How to stand up for what you believe in (with Luvvie Ajayi Jones) (Transcript)

How to Be a Better Human
How to stand up for what you believe in (with Luvvie Ajayi Jones) (Transcript)
October 24, 2022

[00:00:00] Chris Duffy:
You're listening to How to Be a Better Human. I'm your host, Chris Duffy. Today we're gonna get into trouble. If you are a rule-following goody two shoes like me, you might already be sweating just hearing that sentence, but don't worry. I understand. I was the kind of kid who would raise his hand in class and be like, “Excuse me, teacher, you forgot to give us our homework.”

You know, not exactly a rebel without a cause. I don't think anyone who's ever met me would describe me like that, but today's guest, Luvvie Ajayi Jones, she is the author of the books Rising Troublemaker, Professional Troublemaker, and I'm Judging You. Luvvie has convinced me that not only is causing some trouble once in a while okay, it's actually necessary. It's required. And Luvvie is a big believer in not letting fear talk us out of what we need to do or what we need. So on the question of whether you should speak up, whether you should make a little bit of trouble, Luvvie’s answer is yes. But don't worry, she has tips on how and when to do it responsibly, and how to conquer fear and avoid regret about not standing up for what's right.

To get us started, here's a clip from one of Luvvie’s TED Talks.

[00:01:10] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
I went skydiving. We're about to fall out the plane. I was like, “I've done some stupid things in life. This is one of them.” And then we come falling down to earth, and I literally lose my breath as I see Earth. And I was like, “I just fell out of a perfectly good plane on purpose. What is wrong with me?”

But then I looked down at the beauty and I was like, “This is the best thing I could have done. This is an amazing decision.” And I think about the times when I have to speak truth. It feels like I am falling out that plane. It feels like that moment when I'm at the edge of the plane and I'm like, “You shouldn't do this.”

But then I do it anyway because I realize I have to. Sitting at the edge of that plane and kind of staying on that plane is comfort to me. And I feel like every day that I'm speaking truth against institutions and people who are bigger than me and, and just forces that are more powerful than me. I feel like I'm falling outta that plane.

[00:02:07] Chris Duffy:
We're gonna have a whole bunch more with Luvvie right after this quick break, so hold on tight to your parachute, enjoy the view, and don't go anywhere. We will be right back after this.


And we are back. Today, we're talking about making trouble with author, speaker, and podcast host Luvvie Ajayi Jones.

[00:02:32] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Hey everyone. My name is Luvvie Jae Jones, #1 New York Times bestselling author, speaker, and podcast host who thrives at the intersection of humor, media, and justice.

[00:02:43] Chris Duffy:
In a lot of your work, in all of your books, and I've heard you talk about this, you've talked about how influenced you were by your grandmother growing up.

[00:02:50] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
My grandmother, she was unapologetic about taking up space. She was this older Nigerian stateswoman who walked in any room and felt like she belonged, and if she didn't, you never knew. She was so kind. She was deeply loved, but she was also stern. Like people knew her boundaries. People knew when she didn't like something.

She used her voice even in a room that felt difficult or new. And I realized that I was watching her as I grew up and kind of modeling myself after her because she was showing me the model of what it looked like to be an authentic person who is still deeply cherished and adored by the people around her.

So it really kind of taught me that you can be somebody who speaks her mind, who is confident, who takes up space. You can be somebody who shares what she loves, what she doesn't like, and still be valuable.

[00:03:47] Chris Duffy:
Something I was really struck by in Professional Troublemaker, one of your books, was you talk about how people are always asking you, like, “How did you get to be like this? How did you have this confidence to, to speak up and to take up space?”

And, and you say that this is how you've always been. I wonder, does it seem like a lot of that was shaped by, by family and by your grandmother's example? Or do you think there's just something inherent in you from the very beginning or you were always going to be like this?

[00:04:11] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
I think it's both. I talk about how I've always been this girl, because I remember who I was at five and six, and I've always been the one who would say something that she's thinking, even if it would get her in trouble. I was always the one who would say like, “That’s not fair” if I felt like something was not okay, even if I knew me saying that would get me in trouble.

But I also think the bravado and some of the confidence that I walk with is actually deeply cultural. Nigerians are very brave people. Very like, spicy, loud, and we do everything with such passion and energy and vigor. You know, I think Nigeria's a country that's full of people who've had to be like that to make it out or to find success, like the culture asks of you to take up space to be heard.

[00:05:00] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
You cannot be the most quiet person in the room and expect to be seen in Nigeria. It's just not gonna happen. So I just think culturally we're also a people who've had to be this loud and brash and, and bold to be seen. So I think all of that definitely plays into how I became this girl.

But I also think, I mean, there’s that innate piece of us too, because I'm the baby of the family, but I'm also the loudest, like yeah, this boldness of mine, like my sister is like, “You have no chill.” So even though she's also Nigerian, she is not as bold as I am. So I think a part of that is also innate. There's some, some piece of us that we are born with, right?

[00:05:40] Chris Duffy:
You already brought up the idea of trouble. And you wrote the book, Professional Troublemaker. You wrote Rising Troublemaker. Yeah. I know that this is a big thing for you is even for people who aren't maybe innately as comfortable starting some trouble and, and being loud and taking a place, you really believe that this is important and that people need to be learning how to do this and practicing doing this and building this muscle.

[00:06:02] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Absolutely. So when I talk about professional troublemaking, you know, rising troublemaking, whatever troublemaking is, for me, it really reflects somebody who is insisting on elevating the world that she's in, the rooms that she's in. I think to live in a deeply unjust world with all these systems, and we're seeing all these different dumpster fire situations, to make trouble is to be somebody who's trying to fix that.

It's trying to go against the status quo. So, you know, raising your hand and flagging it does look like trouble if that's what people know. So I think to be a troublemaker is to actively try to make something better than you found it. So, I think people hear trouble making and they think about the person who's the contrarian or the troll, or the person who's just throwing bombs in a random room and just making the room uncomfortable randomly.

[00:06:53] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
But I, I actually kind of flag that and say: a troublemaker is a person who knows that what they have to say might make the room uncomfortable, but they're not doing it simply because they wanna make them uncomfortable. They wanna actually fix what's happening, you know? So they're the person who might challenge your uncle for making a bad joke at dinner.

They are the coworker who challenges a bad idea in a meeting or, or, or a campaign idea. They're the friend who says, you know, “Let's have a more thoughtful conversation.” Or, you know, “Things have been tough between us. We should have a really tough conversation about this.” And I think troublemakers take action.

[00:07:29] Chris Duffy:
It's interesting, ‘cause hearing that definition of trouble, it makes me wonder: what is the opposite of trouble in your mind? Like what's someone who's not a troublemaker?

[00:07:40] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Apathy, silence, inaction is the opposite of trouble. You know, when we look around—oh, even helplessness. When we look around and go, “Yeah, everything sucks.” And then you think you have zero power to make any impact in any room. That's the opposite of trouble, and I think that's what a lot of people do. You know, they give their power away by thinking “Well, it's not for me to do” or, “Yeah, no, I can't do anything about it, so I'm just gonna sit here.” I think that's how we find ourselves in a dumpster fire world is when enough of us don't realize that we're supposed to be making trouble. We're supposed to be trying to figure out the ways that you can make the room, not even the world better, the room that you are in, in what ways are you making it better?

[00:08:25] Chris Duffy:
I hadn't ever thought of the idea of apathy as being the, the opposite of trouble. And it, it, what it makes me think when you're describing all the, you know, the dumpster fires of our world, it's interesting because there are obviously people who disagree with me, who want me to be apathetic, right?

So like, if it's racial justice, there's people who are fighting actively to create more racial divisions. If it's climate change, there's people who deny that it even exists.

[00:08:49] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Yeah. Correct.

[00:08:50] Chris Duffy:
Apathy also comes from people who agree with me, who are just like “Climate's changing. There's nothing anyone could do, right? We might as well just give up. Racial injustice has existed forever. There's nothing that we can do about it.” And I think sometimes that can be the hardest apathy to fight. Is the person who on some level agrees with you and then is telling you that there's nothing that can be done? So what do you do when you encounter those?

[00:09:13] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
First of all, that's deeply frustrating because at least your opponents, you know where they stand, you know what their point is. They’re fighting for what they also deeply believe in. So you're like, “All right, at least we're both fighting.” The person who's apathetic is the person who literally makes zero difference, who has said, “The world that I live in is completely out of my control, and nothing I do, good or bad, can affect how anything is moving.”

I don't know how people like that actually move through the world and get outta bed. Here's why: part of the reason why troublemaking is so important is because, honestly, it gives you some purpose, and it actually gives you a bit of hope to say, “You know what, I'm gonna. I don't know if it's gonna work, but it might.”

[00:09:57] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
The person who's apathetic is like, “Nope, there's nothing I can do. So why even get outta bed?” I think, you know, our lives as human beings are defined by the purposes that we walk with. You know that there's a reason why when people, sometimes they say, like, when people sometimes retire, they will deteriorate health-wise because they have nothing else to accomplish.

So for us as human beings, especially when we're young, if we are existing in the world and thinking we have nothing to accomplish, that, that we can't help fix something that's happening around us, I don't know how we get outta bed. So when I encounter people like that, I challenge 'em.

[00:10:34] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
In what ways can you make a difference in the room? That's why I say the room, not even the world. ‘Cause when you think about the problems with the world, they feel really big, right? You're like, “Yeah, I can't solve racism. I can't solve patriarchy and misogyny. I cannot solve sexual violence.” No, you cannot. However, in the room that you are in, you can call out a bad joke.

You can make sure that your black or brown coworker doesn't get dinged with the quarterly review that says they're not a team player because they don't send out emojis in emails. You can make sure that if you're a teacher, that your black student is not getting sent to the principal simply because they need to be challenged more.

[00:11:15] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
So that's why I say like the, the apathy of it all is actually more dangerous than we understand because when we look at history's toughest moments, there's usually a handful of bad guys, and then there's everybody else. But the problem is that everybody else gives away their power, so the bad guys win. So we give away our power by numbers. We give away our power of organizing, and then we look up and go, “Oh my God, how did that all happen?”

Because you set it out. So when we give away our power with inaction, what we're saying is, “I don't matter.” And I always ask people to consider the following question, “Will my inaction convict me?” You know, when you walk out of any room that you are in, where you could have done something, where you could have said something, and somebody asks you like, “What did you do?”

And you say nothing. In that moment, you just said, “I did zero to be of help.” So I want people to reflect on the question of “will my inaction or my silence convict me?” And if the answer is yes, you should probably speak up or take some action.

[00:12:28] Chris Duffy:
So many of the things that I regret are not really things that I've done and went badly. But when I didn't do things or when I think back and like think, “Oh, I wish I had said something, I wish I had done something in that moment. And that's where you really can't go back and change it, you know?”

[00:12:42] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Yes. Regret, honestly, that is a great point to make. Regret is often from inaction. Most people are, are like, “Oh yeah, I tried that thing. It didn't work.” You don't really have a regret about it. But so many people have stories of, ah, that study abroad program I didn't go to. That time I did not go on that date with that person. That time that I did not apply for that job. Inaction is what causes regret. I, I would rather live a life of. “Oh, well, I tried” than “What if I had tried?” I wanna always be the person that's like, “Yep. No, I, I tried it. I did. I did my part. It fell however way it was supposed to fall, but at least I did my part.”

[00:13:25] Chris Duffy:
Well, I'm already sold on not being an apathetic bystander and wanting to be a troublemaker. I can't imagine that someone could listen to what you've said so far and not be sold on that. So, yeah, what does it look like? How do you become a troublemaker?

[00:13:36] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
So, I'm actually so glad that you brought up bystander. The bystander effect is really real. It's the idea that the more we think everybody else is gonna do something, the less we're likely to do something. So we end up thinking, “Oh, somebody's getting attacked. Everybody's gonna call 911. I don't need to call 911.”

Nobody calls 911 because everybody thought everybody else was gonna do it. So that's ultimately something to walk with, to know that when constantly handing over that baton to other people or giving away that power in a real way. So how do you start making trouble?

[00:14:11] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Well, how do you stop being just a bystander? It's with the clear idea and clear conviction that honestly, it's not about you changing the world or making $30,000 donations or necessarily donating 80 hours of your time at a soup kitchen or posting on social media like, “Oh my God, Black Lives Matter.” It is in the, when I say the room, I mean the actual room.

In what ways are you fixing what's happening that is tangible to you? In what ways are you talking to the people that you know in real life and challenging them? Your aunts, your uncles, your coworkers? In what ways are you making sure that while you are present, what is happening is something that you'll be proud of?

[00:14:54] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
You’ll walk away saying, “I am glad that I was there, or that, what happened in that room? I can put my name next to it with glee and pride.” So how you start being a troublemaker is in everyday life. Like I think every day we, there are moments where we're being called to being brave.

Because here's the thing is like, fear is a big part of why we don't make trouble, or why we're quiet, why we are apathetic, because we're afraid of rejection, we're afraid of getting it wrong. We're afraid of saying the wrong thing. We're afraid of looking stupid. Whatever the reasons are, it usually has a fear attached to it. But I wanna talk about how like the fear is natural because we don't have the practice.

[00:15:34] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
You know, it's a strange thing to have to speak up in a room where everybody else agrees with this one thing and you are the only person who doesn’t. It's scary. It's not, it's not easy. And even for me who's been a lifelong troublemaker, it's still scary for me in certain times, ‘cause sometimes the stakes are higher.

But how you start making trouble is you start figuring out the moments when you feel uncomfortable because you know what's happening is not okay. And then instead of letting the moment pass, you actually take yourself outside of that fear and say, I'm gonna do it anyway. I'm gonna say something anyway.

[00:16:01] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
So yeah, the next time somebody makes that inappropriate joke that everyone just nervously giggles about, finding a way to say, “Hey, like, what do you actually mean by that?” You know, where is that coming from? Asking questions is actually a great way to make trouble. ‘Cause when you ask questions, people have to clarify what they were doing and they either have to double down or walk it back.

So if you, if somebody makes, makes a bad joke in your, in your presence and you say, “Hmm. Explain that to me. I don't get it.” And they now have to explain that joke. They'll probably catch themselves and go, “Mm, okay.”

So you start making trouble by being aware of those moments, by asking more questions.” And by just knowing that the fear does not mean “Stop.” The fear is saying, “I am in a space that feels unfamiliar, and it's a chance for you to kind of grow, so you can always choose the courage of moving forward. Say something.”

[00:17:03] Chris Duffy:
Okay. I'm not gonna lie, this is gonna be a little scary for me, Right? The idea of making it uncomfortable in a room, of calling things out, even just by asking, ooh, that does not come naturally to me, but I get it. I, I get how important this is. I'm, I totally see that. I need to make more trouble in my life.

I need to build those muscles. So I'm gonna take a second to mull this over, and I hope that everyone who's listening at home will take a second too. And we are gonna take a quick ad break, and then we'll be right back with more from Luvvie.


And we are back. One of the things that I admire so much about Luvvie's work and her advice is how she's able to take big, intimidating issues and make them feel so accessible. Here's a metaphor that I absolutely love from one of Luvvie's TED Talks.

[00:17:56] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
I want us to leave this world better than we found it. And how I choose to affect change is by speaking up, by being a first, and by being the domino. For a line of dominoes to fall, one has to fall first, which then leaves the other choiceless to do the same, and the domino that falls, we’re hoping that, okay, the next person that sees this is inspired to be a domino.

Being the domino for me looks like speaking up and doing the things that are really difficult, especially when they're needed, with the hope that others will follow suit. And here's the thing. I'm the person who says what you might be thinking but dare not to say. And a lot of times people think that we're fearless. The people who do this, we're fearless.

We're not fearless. We're not unafraid of the consequences or the sacrifices that we have to make by speaking truth to power. What happens is we feel like we have to because there are too few people in the world willing to be the domino. Too few people willing to take that.

[00:19:04] Chris Duffy:
You know, I don't think of myself as a particularly brave person. I certainly am so afraid of people being mad at me and social consequences. And yet I have really learned that if you just try it small in a low-stakes way, you build the muscle a little bit and it gets every single time. Partly because if you're like me, you imagine that the consequences are gonna be way worse than they actually are in practice.

[00:19:26] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:

[00:19:27] Chris Duffy:
And you don't imagine the rewards are how good you'll feel after you've done something.

[00:19:32] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Yeah, so that's a great point. Truthtelling is a muscle. I actually put that on the back of Professional Troublemaker. Truthtelling is a muscle. What happens is because we've, we've lived in a society that has, you know, prioritized harmony over truth or justice, we haven't had the practice, right? Our muscle is atrophied in that way, so we now have to build it back up, which is why it’s a conscious decision.

Courage is not a personality, right? Truthtelling is not a personality trait. You, you're not just born and you're all of a sudden brave. It's a choice. It's conscious decisions that you make to go past the thing that feels scary and do it anyway.

[00:20:12] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
It is a conscious choice to say, “You know what? I understand that consequences could come, but I'm gonna go for it anyway.” Now here's the thing about the consequences. We often think it's gonna be this apocalyptic scenario that's gonna happen from us speaking up. Oh God, my life will be ruined. Oh my uh, I'm gonna lose my job—

[00:20:30] Chris Duffy:
You’re inside my brain.

[00:20:31] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Oh my God, all my friends will hate me. But it is never that deep, like if you speaking up in a meeting, for example, and, and thoughtfully challenging the campaign idea, gets HR to fire you. First of all, that's clearly not a company that deserves your gifts, because my gosh, that's an extreme response. But we're often thinking about that worst-case scenario, and then we're foregoing the thought and the chance of a best-case scenario, which is often more likely than the worst-case scenario.

So I always want us to, like, weigh what you're afraid of. What are the actual fears? Are you just afraid of the room being uncomfortable? Because you know, that’s temporary. Are you afraid of, you know, being shunned by your coworkers? Which, that's kind of weird. What is the actual fear? And oftentimes it is just a discomfort that we don't wanna deal with.

But again, everything is temporary, including that discomfort. So understanding and being very logical about it. I'm a very pragmatic person, so I'm like, you know what, even in the, in the toughest scariest moments? Fine. Start quantifying your situation. What am I afraid of? Okay. What's the worst-case scenario? Okay. Is that likely? No. All right. Let's say somehow the apocalyptic scenario happens. Is your life actually ruined?

[00:21:46] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
So I, that's why I also say, like, the truth-telling, the trouble-making of it all, it needs to come from those of us who have more power, right? I'm not expecting the person who's living paycheck to paycheck to be the one challenging their management.

You know, the person who's getting $10 an hour and has to raise their kids on a salary that really barely feeds them. I don't expect that person to be the one putting things on the line. But the rest of us who sit in ivory towers who are listening to these podcasts, for example, like if you are a podcast listener, you'll probably over-index in education, in class, in disposable income. You have power. You have privilege.

So those of us who can listen to podcasts, we are the ones who gotta be putting some power on the line because others who don't have as much power as we do, they're suffering because of the ways that the world moves. They're suffering way more than we are. So we gotta start putting that to practice. So we don't really have crazy high stakes that we think we do in all these different scenarios. So yeah, use that muscle of courage. Use that true-telling muscle. Push yourself past the thing that feels scary and uncomfortable, and do it because it's more important than your fear.

[00:23:00] Chris Duffy:
Hmm. I know that I've heard you talk about how you think there's three questions that someone should ask themselves when they're considering whether or not this is a real moment where they should make some trouble, where they should go against the grain and say something.

[00:23:12] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
I think about the moments when I wanna speak up and making sure I check myself also, ‘cause this is not about just keeping it real going wrong. This is about being thoughtful, being intentional, being focused about what you wanna say. And the three questions that I ask myself is: Do I mean it? Can I defend it? Can I say thoughtfully?

So do I mean it? I'm not just speaking up because I wanna hear my voice being, like, in the room. You know, can I defend it if I'm challenging something and it comes and gets challenged? Can I give my justification and then can I say thoughtfully? You know, the way that I say it matters. Now it doesn't mean that my thoughtful is somebody else's thoughtful, but if I at least try to be as thoughtful as I know how it's risk mitigation, it doesn't mean everybody's gonna love what I say, but at least I'm trying to honor myself and them by taking the time to say it in a way that feels kind.

So if the answer is yes to all three: Do I mean it? Can I defend it? Can I say it thoughtfully? I say it and I let the chips fall and then, um, yeah, I know I've done my part.

[00:24:16] Chris Duffy:
One of the things that I'm curious about though, is certainly being labeled as a troublemaker. It is loaded for certain people in different ways than it is loaded for other people. So like for example, for me as a straight white college-educated man, being called a troublemaker is like a, a brand of honor, right? But there's a long history of black women being labeled trouble makers and that limiting their professional or social mobility. How do you think about like owning the term troublemaker while also not letting it be limiting to you as, as a black woman, when that is a loaded term for a black woman?

[00:24:54] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
So you're definitely spot on in that there's, there's some people who have more privilege to be able to be called troublemaker, and I also think that's kind of the power of me owning that title because I think about how I get paid to go into companies internally and you know, have these conversations and talk about culture and talk about, you know, in what ways are they celebrating the troublemakers? And I think about how people will applaud me and cheer me on, and then, I'm always like, “But in what ways are you silencing the troublemakers who are internal, who look like me?”

In what ways are those people not given voice when I'm paid to come and do this thing? In what ways are they not being honored when you're cheering me on? For me as a black woman, it was really important to write Professional Troublemaker because I'm like, I know the margins that I'm on. Black woman immigrant.

[00:25:57] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
But I also know that because of my career, because of my visibility, now I also have all these other pieces of privilege that allow me to speak in a certain way without consequence. I wanna normalize somebody who looks like me showing up as exactly who they are, being excellent at their work, and making the best type of trouble.

You know, I think about the late great John Lewis who said, “Let's be ready to make necessary good trouble.” For black women who are in corporate who have to deal with, yeah, the, the trouble-making label, and it dings them on their annual reports and their quality reviews. They don't get promoted because of it.

[00:26:35] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
I’m hoping I exist in a way that allows their lives to start getting easier. I'm hoping that by me really encouraging and showing people that like being challenged, you don’t… you’re not being indicted by being challenged, and you actually need those troublemakers in your companies ‘cause they make sure you do your best work.

I am hoping that my presence affirms them. I just really want I, I want more white men, especially who are in leadership positions, to start feeling convicted about the ways and the conscious, the unconscious bias that they're walking with that have allowed them to put things like “aggressive” in somebody's annual report.

You know what I mean? Or, or, yeah. “Not a team player” or people who have gotten called to HR because they wore locs to work, you know? So, yeah, I'm always hoping that somebody hears me, feels convicted to do something different and think differently about the ways you’re moving through this world. And I'm hoping that for people who look like me, for other black women, I'm hoping that my presence actually does help normalize how we show up in these different spaces.

[00:27:44] Chris Duffy:
And if you're someone who's at a company or in an organization or you know, in a space of any kind, who's feeling like, “I'm trying to bring my whole authentic self, I'm trying to challenge things. And I am feeling like it's not regarded as a positive.” What, what advice do you have to those people?

[00:28:01] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
I see them and I hear them, and honestly, frankly, I can't tell them to do anything different ‘cause they're honoring themselves and trying to honor the company.

What I'm hoping selfishly is that I'm recruiting more professional troublemakers so that that person is not the only one in the room. So I wanna recruit more people to be able to be the folks in the room who backs up that person or who says, “You know what, you right. I've been quiet this whole time, I'm gonna start speaking up and, and I haven't felt good about being quiet.”

[00:28:26] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
‘Cause here's the other thing, a lot of people who haven't used their voice, they don't feel good about it. So I want you to start feeling good about your presence in that room. And I want that person who is like, “Yeah, like I am in the company and they do ding me for it.” I want that person to start feeling seen, heard, affirmed, protected, backed up, as opposed to what happens.

What typically happens is like they get out the meeting and somebody walks up to them, “Oh my God, I'm so glad you said that.” That's a micro-appreciation. Nobody needs it. It's a, it's an annoyance. It's frustrating to be like, “So you could have just said that in the room? You waited until nobody was listening or watching to give me kudos when I could have used your social currency.” That is frustrating.

[00:29:09] Chris Duffy:
Assuming that you have the ability and the privilege to be able to leave and, and leave that organization or that company or that space. Yeah. How do you find, like, that line where you're like, “Okay, this, like I've spoken up and I've said my piece and they're still not… this is not the right place for me.” Uh, when, when does that line come for you?

[00:29:26] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
When you actually get to the point where you feel like your voice has zero impact in the room. When you feel like “I do say things all the time, they never take it.” Or, you know, “I don't get invited to something because of it.” When you feel like your power has been nullified, it's probably time to go because then you'll get to the point of helplessness, which is a terrible part to get to.

It becomes hard to get up and go to work ‘cause you're like, “Why am I even doing this?” I think before you get to that point, if you've done it over and over and over again and it, it's not working and you don't feel valued and you don't feel respected, it's probably time to go. So yeah.

[00:30:07] Chris Duffy:
You are very willing to be self-critical and to look. And to say like, all the things that are ridiculous about the world that you live in. In particular, one thing I'm thinking of is there's a, there's a very funny chapter in your book where you talk about people who've become famous online, and you talk about like the differences of like, you meet someone at a party and how different they are from their online persona.

I admire the way that you are willing to pierce the things that sometimes people put up on these big pedestals and to say like, “Look, no one is perfect. All of these places have all sorts of problems.”

[00:30:39] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Absolutely. Before you can tell the truth to the world, you gotta be able to tell the truth to yourself. I know all my flaws. I can list them out more than anybody else. I know all the ways in which I fall short and continue to fall short. I will disappoint you. This is a guarantee. I will at some point, somehow, falter in your eyes. Expect that of me. Because if you don't expect that of me when it comes, you'll be shocked. But I'm not an expert at anything else because there's always room for me to grow.

I'm always in the space. I'm a forever student. I'm always trying to find ways to be better because listen, I'm a hot mess. I'm a hot mess. And to be human is to be a hot mess. And when we don't admit that we're saying we're above everybody else. I'm above nobody. So I just share what I know to be true for me, and I'm hoping that, um, people never let that diminish my humanity because they have put me on some sort of high ground.

[00:31:32] Chris Duffy:
So if someone is listening to this and they're feeling like, “Okay, I'm gonna, I'm ready. I've been scared to do this, I'm gonna give myself the grace. I'm gonna try and embody some of this good troublemaking. What are some of the, the small ways that you think someone should start? Like what are the first things that people should do on this?

[00:31:47] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
First thing one, is there somebody that you need to have a tough conversation with that you have not because you've been putting it off, or you just like, “Oh, I'm just gonna let it go”? You should probably have that conversation. Start there. Like even start there… It might be a friend, it might be a partner, it might be your kids, something. You know, just kind of… finding the ways in which the truth in that moment can be helpful. You know, so I think that's even a great way to start. And then, you know, for work, the next meeting that happens where y'all are brainstorming, and people are talking about ideas, an idea that comes up that you don't love?

Raise your hand. You don't have to say, “I don't like it.” You can say, “Hey, I’d love for us to think about this a little bit. Can we consider this?” You know, you, you can use soft language even as you're being a troublemaker. You can, you can still be very thoughtful, even as you are making a room uncomfortable. And honestly, the room being uncomfortable is not your fault or your business.

Don't worry about controlling the room's emotions. Just do your part and then everything else, is not up to you. How people receive it is not your business. Yeah. Just figure out the ways that you can honor yourself more and honor the people who are around you. And I think no room has true harmony. When truth is exist—it doesn't exist in it. So like in the absence of truth, there is no harmony.

[00:33:11] Chris Duffy:
You wrote this book, Rising Troublemaker, your most recent book that, that’s for young people. And, if someone's listening to this and they're a parent, or they're a teacher, or they're a school administrator, right? It's kind of an unusual dynamic to try and encourage some young person to make trouble when you're a person who's often associated with enforcing the rules or even making the rules.

What advice do you have for parents or teachers or people working in education for walking that boundary between like encouraging young people to be troublemakers, to speak up, to challenge the status quo while also being in the position of power and enforcing those? How? How do you walk dynamic?

[00:33:45] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
So it actually is supposed to help parents and teachers because I want you to be able to give this to your students or your teenagers, and say, “Okay, if you are the kid that's being very mouthy in, in class, I want you to actually use that in a different way. Let's have you join the debate club. You know, I wanna make sure that you know that even though in class I need you to be a little bit more quiet, just so you, it's not disruptive to the rest of the room. But I'm encouraging your gift of words.”

I want parents and teachers and trusted adults to feel like this book supports what they're trying to do, which is infuse these young people with confidence, with thoughtful boldness, and with the thing that allows them to doubt themselves less so they become the adults who don't spend their twenties trying to re-find who they are, you know? So I'm excited about, you know, how it's landed so far. It's gotten such love.

[00:34:37] Chris Duffy:
This show's called How to Be a Better Human. So what is one way in which you are trying to be a better human?

[00:34:44] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Mm. One way that I'm always trying to be a better human is that I recognize that there is no courage in the absence of fear, and that in the moments when I am most scared, I am not being told to just sit back and be quiet.

It's typically a trigger for me to figure out why the moment makes me uncomfortable, and then figure out whether this is a growth opportunity that I need to take. So it's an understanding that like, yeah, some of the times that I've spoken up have been the scariest moments for me, but I've chosen courage in those times and has made all the difference, and that's why I'm here.

[00:35:24] Chris Duffy:
And last question. What is one thing—it can be a book, a movie, a piece of music, a person, a quote, can be anything—that has helped you to be a better human in your life?

[00:35:34] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Mm. One thing, a book, a person, a quote, You know, a person. I will say Toni Morrison has allowed me to be a better human because Toni Morrison's work and her writing centered the black girl experience, and I think she gave me permission to be the writer that I am in the way that I am. And I've quoted her in all my books so far.

[00:36:02] Chris Duffy:
Well, Luvvie, thank you so much for being on the show. It was an absolute pleasure to talk to you.

[00:36:06] Luvvie Ajayi Jones:
Thank you so much for having me, Chris. These questions were amazing. Like you had me digging deep. I'm like, aw snap. Yeah. Come on. Better human. Yes.

[00:36:17] Chris Duffy:
That is our show for today. Thank you so much for listening to How to Be a Better Human. I am your host Chris Duffy. Our guest today was the incredible Luvvie Ajayi Jones. You can find her books, her podcast, and so much more at her website, That's L U V V I E dot org. Our show is brought to you on the TED side by Sammy Case, Jimmy Gutierrez, Anna Phelan, Erica Yuen, and Julia Dickerson, who all put “professional troublemaker” down as their occupation when they file their taxes. And you know what? They get audited every single year, but it does not stop them.

From Transmitter Media, we are brought to you by Gretta Cohn and Farrah Desgranges, who both went to get their astrology charts read and found out, guess what? They’re rising troublemakers.

And from PRX, Jocelyn Gonzales and Patrick Grant, who as far as I can tell, always confront their fears and ask the hard questions like, “Did you write the credits, Chris? Are you going to write the credits, Chris? And where are those credits, Chris?”

Thanks most of all to you for listening to our show. Thank you so much for your support. It means so much to us. You are the reason we get to keep making this show. Please share our show with a friend. Leave us a positive rating or review and help us spread the word. We'll be back with more episodes for you next week.