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.

Black History Month

February 04, 2024
While this newsletter is about leadership and not diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), I am becoming more convinced that good leadership involves creating equitable outcomes for everybody, not just people that look like me. To do that means understanding the challenges that others face by listening to them, so that I can work to address their actual needs rather than taking action based on my projections of what I think they need.

Great leadership includes all stakeholders in decisions that affect them, and create inclusive, belonging environments that allow everyone to thrive. Notable examples of how designing for the most disadvantaged benefits everybody include OXO Good Grips (designed for an older woman with arthritis), and curb cuts (originally designed for wheelchair users, but make many other's lives better). Heather McGhee has many more examples in her book The Sum of Us (my summary here) of how if we pay attention to what's affecting disadvantaged populations, it would benefit all of us.

With that context, here are a few things I plan to do to honor Black History Month:
  • Read Ijeoma Oluo's new book Be a Revolution: How Everyday People Are Fighting Oppression and Changing the World―and How You Can, Too. I pre-ordered it, and blasted through 50 pages in the first day after it arrived on Jan. 31st. While it's challenging many assumptions I have about how our society works, I appreciate the stories she shares how different people came to the work of liberation via abolishment of policing and prisons; as she puts it: "if your goal is a safer, more whole society, punishment can't be part of your vision." This may seem unrealistic, but she made an excellent point that rich white men rarely get punished, and are given help and opportunities for redemption when they commit crimes; what if everybody else got the same treatment?
  • I particularly appreciate her point that injustice and oppression aren't just "out there", they show up in our everyday lives and actions. As a father, when do I choose to empathize with and support my children instead of punishing them? As a citizen, can I have empathy for "criminals" or "the homeless" as fellow humans doing the best they can given their situation, rather than dismissing them to be dehumanized, ostracized, and punished? Her challenge to de-colonize my own beliefs and actions is one that I'll be continuing to consider.
  • The Institute for Equity-Centered Coaching is offering a free month of programming with workshops, coaching clinics and more, and I plan to attend several of those events. I'm already a paid member of their Exchange, and recommend it as a way to learn more about how equity, inclusion, antiracism, and all forms of anti-oppression are critical and effective components of leadership.
  • Take care of my own mind and body. Tricia Hersey reminds us that Rest is Resistance (another book I haven't finished reading), because capitalism and colonialism value only our short-term productivity. Taking time to rest is one way to practice liberation from that culture, and explore a world where our worth is not connected to how much value we produce for others.
  • Finish reading Black AF History: The Un-Whitewashed Story of America, by Michael Harriot. I bought this in December, but am still only halfway through it as I keep getting distracted by other books. I appreciate what I've learned so far, like his description of General Oliver Howard, a Civil War general who ran the Freedmen's Bureau, and used federal funds to create equality for the newly freed Black workers, including an education initiative that sponsored several universities such as the eponymous Howard University.
  • I may start an antiracism book club to hold myself accountable to keep educating myself in this area. I own a bunch of books that address race that I haven't read, including Isabel Wilkerson's Caste, Resmaa Menakem's My Grandmother's Hands, John Lewis's Carry On, Albert Murray's The Omni-Americans, etc. Let me know if you would be interested in joining me in reading and discussing such books.
  • Lastly, I am offering free 30-minute coaching sessions for up to ten Black professionals in the tech industry (inspired by my friend Ei-Nyung Choi on LinkedIn). Please share this offer with those who might benefit.
And now for the normal personal development content…

Book-related content:
  • I appeared on the Happy Engineer Podcast with Zach White talking about how to build a happy and successful career, particularly as an up-and-coming engineer.
  • If you bought my book, please write an Amazon review as each review helps to provide credibility to potential buyers. If you're a subscriber to this newsletter, I hope you value my ideas and want to see them spread to help more people.
LinkedIn: These are ideas that have helped my clients (or myself), and that I share via LinkedIn to help a wider audience, and archive here.
  • What has to change for you to reach your goals? Sometimes trying harder is enough to reach your goals, but sometimes doing more of what you're doing today won't get you there. You have to try something radically different, and transform yourself or your mindset if you want to make progress.
  • How can you be a great teammate? Inspired by a story from Seth Godin on Alisa Cohn's podcast, I ask how we can develop the skills to become the teammates everybody else wants to work with.
  • Your judgments distance you from connection. When we meet somebody new, our brains go into overdrive, trying to figure out whether we will be safe, and we make up a whole story about the person based on what we can immediately observe and pattern match. But that story is all in our head, and has nothing to do with the actual person. If you want more authentic connection (as I do), you have to put the story making on hold and let your curiosity discover the person.
As long as I'm being political by posting about Black History Month, let's keep it going with some thoughtful political articles I've read recently.
#1: Authentically acknowledge how truly terrible most people feel and
#2: Provide inspiration and clarity on when and how Democrats will help people feel better
#3: Acknowledge where mistakes have been made, take responsibility for those mistakes, and share learnings for how they’ll do better.

  • The Great Normalization, by Rogé Karma in The Atlantic. Most Americans believe that crime and inflation are up drastically, which leads to some of the discontent described in Reese's essay. Karma claims that "By the end of 2023, America’s unemployment rate, inflation rate, and economic-growth trajectory looked almost identical to what they had been just before the pandemic." In other words, these were pandemic-shutdown ripple effects. I don't know how true that is, but I appreciated the possibility.
  • KOSA (Kids Online Safety Act) isn't designed to help kids, by danah boyd. I have always appreciated boyd's thoughtfulness and engagement in centering teens in her previous research such as her book It's Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. She is frustrated at how politicians are using "but think about the children" heart-tugging to go after big tech companies in a circus of Congressional testimony this week. Her position is that this focus on technology distracts from the services that will actually help kids right now.
My daily poem from on February 1st was I look at the world, by Langston Hughes:

I look at the world
From awakening eyes in a black face—
And this is what I see:
This fenced-off narrow space
Assigned to me.

I look then at the silly walls
Through dark eyes in a dark face—
And this is what I know:
That all these walls oppression builds
Will have to go!

I look at my own body
With eyes no longer blind—
And I see that my own hands can make
The world that's in my mind.
Then let us hurry, comrades,
The road to find.

I appreciate you accompanying me on this journey. Thanks for being my comrades as I find the road.

Thanks for reading! See you in a couple weeks!
Lake Tahoe, always pretty
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