This year has been incredibly tumultuous to say the least. At times, I wasn’t sure if I was in an episode of 24 or Homeland. The very fabric of our democracy often feels like it is in tatters with each thread pulled taut by fear, hatred, arrogance, and uncertainty. There is a virus of hopelessness and indifference spreading through many of us. We want off this crazy train, but we don’t know how. The challenges are overwhelming and increasing rifts among us roadblock thoughtful solutions.
As we prepare to close out 2017, I wanted to share 5 “To Dos” that may help you recharge and charge into 2018.
1. What To Hear: Trailblazers.FM podcast
Trailblazers.FM podcast recently celebrated its 100th episode and explores the stories of successful black leaders. That’s 100 stories about inspiring black entrepreneurs, creatives, and corporate leaders. The Trailblazers.FM mission is to highlight the wisdom, resources and tools of today's most accomplished everyday trailblazers, to help listeners gain the know-how, confidence and motivation needed to blaze their own trails. They are the “bright spots” who achieved despite the systems that perpetuate disparities in so many of our communities. And they are a reminder that against all odds, yet still we rise.
2. What To Do: Be Active
Before you crawl into a ball with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, reflect on the movements that have snowballed this year. Nasty Women from the Women’s March helped catalyze #MeToo. Black Lives Matter inspired fearless leaders to #TakeAKnee. And in November, we elected a wave of firsts. When you feel overwhelmed find something, no matter how big or small, and get engaged! You don’t have to wait your turn, or wait on the leaders in power, or wait until you know all the answers. You just have to be willing to speak up and stand up.
3. Who To Follow: Michael Skolnik
Michael and I met last year as RWJF and Policy Link Health Equity Ambassadors. He’s one of those interesting individuals who have a pulse on movements, and his business, WeAreSoze, creates campaigns about compassion, authenticity and equity. If you are inspired to act, but aren’t quite sure where to focus your energy, Michael shares trends and issues that weave together popular culture, politics, and policy.
4. What To Read: The Seventh Sense
What is so unnerving about the last year is that few of the tried and true tactics of the past seem to be working. In fact, at times these approaches seem to worsen already challenging situations. The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks is a dense but illuminating overview on how networks have shifted the base of power globally. And in case you haven’t guessed it, in the age of networks, each of us individually hold unprecedented power in changing the systems around us. The only question is whether you plan to be a passive or active participant in the change that we seek. (NOTE: I’m assuming as a loyal follower of Shared Roots, you’ve already read my book Just Change: How to Collaborate for Lasting Impact which shares the stories of social change leaders across the country. If not, add it to your reading list!)
5. What To Remember: The American Dream
According to historian James Truslow Adams, the American Dream means that "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth. The American Dream is our ethos, rooted in our Declaration of Independence that states all of us are created equal with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But the American Dream has always been more feeling than fact, and surprisingly that is its unifying power. We are living in a time where a large swath of our nation no longer believes in the American Dream, and it is creating an emotional backlash akin to children believing there is no Santa Claus. As we collectively navigate through our shared identity crisis- who are we and what do we stand for?- remember that we have been here before. What makes our country great is that in times of tumult and crisis we rise up and we demand our dream. We demand to marry who we love regardless of gender. We demand health care regardless of socioeconomic status. We demand civil rights regardless of skin color. And while our country is always a work in progress, together we push the arc of our democracy towards justice.
Happy holidays and see you in 2018!