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    The Many Benefits of a “Paradox Mindset” | Dolly Chugh

    Committing to doing just 10% more than before can help us engage in activism sustainably without feeling overwhelmed. This can mean learning more, speaking up more, or taking a break while still making progress.

    enMarch 08, 2023

    About this Episode

    The human animal doesn’t love paradox. We love a clear, simple story. Us versus them. Good versus evil. But life is rarely like that. This is especially true when it comes to wrestling with history. Our guest today calls it the patriot’s dilemma. How do you love your country while also acknowledging the painful and horrifying stuff that has happened in the past?


    Dolly Chugh is a professor at the New York University Stern School of Business where she teaches MBA courses in leadership and management. This is her second time on the show. The last time she came on, she spoke about the concept of being “good-ish. One of the reasons we get defensive when people criticize us is that we feel like it’s a threat to our precious notion of being a good person. But if you have a good-ish mindset, then there’s always room to grow. Her new book, A More Just Future, encourages us to do that for America.


    Content Warning: This episode includes brief mentions of slavery and violence.


    In this episode, we talked about:

    • Why Dolly was scared to write this book
    • What the home team bias is and how it shows up when we think about our past
    • What belief grief is
    • The “long time ago illusion”
    • And, what Dolly calls being a gritty patriot 



    Full Shownotes: https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast-episode/dolly-chugh-568

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    🔑 Key Takeaways

    • Acknowledge the dark history of the nation while embracing potential for progress with a 'goodish' mindset. Use Dolly Chugh's book as a tool for reckoning with historical knowledge to become a gritty patriot.
    • To progress, objectively acknowledge a country's flaws despite biases like nostalgia and favoritism. Use strategies such as seeing the problem and meditation, and be aware of biases in narratives.
    • By being aware of our biases and seeking diverse sources, we can cultivate a more comprehensive understanding of history that encompasses multiple perspectives. The use of historiography can help us question the narratives presented to us and seek out a more well-rounded understanding of our past.
    • Expect and regulate uncomfortable emotions when learning, and understand how social identity impacts our reactions. Don't be owned by emotions; regulate them and learn better.
    • We can break down denial by holding true to our values and affirming them. Embracing the reality of paradox allows us to understand the complexity of people and the world, and helps shift our focus towards knowledge and understanding.
    • Embracing paradoxes can enhance creativity and resilience, encourage clearer thinking, and help find solutions in more creative ways. Accepting imperfections in relationships can lead to a more meaningful engagement with one’s country and appreciation for the unexpected beauty in life.
    • Acknowledge the positive contributions of difficult colleagues and connect past experiences to present challenges to avoid repeating mistakes and build a more successful future.
    • Our understanding of the world is incomplete without considering past experiences. Our thoughts, language, and societal systems are intergenerational, and trauma can also be inherited. Knowing historical roots can help us make sense of conflicts and disparities.
    • It's important to acknowledge the reality of historical figures and their struggles instead of reducing them to simplified fables for the sake of ease and comfort.
    • Change is not straightforward, and our tendency to romanticize the past and expect idealized outcomes can hinder progress. Acknowledging our biases and approaching change with a realistic perspective is crucial for lasting impact.
    • Committing to doing just 10% more than before can help us engage in activism sustainably without feeling overwhelmed. This can mean learning more, speaking up more, or taking a break while still making progress.
    • To make a sustained effort towards social justice, increase engagement by 10% without succumbing to exhaustion. Remember that some people cannot take a break from fighting and address the difficult parts of our past to create a better future for all.
    • Building grit in our relationship with our country means acknowledging and addressing the negative aspects of our history, working towards fixing the damage caused by systemic oppression and inequities, and striving for a more just and equitable future for all.
    • Gritty patriotism is about taking responsibility for making your country better, adopting a growth mindset, being resilient and hopeful; it ensures sustainable love for your country and paves the path for a better tomorrow.

    📝 Podcast Summary

    Grappling with the Patriot's Dilemma

    Acknowledging the painful and horrifying stuff that has happened in the past while loving your country is the Patriot's Dilemma. Dolly Chugh's book, A More Just Future, encourages having a 'goodish' mindset for America, where there's always room for growth. The book offers tools for grappling with historical knowledge. Being a gritty patriot involves acknowledging the dark history of the nation while also embracing the potential for progress. Dolly was afraid of being misinterpreted in her love letter to America as a desire for change while people thought they didn't need her book until they had it. The content doesn't offer historical knowledge but teaches tools for reckoning with it.

    Overcoming Bias for Objective Problem-Solving

    Recognizing and acknowledging the flaws and problematic aspects of one's country is crucial for its progress and growth, but it can be difficult due to nostalgia and home team bias. One should strive to see the problem objectively, without judgment, and work towards understanding and acknowledging them. Dolly Chugh's book lists seven strategies, including seeing the problem, to help with this endeavor. Meditation principles can also aid in this process, particularly in seeing the problem without judgment. Being aware of biases, such as home team bias, is also important in addressing problematic narratives and perspectives.

    Approaching History through the Lens of Historiography.

    Our biases can affect how we understand history. Taking a historiographer approach can help us recognize what perspectives are being left out of the narrative. To gain a more complete understanding of history, we can vary our media diet and seek alternative sources for different perspectives. Even our own family stories vary depending on who's telling them. History doesn't have to be limited to textbooks and documentaries; we talk about it all the time. By putting on the goggles of historiography, we can question the narratives we've been served and who served them to us, and strive for a more well-rounded understanding of our past.

    Dressing for the weather: Understanding emotions and social identity in learning.

    Dressing for the weather means anticipating and regulating emotions that may come up when we learn something new or challenging. Social identity plays a role in how we perceive and react to information. Belief grief is a feeling of loss that comes from realizing something we believed to be true is not. To overcome resistance to learning, we must expect and prepare for uncomfortable emotions and not be owned by them. Regulating emotions and not viewing them as permanent is crucial. Understanding our social identity and how it affects our reactions to information can aid in the learning process. Dressing for the weather means knowing that emotions will come up, and history and people are complicated.

    Overcoming Denial and Embracing Paradox to Understand Complexity.

    Returning to our values and flexing our self-system with affirmation can help us tackle denial and navigate painful history. Embracing paradox is crucial in understanding that two things can be true at the same time. We need to shift our focus from firing shots at each other to understanding that people and the world are complicated. Our systems need to bring forth knowledge in a way that people can easily know and understand. This will help us overcome our innate preference for consistency and coherence, and deal with the complex issues we face.

    The Power of Embracing Paradoxes in Daily Life

    Our brains can hold two conflicting statements at the same time and accept that both can be true. This paradox mindset not only helps us deal with painful history but also with daily life problems like being a parent. By seeking paradox instead of consistency, our brain becomes more creative and resilient, and we can see situations more clearly and find solutions in more creative ways. Accepting paradoxes in our emotional relationship with our country can help us engage with it more meaningfully. It's not about seeking consistency but about seeing things as they are and accepting that they don't always fit perfectly like puzzle pieces. Paradox points can be earned in daily life, and it can help us appreciate the unexpected and see the beauty in the imperfections.

    Using the Paradox Mindset to Improve Relationships at Work

    The paradox mindset can help in dealing with difficult colleagues by acknowledging the possibility that they may have done a lot to support the team/organization, which can lead to finding common ground and better engagement. Connecting the dots and reckoning with history is vital, even if our brains tend to view the past as a long time ago and want to put it behind us, as it is living in the present and can provide insights into current and future issues. It's important to work against the 'long time ago illusion' and connect the past to the present to avoid repeating mistakes and create a better future.

    Connecting the Dots Between the Past and Present

    Connecting the dots between the past and the present is vital to understanding the world around us. Our brains often make the past appear blurry, causing us to overlook vital dynamics. Everything from our thoughts, speech, and systems like laws and housing have been passed down through generations. Trauma, both personally experienced and intergenerational, also affects us today. The lived experience can be passed down from generation to generation, as seen in a study of mice that were given mild shocks. It is liberating to connect the dots as it makes the world make more sense, and conflicts that appear silly have roots and causes. Understanding the dots connecting racial disparities in the present to historical events is also important.

    The Real Story of Rosa Parks Goes Beyond a Simplified Fable

    The story of Rosa Parks, the African American activist who refused to give up her seat on a bus, is often simplified into a fable where an elderly woman, tired after a long day, accidentally becomes an activist. However, the reality is that Parks was an outspoken and rebellious activist who had made many unsuccessful attempts in the past to fight for civil rights. The reason why the simplified fable is more attractive to us is that human beings are storytelling animals who desire simplicity and control. We can look back at the fable with pride, assuming the role we would've played in applauding Rosa Parks. However, it is important to acknowledge the reality of Parks' life and the many activists who fought tirelessly for civil rights.

    Realistic Understanding for Effective Change

    Our tendency to sugarcoat the past, get sucked in by nostalgia, and believe in racial fables clouds our judgment of what's happening now. We must not expect real change to be linear and neat like the Rosa Parks story. While it's okay to critique protest tactics, it's unhelpful to have unrealistic expectations. We must also acknowledge our tendency to want to wrap up the past and move on, whether it's history, family feuds, or other issues. In order to effectively push for change, we must have a realistic understanding of what effective change can look like and not be swayed by nostalgia or misleading fables.

    The 10% More Rule for Sustainable Activism

    When it comes to activism, it's normal to feel overwhelmed or unsure of what to do, but we can start by committing to doing just 10% more than before. If we're new to an issue, this means learning 10% more and staying in learning mode. If we're familiar with an issue, it means being 10% more terrified and taking more risks to speak up when we hear something problematic. And if we're exhausted, it means taking a break but still being satisfied that we've made some progress. This 10% more rule helps us engage in a more sustainable way and make a meaningful difference, without feeling like we have to know everything or do everything at once.

    Balancing Engagement and Exhaustion in the Fight Against Injustice

    To engage more with issues, focus on 10% more than you did before in a sustainable manner. However, exhaustion and fragility may hinder this effort, so it's crucial to consider how much more exhausted you would feel if you were not white but black or brown. It's important to remember that some people cannot take a break from fighting the fight every day, so the 10% more rule specifically addresses this group. Taking responsibility for the collective country we love means addressing the difficult and brutal parts of our history, or the 'leaks in the basement,' that affect us all, whether we choose to acknowledge them or not.

    Acknowledging and Addressing Historical Injustices for a Better Future

    Even if you and your family did not engage in the institution of slavery, you are still benefiting from the inequities perpetuated centuries ago. Similarly, if you celebrate the good things that happened 200 years ago even though your family was not involved, it seems reasonable to consider the bad things as well. Building grit is about showing passion and perseverance in pursuit of a meaningful long-term goal, and it's something we rarely apply to our relationship with our country. We should be willing to acknowledge the bad parts of our history, like the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and work towards fixing the leak in our system that was built on the backs of marginalized groups.

    The Importance of Gritty Patriotism in improving your Country's Future.

    Gritty patriotism entails loving your country but at the same time, taking the responsibility of working towards making it better. It involves not expecting an easy love of country or feeling entitled to it, but rather working towards improving it. The emotions of a gritty patriot's childhood and experiences are still felt no matter the age, yet they choose to channel those emotions into working for a meaningful long-term goal. Adopting the mindset of gritty patriotism is essential to making a positive change in your country's future. Dolly Chugh's intention in her book is to leave readers feeling hopeful, resilient, and with a sense that there is a path to a better tomorrow. Loving your country warts and all is achievable, and gritty patriotism ensures that it is sustainable.

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