Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Source: GoodEnglish.org

I have always spoken my mind. Yes sometimes it got me into trouble in school. It got me into trouble in college. It got me into trouble in church. It got me into trouble ever since I have been in the world of work. Thing is this. I have no regrets. I like to say it as I see it. If I don’t agree with your premise or rational I will say so. Sometimes louder than I should have, sometimes in softer tones but I hate it when someone has something to say and chickens away from it.

Some of my colleagues in the world of work have told me that I should not blog or write socio political commentary. It could affect my reputation. Ironically some of the same crowd urged me to be on TV as a spokesperson after last years London’s riots. Go figure. I refused anyway as the media were more focused on making it a black issue as opposed to unrest around the country by disaffected young and older people. No thank you. Not playing that game. I actually stopped writing for a while but asked my self, why should not be able to speak passionately about both personal as well as business issues that affect me?

Why speak your mind
I was asked by a colleague why I was not afraid to talk about things like race, gender, religion. Why I was so frank? Am I not being afraid of being hurt when someone responds? What about those who are abusive in their retorts? Well I think it is important to know that any debate will always stand it’s ground on reason and structure. Emotion does play it’s part but focusing on the facts will but it’s useless being passionate if you don’t make sense it what you are saying. Yes of course sometimes there are those who think if they speak the loudest they will win, but speaking your mind doesn’t mean shouting.

Take for example when I write about race. Last year some lawyer on Twitter decided to get into dialogue about my distaste with the racial element of media reporting on the riots. Told me that we were looking at the same things on TV yet coming to different conclusions. What started as sensible dialogue started to go a bit awry when I countered his supposed facts with my won reports around the country. The dialogue deteriorated when I went back and looked at one of his earlier tweets as to how we could stop the riots. A somewhat well educated man descended to the cheapest of racial prejudices. I retweeted it to my 5,000 plus followers. Why? I think it is important for our conversations to tackle the nonsense around race. It is not just about white privilege, chips on the shoulders of black people, assumptions about patriarchy in the asian community and the other well worn cliches that polarise any conversation on dealing with race, it’s deeper than that. Sometimes someone needs to speak up to try and take the conversation forward.

A second example is faith. Talking very frankly about my spiritual journey and leaving organised religion resulted in a dip in some followers leaving and offline some people being nervous to talk about faith. On the flip side there were many in the same place or about to embark on a similar journey who were glad for the opportunity to hear how someone else went through such a transition. Granted there are some who don’t get it but you can’t please everyone or most people. That is never the intention. Speaking out is about getting the points of discussion out there and for those willing to take part and respond or at least read, providing some brain food for people to chew over.

In starting back up this blog it has become somewhat cathartic. Over this year business has been a challenging one. A question of readjusting goals and targets, not just financial and operational but it terms of my network too. Some individuals have been great champions that whilst navigating their own way through choppy waters have been great champions providing support in terms of time and wisdom. Others have made it clear that they have not had my best interests at heart. They have been happy to be “associated” with whatever name kind of brand name David McQueen is supposed to have but when the rubber hits the road over time their intentions have become clear. I take partial responsibility for this in that I should follow my gut more. Define boundaries and outcomes and expectations. So much easier to address shortcomings when they have been clearly defined. One could easily look on and be bitter from such experiences or just become better, learn from your mistakes and move on. Writing about is incredibly cathartic. Typing this or writing down in my journal allows me to express stuff I would probably let eat away at me without a suitable avenue for expression.

This year has also seen some old acquaintances remerge back on to the landscape for both me and my wife. We have agreed that in all instances we should never not trust our gut. A couple of times I know I have not done that. I have trusted deep without testing the water. It is one thing to wear your heart on your sleeve so people can see where you are coming from it is another thing to share that heart with out being cautious. I am going with gut. If you have taking the piss before, whilst one must forgive and forgive wholly, it is folly to not learn from that. Forgive and forget is about letting it go and not holding the act or bringing it up against said person, but it would be stupid to think forget means not to remember that person has a frailty in an area. For example, if you and I have had problems with money in the past lets go for a drink by all means but I ain’t letting you be my accountant.

Writing about this is cathartic because my email and direct messages are full of people who say thank you, you are speaking of the same experience as I have had.

Be careful but go for it
So by all means wear your heart on your sleeve. Speak to truth as you see it as is appropriate. Don’t be afraid to say no if it doesn’t align with what you believe and don’t be afraid to fail. Others change. Test your assumptions around that too. For example I have noticed since I wrote my article about faith, two contacts that I have worked in have not returned my calls or emails. I have to question myself. Is that truly because of my article or am I reading into something that is not there? Whilst my default is to the first answer my rational mind is forcing me to go to the other unless I have concrete evidence to prove the former.

I used to think that this kind of thinking was rebellious. That because I spoke my mind and it would get me into trouble something was wrong. Why were people always telling me not to speak out or write out? I am more comfortable with the fact that it’s not rebellion, it’s me. My south african hero is Steve Biko. His candour and willingness to speak out resulted in his death as many of my other heroes did. Now I don’t think I am going to die just because I blog a strong post about race, gender, sexuality, politics or faith but I do realise in some instances it may alienate me from those who don’t want to buck the status quo.

When you speak your mind you probably end with less friends but deeper friendships with those who do stick around. Sometimes that is the price you pay for wearing your heart on your sleeve. A price I will always be willing to pay.