Leading with Empathy

The American Dream need not forever be deferred.

Hi friends —

It’s been a difficult few weeks. While many of us were already aware of the systemic bias and prejudices built into our daily lives, many others are now opening their eyes to the importance of this moment, just as we shed ignorance during the #MeToo movement.

Black Lives Matter, and as Barbara Jordan, politician and leader of the Civil Rights Movement, so eloquently phrased it over 40 years ago:

What the people want is very simple - they want an America as good as its promise.

So, how do we get there?

My solutions-oriented mindset has been spinning out of control looking for answers…

  • What if we destroyed old military equipment instead of selling it to local police departments?

  • What if we remove names and other personally identifiable info from job, loan and housing applications?

  • What if we outlawed and rectified Gerrymandering and other tactics that are meant to suppress votes from underrepresented minorities?

What if, what if, what if…

While I’m not saying we shouldn’t focus on those ideas, I’m far from the expert on any of those topics, and I’ve realized that the most helpful thing I can do right now is listen, be available as a friend, and become that much more of an ally.

So where do I start? — With empathy.

If sympathy is feeling for someone, empathy is feeling with them.

Sam Richards, sociologist and teacher of the largest race relations course in the US, has a TED talk in which he asks the audiences to partake in a radical experiment of empathy.

He goes on to ask you to put yourself into the shoes of a poor Muslim person living in Iraq and coming to grips with American-invasion centered around a natural resource that happens to be in Iraqi soil.

Only after going through that experiment, can you step outside of your own tiny world and ever so briefly experience that of another person.

Walking in someone else’s shoes may sound easy, but it’s quite difficult. Before I ramble, a request:

  • In the next few days, sit down with someone who, you suspect, has had a very different life experience than your own and listen to their story.

Listening is difficult, but really try. Ask them about their upbringing, moments of adversity, moments of celebration, what makes them smile, what makes them cry, people who inspire them, people who disgust them. Ask them anything, but make sure you’re listening to their answers.

If you’re willing, I’d love to hear what you learn and share in that moment. Either way, I hope it expands your horizons and strengthens your ability to empathize.

Lastly, a thank you. Thank you to my friend, Will, for having the courage to share his experience with me and a few others this week. His story is unique in many ways, but the emotions in which he expressed it, are emotions that we’ve all felt before. Between his skill as a storyteller, the candid authenticity of the story, and an audience willing to shut-up and listen, it was incredibly impactful.

Despite all the pain, anger and sadness shared, Will, like Barbara Jordan, has tremendous hope. In Barbara’s Keynote to the 1976 DNC she shares that:

There is something special about tonight. What is different? What is special?

I, Barbara Jordan, am a keynote speaker.

When -- A lot of years passed since 1832, and during that time it would have been most unusual for any national political party to ask a Barbara Jordan to deliver a keynote address. But tonight, here I am. And I feel -- I feel that notwithstanding the past that my presence here is one additional bit of evidence that the American Dream need not forever be deferred.

“The American Dream need not forever be deferred.”

Thank you for reading, if you enjoyed this, please consider sharing and/or subscribing.


📖 Links & Other Reading

  • Did you know that the median wealth of a white American family is almost 10x that of a black American family? Learn more via Explained (full episode on YouTube here)

  • Speaking of inequality, Lyn Alden compiled data from a 2019 Credit Suisse report to show just how large of a gap there is between mean and median wealth:

  • Lastly, Edelman updated their 2020 Trust Barometer to accommodate for COVID-19 and had a number of interesting findings, the most pertinent being:

    • 64% agree, this pandemic has made me realize how big the gap in this country is between the rich and the working class, and that something must be done to more fairly distribute our country’s wealth and prosperity

    • 67% agree, those with less education, less money and fewer resources are being unfairly burdened with most of the suffering, risk of illness, and need to sacrifice due to the pandemic

🤳 Personal Updates

  • 🤝 Recently welcomed my second MADE Mentee, if you’re a marketer and you’re interested in getting involved, learn more here.

  • 🏠 Completed my latest apartment renovation, happy to share before and afters, just reach out.

  • 🇯🇵 Planning my next trip to Japan, I’ve been before but always open to recommendations, especially for northern cities.

This newsletter is my attempt at (a) sharing learnings with friends and family (b) becoming more vulnerable through transparency and (c) improving my writing. Thanks for reading, and be sure to reply with your thoughts.