This is the Too Many Trees newsletter, where I share what I’ve been writing and reading in the realm of leadership and personal development. My executive coaching practice is centered around the idea that we are more effective in moving towards our goals when we become more conscious and intentional in focusing our time and attention, and learn how our unconscious patterns are holding us back. If you know somebody that could benefit from my perspective, please forward this to them or let them know they can set up a free intro chat with me.

The price and cost of belonging

August 06, 2023

I wrote a long blog post on the price and cost of belonging, inspired by a podcast conversation between Annahid Dashtgard and Jerry Colonna. Dashtgard's comment about the price people paid to be white in America struck a nerve with me, as I have been reflecting on my own struggles with feeling like I belong, possibly originating in growing up as a half-Korean in an all-white Chicago suburb.

Dashtgard’s comment related that price of belonging to the perfectionism that many people of color feel as part of existing in a white-dominant culture. If you have given up part of yourself and your own culture to assimilate to the dominant culture, you don’t want to lose your place in that culture. You want to belong, but you don’t, as your place feels fragile and tenuous, able to be revoked at any time if you make one wrong comment or one inappropriate action that shows you don’t fit in. This pressure to always say and do the right thing in any situation is incredibly oppressive, and leads to the poorer performance of minorities due to their experience of stereotype threat even if there is no explicit bias, as described by Claude M. Steele in his book Whistling Vivaldi.

I go on to explore how that pressure has played out in my own life despite me having all the privilege of being white passing and male and straight and able-bodied. I also share some thoughts on what a more inclusive culture might look like, inspired by Chelsea Troy's wonderful article on five inclusive behaviors.

I'd love your thoughts and responses, especially if you read the whole post at

P.S. Surprisingly, Dashtgard herself read the post, and responded with a comment after I tagged her on LinkedIn.
And now for the normal personal development content…
  • I was interviewed by Cedric Chin for the Commoncog podcast to talk about my time on the revenue forecasting team at Google, as part of his series on becoming more data driven, and my executive coaching work, as part of his deep dive on deliberate practice and skill building.
  • I joined the Institute for Equity-Centered Coaching Exchange, "a professional association for coaches & leaders committed to justice, equity, diversity, inclusion, and anti-oppression." I look forward to the opportunity to learn from leaders in this area, and apply it to my own work. I joined the initial Zoom get-together, and out of 30+ participants, there were only 2 men. I'm not surprised, but I am disappointed that more men don't value and participate in such efforts.
  • In my ongoing effort to move my content into platforms that I control, I have imported my 445 LinkedIn posts, comprising over 88,000 words or 300+ pages of writing, into Wordpress to create a searchable archive at Take a look if you're interested!
LinkedIn: These are ideas that have helped my clients (or myself), and that I share via LinkedIn to help a wider audience.
  • What is your job? Most people have a job that is effectively "whatever others tell me to do". And that's a fine job! But if you're not entirely satisfied with that, you can more consciously shape your job to align with your intentions, and communicate those intentions to others.
  • What have you been thinking, but not saying? I love this question when I coach cofounders or leadership teams, as it gets at the heart of any issues in the relationship. The cost of withholding our thoughts can build up cumulative resentment until it damages the relationship. Instead, say the thing you don't think you can say, and have the difficult conversation. Avoiding the topic will only raise the stakes and make it harder in the future.
  • How do you get the results you want? It's not enough to mimic the behaviors of people who are successful, unless you are aware of why those behaviors worked for them, and the circumstances (and luck!) that contributed to their success.
More articles on the theme of belonging:
  • Men are lost. A thought-provoking piece by Christine Emba on how the rise of feminist critiques of patriarchy has led to men and boys not having a positive vision of masculinity to guide them. This has led to the rise of men's rights advocates, incels and other communities to give these lost boys a place where they feel they belong, and role models to guide their development.
  • The Rage and Joy of MAGA America, a New York Times article by David French, points out something many progressives miss about Trump's rallies. We all see the aggressive anger and hate for those who oppose them. To continue the theme of this newsletter, "The battle and the booze cruise both give MAGA devotees a sense of belonging. They see a country that’s changing around them and they are uncertain about their place in it. But they know they have a place at a Trump rally, surrounded by others who feel the same way they do." This helps explain why they are so loyal to Trump, because they don't want to lose that joy of belonging.
  • And to end on a more positive note, I loved Jennifer Garvey Berger's article on What we've gained by giving our company away. Rather than keep ownership (and profits) of their company to enrich the four founders, as would be the conventional approach, they gave control to a foundation that practices trust-based philanthropy to tilt the world towards a path of justice and sustainability. I particularly appreciated her learning that "The people you surround yourself with make the ecosystem that shapes you. ... we can be bolder and more principled when we are surrounded by wonderful people", showing that belonging can lead to more positive and enriching outcomes than the previous two articles.
Thanks for reading! See you in a couple weeks!
Floating down the Russian River
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