Welcome back! After giving you insight to my life with "I Am My Life (Part 1") a few weeks ago, it’s time to look at who I am today and who I hope to be tomorrow.
If you haven’t read Part 1, please click here and take a few minutes to get to know me. Reading about my past will put context to the following words and to the rest of my 2021 writings.
These blog entries could be titled, “I’m Complicated.” There is so much that makes me me (and you you). My Part 1 blog is just a small list of “inputs” to my life. There are so many more experiences that have shaped me:
Add everything up, and the result is a complicated person with much of my worldview set from an early age. I was born with a certain personality that has guided my entire life. I was blessed with two loving parents who nurtured and guided me until I became an adult. While I’m certainly not perfect and don’t always reflect my belief in God, my faith, which I’ve had for as long as I remember, guides my thinking and actions.
But here’s the key point: I’m open to change. I’m constantly growing, constantly learning, and constantly trying to be a better person. While I have two or three core beliefs that I won’t alter, everything else is open for discussion and subject to change.
The Right Kind of Uncomfortable
One of the true highlights for me in 2020 was a conversation I had with Elena Gerstmann.
The roots of our conversation — some would call it a debate — come from a tweet I made. Up to that comment, I had never tweeted (or blogged) about anything personal. Nothing about religion, politics, or my favorite Mexican restaurant.
But after reading one particular tweet regarding President Trump that elicited a number of harsh replies, I just couldn’t keep quiet. I didn’t defend President Trump but I did respectfully push back on all of the previous statements, making a point that the harshness of the comments simply did nothing to add to the political dialogue. I then blogged about that Tweet “conversation.”
Shortly after that blog, Dr. James Pogue asked if I would be interested in having The Right Kind of Uncomfortable conversation with Elena, someone who sees life much differently than I do.
James did a fantastic job of moderating our hour-long conversation. In the end, neither Elena nor I changed our position on any issues. We did, though, agree to talk more which we’ve done several times.
After watching the debate, my dad said, “Son, it was interesting but you didn’t solve anything.” I replied saying we weren’t really trying to solve a specific problem, rather we tried to model the ability to have a deep discussion between two people who see life differently. I think we were successful in that effort.
Thanks to Elena and James, a few D&I professionals and a few dear friends, I expanded my view of people in 2020. No, I didn’t change my conservative, Bible-based worldview. But I did grow in empathy for people, specifically black people and gay people. Through many discussions, I can better relate to the struggles some people face and have a better understanding of their worldview.
Most of all, I grew in commitment to helping people connect and helping people get along with each other. I’m committed to doing this on a small, one-to-one scale as well as a larger organizational scale, building workplaces where all people are welcome and feel included, heard, and safe.
So this will be the theme for the remainder of 2021 — how organizations can build high-performing workforces by connecting employees who are different. Different ethnicities, different political viewpoints, different ways of thinking, and different genders and generations.
Will you join me?
If we all commit to these actions, we can make 2021 a year that reverses course, turning away from the yelling, name-calling, incivility, and hurt we’ve seen grow the last several years and begin building better, stronger workplaces, communities, and, ultimately, a better world.
I’m a hater.
Never really thought of myself like this but after responding, “I hate that,” to a number of family members and friends in recent days, I just need to admit — I’m a hater.
I embarrassed to admit but I’ve always harbored a little hate. I hate mushrooms. I hate moving my clocks forward to Daylight Savings Time every spring and then back to Standard Time ever fall. And I hate being late, especially to a movie and missing the previews.
Lately, though, I’ve been feeling a little more hateful than usual:
Of all my hatred, here are the three things I hate the most these days.
#3. I hate that we’re having crucial discussions in 280 characters.
We must have deep dialogue about racism in America. We need to discuss immigration, gay marriage, and free speech.
But we can’t do that through tweets and blogs. At least we can’t do it well.
And yes, I hate that I’m adding to these “shallow” conversations through my own blogs and tweets. My hope is these written words lead to spoken dialogue for many people.
We must push through the uncomfortableness of these discussions and start talking to people different than us. That’s what I did last year a couple of times with Elena Gerstmann. Elena and I are very different yet we were able to have a civil conversation about my political choices. Was it difficult? Yes. Was it uncomfortable at times? Absolutely!
Did we change each other's mind? Yes! We both realized that the other person is likable! We may not have changed our political stripes but we did enjoy the opportunity to learn from one another.
When was the last time you calmly had a discussion with someone who thinks differently than you?
#2. I hate the dishonest conversations we’re having.
As I continue my own journey into Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, I follow and learn from some great people on LinkedIn. Lenora Billings-Harris. Dr. Shirley Davis. Tara Jaye Frank. And many more.
I’m grateful for their DEI leadership and truly thankful for the opportunities they have given me to ask real, sensitive, and truth-seeking questions.
There are many times, though, when I’m silent, when I don’t seek the truth. While I’ve replied to many stories and posts on LinkedIn, there are many more comments I could make but don’t. I hesitate because my comments will be taken out of context, someone will read in a tone that isn’t there, or someone will accuse me of being defensive (which actually happened just recently!).
I’m extremely thankful for my conversations with Dr. James Pogue. We’ve had some wonderful discussions when I’ve asked him some very pointed questions from an old, white, male perspective. Questions that were not easy to ask with answers that were not always easy to hear. Some answers I readily accepted. Other answers I have to wrestle with some more. And a few answers I totally disagreed with.
But they were honest conversations.
Conversations that were enabled because we thought the best of each other. I didn’t have to hide or soften my comments and questions because James believed my heart was in the right place. And most of all, because James showed me grace when I said something wrong, pushed back on a statement, or admitted that I simply didn’t understand.
That’s where we must go as a society:
#1. I hate that some people reading this post will get the wrong idea about me.
That’s especially true if they stopped reading early in this post after they learned I voted for President Trump.
Over the last year or two, I’ve been called pollution and a terrorist. I’ve been compared to Hitler. I’ve collected so many verbatim quotes and tweets that I no longer collect them. I don’t think there’s an adjective or word combination that can be used to describe me that hasn’t been used already (on a positive note, there are some very creative writers out there!).
Sadly, the people labeling me with these names or making these comparisons don’t even know me. They simply call me these names based on one action — the little circle I colored in next to Donald Trump’s name.
These people don’t know what went into that vote. They don’t know how I think. They don’t know the struggle I had matching my civics worldview and my faith with a Presidential candidate that I sometimes disagreed with and often winced at when hearing or reading one of his bombastic comments.
These people who judge me for how I voted or a comment I make on LinkedIn also don’t know how hard I work to bring people together. That's the entire goal of my speaking and consulting business.
They also don’t know that I spent four years in Bulgaria leading a small English-speaking school so other Americans could work in the country. They don’t know that I paid for groceries for the person in front of me at Target recently. They don’t know how I recently donated blood, donated a Saturday to hand out Christmas gifts to those less fortunate, and donated a Sunday afternoon to sort food for a local food pantry. Would a terrorist do these things?
Bonus hate: I hate that we’re letting so many things divide us while ignoring all of the things that bind us.
Here is a partial list of things I love:
Finally, one of the things I love the most?
Writing about and delivering keynote presentations about the uniqueness of people and how we have so much more that connects us than separates us.
We need to talk about our differences. We need to talk about race, religion, gender, sexual preference, and politics. We need to explore and understand white privilege and unconscious bias. I want to understand a black man's or woman’s life and their perspective on racism. And I want to explain my life, my experiences and my feelings about white privilege without being called a racist just because it doesn’t match your definition of white privilege or because I have questions.
I’m working hard to do my part. I’m reading. I’m studying. I’m engaging in conversations with my black, Hispanic, Asian, gay, liberal, and Millennial friends.
I’m showing grace to people who yell at me, curse at me, and turn their back on me because of how I vote or how I think. And I’m asking for grace in return when I say something off the mark.
We are all together in this thing called life. How much better it is if we show each other love and offer a helping hand instead of shouting hate and shaking our fist.
Will you join me in this quest for civility and unity? Leave a comment with your thoughts about my thoughts. And if you’re in the Lewisville, TX, area, let me know and we’ll have one of those deep, meaningful conversations over a taco and margarita — my treat!
If you're like me (and I know I am), you're ready for the new year. 2020 was not easy! While some good things did happen, I’ll still take a refund on the entire year. Of course, that can’t happen so let’s just hope 2021 is a year to remember — for all the right reasons!
This January blog is a bit different than previous entries. For the last few years, my first January post has been “Best Boss Resolutions.” Those actions and behaviors every leader should commit to in order to be, well, that best boss ever!
This year, though, I’m going in a new direction. In fact, the entire year will have a different tone.
So just as the Best Boss blog would launch the upcoming year, so does this one. My focus on people, diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging, valuing others, civility, and generally making the world a better place all starts with one thing — knowing me.
Often when I speak, I start by asking the audience, “Why should you listen to me?” In fact, why should you listen to anyone? Everyone has an angle, a perspective, a background that developed their thinking. Every speaker, every journalist, author, politician . . . EVERYONE!
Knowing that angle and perspective helps the listener judge and interpret the content. It helps us gauge the truth factor. It gives context to the content. And it allows us to apply — or not apply — their words to our life.
That’s what this blog is all about. I’m going to talk about me. I’m going to let you know who I am and where I’ve come from. I’m doing so with hope that you’ll get to know me, understand me a little, and, ultimately, follow me and engage with me throughout the year.
So who is Darren K. Ford?
Well, I’m just like you. I’m a human being who lives and breathes just like you. We both have basic needs of food, water, air, and shelter. We both have emotions, wants, and desires. We want to connect to others and we both want some fulfillment in life. We’re really very much alike.
Yet I’m completely different than you. In fact, I’m totally unique.
So what’s made me unique? Well, there are sooooooo many inputs throughout my life but this partial list will give you a little insight to Darren K. Ford.
WARNING! For some people, a few items on this list may be triggers to stop reading and never return. PLEASE read the entire list!
More importantly, PLEASE don’t judge me simply because of the experiences in my life.
Most importantly, PLEASE read my next blog which will put these experiences in perspective. And then you can decide whether or not to come back and be part of the conversation.
Okay, with that disclaimer out of the way, here is a small snapshot of my life:
In fact, there is no one else like me on dear ol’ Planet Earth. I’m one in a 7,836,311,154 as of 10:20 a.m., January 2.
And just like I’m unique, so are you! No one else just like you anywhere in the world.
Now it gets tricky.
While we’re totally the same, we’re also totally different. The differences may be big such as gender or religion or politics, or the differences may be small, say dogs or cats.
And if we’re not careful, these differences can cause conflict. These conflicts can grow and grow and grow, to the point where we’re simply not able to get along, as individuals or as a society.
Sadly, that's where we are today. We're not getting along. We can't talk to each other anymore.
How did we get to this point? More importantly, how do we get back to being friends? How can we stop yelling at each other and start caring for each other?
That’s exactly what we’ll explore this year. We’re going to take a deeper dive into our differences and find ways to overcome those differences.
So will you come back? Will you read future blogs, ask questions, and make comments?
Will you join me on this journey of making the world a better place by connecting people through similarities while overlooking, even celebrating, our differences?
And maybe, just maybe, with each blog, comment, and interaction, we’ll make the world just a little brighter, one connection at a time.
Recently I posted a short comment about making the world a better place through action. Of course, it's easy to tell others to take action. But it's just as easy to actually take that action! We have opportunities all around us if we're just willing to be observant.
For example, like many people, I've been working from home the last four or five months. And rather than wearing my normal business attire of a slightly starched button-down shirt and slacks, I've been wearing a polo shirt and gym shorts (admit it -- you're doing the same!).
After four months of working from home, I did have a few shirts that needed laundering so I dropped them off with Song, the woman -- along with her husband -- who has been taking care of my shirts and dry cleaning for years. She calls me "Mr. Ford" and regularly asks, "How is Mrs. Ford?" No need for a ticket because she knows me. I simply drop a pile of shirts on the counter and return several days later to pick them up. And if she sees me pulling up in the car, she has the shirts ready to go before I even walk through the door. It's almost become a game to see if I can sneak up on her!
When I went to pick up my five shirts a few days ago, I noticed Song's store was pretty empty. Upon a little digging, I discovered they are only doing cleaning two days a week. So I'm not the only person working in polos and shorts instead of business shirts and slacks.
Yet Song still keeps her store open every day but Sunday. "I have to be here for my customers." That's just part of her heart. "Yes, business is slow but at least I have a job. Many of our customers are out of work. It's so sad. But we are blessed." She and her husband are two of the nicest, kindest people I know.
So even though I'm still working from home, I'm again wearing that starched button down every day (and yes, I'm still wearing shorts). This way, I can visit Song and her husband regularly. Will it be enough to increase their cleaning operations to three or four days a week? Probably not. But it allows me to give them just a little extra business. More importantly, it allows me to honor Song's hard work over the years. And it brightens my day when I go visit her!
I don't tell this story to earn a gold star from anyone or prove I'm a good person. I'm truly just providing a simple example of how easy it is to help others, how we can make the world just a little bit kinder, one person, one interaction at a time.
Will you join me? How can you make the world a little bit brighter?
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.