would love to connect with more, and other youth activist like Maya Tutton and Gemma Tutton, and Tiara Sahar Ataii!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find us on all social medias (Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube) at @medicalherstory! You can also find all our information, take part in our events and workshops, and read our insightful stories on www.medicalherstory.com.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Young Social Impact Heroes: Why and How Tori Ford of Medical Herstory Is Helping To Change Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Jason Rosenthal Is Helping To Change Our World

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Young Change Makers: How Alexis Black of Redefining Normal Is Helping To Make A Difference In Our…

Young Change Makers: How Alexis Black of Redefining Normal Is Helping To Make A Difference In Our World

An Interview With Sonia Molodecky

Being relentless in my research for resources. The various platforms used to simply operate a business can be challenging yet rewarding. After countless hours of research and YouTube videos, I figured out the optimal platforms we need to run each of our businesses. Now that I’ve figured out which cost-effective and rewarding platforms to use, I share them far and wide to support other entrepreneurs. I would advise change-makers to find people and platforms to assist them with creating an impact. Though I could learn each skill needed for my business, I’d be insane to attempt to do it all myself.

As part of our series about young people who are making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexis Black, a proud foster care alumni, recent graduate, bestselling author, speaker as well as a serial entrepreneur. In 2016, she founded The Scholarship Expert business to assist students in graduating from college debt-free. With her husband, she founded Redefining Normal and the ROSE Empowerment group to encourage people to heal while breaking generational patterns.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us about how you grew up?

I’ve been in the foster care system since the age of 13 years old. My mother committed suicide when I was six and my father was sent to prison when I was 12. At 17 years old, I met my amazing foster parents where I was officially adopted at 26. Eight months later, I married my best friend, business partner, and fiance of four years during the pandemic this August.

In everything that I do, I try to use my shortcomings as an opportunity to learn and grow. I use my experiences in the foster care system as a tool and outlet to make a difference and teach others the steps of overcoming trauma and failure. In undergrad, I completed eight study abroad programs and co-developed two new study abroad programs while traveling to over 30 countries. This goes to show that no matter your experiences when provided the right resources, the sky’s the limit! Knowing this, I co-founded three companies that are social impact-oriented and intended to provide the necessary resources for individuals and communities to grow.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. It is a story of shame and redemption that reaches across racial and religious gaps. That no matter your environment, even in war, you can find joy.

I can see this reflected in my own life that no matter what I go through and what my environment looks like, I have the power to choose joy in any situation. This reminds me of the power of our mind and our words and how we can reframe our situations so that we can learn and be empowered from them.

You are currently leading an organization that is helping to make a positive social impact. Can you tell us a little about what you and your organization are trying to create in our world today?

Our purpose is about reshaping people’s image of themselves. There is so much unresolved trauma within families and communities that is passed down from generation to generation, Individuals begin to internalize and express those ideas in toxic ways. I would challenge each individual to reflect on the culture of their family and community and analyze if it has set them on the path of success or failure based upon the greater good of themselves and others. This is exactly what people will get from our book, Redefining Normal.

We’ve turned our Redefining Normal book into a business and have done presentations to numerous foster care agencies, schools, and others in leadership positions who regularly interact with trauma-induced youth. We are hoping that couples (dating, married, tangled) can read our book together to uncover the trauma they’ve experienced and how it still impacts them. Even if you’re single, this is an identity book! It challenges each individual to reflect on the family and community that shaped their identity, realizing the bad habits that they’ve been practicing. My husband and I write in alternating accounts where you can hear his perspective and experience as well as mine. Though we discuss parts of our relationship, we discuss our journey of overcoming trauma and abuse

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

Transitioning from an abusive relationship that I was in from the age of 13 to 22, I noticed that when my surroundings changed my mindset changed as well. Originally from Flint, Michigan, my identity was a reflection of my friend group as well as the environment I grew up in. My actions and behaviors did me no justice and I had to make a change. It was difficult to make that shift in mindset when I lived in the same environment. My peers would ridicule me if I dared to question their unhealthy habits. After my honest remarks were taken as bitter, I knew I needed a new circle of friends and supporters.

It was time to turn a new page for me to make needed adjustments in my life. My foster parents moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan and during my second year of college, I transferred to Western Michigan University where I was exposed to what felt like a whole new world of possibilities. Moving locations allowed my adoptive parents to have a greater influence on my life.

Whether toxic or healthy, numerous people have grown accustomed to their “normal”. This shapes their perspective of life and blinds them from other possibilities. I hope that authoring this book and producing the Redefining Normal business would allow others to challenge this reality.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

A friend of my adopted mother reached out to me regarding a company of mine. She noticed the work we had been doing as my mom described our mission and vision. Amazed by what we had accomplished with little resources, she asked to be our intern and I was shocked, to say the least! I informed her that we wouldn’t have the finance to pay her and she said that she was simply interested in learning from us. I was blown away again! After only working with us for about three to four months, she became our greatest asset. She organized our businesses, worked on projects and product development, and eventually helped us hire eight more interns. Without her, we definitely would be where we are today!

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I would select Malala Yousafzai without a doubt. Her fearless fight towards education for girls has been an inspiration for me since I heard her story. She has redefined what was normal for her and thousands of girls around the world. I hope to one day be a point of inspiration for others, especially current and former foster youth.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Making a difference would mean allowing others the opportunity to improve their life for themselves. My goal is to create avenues for individuals and communities to express their ideas and generate solutions to their issues. The reason this isn’t currently possible is due to the disconnect of basic life resources. Neighborhoods are suffering in despair without a vision. But how can you see beyond your circumstances when you’re barely making ends meet?

Many young people would not know what steps to take to start to create the change they want to see. But you did. What are some of the steps you took to get your project started? Can you share the top 5 things you need to know to become a changemaker? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. It is completely different to manage tasks and projects than it is to manage a team of people. It was just my husband and I since we started but now we have a team of nine and I am learning how to manage people with their own needs, wants, and motivations within the position. The methods of doing so are listening, asking, and being intentional.
  2. The importance of networking and building relationships. We would not be where we are today without the support of our community. I had no idea that so much of owning/operating a business comes down to our network. With Redefining Normal, we are leveraging the foster care community and our relationships with our university to push our mission forward.
  3. The importance of digital marketing and analysis. With three almost entirely online businesses, I didn’t realize just how much I didn’t know about marketing and data analytics before beginning. When I look at Google analytics, I would get overwhelmed and would not know what to do or how to move forward. Asking around and seeing how to utilize other’s abilities and learn from them. YouTube University also helps!
  4. Be willing and able to adjust and alter your method of executing. Studying others and how they approach particular situations will allow you to figure out your problem. A friend of mine reached out to me to learn how to operate a particular application and save money by switching to another. Ultimately, I saved her nearly $450 a month and taught her how to operate a far more effective program that cost far less than what she used before.
  5. Being relentless in my research for resources. The various platforms used to simply operate a business can be challenging yet rewarding. After countless hours of research and YouTube videos, I figured out the optimal platforms we need to run each of our businesses. Now that I’ve figured out which cost-effective and rewarding platforms to use, I share them far and wide to support other entrepreneurs. I would advise change-makers to find people and platforms to assist them with creating an impact. Though I could learn each skill needed for my business, I’d be insane to attempt to do it all myself.

What are the values that drive your work?

Integrity, vulnerability and intentionality drives me to do the work that I do. I’ve found a way to use my experiences, both personally and professionally as a resource for good. I feel that our downfalls, failures, setbacks, and disadvantages position us to create a true impact. Helping others overcome and understand their purpose drives me to continue working and inspiring others. I’ve seen people go through their entire life helpless and pessimistic about their future. I’m encouraged that a word that I have spoken or an achievement I have earned can inspire them to do the same and even greater. I just hope that I have the opportunity to teach them to do it and assist them in uncovering their purpose.

Many people struggle to find what their purpose is and how to stay true to what they believe in. What are some tools or daily practices that have helped you to stay grounded and centred in who you are, your purpose, and focused on achieving your vision?

Developing habits and routines contribute to daily progress and following purpose. Oftentimes, I’d write my visions on a wall for me to see. This helps with continuous encouragement! Overall, stabilizing my mental health and building the strength mentally to preserve grant me the opportunity to maintain my vision. Without the daily practices of rest and patience, I’m sure I would completely fall apart.

In my work, I aim to challenge us all right now to take back our human story and co-create a vision for a world that works for all. I believe youth should have agency over their own future. Can you please share your vision for a world you want to see? I’d love to have you describe what it looks like and feels like. As you know, the more we can imagine it, the better we can manifest it!

Given my lived experiences in the child welfare system, I desire for every man and woman to establish a healthy community that is conducive for children to properly develop. This entails parents being active and intentional about using words of affirmation, helping youth understand the value of failure and the importance of interdependence. I would hope for every family to be strategic in structuring the foundation of their household along with community members that are positive examples of leadership and understanding how to express their emotions in healthy ways.

I’d also envision a world where humans can understand the struggle of others. Not only do we live in a world where people are ignorant to the hardships of others but oftentimes are the very reason for their struggles. This may be nearly impossible, but I desire to live amongst humans willing to take the shirt off of their back to keep another person warm.

We are powerful co-creators and our minds and intentions create our reality. If you had limitless resources at your disposal, what specific steps would take to bring your vision to fruition?

If I had limitless resources at my disposal, I would be intentional about connecting impoverished youth and adults to individuals capable of providing them with the knowledge to bring about a new reality for their life. The information gap is one of the primary reasons why there is a disconnect between the wealthy and the impoverished. Only if those without the physical resources were provided the informational resources would their circumstances change?

I see a world driven by the power of love, not fear. Where human beings treat each other with humanity. Where compassion, kindness and generosity of spirit are characteristics we teach in schools and strive to embody in all we do. What changes would you like to see in the educational system? Can you explain or give an example?

I would prefer to see each education system adapt to the students and neighborhood in which they are located. This would allow students to be conscious and aware of the issue in their local community and learn how to solve the problems they face daily. Most students aren’t allowed access to the tools that can improve their circumstances until their junior or senior year of college, given that they’ve chosen the correct major. Basic resources such as business development, financial literacy, and how to process mental and emotional issues are needed in a multitude of neighborhoods, especially those suffering in poverty. The educational system is in desperate need of relevant, impactful, and creative methods of reaching students and having the material translatable to their everyday experiences.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

There are billions of people on this earth. To think that our actions won’t impact others is nonsense. Utilizing and collaborating with others will ultimately uplift both individuals and improve the quality of life for everyone. The reason why creating a positive impact is so important is because humans will only receive as much as they are willing to give.

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

As previously mentioned, Malala Yousafzai is my hero! Her pursuit of education created a pathway to prosper through violence and destruction. I used similar methods to overcome the suicide of my mother and the imprisonment of my father. Education granted me access and freedoms that others would only hope to have. It has served as my security blanket for my entire life. I love to sit with Malala to understand more of her vision and goals for her nation and how she plans to bring about change. I would love to implement similar strategies in local communities in the United States.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You all are more than welcome to visit re-definingnormal.com

Facebook: Redefiningnormalmemior

Instagram: Re.definingnormal

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

About the interviewer: Sonia is a Canadian-Ukrainian lawyer, entrepreneur and heart-centered warrior who’s spent more than 15 years working in human rights, international law, business, economic development, community empowerment and her own personal journey into herself. Sonia has spent the past 7 years living and working with indigenous nations around the world, as a facilitator, partner, shaman apprentice and friend, gaining a deep understanding of both ancient systems and modern ways, and our interconnection with all life. She is a certified kundalini yoga practitioner, avid adventurer and explorer of the natural world. Sonia speaks world-wide on topics related to meaningful collaboration, life economies, the power of partnerships and the benefits of informed, empowered and engaged communities. “It is time for us to take back our human story and co-create a new vision for a world that is in harmony with ourselves, each other, the Earth and all beings,” says Molodecky. Her book, A New Human Story: A Co-Creator’s Guide to Living our True Potential. launches December 2020. You can learn more about Sonia, her book and her podcast at www.soniamolodecky.com and follow her at https://www.instagram.com/soniamolodecky or https://www.facebook.com/sonia.molodecky


Young Change Makers: How Alexis Black of Redefining Normal Is Helping To Make A Difference In Our… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Dianne Scott Is Helping To Change Our World

Do the things you’re scared of. The bigger the discomfort and anxiety you have around a goal, the more important its potential is! You have gifts and messages stowed inside you that only you can deliver and fulfill. Someone somewhere out there is praying and wishing that someone like you would arrive into their life somehow. Don’t withhold your gifts because of fear. I’ll never forget a message I received from someone a few months ago. She told me that in a recent “story” I’d posted on Instagram, I’d said something that resonated so deeply with her that she was on the verge of tears. I remember being slow to post that story because it was personal and not dog-related. I’m so glad I did, and it was a reminder to keep talking and sharing — the good, the bad, and the ugly.
We need each other.

As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dianne Scott, an actress, author, stepmom, and pit bull advocate. Before becoming a pit bull owner in 2012, Dianne, like many others, had many negative misconceptions about pit bulls. In 2014, she became a stepmother, and was further shocked to realize how much being a stepmom had in common with the stereotypes and discriminations pit bulls endured. Presently, Dianne utilizes her acting career, her work in the community, her children’s book series, and social media platforms to make a social impact. She is determined to encourage others to question their misbeliefs about pit bulls as well as be a voice for the voiceless.

https://medium.com/media/50c64b2bc27b99a13a82686e36de1cb9/href

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Of course! I’m the daughter of a pastor and a teacher. I grew up in Northern California with two fabulous older siblings. At a very young age, I realized I wanted to be an actress, as I loved nothing more than to entertain and perform comedy skits for family and friends. I also loved to write and wrote dozens and dozens of original stories in high school, illustrating them myself. However, it was clear I should stick to writing! I chased my artistic passions through high school and college, moved all around Southern California, and in my twenties, I studied abroad in London. Eventually, after many years of wandering off the path I had set for myself when I was younger, and erroneously seeking out fulfillment from people and parties, I landed in Los Angeles, where I now live with my husband and stepchildren.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?

When I was in my early twenties, a friend told me that I needed to watch the documentary-style film, The Secret. I did, and I was absolutely intrigued, so I read the book as well. The Secret is all about the law of attraction and how to create the life that you desire, with your mindset and beliefs. However, the film and book leave out quite a bit of information when it comes to how to truly manifest and put these ideas to practice. Therefore, while I was thirsting for more about this mysterious concept, I got distracted by a wild and fun lifestyle in Hollywood. As a result, I put my search to create my desired life on the backburner for several years. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I came across more in-depth resources, courses, and experts that would significantly expand my knowledge and understanding on the art of manifesting, as The Secret had introduced to me nearly a decade before.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

When I first arrived in Hollywood, I was star-struck by most anyone and was desperate to “make it big.” I learned some very valuable lessons in those first few years. I trusted people I shouldn’t have, I read for roles I wasn’t comfortable with, and I allowed managers and agents to put me in a box. I can look back on my early journey and see how I ignored the red flags and signs of people abusing their power or lying to me. I don’t regret those mistakes because I indeed learned so much from them. Now, I know that it is far more important to be comfortable and safe, than to be polite or agreeable. I decide how my life and career go, what I participate in, and what boundaries are appropriate. Now that I’m older, it’s easy to set these boundaries and say no. Consequently, the right people, jobs, and experiences show up in my life quickly and seemingly effortlessly. I’ve learned that if offers or opportunities feel wrong inside my gut on any level, then they must be wrong for me. I no longer hesitate. I also understand that just because someone is in a position of power, it doesn’t mean they’re the only person who can or will help me. There is magic in setting firm boundaries. As humans, we are far more powerful than we know.

Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?

My five-part children’s book series are true tales about my family’s pets, all six of them, not including the two outdoor stray cats who adopted us! The stories are endless living with two pit-mixes and four cats. It’s a very full house and there’s never a dull moment. Each story aims to teach children to see the world through the eyes of animals, how and why to have compassion for them and to treat them with respect. Furthermore, the books aim to educate society about the wrongful discrimination of pit bulls and “pit-type” dogs. In 2012, my husband suggested we adopt a dog who had been abandoned by his owner and had been returned to a shelter. At the time, we had no pets. When I saw the photo of the dog, and saw he was a pit bull, I said, “But wait. Aren’t pit bulls dangerous? Can’t they snap at any time?” My husband, bless his heart, gently laughed and explained to me that this was a stereotype of a tiny percentage of pit bulls, often greatly enhanced by the news and media. Since I trust my husband wholeheartedly, we decided to adopt our Hurley. I fell head over heels for this sweet dog who was 80 lbs. and believed he belonged on our laps. He was diagnosed with lymphoma a few years later and died when he was only four years old. My heart was shattered. Hurley is the reason I began writing my series. I knew I was one of millions of people who had believed what they heard someplace, sometime, that all pit bulls are BAD and can’t be trusted. Studies show that only about one in six hundred pit-type dogs will find a forever home, due to misinformation and a lack of understanding of these types of dogs.

To honor Hurley, I needed to share the truth. What started as a playful children’s book series evolved into a large Instagram following, a web-series, and a clothing line. I now have a giant platform to help spread my message, and have connected with multiple other pit bull advocates, which I am so grateful for!

Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?

My most recent book, Pugsley Goes to School, is the story of one of our current pit-mixes. Pugsley started to change as he went through puberty, and when he was about a year old, we realized he was not a fan of other dogs (besides our other current dog, Wednesday, who he’d grown up with). At that time (2017), I knew the basics about dog training, but nothing about dog psychology, or what to do when your dog didn’t like other dogs. For a long time, I stopped taking him on walks. I became fearful that he would scare our neighbors, or he would lunge at another dog and we would be furthering the “pit bull” stereotype even more. The most puzzling part was, he loved humans and still does. He also loved his dog sibling and his CAT siblings! After a while of staying in hiding, my best friend forced me to take Pugsley to group dog training class. I showed up, sweating, anxious, and in tears. The first class was rough. The second class was okay. By the third class, our trainer commended both Pugsley and me for massive improvement. I was so proud of us both. Pugsley had simply been behaving the way that came naturally to him! How would he know better, unless taught? Finally, I was able to take Pugsley on the walks he deserved. I didn’t leave the house in panic anymore. I had learned how to lead and correct him, and he was learning how to trust me and let me lead. Also, I discovered how common this issue is! I have learned that many dogs don’t like other dogs, have “leash aggression,” “food aggression, etc. Most people don’t know these facts because dog owners don’t talk about it, mainly out of shame or concern for judgement.

I wrote this book to help both children and adults see a “bad” dog differently, written from the perspective of Pugsley himself, and to encourage them to do the right thing by each dog. I hope my readers learn to not take the easy way out if they encounter challenges with their dog and that they become their pet’s leader. This is especially important for dogs who are already judged by the way they look.

What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?

When my husband and I first adopted Hurley, I quickly saw that this dog was as sweet and loving as could be. At that turning point, something shifted greatly in my mind. I could hardly believe how wrong I’d been, and it wasn’t even something that I’d consciously thought about. It was simply in my subconscious. I couldn’t say where or from whom I’d heard these horrible things about pit bulls. If some of the news and headlines were able to wire my brain without me realizing it, what else was I believing, that wasn’t true? That got me thinking about stepmothers and the negative correlation most of us have programmed in our minds as well. I asked myself, “But why? Because of Cinderella or Snow White?” Being a stepmother, I’ve personally experienced prejudice, condescending comments, and exclusion from others. Conversely, there are step moms out there who are dishonest and manipulative, and maybe even…evil? Much like the less honorable stepmothers, I have to admit that there are irresponsible pit bull owners who mistreat, neglect, or abuse their dogs. Therefore, their behaviors create a recipe for a dog attack or aggression. What it all comes down to is that people are flawed. This has everything to do with human imperfection, and very little to do with anything else!

I relate all too well to the plight of the “pittie” and will never stop fighting for the underdog.

Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

I recently shared a video about my dog, Pugsley. In the video, I encouraged others to never give up on a more “difficult” dog, and that there is much treasure to be found in something or someone who is easily dismissed for being too hard to handle. I’m very open with my audience about Pugsley’s journey, and my fans know the struggles we overcame, and still do this day. My DM’s were flooded with lengthy messages from people thanking me for making the post. They told me this message was what they needed to see that day, the encouragement they needed, to not give up on their own dog. One person told me they were planning on taking their dog back to the shelter, and that my