The Right Time To Change
Florida. Ferguson. Staten Island. Cleveland. Baltimore. Baton Rouge. Dallas. Minnesota. Turkey. Nice. What do these places have to do with your career? Would you believe me if I told you the answer to the question was right in front of you? If you cannot see it, then I want you to ignore all your other weapons of mass distraction and pour your entire attention into this article.
Within Corporate America exists a community of black professionals who—in general, and especially as of late—are operating under an extreme duality or dissonance. Very simply, there’s the person they are (their beliefs, mindsets, preferences, slang, habits, mannerisms, experiences, values, family, etc) and there’s the person they feel they have to be. Most people wrestle with something like this… we call it “acting professional” or putting on your “work mode.” Your level of dissonance depends on how far away you must go from the ‘true you’ in order to fit in.
On any given day, many of the black professionals within this corporate community stay within their tribe… people who graduated from good schools, got good jobs, are doing good work in those jobs, making good money, living the good life… it’s a good tribe to be in. And when events take place on a global scale, it’s human nature to reconnect back to your larger tribe. When that happens, your proverbial bubble bursts, the dissonance jumps to level 10, and the duality gets pushed to the extreme. You begin to take on the feelings of that larger group, be they good or bad.
For example, when our current president won the election in 2008, many of us in this black professional community felt something akin to being on top of the world… it felt like we all won. We felt nearly invincible at work (at least for the rest of the week). Conversely, when you’re witnessing events such as what occurred in the places I listed in the pop quiz, it’s also in your nature to take on the pains and sorrows and apply them to your world. For example, if you were in the office earlier this month during the week of July 5th, you may have found yourself:
Holding back tears as you worked on an email that had nothing to do with nothing about nothing
Snapping at your white colleague for making a harmless joke about oreo cookies because, in your head, what you heard was a racial comment about blacks integrating with whites
Drifting off in important meetings wondering if your black husband or black son is safe
On a random day, you probably like your job (aside from the typical woes). But when you feel like your main tribe is “under attack,” you feel some internal pressure to look at your job or career in a broader context. The voices in your head start asking:
Where can I make a difference?
Should I join the “fight” or mind my business?
Does this job matter?
How can I get involved?
What should I be doing to help?
This is precisely the place you want to get to! You don’t want to swim around in the hurt and pain to the point in develops into fear or anger, and then you act on that fear or anger. No no no! You must decide to use those emotions to spark some internal dialogue that forces you to think, to explore, and—most importantly—to change. This is the answer to the pop quiz… each of those places/events offers you an incredible opportunity for change! Here’s why:
At its simplest, most fundamental level, a tremendous amount of energy is moving around in the world right now. Remove race, remove names, remove prejudices, remove history, remove religion, remove right or wrong, remove good or bad, remove everything you think you know… remove it all and what you are left with is energy. This movement of energy is literally changing the world right before your eyes. And if you wish to contribute to that change in any meaningful way, then the very first thing you must do is change within. Use that energy to question everything from your values to your beliefs, to how you define success, your outlook on your career, the legacy you are leaving behind. To be clear, I am not urging you to quit your job and go save the world. It’s actually the exact opposite. Stay right where you are, and take a minute to think about the changes you need to make. It may very well be that the job you are in right now is the best thing for you, but perhaps you’ve been approaching it in the worst way possible, for you (which is why you are feeling the dissonance).
I’m explaining this in a professional context—simply because that’s the world I’m in—but the same thing applies to other areas of life—relationships, health, finances, family. It’s great to get involved in protests, marches, demonstrations, rallies, etc. It’s great to join in with a movement, even if only temporary. But before doing anything “radical,” you need to get reacquainted with yourself. Not who you were 10 years ago, not the person you play at work, but the person you are in this moment.
This is the real work you need to do. The dissonance you feel should never become the norm. You must not allow yourself to accept a “this is just how it is” mindset. You must decide to change! There are many ways to start this process and many people who can help (I am certainly one of them). I even released a movie last month that talks about this process in depth – go watch it.
Regardless of “how” you go about it, the most important point I want you to take away is this: the best time for change is when you can tap into the energy/emotions surrounding you and use it to ask and answer some critical questions. In other words, the best time is, and always will be, now.
I’m here for you should you need help “provoking” some clarity.