The author and modern-day spiritualist Neal Donald Walsch has said that “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”
I’d like to take that a step further – or perhaps just a jump to the left, then a step to the right – and propose my corollary to Walsch’s theorem – that is, “Your social and business life begin at the end of your inclusion zone.”
What, you ask, is an “inclusion zone?” Glad you asked. Hang on a second.
Before I begin, let me say two things:
- This is going to be a bit interactive – so get out your notepad or fire up your stickies app on your iPhone; and
- I’m going to challenge some ideas that you may find a bit brain-wrinkling, and I’m going to ask up front for you to not tune out until I’m finished.
Then I invite you to tell me I’m full of shit.
My MacBook dictionary defines discriminate as:
verb [ intrans. ]
1 recognize a distinction; differentiate: babies can discriminate between different facial expressions of emotion. See note at distinguish. …
2 make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race, sex, or age: existing employment policies discriminate against women.
Therefore in and of itself, to discriminate is neither good nor bad, but simply to discern, to choose. And, I argue, to choose whether to include or exclude something.
I challenge you further that what you need to do – what you must do – in order to grow professionally and socially is to be MORE discriminating.
BUT, I want you to evaluate and challenge your CRITERIA for discrimination.
While you take a think on that, let me throw out another idea to upset the semantic apple-cart. Derivative A of my Corollary 1 to Walsch’s Theorem is that discrimination is not the opposite of inclusion, but rather EXCLUSION is the opposite of INCLUSION.
And that inclusion and exclusion, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad. Again, it is the criteria by which these inclusive or exclusive discriminations are made that have moral and ethical implications.
Exclusion can be good – concept A: if you’re looking for a babysitter, you should probably exclude heroin-addicted pedophiles wielding knives;
Exclusion can be good – concept B: if you’re building a home aquarium, you might wish to exclude sharks, cows, and electricity.
I’d like to think that I was pretty discriminating in my choice of a mate. For example, I discriminated against all women. (OMG, you’re thinking. He’s gay? Yes, it’s true, but read on. Open-minded, remember?)
Exclusion can be bad: if you’re falling victim to stereotypes, not fact, then you might discriminate against someone based on the color of her skin, or the fact that he is gay, or his religion, or her age.
Exclusion isn’t the problem in building your personal, social, and professional zone, therefore, but too much exclusion is. If you exclude everyone from your circle that’s not like you, you’ll end up alone.
Back to the husband – he likes metal music, I hate it. I love opera, he’d rather go to the dentist and refuse anesthesia. He is pro death penalty, I’m anti. He’s pro gun, I’m anti. He’s an anarchist, I’m a socialist – really, how much further apart can you get.
But we share core values, and we don’t stereotype. Ok, call bullshit. Of course we stereotype, everyone does. We just try our very best to recognize when we’re doing it, and then quit doing it.
A bit about stereotypes:
- ·All stereotypes have some basis in fact.
- ·Some are even true.
- ·Most are false, and a far-out extension of one idea: I mean, we all know that blondes are dumb, Mexicans are lazy, blacks are thugs, old people are feeble, Republicans are cold hearted, gays are immoral, Jews are greedy, Christians are pushy, Muslims are terrorists, and white men are snobbish, right?
You have to remember: while all poodles are dogs, not all dogs are poodles.
Now I challenge each of you: take out your Smartphone or notebook. I warned you it was interactive, and you agreed by continuing to read. So do it.
Write down three stereotypes that you have. Be honest with yourself, we’re not going to share these with the class.
What? You don’t have stereotypes? Um, ok. I call bullshit this time. Yes, you do. Admit it to yourself. It’s part of today’s growth. Write them down. You can burn the paper, or erase the stickie, later.
Find a group that conforms to that stereotype, and GO THERE.
No, REALLY GO THERE.
Here are some ways that I mean:
- ·Attend a different faith congregation than you normally do
- ·Visit a networking event that’s primarily people of a different race, or age, or gender, or sexual orientation, or interest group, or whatever, than you are
- ·Dye your hair blonde and see how people react differently to you
- ·Strap 6 5-lb sandbags to your waist before you walk the dog next time, or walk Fido in high heels, or construction boots. Or barefoot in the snow
- ·Decide each day whether you’ll use your HVAC that day, or whether you’ll eat
- ·Get up tomorrow morning and immediately put on a blindfold before you get out of bed; you know where your clothes and toothbrush are, right – should be easy
Empathy is the birdlike-creature that laid the first egg of Inclusion that hatched into the chicken of Diversity that laid another egg of Inclusion that hatched into … well, you get it.
Diversity is the EASY part. It’s all around you. Nature, the Universe, God, Evolution – however you want to refer to it – has provided more diversity of thought, color, size, shape, species, opinion, shampoo brands, television channels, and political commentators than you could ever imagine.
The hard part – the part that you have to do for yourself – is to evaluate your own discrimination criteria – and don’t compromise your ethics, morals, or values. Do not attend the Westboro Baptist Church if you’re gay, for example, or don’t join the NAACP if you’re a racist. It works both ways.
Take out your phone or notebook again.
Make a list of the events you’ve attended this month, your ten best friends, and the places you’ve visited in the last two weeks. What are their consistencies?
Choose something different. Make an effort to do two things:
- INVITE – that is, be DISCRIMINATORY TO INCLUDE – someone to something. Bring a friend or colleague to an event you’re planning to attend that he/she probably wouldn’t unless asked;
- ATTEND – that is, INVITE YOURSELF, or BE DISCRIMINATORY TO SELF-INCLUSION – to something that the organizer probably isn’t going to think to invite you to. Crash the networking event. Do not crash weddings, bar/bat mitzvah parties, funerals, or anything where nudity is involved – that’s in poor taste.
Then SHARE. Inclusion is infective. Self-exposure is the best way to show others that you’re not perfect and that you’re growing. Post what you’ve done, invite your colleagues to participate, journal (diary, blog, Facebook).
Be MORE discriminating. Consciously think about the criteria you use when you include or exclude life’s options, and you will EXPAND YOUR CIRCLE OF INCLUSION, and watch your social and business life grow.
You don’t have a lot of time.
To paraphrase Dr. George Fraser, in a keynote lecture he gave to the NAACP Diversity conference in Columbus, OH in October 2011:
“God gave Michael Jackson 50 years to change music. He gave Martin Luther King 39 years to change a society. He gave his only son, Jesus Christ, a mere 33½ years to change the world.”
What are you waiting for? Quit wasting time and do something amazing.
Increase your Inclusion Zone.
This essay was inspired by an invitation to speak at the Columbus Young Professionals gathering in October 2011. Special thanks to Derek Grosso for the invitation. Visit www.cypclub.com.