I take responsibility for being part of the solution. This problem doesn’t belong to someone else. It is not someone else’s to fix. I want no part of placing blame. I take responsibility for being a Good Samaritan. I take responsibility for contributing to unity.
Aspart of our series about ‘5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society’, I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Jared Cox.
Dr. Jared Cox is an accomplished dentist who built his practice with a mind for service and leadership. Throughout his career, he has been face to face with a patient’s fear of the dentist, allowing him an insightful look into fear’s profound presence in our lives. Driven by his sense of purpose and relentless determination to improve our world, questions naturally began to arise within Dr. Cox about how he might share his experience with the others beyond the walls of his dental practice. After 20 years of devoting his practice to “changing the way his patients think about dentistry,” he now turns his experience and focus beyond the clinical setting to changing the way our world thinks about fear.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Igrew up in Tulsa, OK, in a mostly white, middle-class suburban neighborhood. I come from a family of farmers, with mixed Native American and Caucasian heritage. Although I have Choctaw and Chickasaw blood from my mom’s side, my cultural connection to the tribes was lost when my great grandparents didn’t register their children on the Native American roles out of fear of racial discrimination.
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?
Lately, I have been reading everything at record pace. One that has resonated most with me is How to be an Antiracist. When I read a book for the first time, I like to make notes and underline specific thoughts that stand out to me. I’ve done a lot of underlining in this book. Professor Ibram X. Kendi challenges me to think about what an anti-racist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it. His words have inspired me to think of new ways to contribute to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
I recently debuted a new podcast I’ve been working on with a few of my colleagues. Dr. Greg Harris, one of our special guests said something that continues to frame my entire outlook. He said, “Jared, we aren’t here to fix racism. We are here to build relationships, and relationships have their ups and downs, but we STICK TOGETHER.” Building relationships is the key, and a central point of our podcast. We aren’t just looking to solve a problem. We are trying to connect human beings and hold that connection sacred.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is influence. Influence can be accomplished in a number of ways, but in regard to racism, I have been leading by listening. Recently, I have been mindful of how we might better hear the voices of protest than the way we heard them 60 years ago during the Civil Rights Era. We all know listening is important, but it can be easily presumed that we are as good as we need to be. As the conversation on racism evolves, the most influential leaders will be the ones who demand continual growth. Those leaders have the ability to hear what the voices of protest are saying and act intentionally to facilitate that growth.
In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?
I relieve stress by getting up early in the morning and writing. It lets me get in my own world, think about my own questions, and envision my own growth before I have any other responsibilities for the day. Most of the time, stress isn’t really about what’s at hand or anything external. It’s usually about me slipping into a task-oriented mindset. When I am oriented toward vision, growth, and people, I feel much more free. Why stress about tasks when success comes from my ability to give to people?
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a very important self-reckoning about race, diversity, equality and inclusion. This is of course a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
The current crisis can be blamed or attributed to many things: the western ideology of individualism, our obsession with capitalism, our demand for a majority-rule democracy, etc. My concern, though, is that we commit to keep the conversations going. Leadership is going to need to drive conversations for the long haul, and as we grow increasingly enamored with voicing our opinions via tweet-sized bites on social media platforms, leaders will need to reorient our culture toward listening and relationship development.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience working with initiatives to promote Diversity and Inclusion? Can you share a story with us?
My podcast, In Session With Jared and Klay, is committed to on-going conversations on racism. Our team consists of Dr. Klay Bartee, Dr. Greg Harris, and Army Chaplain Jason Darden. When we were in the planning process, we knew that each episode needed to be designed to model inter-racial conversations that work through fragility, guilt, and other barriers to unity. All of the conversations we’ve had advocate for collaboration, dialogue, relationships, and because we can talk with each other like that, we can confront every racial issue vulnerably and honestly. That’s something that a lot of people struggle with. We want to be a guide for people and help them start the conversation.
This may be obvious to you, but it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you articulate to our readers a few reasons why it is so important for a business or organization to have a diverse executive team?
It’s interesting that you ask that, because it occurred to me that as a society, we still don’t value diversity as much as we should. We do so, in part, because many businesses can’t correlate diversity with profit. I would suggest that leaders who give low priority and low value to diversity have their sights set too low. They are missing an opportunity for enrichment and virtue that will change who they are and in turn change their company. Leadership starts from the top, right? Why are we stopping ourselves short by resisting our own personal growth?
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps We Must Take To Truly Create An Inclusive, Representative, and Equitable Society”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
I think we move toward a more inclusive and equitable society by considering deeply how we value people. This takes some real work, but I have found it to be a quite enriching process that I can’t help but encourage others to do as well. The value we see in ourselves, in others, and in our connection to others will move us toward meaningful change. Here is how I personally approach it.
- I commit to developing a healthy sense of self. It’s very important that we look at ourselves first and resist the temptation to change others. A healthy relationship with the self is foundational for healthy relationships with others. In the context of racism, our ability to accept who we are lends itself toward acceptance of others. However, because we change as our lives move forward, we need to commit to an ongoing nurturing of the relationship with ourselves. I pursue this by reading, regularly seeking advice from my personal therapist, and prioritizing time to be present and think. My commitment to an ongoing relationship with my therapist, (Dr. Klay Bartee, who is also my podcast co-host) irrespective of life’s inevitable highs and lows, is what I see missing from so many people. Klay and I named our podcast In Session With Jared and Klay, because we want to open up our experience to others in the hopes they will get the courage and resolve to do the same. I know a lot of people hesitate to take the step of going to personal therapy, for a number of reasons, but I hope they see in our podcast that they will be enormously blessed if they do the same.
- I resist dichotomy. I have miles to go in this regard, but I try to avoid either/or thinking. Why do we think we will create unity by picking a side? Why do we think politicians will lead us toward unity when the political process is inherently divisive? Polarization undermines relationships. The more we think in connections, the better we will be.
- I seek out inter-racial conversations. My podcast is currently doing a series on racism which includes me, Klay (Native American), and special guests Dr. Greg Harris and Chaplain Jason Darden who are both African Americans. We do this so we can model how to have difficult conversations. Unfortunately, most of what we call conversations occur somewhat artificially on social media. To make progress toward resolution and healing, we have to talk to people of races other than our own, and we need to do so face to face.
- I spend my energy trying to understand rather than trying to be understood. I learned this from Klay years ago, and although it still takes practice, this is what I do when I’m at my best. Listen. Listen. Listen.
- I take responsibility for being part of the solution. This problem doesn’t belong to someone else. It is not someone else’s to fix. I want no part of placing blame. I take responsibility for being a Good Samaritan. I take responsibility for contributing to unity.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
Yes, of course, but it’s going to take at least another generation. We are commonly aware that “people skills” are important to success, so we teach our children to use their manners, speak well of others, and to look people in the eye. But how are we purposefully educating our children to be culturally competent? How are we fostering the development of cross-racial skills? Children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds need to be taught how to talk to each other, not with a false sense of color-blindness, but with full recognition and acceptance of each other for who they are. Racism is one of the biggest problems in our country, but we have not purposefully created a system to educate our children on the skills they need to change our future.
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. 🙂
Oprah. Oprah is a master communicator who has leveraged that skill to become a leader who influences every level of our society. I’d love to hear how she drove that growth within herself.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!