the podcast recap episode with aj & rory vaden

Ep 75: Responding Versus Reacting to Injustice with Anton Gunn | Recap Episode

Welcome to another special recap edition of the podcast. Today on the show we are diving into our interview with Anton Gunn, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama. Anton has a master’s degree in social work from the University of South Carolina and is one of the most authoritative voices on socially conscious leadership. He is also the bestselling author of The Presidential Principles and an international speaker and consultant.

During our interview, Anton shared some really useful and profound ideas that helped us personally process all that is going on through the lens of a strong leader, a black man, and a personal brand. In this episode, we share some of our biggest takeaways from our talk with Anton and what it means to follow your heart and use your voice in the way you feel led. Stay tuned as we discuss the incredible insights we learned from Anton and how you can apply it to both your life and your personal brand.

Listen to the episode below

Key takeaways from this episode:

  • Importance of getting clear on the problem and clear on the solution. 
  • The Albert Einstein quote: learning to first understand the problem. 
  • Why having a unified and clear message is absolutely key. 
  • Learning to take responsibility and acknowledging injustice in the moment.  
  • Structuring your brand message as an instructional command and order. 
  • Stay in your lane: knowing when it is your role and when it is not. 

Tweetable Moments:

“In the world of gaining influence and building a personal brand, it has a lot to do with, “How are you serving the people around you?” — @aj_vaden [0:07:15]

“We all have a mutual responsibility and so much of it is self-awareness.” — @aj_vaden [0:08:01]

“Stay in your lane, and play to the strengths of where your lane is. Use the strengths of where you are in your lane and put those to use; but stay in your lane.” — @aj_vaden [0:13:54]

“You can’t divorce what you do from who you are.” — @AntonJGunn [0:16:16]

About Anton Gunn

For more than 20 years, Anton has been a leadership advisor to some of the biggest brands in the United States of America, including the President of the United States. He has worked with hundreds of leaders and organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sector.

Anton is the Founder of 937 Strategy Group, a consulting practice that provides services to leaders and healthcare organizations who want to build a world-class leadership culture that transforms employee engagement and service outcomes.

He is a former lecturer at Harvard University and the author of two books, The Presidential Principles: How to Inspire Action and Create Lasting Impact (Advantage, 2018) and the Audacity of Leadership (AuthorHouse, 2009).

Anton’s leadership exploits in business, sports and politics have been featured in Time Magazine Wall Street Journal, Huff Post and many other top media outlets.

Anton has become the number one authority on presidential leadership in the healthcare environment. He has trained hundreds of leaders including c-suite executives, business leaders, physician leaders, professional athletes, music artists, entrepreneurs, and elected officials. Because he knows what it takes to build world-class leaders, Anton provides authentic customer-centered solutions that give every leader next-day, actionable steps to improve employee engagement and increase their impact.

Links Mentioned:

RV: (00:00) Hey there. Brand builder. Excited to bring you really a special edition here of the influential personal brand podcasts, a very unplanned, spontaneous we want to introduce you to a good friend of ours. I’m a client of ours, somebody who believes in us, somebody who we believe in tremendously. Somebody who we look up to. His name is Anton Gunn and he is a former senior advisor to president Barack Obama. And Anton is one of the world’s leading authorities on socially conscious leadership. So he has a master’s degree in social work from USC and was a resident fellow at Harvard. He is the bestselling author of the presidential principles and he’s been featured in time magazine, the wall street journal, BBC, NPR, and on good morning America. And as an international speaker and consultant, he’s worked with organizations like Microsoft, Sedexo, KPMG, Verizon, Aetna, Vanderbilt health and Boeing on and on and on. RV: (00:58) And so from playing sec football and being the first African American in history elected to the South Carolina legislature from his from his district early in his career to now working as a C level executive for an academic health system and serving on multiple boards. He has spent his life building or help helping people build diverse high performing teams and world-class leadership culture. And was this on our heart for you to hear from him about some of the things going on in the world and specifically how to use your personal brand to influence real change? And I’m going to let AJ say something cause she, I can, I can tell she’s bubbling. And you know, if you’ve listened to the show, you know that AJ does not often conduct the interviews. She does all the debriefs, AJV: (01:53) But since then RV: (01:54) This was, this one was right from AJs heart. So AJV: (01:57) Well they’ll say yes, Amazon has this really nice, fancy bio with all of this amazing accomplishments. But the real reason that I felt led to forced Anton to get on this call of us, which he was so happy to oblige so quickly, it’s honestly, he’s so representative of what we believe in as people and as a part of our, our community at brand builders group, we just believe like Anton comes from a place of real experience. So do you also comes from a place that he really believes in justice but also doing it in a way that actually creates change by using real influence because he’s doing things the right way. And that’s not easy. That’s actually really hard and it takes a lot of discipline to do things the the long way and that, but I just feel like you’re such a extension of what we believe in. And so thanks for, thanks for popping. AG: (02:53) Thank you for saying that. AIJ and I love you both. You are awesome. So happy to be a client. Happy to be your friend and happy to help you and all of your listeners and supporters understand that this is an important time for all of us to use our influence in authentic ways, in ways that we feel comfortable with, most importantly to help bend the arc of the moral universe more towards justice. And it already bends that way, but it requires each of us to do something in a way that helps to make things better. That’s what our responsibility to our leaders is to work, to make things right and every chance that we get. So I appreciate you creating the space for that and doing that and living up to who you are as individuals and as a business. RV: (03:39) Well, I love that Anton, and honestly we’ve struggled with what to say. I mean there’s a lot of things that I could say and kind of want to say, but don’t necessarily feel like they’re appropriate or you know, right on pace. I think that’s a lot of a lot of people. And, and, and like you said, as. AJV: (03:58) I feel like it’s so sensitive right now and being twisted and turned, and even with the best of intentions, it comes across as you’re ignorant. You don’t know anything. You don’t understand. Yeah, no, but that doesn’t mean we’re not trying. RV: (04:14) And, and I, I think, you know, when we reached out to you, we said, Hey, we don’t want to make this like a news media commentary on anything specific that’s happening in the news. But okay. You know, you’ve got a moral compass for fairness and justice. RV: (04:27) And I think one of the things that I struggle with, and I just wanted to ask you as your friend is, you know, there’s been a lot of stuff that says, Hey, you know, being silent as part of the problem, you know, silence, you know, basically if you’re silent, you’re racist. I don’t necessarily, that doesn’t necessarily connect with me. I don’t necessarily think that being silent means you’re racist any more than I think making a post will change the world. But what I am very interested in is what are the things productively that we can do? And that we should do like not just, not just using our voice, but what are the things that we can do. And you have such an interesting perspective from working in the white house to being, you know, a division one athlete to leading it in the healthcare world there. Yeah. AJV: (05:23) They’re all of these things, right? AG: (05:26) Yeah. So let me just say AG: (05:30) Know you gotta you gotta remember a leader’s responsibility is to respond and not react. And what do I mean by respond and not react? You know, whenever you’re in the heat of any kind of difficult circumstance, any kind of crisis, your emotions will get the best of you immediately. And what you see some people doing on social media are there emotional responses to what’s going on? And it’s not understandable for people to have an emotional response. Some people’s emotional response is to or emotional reaction is to lash out and scream at you for not saying anything. Cause if you’re not saying anything, then that means you must agree with the bad people who are doing bad things. Right. That’s a, that’s really a reaction. That’s not really a thoughtful prepared response. That’s a reaction. Some people’s reaction is because they’re so shocked by what they see. AG: (06:28) They freeze and they don’t want to say anything. I mean, we’ve all seen in circumstances you’re going to do three things. If you’re confronted in a crisis, you’re going to freeze, you’re going to fight, where are you going to flight any other direction? And I think what we have in the middle of any kind of crisis is that people freeze. Some people fight and others flight, and so I think the people who are fighting are the ones who are screaming out on social media. Some people are so distraught about what they see that they freeze and so that is sometimes silent. You’re when you freeze your assignment and some people could immediately assume because you’re not fighting like me. Oh, because you’re not running like me. Then that means you must agree with those who are doing bad things. That is not the case, but what you should do is be thoughtful about how you can have a positive point in the specs. AG: (07:23) How can you add to the construction of a solution and not to further destruction of the problem? And so what I tell people to do is first of all remain yeah. In your lane. And when I say remaining your lane is, you know, for the first 12 years of my career I actually was a community organizer. So I’ve organized protests, I’ve organized marches, I’ve done sit ins, I’ve actually hold politicians accountable for not doing the right thing. And that’s actually why I got into politics, because I got tired of politicians telling me one thing, but then doing the complete opposite. And I say, well, why am I asking you to do something that you clearly don’t have the capacity to do? Why don’t I just run for office and take your place? And literally that was my goal. But that’s not everybody. It’s not everybody’s name. AG: (08:15) Some people’s learning to say, Anton, you’re better to be out there on the front lines, but here’s what I can do. I have a hundred dollars and I’ll put it in a bail fund. So if you get arrested and go to jail, you can get out and go home to be with your family. Or maybe I’ll support your education campaign to teach people about what good policing policies are or what good environmental policy. So it doesn’t matter if it’s this current crisis or there’s other, some kind of injustice that exists. I will tell you this, we’ve had injustice in wrongdoing as long as we’ve had challenges in this country and around the world. I’ll give you an example of that is unfair and, but it’s something that everybody can relate to. The two of you decided to go out to dinner and you go to your favorite restaurant in Nashville and you’ve been waiting 90 minutes for a table and then my wife and I walk in five minutes in a manner of these sets us down at the best table in the house. AG: (09:16) But you’ve been waiting for 90 minutes now already. You know that that was wrong, that that was not right for me to be able to walk right in and sit down at a table where you’ve been waiting for 90 minutes. It doesn’t make you feel good. It doesn’t make you like the restaurant anymore because you felt that you were treated unfair. So the question is, what am I going to do if I learned that you’ve been waiting for 90 minutes, do I just keep my table and keep eating and say, you know what? Too bad, Roy and AGA, you had the weight, 90 minutes. What do I say to the maitre D? That’s wrong. I’m going to get up and I’m going to give them this table because they’ve been waiting for 90 minutes. And if you saw me sit down at a table, do you decide to storm out of the restaurant or do you just stand there and do nothing? AG: (10:05) You just accept that you know you lost the table. Or do you walk over to the maitre D and says, you know what? I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it’s fair that we’ve been waiting for 90 minutes and we didn’t get the table that we asked for and you let somebody else have the table. Now the maitre D also has a choice and an option at that point. He can say, well, you’re just going to have to wait a little longer. Well, he can say, you know what, Roy J I’m sorry. As soon as our next table come available, I’m going to put you at the top of the list in all appetizers and a bottle of wine is on me. So in that situation, we all have the opportunity to respond or we could react, but the key is whatever it is, you want to be authentic to yourself. AG: (10:50) Where do you feel comfortable? And also when you have some expertise, because what I try to remind people is that we all have personal experiences in our lives that we can connect the dots to something else that’s going on. So you may not know what it’s like to be a black man living in America. I can count seven particular instances that I could have ended up like George Ford or Tamir rice or Eric Garner. All of them happened before the age of 27 Hmm. I did nothing wrong. I was a college athlete. I went to a gas station with my uncle to go in to just, he went to go get a bottle of Boone’s farm. Just tell you how long ago it was and I went in to play the lottery. You just connected with AGA. You might have more in common with Aja than you think. AG: (11:39) As it turns out, as it turns out you love boons Romney J yes, we all did. So we were leaving the gas station and out of nowhere, five police cars pulls up. They draw guns on us, they drag us out of the car, they throw us on the ground, he puts his knee in my back in accuses us of being a part of a game and doing a drive by shooting. We didn’t even live on that side of town, but my uncle worked at a restaurant over there and I caught the bus to his job. We got in his car and we’re driving home. We stopped by the gas station and this happened to me. So this is real for me, but it may not be real for you. You may never have experienced anything like that. But I would say you might know someone who has. AG: (12:28) And so in this time, I would say the first thing people can do if you’re trying to figure out how to use your influence, if you have people in your spear network, your friends with those people who you have in your cell phone, who you know might be feeling some kind of way about what’s going on, it’s okay to send them a text. We’ll make a phone call and say, Hey, listen, I don’t fully understand all of this going on. I don’t fully know what to do about any of this. But no, I’m thinking about you. And if you have people who follow you on social media, who you know fit that demographic, you can easily say, listen, Hey, I know you guys watch my pocket. You listen to my podcasts, you follow my feed. You’re on my list. I just want you to know for the interview who are affected by the current circumstances. I want you to know that I’m thinking about you. And I’m not sure what to do yet, but I’m trying to find out. [inaudible] AG: (13:19) We’re all going to be better because of this. And that’s the approach that you have to take is to say something, but you don’t have to have all of the answers because you don’t, you’re not an expert in that. This is about how to build a brand for a movement. Then they should definitely be talking to you, particularly if there’s a person leading the movement. But if this is just unrest or this is just community up uptick and outrage about things, you don’t necessarily have the lead dog role in this, but you can play a role. But first empathizing with people who might be experiencing it. And that’s what we all want. We all want someone to understand our pain, to understand what we’re going through. And you guys have done that just by creating the space and the opportunity. Second thing I was telling people, you are good at something. AG: (14:06) So some of us are great writers, some of us are great speakers, some of us are great at teaching people how to manage and deal with stress. So there are ways you can say, Hey, in the middle of the most stressful time that we might’ve seen in our lifetimes, here are three things. Things that you can do to lower your stress. That message becomes universal. No matter what your race, gender background is, that’s a universal way that you can help him make it. You provide people a way to say, listen, I want to create an outlet for people to be able to express themselves and let me provide feedback on how I can help you to channel that into something positive. Those are simple things or you can really start to do a little bit of research and say, who is working to make sure that injustice and unfairness no longer exists and how can I offer some free advice or some free counsel or free coaching session to help them through it. AG: (15:02) Now, that doesn’t have to be public at all. That can be very private, but it’s something that you can do too to add value and to be comfortable in your space. But speak to the times that we’re in because I do think Roy, there is a fear about the silence if, if it’s, if the silence goes on too long and people will assume silence is complicity. And so I don’t expect anybody in a emotional moment to react in aggressiveness or to jump right out and be a part of anything. Cause that’s what I’m not doing. I haven’t left my house. I still remember that we’re in the middle of a pandemic. And so I’m concerned about my health and my family’s health. So as bad as I might want to go out and Mmm, be a participant in some civil disobedience, I’m not doing it because one, that’s not my role right now. Number two, I don’t think it would be in my best interest for my health and my wife’s health and my daughter’s health. So I’m going to stay home. But what I am doing is reading everything that I could get my hands on about who’s trying to find a solution and rather than be a part of the problem and what can I offer in terms of expertise and support and help to do that. RV: (16:16) So can I, I have a question too. You should have scheduled your own interview, Anton. We need to have you. We’re going to do multiple. That’s right. All right. This is, AJV: (16:26) So what other questions I have, because I think this is just really pertinent and I think it’s a part of your expertise is there just seems to be a lack of leadership and all of this and a lack of a real coherent and consistent message of what do we want to see happen. And you know what’s like w where does that leave everybody? If there isn’t true leadership and there isn’t a true cause and a true message of like, let’s make this clear. AG: (16:54) Yes. AJV: (16:55) What needs to happen. So, RV: (16:56) Right. Like lighting a church on fire doesn’t signal a real clear message about what we want to see happen. In fact, it’s a very conflicting message to respond to violence with violence. At least that’s how it feels to me. AG: (17:09) Yes. So you’re exactly right. So I literally did a Facebook live about this last night for about an hour. And I hearkened back onto successful change efforts in America. I mean, you can go as far back from women’s sufferage to the civil rights movement. We’ve had a lot of successful change efforts in all of those efforts. You have to know what you want. Yeah. And not only know what you want, be able to clearly articulated in a way that everybody presents. You know, when you talk about building a brand, you gotta have clarity, right? You’re on problem and clear on the solution. AG: (17:51) Exactly. You have to be clear on a problem and clear on the solution. And the problem that we have in this current environment is there, there’s no clarity about this. There’s zero clarity from my vantage point around what do we want? I know what I want, but the solution to that is not clear because again, if you’ve got, you know, multiple things happening in multiple cities, the problem in Charleston, South Carolina is completely different than the problem in Nashville, which is completely different than the problem in Minnesota, which is completely different than the problem in New York city. And so because those problems looks similar on the surface, people are trying to apply a solution to fix all problems and there’s not one solution. This is a, a local by local problem and solution framework. And so when you, when you don’t have good leadership, the problem stays. AG: (18:49) I, I, I give people this kind of advice and I’ve given it to president Obama. So I just tell you anything I’m saying here is stuff that I say all the time to leaders at every level, from the dog catcher to the mayor, to even the president of United States. And the first is whenever you had a crisis, the first thing you must do is remain calm. The second thing you must do is you got to tell the truth. And when I say tell the truth, you have to be honest with people about where you sit and where things are cause people in a time of uncertainty, in a time of fear in a time of the unknown, people are looking for a beacon of hope. And so you got to tell them the truth and you got to tell them the truth, even when the truth is unpleasant. The thing with so many people forget. AG: (19:35) They want to tell you the rosy truth and they want to tell you the happy true. But they don’t want to tell you the unpleasant truth. So the unpleasant tree is difficult, but it’s grounding. And I, and I say this all the time, the truth doesn’t hurt. It heals. So if we can begin to say, AJ, you are a Rory, you have skin cancer. So I can lie to you and say, Oh, you just got a blemish on your face and telling you you have a blemish on your face is cool and nice and, and you, you don’t feel bad about it. But if you find out that that blemishes cancer, then you can begin to do something about it. Because some people may say, Oh, I got a blemish. I’m just going to accept the blemish and be okay with it. But if you know a skin cancer, then you have to respond. AG: (20:20) So we got to tell people the truth and we got to tell it to them in a heartfelt way. You don’t need to be angry with the truth. You don’t have to be screaming about the truth. You can empathize with people and be heartfelt about telling the truth. But then the third step after that to me is you got to seek out expertise who can help you to find a solution. Yeah, that’s the problem is that we, Einstein said this one time, that many spend 95% of their time trying to solve the problem but only spent 5% understanding the problem. Well, we need to spend 95% understanding the problem and 5% of the time on the solution and you got to have experts to help you to solve the problem. And that’s what leadership does, is that they remain calm. They tell the truth, they tell it in a heartfelt way, and then they find experts to help them to solve the problem. And that’s what we don’t have in this kind of environment. The people who I know have expertise on not being sought out, they’re being questioned, they’re being antagonized, they’re actually being accused of being complicit in the problem when they actually have real ideas around a solution. RV: (21:32) Well, that’s an you know, that’s something that I’ve struggled with with this personally. You know, you talk about leaders, just leadership in general. You respond, you don’t react. You know, I’m seeing a lot of message and I’ve had some people messaged me about like, Hey, why haven’t you shared? Or why don’t you share something? And as a leader, my, one of my first thing is I’ve been afraid to say this, one of my very first things is I need to find the facts in any situation. It’s like as a leader, not civil rights, just leadership training is going, I need to understand the facts. And there are, as you said, and I, I love that you pointed out, I believe that it’s different in every city too. And I believe that every instance of this is different. RV: (22:17) Any type of silence is not condoning something. It’s going, I don’t have the full context of what happened in Minneapolis or in Atlanta or like, and, and until, I know I’m afraid to come out and judge anybody in any, you know, cause I just, I just don’t know. But I think it’s, it almost becomes popular that people want you to just lash out and rage. They want you to just throw fire. They be because they want you to be mad. And it’s like I am mad. Like I’m, I’m heartbroken. And there are, there are parts of these things that you go, they’re undisputable, they’re worth being mad about just like looking at it. But then there’s, there’s context around every situation, every social interaction, every communication with a spouse, a child, a teacher, a colleague. And that context really matters. And it, and it shapes a lot. And I’ve been actually afraid to say that cause I’m afraid of people just being pissed off at me for not being pissed off right away. Like, like you know, publicly. AG: (23:19) Yeah. So, so I will tell you this, and this is one of the things that I, I’ve gotten very comfortable and as a leader is recognizing that somebody is always going to be pissed off at you. And if, if nobody’s pissed off at you, then you’re doing it wrong. That’s the main point. And I know as an influencer you want to grow your brand and you want everybody to like you and everybody to on your team. But you know what? The happiest thing that I get every day in my inbox is the number of people who unsubscribed from my list. You know what? I’m happy about that. Yeah. Because I know what I’m offering is not for you, you, you, you’re not invested in what I’m invested in and, and you don’t like it. And that’s okay because I want the people who do like it, the people who do get the value, the people who do want to build, adjust organization. AG: (24:14) An organization full of ethical, inspiring and empowering leaders who worked in the unfairness in the workplace. That’s who I want to talk to you. Okay? I don’t want to talk to the people who want to carry it on or the people who are indifferent to it. And I think the thing that a lot of people are probably most frustrated with but people that don’t speak out is the indifference. And so my context would be you want to have the facts, you definitely want to have the facts. But for many of us, particularly me, that what happened in Minnesota is not the straw that broke the camel’s back. My back was broken on March 3rd, 1991 when I saw Rodney King get beat 56 times by LA police officers and they all got off Scott free. So for me it was a a moment as a teenager that said that I thought this was over. AG: (25:09) I thought this happened, you know, during the civil rights movement. I thought this happened in the 18 hundreds where you know, you could get pulled over and never be seen again. But here I am in the midst of getting ready to go to college and this is what’s happening. So some people would say, we’ve known this all along. There’s no additional facts for you to gather in this situation. But I think the, the burning and the riots and in the burning down buildings and kicking in Apple stores and all these other kinds of things, this is what I also have learned doing this work. Everybody who is with you is not for you. Your body does for you is not going to be with you. And there are some agent provocateurs who are using this yeah. Crisis or this opportunity to advance an agenda that has absolutely nothing to do with justice in equity and fairness in the right thing. They have some of them. RV: (26:09) Yeah. And Anton, I just wanted to make sure that you said everyone who is with you is not for you and everyone who is for you is not with you. AG: (26:17) That is correct. Everyone who is with you is not for you. And everyone who is for you is now with you. So let me break it down. So you understand when I say everyone that is with you is not for you. There are people who are showing up and turning peaceful protest into violent protest, right? There are people who will show up at your events that are not really there to support your business there to copy and steal what you do. So everyone that is with you is not for you. The people who follow you on social media, they might be your followers, but they’re not for you. They’re for themselves. And we all have to understand that that’s always been the case. And secondarily, the people who are with you, sometimes they can’t be there for you. They’re with you in spirit. They may be with you in dollars, they may be with you in some other kind of way, but they’re not always going to be there side by side with you. AG: (27:16) So I’m with a lot of people that I can’t be side by side because I want to be here longterm. I want to be a person who lives a long time. And so for me, knowing that I work in healthcare, 90%, knowing that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, I know it’s not cool to go back out and socialize right now. I get reports on how many new positive coded cases are showing up every day and we’re not in a clear, so I’m with a lot of people for a lot of people, but I’m not going to be there all the time. So you got to understand that you gotta be able to figure out who is with you and who is for you and what are they doing to help you and who are those that are not really for you. AG: (27:59) And again, I go back to some years of go work when I was being trained into the seat. So to be honest with you, I was trained at a place called Highlander in Tennessee. Tennessee’s where actually Dr. Martin Luther King jr and Rosa parks, all of them got their training on community organizing. Like some people thought Rosa parks sitting down on a bus and refusing to go to the back was a spur of the moment off the cuff event. It wasn’t not, they plan this for months in advance and they have five different people and Rosa parks actually was the one that was chosen to stay on the front of the bus. So most people think this is big civil rights broke protests started with a seminal event of someone just deciding not to get up anymore when she was a trained, a prepared leader who knew what to do and when to do it. AG: (28:54) So in my training, I learned then whenever we do things like this, there are people who are not really with us who are going to see what we’re doing and want to jump in. We got to control that because they could destroy the message, they could cloudy the message that we’re trying to send here. Then it can turn into something that is not. And that’s what I think we, we are seeing right now that there’s some people who are clouding the message that is not really about, you know, police violence. It’s about anarchy or it’s about I hate the government or it’s about, I hate rich people. It’s about I hate America. Because I do believe there’s some form foreign people who are involved in some of these efforts. And so we don’t know which is which at this point. We don’t know the enemy, our friend, because we haven’t taken a time to, to develop the right structure and strategy to move for change. AG: (29:51) And, and to give a quick plug to my former boss Barack Obama, his foundation has been trying to do his best job of this stealing information around what’s a right way for you to get involved. He posted the article on medium recently about, I know everybody’s upset. Protest is a part of, of making change. And we’ve always used protest in America from the Boston tea party onto present day. So he’s not saying not to protest, but he’s saying is getting involved in a way that can make sure that the positive change is lasting and that we actually do the right thing. And so he provided resources at the Obama foundation website. And so I would encourage people to figure out what you can do. But I think the main thing is we got to separate the wheat from the shaft and know that everybody that is with you is not for you and everybody that is for you. Sometimes it’s not with, AJV: (30:45) That’s so wise. That’s so good. One of the, one of the interviews that I saw online here recently was the son of an Atlanta, a city police officer. I’m a black man and he was, he did this really great speech, super emotional, but the thing that has stuck with me and I can’t get out of my head, he said, you don’t fight the enemy by burning down your own house. AG: (31:08) Correct. AJV: (31:08) And you said people were burning down our own house. Wait, that doesn’t work. AG: (31:14) It’s not smart. And that was killer Mike. He’s a hip hop artist, activist. I’m one degree separated and kill Mike because one of my mentees actually used to make beads for him. And I’m trying to get him to be a brand builder client too, by the way. So so yeah, I was willing to help, but that’s a point that, that everybody should understand that if you’re trying to solve a problem, go to where the problem is. Don’t go to where the problems now. So here’s how I explained it to him, the friends of mine and a conference call. If, if I have a nail in my foot five a nail in my foot, it doesn’t make sense for you to put a bandaid on my shoulder. Yeah, that doesn’t, that’s not solving the problem. Why don’t you haven’t taken the nail out of my foot and you haven’t stopped the bleeding on my foot. And so if the nail is in Minneapolis, well, if the nail is in Louisville, Kentucky, why are you burning down in Atlanta, Georgia, right? While you’re riding in Charleston, South Carolina. And again, my point is there are problems in every one of those cities. Atlanta is not perfect. Nashville’s not perfect Charleston, that there’s no perfect utopian city in the United States of America. But those problems require a specific and clear solution to those problems. AG: (32:37) If there’s a nail in your foot, it doesn’t mean there’s RV: (32:40) A nail in every foot. Like the problem isn’t even as a city necessarily. It is a person, a few people, a set of people. And if you can understand who it is, you can proactively handle the problem, which is the truth about any problem in business or our personal life or anything. You can’t. But if you’re blinded by just rage, it’s like you can’t see the problem. All you know is you’re in pain and so you start bandaging yourself and shooting other people and it’s like, Hey, there’s a nail in your foot. Get the nail out. AG: (33:14) Yes. And that’s exactly right. And in problems have levels to them. So, so I, I, you know, my training is social work. When I got my MSW was understanding systems in organizations where you have individual problems, you have group problems, you have family problems, you have organizational problems. And so like when I work with a healthcare organization, I want to understand the problem across the organization. You might have a problem in this department or you might have a problem with this person, right? But is it representative of a systemic problem of how you hire people and who you hire and how you train them and what you allow them to do and what don’t you allow them to do? And what I find more times than not is that people want to solve problems, but they feel paralyzed because they’re going to be punished by a largest system for trying to solve the problem. AG: (34:09) So it requires us to have some level of depth and understanding around what problems are, what our role is, and to solving those problems and going right to the source. As I told my group last night, I said, listen, Mmm. If, if you have police officers who are committing bad acts, okay. Then RDC that the person who can specifically do something about that problem is the police chief that hired them. And if the police chief doesn’t see the problem and doesn’t understand the problem where there’s a specific person who can do something about that person. And that’s the mayor of city manager that hired a police chief. Yeah. And if the mayor and the police chief doesn’t see that problem and doesn’t understand that problem, there’s a specific group of people who can do something about the mayor. And those are the voters who live in that city. AG: (35:07) But if you don’t live in that city, you don’t have the ability to get rid of the mayor. You don’t have the ability to affect the chief of police and you don’t have the ability to affect those officers. Now you can contribute in ways to influence their problems. So going back to the word influence, there are a few things that each of us can control. There are other things that we can influence if we can’t control and if we can’t control it or influence it, our responsibility is to lead. And we, we, we lead by being the example of what we want to see in the world. So if there’s injustice be just, if there’s unfairness, be more fair, if there’s inequity being more equitable. So it’s about what you can control, what you can influence it, where you can leave, but you got to understand the problem. AG: (35:56) And I think so many people haven’t taken the time in this situation to just understand the problem from a societal problem of law enforcement, police and communities, particularly communities of color, two. Our response to when those things happen because I think the main thing, and I’ll say this last point about what happened in, in any of these specific events, it’s not just that we see a bad cop do a bad thing because in every industry there is a bad person that does a bad thing. So you got a bad doctor who does a bad thing. You might have a bad hairdresser that does a bad thing, bad speakers, every industry you can’t fix bad things that individuals do. We can’t control in police individual behavior. The question is when that individual does a bad thing, is there any accountability for that individual? And I think what people are so outraged by is the continued bad things done by certain officers. AG: (37:06) And they rarely get in trouble. They rarely go to jail. The worst thing that happens to them is they lose their job. I mean, think about it. If you murdered somebody and the worst thing that happened to you is that you lost your job. Yep. That’s where is w where the outrage reviews until the conflict. How do we make sure that when bad things happen that we improve the process so they don’t ever have to happen again? Like if you take the airline industry, I’ll give you this, this example. Mmm. We rarely have plane crashes in the United States of America now 35 40 years ago we had a lot of plane crashes, but every time a plane crashes, the entire airline industry works like crazy to find out what happened, to make sure that it never happens again. Like we have four hijackers who crashed planes into buildings, into the Pentagon and nine 11 and there was nobody that was a Homeland security expert on September 10 2011 there was no Homeland security experts, not one. AG: (38:16) But after that day, the entire country, the entire government, every single person began to find a way to make sure this would never happen again. It doesn’t matter why it happened, how we let it happen, we want to investigate that and understand the facts of what led to it. But we’re going to do everything in our power and spend ungodly amounts of money and ungodly amounts of training and hiring new people and changing our processes so that it never happens again. And if we’re going to be good at solving problems when bad things happen or bad people happen, we got to figure out how do we prevent them from ever happening again. And when we don’t see that happening, that speaks to a larger challenge. RV: (39:03) I love that. That, and so, and I need to ask you this question specifically that that parallel is so good. Anton and I, I certainly, you know, even though I’m saying like, Hey, we got to find the facts and things are different in every city, I also very much empathize with when you see Rodney King all the way to where we are now and you see example after example, it’s like, Hey there, there certainly is evidence that there is, there are some systemic problems that need to be dealt with and people need to rally. But even to just know what you shared here of like go to the police chief, go to the mayor and also, you know what I’ve never seen as an article that recounts all of these instances. Yeah. What were the facts afterwards and then what happened to all the officers? RV: (39:50) Right. Like all in one place. You know, I’m thinking to myself like maybe that’s an article I should write is to go show people because once the facts have been revealed, justice should be served and it should be clear and Swift. But, but so anyways, that was so awesome. So much. This is so good. But hold on. I got it. Okay. So I have to ask you this question specifically as it relates to our audience and this, the theme of this podcast being personal branding. You, you’ve mentioned several times, examples of staying in your lane. You spent a part of your life as, as an activist and organizer and being on the streets. But now you’re saying you’re making an intentional choice to stay at home because of various, you know, considerations. Mmm. Do you feel like personal brands should be using their platform? RV: (40:42) Like if I teach yoga, should I be telling them, should I be taking my audience and telling them why racism is wrong? Should I be connecting? It should buy, should I be saying, Hey, that doesn’t, that’s not what my expertise is about. Like how do you balance? Yeah, because a platform is a sacred thing and audience is a sacred thing and the audience that you have didn’t necessarily show up for your opinion on everything that you’re not an expert on. But at the same time, we’re all people, we all have beliefs and as humans we are all in this together. And this, you know, Martin Luther King’s in an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, which I fully believe and support. Well, finding that balance between, so do you go, yeah. Tell people what you believe and even if it’s outside of your lane, but you’ve used that term stay in your lane. How do you, how do you find the line? AG: (41:33) Yeah, so, so I think the, the, the summary of how I would explain it and when, I mean stay in your lane is that Mmm, the best brands, the best personal brands are the people who are the most authentic that people connect to intimately. They just don’t know, Oh, what you want to teach them. They know who you are. Like I know who you two are. Okay, I don’t, you might teach me everything I want to know about being a personal brand, but I know who you are. I know how you met and how your relationship started and what you did before you were building a personal brand and your, your, your life story so to speak. So you can’t divorce yourself from who you are if you’re really building a strong personal brand. So my point is staying in your lane, if it’s something that is connected to who you are and what you do, then they find a way to connect it to what’s relevant. AG: (42:26) Because I think one of the things that you teach in personal branding is how do you, how do you take what you do as a personal brand and connected to what’s going on in the world and what people need. And so if you teach yoga, you don’t necessarily have to say racism is bad and that, you know, you know, police brutality is bad. You can say, I know everybody is stressed out right now and the world is stressed and we’re seeing bad things happen all around us. But yoga is a solution to get personal alignment in yourself so you can help get personal alignment in the work. So again, you’ve given some money to say, you know what, I never done yoga in my life, but if something can help me to get this tightness out of my neck because I’m angry at what happened in Minnesota or I’m angry about what happened last month and what happened last year, maybe this is a way that I should try that I haven’t tried before. So if I’m a yoga teacher, that might work, but not, maybe I don’t do anything related to yoga or I don’t run a fitness gym or maybe I teach karate or RV: (43:36) So, but to stick with the, to stick with the yoga thing, if I’m going to follow a yoga instructor. Do you think it’s important that the yoga instructor I’m following is sharing their personal viewpoints on abortion, women’s rights, politics, racism AJV: (43:52) For both of you here, like this is actually something we teach. We say once you know what your problem is, you answered all of the things, all of the questions that are happening in the world through the lens of the problem that you solved. AG: (44:04) Yes. AJV: (44:05) What is your unique lens on whatever the problem is that you saw? Like for me, my personal brain problem is irrelevant, right? I don’t speak on racism or discrimination. I don’t speak on gender equality. I don’t speak on those. But that doesn’t mean that my problem of irrelevance, it can’t be seen through the lens of all these things happening. Not to go out and say, here’s my opinions for the world to hear. But that doesn’t mean it’s not connected to who I am as a human being. Because the problem that I solve is connected to all of these things. It’s just how do you take what’s happening through the lens in which you see things as a personal brand. AG: (44:45) Yeah. So, so you agent you hit is something, and definitely Roy, I’m going to connect to that point. If you’re, if the problem you solve is irrelevance. There’s a lot of people who are feeling very irrelevant right now. Okay? Mmm. Women in the workplace feel irrelevant every day. So, so there, and that’s a problem. And so you can find a way to connect to it. But to Roy’s point about my views on abortion are my views on, you know, X, Y, and Z. My opinion is you don’t have to go there to go there. So like if, if I’m living my truth, if I’m being completely authentic, then it only takes one word or two words in Google, Google, gun and Obama. So you’d Google my name of Barack Obama’s name, then you know my position on healthcare issues, you know my position, well healthcare reform, you might know my position on how do we rebuild the economy, but you don’t know where I stand on abortion. AG: (45:47) You don’t know where I stand on gay marriage, you know where I stand on any of these issues. And those things are personal to me, but they haven’t been the full scope and scale of what I’ve done in my life. But again, if it’s connected to what you’ve done. So if you’re a yoga instructor who had an abortion and it caused you to go down this spiral dark hole in your life and the only thing that pulled you out was that you learned how to do yoga, then maybe it’s okay to connect the dots in that way. But that doesn’t mean you showing up at every abortion rally and trying to give keynote speeches around abortion in America because that’s not your lane. Your lane is yoga. Okay? But your personal story gives you a way to connect to what’s real. So I tell people to be authentic. AG: (46:39) And then the last piece of every influencer that if you got 50,000 Instagram followers or 150,000 or 5 million Instagram followers, I’m pretty sure your local elected official knows who you are. And if they don’t, they should know who you are. So if nothing else, you use your influence to say, Hey listen, I would like to meet with the mayor to understand what’s going on in our community and how it’s similar or different than what’s going on in another community. And so if you can get an education, just say, you know what, we haven’t had a case of police brutality in this city since the mid 1980s well that’s a good thing to say. You know what, this is happening in America and is wrong. But I’m very proud of my city because it’s not happening here. But you should never make that statement unless you know, never, ever, ever talk about what you don’t know because it will make people ask you questions that you can’t answer beyond the surface level. AG: (47:47) So to your point, Rory, doing some research around, you know, the last 25 years or 30 years of police encounters that ended in a death of a person of color and understanding how many it is because it’s, it’s much more than we got on video. I will tell you that much cause I’ve done that level of research. So, but no the answer and then say, Hey, this statistically is a problem and we should be doing something about it and I can’t fix the whole world. I can solve every other problem, but I can talk to the mayor of Nashville. Well I can talk to my city council member or my state legislator and understand what are we doing to prevent this from happening here? And if they give you an answer, be happy and be proud about that. That’s the main point. AJV: (48:36) Yeah. I so agree. And what are the, there was two things that happened over the weekend that prompted me to bring up this interview with Rory cause I really, I really like, I prayed about it hard because we had both been kind of like, okay, yep. What’s our role? Like what’s our role in this? And there was two things that happened over the weekend that I just felt like I thought literally was like, and this is the path for you [inaudible] stuff. The first thing was Whitney Hawthorne, who’s one of our brand builders clients, right? She’s awesome. She’s amazing. And she recently had her son, her second son. And you know, we have two boys and there really close in age. Like our boys are only a few months apart. Both of them. Yeah. [inaudible] She posted something really simple on social media about this newborn baby and however she drafted it, it made me think I will never [inaudible] [inaudible] the fear because she has, AG: (49:36) Do you want I just lost it. Yeah. I saw that post too. And know I think God every day that I had a daughter and a son, and it’s hard to, to, to fathom that to say, you know, you know, God gives you to get the children you want, whatever God gives you. Right. But when I had a daughter, there was an extra sense of relief in me that I didn’t have a son because I know what me and my brothers have gone through with our encounters with law enforcement. And I know that even as a 40 something year old man who’s lives in a suburban nice neighborhood, you know, professional got multiple degrees, I got a great career. Everything is going the way that I wanted to go. The moment I get in my car and just drive to the grocery store, if a cop pulls behind me, my entire physiology changes. AG: (50:44) I break out on a full sweat. I wonder, do I have my driver’s license? I wonder where’s my driver’s license? I don’t put it in my glove compartment. I literally keep it on the visor above my head because I don’t want to reach down or reach into the console and make it think that I’m doing something. I’ll throw my phone on the passenger seat because I don’t want him to think that I have anything in my hands. And so I don’t want to teach my daughter those kinds of things. Yeah. But unfortunately, there’ve been enough cases with women that I’m also having to teach my daughter because it’s happened to black girls too. It happened to Sandra bland. And so, so I don’t want any of this. And I know that there are a lot of people who will never understand this. And, and I, and I’ve been selling into a lot of my friends who I’m not black and no share my experience. AG: (51:36) I’ve been getting text messages from them and they literally have been, Mmm. I don’t know what to say. I want to help. I just want you to know I’m thinking about you and my response to them is that I appreciate you think it about me. I appreciate you caring about me and I appreciate you empathizing with my situation and [inaudible] and that’s all that I can ask you to do. And then if they ask me further, what is there anything I can do to help? I said that the one thing that I believe that you can do to help is you can talk about this because, and talk about this in a way that is, talk about this in places that I can’t go to talk about it. Okay. Mmm. You know, my pastor, I go to an a interracial church and my pastor is white and he is the founder of the church, is a massive church with more than 25,000 members. AG: (52:30) And when he was retiring and handing over the ministry to his son, he says, I’m going to spend the rest of my life in ministry, tearing down the walls of race in America, and particularly in church because Sunday is the most segregated day in America. And so I’m going to use my platform. I’m going to use my influence. I’m going to use my brand power to make sure that we tat on a Rosa wall’s race. And that didn’t mean doing anything visceral and violent. You know what that meant? That meant every time we invited a guest speaker to church, it was a speaker of color. And, and let them come in and preach to the congregation. It means standing up a diversity group and asking Anton to chair to diversity group, it meant going down to the city and asking the mayor, what are you doing to bring people together of color? AG: (53:23) And the mayor is going to respond to him because he’s the of a church with 25,000 people. So again, he didn’t step outside of his lane. He just started asking questions and talking about this in places that I couldn’t talk about it to people who wouldn’t give me the audience to talk about. So it doesn’t have to be big. It could just really be a conversation. No, to be clear, there’s some of us that got to give beyond the conversation because you can talk to somebody and they can continue to do the same behaviors over and over again. And then that means you got to move to the next level of how we change. And, and I think that is warranted where we are right now. But again, there’s so many people who are not talking about it. As I, as I teach the people who live in oblivion. AG: (54:06) Mmm. You know, I, I teach that in the social conscious construct, you got about half of people who are living in oblivion that they didn’t see anything that you saw that pricked your heart and mind and want to have this conversation. They never got a text or a message from their friends saying, why you aren’t saying anything. They just kind of, you know, a happy go lucky move in. And leave it to Beaver land or whatever, and they don’t see anything that’s 50% okay. Yeah. The 35% of them who sees something’s wrong, but they either don’t know what to say or they thank you, somebody else to this problem to solve or they say, little low me can’t do anything about it. And that’s understandable for time, but because you know better, you should know that there’s always something that you can do. The small baby steps lead to the bigger steps, but then there’s a smaller group of people about 10% who literally believe that they benefit emotionally, morally economically, politically from being, staying the way they are. AG: (55:17) Yeah. And we have to find a way to deal with those people, but those people are in the minority. Right. I listened to your podcast religiously, and so when you did the interview with Andy Andrews, and he talked a little bit about his book, how do you kill 11 million people? He pointed out in the book that at the height of the Nazi party, they were only eight and a half million of them when there were 80 million people in Germany. So you had this 10% minority that had control of an 80 million minority. So we got to stop the 10% wherever they are in business, in the world and wherever. But it’s so many more of us on the other side who can do the right thing, it should do the right thing. And that’s what I’m trying to teach is how to become a 5% leader. AG: (56:13) The admired leader who stands up for justice and there’s a laundry list of people, Dr. King Nelson Mandela, Margaret Thatcher, mother. These are people who says, you know what? I’m going to figure out what this problem is and I’m going to use my pulpit, my brand, my platform to figure out what I can do and what mother Teresa could do is not what Dr. King could do. So we’re all different. Well we got to stay in our lane and figure out what we can do to make a difference. And that’s what building the best brand is all about. RV: (56:46) Well you are a 5% leader and this has probably been one of the most enlightening conversations that I’ve had. Amen. And a really, really long that, and it’s just so helpful. I mean, just as a, as a friend Anton, to just hear your voice and hear your perspective on it. And I think it’s such a, a balance of what’s right and not who’s right and just doing what you can and not overstepping your bounds but standing for what is right. I’m just really, really graceful. We love you. We believe in you. Where should people go if they want to connect with you? I mean your, your brand is about leadership and like you, your, your voice man, like this is, this is why you’ve been through everything you’ve been through is like this time in the world right now I think lends itself to somebody just like you at just this moment. AG: (57:42) Well I really appreciate it and I agree. And if people want to connect with me, you can go to Anton Gunn. Com. That’s the home for all things. Anton, I’m on all social media platforms. I love Instagram, but LinkedIn is where I do the most dialogue around helping leaders be better leaders. So please follow and connect with me on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. But this is a time for all of us to learn how to grow as a leader and to have a greater impact and be the person who is the difference maker that makes the biggest difference. That’s what we all can do. RV: (58:17) Thank you, Anton. Thanks, buddy. Thank you.

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