How do you define success?Success for me has a variety of different definitions. Personally success is living unbothered and my basic needs are met and I can be surrounded by love, good food, good spirits and rest. Professionally, when I’m successful I’m using my experiences and training to help the marginalized people + being appreciated for for my effort socially and/or financially. That may mean coaching and training, that may mean building tools or running campaigns, that may mean advocating or negotiating. Spiritually success for me is kinda tricky, I’m trying to at both times be in tune with myself so that I can present my whole, authentic self to the world AND get over myself, meaning not getting bogged down in my own ego or pettiness.
What is it about your career that excites you?I work at the intersection of technology and social change. I love being able to help organizations change the world thru tools, training and relationships. What I really love is watching people step into their own leadership and recognize how skilled and powerful they are. I grew up as a short, mouthy, poor kid from a part of Chicago that no one mentions unless something bad happens. I frequently felt marginalized and looked past. My career has shown me that my people, my voice and my experiences are valuable and that I always have had and always will have everything that I need. A national platform, name recognition for my work and great perks are awesome as well.
What was a hard lesson you learned when you were first launching your career?Your reputation will follow you *wherever* you go, so always give your best effort, be honest and be kind to people (even when they’re jerks). You never know who will wind up where, you never know who will talk to who. I learned this by running into people I’d never thought I’d see again in the strangest places and situations. Once I was living in Chicago and applied for a job helping a fundraiser with his organization, and we’d gotten through 2-3 interviews and he just disappeared, not even a ‘thank you but no’ email. I was pretty upset about it and years later I was managing a campaign he’d been brought into as the consultant. I never mentioned that we’d met in the past. Surprisingly we hit it off immediately and when I made the move to Washington, DC he hosted me at his home for a month, introduced me to his network and became a great friend. Had I held a grudge like I’d wanted to at the time he a) likely would’ve remembered me for a very negative reason b) we definitely wouldn’t have gotten on as well.
What are 3 of your core values?Generosity (give, give, give), honesty(live your truth) and acceptance(accept the person who shows up, not the person you want to see).
What do you do in a moment when/if self-doubt starts to challenge you?When I have self doubt I think of my mother’s strength, I think of my obligations as free person and I try to express gratitude and gentleness to myself. I’m 31. At this age my mother I was 11 and my older brothers were 12 and 13. She’d recently remarried and purchased her first home. She’d overcome a divorce, a bankruptcy and the difficulties of single motherhood by that point while also helping to raise her sister's children and her younger sister. I draw from her when I’m charting new territory. I also think about my privileges. I’m a straight man with no debilitating disabilities, with no citizenship issues, who is employed and employable, who has friends, family and resources. I’ve survived numerous failures. I’ve traveled the world, made national and international press, run with the bulls and much more. I accomplished those things because I was brave, open hearted, appreciative and creative. Those traits don’t go away because your luck is up or down. If you keep stepping into your positive traits you’ll continue to do great things. Lastly, I try to be gentler with myself. There is really only so much I can do. If I’m proud of my effort then I try to let go of any doubt.
Do you have a quote that has been particularly inspiring to you?“It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it”. It’s a quote from the Jewish tradition that hit me at just the right time and came from someone I find very wise. It has been inspiring because I had a pretty brutal 2016. I lost a grandparent, was trapped in a job I hated, was working enough hours for a full time second job on a project that had become publicly toxic, I had a breakup. I had a nagging but minor sports injury and, well, I work in elections and the elections went pretty poorly for my side. I was working as hard as I could on everything and felt the only thing I got in return was hurt. It felt like regardless of what I did everyone only asked for more. I felt attacked, unseen and abandoned and exhausted. When I finally got a little time to breathe the quote found me right at the right time. Whereas normally I’d cling to the latter part of the quote ‘but neither are you free to desist from it’ at this moment I found the early part relevant ‘It is not your responsibility to finish the work’. After all of my work wrapped I took a break for the first time in years: I didn’t look for a job,I didn’t work on my side hustles, I didn’t plan or scheme, I really did next to nothing for about 2 months. I reduced the amount of time I was on social media, I took public transit or rode my bike more instead of taking Lyfts, I worked out, I did nature things, I cooked for myself, I read a bunch, I meditated, I got therapy, I watched movies, I went for long walks with friends, I cried. For the first time in probably 3 or 4 years I centered myself. I’d realized I’d been hoping to grow up or have it together and was not really enjoying myself in the journey. I recognized that there is no ‘it’, you’ll never make ‘it’, there’s always a new challenge, you have to find contentment with what and where you are. Since then I’ve turned down multiple jobs and started working for myself, I’m working fewer hours than ever exceeding my old salary working primarily on projects I feel legitimately excited by, spending a lot of time researching my family, enjoying talking to my grandma and reconnecting to my father and just doing things that give me life. As you get older there’s a lot of pressure to have it together, and so there’s this rush to have a higher salary, a nicer place to live, a better title. When you’re early in your career achievement is easier, it takes just a little moxie and elbow grease, because you’re relatively unattached and you have relatively little there are boundless opportunities. As you get older though your standards get a little higher, your needs become a bit greater and so you start making considerations based on those personal and societal needs and success requires a little more luck, which is harder because luck is mostly a function of flexibility and with age and responsibility reduce flexibility. It’s easy to find yourself working a job that dims your light, or surrounding yourself with people who don’t make you feel good because you feel the need to keep up appearances. The quote was inspirational because it allowed me to acknowledge how hard I’d been working and gave me permission to step back. In my work there is no end game, there won’t be a point in my lifetime where I can say, ‘Crushed it, everything is done, justice is done’ and by slowing down a bit I’ve grown in appreciation for how awesome my life is already and how much I’ve done, I’m nicer to people because I’m nicer to myself, as well opportunities have flowed a lot more easily and I’m having one of the more prosperous years of my life professionally, personally and spiritually.
What is something you’ve learned to accept about yourself recently?My flaws aren’t going away. There will be times where they’re more present or less present but I’m wired the way I’m wired. No amount of chanting, meditating, therapizing, or wishing will completely change that. I’m surly, I’m sometimes impatient, I should speak more loudly both in volume and figuratively. I’m political and have weird class issues. I’m also charming and loyal and resourceful and funny and a decent cook and a great leader. I’m cool with whatever Harold shows up.
What is something you hope to teach to other people?Your experiences are valid, your feelings are valid. You’re dope just the way you are. Not if you get the right job or the right partner or wear the right clothes or you say the right words (though you shouldn’t stop striving stop striving for your goals). Right now as you are. You are enough. Second, ask for what you want. It takes practice but figure out what will make you happy and go after that. Lastly, Excel and data management, I hope to teach people Excel and how to better use naming conventions and documentation in data management.