Why the Traffic Stop of Sandra Bland Should Scare Us All

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Today I am wading into some uncomfortable waters, not because I like controversy, but because it matters.

I’ve just watched the full video of the arrest of Sandra Bland, a civil rights activist from Chicago who was starting a new chapter of her life with a job in Texas when a traffic stop by Officer Brian Encinia quickly escalated into a series of events that ended in her untimely death in a jail cell, with Mr. Encinia under criminal probe, and her death, initially reported as suicide, under investigation as murder.

This video scares me to death.

Not because I think every police officer is bad. I do not. By and large, I believe most care about the welfare of those within their community and work hard to protect the public while risking their lives to do so, conducting themselves with a high level of professionalism under difficult circumstances. I have deep respect for the many within our communities who serve with integrity and who uphold the law with compassion and professionalism.

But there has been an increased number of incidents where police officers have not controlled their own emotions but escalated a situation because of their own confrontational, aggressive behavior, looking a lot more like they’ve been trained for combat than civil service.

As a mother of a teenage son, that absolutely terrifies me.

Whether he is out with friends or attending school, since more public schools are housing armed officers on premises – including his, I can’t imagine that I am alone in worrying that my kid could end up in a domino-effect of escalated reactions by an authority figure which results in terrible consequences. One only has to read about the young boy with autism who was physically forced into a trash can by his teacher or about the 1,600 students in a single school district in Louisiana who all within a single year now have arrest records for such reprehensible behavior as throwing Skittles on the school bus, carrying a cell phone or using bad words to understand that extreme responses to minor incidences are already a problem in some schools.

2472344B-343C-4C95-9AF9-1376999663A9There is growing outrage over these extreme consequences resulting from out of control authority figures, and yet, especially when it comes to our police, we  understand that the difficult task of keeping order means that sometimes force is absolutely required to address dangerous situations which threaten the lives of citizens and police officers. And the increased awareness is also, in part, a result of mandates for greater transparency which has led to more dash cam recordings shared with the public as well as the proliferation of cell phone cameras and platforms such as Twitter, YouTube and Reddit. Open digital platforms have resulted in rapid, real-time sharing of evolving events, turning the world into active participants in the court of public opinion. Dante Barry, the Executive Director of Million Hoodies for Justice, recently shared his insights at the Personal Democracy Forum in NYC on this new age of powerful platforms generating powerful movements like #BlackLivesMatter. Barry presented many counterpoints addressing the need for judicious protections of privacy and rights as new technologies are adopted.

But even more important than technology, I believe the impetus is on us to address the human factor as well. The behavior of some of the authority figures caught on video is downright scary. When we understand that the person standing inches away from our vehicle may be a consummate professional with proper training or might be someone who quickly escalates to force, we, as citizens, end up having to decide when we are pulled over whether to push back when we believe our rights are being violated or to accept the possible violation of our rights as the necessary price of not possibly ending up in jail or dead. And when we have to teach our children to not question what is being decided about them by a teacher, principal or police officer for fear that any sign of resistance my trigger this kind of escalation, what kind of adults are we going to produce? Is the answer as simple as implementing new training techniques which focus less on ‘combat preparedness’ and more on behavioral techniques? Is the solution much less attainable due to systemic problems which run much deeper? I honestly don’t know the answer. I just know that somehow we have to find a way to stop the extreme escalations by those in authority positions which result in devastating, irreparable tragedies for everyone involved.

The Hidden Cost of Quitting

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We’ve all heard some version of the saying that begins “when the going gets tough…” But the reality is that when things get difficult, even the tough find it very tempting to look for reasons to give up. And to be fair, quitting can be the right decision – but the hidden costs of that choice mislead us into thinking that the relief of giving up is worth the disappointment of not finishing.

When we come upon a massive barrier to accomplishing a goal, the level of desire to gain whatever we see as the ultimate reward is directly related to the price we are willing to pay to overcome the barrier.

If our goal is to earn a specific degree in college, it isn’t the degree itself that keeps us going through the difficult classes or enormous financial costs – it’s the ultimate reward of a coveted lifestyle or opportunity to work within a specific field that forces us to dig deep in the difficult moments where quitting seems to be so much easier than continuing. The degree is just a piece of paper; it’s what that piece of paper makes possible that we see as the ultimate reward.

If we’ve chosen to become an entrepreneur, it is rarely the job itself that we see as the big reward; it is seeing our idea becoming a reality, our solution to a problem put into action that fuels us to give up so much to see that vision through to fruition.

But, whatever the goal, when things get difficult, we begin weighing the cost in front of us with the value of that ultimate reward. We start to doubt whether we are actually capable of finishing the goal, whether we’d really like the results of finishing, and we begin to think of ways to lessen the goal to something that wouldn’t take nearly as deep a toll on us financially, physically, emotionally or mentally. We allow ourselves to rationalize why quitting would be better. We would have more time again. We wouldn’t be so broke, because we could do something easier to make money right away. We would have more time to pursue a hobby. We could put all of our energy into a new interest that looks easier to do and like a lot more fun that what we’re trying to accomplish now. The reasons, really, are limitless.

Quitting brings instant relief. The pressure is off. The fear of failing is over since quitting isn’t the same as failing (or so we tell ourselves). And the temporary disappointment we feel and that others may express will pass. Besides, it’s not their life, it’s ours, so if we’re ok with the decision, everyone else can just get on board or keep it to themselves. Ah, yes, it is so alluring to quit.

But what we don’t take into consideration nearly often enough is the hidden costs of quitting. That temporary disappointment we feel in ourselves? It’s not temporary. It’s permeates every facet of our psyche and has a powerful effect on our future decisions. When we find a new goal for ourselves, we begin that goal with the knowledge that we might quit without reaching it. It makes it harder to begin again and easier to quit the next time. When we measure ourselves up against our competition, we secretly believe that we may not go as far as they will, because we might quit when they’re still committed and willing to pay a higher cost to get to success. We start making smaller choices, safer decisions, and we start seeing ourselves as less-than.

Sometimes we will fail. But the long term cost of failing isn’t nearly as devastating if we’ve given everything we could to try to achieve our goal as it is when failure comes by quitting. And, yes, sometimes the right decision is to quit. Sometimes the price is too high. Sometimes we weren’t realistic when we set out to achieve some goal. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right. Sometimes a need arises that supersedes our desire to accomplish a goal. And when that is truly the case, the challenge will come in reminding ourselves of the actual facts of why we quit when we begin to doubt our ability to see something through to the end. In those instances, we must remember that sometimes the sacrifice of giving up is the right price to pay to meet a higher need.

But far too often we tell ourselves we’re quitting to meet a higher need when the reality is that the cost of continuing just looks far too expensive. It gets harder before it gets easier. It looks more impossible right before the solution becomes clear. And we will never, ever know the incredible joy and satisfaction of success if we quit when we’re on the dark side of difficulty.

The next time you’re tempted to give up on a goal, ask yourself if it is worth living with that choice the rest of your life. Ask if the future regret will be worth the relief now. Your answer may surprise you, and it may be the fuel you need to push through when the going gets tough.

 

On Anger and Thriving in the Startup Pressure Cooker

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As the founder of a tech startup, I’ve certainly had my share of experiences where the choice to let go of anger has been the only way I could maintain the emotional and mental resources needed to weather the extreme highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Anyone who has been involved in a startup understands that the pressure to deliver on a vision with limited or nonexistent funds, personnel or supplies brings out the best – and worst – in each of us.

We say things we don’t mean. We say things we absolutely mean but might have had the wisdom to keep to ourselves under other conditions. We do things we regret. And, at some point or another, we end up on the receiving of those same experiences.

Sometimes the blame for the fractures in our relationships lies squarely on our own shoulders, and when it does, feeling angry is wasted emotion. It’s far more productive to serve ourselves a slice of humble pie and offer up an apology.  When it comes from an honest place, an apology opens the way back to peace. Building a startup is emotionally draining, even in good times, and making sure we aren’t weighted down by unresolved issues – especially when we hold the power to make amends – is vital. But it is the wounds which are result of others’ betrayal or wrong behavior, the ones which we cannot repair, which often disrupt our peace, cloud our judgment, and distract us from our goals.

One of the most important traits we need as an entrepreneur is the inner calm to persevere amidst the intense emotions of the startup pressure cooker, especially if our journey is made more difficult by the actions of another.

If the damage to our reputation or company rises to the level of needing to take action against it, then we shouldn’t waste our energy on anger. Immediately consulting a lawyer will clarify the available options, but the decision to take legal action is a serious one. While it may feel empowering to fight back, there is a high financial and emotional cost attached to public court battles, and every moment spent on resolving conflict through the courts is time not spent growing the startup or supporting our team. Sometimes legal recourse is the right course of action, but it is a decision that should only be made after very careful consideration to all factors involved.

But, by and large, most of the difficulties we experience with others do not rise to this level. That in no way changes the amount of pain and anger we experience. Whatever the conflict, whatever the cause of the anger, if we hold onto it, we will be the loser, because anger drags us down, changes our perspective, diminishes our drive and energy, depletes our hope for the future. If we allow it to grow, anger will eventually cloud our own vision and destroy our ability to lead our team forward to success.

So just let it go. Every single time anger once again surges to the surface, make the conscious decision to just let it go. We can choose to focus on the future, on the positive and not allow our painful experiences along our journey to cloud our own vision. We owe it to ourselves and to everyone else on our team to preserve the emotional resources needed to achieve success.

And when we make the choices that allow us to preserve our inner peace, the reward is that the sweet savor of success isn’t marred with the bitter aftertaste that comes with lingering anger. And isn’t that why we began this journey of entrepreneurship in the first place?

Why I Don’t Feel Guilty for Being a Working Mom

IMG_0251I recall the exact moment I decided that something had to change.

I’d taken on a part-time position with a local museum which I’d taken specifically for the hours when my husband would be home with our three kids. And while I actually enjoyed the work, I also missed out on a lot – my daughter’s last year of competing at nationals for climbing as well as weekend camping trips, family suppers, and just hanging out in the back yard with the kids on a warm Saturday night.

But the moment that pushed me over the edge was when I arrived home at 3 AM on a Saturday night. I tried to open our garage door but met resistance. Pushing a little more firmly, I realized I was actually scooting my youngest son across the tile of our foyer. At some point after being tucked into bed, our youngest woke up. He did the only thing a little boy missing his mother knew to do – wait at the very spot he knew I’d return. And so he waited on the cold tile until he finally fell asleep.

I picked my son up and carried him back to his bad, pulling up the covers up and kissing his forehead. I sat at the edge of his bed for a few moments, tears welling up as his little hand gripped tightly around my finger. And in that moment I knew that no job was worth doing this to my son.

Within the month I’d resigned my position and metamorphosed from stay-at-home mom to founder of a tech company. Not that being an entrepreneur eradicated Mommy Guilt. It didn’t. But it did mean I decided what I was going to feel guilty about, because I was the one choosing the trade-offs of what I’d miss to give time to something else.

There are times now that I am definitely judged as being that mom – the one who ends up parenting her kid via cell phone while boarding a plane, who is rarely available to volunteer for anything during or after school, and the one who has more than once sent her kid off to school with a still-damp uniform after forgetting it was needed for a game after school. I’m the mom who celebrates my kid’s somewhat crappy-looking science fair entry while happily ignoring the silent condemnation of his classmates’ parents who see my hands-off approach as unsupportive. Truth is I have no desire to see if my participation in his project will earn him an A. It’s his learning experience, and if I’m judged as the mom who doesn’t help her kid with his projects, I’m ok with that. I’ve made peace with being that mom.

But I’m finished with feeling guilty. Or, at least, I’m finished letting anyone else decide what should make me feel guilty. If I blow off one of my kids or ignore them when they really need me, and I do it because I am far too immersed in my own thoughts to be present and listen, I should feel guilty about that. It is a poor choice that leaves me as inaccessible as if I wasn’t there. If I don’t parent by making my children accountable for immoral, inconsiderate, unkind, or dishonest behavior, if I don’t provide comfort and perspective when my children are wounded by life, or if I’m not accessible for the average, ordinary conversations that are actually the courage-building moments when one of my children might share one of those big issues that they’re carrying deep inside – if I am not available to be that parent, I should feel guilty.

But I’m finished feeling guilty for being gone on travel and not available at a moment’s notice to help one of my children get out of a momentary problem. Yes, I’m unavailable. But, no, it’s not the end of the world. And more often than not, it simply results in the learning moment where my kid discovers they have the inner resilience and resources to manage the issue for themselves.

I’m finished feeling guilty for not being there every morning to cook breakfast. Guess what? Cooking skills are empowering. When my teenage kid discovers he can forage in the pantry and make something to eat without setting the toaster on fire – that isn’t neglect – that’s fostering independence.

And I’m finished feeling guilty for not being invincible. There are days I’m barely treading water because of the overwhelming amount of responsibility that I have on my plate, and allowing my children to witness my own moments of weakness, vulnerability, and fear – that is a gift I am giving them. When they witness the same raw emotions coming from me which often hold the same power to derail their own pursuit of goals and dreams – and when they see me get beyond those momentary emotions to move forward – I am sharing with them the honesty of the journey, the reality of the pain and emotional toll that is taken from each of us if we are to grow to meet the challenges along the journey. I refuse to feel guilty for sharing that with my children.

IMG_3102The truth is that I absolutely love what I do now. I love our company, our vision, the problems we are helping others solve because of what we’ve built. I love the dynamics, talent and energy of our team. And I love the opportunities that have arisen along the journey – the chance to build rewarding friendships, the opportunity to launch an organization with a dear friend which is focused on empowering other women, and the privilege of being inspired by others who are pursuing their own dreams. I also love being a mother, even if the mother I am today isn’t what I imagined. I’ve made peace with the messiness of it all, because it is the mess of it all, the ebb and flow of blending all of these roles together into one reality which has helped me finally feel at peace with who I am.

Gender bias forced me to quit Quiksilver’s board

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Lisa Abeyta:

Liz Dolan, Fox International Channel’s CMO, speaks out about why she resigned from her position as the only woman serving on Quicksilver’s board: “The directors also told me I was kept out of the discussions because they thought I would “be too conflicted.” I tried to explain to each of these directors that some directors are not more equal than others. I was elected to the board because I am an accomplished global marketer, which is what Quiksilver needed, not because I was the CEO’s friend. I wish they had seen me as an accomplished professional, as their peer.”

Originally posted on Fortune:

Editor’s note: Usually, corporate board of directors’ conflicts are kept behind closed doors. But recently, Fox International Channels CMO Liz Dolan resigned as the sole female member of the board of Quiksilver, the action sports and apparel company. As the Wall Street Journal reported, Dolan, a former CMO of Nike[fortune-stock symbol=”NKE”] and the OWN channel had quit in protest, saying the Board deliberately left her out of the discussions that led to the firing of the CEO Andy Mooney and hiring of his successor, Pierre Agnes. Here Dolan, who also is a cofounder of the popular podcast Satellite Sisters, explains in detail her decision to quit. Quiksilver’s spokesperson declined comment.

Until last week, I was a member of the Board of Directors of Quiksilver. I know that few women are on corporate boards of publicly-traded companies. I was proud to be one of them. I’d served on this…

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