A buddy of mine used to say this daily. For years. Seriously. Every day. Not hyperbole. I agreed they are awesome. I agree we should work hard at kindness to all people, especially those who we may not at first think are much like us. But I wasn’t catching my buddy’s wisdom for a while. In the pursuit of health and fitness, a spirit of love is superior to hate, criticism, and ambivalence. In the pursuit of wellness, a spirit of love for others is superior to all the trackers, the food logging, the workout programs. It’s not just a flippant or strictly religious sentiment; studies actually show that expressing care for people outside of your kin group may help you live longer: https://www.sciencedirect.com/.../pii/S1090513816300721.... Over time I came to agree that my buddy was on to something with his specific word choice. In life, we must relent to our repeated experiences; and my repeated experiences demand from me the belief that gay people and minorities are the best.
Fairly early in my career I met with a couple where they asked me something rather jarring, “are people ‘ok’ at this gym with a gay couple?” “‘Ok’?,” I replied. “No; they’re not... JUST ‘ok’, they’ll LOVE you.”
Think about that. Think about having to wonder if you can safely enter a new space in a free country based on who you’re attracted to. Think about that in your own country. I mean, I’ve travelled to countries where I maybe needed to think about if public display of affection with my wife was going to be a cultural faux pas. But think about in YOUR OWN COUNTRY worrying about if people can just leave you alone.
That aside, the reality is that there is a disproportionately superior track record of support and reliability for me from people not like me. Percentage-wise, it’s actually pretty crazy how many regular members, how many clients, and how many staff were coming from a dramatically different world of experiences than mine. In a moment of reflection one day in 2006, I realized I had 25 direct employees, and only one of them was a young, straight, white male... and he’s deaf.
Hindsight is clear. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of the awesome people who supported me. But there is a special accolade that needs to go to minorities and gay people. Their unending support for me, for my teams, and for my dreams is totally unrivaled. And sadly, whenever it came down to critical junctures in my businesses or career, there is a starkly clear demographic break.
That is, in 20 years of this profession, only one person ever bounced a payment. He was one of the most connected people in my network, by the way. I’ll let you guess his demographics. Only two people ever asked for refunds in all that time. Neither was my client, but that of an employee or contractor. Both were male, straight, white; and I’ll let you guess about their ideological/political leanings. I could increasingly predict which people were most likely to be unreliable in payment, no show, disappear without communication, and be generally cagey by how much like me they might appear to be.
I don’t know why, but in the case of my entire professional experience, minorities, gay people, and those with political beliefs way on the other side of the spectrum were just more supportive of business and me. An irony to be sure, all of the big talkers about “support small business” were among the very few people who just sort of evaporated last year. When it came to putting their money where their mouth was, only a mouth remained when shutdowns hit. Our business grew and we weren’t crushed by the pandemic, thankfully. But that thanks can only go to a few people who may seem to be a lot like me on the surface.
Marginalized people have taught me a lot. People who may appear to be a lot unlike you have a treasure trove of grace and education to gift you, if you’re willing to accept. As you grow, you find the differences smaller and smaller. And perhaps you too can be the best. For yourself. For health. For others.