Dear graduates, you’ve been fooled…

Oldie, but goodie. Get lost.

Michael Anthony Goodman

Do you ever end up on a website, only to look up after two hours and find that you’ve actually fallen down a rabbit hole of content? This happened to me recently, while trolling the confines of Humans of New York. While I remain addicted to Humans of New York, there was something about this past trolling that made me more reflective and more life-aware (“life-aware,” is a new concept I am flirting with, pausing and pushing myself to live in the moment – it’s a, “YOLO,” for old people, if you will).

I recently posted a piece addressed to upcoming graduates, and in a love letter-like fashion, challenged all who are taking the plunge to, above all else, pause and reflect.

Though, I must add, you’ve all been fooled.

Well, we’ve all been fooled. In general, graduation is scary and terrifying and real, and following my post…

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Barbie changed, and so should we.

You should know: I got a Ken doll for my birthday many years ago.

Young Michael and Barbie

In addition to my Ken doll confession, I should also note, this post was almost titled, “The Girl Scouts are keeping up, and we should follow suit.” Whether it be Girl Scouts or Barbie, I figure both titles are somewhat interchangeable (though, social media informs me that more people in my life are pro-Barbie than Girl Scouts – I am mostly just glad change is occurring within each institution).

The hype of Barbie’s updates a few weeks ago has been on my mind for quite some time, and with all the videos and articles about the changes Barbie has endured, I cannot help but smile when I see a friend or colleague post about how their children (or students, family members, neighbors, etc.) can now see themselves in these newly designed dolls.

While the edits are not perfect (and have quite a bit of room to grow forward), it’s an important move in the right direction – a direction Lego is also exploring. Around the same time, and not receiving as much press as Barbie, Lego made a great statement for equity and inclusion by creating their first character in a wheelchair.

Onward.

…for most of us.

You see, not everyone is as progressive or forward-thinking as our friends at Barbie, Girl Scouts, or Lego. And in honor of these companies, I must say:

If Barbie can change, so should we.
* “we” = individuals, institutions, companies, communities, organizations, crazy uncles

I am quickly brought back to my graduate school days, learning about the philosophy of, “see someone to be someone.” I talk about this a lot in the work I do, and specifically around the idea that children and students must see people who are like them to believe they, too, can be someone (an astronaut, a model, a teacher, a doctor, a zookeeper, a gay person who is married, etc.) – “see someone to be someone.”

It is incredibly important that people see individuals like themselves reflected in the media, in their classrooms, communities, and organizations to believe they, too, can achieve in a similar manner. Outside of my own industry of education, the Academy Awards are an important example of where we’re completely missing the mark.

For example, according to Bloomberg, “…all but eight of the Best Actor and Best Actress winners have been white.” This is in reference to the entire history of the Oscars. I repeat, the entire history of the Oscars. I don’t even need three hands to count that number, and not to mention, this year, all 10 nominees are also white.  I digress.

This is more than a “diversity moment” (and not including the equity of diversity that rears its head during times like these). This is about representation. And representation matters. We place great weight on the Academy Awards as an indicator for talent, skill, and field-ability, and when marginalized groups are not represented in that pool, it implies there to be few-to-no talented, skilled, or able folks with (already-)marginalized identities (further marginalizing them, and so on).

It starts with pushing industries to be more inclusive, more diverse, more justice-based, and more representative. The recent outcomes at the Screen Actors Guild Awards will affirm a notion that the Academy Awards really missed the mark in their latest round of nominees (#OscarsSoWhite, and all of that). The entertainment industry is made up of much more than solely straight, white, able-bodied folks, and including many more who are deserving of awards, accolades, and highlights.

Closely related: education needs help, too.

The reality of education has also become center-stage in a conversation about representation and equity. NPR initially breaks this down into two quick pieces, one about female professors and another about the role of Black teachers. Loosely connected, The Washington Post also highlights inequities in higher education, connecting to the research of Warren Waren, a professor at Texas A&M University.

Specifically, Warren notes the following, via Racism Review:

“In a country that is 37% people of color, we have no nominees. In an industry where 46% of moviegoers are people of color, we have no nominees. In an industry where we have recognized superstars giving top notch performances, we have no nominees. We hate to have expected it.”

“Like with the Oscars, the problem [in higher education] is not with who is starring (professors of color) or who is watching (students of color)—the problem is who is voting. Leadership at universities look a lot like leadership at the Oscars. Both institutions are 90% to 95% white. Both are largely invitation-only affairs (make no mistake, social networks matter for every faculty appointment). Both bask in the glory of their own conceit. Both are prone to recreating their own biases. Both are self-regulating and quite insulated from external challenges. Do we expect either of these institutions to change without a challenge?”

“Do we expect either of these institutions to change without a challenge?”

Do we expect people to change without a challenge?

Are we willing to change our own views and behaviors without a challenge?

While you pause on those questions, remember that inclusion is about action. This is why education and equity both matter a great deal to me. This is why I’ve committed to a career in helping people, “see someone to be someone.” This is why I care so deeply about the landscape of education from k-16. So, What do Barbie, the Oscars, and education all have in common, you might be wondering? Representation matters, and kids (and students – even adults) all need to view the world around them as someone who can and will achieve greatness – while celebrating their beautiful differences.

We have a long way to go.

Urgency is essential.

Your voice is necessary.

We have to move the needle of intercultural competency forward (more Ken dolls for young boys, and more inclusive spaces for trans* kids). We have to be more passionate about seeing people who others can see in themselves (the entertainment and education industries must undergo a transformation). We have to support a culture where we are safe – bravely so – to name unjust, bias, and inequitable behavior (sexual assault and sexism, continued racism and police brutality, and the list goes on and on).

We have to do more than imagine the possibilities – we have to unearth them. The future is waiting, tiny humans are watching.

Pressing,

Michael

No more shaming the, “New Year, New Me,” mantra.

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Just before the 2015 New Year, I wrote the post: So, you don’t believe in resolutions? As a result of goal-shaming and critique around folks’ excitement for a new year, this post was important for me to write. I have always loved the start of new things, and this philosophy was put to the test when I returned to the United States last year after living in China for three months.

I wrote this specific piece just after the China stint, and after a month of traveling from Seattle to San Antonio, by way of Portland, Los Angeles, and Tucson. Thanks to Timehop, I came across the piece, and felt almost the same line of thinking as I had just over a year ago. I’ll start with Grey’s Anatomy – please observe:

“Fresh starts. Thanks to the calendar, they happen every year. Just set your watch to January. Our reward for surviving the holiday season, is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of New Year’s resolutions. Put your past behind you, and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance at a new beginning. A chance to put the problems of last year to bed.

Who gets to determine when the old ends, and the new begins? It’s not a day on a calendar, not a birthday, not a new year. It’s an event. Big or small. Something that changes us. Ideally, it gives us hope.

A new way of living and looking at the world. Letting go of old habits, old memories. What’s important is that we never stop believing we can have a new beginning.

But it’s also important to remember that amid all the crap are a few things really worth holding on to.”

What are you letting go of and what are you holding on to?

Your own swearing off of resolutions doesn’t mean you aren’t dreaming, hoping, planning, and wishing. And the mere presence of other’s also shouldn’t hinder you from reaching out, supporting, and helping people achieve their short, temporary, and/or long-term goals.

“What’s important is that we never stop believing we can have a new beginning.”

What I gleaned most from my original post is the idea that, true peace can come from focusing on who you want to be rather than what you want to be (or do).

“I promise to lose weight”

“I vow to live more green.”

“I will spend less money.”

“I’m deleting Tinder immediately.”

We hear these New Year’s swears annually, and I have certainly experienced my own version of each of these over the past decade.

And like unfortunate clockwork, failure often runs parallel to New Year’s goals (including resolutions, declarations, hopes, and dreams).

And while failure certainly happens, I have learned that resolutions are essential – for all of us. To me, not believing in resolutions is a lot like not believing in hopes, goals, or dreams. And furthermore, “not believing,” can also, at times, come off as, “not supporting.” Sharing a New Year’s resolution is a lot like sharing a secret. Some are big, and some super petty or exciting and fun. Either way, both should be engaged carefully and shared thoughtfully.

And more than that, each resolution should be respected fully.

I found some solidarity with my previous piece, and the desire to focus less on an exact, “what.” Instead, I vow to continue focusing on myself, and who I can be rather than what I might do. This has become a new challenge for me, and now a hope for all others.

Separate the two.

No resolution or anti-resolution? Embrace this: Focus on you. Focus on who you want to be, how you want to live, and when you are and can be your most authentic self. That’s a start, right? You see, these are the things that matter most. While I support all those aiming to lose weight, swipe less, go green, and the list goes on and on, ultimately I am strongly advising you to focus on you this year.

The rest will then fall into place.

Be an unapologetic, “new you,” in this new year. Embrace life, embrace the best you you know you can and will be.

Continued-resolved,

Michael

Remember birthdays.
Send snail mail.
Protest.
Love hard.
Eat the extra bowl of cereal.
Get on listservs that matter.
Fail hard.

*I previously posted my own resolutions, which are captured here and above:

“We proudly brew Starbucks coffee,” and Other Arguments for Enhancing Equity

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I went to a movie a few weeks ago, and when it came time to empty my wallet on refreshments, I saw a sign to the left of the concession stand that read, “We Proudly Serve [Starbucks logo].” Of course, my tolerance for late night movies has decreased significantly, and in that moment, coffee seemed like the best option to aid me in getting through any post-8:00PM obligation.

I purchased said-Starbucks coffee, mixed in my coffee fixins, and took a sip before leaving the concession area. Before I could swallow the mouthful of lukewarm coffee, with a disgusted look, I glared at the concessions attendant as he gave me a, “My bad,” shrug.

“It’s, Starbucks-ish,” he laughed.

The shrug continued as I walked away, enduring the movie with my Starbucks-ish.

“We proudly serve *Starbucks coffee.”
*Starbucks-ish

We do this a lot.

We accept the, “-ish.”

In many ways, this is an, “espoused versus enacted,” moment. This is about congruence (are you doing what you say you’ll be doing, and all of that).

I worked professionally with fraternities and sororities for several years, and continue to do so as a consultant and facilitator. This idea of congruence is a big piece of the conversation, and continues to disrupt what we believe about values and values alignment. In fact, many of The North-American Interfraternity Conference programs coin this concept as, “Values are what you do.

For the most part, I agree.

And while this post goes beyond fraternities and sororities, it’s important to understand this simple philosophy. The philosophy of doing.

Let’s go back to the concession stand moment I experienced a few weeks ago. The theater had a Starbucks sign. Cups. Social capital. In theory, this was a perfect combination of what I think I needed (wanted) from the sign that beautifully read, “We Proudly Serve [logo].” Ish. We do this a lot. We accept the, “-ish.”

And specifically, we accept the, “-ish,” as it relates to equity.

Pieces were missing from my movie Starbucks. I experienced Starbucks-adjacent. And when I think about equity within companies, schools, organizations, etc., I see a lot of equity-adjacent outcomes. Equity as a value must be what you do.

And it goes beyond a quick fix. 

“We’ll have a speaker.”

“We’ll have a program.”

“We’ll have a unity barbecue.”

“We’ll hire a Diversity Director.”

“We’ll giggle when someone says, ‘Bye, Felicia!'”

Some, indeed, have the right resources: the books, the materials, the buy-in, the marketable labels. However, if you’re not brewing the real stuff (see what I did there?), and if you’re not actually living and doing in a space of integrating these values, it will play out as values-adjacent rather than values-enacted.

Folks, hiring a diversity officer may help reach more students, however it alone will not address your diversity, equity, and justice problems.

Do you value equity (+diversity, social justice, inclusion) as a lived part of your organization, school, or company, or do you simply honor it as a box to check?

Often, schools and companies will hire a person to, “lead diversity initiatives,” without actually infusing diversity and equity into the very DNA of their organization. This edit is essential, and will make for a better and more inclusive inclusion strategy. You may have the sign, the cup, and the belief, but do you have the action to support the spirit of what these pieces can create together?

Do you have an inclusion strategy?

Are you talking about equity?

Is equity more than one line-item in your budget?

How do you frame hiring or admissions as they relate to equity?

Do all departments value diversity and multiculturalism as important?

And finally, are you more than just a Starbucks sign?

You have a unique opportunity to influence those around you (humans and corporations), to stretch your and other’s minds, and to achieve real and authentic impact. I hope you’ll consider the possibilities.

Seeking congruence,

Michael

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With Anticipation: 2016

A lot can happen in a year.

In fact, exactly one year ago, I was coming off of three months of living in China, and traveling from Seattle to San Antonio in planes, trains, and automobiles. Seriously, at one point, I was on a train from Portland to Los Angeles for 30 hours. It was…long, to say the least. And now, here I sit, in a coffee shop in Washington, D.C., startled by my current reality, and anxious for the year ahead.

2016 is upon us.

And as we prepare for a new year, and before I charge you with goals weighing heavy on my heart,  I ask only this of you:

Please do not shame those individuals who are setting goals, needing change, or hoping for something new. Support them. Push them. Remind them that they are capable, and that they are brave.

This, above else, can be your gift to them in the new year.

Sure, we know the folks whose goals are copy/pasted into each new year, and, of course, there are the goals that we know are physically, financially, and seemingly impossible. As you wade through the dissonance, I’m asking you to see no boundaries. I am asking you to live in this new year as unapologetically and free from fear as possible.

And as I prepare for my own new year, I am pausing on the idea of what it means for me to be unapologetic and free from fear.

I am pausing of the idea of letting my heart be light.

In doing so, I’ve come to terms with the following goals, beliefs, and hopes, and I implore you to join  me on this journey into 2016:

Remember birthdays.
Few things have felt better than the love I received on my 30th birthday. Whether it is Facebook, or just the general do-good office mate dropping off a treat or surprise, the fact that so many people went out of their way to wish me love and light on my special day was overwhelming and inspiring. Be unconditional. Pay this forward. Remember people’s birthdays, and wish them well. And above all else, spread joy.

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Send snail mail.
Earlier this year, I had a friend who sent me a pack of cards, asking me to share love with someone via snail mail. Whereas writing takes a bit of extra time, and the US Postal Service requires $0.49 more than an email might require, I have found and felt so much joy as a result of tiny treasures received from a distance. Do more of this. Put pen to pad. Thank someone. Surprise someone. Remind someone you are there.

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Protest.
If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything, and all of that. There is a woman who stands on the corner of my block once a week, holding a pad of paper with various pleas written passionately across the page. Embody this spirit. Get involved, civically engage, give a whole bunch of damns. Challenge injustice, and speak up when you know something isn’t right. Once you know, you can’t say that you don’t.

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Love hard.
I recently filled out some paperwork at my doctor’s office, and when I got to page two, I was prompted to provide an Emergency Contact. For years, I used a roommate or one of my coworkers, but this time was a bit different. I sat there and stared at the paper for a long pause, debating the moment I was about to have (“They can always be your insignificant other until you choose to make them your significant other,” a friend’s advice resounded in my brain). I sketched his name quickly, and attempted to move on. Before I could get past the need for his phone number and address, I was then asked, “Relationship to Emergency Contact.” This is where it got weird. Without hesitation, I simply wrote the word, “Partner.” And it scares me every day. Find this love. Bathe in this love. You deserve it.

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Eat the extra bowl of cereal.
…or the extra doughnut. Hell, eat the whole box of doughnuts. My relationship with food, as dysfunctional as it has been over the years, is one that I think about every single day. It’s no secret that I have waded through years of body image struggles, and even in my young adulthood, I am still incredibly hard on myself for how I perceive myself to appear in the mirror. And again, I am vowing to let this go. Please do the same. Don’t beat yourself up over a second serving, or a buffet extravaganza. Be smart and be healthy, but also allow yourself to decide what that means and how it plays into your life. Be in a good place. Look into the mirror, and shout to yourself, “YOU GO, ME!”

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Get on listservs that matter.
Specifically, find a listserv that inspires you. For example, one of my partner’s coworkers (yep, my partner) has this phenomenal daily newsletter where she emails readers an important historical and influential woman that we should all know. And deeper than listservs, construct your social media in a way that reaches an audience that both challenges you and builds you up. Find super creative folks who will introduce impacting and powerful news, culture, and content into your life. Don’t completely erase those who disagree with you, but be sure to take care of yourself in a way that allows you to experience people who look like, think like, and believe like you.

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Fail hard.
My departure from China was unexpected and earlier than I had planned. I was on a, choose-your-own-adventure, kind of journey, and often look back and feel as though my time overseas ultimately resulted in failure. And while I endured the dissonance of difference and transition in a way I could not have planned for, I also experienced those same feelings during the mourning and healing processes shortly after I arrived back in the United States. And I am continuing to seek that clarity. “It’ll get better,” and, “Things will be okay,” were not relevant to me in those post-experience reflections, though, I ultimately landed on my feet. See past these arguments. It may get better, but it also may still sting for awhile. All you can do is focus on rising above the trauma. Roll around a bit, stumble. Tumble. But eventually, when you’re ready, rise above.

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2016 is upon us.

Where do you go from here?

Goals will be set, lives will change, shit might stay the same.

I turned 30 this year. I moved three times. I failed. I loved. I’m loving, and I’m certainly still failing. And all of this is ok.

I turned 30 this year, and in a severe twist of fate, I found peace. I found hope. And I’m letting these new understandings wash over me.

I hope, in anticipation of this next, new, year, you’ll consider the same.

2016-bound,

Michael

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Remember birthdays.
Send snail mail.
Protest.
Love hard.
Eat the extra bowl of cereal.
Get on listservs that matter.
Fail hard.

The Church of Brené Brown

Where were you when you first understood what it meant to be brave?

Did you ask someone to dance?

Did you stand against injustice?

Did you come out to someone?

Did you poop in the bathroom of a bar?

My first understanding of bravery appeared at the Iszard Pool on Tinker Air Force Base in the mid-1990s. I was around nine years old, and jumping off the high dive was reserved for all those brave souls who committed to climbing countless ladder steps, only to stand on a creaking platform and simply jump with no regard for gravity.

I jumped.

And then I jumped some more.

And without truly understand that this was an act of bravery, I felt proud of myself. I defeated odds. I received the privilege of swimming with, “the big kids,” and eventually learned the reasonable risk of diving off the high dive.

…and quickly learned the reasonable risk of belly-flopping off the high dive.

While I know she needs no introduction, and acknowledging that this post is actually, in fact, not all about BB, let’s pause on this clip for just a moment (courtesy of Oprah):

 

When I first saw this clip, two questions came to mind:

Am I brave enough to love myself? Do I trust myself?

Are you brave enough to love yourself? Do you trust yourself? 

I had dinner with a friend last week, and in setting up a conversation related to shame and vulnerability, I cited Brené Brown, as I typically do. Before I could go any further, my friend chimed in, “Im with you – I, too, worship at the alter of Brené Brown.”

We laughed. I felt safe.

Last night I attended a lecture with Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, and now, Brave Enough. While Cheryl Strayed and Brené Brown have many similarities in the way they write and in the way they impact readers, there was one specific note that stood out to me differently than I expected.

In connection to pressing onward after the death of her mother, Strayed argued, “You have to decide what to do with the ugliest thing you’ve ever seen.” 

This is bravery to me. This is self care. This is perseverance, and this is pressing play – even when the song is shit. Today, bravery is about trusting myself, and today, I commit to bravely loving myself.

Caring for myself.

Being kind to myself.

I hope you’ll do the same.

Uncomfortable,

Michael

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*photo via Cheryl Strayed’s new book, Brave Enough

Introducing 30

September is here, let all Virgos rejoice.

I am a little over one week from my 30th birthday, and as reflected on that special day last year, I realized 30 wasn’t all that scary.

This past month alone, I have celebrated a friend turning fifty, and one turning forty. “Time flies,” they both argue. And I agree.

While one might assume this celebration solely as the turning of another year, I view it as more of a rite of passage.

Early life as a military child taught me to expect the unexpected. While friends moved every few years and things were generally unstable in a very stable environment, I learned early on that change was inevitable. And often, that change was unexpected.

This awareness was validated one ago when I left my job and moved to China. In fact, one year ago today, I was sitting in LAX, preparing for my flight to Beijing.

A lot can happen in one year.

Accept the unexpected

Through the ups and downs, I am pausing extra hard on today. I am pausing, in appreciation for risk. I am pausing in hope for unapologetically-taken adventures. And I am pausing for all those truth-living souls who wake up each day, eager and excited to challenge and be challenged.

Onward toward 30.

Thriving,

Michael

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