you inspire me. no matter what.

you inspire me. yes, I mean YOU.
If you are overcoming challenges, you inspire me to persevere.
If you are making a positive difference, you inspire me to join you.
If you are killin it, you inspire me to work harder.
If you are consistent, you inspire me to develop discipline.
If you are gracious, you inspire me to be kind and patient.
If you help someone, you inspire me to pay it forward.
If you give, you inspire me to be generous.
If you are discouraged, you inspire me to encourage.
If you are heartbroken, you inspire me to be compassionate.
If you face a problem, you inspire me to learn.
If you are struggling, you inspire me to equip.
If you are striving, you inspire me to edify.
If you judge, you inspire me to investigate.
If you generalize, you inspire me to acknowledge nuance.
If you oversimplify, you inspire me to sort out complexity.
If you blame others, you inspire me to take responsibility.
If you complain, you inspire me to take action.
If you hate me, you inspire me to forgive.
If you mock someone, you inspire me to stand up for them.
If you dehumanize someone, you inspire me to #seepeople.
If you point out the negative, you inspire me to recognize the positives.
If you misjudge me, you inspire me to prove you wrong through consistent word and action, rather than explanation or argument.

you inspire me. no matter what. whether you recognize your actions on this list or whether I’ve missed noting them. you inspire me.

because everyone is #justadifferentkindofbroken and even when we “miss the mark” God has been redeeming the failures of broken people since the beginning of time.

including me.

looking for a facebook alternative? My first impressions of mewe.com, parler.com and locals.com

Tired of facebook selling your time and attention as a product to their customers (advertisers)?

Been censored, warned or suspended by facebook and/or twitter because your content “violated” their terms because you posted or shared anything from a bible verse to a youtube video to a newspaper article?

Have you and/or your posts been shadow banned? suffered from limited visibility?

Me too.

I’ve been testing out mewe.com, parler.com and locals.com as facebook alternatives and I encourage you to try them all out!

I’ve only been on a few days to a few weeks and have limited connections on all three platforms, but here are my first impressions:

(1) mewe.com looks and feels more designed for personal use to facilitate social connection, and is probably the most similar to facebook – again, first impression.

It allows comments, reposts (shares) and the emoji choices for likes allows you to choose from a full library of emojis, not limited to like, love, laugh, etc. It allows privacy settings on your account and your posts.

One fun option are the icons under your profile pic and banner that allows you to “click to add…what you’re eating, drinking, reading, listening to, watching and quoting”

(2) Parler is currently more political – if you choose to see “All” in your feed BUT, there is an option to view “Subscriptions only.” I would assume, that if you choose to view only the accounts you subscribe to, your feed will be significantly less political. It also has “upvotes, similar to Reddit. You can follow me there: @juliestilesmills

(3) locals.com is unique. Although you can set your account to be free to viewers (I’ve set MY account to be free), Locals seems more geared to accommodate content providers who charge a minimal monthly fee for access. Again, you don’t have to subscribe to anyone if you don’t want to. You can follow me there: @JSMPragmatic

Again, I encourage you create an account on all three platforms and give them a test drive.

Until and unless facebook and twitter stop deciding what content you can share, you’ve got NOTHING to lose.

inflammatory language and echo chambers

#foodforthought (what my brain has been chewing on for a few days)

I read a post written by an experienced journalist who has a formal education in the use and impact of communication. (meaning, they understand how to use language effectively)

Here are 98 words from the 346 word post:

“Tumult, Chaos, Lies, Corruption, Autocracy, Inanity, stories, scandal, demanded, attention, bricks, wall of horrors, Waking up, doesn’t believe, noise of the news cycle, plot, Chilling, Shocking, Sadly, outrages, rancid ingredients, toxic stew, poisoning, good and just, fragile, mistake, deep roots, founded, system, White Supremacy, long accepted, battled, demons, winked, suffocated, urgent, voices, dissent, perhaps, phrasing, assign, story, Time and time again, injustices, history, movements, fight on, discouraged, persevere, overwhelming, dangerous, disturbing, perspective, rallying, better angels, nature, undeterred, fearless, grit, energy, ferocity, truth, action, glimmering, horizon, hope, dismiss, dilute, challenges, formidable, fearsome, ranks of an army, change, marching, brighter, Courage.”

After reading the post, I was compelled to look up the exact definition of “inflammatory language”:

intentionally provokes a reaction from the reader by use of strong rhetoric or controversial opinions.

Accurate description of those 98 words.

The use and/or abuse of inflammatory language is one reason I don’t rely on anyone else’s explanation or interpretation for accurate, objective information. I search for and read/watch original sources rather than trust articles and videos which summarize, interpret or ‘splain them.

(And yes, “splain” is an inflammatory word, a derivative of mansplaining, but it’s genderless condescension. I said I don’t rely on inflammatory words for accurate, objective information. I didn’t say I never use them.)

But back to the post…I wanted to see what kind of reaction those 98 words evoked. The comment count showed there were 4.3K comments, but when selecting the option to see “All comments” the thread indicated only 2960 comments were available (that’s an example of shadow banning, btw)

While reading through the available comments, I was prompted to look up another definition.

This time for “echo chamber”:

metaphorical description of a situation in which beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a closed system and insulates them from rebuttal…people are able to seek out information that reinforces their existing views, potentially as an unconscious exercise of confirmation bias. This may increase social and political polarization and extremism.”

I have a personal aversion to groupthink, so the potential negative effect of an echo chamber is one reason I make sure I intentionally and consistently seek out and include listening and processing alternative interpretations and conclusions.

That said, if those alternative interpretations and conclusions are built on secondhand sources – or no sources at all – they lose credibility with me.

Which is what resulted in this case.

#ShareaResource: chirpbooks.com
discounted audiobooks

Monday through Friday, I get a daily email from Chirp (chirpbooks.com) with the subject line: “Today’s audiobook deals” and in the email are links to limited time discounted audiobooks. If you click a link in the email to view a particular book on the chirp website, you can view all of the limited time deals. I sort them by “Expiring Soon” which allows me to delete the email daily to keep my inbox clear without missing any deals.

They have a free Chirp app for android and apple When you sign up for a free account, you can specify the book categories you’re interested in.

For instance, there’s a category called “essential-anti-racism-nonfiction” and it currently has 26 audiobook deals starting at $1.99. If you are interested in books about race relations, check out my personal #RecommendedReads

Two categories I’m interested in are nonfiction and memoirs. Recent email’s have contained:

Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum for 4.99 which expires in 10 days and Marcus Samuelsson’s memoir entitled “Yes, Chef” for 4.99 which expires in 12 days.

no one can do everything
but everyone can do something.

You may have seen the following letter written by “This is Us” actor, Lonnie Chavis. These images are from his original facebook post:

I haven’t watched “This is Us” yet. But I did see the 4 minute clip he talks about here and it was a punch in the gut.

“The director and writers told me that they didn’t need me to cry for the scene. However, it was hard for me not to cry as I witnessed what I had just learned was my reality. I wasn’t acting. I was crying for me. Can you imagine having to explain to a room full of white people why I couldn’t hold back my real tears while experiencing the pain of racism?” Lonnie Chavis

We’ve come so far in the fight against racism and we’ve made so much progress on the road toward cultural competence and inclusion. Until just a few months ago, I genuinely thought we were still steadily moving forward.

Now?

At best, it seems progress is stalled.

At worst? If we’re not careful and intentional and diligent, we could slip backwards toward segregation and division.

There’s still so much work to do. Police reform, like Transitional Justice, prison reform like Restorative Justice and education reform utilizing racial equity tools are all possible paths forward. And those are only three issues.

It will take incremental steps and years for continued change to come to fruition. Implementing extensive change throughout widespread and interlocking systems and institutions is a mammoth objective with countless prerequisites and dependent tasks. The shadow of this mammoth task can block our vision and prevent us from recognizing opportunities to be active partners within these larger efforts, as well as prevent us from seeing opportunities to use our talents and skills to effect change within our own circles of influence.

Unless we intentionally search for those opportunities, we can fall into thinking that, as an individual, our voice is too small to make a concrete difference and that to be heard, our options are limited to voting and activism; such as protesting, signing petitions, donating money, and posting on social media.

Unless we recognize the cumulative and exponential results that grow from countless individuals working one-on-one to change the trajectory of a single person’s life, we run the risk of becoming incapacitated by the self-defeating belief that our individual contribution “isn’t going to cut it” as someone told me recently.

Acrimonious cynicism is counter-productive and that conclusion is unfounded. I’ve seen firsthand the results of helping a single individual break the cycle of generation poverty and overcome situational poverty and that kind of transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When you help one person, the change in their life is contagious. It infects their family and friends. I’ve been focusing on helping individuals for over 5 years now and I’m not going to give up on them because of a cynical dismissal that equates the results these hard working people achieve to being “coddled.” They are courageous and earn every hard fought success.

Some may call me naive, but I believe we can do more than protest, sign petitions, donate money, post on social media and vote.

If we want continued change and effective reform
I believe we need innovative ideas from
diverse groups of people uniting together,
blocking groupthink and creating synergy

I believe we need achievable goals
with sustainable results and
strategic plans tactically deployed
by teams of dedicated individuals

I believe we need patience and perseverance
for incremental steps, grace for failing,
course corrections and permission to try again.

Each of us has unique talents, skills and passions and there are countless opportunities for each of us to be good stewards of those gifts and make a positive difference in someone’s life by meeting a need. If you really want to find a way to help, look for organizations who are already serving in ways that align with your passion. Call a school and ask if there’s a struggling student who needs tutoring, check out Big Brothers Big Sisters of America or similar organizations. It doesn’t even have to be local. Now that so many people know how to use video chat, you can volunteer without leaving your house. Don’t devalue what you’re good at and look for ways to share it, equipping, inspiring and encouraging someone, even if you only have an hour a week or an hour a month. You can change someone’s life.

I recently learned of an inmate who is making a difference in individual lives – from inside prison. Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll entered prison illiterate at age 17 and after teaching himself to read, he studied finance and the stock market. When a warden (strongly) encouraged he teach other inmates, he started teaching financial literacy. These days, Robin William’s son, Zak co-teaches with him to support prison rehabilitation programs.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.
#BeTheChange
#RacialReconciliation

tension and paradox.
recognizing valid points on both sides of a complex issue.

When I agree with someone about a point they make,
it does NOT follow that I agree with EVERYthing they say or believe.
When I DISagree with someone about a point they make,
it does NOT follow that I disagree with EVERYthing they say or believe.

If you know me, you know I read and research a lil’ bit. 😉
I often say that I “eat the chicken and spit out the bones” and I’m not talking about barbecue.

I can honestly say I don’t limit my searching and learning to align with my own “latitude of acceptance” as it’s called in communication theory. I have books written by atheists organized alphabetically along with theologians in the apologetic section of my bookshelves. Doesn’t make me a heretic.

I research all sides of an issue because I’ve come to understand that dismissing, ignoring or ridiculing alternative viewpoints doesn’t invalidate them or strengthen my own beliefs.

Very often, this kind of research puts me in the position of recognizing valid points on both sides of a complex issue. There’s tension in that place. Paradox. Conflicting thoughts, opinions and ideas don’t fit together easily. Doesn’t mean the ones we don’t agree with are invalid.

Like I said. Tension and paradox.

But accepting that tension and paradox is what makes it possible for me to agree or disagree with someone about SOME things they say/believe and NOT agree or disagree about EVERYthing they say/believe.

It’s also why I can respect a person who disagrees with me about something without inferring from that disagreement that they are ignorant, hateful, intolerant, “brainwashed” or that their character is severely flawed.

People and issues are complex and understanding is hard work.

It’s worth the effort.

Don’t forfeit your opportunities to influence others.
part 2: doxing and terminating are easy.

Saw a comment by an HR professional in which they condemned someone for posting a link to a story and then strongly disagreed with people commenting on the post, calling them “disgraceful and dishonorable.” They ended by saying:

“I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”

My first thought was, wait.

Did an HR professional just promote doxing and termination?

This person’s entire career centers around employee development and training. They are a professed Christian and appear to have a lifelong passion for helping people find and reach their potential. Doxing and termination seemed counter to everything they work toward. They had an opportunity to influence and not only did they miss it and waste it, they intentionally threw it away.

It nagged at me. Like, “couldn’t sleep till after 4am” kinda nagged at me. I prayed about whether to reply and if so, what to say. Nothing seemed right. So, the next day, I went back to the post and replied, ditching all the possibilities I had considered and just straightforwardly asked:

What do you mean when you say “I hope the people you work with have access to some of the hateful comments some of you have shared here.”

I was genuinely hoping I was wrong and that if I wasn’t, that there might be an opening for dialogue.

Within an hour, they replied:

“The message above is very clear.”

For a fraction of a second, I thought about responding. I prayed. And this thought popped into my mind:

I’m not responsible for the outcome of the conversation.

My responsibilities are, at the very least, to:
1. respond to opportunities to have conversation and
2. ask the Holy Spirit to equip me for the conversation so I can respond instead of react
3. do my best to respond respectfully and humbly.

I genuinely believe part of my calling is to put stones in shoes, and leave the work up to the Holy Spirit to soften hearts and open minds. What that means to me is that, if after a conversation with me, someone is thinking more deeply about something than they were before, then I’ve been a good steward of that particular opportunity.

and I need to let it go so I can get some sleep. Because I need to be alert enough to recognized the next opportunity.

Don’t forfeit your opportunities to influence others.
part 1: Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn't strengthen your argument or your credibility.

Over and over, I see facebook posts by seemingly kind people instructing friends who [they perceive] believe differently than they do to “unfriend” them.

This week, I saw a post from an HR consultant on LinkedIn, declaring they would not work with anyone who [they perceive] believe differently than they believe.

I have more than a few problems with this increasing cancel culture reaction to diversity. And by definition, I believe the word diversity is accurate.

I included [they perceive] because

perception isn’t always accurate,
the issues facing us today are incredibly complex and
most people aren’t myopic simpletons.

1. Perception is subjective.

Our perception (a way of understanding or interpreting something)

is skewed by our

perspective (a particular attitude toward or point of view)

Consider the possibility that we have more in common that it may appear at first glance.

What if

people who believe and act differently than we do, actually want and value the same things but differ only in their strategies for pursuing those shared goals?

What if

people who believe differently than we do are intelligent and informed about facts, but differ only in their interpretations and conclusions about those facts?

What if

the labels we use to describe people who believe differently than we do actually dehumanizes them and prevents us from seeing them as unique individuals, much less understanding or empathizing with them?

What if

our perception of the “other guy” is wrong? What would we find out about them as human beings if we didn’t unfriend them or refuse to work with them?

2. When an issue truly is “clear” or “simple” there isn’t extensive controversy over it.

Time and time again, I see people completely disregarding conflicting ideas as invalid or irrelevant in their efforts to justify and validate their own view. I’ve said this before:

Dismissing alternative viewpoints doesn’t strengthen your argument or your credibility.

It weakens the first and erodes the second.

If our reasoning can’t stand on it’s own merit and stand strong against questions or counter arguments, it needs some work. And if our reasoning needs work, we might consider listening to the alternative viewpoints as a first step. Allowing them to challenge our assumptions and help us come to a deeper understanding of what we believe so we can explain it. Respectfully.

It’s so. much. easier to call someone by a label instead of by their name, to cut off communication with them and instead surround ourselves with the comfort and familiarity of people who think like us, but we can’t hear different voices if we block ourselves off from their source.

3. Disagreement doesn’t mean people are uninformed, uneducated, racist or brainwashed.

Statements like the ones below assume that people who hold alternative views about the causes of, and solutions to, the problem of racism are only listening to a few well known celebrities “instead of” rather than “in addition to” their friends – and to the alternative views of a significantly larger number of not so famous people with diverse backgrounds, education and credentials:

  • “…if you are listening to them instead of the black people in your life on a daily basis…You’re doing it wrong.”
  • “If you’re a white person…quick to post a video of a famous black person agreeing with you, but won’t read a book from a black person with a PhD in their field disagreeing with you, then you aren’t trying to learn, you’re just weaponizing black voices to confirm your own bias.
  • “If you genuinely want to be part of this conversation, please stop only listening to black voices that prove your white opinion right.”

What if

there are so many of these alternative voices, coming from so many sources, growing louder every day that it’s impossible for us NOT to hear, much less ignore them?

What if

these thoughts and opinions are not just coming from black celebrities but from all walks of life, from multiple socio-ecconomic classes and some with PhDs of their own?

What if

people aren’t just watching youtube video clips and sharing pithy word images?

What if

people are actually reading books, studies and articles – written by authors from both sides, listening to podcasts, interviews and debates AND having authentic, vulnerable conversations with friends who not only don’t look like they do, but also friends who don’t think like they do?

 

Permission Marketing vs. Push Marketing
build a more effective email list.

Some unsolicited advice to anyone trying to reach potential clients or customers:

INVITE ME to Join Your Mailing List, DON’T ADD ME Without Permission. It just alienates us and fills your email list with people who aren’t your target audience.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten an email from an acquaintance who, because they HAD my email address, they added it to their marketing email list.

Sometimes, they got it because they gained access to a group list and poached it.
Sometimes they got it because I was a co-recipient of a group email they also received.
And sometimes, acquaintances have just arbitrarily added me because I’d sent them an email in the past.

Resist the temptation to build a mailing list this way.

It builds a fake list. It results in a mailing list of people who never expressed interested in whatever it is you sell.

Personally, there’s NOTHING that makes me UNsubscribe from a list faster, while at the same time lowering the professional respect for, and credibility of, the sender in my mind.

Every time I get an email from someone who does this, my impression is that they need to research and study marketing, specifically permission marketing vs. push marketing.

#BadForm

Our words and actions, whether online or IRL, reveal something of our true beliefs and character.

As often as I see it, I will never be desensitized to adult bullying.

It surprises me every time.

Especially when it comes from someone who knows the pain of being on the receiving end.

And the duplicity genuinely confuses me.

IRL kindness and then,

BAM.

Dehumanizing and cruel mocking.

SO. MANY. posts and comments about leaders that are flat out mean and hateful.

I’m reminded of a blog post I wrote back in 2018:

…duplicity was the unacknowledged elephant in the room when the internet-infused courage of this person deflated like a day old birthday balloon during real life interactions: what happens online, stays online.

Except, it doesn’t.

Our words and actions, regardless of whether they are online or IRL, reveal something of our true beliefs and our character:
“…surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.” [emphasis added] #IreadthereforeIquote
C. S. Lewis

We’re in the middle of a global pandemic. This situation is incredibly complicated. I can’t imagine the stress of striving to make the best decisions in this no-win hornet’s nest while at the same time getting the $#!+ kicked out of me by both the media and hundreds of thousands of armchair commentators.

They have to be exhausted. And yet they continue to put themselves out there every day knowing they’re going to end up a target.

Again.

#seepeople and #edify because everyone is #justadifferentkindofbroken
#KindnessisContagious but so is #sarcasm and #criticism