The Mindful Midlife Crisis

Episode 44--The Urgency of Awareness with Jodi Pfarr

February 02, 2022 Billy & Brian Season 4
Episode 44--The Urgency of Awareness with Jodi Pfarr
The Mindful Midlife Crisis
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The Mindful Midlife Crisis
Episode 44--The Urgency of Awareness with Jodi Pfarr
Feb 02, 2022 Season 4
Billy & Brian

In this week's episode, Billy and Brian talk to equity consultant Jodi Pfarr about: 
--The four components of societal systems: individual, organizational, communities, and policies.  
--How societal systems get in the way of our potential.
--The 18 Normalized and Non-Normalized Societal Systems 
--How looking at our own normalizations impact how we view our experiences and how others may view them.
--How her co-author's experiences with pancreatic cancer enhances one’s understanding of what’s presented in this book.
--What she means by "benevolent detachment".  
--Tools we can use that can improve our interactions and lead to more awareness of what’s a normalized experience for some but not normalized for others.

Like what you heard from Jodi Pfarr?  Contact her at:

Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis!
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If we have money left over after covering our fees, we will make a donation to the
Livin Foundation, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote a positive outlook on life, reduce the stigma associated with depression/mental illness, and ultimately prevent suicide through various activities, events, & outreach.

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

In this week's episode, Billy and Brian talk to equity consultant Jodi Pfarr about: 
--The four components of societal systems: individual, organizational, communities, and policies.  
--How societal systems get in the way of our potential.
--The 18 Normalized and Non-Normalized Societal Systems 
--How looking at our own normalizations impact how we view our experiences and how others may view them.
--How her co-author's experiences with pancreatic cancer enhances one’s understanding of what’s presented in this book.
--What she means by "benevolent detachment".  
--Tools we can use that can improve our interactions and lead to more awareness of what’s a normalized experience for some but not normalized for others.

Like what you heard from Jodi Pfarr?  Contact her at:

Thank you for listening to the Mindful Midlife Crisis!
Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Topics you want us to cover?
"Like" and "Follow" us on Facebook:
The Mindful Midlife Crisis Podcast

Please leave us a 5-Star Review!  Doing so helps other people looking for a podcast like ours find it!

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode!  If this episode resonates with you, please share it with your friends and family.  If you’re really feeling gracious, you can make a donation to Your donations will be used to cover all of our production costs.

If we have money left over after covering our fees, we will make a donation to the
Livin Foundation, which is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote a positive outlook on life, reduce the stigma associated with depression/mental illness, and ultimately prevent suicide through various activities, events, & outreach.

Support the Show.

Coming up on The Mindful Midlife Crisis...

Jodi: In the book that I wrote, The Urgency of Awareness, in chapter one, we talked about how, you and I, we live in a societal system that has normalized one identity over another, and that a societal system always gears itself to the normalized identity. What this means is that there's benefits you receive from being part of the normalized. So, you are going to have different experiences than someone who's not part of the normalized. So, one of the examples I used is we normalize right-handedness. For those of you listening right now, if you're right-handed, I'm going to say, well, what are the benefits? A lot of times right-handed people can't think of many. But if you're listening right now and you're left-handed, and I say what are the benefits — let me guess, you already said it. It came from down under — you're like, "Scissors." So, all of a sudden, right-handed people started realizing, "Oh, my gosh. I didn't know that stuff was geared." Well, of course, when you're part of the normalized dominant, things just work for you. It's the water that you swim in. It's the air you breathe. You don't see it until someone else talks about, "Hey, I've had a different experience."


Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis, a podcast for people navigating the complexities and possibilities of life's second half. Join your hosts, Billy and Brian, a couple of average dudes who will serve as your armchair life coaches, as we share our life experiences — both the good and the bad — in an effort to help us all better understand how we can enjoy and make the most of the life we have left to live in a more meaningful way. Take a deep breath, embrace the present, and journey with us through The Mindful Midlife Crisis.


Billy: Welcome to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. I'm your host, Billy. As always, I'm joined by my good friend, Brian on the Bass. Brian, how are you doing over there, man?

Brian: I'm elated today, Billy.

Billy: Are you in the Christmas spirit, and that's why you're so elated?

Brian: I am. I have my Christmas shopping done. The kids are all set. We've got all the presents sitting out by the tree, so they're all happy. That's why I'm elated.

Billy: Excellent. That is wonderful to hear. If you're listening to this, you're probably listening to this sometime in January. But we're front loading all of our episodes right now. So, it is the holiday season right now. Happy holidays to everybody out there. I am elated because we have one of my favorite people in the world as a guest today. She's already just coming in hot with all sorts of attitude. I'm very excited to have her here today. It is Jodi Pfarr. Since 2001, Jodi has worked internationally, conducting impactful seminars that leave people learning and laughing. Through her captivating presentations and consulting, Jodi seeks to help people discover the human connections that unite us all, unlocking potential within the communities, institutions, and individuals alike. She has authored several books. Today, she's here to talk about how a better understanding of our societal systems and our experiences within those systems can improve our everyday interactions, both personally and professionally. I think this is a fitting episode for the season. Because we have a lot of people coming in who are sharing their experiences that Brian and I are unfamiliar with. So, we're very happy to welcome to the show Jodi Pfarr.

Jodi: Yay. Thank you very much. And this is just me. This ain't me hot. If I was coming in hot, you'd have already bleeped me by now.

Billy: We don't bleep anybody if you're unfiltered here. But I am going to say this. So, I asked Jodie the other day for her 10 roles, and she said, "Are you really going to make me do that corny bullshit?"

Jodi: Exactly. 10 roles?

Billy: So, she begrudgingly shared her 10 roles with me, but she is not going to read them off. So, I am going to read off Jodi's 10 roles, and then we will talk about those. Because I do feel they pertain significantly to what we're going to talk about here today. Jodi's 10 roles are: dad, sister, daughter, friend, part of the Earth, small business owner, husband, wife, farmer, and child of creation. The three roles that she's most looking forward to in the second half of life are: husband, wife, and dad. So, can we talk a little bit about what you're looking forward to the most in terms of being a husband, wife, and dad, and maybe why you choose those labels?

Jodi: First of all, to look forward is an interesting concept for me. I try to be very present-based. So, presently, the most important roles in my life are being a parent. The children in my life have just always called me dad, and it's stuck. So, that's just how it is. We're pretty gender fluid around in our household. Then just also being a wife and a husband. Again, it kind of ebb and flows. I have a female wife. Again, those roles kind of ebb and flow for us. But those are the most important roles in my life. So, that's what I look forward to continuing.

Billy: How did those experiences then shaped the work that you do as a consultant, especially around The Urgency of Awareness and discussing societal systems?

Jodi: Yeah. In the book that I wrote, The Urgency of Awareness, in chapter one, we talked about how, you and I, we live in a societal system that has normalized one identity over another, and that a societal system always gears itself to the normalized identity. What this means is that there's benefits you receive from being part of the normalized. So, you are going to have different experiences than someone who's not part of the normalized. One of the examples I used is we normalize right-handedness. For those of you listening right now, if you're right-handed, I'm going to say, well, what are the benefits? A lot of times right-handed people can't think of many. But if you're listening right now and you're left-handed, and I say what are the benefits — let me guess, you already said it. It came from down under — you're like, "Scissors."

It always comes up from left-handed people. Scissors and school desks. Then it just keeps going on and on. Can openers and ladles and power tools and manufacturing equipment. The safety guards are on as if you're going to use it right-handed. So, left-handed people put themselves in harm's way. Firearms are geared for right-handed. Cars are geared for right-handed. All of a sudden, right-handed people started realizing, "Oh my gosh, I didn't know that stuff was geared." Well, of course, when you're part of the normalized dominant, things just work for you. It's the water that you're swimming. It's the air you breathe. You don't see it until someone else talks about, "Hey, I've had a different experience."

So, in the book, we talked about 18 different identity sets. Left-handed, right-handed being one of the 18. Obviously, race is one — being white or black, indigenous person of color, sexual expression, gender. So, as I become more aware of identities, and how living in a societal system that's normalized one identity over the other has impacted me, I, myself, have personally started just to loosen up on those identities. They don't mean as much to me. So, if somebody calls me a man or a woman, I really don't care. I mean, it just doesn't mean — it's fluid for me. It's the same with being a parent. I lost my train of thought. How was that?

Billy: That's on the good. So, we're just diving right into all of this. Usually, we do our 10 roles and then we banter for a little bit. So, this is going to be a way more interesting conversation than you not wanting to talk to about your 10 roles. So, let's back up a little bit here, because you jumped into the societal systems. In the book, you identified them as individual, organizational, communities, and policies. Can you elaborate on those for a little bit for us?

Jodi: Yeah, when I say societal system, that's how I define it. There's four major components in our societal system. You and I, and everybody listening, we live in our societal system. Then we have institutions. That could be our synagogue or church, the police departments, schools, Best Buy, Target. Then we have communities. Let's be honest. Communities come in different sizes. When you say community, to some of us, we think our family. After the holidays, you're probably not thinking that no more. But for some of us, we're thinking our neighborhood. For some of us, we're thinking the entire county, the entire state. Let's be honest. Communities do come in different sizes.

Then there's policies. Policies are gear or affect individuals. A policy telling me how fast I can drive back home — I personally think it's a suggestion, but law enforcement disagrees. Then there's policies that guide our institutions or communities as well. Those policies come at local levels. They come at state. They come at federal levels. Let's be honest. There's a lot of other elements in our societal system, but those are the four major components.

In order for something to get normalized, let me be very clear, it does not have to be the majority. It has to have policies, as well as communities, individuals and institutions. The societal system once was, or currently is, geared towards that identity. So, if we used to look at women, women didn't have the right to vote. The policies were geared towards men. Even though a lot of policies have changed, we still see how that has impacted us. Still, men are still normalized. So, it doesn't have to do with numbers. When I work in South Africa, for example, I do work there. They say anywhere from 5% to 7% of the population is white. White is still what is normalized in South Africa. Even though it's not the majority, it's still normalized. So, here in the United States, people will sometimes look at my triangle chart. They'll say, "Well, the white, that won't be normalized much longer in the United States." I'll ask, "Well, why not?" They're like, "Well, because we currently do have more people of color born in America. At some point, we're going to actually just have more of the population of America be people of color than white folks." I said, yes, but it's not a numbers game. So, that number doesn't change 400 years of policies geared towards white folks, if that makes sense.

Billy: No, it does. So, that's something that I want to go back to in just a little bit. You said you were working in South Africa. What were you doing in South Africa?

Jodi: It was several years ago. Now with the pandemic, everything seems like it was several years ago, doesn't it? Right? So, probably it was yesterday. I don't know. But working in South Africa, a lot we're learning from what they have gone through with apartheid and how they're trying to restructure and rebuild their societal system. Then also sharing some of what we've learned in the United States, being a little bit further ahead in that process.

Billy: It's interesting that you bring up South Africa. Because one of our favorite guests is Dr. Yvette Erasmus, and she grew up in South Africa. She talked to us about having a father who upheld apartheid policies and a mother who fought against apartheid policies. We asked her, "Are you seeing parallels between apartheid South Africa and the United States today?" She said she sees striking similarities between that. I'm curious if you're seeing that as well.

Jodi: I think anytime you oppress — whatever word you want to use — you want to oppress one group over another, or you make one group normalized dominant, there's some very similar dynamics that start to occur. So, you see it in any place that you go where that's happening. You see similarities, specifically with race. Yes, there are some. But both have their unique history. But yet, there's always some similarities.

Billy: I think in the book, you said that when we start off in societal systems from our lens, it's usually from an individual lens. Then I don't know if all of us get to organizational.

Jodi: Yeah, one of the things I'll ask in the book is in our societal system. Remember, that's individuals, institutions, communities, and policies. My question would be to listeners right now is, which one is your primary focus? Because we don't tend to immediately think systemically. I'm not saying we don't. We all do. We all eventually get to a societal system, but we'll think systemically. But most of us, we'll just think we'll have one of those four. It will be our primary lens. America tends to — in my experience — be very individual. A lot of my audiences will say, "Well, I look at things very individual."

Now, for myself, I grew up out in the rural. I absolutely looked at the world individual. Because I didn't travel, I didn't get outside my county. So, then when I came and I moved up to Minneapolis, when I started doing work, most of my work was individual contact. So, when I worked with folks individually, then again, my primary focus. I remember I went to a presentation. I love what the presenter was saying. But within 45 minutes, I'm like, "Hey, Brother, can you tell me how a — great information. Thumbs up on you." But how do I take what you're saying, and use it when I'm working individually with folks? Because that was my primary focus.

As I got promoted, then all of a sudden — for those of you listening who are in supervising roles — many times when you get promoted, now your employer pays you to do what's best for the institution. All of a sudden, you're supposed to think about what's best for the institution. I remember reading data back in the day when I was working for Catholic charities, that said we're seeing a higher rate in poverty, people who had both a mental health issue and a chemical dependency issue. I remember reading that research article in my office. I immediately thought, "Oh, my gosh. If this is who's coming through the door, then how does our agency have to look different? How does our program have to change?" So, my primary focus was institution.

Over the years, I've helped several communities. I worked with entire counties. I have worked with 15 counties in the United States. Through that work — working with entire counties — counties became my primary focus. Then of course, policies is when I came. I got off the road for a little while. I was an executive director. As the executive director, I realized how much policies affect what we can and cannot do in our institutions. Different times of our life, we'll have different primary focuses. But we tend to go to one a little bit more than the other three.

Billy: It's interesting you talked about, in the book, that oftentimes we bring our individual experiences to the organizational. Then we think that we're being best intentioned with the policies that we're creating, when in turn we're really just creating a utopic vision of what I would like to see but maybe not necessarily the people that we are aiming to help.

Jodi: Exactly. Because if you have a second-hand experience, that's not like having the real-life journey of it. So, I come in. I may want to help in social services or in education. I want to help a student or someone who has different identities than me. But I'm bringing in my preconceived notion on what that is. Now it doesn't mean I don't have anything to offer. But it means I also need to be able to sit down and listen to those who do hold that perspective and, more importantly, create a space in our institution for folks to have that voice.

Billy: When you talked about that in the book, what really resonated with me was my shifting experience from being a teacher in the classroom to being a dean and taking on some more administrative roles. Because then, I was more behind the scenes and taking a look at, well, how do we uphold policy? How do we uphold rules? How do we disseminate information to a large body, rather than just my classroom?

Jodi: Right. In there, I say with a lot of employers that I work with, as you promote internally, we often don't do a good job of just really clearly communicating. Hey, one of the reasons you were a successful employee is because you were a great individual, and you work very well with other individuals. But now we need you to do what's best for the institution or the program. That means a lot of times behind-the-scene work. It also means sometimes upholding a policy that, individually, you don't like what is doing individually` but it has to be upheld for the long-term result.

Billy: Another reason why we wanted to have you on, particularly in this season where we're talking about reinventing ourselves is because, in the book, you say awareness of how living in a societal system often labels us and can limit our potential. So, we wanted you to talk a little bit more about how these societal systems get in the way of reaching our potential.

Jodi: I think it's not just the societal system, but it's also our lack of awareness. So, we grow up and we're not aware that we were in a societal system that's normalized one thing over the other. Sometimes we, then, start to believe our experience was "the right experience" or is of more value than someone else's when, really, men have experienced the societal system differently than women. It's not bad. It's not worse, but it's different. Same also then with some of the other identities that I have in the book.

With that different experience comes different perceptions. So, the more I understand how I've been shaped by the societal system — growing up in a societal system that's normalized one thing over the other — the more that I am aware of my perception, and I can be open to others. When I want to reinvent myself — I know this is silly — but I go back to right-handed and left-handed if I never understand that I've grown up in a societal system that's geared to right-handed. I am right handed. That's going to limit my ability to reinvent myself because I've only known right-handedness. It limits my understanding. If I grow, if I start to become aware of what was all geared towards me, and I also become more aware of the left-handed perspective, then I have a bigger, holistic understanding. So, when I go to reinvent myself, I can do it from a more holistic place. I can also do it from a place of better awareness of the different experiences in the societal system.

Billy: So, what I want to do here is take a quick break. When we come back, we're going to talk about those 18 pairs of triangles. We're not going to break them all down for you, but I want to talk about those in a little more depth. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.


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And now, let's take a minute to be present with our breath. If you're listening somewhere safe and quiet, close your eyes and slowly inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold for 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Slowly exhale for 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Let's do that one more time. Inhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold for 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Slowly exhale for 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Go ahead and open your eyes. You feel better? We certainly hope so. And now, back to the show.


Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. Once again, we are here with Jodi Pfarr. She's talking to us about The Urgency of Awareness and becoming more aware of the societal systems that are at play when it comes to understanding our own experiences. In the book, you break down some of these societal systems into 18 pairs of triangles, with one triangle representing what's normalized and the other representing what's not normalized, such as male, female, white people of color, heterosexual, LGBTQ plus — which can be hot button issues for people to discuss around the dinner table during the holidays. But you make it clear that there isn't a right or wrong in any of this. It just comes down to the experiences we've had and are currently living. So, what do we do with that awareness, then?

Jodi: Well, first, I want to clarify one thing, Billy. We only have one societal system. So, in the United States, we have a societal system that has normalized some identities over another. In the book, I named 18 different identities that is normalized. What I have people do is, I have a triangle chart. A triangle on its base has the normalized identity like right-handed. Then a triangle right next to it pointing down — which my editor says there's no such thing as a pointing down triangle, but there is — is left-handed. So, there's a chart with 18 different identities like that. I have people then circle where they are today.

Now, some triangles can change. Some obviously cannot, but some can. I'm first generational formal education. I'm first generation. There are things that I'm first generation. But that's where I am today. When you circle, it's not to say you didn't ever live in the other identity. It's not to say you don't have any understanding. But it is to say, this is where I am today. Once we have that, we want to start to process. Processing means you're going to dive into emotions. Anytime we process, there's going to be emotions.

So, just go back to the right-handed, left-handed example again. When I bring that up to audiences, I'll have right-handed people get frustrated. I'll have them get angry. I'll have them deny. I'll have right-handed people go, "I worked hard to get where I got. I didn't have no dang benefit." I'm like, "Oh, hey, ho. If you worked hard, then you worked hard." Now, if by any chance, you worked hard on construction crews, when you got to that construction crew, you picked up any tool and you went to work. So, a left-handed person didn't have that benefit. A left-handed person went to the construction crew. Now they have to pick it. What are you going to do? You got a decision to make. Do I pick up the pool of tool and stumble with it, and put myself in danger? Don't do as great of a job? Do I go over and explain to my boss, "No, I can't do that." But that runs the risk of being perceived as not willing to work hard?" Just those little things of adjusting.

Then I had to. I have to because I'm from the state of Minnesota. I have to talk about guilt. Oh, my gosh. Normalized dominant folks, right-handed people, that happens in Minnesota all the time. When right-handed people find out they got a benefit that didn't work for them. Like, "Oh, my goodness. Oh, I'm so sorry. Oh, I didn't know about the left-handed. I didn't know about the scissors. Oh, we'll get that fixed for you." It's like, yeah, get over yourself. So, it's okay to have the feelings. It's okay to have the feelings. Here's what I tell my audiences all the time. Don't act out of the feeling. Don't act out of the anger. Don't act out of the frustration. Don't act out of the guilt. Because it's not going to be effective. So, you want to process those feelings. We talked about how to process those feelings. In the book, I talked about it so you can move to ownership.

Ownership is where I'm aware of where I've been part of the norm, and where I haven't. I've spent time processing that and how that's affected me. Because it's affected you. If you're left-handed, I've had left-handed people. Same thing. You get a feeling. You're frustrated. "Jodi, I'm so sick and tired up. I always have to adjust to the system. Nothing's ever set up for me, and no one ever understands how much I'm adjusting." It's like, yeah, talk to anyone who's not part of the normalized identity. They'll tell you, "Yes, I adjust every day." A lot of people here in Minnesota, especially people of color, they can't bring their whole selves to work. They're adjusting all the time. Their co-workers never understand how much they're adjusting. So, you're dang right. That gets exhausting. That gets frustrating. It's angry.

Then there's denial. It's interesting that around the age of 70, the 70-year-old participants in my audience — when I do the left-handed, right-handed thing — the left-handed 70-year-old and above, they hate that activity. "Jodi, knock it off. Jodi, it's not a big deal. Jodi, you just learn to adjust. If you're left-handed, you just learn to adjust. Just stop talking about it. Just knock it off." Well, that makes a lot of sense to me. Because if you spent 70 years adjusting to the normalized, the last thing you want is some little punk kid standing up here reminding you that it's different.

So, we all have to process those feelings, and we start to move to what I call 'ownership' because that's where we can listen to each other. Now, I say this. Let's say, if there's males on this call. Let's say, Billy asked me to work with all the male listeners. I work with you guys for like three months. One day, you just start telling me what it's like to be a male in America. Unless I'm going to assume listeners are in different ages, different races—

Billy: We actually have mostly female listeners.

Jodi: Well, there you go.

Billy: I think it's because we're so attractive.

Jodi: They are, just for the record. Yes, whatever you're envisioning, that's accurate. That's accurate with these guys.

Brian: Thank you.

Jodi: You're welcome. So, we're going with males. Because I'm a female. So, one day, men just start telling me what it's like to be men in America. If I haven't processed this, then I'm going to operate out of my feelings. There might be some hurts. I'm going to yab at you. Oh, yeah, Billy. Brother, that's rough, man. If you're the same skin color as me, you got $1 or my $.77. Oh, Brian. That's real rough, man. You know what they say? They say women are almost 51% of the population. Yet, we're ecstatic to have 19% of Congress and Senate. Then somebody else brings up and like, "No, Jodi, from a man's perspective, we're just saying our experiences like this. I'll make it really, really, well, God is still a he. Drop the mic on that. I invoke God. But you, guys, what's your response most likely going to be?

Billy: We're going to get defensive.

Jodi: Yeah, you'll get defensive and shut down. Then what happens is, we drive away more stuck in our experience as the right experience than ever before. What you just had is you had folks that didn't have that awareness. Let's apply this to your work. How many times have you gone to a meeting, and people are always like, "Oh, we have to have diverse opinions at the table." Yes, but we have to do our work first. You'd often, "Oh, let's just bring diversity together. Let's bring students, parents. Let's bring all this diversity together." But if we haven't done our work first, we're going to react to each other and we drive away more stuck in our experience as the "right experience."

So, when we take time out like this and use the book to become more aware, to start to process, and then move to ownership. I do that a circle. That's a circle. We have to do that all the time. It's not a one and done. I wish it was. But if we continue to do that, then we can start to listen to folks.

If my own experience, and I'm talking to male listeners, and they start telling me what it's like to be men in America, well, what am I going to do? I'm going to listen. I have absolutely no idea. Now, if I sincerely listen, like "Oh, man, Billy. I never thought of it that way. Oh, really? Brian? Okay" If I sincerely listen than when I talk about what it's like to be a woman, we've just increased chances of you guys doing what?

Billy: Being receptive.

Jodi: Yeah, and listening. So, then if you listen, then we drive away thinking about what the other person says. We don't have to agree. That's the other misconception. In order for us to get along, we have to agree. No. But I'm going to create a space where I listen to you, and I'm going to reflect on what you say. I'll incorporate it. I might not agree with everything, Billy. But I'm, at least, going to incorporate and listen and hear it. We know if you just came off the holidays, a lot of our families, we don't do that. One family member gets something said that strikes an emotion with another family member, then everybody starts acting out of emotion. Everybody shuts down, and eats too much cake. Then there we go. Cookies, and it's the next thing.

Billy: That reminds me a lot of the Courageous Conversations' Four Agreements, where it's stay engaged, speak your truth, experience discomfort, and expect and accept non-disclosure. It sounds like you work that into your conversations. But it's not just around race. It's around all of these 18 triangles that you're looking at.

Jodi: Yeah, because we have to be aware to speak our truth. We also equally have to be aware that there's other truths out there, and that we live in a societal system that normalizes one thing over the other. So, you have to be aware that if you have the more normalized dominant identities you have, the more things have been geared for you. The less you adjust.

So, if you're going through your day, and you're not adjusting, I say this, you can bring your whole self to work for the most part. A lot of times, people who have more normalized identity say yes. People who don't are like no, especially with race in America. It's like, "No, I can't bring all of who I am and what I'm thinking to work." So, yes, this does align with that work but it also is another layer, I would say, of really honoring that we do have a societal system that has impacted us greatly with normalized and that's not normalized.

Billy: I feel like you've kind of answered this already. But on the flip side of guilt and shame, I imagine, as you've talked about defensiveness but then also someone saying, well, this just sounds like political correctness at its worst. Do you come back with them and just say, no dude? Just tell me your experience.

Jodi: I just listened to that. I mean, I listen. I work throughout the world, but a lot in the United States. I work in the most conservative places, and I work in the most progressive or liberal places. I have to be honest with you. For most of the progressive and liberal are by far the hardest. Because we like to think — you're in Minnesota — we're so progressive that we already know all these things. But yet our stats don't show that we're applying it. Look at our school. We were like what? Second to Mississippi in disparities of graduating kids of color. You know what I mean? If you look at all of our stats, we're not yielding it. Obviously, we intellectually may get it, but we're not incorporating it. So, quite honestly, I find more resistance sometimes in liberal communities. Because they're like, "Oh, I get this intellectually." I love it that you get it intellectually. How are you incorporating it into your own personal awareness? How are you then bringing it into your corporation or your company? Because like you said, Billy, that's what makes our culture. The school culture, the company culture is all of us bringing our awareness or our lack of awareness to it, and operating out of that.

When I work in conservative areas, I'll get that pushback you just mentioned. Well, this just sounds like a lot of political stuff. But there's also an honesty of, "Yeah, I do look at things differently. I do look at my experience as better than." So, there's much more honesty. I do a lot of work in Memphis, for example. Memphis, just a weekend hit the ground running. You can't live in Memphis and not know racism is alive and well today. This is where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, murdered. So, there's just an awareness of, "Yes, there are different experiences," and, "No, we do not understand each other yet." In more liberal places, we like to think we understand but we don't apply. The stats just don't show that we apply it as well. That was just hard for everybody. Everybody is just cringing now. Minnesotans, it was not a feel-good moment there. "I don't agree. I think she don't know."

Billy: It does hit home because having worked in education for a long time, we talked a lot about intention versus impact. Someone that I know well, that I've worked with, said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But it is necessary for us to take action. That reminds me back to what Erica Jones said when we talked to her. She challenged us to see when you have that privilege, it's not 'I should do something.' It's, 'you need to do something with it.' I think that makes us sweat a little bit. Because, like you said, if we're intellectual enough to think it, that sometimes feels good enough.

Jodi: Right. I'm going to go one further. I see a lot of Minnesotans do a lot. We volunteered at a very high rate. All of that, but I do not see Minnesotans getting uncomfortable. If you're going to learn somebody else's experience, if you're really going to move into ownership of your own experience, you got to start getting uncomfortable. See, that's one of the benefits of being part of the normalized. You get to stay comfortable. Because you get to bring your whole self to places. You're used to your voice being listened and heard. So, when you talk, you're used to action happening. So, you're not used to being uncomfortable. When you become more aware, and you want to take action, take action that makes you uncomfortable. Not everything that just continues to bring comfort.

Billy: This is going on a tangent here. How much of a role do you think suburbs play into that? Not just in Minnesota, but across the United States. Because when I'm in Europe, there aren't suburbs. Everybody just lives in the city. Everything is walkable. I mean, there are obviously nice areas in the cities that I would go to, but everybody just lives in the city. I know that there's a history within Minneapolis, around the suburbs to the west. So, I'm wondering, how much of a role does suburbs play in narrowing our ability to build that awareness?

Jodi: I think the societal system — I'll restate it this way. Maybe the policies within the societal system and the policies that created suburbs and the school funding the way it is. A school funding that really drives this now of where people live the economic, you lose diversity because of how we fund our schools. Find a school that has a high economic diversity, racial diversity, and high achieving. It's not easy to do in the state of Minnesota. You're going to drive to try to find it. So, the policies that were used to create the suburbs and create how we fund our schools absolutely have helped to keep some people in the normalized dominant in more prosperity, and those without normalized dominant not having the access. If you don't have the access, you don't have the contact, I don't have to take you into consideration.

Billy: When I talked about my trip to Portugal and Spain, I talked about how normalized the English language is, and how it almost feels like it's an expectation if you're an English speaker, that everybody is going to speak English. I like the example that you gave in the book about the woman who grew up speaking Hindi but had mastered the English language, but still spoke with a slight accent. So, she circled all of the normalized English triangle, but then she circled a corner of the other triangle just to represent that she also fits into that group in some way. What does that say about how we view our experiences and how others may view them?

Jodi: Well, what I talked about is if you get the benefits — thanks, Billy, for bringing up that point. Normalization and all the isms — racism, classism — they don't fit neatly into a triangle chart. Of course, I'm trying to make them, too. So, what I say is, if you get the benefit of the normalized dominant, you have to circle all or some of it.

This young woman said, "Well, listen to me speak. I was raised in private British schools. I have high formal, but I don't always get the benefit because I have an accent." So, I asked her, "Well, how do you want to circle?" She's like, "Well, I'm going to circle all of the normalized dominant." Because if you email me, you'll never know. And she said, "But I'm going to circle about a fourth. Because about a fourth of the time, I don't get the benefit." I said absolutely, research proves you correct. Americans, we're not being real fond of accents. Well, if we consider it and I'm doing air quotes, everybody a foreign accent, we get shorter with that person first. We don't trust them as quick. All that research is there. So, I said that's absolutely. But she was honoring that she does get that.

Now, I had a man. I was presenting up in Duluth, and I had a man. When I say a man, he was about six feet, three inches tall. He had a beard. He had male clothing on. When he went to circle triangles, he raised his hand. He said, "Jodi, I can't circle male." I said, "Okay. I apologize." I said, "I saw you walk in the door, and I perceived a male. I just assumed male. So, can you help me understand why you can't circle male?" He goes, "Because I'm a feminist." Well, I didn't even have to follow up. All the women at his table took care of that for me. They're like, "Aha, thank you. You get the benefits of being a male. So, circle male." They just broke it down. They just rattled off all the benefits he's getting. "Did you worry about where you park today? Well, we did. Because when we get done, it's going to be dark out." They just rattled it off. So, when you circle, it's not saying that you don't have any understanding. It's not saying that you're not an ally. But this is what you're living out of, and you will get those benefits, and so to be honoring that you get them.

I grew up with casual register English, but I have formal. Not a high formal, but I have formal. I still speak casual in most of my interactions, but I have to circle formal because I have that benefit. When I see people are starting to judge me because I curse too much or use too much slang, I can kick it up a notch, aka I can start to use my formal register. When I utilize my formal register, then all of a sudden you can see people, they start to give me more benefit. Even though I am fluent in casual and I will speak at my personal life, I would circle formal English because I have access to it. I can get those benefits when I need it.

Billy: This is such a fascinating conversation. So, we're going to take a quick break and let everybody digest what we just talked about in that segment. Then when we come back, we're going to hear more from Jodi Pfarr. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis.


Thanks for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We will do our best to put out new content every Wednesday to help get you over the midweek hump. If you'd like to contact us, or if you have suggestions about what you'd like us to discuss, feel free to email us at or follow us on Instagram @mindful_midlife_crisis. Check out the show notes for links to the articles and resources we referenced throughout the show. Oh, and don't forget to show yourself some love every now and then, too. And now, back to the show.


Billy: Welcome back to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. We are sitting here having a fascinating conversation with consultant Jodi Pfarr. She is the author of the book, Urgency of Awareness. You can get it at her website, which is We will link it in our show notes. You can also hire her to come and speak at your organization. Get more information, once again, at our website. This has been such a pleasure. Thank you for joining us.

Jodi: Yes, Billy. I'm going to tell the listeners it's P-F-A-R-R.

Billy: They'll see that if they actually look at the show notes.

Jodi: Yes, anybody looking there, daydreaming about what you two guys look like now. They're not looking at their phone no more.

Billy: We can only hope. Again, flattery will get you everywhere with me. So, I greatly appreciate that.

Jodi: I'm aware.

Billy: So, you co-authored this book with Allison Boisvert, who passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2015.

Jodi: Yes.

Billy: In the book, you used the information from your presentations in conjunction with Allison's experiences. So, how does sharing Allison's experiences enhance one's understanding of what's being shared in this book, or what's being presented in this book by you?

Jodi: Well, two things. Allison lived and grew up with a lot of triangles not normalized dominant. Throughout her life, she gained normalized dominant. There are some things you can't do if you're a Native American. If you're Native American, you're not going to suddenly become white. So, she has amazing stories that were able to make my concepts come to life because of her lived experience. Then she also was on her crossing-over journey. She lived with pancreatic cancer longer than most get to. So, I think there's a perspective that, honestly, only one can gain when you know that you're crossing over.

For her, in the front of the book, it talks about her mantra. It was to have benevolent detachment and to be present, and to practice that. Because you constantly have to practice that benevolent detachment. That just aligns with the work. Because you can't have that benevolent detachment so that you can be present, unless you have awareness. You and I, no matter where we live, we grew up in this societal system that's normalized one thing over the other. As much as we want to say we weren't affected, we were affected by it. How were we affected by it? The more we're aware, then the more we can start to let go and be present. But that has to be, like you said, intentionally practiced. So, there has to be action.

Billy: I'm glad that you brought up benevolent detachment. You kind of talked about it there. But I'm still having a hard time understanding that concept, even after reading through the book and just that little like explanation. So, what do you mean by benevolent detachment?

Jodi: One of the examples that Allison used is having people in her own life who chose to continue to drink — chronic inebriates, family members. She's like, "I love them. I'm not going to live out of the guilt I have for them or the anger I have for them. I love them. But I'm also going to detach from that behavior or from them." Those of us who still when our family members — we got together over the holidays. Our family members said something politically that just make us want to hate that person. That's not benevolent detachment. Benevolent detachment is you process your feelings. You tap into why that agitates you so much. Because it is about us and our hurts most of the time. Then once we get that, we consider it, "I can still love you. I can still be attached, but I'm detached from that piece." Does does that make any sense?

Billy: Yeah, it does. I think it actually hits a little hard for me, because I think about some of my family members who I have detached from but not benevolent.

Jodi: Right. Exactly.

Billy: That I'm estranged from.

Jodi: You're right. Then my question is, how is that any different? Even in the political spectrum, we're operating on the same side of the spectrum. We're like, "Well, if you don't believe my way, then I have to detach from you." I don't care if it's because you liked Trump, didn't like Trump. You know me. But if you're saying things like that, you're coming at it from the same lens because you're both detaching. But you're not benevolently detaching, and you don't have awareness of it. With awareness, you understand why you think that way. You're open to hearing how the other person thinks that way. Again, you don't have to agree. I drive away from a lot of people not agreeing with them. But I really take what they said, and let it touch my heart and my spirit. I might not agree in one area, but I'm still going to love them.

For me, that's the ultimate. Because Miss Bell Hooks — she wouldn't want me to call her Miss — but respectfully, Miss Bell Hooks just passing away, that was what she talked about. Martin Luther King Jr. talked about this. If I operate out of my hurts and my anger, I get that. I did it for years. So, there's no judgement. People do have to do that. I mean, if you're getting oppressed every day and you can't show up and be yourself every day, oh man, you get angry sometimes. You get frustrated or you shut down. Those are all legit. They're real, and they're fine. Then if we want to eventually come together to take action, how do we start to become more aware of ourselves and let go of our hurts so that we can sit across the table from someone who experiences it very differently? Because ultimately, it is going to take all of these experiences to start to move our societal system to operate differently.

Billy: What's interesting is I just had an awareness right here, that when we talked about the guilt and the shame and the people who are on the other side and talk about political correctness, that's how the normalized respond when you do these presentations. But I don't know that we've really talked about the emotions that bubble up for the not normalized groups. You kind of touched on it there that anger can bubble up, because they've been dealing with the burdens or the inconveniences of being in the not normalized group.

Jodi: Yeah. Unfortunately, in America, like with left-handed, right-handed, it's an inconvenience. With race, it's life and death. So, you've been dealing with life and death matters that other people don't even have to be aware of. I used to talk about, for example, some examples I use in race, 10 years ago, even seven years ago, most of my white audience did not understand or did. One of them was when police pull you over. Do you think at the end of it, you're going to be heard? If you're not heard, do you think you can go and dispute the ticket? It was my white audiences who were, "Yes, of course." Well, there's a different experience. Then I've asked people of color. Is there a different experience, and if they're comfortable sharing it. Now after George Floyd, people are starting to get that. They're starting to like, "Yes."

Well, another one that I used is returns. Do you go ahead and return? If we had the holidays, do you go return your gift and think nothing of it? Again, there's a lot of white privilege in that. So, there's a lot of different colors in my family. It goes from darker brown and then brown. It goes like this, the people who are the darkest in my family, they give their returns to me. Because they're like, "I'm not dealing with it. I'm not dealing with not being listened to. I'm not dealing with being questioned. I'm not dealing with—" I've showed up. I don't know about you, but I know I've showed up without a receipt. I just showed up with the product and been like, "Hey, I shop here all the time. I swear to you, da, da, da." They're like whatever, and they don't question it.

I've had my family members who are black and brown show up. They have the receipt. They have their driver's license, and they're still questioned. That gets beyond exhausting. So, it's those different experiences, that oftentimes when we have to become more aware of. If I want to listen to and understand people's experience that are black and brown, then I dang well also have to try to listen to people who have different viewpoints than mine. That means I have to process any emotions that come up.

Billy: So, it sounds like benevolent detachment is coming out of love. It's a detachment out of love.

Jodi: Absolutely.

Billy: So, just to challenge that a little bit. We talked a lot to self-help people where they talk about energy and that sort of thing. What's the difference between benevolent detachment and ridding yourself from toxic people in your life?

Jodi: I'm going to be real honest, which is not popular right now. I don't think there's that many people that are toxic that you have to remove them from your life. Now, if someone has harmed you physically, mentally, sexually harm, remove. There's a hard line there, obviously. But other than that, it says more about us and less about that other person.

I've had people in my life who have harmed me very much. That was Allison's point, too. She said people in her life who have harmed her, but through understanding. Okay. Well, what in the societal system, what identities are they living out of? How were they affected? Where were they coming from? Then how am I affected? Once you start to get that understanding — it's not saying the behavior was okay. It's not saying I will tolerate that. No, Billy. I'm not going to tolerate you cursing me out. But if I have that understanding of you and I have some ultimate love, the piece, then I can have benevolent detachment.

This whole people are toxic thing. I think that says more about our limited ability to process our own emotions and move to ownership than it does to the other person. Now, again, I say that knowing there are some people that do serious harm. Yeah, you have to get rid of them. I'm not saying you don't have to rid of people for a while, too. Because if, Billy, you and I, get into it, I might have to take a three-month break from you so I can process. But then I re-engage. I might re-engage from this benevolent detachment, but I'm not going to sit in the place of judgment, of they're toxic so I remove them. Because most likely, I haven't dealt with all my emotions then yet. Now we need cigarettes or whatever your vice is, chocolate, whatever, a Coke.

Billy: Wow.

Jodi: It's not a popular thing to say, but that's — I mean, if you look at any of the leaders that we tend to hold up, you look at Nelson Mandela, you look at Martin Luther King Jr., you look at Bell Hooks, these are people — wrong has been done to them more than wrongs have been done in my life. They were done to them over and over and over. What they did come back with? Love, love, love and benevolent detachment. They didn't come back with, "Oh, they're toxic. Now I got to write them out." How would Nelson Mandela have ever led them? He wouldn't have been able to. So, you know what? If he can do it, then I think I can deal with my uncle. I'm not going to be asked back again. But it's okay.

Billy: You might be asked back every week. That one cut deep for me.

Jodi: Sorry.

Billy: No, thank you. That one really cut deep for me. I'm like, I'm going to have to go and just reflect on everything you just said there in terms of how am I internalizing this perceived slight that I feel has been done unto me by a family member. Oh, you, asshole Jodi. I didn't want to think like this today. I didn't want to be a part of this. I just wanted to have a cool conversation and let everybody else figure it out for themselves, and I just continue living my life subconsciously,

Jodi: I know. Without awareness, but saying we have awareness. Yes. When we get deep into the material, you and your audience members, this tool is when you start, when we process emotions. Because that's when you said somebody slighted you. Well, there's emotions there. So, this is a four-step process. Number one, name that emotion. Then number two, give yourself permission to have that emotion. "Well, I felt slighted. Okay, I felt hurt." Then say it's okay to feel hurt. Now, if you're like me, I have to do that at least five times. I always tell people to exhale, like act on it. Act like it was really okay to feel hurt. Because a lot of times we release a lot of stuff right there.

So, number one, name the feeling, because we're not good at naming feelings. Number two, say it's okay to have that feeling. Then number three, ask yourself why you have that feeling. This is where you ask yourself 100 times, and you peel back the layers of the onion. Why am I hurt? Well, because they didn't listen to me. Well, why does it matter if somebody listens to you? Well, because growing up, I didn't get listened to, or because this person always got listened to, and I never did. You know what I mean? Because what you're doing then is getting down to your core hurt. Because many times when we have an emotion, what it did is it just resonated on one of our core hurts. So, that's where you get down as deep as you can.

Then number four, that's where you take action. It's step four. You put it all together. I feel hurt. I feel hurt because that person didn't listen to me. That triggers some of my experience in my hurts of growing up and not being listened to. Now I'm going to choose to do— So, number four is, I feel this way, and I'm going to choose to do this.

Sometimes it's a bad thing, like a bad behavior. Trust me. I've done this. I feel hurt, and I'm going to choose to go to the bar. You know what I mean? That's fine. But at least, I'm conscious, and I'm choosing it. Then when you're conscious and you're choosing it, there's only so many times you're going to choose more negative behaviors to escape before finally you're like, "Look, I did the bar for six months. That's only got me so far. How about I choose to go for a walk? How about I choose to write this personal letter, or whatever, so that I can start to have benevolent detachment, I can start to move on?" Because what I would tell people is when people live out — when I talk to people, they're like, "Oh, that person's toxic for me. I've cut them off, or they live that out." You are very much engaged with that person. You are very much letting that person be in control of you yet if you're living that out. If it's not something that you don't even think about, you just cut someone off and you'd never think about it, you don't talk about it, you know nothing, that might be different. But that's the ultimate analysis and talks about that. Again, she had many things happen to her. To be able to process them and just be living out of that benevolent detachment. You're still a human. You're still a creation. For her, you're still part of the Creator. So, I'm going to love you like that. But I've dealt with my hurts. I've dealt with this. I don't know if any of that makes sense.

Billy: No, it does. I actually just finished up an interview that we did with Joy Huber. That episode is following this one somewhere down the line. Joy is a stage four cancer survivor. One thing that Allison talked about in her experience was that transition from being a person who's able-bodied to a person with a disability. There's denial involved in that. I talked to Joy about that. I said, "Did you have this?" She didn't have the same debilitating physical symptoms that I'm guessing Allison had. But she does talk about losing her hair and not being able to go out and do the same things that she used to do when she was 25, 26, 27, that sort of thing. I even think even as we age, we start to move into a different triangle. How do people navigate that? Because this episode or this podcast is about the beauty of getting older, but the complexities of getting older as well.

Jodi: Right. So, this is beautiful. This happens a lot with audience members. I'd say, again, around that 65 and above, they're changing triangles from able-bodied to a person with a disability, from age. Age is one of the triangles, too. Because at some point in America, you become invisible. So, people will tell me in their 70s. People, when we go to a restaurant, they always look at my daughter now. People address her. Any counter we go to, they look right past me and look at the younger person for an answer. So, you start to become invisible.

In Ohio, I was presenting. A man in his 70s said, "Jodi, I had all 18 triangles pointing up my entire life. I am normalized dominant, every single one. I am 70 now, and two of them are turning down." The age is turning down. He was losing his ability. He has a hearing aid. He also had a cane. He said, "This is messing with me so much." I'm like, "Oh, my gosh. Tell me more. Tell me your experience." He said, "I have never had to be aware. I've never been fearful in my life." He goes, "I live in a neighborhood that's working class at best. If there's ever a group of young kids hanging out on the corner, I'd puff up my chest and I'd walk right through them. Because I knew I could physically handle myself if an altercation happened. Even if I couldn't, by the time the police got there, I knew the police would listen to me. I knew they would take my side." He goes, "That's just what I've always experienced. So, for the first time in my life—" he goes, "I am so aware of everything. Now when I see those young men—" He goes, "I did just the other day, at the end of the corner." He goes, "I went full around them. I went across the street, the opposite direction. I went all three other streets, because I knew that I couldn't take them, and I don't know if I could survive long enough for the police to get there. If the police got there, I no longer know if the police will believe me because I'm the old guy." He's like, "For the first time in my life, I'm fearful." He goes, "Jodi, I've never carried a gun in my life. I didn't grow up with guns." He goes, "I'm currently going through considering carry lessons right now." He goes, "As you're presenting this, this is why. Because my two triangles are changing. I am more aware, and I'm not getting listened to. I am fearful. That taps of fear in with me that I've never known before. So, I'm getting that now." He's speaking.

At his table is a young woman. She is African American. She was snickering, but not in a bad way. She was smiling in a, "Oh my gosh." She's like, "Sir, thank you so much for sharing the story. But I've been aware of those boys since I was 11." He stopped and dropped. He goes, "What?" She goes, "Once I started developing as a woman, I've been aware of those men at the end of the corner." She goes, "I've always been aware, and I've never thought the police would believe me." Now all of a sudden, these two have this huge commonality. Their experiences could not be more different. But now they understand, because she's been vulnerable since the day she was born black in America, and then at 11 or 12 when she started developing as a female. Now he's understanding vulnerability for the first time. So, they had an amazing day together. But it took each of them becoming aware and doing what? listening to the other person.

Billy: I think that's the power of your presentation. Because as you were telling that story, I thought he was going to get defensive when she said that.

Jodi: Oh no, he was like, oh. It hit him. It hit him like a ton of rocks when she said, "I've been aware of those boys since I was 11 or 12." He looked at her, and he didn't get it at first. She goes, "Because the minute I developed, I was no longer safe. I never once thought the police were going to take my side." He was like, "Oh." This was pre-George Floyd and everything. He was like, "Oh." He's like, "So, you live out of this fear every day." She goes, "I try not to live out of it, but it's there." That was a whole new understanding for him. Then it was a whole new awareness for him that he's like, "I was wondering. I knew that I was fearful. I knew that's part of what motivated me to go get a gun." But now he was like, "I can really articulate what's going on. I'm losing these two triangles. I'm losing the benefits, and I've never lost a benefit before."

Now think about it, right-handed folks. If you're right-handed and then all of a sudden you start turning left-handed, which again, silly example but it gives you some insight. All of a sudden, you go to work and things don't work. All of a sudden, the tool doesn't work. The toilet paper isn't on the right side. You're going through your day, and you have to be more aware, more aware, adjust, adjust, adjust, adjust more. How is that going to mentally and emotionally affect you? It does. So, as you lose triangle, identities going down, it absolutely impacts you.

Billy: It's so funny whenever you bring up right-handed, left-handed. Brian, how many left-handed bass players do you know. We know Jimi Hendrix and we know Kurt Cobain. But when it comes to left-handed bass players, especially—

Brian: I know a lot of them.

Billy: You know a lot?

Brian: Sonny T. is a leftie. I know a lot of left-handed bass players.

Billy: Maybe that comes from your experiences just being in—

Brian: I have a bigger network.

Billy: Right. But that is so foreign to me to think. I mean, this is just a nerdy music sidetrack right here, but it relates to us in the sense that I so rarely see left-handed bass players, or there aren't that many left-handed guitar players out there.

Brian: Sonny T., I think, couldn't find a left-handed bass. I'm guessing this because Sonny plays a right-handed bass but upside down and left-handed.

Billy: So, is the E string on the bottom?

Brian: So, he's had to adapt in a conversation. Yeah, normal bass players that are normalized.

Jodi: Look at our verbiage, 'normal,' which, Billy, that's one of the things I did want to bring up in the book. It's how we gear our language to the normalized dominant. So, we give more asset base and more value to the normalized dominant. Just think about it. If I have someone who works well for me, they're my right-hand man. If I'm clumsy on the dance floor, I have two left feet. One kid is getting gas, and one kid said to the other kid by the gas station. They're bantering. He goes, "Dude, you're so gay." You're so gay is never a compliment. Even if we hold that identity, even if we are a person of color, we are a female, people are like, "Oh, well, that's my identity. I'd never use deficit." Oh my gosh, we're the worst offender sometimes. So, I know I am as a female. My god daughter went to throw the ball. In my defense, I spent 20 minutes with her trying to teach her how to throw a ball. When she went for it on her own, it landed behind her. I was like, "Child you throw like a—" What did I say? I said, "You throw like a girl." I caught myself halfway through. "Child, you throw like a girl because girls throw great." It was the worst recovery in the world. Even a three-year-old was like, "I don't think so." Sometimes we're the worst offenders. But now if our language changes — and it does — we put more asset based on the normalized. Then the value changes as well.

So, you guys, I know that's been out there a lot. Boston Symphony wanted to hire more women musicians so they had blind auditions. They had them performed behind the curtain. Well, it changed nothing. They still hired in the high 80, 90 percentile male musicians. Of course, it's a female who had to point it out and said, "Your audition isn't blind." They're like, "Well, yes, it is. We have people arrive before. They leave. We don't let our people move." No, because female musicians for the most part are taught to wear what? High heels. That makes a very distinct sound on the stage. So, when they changed that, they made people remove their shoes and do a blind audition. It was almost 40 some. Close to 41% was offered to females. So, that's what implicit bias is all about.

Billy: Wow.

Jodi: If you ask anyone that was listening into those interviews, they're going to say, "No, I don't hear male music better or worse than female music or performers, female or male." Everybody's going to say that. But the bias is there. Of course, it is. Because however old those interviewees are, if they're in their 30s or 40s, for 30 or 40 years, they've been surrounded by a societal system that's normalized male, a societal system that has had language have more value on male, a societal system that is consciously and unconsciously told them that males are better. Therefore, they hear it better. That's the kind of stuff we have to become aware of. That makes a lot of people uncomfortable. So, we have to be willing to be uncomfortable.

Billy: So then, you've talked about this here and just kind of wrap this up. How do we put this into practice? What are some of the tools that can improve our interactions and lead to more awareness of what's a normalized experience for some but not normalized for others?

Jodi: Billy, funny you should ask that. Because in chapter four, I have several tools. One of the tools is — all the tools I have in chapter four, you can use individually, when you're talking to somebody, or you can use them with your institution. I work with large companies, and they use it with their entire department or school system. So, individually, one of the questions out of these four questions, you can say, "Okay. How did that individual action, how is it geared towards normalized? Then how do we create barriers for those who might not be part of the normalized? Then what changes do we want to make? We can do that same for questions. We can do those questions at departments or at businesses.

I think in the book we talked about I was working with an organization. They were looking at their hiring process. So, they just went and took off their hiring policies in that same question. Their first policy was all applications will be online. Okay. Well, how does that benefit the normalized? Well, they went back to page 34, 35 in the book. They looked at the triangle chart. I don't know about you, but in my life, I'm middle class. I have a computer. I'm able-bodied. I'm going to turn. I'm going to fill out the application at home in my jammies, and it'd be great. But then with the second question, how does it create barriers? The barriers aren't intentional. Most of the time, they are intentional. They looked at it. They're like, well, statistically speaking, people in poverty in America do not have access to Wi Fi, do not have a working computer. That means you have to go outside my house. Well, now let's just look at the stats. Statistically speaking, I don't have reliable transportation. I don't have reliable daycare. This becomes a whole day event. I got to find my neighbor to watch my kids. I got to find another person to give me a ride, then I got to find free access. So, it becomes a whole day event. So, they literally had four charts of barriers. They got this. They're sitting in the room, and on the left side of the wall, they see all the benefits. On the right side, they see the barriers. That's awareness and consciousness because none of them ever thought that.

So, the next question is, how do we want to change it so everybody can have access? Of course, people said, "Well, let's just go back to paper." But you have to have this discussion. Then some people say, "Well, if we go back to paper, are we going to value a paper application as well as we value an online one?" Because some of the staffs, "I'm going to be honest, I'm going to value the online one better." Then somebody else said, "Well, doesn't everybody here touch a computer? So, why shouldn't we be justified in having it online?" It's a long story short. I mean, they processed for hours. They decided, "Hey, we're going to keep the policy. But as an organization, we're going to address those barriers." They created a place on their site, because they're open 24/7. They created a place there that had access to computers. They just went through these barrier list. They made the door wider, so that if you had a wheelchair or a walker, you could get in. They even had when you do your application, you could talk into the computer. They had a headset. They had, "Wait a second, if you're coming from a single parent, or you're coming from poverty, you may bring children with you." So, a fourth of that room, computer room, was set up for kids with intentional toys, 0 to 18.

Then when you come in, they trained their staff to say, "Hey, all of our job applications are online. Here's why. However, you can go home and do it, or you have access here. You can take as much time as you want, and you can do it." So, people go in. They just kept going down their policies. They realized, "Well, wait a second. Most of our applications are in English." There were some positions there that were like, "We don't care what you speak. You can do this job. We don't care." So, they did research in their county what the five most popular languages were. For some jobs, they put it into five different languages. When you clicked on it, you could choose the language of your choice. So, just becoming conscious, sitting down, and re-looking at how we sometimes unintentionally create those barriers, and then really processing how can we make access for all.

Billy: Of course, the thing that I like about the plan in the book is that you have a 90-day map out, like, hey, these are things that you're going to address.

Jodi: Such a normalized dominant. Remember the triangle. It says European heritage. As a German—

Billy: Extremely German. Yes, absolutely. I like order and systems.

Jodi: I got it. See, I'm part German. So, I had to have Chapter Four be action steps because there has to — I love process, but there's got to be — the 90-day plan, what that does is it takes all this abstract talk and says, okay, what are we concretely going to do in the next 90 days? Then you come back every 90 days and talk about what has happened, what hasn't. So, that's what I do with entire counties. They have counties that come together within, say, the hospital is there, the school system is there. They're all talking about, "This is what we did the last 90 days. This is where we want to go. This is what didn't get done in our 90-day plan. This is where we need help." Then that starts to allow us to collaborate as communities. It's to keep transparency so that we can all know what's going on. It also keeps us on task, because we're German.

Billy: Well, Jodi, I can't thank you enough for coming in here today. I can't recommend this book enough. For those of you out there who do work in organizations, there are activities in this book. There are discussion questions that you and your team can sit down with. If you're an individual, you can sit down and reflect on these almost like their journal entries that really just gets you to think deeper and deeper about your own relationship with awareness and how you can deepen that awareness for others. So, Jodi, once again, thank you so much for coming in. We absolutely love having you hear.

Jodi: Thank you for having me. I sure appreciate it.

Billy: So, for Jodi, for Brian, this is Billy. Thank you for listening to The Mindful Midlife Crisis. May you feel happy, healthy, and loved. Take care friends.


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