I know the deep pain and uncertainty that comes from the having someone you trust turn out to be a sexual predator.

I’ve also thought, said, and done things throughout my life I wish I hadn’t. Between the many voices of people who are willing to speak up, the many more who could but can’t, and the perpetrators who selfishly manipulate people to feel powerful — everyone of us is personally connected to this issue.

Gender, race and power. This world wide web of communication has got us all talking and thinking about these issues in a way that history has never seen before. It’s hard, but healthy. It can be a little overwhelming. Today I’m sharing some practical steps I’m taking to help be the change I want to see, every day.

I believe I’ve had a head start in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had my struggles. I dropped out of college. My parents were divorced. My Dad died young, I could go on. I’ve scraped my way up in business. I work hard to deliver great results with a pretty decent success rate. Rah, rah — I’m a badass.

But still, when I look at the statistics and myself honestly, the head start is clear. I’m a man in the U.S.A. My parents loved me. I’ve never wondered how I was going to eat. I’m 6’1”, blonde, and reasonably fit.

I have a whole lot more advantages to list, but I believe just stopping there when you consider the 7.4 billion choices of who to be on earth — I have a good deal. Of course, if I had some extra points to throw around I might want to level up a bit in this or that. But I know just being a middle class white male in the U.S.A. is a character preset you could happily rename and go “win” the game of life with.

I am rarely afraid.

I’ve avoided being mugged by simply staring at the man threatening me and saying “no.” I’ve been in fights (as a kid) and I’ve won.

I’ve used my advantages for personal gain. Occasionally consciously, but I’m sure constantly just through the opportunities and self selection that comes my way.

I generally try, and believe I am, a pretty decent guy. I’ve never groped or raped anyone. I’ve never cheated on my wife. I don’t go to church on Sundays and I think rules are fun to break at times, but you’re not going to see me on the news one day like some of these assholes. That’s good, but that’s not enough.

I know that by mindlessly walking down a street behind someone I’ve surely scared them just because of who I am.

I know I’ve made people feel less than my equal by the way I’ve looked or talked to them. I know I’ve done it my design on occasion, so I’m sure I’ve done it on accident a lot.

That’s not the person I want to be.

It’s not that I owe it to “mothers, sisters and daughters” — although clearly, yeah we owe respect to all ‘people.’

It’s that I want a full and balanced life. The masculine energy that I use to slash and burn my way towards my goals is only half of the tool box nature has offered us. I want the wisdom, stability and purpose of the feminine we all have within us too. I want to surround myself with the best and brightest people working their hardest to make tomorrow awesome for everyone. I want more eyes on the prize, more voices at the table. If I have to bend a little further or carry a little extra weight, the advantages I’ve had in life afford me the opportunity to do that.

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So here’s some things I am trying to actually do about it:

  1. Call out and admit mistakes. When someone (including me) says something stupid, I will call/admit it to be stupid quickly. No one’s perfect. A couple of months ago I joked with a male bartender that we weren’t interested in cider because “we didn’t bring any women.” My friends politely rolled their eyes and politely said “no you can’t say that man,” and they were right. That was a stupid thing to say, I don’t know why it even came out of my mouth. Sure, I know a lot of ladies who prefer cider to beer, but I know fellahs who straight up make the stuff for fun and I enjoy it too. Why did I say that? I have no idea. A stupid joke that appeared in my head in a nervous moment and escaped through the filter that should have been engaged at my mouth.
    That’s okay. Admit the mistake, move on. I’m still an okay person. I don’t need to defend my whole identity because I’m wrong at times. I think this is really hard for a lot of my kind. We’re not used to being told “nope — that’s just wrong” and when it happens we can get super defensive easily. We need to practice turning the sting of shame into a positive learning experience. I will toughen up. I will share my mistakes with others, particularly when it’s hard. I will look for ways to help others in positions of power open their minds and do the same for themselves.
  2. Pass the mic. I can hold my own in a conversation, everyone is going to know what I think before we’re done. I will spend more time helping others do the same. I will support people who speak truth to power by giving them the podium. The more I listen and the less I say, the more likely I am to actually learn something new, which is generally my goal. I’ve even started using a chess timer to try to remind myself to shut-up on calls.
  3. Pick All-Stars. Hiring women and POCs is smart. You shouldn’t need affirmative action, you’re an idiot for not picking the person who undoubtedly has worked harder to get to the table. I will consciously hunt out the underdogs who don’t look like me and have experiences I don’t. Not because I’m doing them a favor, but rather because I want a stronger team.
  4. Be a friendly giant. We all know that big guy who “is really just a sweetheart.” Truly strong individuals have an energy that is welcoming. They are friendly because they can easily afford to be. Smile and say hello. Think twice about saying “nice pants!” — even if you really just like the pants. I will bend over backwards to create a safe place for all, because sometimes my mere presence is intimidating. I don’t have to like that, I can say I didn’t ask for it, but it’s a small price to occasionally pay for the head start I’ve been given.

I will do these things even though they will be hard at times. I will worry about this not because I feel guilty about my head start. I will do these because I want the world to be a better place and I know we’re capable of so much more together. Yes, even I’ve had my own experiences with sexual predators, but on the daily I get to operate in the world without constant harassment and fear. Every one of us deserves that freedom.

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