Keep your beliefs internal. People on this society LOVE to tell people what they think. It’s an adrenaline boost. I used to do Family Feud on my Facebook page but don’t as much anymore because fights would break out. Top six answers on the board! Name something you don’t want to see at a restaurant” turns into fighting over politics, mask/no mask, and a ton of f bombs. I literally had people on both sides argue with me (vehemently in some cases) over their right to argue politics and current events on MY Facebook page during Family Feud nights.
As part of our series about 5 Things That Each Of Us Can Do To Help Unite Our Polarized Society, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Churchson.
Scott has been an actor, stunt person and voice actor for over a decade. Some of his credits include HBO’s The Deuce, America’s Got Talent, commercials on CBS, MSG, Facebook and elsewhere. He is also the US Liason for Spanglish Sports World, a multi-cultural sports network startup out of Toronto and the creator of Uplifting Stories in a Minute; daily one minute news stories with a puppet and a green screen about average people making the world around them a better place.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Thank YOU! Grateful as heck to be here. My childhood had a bit of up and down, grew up in middle class New Jersey, only child, ironically no cousins either (so Christmas was awesome!) but I was also that overweight kid that was bullied for years and afraid to go to school every day. That fear affected my performance in school and also got me suspended from school 4 times and God knows how many days of detention. Pretty much spent my entire childhood believing I was beneath every human being I came across and afraid to talk to anyone. Life got significantly better though as time went on.
What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.
I think growing up I always had a desire to entertain. If I could make people laugh they’d be less likely to beat me up and bully me. So no one person really inspired me as some might say. But as I got older and worked in the corporate world that desire to make folks laugh and brighten their day never left me. When the timing was right I made the switch.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Aside from the acting life I have a couple of projects I call “Life Therapy”; projects that make others smile but also makes my day better as well. I have two talk shows out of Toronto on the Spanglish Sports World Network called The Sports Den and Tales From the Film Set. I love having shows where a bunch of folks get together and just chat. On Sports Den, we cover everything from current events and predictions to grading stupid weird sports from around the world. On Tales From The Film Set, I and two others with a combined 25+ years in the film industry just regale the audience with our favorite stories about every tv show, movie and celebrity you can imagine. I’m fortunate because both shows have also aired on Fox affiliates throughout the country as well as in Canada.
Lastly, I have a YouTube channel called Uplifting Stories in a Minute where I use a puppet and green screen to produce daily news pieces about average people doing AWESOME things for humanity. The high school principal who took an overnight job to give the money to lower income families, the electrician who spent tens of thousands of dollars of his own money to repair heating and electricity for free for the elderly during the pandemic. Things like that. People are so inundated with negativity in our society that the response to this channel has been super-encouraging.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?
I owe a ton to my parents. I was a victim of domestic violence in my first marriage, and when I got out and stayed with them temporarily I had the support I needed to get my head in the right place and ultimately change careers into film and TV. They’re so proud, it’s both sweet and campy. My parents’ refrigerator and phone are littered with pictures of me on TV; America’s Got Talent, commercials, stunt work and so on which is endearing. I was never good enough to have my grades put on the refrigerator but pics of me on commercials for CBS News is pretty awesome in its own right.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?
This story is absolutely embarrassing, but still sweet at the same time. We had just started shooting When They See Us; the Ava DuVerney directed series about the Central Park 5. I was simple background, had to drive cars on set a couple times but definitely low end of the acting ladder. Looking for the wardrobe tent for all the background I asked the first crew person I saw; yup. It was Ava. Except I didn’t realize it because that’s literally the last place I figured she’d be. I felt bad; such an absolute waste of the time of an Emmy award winning and Oscar nominated director. I put it out of my mind and went through the day, but got a surprise and a half at the end of the night when I’m changing out of wardrobe and Ava was waiting for me. She wanted to apologize; the entire day she felt she was rude to me and at the end of the day made it a point to track me down and apologize for something I didn’t even know she did. Made me a fan of that woman for life; such integrity. Bottom line you can never pre-judge people.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
I’ve always been fond of Focal Point by Brian Tracy. Time Management as always a huge issue on my end, always to much work, not enough time to do it. Or so I thought. I don’t think people realize how much time gets lost on a daily basis. Fantastic read to help get your schedule in order.
Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Lately there’s been a quote by Mother Theresa that’s been bouncing around in my head of late: “I will never attend an anti-war rally. If you have a peace rally invite me.” In our society we LOVE to declare war on things. In the 80s it was a War On Drugs; as an 80s/90s kid I couldn’t get away from it. Drug abuse was rampant then and is even worse decades later. We have a War on Terror, we’ve been at war non-stop for close to 20 years now. War on Cancer, War on Racism and so on. Can we really say it’s worked well in the past decades? Martin Luther King also said, “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” These two understood how people SHOULD be but aren’t. Now you’re seeing hate in politics unlike anything we have seen before. First time I noticed was 2004 and it’s progressively gotten worse. It’s a shame, because people could be so much better if people understood that.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is understanding that your personal needs are less important than the people that look up to you. Being a leader means being able to separate what’s going on in your life with the needs of the people you lead to help them get where they want to go. When they get there, it’s a win for everyone, including you.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The polarization in our country has become so extreme that families have been torn apart. Erstwhile close friends have not spoken to each other because of strong partisan differences. This is likely a huge topic, but briefly, can you share your view on how this evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
Far and away this is the worst I’ve ever seen it. I feel social media has caused a ton of the issues in our country. You have people, many times living paycheck to paycheck and struggling arguing over which 1%er is better. Much of this stems from a feeling of helplessness and fear which causes that anger to transfer away from themselves and onto another. The more negative and fearful people get, the more likely people will lash out. Constant bombardment with these messages on social media leads to confirmation bias and the escalation of hate.
I have no pretensions about bridging the divide between politicians, or between partisan media outlets. But I’d love to discuss the divide that is occurring between families, co workers, and friends. Do you feel comfortable sharing a story from your experience about how family or friends have become a bit alienated because of the partisan atmosphere?
Let me start by saying I voted for a human and leave it at that. Who it was isn’t relevant here. However the backlash I received is. People I’ve known and worked with for years, people I’ve shared laughs with suddenly dropping F Bombs on my wall because I voted for differently and acting like I spit on their mother or something. It was depressing. I have to remind myself that these folks are living in their own pain as well and hope that maybe they’ll come out of it on their own.
In your opinion, what can be done to bridge the divide that has occurred in families? Can you please share a story or example?
I think first and foremost you have to understand you’re being played. The more anger exists, the greater the news outlets can use your confirmation bias against you to bolster ratings. Love doesn’t generate the revenue like hate. Thankfully in my family we haven’t had the divide that some have; everyone has stayed respectful despite differing beliefs. Maybe I just got lucky that way! The way they handled it was to avoid political discussions and focus on the things they love about each other — there is a lot more to every person than a political belief.
How about the workplace, what can be done to bridge the partisan divide that has fractured relationships there? Can you please share a story or example?
Boy this is a tough one also. Forgiveness and healing is often a two way street. I hate the word, but all of us are a team. Teams rise and fall together as a group and that I feel exists with society as well. My wife has handled it by firmly and politely letting co-workers know that she prefers not to discuss politics at work. Although she was afraid of backlash, almost all of her co-workers have respected her for it.
I think one of the causes of our divide comes from the fact that many of us see a political affiliation as the primary way to self identify. But of course there are many other ways to self identify. What do you think can be done to address this?
Ironically I see politics, religion and sports as similar. You have those that stay out of it, those that are casual and some that are die hard. A LONG time ago I used to be ultra political; the people I liked; the celebs I looked up to was dependent on which side of the political fence they were on; so I understand the mentality. But then I realized that again, people rise and fall as a society. Aesop said 2500+ years ago: United we stand, divided we fall. Still true today. There is a fine line between being proud of your cultural, political, religious, gender, etc. identity and identifying so strongly with that group that you exclude or lash out against all others. I don’t think anyone knows how to navigate this perfectly, but there has to be a way to be proud of who you are while also being a part of the community and country as a whole.
Much ink has been spilled about how social media companies and partisan media companies continue to make money off creating a split in our society. Sadly the cat is out of the bag and at least in the near term there is no turning back. Social media and partisan media have a vested interest in maintaining the divide, but as individuals none of us benefit by continuing this conflict. What can we do moving forward to not let social media divide us?
Discuss, don’t argue. Questions like “Why do you feel that way?” & “What brought you to that belief?” aren’t asked enough. Peace to outrage in this country goes from 0–60 faster than a Porsche 911. Remember, there are human beings behind the words you read. Human beings who, just like yourself, carry fear, doubt, worry as well as love and appreciation. The better you can understand and respect that, the more easily it is to stay to remain rational. A good rule of thumb is to direct conversations to why someone feels they are right, not why they feel the other is wrong.
What can we do moving forward to not let partisan media pundits divide us?
Remember that news outlets make money based on ratings; the higher the ratings the more revenue they get. So the things they say are designed to invoke a response to keep you glued. I feel like anger has become a drug that some have become addicted to and there are powers that be that want to keep the public hooked. A good way to stay open-minded is to commit to even 1 hour of media you disagree with for every 5 hours of media you agree with. This won’t necessarily change your opinion but it will help you understand where the other side is coming from.
Sadly we have reached a fevered pitch where it seems that the greatest existential catastrophe that can happen to our country is that “the other side” seizes power. We tend to lose sight of the fact that as a society and as a planet we face more immediate dangers. What can we do to lower the ante a bit and not make every small election cycle a battle for the “very existence of our country”?
“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” is a quote attributed to (but not actually said by) Aristotle. Whomever said it though is 100% correct. Life imitates art. We want to see our villains as evil and see our heroes as flawless. The hypocrisy bothers me. If a politician on the “Wrong” side does something it’s evil and they suck, but if that EXACT SAME THING is done by one of their own, it’s rationalized. I see people on both sides do it constantly. Instead of decrying or rationalizing what a politician is doing, maybe we should do the same for the person looking back at us in the mirror. We’re responsible for our own success. I think if people put as much energy into improving themselves as they did in promoting their political agenda, the average person’s life would improve dramatically.
Ok wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
Annnnd the BIG question (laughs): Well in order:
1) Keep your beliefs internal. People on this society LOVE to tell people what they think. It’s an adrenaline boost. I used to do Family Feud on my Facebook page but don’t as much anymore because fights would break out. Top six answers on the board! Name something you don’t want to see at a restaurant” turns into fighting over politics, mask/no mask, and a ton of f bombs. I literally had people on both sides argue with me (vehemently in some cases) over their right to argue politics and current events on MY Facebook page during Family Feud nights.
2) Practice some form of personal development daily. If you look at the most successful people throughout today and history, you’ll see they worked on themselves regularly. Only 7% (confirm that number) practice regular self improvement; meditation, self study and so on. My way is nearly always audio; books put me to sleep in less than a paragraph. The Strangest Secret by Earl Nightingale is considered one of the most listened to audio speeches of all time; I listened to it every day for 43 days nights straight, nearly every time while playing Madden. Made a huge personal impact on how I felt about life. Every little bit helps and can be done anytime; just 10 minutes a day equals over 60 hours a year (the equivalent of over 6 college credits) all while doing your morning business.
3) Remember all voters are human. Same thing I said before; we’ve trained ourselves to forget other people’s feelings while we express our own. Ironically in so doing we drive people away from how we want them to think. When I was in sales we had a saying, “A person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.” If you want people to align with your way of thinking, berating, insulting and demeaning them will only cause them to dig their heels in and hold onto their opinion out of spite.
At the end of the day would YOU listen to someone who spoke to others the way you do?
4) I always liked the quote from Epictetus “We have two ears and only one mouth, so we should listen twice as much as we speak.” Get to know people instead of seeing them only as someone you must convert to “your side”.
5) Make it a point to do one act of kindness a day above what you normally do. This one benefits you as much as others. Did you ever do something nice for someone and instantly feel good about yourself for doing it? Embrace that feeling, one act of kindness a day can do wonders for your mental health. Be proud of yourself for being awesome to another! I love doing Uplifting Stories In A Minute, because I love the comments that come back. Knowing it makes someone’s tough day a little brighter does wonders for me personally. Find something yourself to do for humanity to give you that same warm feeling of accomplishment.
Simply put, is there anything else we can do to ‘just be nicer to each other’?
Remember that everyone you talk to has their own baggage, just like you. Treat them as such. I know, we’d rather treat people we disagree with as “the enemy” and that’s sadly the way it’s been for centuries to thousands of years. But it doesn’t have to be. Everyone has the potential to be a friend, you just have to be willing to put aside differences (just as they have to for you) to make it happen. Everyone has something in common with everyone else.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Frankly not so much. I think people that argue, berate and belittle get a thrill from it. The adrenaline kicks in, the endorphins kick in and that anger makes them feel ALIVE! I mentioned before about how politics has become a drug for many people, an escapism. I don’t see people getting off that drug anytime soon.
If you could tell young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our society, like you, what would you tell them?
Your choices, your beliefs and your actions are SO much more important to change than which 1%er is running the show. Your life, win or lose, success or fail is dependent on YOU.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I think I’d go with Neil DeGrasse Tyson right now. On one hand I would love to pick his brain on actual questions I have in the areas of science and quantum physics, but I get the feeling he’s the kind of guy you can just chill with over a beer and talk about sports, tv, pretty much anything. Very polymath and I love folks like that.
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m easy to find, as far as I’ve been able to find I’m literally the only Scott Churchson, so a quick internet search will find me. But my website is http://www.scottchurchson.com
plus you can find me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scottchurchson
IG at http://instagram.com/schurchson
or my YouTube channel http://youtube.com/upliftingstoriesinaminute.
This was very meaningful, and thank you so much for the time you spent on this interview. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Thank YOU! I appreciate the time!