Humanity is full of variation and that’s a beautiful thing. That also means not one human is like another — our experiences, our ancestry, and our perspectives are different. It’s important that as executive leadership we bring in a variety of perspectives who might see things through a different lens.
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 Crissy Saint-Massey & Bree Pear.
Only Human is a community organization fueled by kindness and social entrepreneurship. They believe in the power of humans coming together to help move forward in ways that truly matter. Bring your broken parts, your struggles, and your raw selves.
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?
Crissy Saint-Massey here! My growing up experience was once riddled with hardships, but looking back on it all — those challenges just served to fuel me to become a strong, more resilient human who supports others and advocates for the underdogs in situations. I was born in a small town in California with fewer than 2k residents, moved around a lot from family member to family member and finally found my way to Phoenix, AZ where I currently live with my wife and our toddler son and where I run Only Human alongside my best friend, Bree Pear.
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?
The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle was a book that I read in my early twenties that drastically impacted how I live my life. Through that book, I discovered how important it is to be present in the current moment and not live in my past or get overwhelmed by stuff I can’t control in my future. These skills have not only served me in my personal life, but have been core to how I show up in business and guide Only Human alongside our team in the face of rapid growth, technological evolution, and everything going on in the world.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.” — Charles Bukowsk This quote has always struck me in the heart because it’s a reminder to me that we will all go through difficult times and struggles in our lives, but that if we keep going and walk *through* it, we will see the good on the other side. There have been times in my life that I’ve struggled with my mental health or have been severely unhappy and I can’t imagine all that wouldn’t exist today if I had stayed stagnant in those slumps and not pressed forward.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
To me, leadership is synonymous with “support” or “guide.” At Only Human, Bree and I don’t view ourselves at the top of an org chart, but at the bottom — supporting, providing resources and education for, and guiding our team. One of our core values is to “light the way” and I feel like embodying that is what true leadership means.
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?
There for sure have been extremely stressful situations we’ve had to navigate through at Only Human, and as a leader sometimes those pressures feel magnified because the ultimate responsibility to move forward falls on your shoulders. Over the last few years, I’ve really gotten into meditation and even set up a meditation corner in my office. Whether it’s in the morning when I wake up or at night, I take some time each day to connect with my breath and remind myself that I can only control what I can control. This also comes into play before speaking engagements or any time we’re leading a large audience.
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?
First, I think it’s important that none of these issues related to oppression and/or racial injustice are new. These issues have risen to the surface multiple times and in different ways for our entire existence as a human race, but now with social media so accessible, we are finally seeing the sheer amount of cases of injustice, racial murders, etc. Being able to see it all laid out on the table via social media is drawing our collective attention to these issues and, I think, also inspiring more humans than ever to take action and push for social change.
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?
As a global community organization led by two females who identify as lesbian and with 90% of our audience being members of the LGBTQ+ community or allies, we will always use our voices to promote diversity and inclusion in all ways. We not only have our 5000+ member advocate community that acts as a safe space for humans of all kinds, but we run a year-long annual campaign in support of LGBTQ+ rights and inclusion that launches every June. From workshops with LGBTQ+ youth centers to traveling to 40+ pride festivals a year and spreading love, our commitment to diversity is forever.
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?
Humanity is full of variation and that’s a beautiful thing. That also means not one human is like another — our experiences, our ancestry, and our perspectives are different. It’s important that as executive leadership we bring in a variety of perspectives who might see things through a different lens. As a super small organization, we’re in a great position to diversify our Executive Team as we begin to build it out.
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.
1. Do the individual work.
Educate yourself as a leader and role model on topics related to human rights, racial equity, diversity & inclusion. We can only truly lead in this space if we are informed and understand where, as individuals, the responsibility lies on us to help promote social change. This is a stage of listening and understanding. Sign up for a workshop, read books, connect with Black Humans or humans different from yourself and listen.
2. Reflect on how you and/or your organization are showing up in the world.
As businesses and organizations, we have built platforms, teams and cultures that can reach a broad audience in minutes thanks to social media and technology. With that said, we have a responsibility to create safe spaces and use our platforms for the betterment of our society and world. Before we do that, we must ensure we’ve done the internal reflection and work without our own organization to be a proponent of social change and ask ourselves the hard questions like:
“Is the culture of my organization one that truly supports diversity and inclusion?”
“Is my organization showing up as an advocate or have we taken it a step further and am co-conspiring for social change?”
“Does my organization provide resources, trainings, and workshops related to human rights, diversity, inclusion etc. to our team?”
“Are we thinking about the type of humans our brand narrative and content marketing showcases and ensuring stories from multiple perspectives are told?”
“What are our HR policies around topics of hiring, discrimination etc?”
3. Connect With Others.
Undergoing the work required to show up as an organization or leader with full integrity as it related to human rights isn’t easy. Understand that you don’t have to go it alone and take the time to connect with other business leaders, nonprofits, and like-minded organizations to see how you can come together to create change and evolve the narrative. Bring in direct perspectives from those in our world you feel don’t have equity and support and ask them what they would like to see from your organization so you can develop an action plan that permeates down to the values and culture of your organization to marketing and advertising initiatives to partnerships and collaborations.
4. Use your voice & your funds.
Once the internal work has been done, it’s time to lean into the difficult conversations that you may have otherwise backed off from as an organization or a leader and go public with the changes your organization has made in support of social change, diversity, and inclusion. Participate in panels, publicize the changes in your marketing assets, and start to use your organization as a vehicle for change and positivity. Think about where your profits are going and reflect on whether or not you have the ability to use funds to monetarily support other organizations/campaigns doing the work on the ground. Share your new story and inspire others to do the same.
5. Align with others like you and inspire those who don’t.
Stand proudly in your new position as a leader and organization who is committed to do good for society by advocating for human rights, diversity, equity, and inclusion. This means only doing business with others who fully align with the same values and putting a hard no to business relations with organizations who have not committed to doing the work and using their platform for social change no matter what.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I think what “resolved” for one human is could be wildly different than the next. Only Human exists to do more good so that together we can make the world a better place. In doing so, we foster human connection and share stories and we do that because I do think that by being able to read someone else’s story we can develop some empathy and understanding for one another and begin to hate less and love more. Love? I think that is the way forward and I do think if we continue to do this work, we will get to a place of more equity for those who have been oppressed.
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. 🙂
Hands down, Glennon Doyle. I’d love to chat about white privilege, LGBTQ+ family structures, religion..and well, the list goes on. So grateful she exists in this world.
How can our readers follow you online?
Check us out at Onlyhumanco.com or follow us on Instagram @onlyhuman and on Facebook at @onlyhumanco to get involved and help us move humanity forward!
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!