Building new friendships is a keystone activity that lays the foundation for connection and healing. If there is anything that COVID-19 is teaching us, it’s that we crave human interaction. And we need to be around people outside of our biological families. When we engage in a friendly manner with people we don’t know, we automatically begin to build rapport with that person. And once someone likes you, they are more likely to want to be around you and care about your well-being.
Aspart of our series about 5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country, I had the pleasure of interviewing Martise Moore.
Martise is a sports confidence coach and the founder of GreenRunner, the Run Faster Company. As a former scholar-athlete at the University of Southern California and a four-time hurdle state champion, she helps kids and adults overcome their performance struggles and realize their BIG talents. She is also the author of the Stay Awesome Sports Journal. Learn more at MartiseMoore.com.
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 a lower-middle-class to middle-class suburb in Maryland, where most people worked for the government in some capacity. It was a nice place to be a kid. The area was relatively safe, and the public schools were above average.
My neighborhood and schools were predominantly white. I was usually one-of-one or one-of-two black people in my classrooms. Overall, I experienced very little overt racism. But I always remember feeling like an outsider, even though I had a lot more in common with my white classmates than my own family.
I did not live near any of my relatives. Most of them lived in other states. And when I visited them, I usually felt like I wasn’t “black enough” or “Chinese enough.” I didn’t “fit in” anywhere.
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?
At the hedge fund I used to work at, my boss gave me the book, “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, and a Barack Obama Chia Pet the day I left the company. I regifted the Chia Pet and read the book.
While I was reading it, I realized that I was born to run fast (I was a sprinter in high school and college) and run long distances. Before that “a-ha” moment, I used to put myself in a box called, “I am a sprinter. I don’t run long distances.” And I would say exactly that to anyone who invited me to participate in a long-distance race, including one of my former executive-level bosses who tried to persuade me to do the Camp Pendleton Mud Run with him and his family. I was so close-minded. I didn’t even consider saying, “Yes.” Man, was that a bad call.
That book got me to do something scores of people never got me to do — run long distance for fun and get good at it. That was huge because it underscored that I could do anything if I want to and work hard to make it happen (even if I’m not naturally good at it). Plus, it transformed my company’s meaning and mission as we help people run faster towards their goals and dreams.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
Hockey player Wayne Gretzky said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
As an entrepreneur and all in all go-getter, this quote is relevant to me every second. The downside is that I take on too many things and endure constant overwhelm. The upside is that it pushes me past fear and laziness and into growth opportunities.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is enrolling people to act to serve an idea. Most of us have thoughts and even conversations about how things should be, but we need leaders to inspire us to make it so.
Charles Hamilton Houston, an African-American lawyer and mentor, was one of the most distinguished leaders of the 20th century. With nothing to offer but low wages, grueling travel schedules, and dangerous situations, he enrolled a generation of black lawyers, including Thurgood Marshall, with an idea: a legal strategy to end segregation in public schools.
In life we come across many people, some who inspire us, some who change us and some who make us better people. Is there a person or people who have helped you get to where you are today? Can you share a story?
While researching my forthcoming book, Go For It, Girl: How to Supercharge Your Sports Confidence to Win On & Off the Field, I learned about history of Title IX and how it impacts the female empowerment movement. I also discovered how instrumental Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was to the enacting the fundamental rights women and girls enjoy today that did not exist 50 years ago. Now I’m obsessed with RBG. Her intelligence and tenacity inspire me to play big in my purpose to help women and girls upgrade their status, prosperity, and impact.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
I want to address the systemic race problems in America.
We are facing one of the deadliest pandemics of our time that could forever change our way of life. When a “more perfect union” could save us, we are still consumed with fear and hate over something as insignificant as skin color.
As a country, we ought to be better than this. Why are we burdened with this on top of everything else that’s going on? It’s 2020!
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
When you watch a blatant murder take place in broad daylight with numerous witnesses and multiple camera angles, there is no, “he said, she said.” We all saw it happen. And still, there is no justice?
Take centuries of terrorism and oppression against one race of people and combine that with a global shutdown that limits our daily distractions — you get a revolution.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
I am tired of my family and friends living in constant fear, simply because of their skin color.
A few years ago, I visited my relatives in Virginia on Christmas Eve. As usual, I wanted to go to karaoke, but with everything shutting down early, we couldn’t find a place nearby that was open. So, I looked online and found a bar that was about 20 minutes away from my cousins’ house. I was super excited to locate the place, but my two cousins weren’t. When I told them where the bar was, they freaked out. It was in a “white part of town,” and apparently, my two black, male cousins were afraid to go there. I couldn’t believe it.
Eventually, I convinced them to go, and as soon as I pulled into the parking lot, they started counting all the pickup trucks and didn’t want to get out of the car. It was so sad.
Inside the bar, they had a few drinks and finally loosened up. They even sang a couple of songs. We had a great time, and there were no issues. On the car ride home, they thanked me for getting them out of their comfort zones.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. 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.
Diversity education is critical for all people. We are so afraid of each other’s differences that we miss countless opportunities for humanity, equality, and love. To help proactively heal our country, I propose that each of us take steps to practice diversity intelligence. We need to:
1) Make New Friends
Building new friendships is a keystone activity that lays the foundation for connection and healing. If there is anything that COVID-19 is teaching us, it’s that we crave human interaction. And we need to be around people outside of our biological families.
When we engage in a friendly manner with people we don’t know, we automatically begin to build rapport with that person. And once someone likes you, they are more likely to want to be around you and care about your well-being.
2) Educate Our Ignorance Early
At USC, I took a course called “People, Power, and Politics” to fulfill my diversity requirement. The lectures weren’t that illuminating for me, but the labs were a wake-up call. Growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, I was never encouraged or required to engage in taboo topics about race and class with people who didn’t look like me. That paradigm changed inside those labs. I had conversations that I didn’t know I wanted to have and became present to the disconnected perspectives between students of color and wealthy white students.
Am I the only one who thinks that waiting until I’m an adult (when I’ve already formed most of my opinions about the world and my place in it) to take a diversity course is a bit late?
3) Venture Outside of Our Bubbles
The more we physically reduce the distance between “them and us,” the less it remains “them and us.”
One time I participated in a 24-hour American Cancer Society fundraising event and asked several of my friends and family to run and walk to fulfill my steps goal. The event took place at a baseball field in a predominantly black neighborhood. And when two of my white friends showed up, one of them said, “Whoa! We’re like the only white people here.”
Take it from someone who is usually in the racial or gender minority: The initial shock wears off pretty quickly. And even that goes away, the more you put yourself in different types of environments.
4) Be More Committed to Our Humanity Than Our Fear
When we fear or hate someone we don’t know, it usually comes from unfamiliarity.
As human beings, we are more the same than we are different. None of us are as complicated as we make ourselves out to be. We’re simple. We all want to feel loved. And most of our choices express our efforts to get or keep love. It’s tragic and beautiful: Tragic because we’ll do almost anything to get it, including horrible acts. And beautiful, because in our pursuit is the opportunity to become our best selves.
5) Practice Empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feeling of another person.
We don’t have to know everything about other people’s history, but it will serve us all to have more empathy. When we have a better understanding of where someone is coming from, we can respond first instead of reacting.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
There are five simple things that we can all do to heal our country:
1) Engage with one stranger a day: It can be a wave, a smile, a high-five (post-pandemic), a handshake (post-pandemic), a simple “Hello,” or a full-on introduction (e.g., “Hello, we haven’t met yet. My name is…how are you today?”).
2) Read one book, watch one documentary, or take one class a year that addresses current racial disparities in the United States.
3) Do one of our regular to-dos (like going to the grocery store) outside of our neighborhood, once a month.
4) When we feel fear or hate towards someone we don’t know, let’s switch to curiosity mode. Let’s be curious about why we fear or hate them and consider wanting to know them better.
5) Open our ears. Let’s listen first to understand each other.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I am optimistic that we can do better as a society to embrace our differences. Together, our collective acts of diversity intelligence can create a more enlightened and unified United States of America.
But as long as there are people who need to put down others to feel better about themselves, there will always be “isms.” I hope that those people will be in the minority.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If you want to achieve greatness, think bigger than yourself. Focus on a purpose that will require you to be the best version of yourself to make a significant difference in our environment or society.
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 would love to grab some slices with President Obama and get some speaker training : )
How can our readers follow you online?
You can follow me at MartiseMoore.com and on Twitter and Instagram @martisemoore.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!