Sometimes it makes sense for a company to outsource part of its operations so it can devote internal resources to its primary purpose. That is especially true for things that require specialized knowledge or skills, like accounting. A business that is not large enough to need a full-time internal accounting department still needs correct and complete financial records. Rather than redirect someone from production, administration, or sales, it makes sense to hire an outside accountant who is likely to accomplish the work faster and with fewer errors.
A similar calculus can also apply to life. I can make clothes (and sometimes I do), but for most of my wardrobe it makes sense to buy things someone else made and invest the time it would take me to create those garments into other areas of my life. Generally, we don’t frame this very ordinary behavior as outsourcing. We just get our food from the grocery store, our books from the library, our entertainment from Hollywood, and it’s all very normal.
By outsourcing some things, I have time to work and earn money that I use to pay for my house and food and other expenses. I have time to eat and sleep and move my body to maintain my health. My laundry gets done, my garden gets watered, and my students have a teacher.
It's important to acknowledge that the ability to choose which parts of my survival I outsource (and which I don't) is wrapped up in a lot of privilege. My business is reasonably successful, so I can afford to order dinner on days when I'm too busy or too tired to cook. I have a supportive household, so we divide domestic chores between us. We have central air-conditioning, so we could host friends without the same access during the hottest temperatures in our area in recorded history.
Just as with external tasks, we can also outsource internal processes. Sometimes to machines, like when I use a calculator to add or subtract figures. Sometimes to pets or emotional support animals. And sometimes to other humans. I have spent much of my life performing emotional labor for other people in my life. When I was younger, I thought that was my role in the world. Over time I began to see it for what it is: emotional outsourcing.
For a long time society has relegated the acceptable male emotional experience to a painfully limited range. Weird societal expectations did not, of course, remove all the other emotions from the lived experience of humans designated as male. They were simply handed to other non-male humans for processing. Society said men are logical and women are emotional, so everybody better be on one of those teams and must outsource the appropriate tasks to the other side so as to maintain order.
Where do non-binary or gender-fluid folks fit in that structure? They don't. And when that makes someone uncomfortable, they often hand that discomfort to the gender-non-conforming individual. The same thing happens to non-white folks. When it's time to talk about diversity and inclusion, or address systemic racism, well-meaning white folks lean on humans of color to craft the programing or cultivate cross-cultural understanding.
Women are not inherently more connected to emotions than men. Women are not naturally better at processing emotions than men. We are just more practiced. As a woman, it was necessary for my survival to develop that skill. To stay safe and thrive in a male-centered world, I needed to be able to deal with the emotions humans with more power or privilege outsourced to me. Just as humans of color have to shoulder the burden of whatever white folks outsource to them.
A significant portion of my personal anti-racist work has felt like what I will call insourcing. Taking back whatever I have inadvertently handed humans of color in my haphazard quest to help end racism. I regularly and deliberately spend time questioning my actions and feelings, identifying my own assumptions and longstanding narratives about race and racialized individuals. Picking those constructs apart to get down to the core, resolving for myself what I need to heal, and practicing a different way to do and be in the world.
There isn't any other way to overcome this kind of deep-seeded societal programming. And avoiding the effort only prolongs the suffering for me and everybody else. The work has to be done and we've all got to do it. If I don't do it now, I'm just outsourcing to my future self. Which is what most of the world has been doing about climate change.
Wealthy nations outsource e-waste and other hazardous materials to places with less stringent environmental regulations. Politicians attend summits with other global leaders and make promises to lower emissions, but fail to enact meaningful legislation back home. Companies and countries buy carbon credits from low-emitters instead of ending environmentally detrimental industry practices.
This weekend I stood outside in Portland Oregon and watched a thermometer hit 118°F. My garden is sun-singed and withered, despite voluminous watering and all the shade I could manufacture. I've lived in this city three decades and never experienced anything like it. I've never even heard of such extreme heat here. The future generation wants to resolve climate change. The people who outsourced it to them just need to get out of the way and let them do it.
Information and Inspiration
Go ahead and rock the boat
This week I attended a virtual conference with thousands of other fraud-fighting professionals from over 60 countries who come together annually to share information and experience. One of my favorite things about this event is that it's international. I get to hear about the ordinary and extraordinary working lives of humans I would not otherwise be exposed to. Like Thulisile "Thuli" Madonsela, the advocate of the High Court of South Africa, who opened the conference as the first keynote speaker.
Thuli has had an important and impressive career fighting against corruption and for social justice. She spoke about the connection between organizational culture and the prevalence of corruption and fraud. She made several important points, and one of them struck me as especially poignant. She said if organizations don't create an environment where mistakes are tolerated, then people will try to cover them up.
It made me think of our societal obsession with perfection. As a fem presenting human, I receive a lot of messaging reminding me to have perfect behavior, perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect makeup, and a perfect body inside a perfect outfit. Perfect being defined by the dominant voice of authority at any moment in time. And if I did not arrive in this world fitting those particular parameters, then I should try to cover up all my deviations. I should try to cover up all my flaws.
I don't wear makeup because I don't like the feeling of stuff on my face. But I used to wear it anyway, along with high heels. I stopped once I reached the point in my career where I felt like my expertise finally stood on its own and I no longer needed to convey my competence so intently through my appearance. That's also when I stopped wearing high heels every day. I still don't have a perfect body, although I workout often and eat mostly things that feel good. I have a strong body, but I also have plenty of soft spots and oddities. I am full of flaws.
And those are just the surface-level physical things. As humans, we try to hide all kinds of things from each other. When meeting someone for the first time or to avoid the judgement of people we've known for many years. We're generally afraid of revealing the parts of our selves that may not fit the expectations we assume other people have.
There are many reasons for this cover-up practice. One of the most powerful is fear of dire consequences. It is a scary thing to bring bad news to someone in a position of power over some part of your life. Telling a toxic boss you made an error might be the end of your employment or tarnish your professional reputation. Telling a romantic partner you do or do not want children might be the end of that relationship. Asking an organization you join to stand up publicly for racial justice might rescind your welcome in that space.
But not exposing those things doesn't make them go away. The work error still needs to be corrected or mitigated. You either do or do not want children, regardless of what your partner wants. Anti-racist work is critical for every organization to engage in, and it may never happen if no one in the organization asks for it. And yet it is still so challenging sometimes to just tell it like it is. So challenging to speak your truth.
That reluctance has broad-reaching consequences for every part of life, from personal relationships to the structure of greater society. Instead of practicing openness or transparency and celebrating the constant state of being in-process, we have nurtured a culture of deceit where the outward appearance is much more important to get right than the substance within.
This phenomenon was evident in how public officials handled the Covid pandemic. Reluctant to displease their constituents (and party rulers), some governors publicly railed against covid lock-downs, giving speeches stating unequivocally: there. will. be. no. lock-down. Only to institute various restrictions days or weeks later without bothering to clarify that their previous position was incorrect or ill-informed. Saving face in front of their base and helping absolutely no one.
The CDC guidance about mask-wearing started out confusing and just kept on confounding ordinary people and public officials alike. It seemed to me as though they didn't want to upset anyone by taking a strong and clear stance in the beginning. So they just didn't. And the result was factions of pro and anti mask folks latching on to whichever part of the guidance seemed to justify their opinions. An unfortunate divide that was further exacerbated by incendiary national leadership.
Fear of "rocking the boat" only serves to maintain the status quo. Since the current status quo is largely problematic, that makes it profoundly difficult to grow a culture of standing up and speaking out against injustice or abuse. Any up-stander fights a very strong current of long-held beliefs or practices. It takes some very brave early adopters of a new way to engage the world before that behavior becomes normalized enough for the masses to join in.
Along the way, some proponents of the status quo will probably throw tantrums. Like when all the members of the Portland Police Bureau's Rapid Response Team resigned this week in response to increased oversight and accountability. The team previously operated with apparent impunity, its members abusing their positions, so dissolving it actually seems like a step in the right direction. Let abusers resign from an avenue through which they channeled their abusive behavior. Good riddance.
I am heartened that the tide seems to be turning for at least some things in some places. I attended a conference session analyzing the effectiveness of various fraud controls through a case study. The case began with a pharmacist changing a patient's test result so their medication would be covered by insurance. A discussion erupted in the participant chat about how the real problem in this case was the health care system. That was not the reaction I was expecting and it filled me with hope to see more people talking about needing to fix the system than I expected in this professional context.
I don't always stand up and I don't always speak out. But I am doing it more and more. The more I practice interrupting the perpetuation of unjust systems, the more I see opportunities to question what we're doing and why we're doing it. And the more I feel compelled and confident to raise those issues in the face of potential opposition. And that sentiment seems to be growing among individuals and organizations who are speaking out with words and dollars.
I want more folks in leadership positions to model that behavior. I would like them all to address issues head-on like Rep Ilhan Omar, who I appreciate for her steadfast manner of calling things out for what they are, regardless of how they are being painted by other politicians. We don't have time to soft-shoe around the biggest issues facing our species. So go ahead and rock the boat. If it sinks under scrutiny, we already needed to build a better boat.
Information and Inspiration
Back(?!) to the Future
Recently I have been hearing so much about getting back to normal. Now that many people are fully vaxxed, some small public and private events are starting up again. Along with this somewhat cautious re-opening, there is a palpable sense of urgency to move on from the pandemic. Specifically, to get back to a state of being that supposedly existed before the pandemic. But I don't actually want to go back to life before lockdown.
The pandemic wasn't just a break from life where everything went on pause. I did not go into stasis. And I can't hit un-pause now and simply step back into my former self and walk back into my former life. And neither can anyone else. Covid turned everyone's life upside-down, suddenly and drastically. This last year and a half was part of regular life. It was our life. That kind of happening cannot be unexperienced.
I am a completely different person and we're all living in a completely different world. And not just because of Covid. 2020 hosted many significant changes. The massive protests against police brutalizing black and brown bodies after George Floyd's death changed me significantly, and so far seems to have left at least some lasting impact on greater society. Just this week, the Senate approved a bill to make Juneteenth a national holiday.
In my local region we had some of the worst wildfires in years, so I acquired gas-masks for everyone in my household. We finally began compiling our earthquake emergency kit. Along with many other households, we're looking at solar panels. I grew a garden. I packed a go-bag.
There was isolation, new hobbies, holidays over zoom, break-ups, reconnecting with old friends, making new friends, job loses, births, deaths, falling in love, and new businesses starting. It's a mistake not to acknowledge how far we've travelled personally, professionally, and as a society. I want to go forward into this unfixed future as my new self.
I would like to do some of the activities I did before pandemic, like social dancing, potlucks, and traveling to visit humans I love. But I can do those things without the world rewinding. In fact, I think they will be more enjoyable now. Especially if we infuse some intentionality into how we relate as we expand the ways we come together post-Covid.
There were so many problematic things about how we lived our lives before Covid shut the world down. Let’s be clear and honest about what we would be going back to before we rush through a door into the past. A pre expansion of the Movement for Black Lives world. A pre Juneteenth is finally a national holiday world. A pre working from home is normal world. A pre wearing a mask in public to protect others world. A world before all the new skills and new priorities and new perspective gained from having to live life differently.
The myth of the Sparkling Before Time is not only a lie, it's dangerous. Millions of people believed we could make America great again by electing a bigoted rich guy who was completely untethered from reality. It will take decades (or longer) to undo some of the damage his reign of terror caused. It will not do any good to dwell on getting back to some golden age of prosperity that never existed.
Just this week I opened a letter from the Democratic National Committee written by President Joe Biden. It talked about getting the country back on track. About repairing, restoring, healing, and building. We can't go back to a place we've never been. We need to leave the past behind and create a future. I want to go forward to a place of peace and prosperity for everyone like we’ve never had before. I want all of us to go forward into the new world that is forming every second of every hour of every day we continue to exist on this planet.
Information and Inspiration
It was well known in my house growing up that if you did something to land yourself in trouble, the very worst thing you could do about it was: lie. It was not great if you accidentally broke Mom's favorite vase, Mom would be upset. It was even less great if you broke it while doing something like roller skating in the house, thus proving the need for a rule forbidding that exact activity. But if you fessed-up, the punishment was usually a fitting atonement, like cleaning up the mess and explaining the lesson you learned about never roller skating in the house again.
On the other hand, if you tried to cover it up (or lied when confronted), it was infinitely worse. Not only was the punishment more severe, but the consequences were much longer-lasting because lying is a betrayal of trust. And trust was the most valuable currency I, as a child, had with my parents. Trust purchased privacy, autonomy, and freedom. It was the difference between sleepovers and hang-outs with friends or coming directly home after school to extra inquiries about homework progress.
Despite its fundamental position in our household dynamic, we never talked directly about the thing itself. We did not discuss how trust is built or where it comes from or why it matters. I wouldn't have those kinds of conversations until well into adulthood. In my youth, I was left to work out the finer points myself through careful observation, trial and error.
This week I witnessed this same indirect exploration play-out in an otherwise enjoyable film. In Raya and the Last Dragon, the world is in turmoil and the tribal factions are in constant conflict. One faction leader has a dream of reuniting all the people, but is thwarted by betrayal. So this leader passes his vision for a united world on to his child (Raya) to fulfill.
Over the course of the story we learn what is preventing the humans from defeating the great evil plaguing the land. It turns out to be a general lack of trust. The humans cannot have a peaceful existence (or magical dragon friends) because they are deeply mistrustful of each other. And yet that distrust seems, for the most part, well-founded. There is frequent under-handedness and much settling of old scores.
It's not totally clear where the mistrust came from, but it seems ubiquitous. Even Raya executes her quest in secret, employing plenty of deception and thievery. So it was fairly unsurprising when she is also betrayed multiple times. What did surprise me was that Raya continued to extend offerings of trust to one particular betrayer, time after time, without any demonstrable reason to do so.
In the end, what saves humanity (and the dragons) is Raya and all the other trustworthy team players she befriended along the way, placing their collective fate entirely in the hands of that very same betrayer. The one character who chose betrayal at every available opportunity. Somehow, receiving all that undeserved trust causes the betrayer to undergo an abrupt turn of feeling and whole-heartedly trust everyone right back. We know this because the magic works, and the world is saved (and so are all the dragons).
But trust doesn't really work like that. You cannot simply will it into existence. You can’t slather someone who has proved themselves untrustworthy in so much trust that it somehow soaks in and imbues their inner most nature. Trust is a seed planted on faith that must be fed and watered by confirming acts of trustworthiness. Otherwise, it withers and dies.
Ultimately, I’m not sure what the lesson is there. My takeaway is: when the parts that make up a whole do not trust each other, the whole cannot function. That makes sense to me in an embodied way. If I want to throw a really powerful punch, I need my whole body behind it. If I can’t trust that my legs will be there to support me, then I will avoid getting them involved and punch with only the strength in my arm, resulting in a far less powerful punch.
But waiting for that incongruence to resolve itself is asinine. If I’ve never tried working those two parts together before, it’s fine to dive right in and try it out. But if I cannot trust my legs will support me because they have failed me in the past, that’s an entirely different situation. I need to figure out where that mistrust comes from and resolve that before I can practice some different way of punching. Before all my parts can come together to work as a whole.
The same is true in community. Trust is a key component of all relationships everywhere. It is the glue that holds the very fabric of our society together. It’s the reason we have a (mostly) functional economy. And our lack of trust in each other is part of what holds us back from making greater strides as a national and global community.
Unlike in the movie, there is no magical orb that will inspire trust among all humans and fix the current woes of our world. There is a lot of history to work through and precedent to overcome. Many broken treaties between the US and all the first nations folks. Many false opportunities presented to people of color that turn out to be just more racism in disguise.
The good news is we don’t need to receive the trust of someone else before we can begin to build it. We can just act in a trustworthy manner. We can all just keep our word and show up fully and ask others to do the same. And gradually we can heal old wounds and build new alliances. Gradually our whole society can grow into something greater than the sum of our parts.
Trust is part emotion, part culmination of data, and part social contract. And like all the other panels that make up the quilt of how we relate to each other, it needs to be inspected and patched from time to time. It’s time to review how we give and receive trust, with whom, and why. Like love, it is a precious resource. We shouldn’t waste it or treat it with casual indifference. We should use it to become more deeply connected to ourselves and each other.
Information and Inspiration
Everything is Timing
In my dojo, we sometimes play a game I also played as a child. One person holds out their hands, palm-up. Another person holds their hands palm-down, just above the first person’s hands without touching. Both people look into the other’s face – or anywhere but down. The person with their hands on the bottom attempts to flip their hands over and on top of their partner’s hands. The person with their hands on top attempts to avoid this by moving their hands out of the way before getting tagged.
It's silly and fun, and largely about timing. But it’s much more than that. It’s about everything that makes timing work. It’s about relaxation and observation. It’s about awareness. It’s about feeling what my partner is about to do before their body even begins to move. So it’s about being present for exactly what’s happening each moment.
This week I played a similar timing game with someone from another martial arts style. We each held a glove in one hand and took a fencing stance. Our objective was to tag the other person in the chest with our glove while avoiding being tagged ourselves. Timing was key. But in order for the timing to work, I also needed to be in the right position. I needed to set up my attack. I needed forward pressure and commitment and speed.
And before I could do any of that, I needed to observe what was happening. I used to think when the time was right, that is when things would happen in my life. The stars would align or the winds would shift and then events would occur. At some point later, I began to think it was more like: when I’m ready, then things would happen. Once I could see an option or recognize an opportunity, then I could reach for it.
When I finally accepted that leaving my unhealthy marriage was an actual option, I could then envision a way to move on. When I had a stable and supportive household, I could then leave my steady job and start a business. When George Floyd’s murder was so clearly captured on video, millions of people could finally see the racist system and lift their voice to demand change.
This week I began to think of timing with even more nuance. The founder of my martial arts system wrote about each of the fighting principles in our curriculum. He ended each technical explanation with: keep in mind how this fighting principle relates to all other fighting principles. In fighting, timing requires awareness and positioning and forward pressure and line of attack and so on. It cannot succeed in a vacuum; it is interconnected.
Just like many things in life.
I have heard the phrase "timing is everything" in many contexts and I have always taken that to mean everything is about timing. Timing is the critical piece that brings everything together. But what if it's the opposite? What if timing is made up of everything? And it's all the other things that create the timing?
Maybe timing is just recognizing the confluence of various factors coupled with a willingness to act. So building keener awareness makes for better timing. And maybe if we arrange those contributing factors intentionally we could harnessing the awesome power of timing to do some good in the world. I think it's worth a try.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.