22nd September 2018 marked the first Pride March and public event in Dundee. This is a personal story about how a very dear friend taught me empathy and compassion. I talk about how my emotions and behaviour have changed over the past 15/20 years, and how as a business leader I’ve embraced inclusivity and equality.
I’ve been back and forth in my head about whether or not I should record this episode. I started planning this episode over a month ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Do I have the right to say anything? What do I know about pride? I’m a straight, almost middle-aged … 37 years old tomorrow … white man. I also didn’t want to simply put out a pride version of our logo.
I wanted to have something worthwhile to say and to share that with you, so this is a personal story from me about how my emotions and behavior have changed over the years, and how, as a business leader, I’ve embraced inclusivity and equality.
Maybe there’ll be something interesting for you here. I hope so. But maybe not. Either way, I hope you listen and enjoy.
22nd of September, 2018, marked the first Pride march and public event here in Dundee, and we’ve been looking forward to it for a while. One of my favorite local brands, AbandonShip … check them on Instagram … worked with the Pride team here in Dundee to design the merchandise and the logos, so that was pretty cool, and all the local businesses and all the local people have been getting behind it, and yesterday in the city square there was an emotional feeling of inclusivity.
It’s kind of hard to put it into words. It was like a mini-festival, and it felt really, really special.
If you think it, a lot about how I’ve changed over the years, especially in the last 15 to 20 years, I’m much more open, empathetic, compassionate and a better listener now than I ever had been. There’s a lot more work to do on me, and I’m working on myself every day. I’ve talked about that on the show recently.
When I brother Colin passed away in 2007, I mostly dealt with that by burying my feelings, and oftentimes that resulted in me not really showing my feelings for anything, really, or ever showing that I cared about how other people felt, so by not dealing with my own emotions, it kind of affected my behavior. I also dealt with that, with Colin passing away, by going to work and just keeping myself busy, generally, with hobbies, but mostly with work. I heard more than once about how I had a heart of stone. In other words, not really showing my emotions, not really getting upset about anything, and probably even avoiding a lot of emotional circumstances.
I feel like I’ve come a long way from that now. I feel like I’ve really changed as a person. There was a particular event in my life, before Colin died, back in probably 2001, 2002. There was this event, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently.
Although it upsets me about how I dealt with it then, I feel better now that I have changed the way I think and feel and behave, and I’ll share that story with you in a moment.
Much of the personal change has come from my own separation with my wife, which was over two years ago now, having kids, which has changed everything about how I feel about people, and finding the love of my life as well. So, there’s been a lot of personal change in a very short space of time very recently.
I’ve also been working with Marcus Sheridan over the last four years. When I was his understudy at our event last year, I discovered a real gap in the way I behave, and also in the way I think and what I see and believe about the world.
What I found was that Marcus could see something in people that I could not, especially not the depth that he could. This isn’t something that Marcus has learned from going to a training course or anything like that. His philosophy has been shaped over a lifetime of experiences. And I knew in that moment that if I wanted to become a better person, I had to go inwards. I had to go deep. I needed that self-discovery, so since then, I’ve been working hard on me in a big way.
I’m going to go back to when I was 21 years old or thereabout, about 2001, 2002, maybe 15 years ago, about when my very best friend, Paul, came out to me.
Now, I’ve known Paul from when I was born. His mum and my mum met at a toddler group here in Scotland, so before I even knew anything about the world, we’ve been the best of friends. So, Paul is family. He’s a brother. We experienced our first day at school together. We went to clubs together. Paul is an only child, but he’s very much part of our blended family, with six brothers across the families.
Paul and his husband-to-be, Santino, also are godparents to Lily Rose, who is now six months old, so very much part of our life.
So 15 years ago, when I was 21, Paul came out to me. I think I was the first, one of the first people that he spoke to about it, and safe to say, I did not deal with it very well. In fact, I pretty much ignored what he said, and I pretended that it didn’t happen, which is kind of weird. I’m not sure why I behaved like this. Maybe it was emotional immaturity. Maybe I was miseducated. Perhaps just not really knowing what it all really meant and not knowing what to do or how to behave.
Even now, thinking back to my education and my experience in that time, my first 20 years of life, growing up in the ’80s and the ’90s, I don’t really remember ever having a worthwhile discussion about different sexual orientations in or outside of school. I just don’t remember it being anything, actually. Perhaps my exposure was slightly different than most. I’m not sure. But this was just something that I didn’t talk to anyone about that was close to me. I don’t recall ever talking to anyone about it ever, and I had no idea how to behave or react. I didn’t know what was right or wrong.
At the time, I don’t even think I realized that Paul was coming out. I didn’t know what it was, and I didn’t know what was going on. I just truly didn’t understand how important this moment was for Paul.
I feel ashamed about how I acted and behaved back then, and my behavior at that time certainly marked a bump in our friendship. It was hard for Paul to have this conversation with me, and I made it even more difficult. I obviously had some kind of emotional block and wasn’t prepared to hear what Paul had to say. I wasn’t mature enough to think about how he felt, and I had no empathy.
It doesn’t even seem that long ago, but I’ve come a long way in the past 15 years in terms of talking about it and being open towards sexual orientation, and you’ve also seen it generally as a society. I’ve even noticed the changes and the openness in my family and my friends, and even in my business. A big part of that is just becoming better at understanding how I feel about things. Being able to tap into my own emotions, I’m able to be more open to listening and learning and having more empathy and compassion for others.
Now, I deliberately held off from completing my notes for this episode until I took a trip to London to see Paul and Santino. I thought it would help for me to see them both and then I could write about how I feel about all of this. Now, Paul is my oldest and dearest friend, and I’m so happy that we are still great friends today.
Looking back to that moment 15 years ago, I guess things could have turned out a lot differently for us today. He must have persevered so hard with me, or maybe that he just loves me so much that he stuck with me until I got there myself. So it’s really thanks to Paul that we’re still friends, that we’re still brothers, and I owe Paul everything, really, for teaching me compassion and empathy.
When I think about all the other people today who are struggling to communicate how they feel to their friends and to their family, it hurts me to think that they don’t have someone that will listen to them, or even try to understand how they feel. That’s why we all need to be a part of this.
Whether you’re straight, or gay, or bi, or trans, or lesbian, or whatever it is that you want to be, or you choose to be, or who you are, we’re all humans living on this planet together, and we should treat each other with kindness and openness and compassion. We all need to have more empathy for how other people feel. We need to be prepared to feel. That was something that I couldn’t do. I know it can be scary to open up yourself to feeling something that you’ve not felt for a long time, or ever, but we need to see more empathy.
I’d love to also share with you how this has become part of CMA. CMA is a membership organization. We work with different types of people from all over the world. We have live and in-person events, but we mostly interact with each other online. When you mostly rely on your community engaging online only, it can dilute empathy. You can lose some of the emotional connection to others. You can sort of lose the understanding of how people feel, to understand the context that they’re in, understanding how they see the world from their perspective. In 2018, social media plays a big role in how we see the world, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.
Now, I’m about to turn 37 years old, and although I feel a lot more comfortable having these types of conversations, I’m still not 100% having these conversations in public forums. Even thinking about this podcast, I thought about it for over a month. I’ve written out drafts. I’ve had people read over it. I’ve even spoke it out loud. As a human being, and as a businessperson, I want to make sure that I’m challenging my own beliefs and feelings, because this is what I lacked 15 years ago when Paul was coming out to me.
Back in 2017, we introduced a new discussion channel in our forum called Equality. I felt that I was struggling to form my opinion on public forums and social media, and I thought that maybe others were having that same challenge too. So inside our private forum, I opened up an area to help us share how we feel and have these discussions in private with people that you trust before we have that conversation with other people.
I guess my challenge to and what I want to get you thinking about is what could you do in your life, and perhaps in your business, to foster and facilitate these conversations? How can you help people to open up and perhaps think differently? It might be that there’s someone close to you in your life, perhaps at work or in your family or friends, that has something to say. Are we making it easy for people to speak about their feelings and share their stories?
We want the people we love to feel like they belong, regardless of sexual orientation, their beliefs, or their faith. We need to be more humble and more empathetic towards how other people feel and how others see the world. We need to allow people to be who they are without judgment or feeling excluded.
I’m doing my small part by opening up the conversation and being more self-aware of my own actions, my own words, and my own behaviors. I know that 15 years ago, Paul found it really difficult to talk to the people he loves about coming out, and my hope is that it’s not only easier for others now and going forward, but that we can as a society simply accept that we’re all human, and sexual orientation is not something that defines us.
Let’s celebrate loving each other for who we are. What do you think? Do you want to join me in doing this? And if you think you need to help yourself to change and be more inclusive, get to work on yourself. Start challenging your own beliefs and philosophy. It is possible to change. It might not be easy, but it’s for the best.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and as always, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can Tweet me @chrismarr101.
As I mentioned at the start, yesterday was the first Dundee public Pride event. Look up Dundee Pride on Google, and you can connect with them on Instagram @DundeePride. AbandonShip are also working with Dundee Pride, and it’s great to see one of my favorite brands promoting inclusiveness in the city.
I’ve dropped some links into the show notes for you so you can connect with them on social. I hope you’ve had a great weekend. I’ll catch you soon. Don’t forget to be awesome.