Guest blog by speaker and author Devin Hughes

Devin Hughes

Devin Hughes

When’s the last time you had a cup of coffee or even a conversation with someone who doesn’t look like you or live in your zip code?

It’s probably been a while. It’s easier to stick with the traditional route. The one you’re comfortable with. The one that doesn’t challenge or create ripples in the comfort of your world.

This country has the most diverse population in the world, yet so many people don’t even try to get to know anyone who may be different from them.

Sure, there are diversity posters in most break rooms across your office. There’s Diversity Week, where you get to meet the people in your office, only to forget about them when the grand celebration is done. I almost forgot about Martin Luther King’s birthday. You celebrate that too. Good for you – feel better now?

On the surface, there are loads of superficial attempts to create an atmosphere of diversity. But they are only a means to give the company the appearance of making change, when in actuality, you never feel those shifts taking hold. It also gives you a “hall pass” for not doing anything yourself. Going to the event and signing in is easy. “SEE I went,…”

In this century, being able to relate to people who are different from us is not a luxury. It’s a necessity. Especially with the global market at everyone’s fingertips.

Diversity isn’t a punishment. It’s a foundation on which success is built. And if we don’t teach each other to seek out people that are different from them, to embrace the openness that comes from getting to know people that are of a different color, race, sex, religion or who may even love different than us, then we’re doing them a disservice that will impact all of us.

Ideas are as plentiful as the number of people standing in line with you at Starbuck’s. It’s easy to daydream of big events, of committees putting them together, and of basking in the glow of the kudos thrown our way because we did our part to create a better working environment for our colleagues.

But more ideas are useless. It’s the whole-hearted execution of said ideas that will change the world.

The distance between ideas and success is action. And action? Action begins with getting comfortable in your own skin, solidifying your own beliefs, and then challenging yourself.

In going the distance.

How do you go the distance for diversity and inclusion? Get to know the people in your office who you have been walking by for years without even as much as a hello. Get to know them well. Spend time with them. Listen to them. Understand who they are and WHY they are the way they are. Without judgment.

Without judgment.

To go the distance and make change happen on an emotional level, you have to know yourself, get to know others, and accept them for who they are.

Are you willing to go that distance? I hope so.

Known as the Chief Inspiration Officer, Devin C. Hughes is a popular keynote speaker and author of Contrast: A Biracial Man’s Journey to Desegregate His Past and Self-Talk, a comic book for kids who struggle to fit-in.