Get comfortable with the “uncomfortable”. It will make you better.
But it takes practice, understanding, intention and courage to really make it happen. Most people just don’t really want to do the work to make the world a better place. Do you?
As I grew up in my small town of 800, it was relatively easy to “know” your place. From the beginning you are defined. Defined by the church you attend, your family name, whether you lived on the farm or in town, or the car you drove. Once that definition was established, only then would the description of you deepen and look more closely at you as an individual.
And if you weren’t one of us – we knew that too. You would be the only one that stopped at our one stop sign on Main Street.
When I was 19, I traveled to Washington D.C. for a summer internship. It was the first time in my life, things were defined for me by the color of my skin. It was also the first time I knew what it felt like to be in the minority.
Here it wasn’t as easy to find my place. It was where I learned to be curious about people and who they were, how we were the same and how we were different but more importantly, how we could work together to make things happen.
I learned to embrace “different” as a way to open doors.
As a business leader I try to do the same. It is frustrating to see others not embrace diversity as a point of strength but rather as a way to push you out or dismiss your opinions. And I know it robs us as people, as businesses and organizations from reaching our true potential.
I think Mellody Hobson in her TED talk paints a pretty compelling business case as to why we need to think differently and how to modify our personal practices to get comfortable with the uncomfortable with a new approach. She tells a great story about being confused as “kitchen help” and then frames the issue at 4:16.
I think her challenge to observe our environment with a ruthless realistic eye is a good one. As we see the groups of sameness and status quo, we need to begin to ask when this will be defined as weird. We need to push for a more diverse perspective, pool of candidates and team members.
Diversity to me means color, religion, gender, backgrounds, professions etc…anything that makes us not the same. In our personal space, we need to start by inviting people into our life that are different with the sole purpose of understanding. Then learn how to leverage the diversity to grow our capability and perspective that will ultimately make us better, enrich our relationships and make the world a better place too.
Take a look and let me know how you embrace diversity as a point of strength.