What I Learned the Week of June 17th, 2022

From Podcasts – Heartwarming & Funny

Smartless 100th anniversary with Bradley Cooper

This is a super heartfelt podcast. While I’m not nearly as big of a fan of Smartless as I was when I first was introduced to it, this is one that reminds me of what I was initially drawn to about it in the first place. Males are vulnerable to each other. Sharing stories that are both funny and heartwarming. There is just not enough of that in the world these days.

More laughter and tears, please.

From a Book  – Black Magic Biggest Takeaways

Black Magic, by Chad Sanders, is definitely one of my top non-fiction books ever. So much learning available AND so well written. Chad Sanders has an ability to tell his truth with such detail and emotion, that even someone who would never be able to relate to the experience of being black can still connect to those moments and feelings and gain new perspectives.

What I learned from his writing style – and in how he interacts with others in his podcasts – is the magic of not holding back his sometimes uncomfortable truths without making others feel attacked. Obviously, there is a dance that is at play here and often the people he may be engaged with are eager to hear his truths. Still, I feel a unique brand of kindness in his “don’t hold back” style.

It reminded me of Kim Scott’s Radical Candor phrase “Clear is Kind” and her four quadrants. I have read several amazing books by black authors and other people of colour on racism, and there are a few that were probably closer to Kim’s bottom right quadrant that was direct and challenging with little to no caring. The “asshole” quadrant as she liked to call it. And then there was the top left which was the overly kind and not direct enough or “ruinous empathy” quadrant. I wouldn’t put any of those past books squarely in these two quadrants but they were definitely hovering over the lines.

Chad seemed to find a way to bring tremendous caring and directness into the sharing of his story. I’m not sure if that was entirely his intention when he wrote it but it is definitely what I felt from it. If you have not yet ventured into educating yourself further about what it means to be black OR even if you have – this book is a must for your reading list. A few aha moments for me personally:

  • The weird way “white people” introduce ourselves in these often high-pitched, overly energetic but somewhat disingenuous voices. This made me pause particularly as he continued to describe his contrasting experiences while working in the UK (which I took as not so fake). I have had many opportunities to work in other countries with far different cultures from each other – USA, Canada, UK, Morocco, India, Romania, China, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine, France, Australia, New Zealand as examples. This experience of being what I will call the loud and somewhat obnoxious American is such a known frame of reference – but one I had never considered how that is experienced differently within America. And possibly within Canada as well, my current country of residence. It is an intimidating style and does not serve to create a connection. With anyone – regardless of skin colour. But the unique impact for black people in corporate culture, which is dominated by white people, is the assumption that this style works for everyone who lives in the US. When we are working with other cultures we are often reminded to be respectful of those cultures. We often still fail miserably at this but at least we are asked to respect the differences and look for ways to build connections. What we need to learn is that most Americans don’t really want to be greeted this way either – for all kinds of very good reasons. This feels like a carryover trait from some era where we felt the need to prove ourselves to everyone we met. Defend our independence as a country. As a new society. I don’t know where it came from honestly but it’s time to let it go. I can definitely be overly energetic in my greetings with others as I want them to see me as fun, inviting and eager to meet them. I am really trying to learn to make space in that greeting to meet people where they are at. This gives me more motivation to be mindful of this.
  • The extra burden of being a black parent. I was first exposed to this by Miranda Bailey and Ben from Grey’s Anatomy. There was a tragic episode several years back where a young black boy had been shot by police officers as the boy was climbing into the window of his own house because he had lost his keys. At the same time, the show had another storyline to do with youth learning to navigate the dating world and getting ready for sexual experiences. At one point Miranda and Ben, with great heaviness, agreed they needed to have “the talk” with their son. I had wrongly assumed it was the sex talk. It was the talk most black parents need to have with their children about how to stay safe as a black person – particularly in the presence of police officers. In Chad’s story, there were countless examples of his father being what would appear to most as extremely protective. And for a while, Chad found it annoying until one day he realized that his dad was just trying to keep him alive. I think about being a parent myself and what I am most worried about in terms of wanting to protect my sons. And honestly, there have been more times where I want to make sure they are not “doing harm” than anything – i.e. protect them from growing up to being privileged white assholes. I mean they are 6’4″, white, very abled physically, have good education and overall very advantaged young men. As someone who has always been extremely sensitive to sexism, racism or any discrimination I felt and still feel part of my job as a mother is to make sure they see how advantaged they are and help them build their empathy skills. That’s far different from having to worry will my son come home safely today? I just can’t imagine the additional burden black parents are having to live with while at the same time trying to be successful in their job/career, trying to provide the basics of food and housing, trying to raise a good human, etc. Being a parent is already hard enough without this additional emotional burden. It’s not just the one “talk” that is a different experience than I had.
  • This last one is a bit harder for me to stomach. The short version is that Chad experienced many instances in high school where it was made clear to him that he was being invited to a party, at a white person’s home, but that there was a quota for how many black people were allowed to come to the party. That the parents had put some arbitrary limit to how many were allowed. These are the same parents that were openly letting the alcohol flow in their houses with these underaged teens, sometimes even encouraging excessive drinking. I have no idea how often this ridiculous way of behaving occurred. I did not grow up in that kind of environment so I never had witnessed or was even aware of it until Chad shared. But I imagine these are the same people who are likely leaders in organizations making hiring decisions. At the very least the message it sends to those black teens – and their white children – is that there is a quota. I know this isn’t true everywhere – definitely not in my household – and possibly not a “thing” in most of Canada or other parts of the world. I just can’t imagine as a parent trying to explain to my kids why there needed to be a rule about how many black people could come into our house. It just feels so obtuse to me. But I need to appreciate that this exists and that some black people have experienced this quota setting from an early age. Hence their lack of belief that the world, particularly work environments, don’t all operate that way, is based on super early and very clear messages given to them. Hence why we likely will need to over-rotate for a while to create that trust.

Social Media  – Playing the Long Game / Body Positive Attitude

I think just about every human out there has at some point, if not every day, been at odds with their body. Whether you are like me and its the constant battle with my belly or my one son who is obsessed with what he believes is his large forehead or my husband who seems to always be debating between having chocolate or having skin cracking eczema on his fingers and feet (chocolate usually wins). It’s rare that I find someone who doesn’t have something about their body they are either actively complaining about it or feel self-conscious about.

I had the good fortune to have shared many a conversation with a lovely human, Sophia Apostle (Instagram coach_sophia). As I have been trying to engage more on Instagram her body-positive posts continually catch my eyes and inspire me. This poem she posted this week was one that really touched me – https://www.instagram.com/p/Ce2Gxa3NL4H/ 

What I took from her beautiful poem was the last verse –

Grace, tenderness, love,

Let’s collaborate instead.

We are each other.

Sophia Apostle

I am learning to let go of the childish dream of having a figure that looks a certain way, fed to me by social media and society. I have far too many times not treated my body with grace, tenderness and love and appreciated how strong I am; how much energy I put into understanding my body and doing good by it; and in particular as I have gotten smarter – paying attention to when my body simply needs rest.

The last line “we are each other” is so poignant. Sure I can still hold loosely the idea of having a “flatter” stomach. But I can also give away those clothes I’m never going to fit in and are just staring at me constantly suggesting how big of a failure I am. I can also just regularly connect to my stomach muscles and feel how strong they are – and they are very strong – despite the couple layers of fat that sit on top of those muscles. The more I make it this binary thing – fat or skinny – the more I am implying there is a bad and a good. A  better than. The truth is I know plenty of people with super flat stomachs who I’d never want to trade bodies with because they do not have the strength I have. Or they do not have my beautiful freckles. Or my lovely shoulders. Or my incredible ability to sleep soundly for 8-hours. Or my natural balance.  And while I do have some restrictions on food I mostly eat what I want to eat – and rarely do not eat those things I really love just because I’m trying to “lose weight”.

Just like other parts of life, I’m noticing the more we feel we are “fighting with” our bodies versus working in collaboration with grace, tenderness and love, the less we are winning the long game.

From Others – Somatic Coaching Tips

This week I was fortunate to sit in on a great webinar from the amazing Kimberly Wakefield sponsored by the Canadian Positive Psychology Associate as part of the 2022 Canadian Workplace Wellbeing Awards. I have always been intrigued to learn more about Somatic Coaching and one day I hope to take a proper class. But I had never witnessed what a coaching session looked like and I have to say I was even more intrigued by it after the demo she provided.

First – the demo was less than 10 minutes. Probably closer to 5. This shows you how quickly you can have an impact on any coaching.

Second – I’m used to coaching sessions always starting with someone sharing a goal or topic or problem they are stuck with and then that is what the coaching revolves around. In this demo, she simply asked the person to share a memorable event from the past week. Not nearly so intimidating as having to be vulnerable enough to ask for help – which I think is a big hurdle to overcome for most people as they are considering starting coaching.

Third – the real learning was a couple of observations that Kimberly made about things this person did while sharing their story – that they or anyone can leverage in future circumstances as appropriate.

  • One part of the story was describing something that made her sad and Kim noticed this person rocking/soothing as they told the story. This is a bit of a self-soothing movement, which I had heard of before in other contexts but had not realized how universal it was as a pattern of behaviour. This could be something that anyone could potentially do as part of a self-soothing moment. And it will be something I start to look for in my coaching clients.
  • Looking up to right is a way of trying to source creative thinking; I notice I do this a lot myself and always wondered what it meant about me. I definitely want to try this with a few coaching clients when we are trying to brainstorm together. And it’s a good thing to watch for when they do it as it could be an invitation to pause and brainstorm at that moment.
  • If we are wanting to cultivate joy – put our hands on your heart – feel the pressure, warmth and energy from your heart. Again, another great thing to try for me at any time of the day, particularly in the morning post-meditation. And to invite coaching clients as appropriate. Maybe a parting ritual <thoughtful emoji>

From Myself – Being Done

That I will never be done. And only when I fully embrace that I will never be done will I accept that who I am right now is enough. Enjoy the moment. Be unattached to outcomes. Trust.

2 thoughts on “What I Learned the Week of June 17th, 2022

  1. This is such a cool concept, of keeping track of what you’ve learned from various different sources. I had fun learning from your learnings, and I see that you have an entire series of this, so I’ll be checking the rest out soon. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Stuart. I get a lot out of the process myself. Initially, I wanted to create another channel for simply sharing what I am learning to whoever was interested. But the thought process that goes into the writing is really helpful in my reflection process.

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