David Brooks’ January 13 New York Times Op Ed, “The Leadership Revival,” offers three suggestions for improved leadership in public life.
I was particularly drawn to his second suggestion: “Take a reality bath. Go off and become a stranger in a strange land.” The piece got me thinking more deeply about MARC and our work as men to advocate real change. I have learned that being a part of the dominant culture can atrophy the muscles I need to better see and understand myself and the complex mosaic of humanity. For me, one of the ways I remain curious and learn about difference has been to travel to strange lands. I have had the privilege of traveling to many different lands and cultures and also living in some. All have helped me better understand myself. And, like not working out regularly at the gym, I’m amazed at how quickly I assimilate when I am back in “my world.” It is pretty comfortable and innocent.
Where in your daily life do you practice traveling to strange lands? How often do you proactively seek out and listen to those who think and believe differently than you? If you believe in advocating real change, exercise this “stranger in a strange land” muscle, and do it often. I also know that meeting the “stranger” in myself doesn’t have to involve me traveling to distant lands. It can happen wherever I am. It can start with an office conversation with someone who is different. Pick someone who you believe doesn’t share a lot of the same views, life experiences, or positions as you. When you have your next conversation, spend a lot of time in inquiry. As you do this, notice what surprises you. Pay attention to this because it will likely reveal your own position or belief that might have been invisible to you. Work to purposefully put yourself in as many new and “strange” situations as you can or learn to approach a known situation with new curiosity. The following list is a place to start, specifically related to understanding gender. Similar lists could be developed for any “strange land” you are attempting to visit and better understand. Extract from a MARC blog, Feb. 2014