Good Trouble

Over the weekend, we lost one of the last icons of the civil rights movement at a time when the energy around addressing structural racism has grown. John Lewis was an icon and a statesman whose legacy should be remembered for a long time. In the plethora of memorial writing that followed the unfortunate news, one quote emerged with the powerful concept of good trouble. Earlier this year, Representative Lewis invoked this phrase in Selma, Alabama.

Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.

Representative John R. Lewis

What does it mean to get in good trouble? I think it means to challenge the status quo in pursuit of the values the we hold and the world that we want to see. I think it means having the courage to act when unpopular and the creative audacity to suggest fresh ideas when the same old ones will do. I think it means to embody the playful spirit of the disrupter, the provocateur , skillfully manipulating the conversation to cut to the core of the issue, challenge thinking, and inspire new solutions.

It also occurs to me that the more comfortable we are, the more complacent, compliant, and complicit we tend to be toward the status quo. If we benefit from the system of injustice — as I have and do being a White male — it is risky to stir the boat. We may agonize over oppression in private conversations, attend a rally, or change our Facebook profile picture to display “Black Lives Matter” — but is this really what Lewis would describe as “trouble”?

Of course, this concept extends well beyond racism and civil rights. In every moment, we have the opportunity to either go with the flow or creatively disrupt it. Our business and personal selves could benefit from this willingness to mix things up. It’s a risk, but some things are worth risk for — and it is when we take those risks that we learn new things and accomplish what we previously only dreamed of.

Today, is a great day, in honor of John Lewis and all fellow troublemakers – past, present, and future — to create a little “good trouble” of your own.

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