Campus Tours & Cultural Racism: 50 Years Later #truthfultuesday


I’m just realizing that I was born in June of the year MLK was assassinated – 50 years ago this year. For my parent’s generation, this assassination was on the level of the Challenger Explosion or 9/11. We all remember where we were on the day when…

I remember my mom telling me that she was taking a tour of the campus at Purdue in Lafayette when the news unfolded about the assassination. I realize now that she told me this story several times over the years – it’s etched in my memory.

But I realize now she was talking about the assassination of President Kennedy – not MLK. My dad was going to Purdue for his PhD in Chemical Engineering in the early 60’s, which is why my sister was actually born in Lafayette, IN! So, mom was definitely talking about President Kennedy when she told me that story.

In fact, I don’t remember my parents ever talking about the assassination of MLK in any memorable way. And yet, they both were on the same level in terms of national and cultural significance.

That observation struck me this year for some reason. I think it’s the turning 50 thing 😉 It helped me see things I hadn’t noticed before about my cultural upbringing. It was a stark reminder that my cultural upbringing was pretty white. Most of my cultural references are therefore related to and biased towards white American history. A lot was left out in the history books, but also in the conversations we probably had around the dinner table, at Scouts or in Sunday School.

I imagine that was a difficult and confusing time for my parents – as it was indeed for a generation…indeed, much like it is today, for my generation. I know a little about the families in which my parents were raised. We had our share of colorful characters and family stories. Like it or not, they shape who we become and how we think about the world in which we live.

So let’s be truthful. We all live with prejudice and bias. I face it many times a day. Sometimes, I’m aware of it and catch myself. Most times, I’m either tired or unconsciously aware. So, the question isn’t “Do I have prejudice thoughts about another human being?” The question is, “Am I aware of my learned bias and prejudice? How do they affect my actions and decisions?”

Bias is learned. And it can be unlearned.

I’m confronted with this almost every time I interact with another person! My life experiences around gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc. affect how I think of others – which is very subjective based on my experience. The reality is my thoughts are likely not the complete – or accurate – story! If I’m not careful, it’s very easy for me to act on my preconceptions and assume things about others that are likely not true.

And we know what they say about assumptions…

I’m better off assuming that we more similar than we are different – then acting off that assumption and not my first reaction!  Not easy, but that’s what I’ve learned is important for me.

I wish I could talk with my mom more about that day when she heard the news. I think I always let her comment about being at Purdue be the end of the conversation. That’s probably because talking about topics like race makes me uncomfortable. Looking back, I regret not opening up that up for deeper discussion. There are a lot of days I’d like to ask her about…but never found the courage or time to do so. With her gone, that ship has sailed. Such is the circle of life.

My dad celebrates his 80th birthday this year. I’ll be with him on his birthday in Florida. I have lots of questions that I want to do a better job of asking now, before the experiences and memories are lost with a generation…

#truthfultuesday

‘When You’re Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression’

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Social Media Apps Are Asking The Wrong Question: Why “likes” are so dangerous in today’s times!


I’m realizing that I’ve been conditioned to think “Do I like this _______?” Fill in the blank – it starts with “post,” or “idea,” or “belief,” and in some cases, the person!  Whoa!

I think we’re asking ourselves the wrong question. “Likes” encourages us to see the world as black and white, right and wrong. “Likes” teaches us that agreeing or not agreeing is more important than listening. “Likes” wants us to judge first, instead of seeking to understand and be understood.

Life has taught me how dangerous this can be. And with the recognition of “social media bubbles,” it’s even more critical that we find ways to break out of our bubbles. Surrounding myself with ideas and people I “like” is one of the reasons we’re here as a society. President Trump isn’t the problem – he is the symptom. American society has become more and more divided over the years – and it’s that division that has helped lead to the “perfect storm” that got Trump elected. So, impeaching him or waiting until 2020 isn’t going to fix our underlying brokenness. He’s just a symptom or easy target – not the cause nor the solution.

In general, we’ve become too worried about self-preservation and taking sides that we’re shutting ourselves off from the very thing we are craving — connection, intimacy, community.

I can choose to be right, or I can choose to connect with others. I choose to connect.

How would our conversations change if, instead, we had the choice to mark “I hear you.” Or, as I learned from my friends Mike Mather and De’Amon Harges, what if the checkbox simply said “Sawubona” – I see you. (Google it 😉

All of a sudden my focus is no longer on do I agree with this person or not. It’s not about judging them as “good” or “bad” – “conservative” or “liberal.” My focus instead becomes, did I pay attention to what this person has to say – or was I figuring out first how to counter their point? Did I hear their story, and ask questions to help deepen my understanding – instead of finding ways to challenge or prove them “wrong.” Did the other person feel heard, value, and listened to? If so, then I should be able to check the box “Sawubona” – and in response, they can respond with their own check – “Sawubona.”

What a different place Facebook would be, don’t you think!?

This all came about because I was talking to a friend about the current state of our world today – but particularly about Charlottesville and North Korea and Washington DC. I had seen another mutual friend’s post, commenting on white privilege in the aftermath of Charlottesville. I wandered if my friend had seen the post – but really was curious to hear what he thought about it. In other words, was it “good” or “bad” – was my discomfort and ill-ease because the opinion expressed was “right” or was it because the person was “wrong?”

My friendly gently pointed out that I was asking the wrong question.

I don’t have to agree with you to listen to what you have to say. And these days, I think this approach would encourage more conversation, more community and more healing.

Please don’t “like” or “not like” this post ;). Just listen…to the next person you hear speaking up. Listen – and ask questions. See what happens…

And if you know anyone at Facebook or Twitter and want to help start a cultural revolution, let’s see if social media apps would remove the “like” buttons and replace them with “Sawubona.”

Embracing Option B: A Fresh Perspective on Loss, Adversity & Change


Something clicked for me last month. It was a combination of conversations, experiences and ultimately, coming across a book in the airport. It’s all given me a fresh perspective on how I’m living life today – and facing the future. That fresh perspective is bringing about greater confidence, hope and inspiration.

A year ago, I made a decision and commitment to pursue my passion for photography as a business, with the goal of being profitable in 2-3 years. As I’ve shared before, that is a big step for me – and a big departure from the first half of my life, where I spent my working time in corporate America. But even with that decision, I’ve struggled to see this step as anything other than a step down – something less than – not as good as – my “first option” – the career path my education and early choices led me into.

It’s also been hard to fully embrace this path because it comes on the heals of a significant loss and setback in my life in 2010, when I lost everything I had been building, because of my addiction. Even though the loss came because I got into recovery and started dealing with the underlying issues that led to my addictive behavior, it has been hard at times to fully accept the loss and change as healthy and in a better direction overall for me. I know it sounds crazy. But in addition to losing a well-paying job, house, and friends – I lost much of my identity, because it was largely wrapped up in my career – and the material things and money!

This journey I’ve been on since 2010 has been about rediscovering who I am, what I believe and how and where I find my identity and purpose in life. And although it came from a dark time of great loss, I can already see that I’m not just getting by, or surviving in this new way of living – but I’m actually growing as a result. This became even more clear as I read Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy.

In her book, Sheryl Sandberg shares how she deals with the unexpected and sudden death of her husband. She “combines her personal insights…on finding strength in the face of adversity.” She shares the moment of truth she faced just weeks after losing Dave:

“Option A is not available. So let’s kick the shit out of Option B.” Live is never perfect. We all live some form of Option B. This book is to help us all kick the shout of of it.

She shares a lot of amazing research and studies, along with her personal insight. Some of the highlights for me are (with credit going to Option B, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant):

  • How people deal with setbacks:  personalization (the belief that we are at fault), pervasivenss (the belief that an event will affect all areas of our lives) and permanence (the belief that the after shocks of the event will last forever.)  from research by Martin Seligman
  • As psychologists have studied people who have endured all kinds of trauma, they most focused on two possible outcomes of trauma: those who struggle, developing PTSD, depression and anxiety or had difficulty functioning or those who are resilient, bouncing back to their state before the trauma. More recently, research has revealed a third possibility: those who are resilient, bouncing forward, finding post-traumatic growth. This manifests itself in five ways:
    • finding personal strength
    • gaining appreciation
    • forming deeper relationships
    • discovering more meaning in life
    • seeing new possibilities
  • Parents can build resilience in their children through opportunities and relationships – with a focus on four core beliefs:
    • we have some control over our lives
    • we can learn from failure
    • we matter as human beings
    • we have real strengths to rely on and share

As I reflect on my journey and how this concept of an “Option B” plays out, I can more confidently each of these elements at play.

I have been guilty of the “three P’s” as Sheryl calls them. Her insights and tips have helped me already reframe thoughts that come to mind about my situation.

I can also see where I’ve been stuck in PTSD mode – perhaps hoping to “get back to where I was.” But, I now see that where I was was still unhealthy, steeped in addiction, lack of connection or community, and unresolved loss back to my childhood. Now I see a third possibility – and know more clearly that this last year of so has been about taking steps towards “post-traumatic growth,” seeing possibilities in all the areas Sheryl mentioned.

I’ve also added these new “core beliefs” to my earlier post, where I’m collecting beliefs as I work through this journey of rediscovery.

So, this book not only gave me tools and insights I was missing before, it underscored the work I’m already doing! and helped me frame where I am in a new, fresh light. So, thank you universe – and thank you Sheryl Sandberg! To learn more, I encourage you to read her book, and check out her Facebook Groups related to Option B (which is also the name of a non-profit she started, with all of the proceeds from her book being used to support this broader effort of finding post-traumatic growth.)