Episode 141 – Unstoppable Servant Leader with Donald Wood
Over the lifetime of Unstoppable Mindset, we have had the opportunity to hear from many leaders, consultants, and experts on the concepts surrounding Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Donald Wood, our guest this time, brings a totally refreshing and very different set of observations to our conversation. He will first tell us about the problems with “diversity”. He will discuss many aspects of the challenges we face here and around the world when it comes to finding ways to involve and include many groups who are ”different” than we.
Donald comes by his knowledge and experience honestly growing up in a home that encouraged him to be innovative and curious.
You will hear about his current effort as the founder and leader of a company called “One Eight Create Consulting”. Every word in the company name has special meanings. Donald will tell us all about that.
I trust you will enjoy Donald’s remarks and take some good lessons away from our episode. Thanks for being with us.
About the Guest:
Donald is a purpose-led, systems-oriented, data-driven organizational leadership executive and consultant with 18+ years of success in enterprise-wide culture-change management and collective liberation facilitation for clients + partners spanning Fortune 500 companies, health care systems, international aid groups, government agencies, and nonprofits. His approach to servant leadership is as a pragmatic idealist focused on amplifying the voices of the unheard, disrupting the unjust status quo, and acting as a co-conspirator in supporting individuals’ and organizations’ capacity to lead equitably and inclusively.
Donald is the Founder/Senior Consultant of One Eight Create Consulting, a collective of systems-change facilitators who excel in delivering individual and group capacity-building experiences that leverage the intersection of systems thinking, strategic communications, and human relations. Prior to his current role, Donald was chief executive officer of Just Communities of Arkansas, an award-winning Diversity, Equity and Inclusion education and training agency and before that served as Vice President and Foundation Executive Director of the one of the country’s largest not-for-profit hospice and palliative care organizations, nationally recognized during his time there for its development of innovative health equity initiatives.
Donald grew up in Arkansas and received his undergraduate degree from Westminster College in Missouri. After college he worked as a youth program officer in Southeast Asia before returning to the U.S. to earn a master’s degree in communications and civic engagement from the University of Arkansas, also serving during that time as an AmeriCorps Fellow. He has recently served on the Board of Directors for AR Kids Read and the Arkansas Minority Film & Arts Association, and served in leadership roles for the Racial Equity & Hunger National Learning Network and the Arkansas Peace & Justice Memorial Movement. Donald currently calls northern New Mexico home where he lives with his amazing partner Jennifer and two adorable pups; and he is the overwhelmingly proud dad of a daughter about to graduate college in Chicago.
Ways to connect with Donald:
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson ** 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson ** 01:20
Welcome to another edition of unstoppable mindset. I’m your host, Michael Hingson. And we get to talk today with Donald Wood, who is in Taos, New Mexico, originally from Arkansas, so you won’t hear a New Mexico accent from Donald. He has been involved in change management, he’s formed companies, and I don’t want to give a lot away because it’s kind of more fun to ask him. So I’m just gonna say Donald, welcome to unstoppable mindset. We’re glad you’re here.
Donald Wood ** 01:50
Well, thank you, Michael, I’m honored to be here.
Michael Hingson ** 01:54
And hopefully we won’t see a lot of snow come down in Taos or here while while we’re talking. This weekend, I
Donald Wood ** 02:02
won’t complain, I’m in the I’m in the I’m very fortunate to be in the warmth of my home office right now. So I’m not going to complain, because you know, I’m sure like in California here in New Mexico, we can use the precipitation,
Michael Hingson ** 02:17
we can, but it is also for me good to be in the warmth of home office. So that’s great. Well, let’s start if we could by just kind of going back, tell me a little bit about you growing up and just kind of your background and all that and let’s go from there.
Donald Wood ** 02:31
Sure. Absolutely. Yeah, background is that I wanted raised in Arkansas and and grew up in a family that was you know, very much involved in, you know, kind of community work. And so, but also very involved in the arts, I have two sisters who not only danced all the way into college scholarships, but also dance professionally, a bit and a mom who, although she would admit cannot keep a beat and dance to save her life, but started three different nonprofit ballet companies and ran one of them for 25 years, really because she just wanted to provide not only her daughter’s, but provide every single young person who wanted the opportunity to experience dance that opportunity. So she had lived in a couple of different communities that did not have nonprofit ballet schools or companies. And just from our own experience on the sheer cost of trying to have a child commit to dancing and how expensive it was realized that there was a void for that in a couple different communities she lived in in Arkansas and so my mom’s ran a nonprofit was very involved in the nonprofit arts community had a dad who was on the other end a corporate CFO and but in his spare time with really no one but maybe a few people knew he would do nonprofit financials for a few different nonprofits he would do people’s taxes or 990s for them for free. And so I just I was very fortunate almost through osmosis because I don’t remember sitting around the kitchen table talking about servant leadership or nonprofit work but just saw that in how my parents were and and was like a lot of probably young people and I’m assuming even in this generation, but I think I’m Generation X I think x y somewhere around there. Didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do in life but I played sports and danced growing up but what really focused on sports towards the later time of my and wanted to play college sports so went to small college to play football and Not knowing what I wanted to do after that and being out, I think a typical young person is not really thinking much past what I’m going to do in a few hours or tomorrow. Didn’t think about that till towards the end of my college career. And but I did know that I wanted to work in some at some level in, in service, I didn’t know if that was nonprofit, or in the public sector. I also really enjoyed group work group dynamics, collaborations, public speaking, interpersonal communications. And so that leads gave me some idea of what I wanted to do. And so after college, I moved overseas, and I knew I also loved to travel so and, and in college playing a sport and I was very involved. I was president student government and, and president of a fraternity and so I didn’t really have the opportunity to study abroad. And so I didn’t want to live overseas moved to Southeast Asia, I lived there for about nine months or so was going to live there longer. But 911 happened while I was there. And so I decided to come back to the United States and wanted to even more than ever serve, serve others, served my country in some form or fashion and, and felt that was in public service. So I went back and got my master’s degree at the University of Arkansas and with a focus in civic engagement, but my master’s was in the communications department, but with a focus on civic engagement. And the idea there was I was going to wanted to work in foreign diplomacy, maybe for the State Department, and was on my way applying for that. And I had full intention to figure out a way to make that work as a career and and a person who would later become a mentor, and then one of my dearest friends who happened to be the Vice Chancellor of advancement at the University of Arkansas, which was overall the fundraising and marketing and public relations. He happened to be a graduate of the tiny little liberal arts college that I went to, and reached out to me and took me for lunch and told me all about the wonderful world of advancement, fundraising, which I know most kids don’t grow up thinking I want to be a professional fundraiser. And I was the same I had done a little bit of fundraising as an AmeriCorps fellow, you know, calling people on the phone, I had seen my mom run tennis tournament to raise money for the ballet. So that’s what I thought fundraising was and and my mentor is named Dave Gearhart. He went on to be the Chancellor at the University of Arkansas. But Dave just painted the picture of what I think really is and how he painted it as a noble profession and one that was absolutely necessary and you know, in solving, addressing some of the world’s most complex, complicated issues, and that being a successful philanthropist fundraiser, so I got into that professionally, and absolutely loved it. I still am, I would say, develop nonprofit development or, or fundraising nerd. But I was in the primarily development nonprofit development business for the first probably 10 to 12 years of my career. With the last gig overseeing a foundation for one of the country’s largest nonprofit hospice and palliative care organizations, and then moved into what really was the dream job opportunity for me and and the stars align plus the fact that being very privileged in who I am and how I was born, I was very fortunate things of the stars aligned as they say, and was given the opportunity to be the CEO of a diversity, equity and inclusion, education, nonprofit organization. And that really kind of shifted my career into full time change management with an emphasis on pursuing and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and and ran that nonprofit for five years. And Dan, was able to again fortune raised its wonderful head and gave me the opportunity to move into full time consulting around change management. And that’s where I find myself today.
Michael Hingson ** 09:19
GE lots of questions. So out of curiosity, why Southeast Asia Did you travel to initially
Donald Wood ** 09:24
Yeah, great question. All I knew for sure, go the going into my senior year of college was that I was going to live overseas somewhere. I had very little money. I was bartending and substitute teaching and I knew I’d say it was going to save up some money so I wanted to try to find a place where my money would go the for this and I’d have a really tremendously uncomfortable in the best sense experience meaning being in a culture that was very unlike mine, so I had to obviously options. One was Germany where I had a good friend that played football with me who graduated a year before was playing in the German Football League. And I had an apartment there and he said, I could crash on his couch, and basically have a place to live for six or so months. And then my sister and brother in law. Fortunately for me, my brother in law worked for three M, the manufacturing company, and he was an engineer and had been transferred to Singapore. And although I wasn’t really close at the time with my sister, she was quite a bit older than me. We had a very good relationship, but just wasn’t really close. I reached out and just asked if I could come live with them for a month or so tried to find work. And if not, I would maybe live there another couple months and then come back. And they were very generous and welcoming me. And so I thought there was Singapore to me sounded much more interesting and challenging, and, and, and life altering then net somewhere in Europe. And so yeah, that’s that is why I went to Singapore.
Michael Hingson ** 11:07
And I gather enjoyed it until as you said, September 11, happened.
Donald Wood ** 11:12
Yeah, I absolutely loved it. I was I was very fortunate took me about three months, but I got a job working with youth and an organization that worked with youth from all different types of cultures and countries and was an activity coordinator and end up running a summer camp. And was sort of debating around August actually July of August of 2020. Or excuse me, 2001 whether or not to really commit because I was offered a new job within the organization, which I really or going back to the state so I was going to they were going to give me till the end of the calendar year to continue my current job and think about it because the person I would be replacing was going to leave at the beginning of 2002. And then 911 happened and I just a week later on September 18. I flew home to the United States
Michael Hingson ** 12:13
off the time the air and plane started flying again.
Donald Wood ** 12:16
Oh, yeah, it was very it was eerie i was i if you’ve ever had the opportunity to fly on, you know, a camera, what size it is jet, but one that, you know, we’re talking anywhere between a 15 to a 20 hour flight depending on which direction I had the entire middle row, I remember to myself, which was nice because I could lay down and sleep but it was really eerie. And then I remember my first US airport to fly in was Minneapolis, which was a huge airport. And it was just empty except our flight. And it was just very strange. Because, you know, I had flown just a few months before. And you know, that was back when people could literally your your friends or family who were seeing you off could walk right up to the gate. And it was quite bustling in an airport. And it was just absolutely empty. So yeah, it was very, it was a very interesting time.
Michael Hingson ** 13:09
I remember the first time after September 11. I flew it was somewhere around the fifth or sixth of October. Wow. And I was invited to go speak in British Columbia. We went to the airport in Newark, New Jersey to Liberty airport. And yeah, again, it was a pretty empty airport. But as my wife put it because she was traveling with she said, It’s really scary to see these 18 year old National Guard kids with submachine guns, patrolling the airport. And we even had a situation where someone near us or came near us, had a backpack, put the backpack down, and then left. And of course, we didn’t know what was going on and sat there for a while. And Karen was about to go find someone to report it when he came back. So he must have gone to a restroom or whatever, buddy. He left his backpack which was a very eerie feeling. So
Donald Wood ** 14:18
that that triggered a memory. I do remember now the guards with with machine guns in the airport. Yeah.
Michael Hingson ** 14:24
Yeah, the youngsters no less. I mean, there weren’t old, very mature people, but it was okay. And we flew and it was a not full plane. So it was it was a very strange experience. And it’s one of those things that we we definitely needed to do. So that started a speaking career for me, and it’s been fun ever since. So I can’t complain. But I do appreciate having been in the World Trade Center on September 11. That all the challenges and I understand all the things that have been happening since I think we’ve collectively not all We’ve made great choices and some of the things that we do. But that’s something where there’s obviously growth opportunities to deal with.
Donald Wood ** 15:08
Right now. Yeah, I can’t even fathom the experience that you had there. That’s amazing.
Michael Hingson ** 15:13
Well, so you did some work and the whole issue of diversity, equity and inclusion. Yeah. What are the differences between those three things?
Donald Wood ** 15:22
Yeah, that’s a great question that I I didn’t realize needed to be asked and asked, excuse me until I became a full time professional or consultant around diversity, equity and inclusion. And it dawned on me when we were when I was working with organizations that they were looking for answers around different issues that, you know, there were maybe overlap, but some had to do with diversity, some had to do with with inclusion, some had to do with equity. And because they weren’t on the same page around those definitions, some had different definitions for the same concept, some had, you know, the right definition for one’s concept, but kind of superimposed it on another and then what happened, what is that would lead to solutions or strategies where folks weren’t on the same page with what the end goal was, which was, again, either diversity, inclusion or equity, because, you know, diversity, we’re talking about representation, you know, it’s an it’s a matter of kind of the composition of a group and organization, when you’re thinking about inclusion, you’re talking about really, it’s really a feeling it’s, that’s it’s a matter of behavior, and how people feel in terms of belonging or feeling welcome. And then equity is really a matter of structure and access, you know, how things are designed, put together, adapted in order for people to have equal opportunities at accessing those resources. So representation, diversity, sense of belonging, inclusion and access, with equity, and, you know, a lot of diversity initiatives fail and have failed, you know, diversity became such a hot, you know, corporate change, buzzword or, or pursuit in the 80s and in the 90s. But a lot of failed if you really break down kind of measuring, because folks really just focused on the representation part, the composition part. And a lot of times there would be the token person that was not white or not a US, you know, assists male, and they feel like clap the hands, check the box work done here, we’re diverse. And to some extent, they were more diverse than they were, but they weren’t diverse in terms of representing the communities that they lived in operated in are representing the the communities of people that they that they served. And then, you know, in the in the 2000s, but particularly after the summer of 2020, and particularly after the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matter, movement, inclusion and equity started to become popular buzzwords and Buzz concepts. But what was happening is people were still thinking, kind of diversity, and especially folks that were not as nearly in tune to what inclusion and equity were, they were like, Yeah, let’s keep doing diversity. And people in leadership are saying that, whereas community members or employees were thinking, we want inclusion, we want to feel like our voices matter that we belong, we want equity, we want equal access to resources within the organization. But because there was this disconnect on those definitions, the executives are saying, Yeah, we’re doing diversity, we’re doing diversity, and they were just thinking representation. And everyone but they were saying, dei, da da almost became one word and of itself dei Dei, or people would say diversity, equity inclusion, when all they really were doing was just kind of the diversity part. And it was really disheartening for a lot of folks who were really wanted inclusion and equity and, and I saw this so many times when I would consult with an organization who had maybe already done some work or had passed work around Dei. And really, if you looked at their diversity statements are you looked at their diversity initiatives, it was really just diversity but they called it diversity, equity and inclusion. And that’s really all that they because they really didn’t understand I think the difference and what it in the fact that it required different strategies and solutions in order to to achieve all three and and also you know, Michael, diversity does not beget inclusion or equity. You know, a lot of folks, you know, think they have that whole Our the Kevin Costner movie the Field of Dreams mentality if they will come. So, even to this day, a lot of folks feel if we increase diversity, inclusion and equity will follow. And that’s not the case at all, actually, it can be much more detrimental, especially could be even seriously traumatic and dangerous for people that come from marginalized groups to be that token person that comes in to an organization, and they don’t have a support group of people that have a shared lived experience than they do can provide support, you see a lot of women in leadership roles bipoc, you know, black, indigenous and other people of color who come in without any sort of support, even formal mentoring or informal support. And they really, really struggle and they’re blamed. There’s like, look, we tried, we hired a Chief de officer we tried, didn’t work. But they don’t realize that that inclusion equity part wasn’t really in place or focused on it was just that diversity part. And I think, well, you know, we checked the box, we did it didn’t work. Bottom line wasn’t affected. Let’s move on. And so yeah, that’s why I think it’s incredibly important that any organization that that wants to pursue diversity, equity inclusion, really first understand the difference between three.
Michael Hingson ** 21:19
I wholeheartedly agree and support that. I would observe that with diversity, for example, and we’ve talked about it on this podcast a number of times, the problem with diversity is it doesn’t involve disabilities. You talk about diversity, they talk about, as you said, race, gender, sexual orientation, and so on. And never discussed disabilities. And people are trying to do the same thing with inclusion. From my perspective, it won’t work you either are inclusive, or you’re not, you can’t be partially inclusive. But the problem is we still don’t deal with the whole issue of disabilities in the in the issue is I know, there’s a lot of fear around it. Yep, I know, there are a lot of misconceptions. But just like we have really changed what diversity is all about, since it doesn’t involve disabilities, I think we need to change our view and our definition of the word disability. And that is, disability doesn’t mean a lack of ability with disability is a characteristic, you have a disability, I have a disability. Everyone on this planet has a disability. For most people who don’t think they have one, their disability is their light dependent. And as soon as the lights go out, you’re in a world of hurt. And it’s just as much a disability and a challenge. Because if you don’t find the technology that Thomas Edison invented to give you light when the power goes out, like a flashlight or a smartphone or whatever, you’re stuck without light, which means you now are facing the disability that you thought was completely covered up.
Donald Wood ** 23:01
Yep, absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. And that triggered something that as I was preparing actually for the for the session, I found a quote from Patricia Byrne or Patty Byrne is a disability justice advocate. And she’s She says it Disability Justice understands that all bodies are unique and essential that all bodies have strengths and needs that must be met. We know that we are powerful, not despite the complexities of our bodies, but because of them. And so that that really kind of struck me as you were speaking, because in being involved full time professionally in dei work for the past eight or so years, you’re you’re right, I think and what you’re concluding that certain systems of oppression, certain injustice is like race, around race around sex and gender around sexual orientation, tend to come to the forefront when folks are doing work around culture change or change management that involves Dei. But for some reason, and I’m sure we’ll talk about this later, because you touched on it, the fear aspect, it comes into it. Don’t talk about disability justice. And to me that’s so ironic because I feel you know, other than that, well actually perhaps other than any other social justice issue that I’ve dealt with the one that most people have some sort of personal experience with not not connect necessarily relationship or connection to like, for example, racism as a white person I have a relationship to it a connection with it, but I don’t experience racism, disabilities. That’s almost the universal issue that folks like in the your example the Edison example that the light is A great example of it because disabilities can be transient, they can be episodic, they can be something that happens from an injury that, you know, they can be from a disease, they can be visible, invisible physical, and I and even within the disability justice movement, it seems like we sometimes even center mobility impairments and marginalize other forms and not talk about the emotional or mental or other forms of disability. But it is something I agree with you that, that everyone, almost everyone in probably at some point, without diminishing folks that have have different levels of disabilities in comparison of what the norms are. And I even be honest with you, even the word disability, I mean, I use that word, because that is the predominant word used among people in the disability rights and disability justice movements. But it’s still just like racism or sexism is that there’s a norm, which is ability. And so we’re classifying all these people that don’t match that norm as disability, which I think I almost wish we could reframe it in a way that it’s not that because that that prefix dis is usually a pejorative or a negative kind of connotation. And I’ve heard different abilities and folks saying, but I’ve also heard, again, people that are superstars in the disability rights and justice movement use that term disability. So that’s the term that I that that I use, but it’s all compared to what we consider the norm, which really shouldn’t be the norm and and people that are quote, unquote, able bodied.
Michael Hingson ** 26:43
Well, and that’s why I submit that what we need to do is to plain change the definition of the word. Yeah, people have mentioned the disparte before, but differently abled, or any other kind of thing like that is really ducking the truth and is not facing the issue, which is that all of us have characteristics that make us different from other people. And why don’t we just call that disability, rather than sticking to the old terminology in the old definition, we’ve done it with diversity. And so we know that we can change the impact and the definition of terminology. So disability is no different. And it doesn’t need to keep the connotation that most people have given it. If we both think about the reality that we can change it, and that we can recognize that all of us have disabilities, well, then maybe it isn’t really so bad. And that’s the problem that we don’t seem to be able to get to.
Donald Wood ** 27:53
That’s a great point. Yeah, excellent point. Yep.
Michael Hingson ** 27:57
So you know, I think that it’s, it’s really where we need to go. People have said about blind people, for years, you’re blind or you’re visually impaired, which is horrible. It’s like blind or hearing or deaf or hearing impaired. People who are deaf hate that concept. It’s deaf or hard of hearing. Because why do we need to equate how much hearing someone has to quality of life or anything like that. So hearing impaired is a problem. Well, visually impaired is a double problem. One, visually, one doesn’t necessarily look different, simply because they’re blind. And then the impaired part again, so blind, and low vision is a much more accurate thing. Although I could make the case that I got lots of vision, I just don’t see so good. But you know, that’s okay. I can accept that vision is a terminology that we’re going to keep preterm that we’re going to keep so we could do blind and low vision. But we’ve got to get beyond this concept that disability is a bad thing, because everyone has them. You know, some people are shorter than others. Some people are taller than others. I have been in vehicles where a tall person gets in and oh my gosh, I gotta bend my knees way up. I can’t really sit here it’s uncomfortable disability, and why do we not address that? And it gets back to fear, which we’ve talked about a little bit. How do we deal with overcoming the fears? How do we change people’s concepts of what the fears really are? You? Yeah,
Donald Wood ** 29:31
that’s another brilliant question. I mean, I mentioned norms. I mean, normalizing it is, is one thing, and I know that that’s extremely challenging. And there’s other fears that that are that pile up with that. But I think just normalizing people with disabilities in media in the workplace is, you know, is extremely important and there’s, you know, there’s a Fine Line, I actually, you know, what some I didn’t share and talking about my origin story here is that, you know, life changing moment, one of the life changing moments for me was when I was a sophomore in high school and became the teacher’s aide for the special education class in my high school and what the special ed classes but they call it well, the special ed teacher was also the local area, Special Olympics, volunteer kind of manager and I got very involved in Special Olympics and became the youngest certified coach in Arkansas for Special Olympics sports. And I was a coach at the World Games in 1996. And, and it was just a life changing experience for me. And you know, even then, I really felt like it was almost like, disability porn, kind of what is that I needed to kind of wear on my sleeve, the fact that I was a Special Olympics coach in that, you know, in that, and I remember the, like, the special education, my classmates, you know, they had their own special class, which I felt was wrong. But at the time being 1516, I didn’t really know how to address that. But you know, they, the, my classmates who were in the special education class would even have come into the lunch during lunch period, kind of separately, almost like they were on parade. After all the other. Non, you know, the kids who were not in the special education class, were sitting down. And I remember, I just remember, every day after thinking, I don’t know why I should do this, but I was doing it, I would get up and I’d go every day go in and, and visit with my my friends and peers that were in the special education class. And, again, I wasn’t smart enough to realize it at the time, but what I was doing and what I would do more of I could is normalized, you know, the fact that yes, these, these peers of ours, for whatever reason, are in, in, in your standard, my standard, and I say yours and my other classmates, Anders don’t look like us, or communicate differently than us, or learn differently than us. And they were basically, you know, kept away. And and that really hit home with me when I moved to Singapore. One of the things I did too, was I wanted to volunteer. And so I immediately reached out, and they had a special olympics chapter there. But I’ll tell you, Michael, in certain Asian cultures, it is it’s a disgrace to the family. Yeah, and especially and so the I remember, and this is a, you know, this is a city state, but I want to say the population was somewhere around seven or so millions. So we’re talking something around the size of like a New York City, there was two people on staff. And they were utterly shocked that I wanted to volunteer that they the only people that ever volunteered, were sometimes sometimes family members of and they had a they had a Special Olympic Games Day, that was so sad, it was about as good as like a maybe a mid middle schools, you know, Field Day or especially, you know, kind of would be, and I volunteered, and I had my I asked my counselors when I was running the summer camp to also volunteer. And I learned a lot that day from volunteering, and ended up volunteering some more and got an accommodation from the president of Singapore, because that’s so sad. All I did was volunteer for a couple of days. And it was so out of the ordinary because people with disabilities there were shut, literally figuratively shut in shut out from society. And it was that just the fear of different the fear of not what people defined as normal. So I think normalizing is so critically important to addressing these, the fear issues.
Michael Hingson ** 33:59
I wrote a book called Thunder dog the story of a blind man whose guide dog in the triumph of trust at Ground Zero, that was a New York Times bestseller, and it was published in to a variety of languages, including Japanese. And in 2012, I went and spent a few weeks in Japan, with the publisher, the Japanese publisher promoting the book and doing lectures and so on and meeting various people. One of the things that I learned was that there was legislation and I don’t know if it’s changed, there was legislation that blind people in Japan could not sign contracts. And I asked an insurance man about that, because he’s the one who told me and he said, well, but the problem is we’re concerned that blind people can be cheated. And I said, Look, I have because it’s now 2012. I have technology on my phone. that I can use to read and scan print. I have people that I trust. And I recognize that that means I’m using the abilities of someone to read, but I have people I trust, right? To read material. In addition to the technology on my phone, there is a device called the Kurzweil Reading Machine. And that was developed back in the 1970s by someone who created technology that allows people to now reprint on their own independently. And here’s the real question I asked. I said, So you’re telling me that only blind people can get cheated, and that nobody in Japan ever cheats a sighted person in signing a contract? Yeah. And of course, he thought about and he said, Well, no, I’m not saying that. And I said, then why is it a problem? for blind people? It’s a prejudice. And I actually use that example, in one of my speeches. And there were even Americans in the room, there was a visiting school. And they chastise me later for saying that, how can you say that their culture is different? I said, No, it isn’t about a matter of different culture, it is a matter that we continue to have misconceptions and poor attitudes about how we treat people who are different than we are. And it is so difficult to get people to really understand that it’s not the so called disability or the characteristic that makes me different. It’s how we collectively address or treat that difference. Because we don’t recognize that everybody has differences. Some we just accept, and they’re normal. Some people are left handed, we don’t regard them as less than we are. But we do regard people who happen to be blind as less than most of us are.
Donald Wood ** 36:49
Yeah, and you bring up an interesting point, I appreciate you sharing that. And you bring up an interesting point, point about the argument, sometimes for against things that are full, let’s say for things that are discriminatory, that it’s a cultural difference. And and that’s something that I early on in my career kind of struggled with, because I had living overseas and traveled overseas. And I realized there were cultural differences. And in particularly the organization, Iran, there what we had the, an imam from a prominent Muslim mosque that was on our board. And, you know, the, the way that some women were treated institutionally we struggled with and although he was very progressive, and was, was working towards changing those, at least within the mosque, that was something we battled with earlier. And then, in 2019, I was fortunate with a grant through the US State Department and a an A, a group based out of Canada that operated in Kyiv, I went to Ukraine to do some work around gender equity. And although I had done I thought, adequate research, I was not prepared for the feedback, pushback I got from meeting with and they brought me over there to to do some training and to do some around a program I’d created called men as allies in Arkansas, where I worked with sis male corporate executives in the community to have to be allies for sis and trans women in the workplace. And when I went to Kenya to do the work, Ukrainian men of a certain generation really pushed back on me saying that don’t bring that US mentality here that that we are actually doing what our women want, that we are, you know, our you know, and and I remember one gentleman who was a former Kieve high level official, basically saying that his wife and daughter, he was doing them a favor by basically making them stay in the household raise children cook clean, because who wants to deal with that stress of running a business or running a government that so they men were actually doing women a favor, and also, you know, someone shared some research that I did find was accurate that something like 20 to 30% of women of a certain generation Ukraine still felt it was appropriate to be physically reprimanded for making mistakes in the household or with child raising children. And was just I was just and so a lot of these men thought because of the cultural difference, it was okay, and that and, you know, I realized, like you said, there’s just Some things that, you know, in our heart of hearts we know are not no matter where it’s happening or how long the the cultural tradition goes back that it’s not right to restrict definitely not abuse, but restrict people from being, you know, who they are, who they want to be in reaching their full potential.
Michael Hingson ** 40:21
Well, of course, if we really want to be honest about it, we still see it here. Women still are not treated equally. They don’t get the same wages. The unemployment rate among employable persons with disabilities, and specifically how to deal with blindness is like 65%. And it’s not that we can’t work. It’s that people think we can’t work, right. And so the cultural differences are not necessarily as great as we would like to believe. It’s pretty systemic, which is all the more reason why we written why we need to look at changing the definition of the word. Yeah. And you know, and moving forward that way. Well, you started a company won a Korea, Korea consultant. Tell me about that. Because that’s what you’re doing now full time, and that keeps you out of trouble.
Donald Wood ** 41:13
Michael Hingson ** 41:14
it actually was restricted keeps you keeps doing something I don’t know about out of trouble.
Donald Wood ** 41:19
Yeah, it was actually designed to get me into trouble. I think, what, when I went from running the Hospice and Palliative Care Foundation to running the social justice or vi organization, the the ladder, one of the reasons the board hired me was to help, evolve, help develop a more of a change management business model at the nonprofit dei group, they were mostly focused on community relations, outreach youth programs, and they wanted me to come help develop some more organizational change kind of corporate or or business change type or strategic planning and activation, cultural assessment, you know, leadership development. And you know that that was something that I brought into it thinking that I’m going to have dei professionals doing the programmatic work being my advisors that I was really going to focus on infrastructure operations, administration, resource development, board engagement. But you know, because of COVID, and some other factors, I ended up getting much more involved in the actual delivery of dei type of education and programming. And so my, my skills sets started to develop and meld into what was much more around culture change, than I would, I would say, just straight operational or administrative change management. And I did a little that work on the sideline, I mentioned Ukraine, that was actually the impetus to starting one eight, create my tax attorney, be honest with you said, you know, Donald, that, you know, I highly recommend spending the money on starting an LLC for tax benefits that will just help you and your family by starting this. And so I started that in 2019, with just the idea that maybe once or twice a year, I would do some work on the side, outside of my full time job as a nonprofit CEO. And then COVID happens. The world goes predominantly, if not all virtual. My organization that I was running had to adapt. And so I started to become more proficient in doing virtual work. And then, because words spread and opportunities presented themselves otherwise wouldn’t have been in a predominantly non virtual world. People started reaching out for me to do some work outside of Arkansas, and it picked up a little bit more. And then, you know, after careful consideration and talking about it with my my family, I thought, you know, I think I can do this full time and being a white heterosis male, running a social justice dei organization, I really, ever since day one of the job I was ready to step down. I was trying to to model being an ally being a co conspirator in dismantling systems of oppression. And the nonprofit world still is way too predominantly led by white people, particularly, you know, white males, white sis, female and males. And so I wanted to step down anyway. And the goal was to step down by the end of 2023. But because the world went virtual and opportunities that pic picked up, I decided that I would take a chance and start my own business and I got some subcontract folks that I trusted and were brilliant, much, much better and smarter than me. That was the best advice my dad ever gave me was just if I ever become a leader just surround myself other people more talented and smarter than me, so I hadn’t been a problem. And I did that and went full time and it beginning of 2022. So here I am now.
Michael Hingson ** 45:12
So what, what do you think has been kind of the most significant thing you’ve you’ve learned? And what do you think has been the most maybe profound way you’ve affected the whole concept of diversity, inclusion and equity and, and just in all of what you do?
Donald Wood ** 45:33
Oh, I would say probably the just rots atop my head, the thing that that has been the most significant thing I’ve learned from doing this work that applies to to be more effective at this work is really, really trying to understand your clients or I say, partners, your partner’s situation, an organization’s current culture, the context, doing your best to try to form a level of of relationship and trust with them before doing any sort of quote, unquote, work with them. And in I came into doing this, this work where we already the organization that I took over in Arkansas, that was a was in Year 55, or 56, when I took it over. So we had a pretty decent stable of, of organizations we worked with, and through word of mouth, we gain more organizations, and it would literally be this is what we offer they choose, we come in and do the work and realized how critically important some level of audit or assessment or genuine understanding of their situation, around Dei, what what what what their hopes are, what their expectations are, what have they done in the past, where their leadership’s heads and hearts are at where the where the non supervisory role folks heads and hearts are at. And putting myself out there, and my staffs out there in terms of humility, and vulnerability and modeling, what you know, inclusion and action or equity and diversity and action looks like how important that is before just coming in and, and really just being a teaching figure. And I think that’s been probably the most critical thing. And that’s not always easy to do, some folks don’t have the time or the will, to allow that or to do that. But I would say that, that some of the most, or probably the most effective impact that I’ve had on organizations or with folks that either I’ve already have a relationship with. And so there’s the walls are already dropped, and we can and we can really get at the heart of what can and needs to be done or folks that leadership or organizations who are already have a solid level of humility and vulnerability and come into it thinking, we need the help. What do we what do you need from us? What do we need to do to make this work? And, you know, we’ll start off with some sort of assessment or audit or to better understand and to build a relationship that to is, isn’t critical not to be that group that comes in and saying, Okay, we’re going to teach you all how to advance Dei, but instead build relationship with the our clients or our partners first. And so when we do an assessment or an audit or anything like that, there’s a lot of just one on one group interactions us even sometimes if we’re able to, depending on the facility and the access to just write bread with with folks, before we start talking or teaching anything about diversity, equity inclusion, just to build trust and relationship with them first, before we start doing any sort of actual programming.
Michael Hingson ** 49:09
If you were to give your younger self, I’m going to expand this a little bit and say or people today, two or three pieces of advice, what would they be
Donald Wood ** 49:24
my younger self the first thing that comes to mind I would say get over yourself.
Donald Wood ** 49:31
Oh was although I because of my particularly my parents and a few others around me, I think had maybe more of a community minded or servant sort of approach to life at a younger age than maybe some of us still though it was so so absolutely consumed with myself and my success, titles, accolades awards and not nearly as I’m not nearly where I needed to be in terms of being a really, I think a decent person. And being inclusive and equitable. And I held so much power and privilege, I really did just so much power unofficially. And officially throughout my school schooling years and into my early professional career. So that would be one is really focused on the vulnerability, humility, aspect of, of just being a human being, let alone being a leader. Um probably another thing that I would say to my really younger self, and this might sound very specific, but I really think there’s so much at the heart of the impact is has is to be to fight against bullying, in schools. I’ve done a lot of anti bullying work in the past few years, and at the fourth and fifth grade level, sometimes up into the middle school levels. And there’s so much to unpack in why bullying happens. And and you know, in the work that I do, we always say not to call the person the bully, it’s the person who bullies the person who’s bullied. Because I do not think the person who bullies is the enemy there 99.9% of the time, there’s something happening in that person’s life that is causing or leading to the bullying to happen. It’s you know, it’s a it’s a healing mechanism for them, or it’s a power issue or what have you. But I just feel like at such a young age, we are, you know, discrimination and oppression, even hate is manifesting itself in, in schools and others youth organizations in the form of bullying that a lot of times we think is innocent. And now with the digital world, it’s it’s pretty pervasive. And someone who has a daughter who’s a senior in college now, from her really understands how much pressure and what kind of unintentional, most of the time, I would say that there’s still intentional just discrimination and hatred happening that really, especially in that young age, up to 678 years old, when the brain is developing so significantly, so fast, that that bullying has such an impact on so I really, if I could my much younger self, I would really tell myself to really be an advocate or a champion for anti bullying.
Michael Hingson ** 52:32
What kind of advice do you have for people in the world today, based on what we’ve talked about for almost the last hour?
Donald Wood ** 52:44
You know, going back to the humility and vulnerability thing, I think so much that causes structural discrimination or systemic oppression, or just the the negative issues that seem so intractable are so daunting to people. I think a lot of times it just starts with us being focusing on ourselves and just just being humble enough to realize that I have a relationship or a role. And in this situation, this issue, even if I don’t think I’m an overt racist, or sexist or someone that ableist but I, I do likely and just to be humble enough to say, what if I do so and being open enough to learning more about issues that impact others that likely impact you and you don’t even know it, and being vulnerable enough to model what it looks like to be open to learning about these other issues and to stepping up and stepping. Even if you’re going to fail a lot of people will just so scared about if I say the wrong thing if I do the wrong thing, but I truly believe especially if you’re in relation, genuine relationship with people there they will forgive and there will be grace when if they know that is a genuine attempt to be better to be an ally or be a co conspirator in in justice and equity and inclusion. So really getting over that fear of failing of hurting other people. And, and, and being humble and vulnerable. And also just to have hope. I do believe that systemic issues pervasive issues, like ableism, and racism and sexism and and so many others can’t be dismantled. And are they these were human created issues? So I feel like they are there are human centric solutions to addressing them. And I know for so many people, especially, I think, when not especially probably of all ages, but I’m thinking about my daughter’s 21 and her generation She’s grown up with just a constant barrage and the media of the world’s on fire and worlds at war. And, and, and there’s not a lot of, at least from my experience with with her and some other folks her age, it’s although they’re very civic minded that hope is hard to come by it and, and believe that these things can change like the climate issue and I feel like you have we have to have hope we have to believe that we are capable of of reversing and CO creating new systems that aren’t oppressive that do welcome and create equal opportunity for all people. So I would say hope is critical to to have hope.
Michael Hingson ** 55:50
No question. And I think that the opportunities are there. We like climate change, we’re told what we need to do, it’s just a matter of being willing to do it. I haven’t asked you Why did you call the company when a create consulting,
Donald Wood ** 56:05
I thought a lot about the the name you know, and then I know if it were probably even easier just to use a niche, my initials or something like that, but I really wanted the name to to represent the values and principles and what we’re about. So one, you know, represents the fact that we all have individual agency and power and, and have a responsibility for creating change, the eight was the you know, the eight is actually you know, horizontally is the infinity symbol and represents abundance. And I think going back to that idea of of lack of hope, I think a lot of people have a scarcity mindset. And I really think we need to have a mindset of abundance, and that there’s plenty for everybody here. And so that’s what the eight represents. And then the Create is an acronym, the C stands for change, the R stands for readiness. E stands for explanation. A stands for accountability, Te is truth telling. And E is empathy, which are kind of the core values that guide the work that we do. And you can go to our website at one eight create.com to read a little bit more about the meaning behind those letters. But yeah, so that’s where one eight create comes from.
Michael Hingson ** 57:25
Have you written any books or anything that talks about your experiences or any of those kinds of things.
Donald Wood ** 57:31
I have not written any books or anything like there’s, I am so envious of people that are able to do that i i Honestly, I really believe I do not have the attention span to sit down, it would take me quite a while I was a creative writing minor in college, I love to write short stories, or creative nonfiction I wrote for my school paper. But and I’ve written a lot I’ve written quite a bit in terms of materials and content for but no published books that would it would maybe a book of short essays or stories someday,
Michael Hingson ** 58:07
well, something to work toward or collaborate with someone, or if people want to reach out to you and learn more about what you do and maybe seek to use your assistance and so on. What’s the ways that they should do that?
Donald Wood ** 58:20
Yeah, the easiest way is to visit the website. As I said, you can not only connect with me, but my awesome, amazing team of CO conspirators. So that’s just one eight spelled out, create a oneeightcreate.com. And there’s a way to contact me there. And that’s probably the easiest way and you can also you know, be the website, you can access LinkedIn, which also you can contact me there and learn a little bit more about the work that we do.
Michael Hingson ** 58:49
Well, I want to thank you for taking the time to be here and talk with us. I think it’s been very insightful and certainly very enjoyable and inspiring. But I think also you’ve given us a lot to think about, which is always as good as it gets as far as I’m concerned on this podcast on unstoppable mindset. So thank you for that. I hope everyone listening agrees please give us a five star rating wherever you’re listening to our podcast, unstoppable mindset and of course, especially if you happen to be on iTunes, give us a rating we appreciate that five star rating would be appreciated. If you’d like to reach out to me and suggest any guests and Donald to you as well. Please don’t hesitate to email Michaelhi at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. Or go to our podcast page www dot Michael Hingson h i n g s o n.com/podcast. So we definitely want to hear from you. We want your thoughts and again, we sure would appreciate good ratings and suggestions for more guests. And Donald one more time. Thanks very much for being here and being with us today.
Donald Wood ** 59:58
Thank you, Michael. It was an honor And you are a true hero and Titan. And I think in the world of diversity equity inclusion, it’s been a pleasure to learn more about you and get to know you and I definitely hope that I get to work with you in the future.
**Michael Hingson ** 1:00:17
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.