Leadership Lessons From The Great Books

Leadership Lessons From The Great Books #108 - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
00:00 Welcome and Introduction - Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
02:00 Catching Up With Tom Libby.
05:29 Their Eyes Were Watching God - Chapters 1-4 Summary.
08:00 The Literary Life of Zora Neale Hurston.
13:08 The Impact of Dialects and Language on Leadership.
15:00 Their Eyes Were Watching God - Chapters 5-9 Summary.
19:29 Hurston, Eatonville, and The Way We Talk.
21:00 Insights About Leadership and Competency.
23:30 Hurston's Research and Impact of Ethnographic Studies.
30:38 Hurston and the Truth of Life.
32:00 The Evolution of a Class-Based Life in African-American Culture.
35:35 Narrative Stratification from Hurston.
38:59 Zora Neale Hurston's Writing is Relateable and Timeless.
47:58 Leadership Education, DEI, and Workshops.
49:43 Leaders Maintain Principles.
53:00 Their Eyes Were Watching God - Chapters 9-12 Summary.
58:47 Janie's Marriage.
01:00:42 Men Die Early in Novels Written by Women.
01:05:17 Who Can Serve?
01:11:43 Family Size, Birth Order, and Leadership Success.
01:16:17 Birth Order Influences Career Paths.
01:21:11 Challenges to Racial Identity in African-American Communities.
01:27:22 Staying on the Leadership Path with Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston.
Opening and closing themes composed by Brian Sanyshyn of Brian Sanyshyn Music.

Creators & Guests

Jesan Sorrells
CEO of HSCT Publishing, home of Leadership ToolBox and LeadingKeys
Thomas Libby
Leadership Toolbox
The home of Leadership ToolBox, LeaderBuzz, and LeadingKeys. Leadership Lessons From The Great Books podcast link here: https://t.co/3VmtjgqTUz

What is Leadership Lessons From The Great Books?

Because understanding great literature is better than trying to read and understand (yet) another business book, Leadership Lessons From The Great Books leverages insights from the GREAT BOOKS of the Western canon to explain, dissect, and analyze leadership best practices for the post-modern leader.

Hello. My name is Jesan Sorrells, and this is the Leadership

Lessons from the Great Books podcast, Episode number

108. Let me look at my my notes here.

With our book today, a

story that represents what I think is

the height of what a novelist trained in the space of

anthropology and anthropological research and a master

of deep linguistic understanding can do with her

writing talent at the height of her power.

This author, based it in the culture of the post civil

war and Jim Crow South, never once renounced her

past or allowed her past to define the direction of

her talent or the focus of her life, much

to the dismay of many of her literary peers

at the time. Her most famous quote

from many famous quotes is as follows.

Quote, sometimes I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me me

angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any

deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond

me. And, quote, but

I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed

up in my soul nor lurking behind my eyes. I do

not mind at all, close

quote. Today, we will be

feasting and focusing and talking about the ins and the

outs of one of what I think is one of the most important

novels by any female author of the

early 20th century, including, Virginia Woolf,

Catherine Ann Porter, Pearl Buck, who we've all covered on this podcast,

and, of course, many others. 1930 seven's

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora

Neale Hurston. Leaders,

take a stand for principles, but also know where you came from.

Of course, as usual, we will be joined in our conversation

today by our regular co host, Tom Libby. How are you

doing, Tom? Every day is a good day,

Jesan. I've just I'm doing very well. So

Tom just, came came traversing back from a

college graduation. That was both exciting and

enlightening for him. So congratulations to his daughter for

graduating graduating college. By the way, what degree Sorrells

she attained, if you don't mind us asking or might be asking?

She has a, she just got her bachelor's in

psychology with a minor in Native American studies.

Alright. Psychology and Native American studies. Okay. So in other

words, she's gonna be able to help out our family a lot because we need

a lot of psychological help. And then she cheated on getting a minor because a

minor in Native American studies was basically, like I mean, she could've done it with

her eyes closed and walking backwards. It was not even a challenge.

It was an unfair she had an unfair advantage. Advantage. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And she

had a she was a ringer in that class. Exactly. So

alright. Well no. But but that'll be good. So is she gonna go into therapy,

or is she gonna just sort of stay in a readers, or she just she

not decided yet? So I because

there's so much of the past. Yeah. There's a lot of it depends going on.

Let I'll just put it that way because she doesn't wanna go into therapy

from a standpoint of the way she words it, I really

just cannot sit and listen to people complain about their lives for 8 hours a

day. She goes, because half the time, I'll just wanna I'll just wanna tell

them words I can't say as a therapist. Sure.

She goes, but that doesn't mean that I wouldn't look at

therapy from, like, people who, like, really so she we have a we have a

state mental hospital that is relatively close by our our

house that she thinks that she might wanna at least start with because people

who are actually mentally ill and are hospitalized due to mental

illness Mhmm. That is interesting to her and try to try to help

those people versus people just complaining about their day, complaining about their job,

complaining about their wife or husband. She goes, that stuff is just not

relevant enough for her to worry about. So she was thinking and

fourth readers your point, to your to your statement a second ago, or

research is really intriguing to her, but she knows if she goes into

research that this bachelor's degree is not gonna be worth anything. She has to go

back and, and actually even a master's degree in

research in psychology research, even a master's degree is not,

is not really even worth anything. She has to go back for a PhD in

order to do that. So there's a lot of it depends going on right now.

I think she's just happy to be done with this part of it, and,

I think she's just gonna wanna go do something until she figures it out. Yeah.

Absolutely. Well, congratulations to her. We've minted one

more bachelor's degree holder in, the United States of

America. Yay for us. This is this

is the the time of year when we, when we do

meet them all, we do churn them all out. And,

you know, book. One of the books they should be reading, whether they

are graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology, or they are a

mere humanities major like myself, or even if they, you

know, didn't go to college, right, is,

is their eyes were watching God. I I, I was telling Tom before

we, hit the record button on this

sucker for today, that, I probably should have

read this book, like, 10 years ago, and I didn't read

it because well, because of my own personal biases and

prejudices around

reading different interpretations of Zora Neale

Hurston's, work, and quite frankly her life and her

her artistic choices, without having the full context of

the background of who she was, which we'll get into today on the podcast, and

what she was seeking to accomplish with her work, which I think has relevance

around it. This is why I said leaders have to have Sorrells, I think

there's relevance around that that position or not position,

that posture towards principles. And so where this

ties into to Tom's newly minted graduating daughter is

that it's a good idea to figure out your principles before you go off and

take a position on anything. You know?

And so I would recommend more of that for folks in general

in our country today. So opening

with their eyes were watching god. Now,

this book was published initially,

as I said, in 1937. Currently,

the copyright it was renewed in 1965.

And, the the copyright is, for this edition is owned

by HarperCollins Publishers, and so we will not be reading directly

from the book. Instead, what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna sort of do a

spark notes overall summary. I'm going to point

out some salient

high points from the book. I'm gonna encourage you to get it.

Go out and buy it. Go out and read it. And then I'm going to

gonna make some comments, and and Tom and I are gonna have some discussion about

what leaders can take, from the work of

Fourth Neale Hurston. So the book

opens with, Janie, and, and

we meet the character Turning,

with the line, and I and I think I can I can

successfully or or safely read this line? It is the first line of their eyes

are watching god, and it does tie into, what happens to

her much later towards the end of the book. But it is and it

is an iconic line that opens up this, this novel.

It says ships at a distance have every man's wish on board.

For some, they come in with the tide. For others, they sail forever on the

horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the watcher turns his

eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked by

death mocked to death by time. That is the life

of men. So we start off very

soberly, and we meet

Janie, and we meet, her friends. We meet Phoebe Watson.

But most importantly, we meet Janie's grandma. And

Janie's grandmother is a very powerful character,

in this, in this book, and

she determines Janie's life, at least the first part of

Janie's life, as she moves from being a child into

being a young woman. And this is a huge transition for

for for all women. I have a couple of daughters, and Tom was just

talking about his daughter graduating. It's it's a huge transition Graduate

from college. It's a huge transition to watch a

young woman go from being, you know, 10, 11, 12 years

old, knock me a little girl to

now you're 14, 15, 16. Now we're moving into that woman that

that stage of womanhood. So we we walk

through that in the first couple of chapters as well as the fact that,

Janie, who was raised by her grandma, is a light

skinned African American woman living in West Florida.

This is important because in the post civil

war era, North Florida, West Florida,

the area up near Jacksonville, and near southern,

Alabama and Georgia. That area, a lot of, a

lot of African Americans, who had been enslaved

moved down into that area of Florida and

began to, intermingle and intermix with some of the

Seminole Indians. By the way, the Seminole Indians are referenced in book. It's interesting when

the hurricane comes through, which we'll talk about that a little bit later.

But the the the African Americans in here,

Fourth puts, I think, what was dominant African American thought

at that time about the Seminole Indians into their mouths,

and has them speak, about that.

Janie's first marriage, is to a man named Logan Killicks,

who is someone her grandma picked for her, because her

grandma didn't basically want her to have children out of wedlock. That was really kind

of really the the key thing there and wanted her to be a a moral

woman. And that relationship with her grandma, that relationship

with Logan, becomes fraught with challenges

and fraught with fix friction, particularly during the 1st

year. As a matter of fact, the grandmother

is so how can

I put this? So strong a force

in Janie's life that in chapter 3 of their

eyes were watching god,

the grandmother, Danny, basically

prayed for their marriage. And as a

result of her praying hard for their marriage, she

had a stroke and, died a month later.

She prayed herself right into death.

Janie's marriage to Logan Killicks ends in

chapter 4 when she meets a man named Joe Starks. And that

begins a journey into Janie's second

marriage and longest marriage in the book,

and switches her or transitions her. And Zora Neale Hurston does a really

excellent job of this, transitions her from being a,

fourth being a a a a dewy eyed young woman who'd been

married a year to a young woman who was really trying to figure out

what love is, and what love actually

means. That's the first fourth chapters of

their eyes are watching God. Lot of interesting things happen

in there. Now one of the things you're going to notice when you read this

book, and we're gonna come back to this again and again and again, is the

dialectical choices of the language and the dialogue in Their Eyes Are Watching God.

So if you do pick this up, you will notice that most of the speech

is broken. Most of the speech is broken English, what we would

call, these days broken English. My grandmother

not remembering this now. I hadn't thought of this until just now.

So when I was when I was was was coming up,

my grandmother, lived

in my house. Right? We had a multigenerational household. And my

grandmother's, grand my grandmother's father was a sharecropper,

1 generation away from slavery. And, my grandmother was one

of, like, 12 kids, and started taking out the washer fourth she

was, like, 8. And she would object to me saying,

like, you know, quite a bit. My grandmother raised

me to speak in what is

commonly known these days as a flat midwestern vernacular.

She wanted me to speak as if I could come from anywhere

and go into anything. And if you had don't have a video of me or

you haven't actually seen a picture of me online, you'd be able to listen to

my voice and not tell if I was African

American or Hispanic or white or what.

And by the way, this has been a tool that I've used not to give

away the the inner game a little bit, but I'll give you a little insight

baseball. This is a tool I have used over the course of my life

to flummox people because very often, when they have spoken

to me on the phone and they have not met me and have not researched

me online or don't have a video of me or never seen a picture,

I speak like this. This is just how I talk.

And we'll talk about the dialectical choices of Zora Neale Hurston here in a minute,

but I've talked like this for years. It was pounded into me by

grandma my grandma who said, and I quote, there will be no dis here

and dat dare in my house.

So when you speak without dis here and dat dare, when you

speak in a flat Midwestern dialect,

well, it gets you into everything, in

particular business dealings. And so it's always been very interesting when I speak to

people on the phone, like, when I was first starting my business, first starting my

consulting business way back in the day. I would talk to people on the phone,

and then I would show up, and the look of shock on their face would

be unbelievable. They say, yes. You called me on

the phone. It it's not I I I gotta I

gotta say something to this. Yeah. Go ahead. Yeah. I I feel I feel like

it's really funny that that that as far

away as we are from the this is and that's of of

that that error because if you think about it, it it it's not

as predominant today, but it's still around. But it's not that it's not that

predominant as it was back then. But the Boston accent, by the way,

is living strong. Yeah. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And I and I have I

have a very similar reaction from people when

they find out that I'm from the Boston area because they go, oh, where did

you live before that? Because, you know, I don't have a very strong Books

Boston accent. And don't get me wrong, it comes out every once in a while.

Usually, when I'm when I'm heightened of some sort of emotion, either overly

upset, overly angry, really happy, whatever. Anything

that's exaggerated, you lose a little bit more of the that self

control of of conversation. But, but for the most part,

as I just said part, like, for the most part, I pronounce my r's. Right?

Like, I I I try to speak very clearly. And people find out I'm from

Boston, they go, oh, where are you from originally? I go, no. No, Boston. Born

and raised here. It's just that I was so tired of people

making fun of the Boston accent that I just didn't wanna have one. So I

made a very conscious effort to not do that. But, but, yeah, I

so I I understand where your grandmother's coming from for sure. Yeah. Well, she was

she would it's interesting. The choices that her said

made in re in, and, and when you start reading

it, the way my internal dialogue books. And this is, I think fourth a lot

of people, I don't think I'm unusual in this. We, we revert

back to whatever our natural speech is in our internal

dialogue. And so when we're reading something that's from a dialogue or a

dialect or a linguistic style that is different, but

yet is fundamentally English. We're now doing an interpretive

dance in our head. So we're trying to interpret the

words on the page. It's like reading a foreign language. We're trying to

interpret the words on the page, reading them in the foreign language. And then I

imagine foreign language speakers do this, fourth people who speak English or native English

speakers do this when they when they learn a second language and then try to

read a book in that second language. You're converting what's in that book

into your language. Right? So that you can understand it. And we're doing the same

thing with the dialects here. And Hurston really pushes that mode here in,

in their eyes are watching dialogue. I was gonna I was gonna use the second

language as as an example as well because I think it goes one step further

than that. Because if I hear, like, Spanish from Spain

is very different than South America, so So sometimes I'll hear something from

Spain, and I have to interpret it into South American Spanish before I can

interpret it to English. Right. Like so it's like

a like so, yeah, I I I I was I was gonna use the foreign

language part as an example as well. But for me, it's just it's in

addition to the like, even the foreign languages have their own accents

and even some of the accent stuff, I don't understand until I

revert it back to something I understand, and then I revert it back to English

to make sure I understand even, like, fourth that level. So yeah. Well, it's very

interesting. Well, when I was reading the book, and we'll talk about this a little

bit later, on today. But, when I was reading the book, I

was doing that code switching, and I'll talk about code switching here today as well.

But but I was doing that code switching in my head and it was interesting

how folklore and

and and again, the readers that Kersten did

into folklore, which I'll talk about her background here in a minute, but that

she did it to folklore, that she did into linguistics, that she did it to

dialects, the level of anthropological understanding that she had about what those modes actually meant.

And then her ability to convert that into fiction in order to get,

generalized to all people, regardless of how they speak, that's the

brilliance of this book. Yeah. That's the brilliance of this novel.

Speaking of the, the author, so Zora Neale Hurston

was born January 7, 18, 91, and

died January 28, 1960.

As I've said before, she was an American author, anthropologist,

and also a documentary filmmaker. So, she she

definitely got around. If she'd been born a couple of generations later, she probably

would have gotten a MacArthur or a Guggenheim award and never would have had to

work for the rest of her life. Unfortunately, she was born when she was

born, and so she struggled,

not all of her life, but all of her career to actually make a

living off of her writing and off of her research.

She was born in Notasagoula, Alabama,

in 18/91. And then in 18/94, she moved to Eatonville,

Florida. Now Eatonville is a very important character turning

Their Eyes Were Watching Podcast as

it was a black community that was

designed by black people in Northern Florida that Hurston grew

up in. Matter of fact, her father, I believe, if I remember correctly from my

research, her father was, either

in the city government there or something like that. But she was quoted as saying,

you know basically saying, and I'm gonna paraphrase her quote,

that she saw black people operating competently regardless of how they talked

in order to design the city, run the city, make sure the services ran ran

in the Libby, and everybody had pride there.

And the kind of pride that later on would be referenced

in the 19 sixties 19 seventies civil rights movement.

But it was, you know, it was pride in a segregated all black

town where white people refused to live.

And this is one of those dynamics that,

is not often talked about in,

in in American culture

where the the pre

19 fifties and and Richard Wright and I'll talk about some of Hurston's

literary battles with Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison. But we

and and I referenced a little bit of this bifurcation when I talked about W.

E. B. Du Bois, Booker t Washington with Darolo Nixon on

our episodes that we did with recovered souls of black folk and,

up from slavery back in February. You might wanna go back and listen to those

episodes. But in the 1930s, there was a definitive bifurcation


academicians and civil rights activists and those kinds of

books. And then folks who were like, who were representing people

who lived on the ground and actually had to go and farm and had to

go and live I had to go and make a living and didn't have

a whole lot of education and didn't have a whole lot of opportunity. And there

was a bifurcation there that is still reflected in the African American community today

in America. But that bifurcation

created Eatonville and Eatonville came out of that as a result.

Eatonville was a place where, you know, working class African

Americans could build their own thing and be competent and be

considered competent. And Hurston saw that up close and grew up with that,

as a child and as a young woman. In her early

career, Hurston conducted anthropological and ethnographic

research, as a scholar at Barner College and Columbia

University. She had an interest in African American and

Caribbean folklore, including hoodoo, voodoo,

witchcraft, conjuring, root work,

all of that. Anything that had to do with,

Fourth of nature leadership, pagan worship, a combination of pagan

worship and Roman Catholic worship, all of that kind of stuff. She was interested in

all of that. And as a matter of fact, while she roundly rejected

religion during her time, as a matter of fact, she said she didn't really believe

in an all loving god or a god of any kind.

She did believe that there were demonic I won't say

demonic. There were other forces in the world, and

she did participate in those rituals in order to, I

think understand the the the

ethnography, understand the emotions behind the

research. I think that was the primary reason she was engaged in that.

And of course, how these practices in these spaces

contributed overall to a community's identity.

She also wrote about contemporary issues in the black community, in the 19

thirties 19 forties and became a central figure of the Harlem

renaissance. So that's where she ran into Richard Wright. That's where she ran into Ralph

Ellison. I'm sorry. That's where she ran into the jazz

singers and all those kinds of folks. She was

a a raconteur and a woman about town in Harlem. And

whenever she would go out and when she would walk into a room, she

would, she would announce herself,

white individualistically. Persson's work

concerned both the African American experience and her struggles also as an African

American woman, which is either a subset or a dominant part

of the African American experience depending upon who you ask. Now

her novels went relatively unrecognized by the literary world

for decades turning in the 19 forties and oh, 19 fourth,

19 fifties and 19 sixties and even the 19 seventies,

for cultural and political reasons. As a matter of fact,

In the version, the 75th anniversary version of their eyes were watching God.

And I'm going to ask Tom here a question in just a minute.

The afterward is written by Henry Louis Gates junior.

He of the person he's the person, if you're not aware, who does

DNA tests on African Americans, and then they find out how much

well, they find out how much all of us here are interrelated to each

other, in all of our genetics.

He does this on PBS if you have not ever seen this this this

show. I mean, it's not just African Americans that he does this research with.

It's also white folks and Asian folks

because we're all we're all we're

all a multicultural mix here. One of the points that

he makes here in, in

the afterward, is this

one. And I quote,

Hurst's achievement in dust tracks, is twofold.

Dust tracks is one of her books. First, she gives us a writer's

life rather than an account, as she says, of, quote, unquote, the

Negro problem. So many events in this text are figured in terms of

Hurston's growing awareness and mastery of books and language and language and

linguistic rituals as spoken and written by both both by masters

of the western tradition and by ordinary members of the black community.

These two speech communities, as it were, are Hurston's greatest

sources of inspiration, not only in her novels but also in her autobiography.

The representation of her sources of language seems to be her principal concern as she

constantly shifts back and forth between her literate narrator's voice and a

highly idiomatic black voice found in wonderful passages

of free indirect discourse. Hurston

moves in and out of these distinct voices effortlessly, seamlessly, just as she

does in Their Eyes Were Watching God Tom chart Janie's coming to

consciousness. It is this use of a divided voice, a double

voice unrecognized and unreconciled that strikes me as her greatest

achievement. A verbal analog of her double experiences as a woman

in a male dominated world and as a black person in a non black world.

A woman writer's revision of W. E. B. Du

Bois's metaphor of, quote, unquote, double consciousness fourth the

hyphenated African American,

Close quote. However,

during the time that she was actually writing and alive, Henry Louis Gates is

writing this afterward many, many years after her death. By the way,

she was buried in an unmarked grave that Alice Walker had to find in the

19 seventies after having died in an old books' home

unrecognized in the 19 sixties.

She was criticized, Herston was, for her use of this double consciousness

and this double voice, and for actually publishing this out loud

And for her anthropological and linguistic references by writers

like Richard Wright and Ralph Ellison during her time. And she

got into literary battles with these guys because she wasn't gonna back down to

nobody, if I may be so bold.

And so that's Zora Neale Hurston. That's a little bit about her. I would encourage

you to go look at her just as a, just as a character in her

own. Right. But to get Tom in

a little bit more here, I know you didn't know you've you've been

very busy doing a lot of things, graduations,

traveling. Recently, we're in the Dominican Republic,

came book. Book. Not tanned or fit, but, I mean, you

came back. I came back in one piece. That was a little You came

back in one piece. Right. Right. So

and I know that you had mentioned that when you looked at this, you're like,

oh my gosh. I should have read this. But, what are some of your thoughts

after sort of I laid out some of these ideas from their eyes are watching

god and Zora Neale Hurston? What are some of your initial thoughts?

Well, I think the first thing that pops into my mind is

something that you said. I think I I I think of it a little differently,

but you said something to the as you were talking, earlier

and you said something about the fact that you like, had she been born today,

this would have been a very different world for her because she would've never had

to book, and she would've made a lot more money. And I agree with all

that. And in the in that

in that Guggenheim Tom Guggenheim or a MacArthur Guggenheim Fellowship or

a MacArthur grant. Somebody would get their money. Yeah. Somebody would get you're right. So

what I was what I what I would say to that too is, like, not

only did I think she was before her time in a lot of respects of

how she handled herself, the way she presented herself, the way she, you know,

came across, But I love the idea of the

writing coming from an anthropological standpoint. Like, she

wasn't afraid to do the research and just

show it, and and you and I were talking about this before we hit the

record button. It was refreshing to me that it was just so matter of

fact and not coming from a place of sorrow

or pain or book at look at what I

don't mean that this please don't take any disrespect to this, but, like,

she never had this feeling or thing that

somebody or anybody owed her anything. It was like, I am who I

am. We live through what we live through. I'm gonna write this the way it's

supposed to be written, and I'm just gonna move forward. And I love that about

her. I I just thought that was incredible when I was redoing some of the

stuff, and I was like, I this is a you know how you you're

always asked that question about, like, oh, if you can go back in history and

meet anybody you want, who would it be? Blah blah blah. And everybody says, like,

the obvious. Right? Like, pick a point in history, whether you

pick, you know, FDR

or Abraham Lincoln or Booker t Washington or Benjamin

Franklin. Keep going back in time. Julius Caesar and what pick whoever

you want. I'm really thinking that this should be the one for me. For

for for me anyway. Yeah. Yeah. Like,

because she just reminds me of somebody that is just so

genuine. Somebody you could talk to about anything. And

then if she is going to have an opinion about something, it's

gonna be based on. It's not just

simply based on a thought. It's based on it's based on science for

her. Like and and for those of you who are not aware, anthropology is a

science. So I just wanna make sure. It is. It it is.

Some some archaeologists beg to differ, so I just wanna make sure that is clear.

But anyway, like so I I just I thought it was fascinating. She

reminded me in in what like, because I read a couple of synopsis, a little

brief history of her. I I didn't read the the full book here, but I

did read a a quick synopsis of the books I wanted to at least understand

what what the book was getting at before I come on the podcast.

But she just presented herself as some I I think the other

something else that you said I thought was interesting where, Gates junior was

talking about how, you know, she was a a woman in a male dominated world.

She was black in a non black dominated, environment.

But she was also a woman writer that spoke her mind

and her truth in a time when a lot of writers

in general, not even just women writers, but writers in general, were

being pressured or coerced or whatever into writing

certain styles or certain like, you had to fall into certain categories and, like, there

was all this kinda weird I don't wanna maybe not weird. And it

certainly wasn't weird at the time. People kind of felt it was normal. But she

was just like, to heck with all that, I'm just gonna be

me. She would've fit in Yes. Perfectly well with today's Gen z's. Right? Like Oh,

yeah. Oh, yeah. You do you do you, and I do me, and

we're gonna be happy. And if you're not happy with me, you go work over

there, and I'll go work over here. Like, that's sad. Well well, Gates talks about

it also in the afterwards. So let me give a long quote here because it

backs up exactly what you're saying. Right? He says it is and I quote from

Henry Louis Gates or the afterward, from their eyes are watching

god. It is clear, however, that the loving, diverse, and enthusiastic

responses that Hurston's work in genders today were not shared by several

of her influential black male contemporaries. The reasons for this are

complex and stem largely fourth what we might think of as their,

I love this, racial, quote, unquote, racial ideologies. That's how he

just sort of decides to frame it. Part of the frames that because he put

that more eloquently than I just did. But He did. He's he's a good he

he knows how to use the words. He's he's good. He's good with that. Part

of person's received heritage and perhaps the paramount

received notion that links the novel of manners in the Harlem

Renaissance, the social realism of the thirties, and the cultural nationalism of the Black Arts

Movement was the idea that racism had reduced black people to

mere ciphers, to beings who only react to an omnipresent

racial oppression whose culture is, quote, unquote, deprived were different

and whose psyches are in the main, quote, unquote, pathological. Albert

Murray, the writer and social critic, calls this the, quote, unquote, social science

fiction monster. Socialists, separatists, and civil rights advocates alike

have been devoured by this beast. This is Gates writing this. And I go

further. Hurston thought this idea degrading its

propagation, a trap, and railed against it. It was,

she said, upheld by, quote, I love this quote, the

sobbing school of Negro hood who hold that nature somehow has

given them a dirty deal, close quote.

Unlike you want this woman to be alive today. Honest to god. I real like,

can we can we can we bring her back? Like, I'm

just Unlike Hughes and Writers, back to Gabe for just a Jesan,

Hurston chose deliberately to ignore this, quote, unquote, false picture

that distorted freedom. She wrote in

Moses, man of the mountain, quote, was something

internal. The man himself, remember, said she was an individualist.

The man himself was make his own emancipation. As she

declared her first novel, a manifesto against the fourth, unquote arrogance of

writers, assuming that, quote, black lives are only defensive reactions

to white actions, close, quote. And then Gates closes with this

line. Her strategy was not calculated to please.

The woman was a puncher. She

punched left and right. And we put it there, you know, political terms in

the post a post 19 sixties, post 20th century kind of environment because

that's the only context we know. She was thinking of it, I

think, in a much broader contextual kind of way of I

think of that song, the what was that? What was that? They were that they

were that band. Clowns Tom left to me.

Jokers to the right. Oh, right here, I mean, stuck in the middle. Stuck in

the middle with you. Okay. That was her. That would have been her theme song.

Like, I got these idiots and I got these clowns and Bolton, neither of

you can see reality. And what are we actually doing

here? So I think it goes one step even beyond that because I agree with

you. Like, I I I love the idea that she was like, I'll punch to

the left, punch to the writers. But she also was like, I'm gonna punch white,

punch black, punch red, punch yellow. Like, she did Oh, yeah. It was like

that that's kinda what I'm saying when when I said that, like, I love the

fact that she was writing from a standpoint of just matter of fact. Right? Like,

it was just this just it is like, people, it is what it is.

Like, we can't run from it. We can't hide from it. It is what it

is. Can we just talk about it or write about it or, like, you just

go go play in your own sandbox? Like, Right. Ex exactly.

Well, she, she she

represents she

represents all of

the different stratifications or as many of the different stratifications

in their eyes are watching god, as she

as she could that she had direct contact with.

Right? So there are there's a white doctor in their eyes are watching

god that, that diagnosis,

that diagnosis, tea

cake, who will Libby later on, but who diagnosis tea cake with

a disease that fundamentally

fundamentally leads to him being taken off, taken out of the

narrative. So there's a white doctor in there.

There are peep there, you know, there's stratifications even among

even among the working class and lower class and poor black people. There are

stratifications even there. One thing that I've I've often pointed

out to folks, and I do I've done a lot of a lot of I've

done my fair share of social justice work and bias training. And one of the

things that I always point out to folks in those in those trainings, and usually

most of those folks are middle class folks, is

people in the lower classes, people who are working class,

they have their own culture that deserves to be respected.

You may not like it. If not a culture you would pick,

you're middle class. You've picked your own culture. You're upper class. You You picked your

own culture. That's fine. Right? But there are

there is a for want of a better term, I'm gonna

use the Marxist Tom. There is a class conscience among people who

are poor fourth want of a

better term. Are we not to respect that? Not to say

that we are not raising people up, but are we not to respect that?

Because you can't really raise up somebody who you don't respect.

You look at them through a lens of pity fourth grievance, which was the

words you were looking for earlier, but you probably didn't wanna say, I'll say

it, you know, victimhood, which is another word we're kind of

dancing around, but I'll say it. If you're looking at people through those lenses, how

are you going to treat them as individuals? How are you actually going to help

them emancipate themselves? And I I don't know how you

can do that without seeing people as human beings. I'll gladly use those

words when we talk about a native book. How's that? Okay. Alright. That's fine.

That's fine. How or whatever we can we'll we're gonna cover I think

it's, we're gonna cover empire of the summer moon later on this year. So, yeah,

go ahead. Yeah. But, I mean I I I try not to use that type

of stuff when I'm when I'm talking about a a a group of any group,

but not just racially, but just in a group of people that I I'd I'm

I I haven't walked a mile in their shoes. So Right. You know,

something some something from the outside looking in, they were like, oh my god. They're

they're acting so victimized. To them, that might not be what they're

they're trying they're trying to portray. It's just an interpretation of what I'm

seeing or or hearing. And I I so I don't like to classify things like

that. But again Well, when Hirston was Yeah. Yeah. Well, in

Hurston was inside of that group, and Hurston wasn't allowing anybody to get any get

away with anything. She's like, no. I'm not gonna let you get away with anything.

Like, this is this is what is real here. This

is the emotive nature of all of this. And

and this is why her work is, I think, not I think. This is why

her work is, particularly their eyes are

watching God. I think her work is going to be

read for multiple generations throughout the rest of

this century because there's a universalism

that she has hit on and that her writing hits on

that is relatable to every body regardless

of their station or their melanin level in their skin.

And that that is how you define a

classic when it's relatable to everybody, when everyone,

regardless of station, can get something out of it. Okay.

Now you got something there. Now you're on the mount. And I and I

think I think their eyes are watching god, and I would I would suspect all

the rest of the books in her in her portfolio,

and along with her ethnographic research, her anthropological considerations, her

linguistic her ability to handle linguistic detail. Like, she

she wrote this book in, like, 6 weeks.

Oh, Jesus. Like, it's insane. That is totally insane.

Like, she just it just because it just poured out of her because she just

had it. It just poured out. I

wonder I wonder how quickly so

she she not only lived it, but observed it. Right? So she observed it

and lived it and then studied on it. Yep. I was I was thinking in

my brain, I was trying to compare her to to Pearl Buck a little bit.

Mhmm. But I I also recognize that there's a distinct

difference where Pearl Buck wasn't of the

race that she was writing about. Even though she did actually live it, she

lived it, experienced it, and, you know, it was the same. But there was a

a a a stark difference to me and and and even the

styles. So, like, when I was looking at the 2, I was like, okay. Because

I I I respected Pearl Buck quite a bit Tom. But, again, when I go

back to, Hurston, I was like, Pearl Buck would be kinda

cool. I think that would be but first, I wanna meet her. I I I'm

so sad that she's gone. Like, I just really want I would love to

meet her. She reminds me of my grandmother. Like, my because my grandmother

similar situation. Like, I'd come home from school and I'd be like, oh, you know,

I called my grandmother Gigi. I'd be like, oh, Gigi. Like, we we were talking

in US history today about natives and I brought up that I was native and

everybody laughed. And, like because it for those of you

watching the video, you'll see the color of my skin and that you'll understand where

I'm coming from. And and she would always

say stuff like, well, that's their problem, not yours. Like,

she would always give me, like, so why are you why are you making that

your problem? Like, that's their problem, not yours. And if you internalize

it, then you start, again, I won't go into the

whole details here, but the conversations I have with her feel like it would be

very similar to with Hurston. To with Hurston. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Well and and Hurston was not you know, sometimes

you're too early. Like, we know this as entrepreneurs, people who build businesses

Yeah. You know, been involved in projects. Sometimes you're just

too early to the game, and you can't help it.

You have this thing that's gotta come out of you, and, you know,

you do get a sense. I've had this sense on projects that I've worked on

where I've been too early where just I was ahead of the market, whoever

the market or whatever the market was. You know, you get that sense at a

certain point in the project that maybe this

isn't gonna white land, but you're

so committed to doing

it. You're like, ah, screw it. I don't care if it doesn't land

right now. Like, the the the you you have that moment where you're like, where

you think I don't want to conform to my

environment. My environment is going to conform to me.

And now you're in a fourth Jack Nicholson in the Departed. You're, you know, you're

you're you're you're you're killing people and you're like, you know, whatever. We're we're here

now. Yeah. We're here now. We're we're here. Exactly.

We're here now. You know, you're having Matt Damon infiltrate the the Boston

Police Department. But

she was early, I think, and she couldn't help it.

Like, she but she had this thing in her. She had to get it out.

And at the time and and Gates is correct. Thirty

social realism from you know, I mentioned Catherine

Ann Porter, the writer of pale horse, pale rider. Pale, Catherine

and Porter was riding in the 19 thirties, in in so in the social realism

space. And she went and met, you know, Diego Rivera.

Frida Callow was operating during that period of time. There

was a sense in the west that

communism was working. Socialism was the next step up

from capitalism. We could get to that utopian paradise.

Walter Lippmann was writing in the New York Tom. This is where we put some

historical context around this. Walter Lippmann was writing in the New York Times about the

greatness of Stalin's 5 year plan and

how awesome everything was when he went to Moscow and how everybody looked

happy. And there were no gulags, and that was actually, he didn't

mention that word because they never saw it on the tour.

You know? It wasn't an and by the way, this was the golden era

before before World War 2 really

kicked off, you know? Yeah. There was some rumblings about

some wackadoo named Hitler in Germany,

but, like, that was a European problem. So the 19 thirties were

this were this weird sort of golden era of, like, social realism in

the arts And this idea that you could ascend from

capitalism to communism and achieve utopia because it had already

happened in in in the Soviet Union. So there was the United States was

right there, and then the rest of the west was right there.

And Hurston looked at all that, I suspect,

and went,


And then just sort of said, I'm gonna do my thing over here and sort

of walked away this way. And that's why I say she was early.

You know, because the things that we would find out much later around

All of those areas, political and cultural kind of put paid to all of that,

for the rest of the rest of the 20th century. So I can forgive those

people. And I've often I've said this on the podcast before. I can forgive people

for having for having the idea that communism was gonna be the next great

thing up until about 19 fourth,

maybe. But then anybody born after fourth? Come on. What are we

doing? Writers, stop. Stop it.

Tom. Stop with the Marxist rhetoric. Come on. We know where that

leads Tom. Quit. We we have this. We have the receipts as the

kids say these days.

You know? We we'll look at the tail of the tape as I said during

my time. Okay. Of course,

we're a leadership podcast. I wanna turn the corner here because we have a limited

amount of time. I have a limited amount of time Tom, unless I'm gonna do

a 2 parter on this, we may very well do a 2 parter. We'll see

how far we get. But,

what can leaders you think just for your initial thought, like, what can

leaders potentially take from person's writings?

So I know it's a lot. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, so because

I think there's a lot there. I think there's a lot there to unpack too.

Right? Like Right. So and and some of it goes to what you were

talking about with the entrepreneurial, situation, but some of it doesn't. Like,

I think I think there's something to be said about

about knowing and understanding the pulse of your business, how the pulse of

your business interacts with the with the the rest of

the stakeholders, whether it be the community that it sits in, the

customers, the employees, and so on and so forth.

And being able to look at somebody and I have I have this moral principle

that I'm going to leverage with my company

and not waiver from it based on the impact of those other

stakeholders. Mhmm. Because sometimes the impact of the stakeholders can

be very strong, especially in today's cult cancel culture. Are you kidding?

Writers, we've seen giant organizations almost

get obliterated by the way that cancel culture

just, like, gets blasted through social

media. Mhmm. You could be on the top of the world one day, have one

comment quoted or misquoted or whatever, and all of a sudden

vilified, and now all of a sudden fourth stocks are tanking and all this other

stuff, and you have to react to that. So I think one

of the lessons that she could probably I was actually gonna ask you. I was

gonna flip this on you a little bit and ask you, what what

kind of consultant would she be if she were our age today? And I

think I think it would be we don't have to answer that

right now. That could actually be a podcast all by itself. Podcast all by itself.

Wow. Okay. I'd love to see I'd love to see Jesan as a DEI consultant

in today's world. If she was, like, 45, 50. I

think anyway, we could talk about that later. But but but, anyway, go

back to what I I I do think that that if you if you read

this and you understand her and you understand her life and the style of

her writing and where she's coming from and how

what impacted her, Again, it wasn't just her community, but

science impacted her. But it wasn't just science. It was

also spiritual and religion,

and there was a lot of impacts to her, but she had this

principle about her that was unwavering. And I think

if you as a leader if if now that

being said, I'm not suggesting that you don't challenge your own principle to make sure

that it is a true north guiding light for you. But as

long as you feel comfortable and confident that and and you've you've had

it tested and you've succeeded with that test, then she

teaches you to follow that that Fourth Star.

Right? Like, she she teaches you to not waver based

on other people's opinions. Like and and and we've seen

people do that. Right? We've seen the battles between the Elon Musks

and the Jeff Bezos of of the world and, like, those kinds

of mega power people. And then you got Warren Buffett going, you guys do what

you're gonna do. I'm just gonna be over here being rich. Right. Yeah. I'm gonna

invest in DQ in the 19 eighties and be fine. It's fine. You guys have

fun doing whatever. Not gonna care. You guys can have all the technology you want.

I'm still gonna make shit a crapload of money without ever like, he just I

screamed. Right. Because because he had his principle. Like and it was like he

and he just went forward. I think I think that, you know,

leaders can take something from that, and I think she was that kind of writer.

I think if we look at if we if we learn anything from her, it

is not to allow not to allow other

people or outside influences waiver your own principles and

moral and moral guidance as long as

like I said I mean, you don't wanna be driving down the wrong way on

a one way street. Let me let's put it that way. Right? So let's, like,

just let's let's just make sure that you're that you're validating

your your Fourth Star, so to speak. But once you can validate it

and you know that it's right and it's right for you, it's right for the

people that are important to you, then go and don't let

these other people worry about about what you're saying.

I don't know the show very well, but we were just talking about that same

principle with Larry David. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. With Curve Your Enthusiasm. Yeah. He's

been speaking his truth for 40 years, and he's never been canceled for it. Never.

Never. He yeah. Larry will never it will never happen because

one of them, what his show is over right now. But number 2, there's a,

I haven't seen the last season of curb, so don't ruin it for me. People

who are listening. I'll see it later, but apparently there's a

scene where he like leans over to some kid in

like a baby carriage or something. And he's like, I'm 76 years old.

I've never learned anything.

Exactly. He just walks away and I'm like, that's

yes. That's a principle. Now it might be a

principle you don't agree with. I I personally think, well,

it's funny, but I don't know if that's a principle I would wanna live by.

But we have a principle of freedom that allows us enough space in this

country to have all those multivariant

sort of ways of approaching this thing called this

hard, complicated thing called life

and to figure out what our principles are. And then as leaders,

look, I I'm a big fan of principled leadership.

But I'm not a big fan of leadership that

says it's principled or tries to put put

its its waffly wavery positions

underneath, a thin sheen of principle. I'm

not a fan of that. Not only am I with you not only

am I with you on that from a leadership, even from a parenting perspective. Like,

I never ever ever once said to my kids, well, do as I

say, not as I do. Yeah. Like, you know, don't do that because I said

so, not because it's the right thing to do. Just do it because I said

so. I never had I never wanted that. I wanted my kids to be in

any company that I've ever worked for. It's okay to

challenge me. I'm not gonna back down from my principal. It's okay to challenge me.

But at the end, you are eventually gonna do what I want you to do.

But I want you to understand why. I want you to understand why it's important

to move forward. I want you to understand whether you think

it's the right decision or not. It still follows

again, I just keep using the phrase Fourth Star. It follows our North Star.

It follows in line with our North Tom. So we're just gonna that's why

we're doing this. Right. If we if we go with your suggestion or

if we go with it your way, we have to change our North Star. And

in order to change our north star, we have to go through a whole big

process. That's that's changing principles. It's changing the whole dynamics of the

company or what have you. And if that's something you wanna do, that's

okay, but you have to change the North Star before you start playing

around with the the the the other, you know, suggestions and stuff like

that. Yeah. Yeah. So, again, to your to your point, though, like, I I've never

bought into that. I'd never liked the even the leaders in companies that are like,

Yeah. Just go do this because I think it's a good idea and go do

that. Well, no. If it doesn't follow the principles of the company, then why am

I doing it? But I want I want people that work for me

to do that for me. Yeah. Notice I said do that for me, not to

me. Not to you. I did notice that. There's a there's a

distinct difference there. Right? There's a distinct difference. When you do something to me,

it's challenging, it's combative, it's unproductive. When you do

something to me, I have to defend myself. When you do something for me, I

have to justify my thought process. And in doing so, I

can make sure that everybody does and and and flows the same

way and go and kinda goes with it. So it's it's a big difference

between doing something to you and for you. So it's interesting that you bring up

that difference because if we go back to the book,

Janie is about to meet a gentleman named Joe Starks.

So in chapters 5 through 9 of their eyes are watching god, we

begin the journey in Janie's marriage

to Joe Starks.

When Joe meets her, he basically

takes her away from her first husband. They don't get a

divorce. It's sort of the formalized way that we do divorces

now. He literally walks in, flashes well, not even

flashes a bunch of money. He, he tells

her, a bunch of


and then, she's accused because she believes these

stories by her husband, Logan, her first

husband, of thinking that she's white because of the way that

she acts. Oh,

I'm gonna, I'm gonna get into that a little bit here in a minute. But

let me, let me, let me stay focused on the book for just a moment

because that's, that's an important distinction that I wanna bring up because there are some.

Some interesting dynamics there that is revealed by that that I know about being an

African American, that maybe, another reader from another

ethnic group wouldn't wouldn't understand it. So I did laugh through that

actually myself. You just gave away you just gave away your voice secret that you

said earlier. Earlier in this episode, you said you weren't gonna do, but you just

did it. Anyway, go ahead. I know. It's fine. It's whatever. It's fine. It's

fine. I think I think the secret's probably out these days, so it's

fine. Besides, AI is gonna take off my

voice and go do a whole bunch of other things with it, so whatever.

So she meets, she meets a man named Joe Starks who takes her off,

on a train, and he takes her to

a, place, where

he can begin to be a

boss man, as we would say these days. He Jesan to be somebody in

charge. He takes her to a place that is developing in

Florida called Eaton Ville. Now

at the time when he runs across it, Eaton Ville isn't anything.

It's, it's a couple of different little Sorrells that are rubbed

out of dirt, and you've got a bunch of people sitting around,

just basically BS ing and, and, sitting on the front

porch, not really to the front porch of a store, not really doing anything.

And Joe Starks comes in. He buys 200

acres and he begins to set himself up as a power broker

in the town. As a matter of fact, he's such a good power broker in

chapters 5 through 9, that he is declared not elected,

declared mayor of the town,

which is a nice little turn of

Zora Neale Thurston's or Zora Neale Hurston's thoughts on political power in the

United States. As Joe stays in

the town, the town begins to grow. They get a light, which is

dedicated in a very hilarious fashion by

by Joe. And as he

begins to expand his power, Janie begins

to understand what being an entrepreneur and a store owner really

means as she begins to behave entrepreneurially. This is a woman

who is portrayed initially in the first chapters of the book as having

no more than maybe a 3rd or 4th grade education. And

yet Joe Starks puts her in charge of the store

and sets her up in that space and lets her manage this

well, not lets. Empower not even empowers. That's not really the word.

Complies her, and I'm using those words in that order for that for a particular

reason, complies her to manage the store. And the

store becomes the center of the town. And as the town grows and because

we're prosperous, so does Joe Starks. Until eventually,

Janie begins to realize, and this is the journey,

that the inside state of her marriage

and the outside state of her marriage were 2 different things.

So the b s ers on the front porch of the

store who could toss dice and talk the

dozens, they saw

her in one sort of way. Joe saw her in another sort

of way. Matter of fact, there's a telling incident that occurs. I believe

it's in, chapter 6 late in chapter 6, early in

chapter 7, where she's basically

told to shut up and go back inside the store because she has

position in the town now. Joe tells her that you're the

mayor's wife. Your job is to merely stand there and

look nice and manage the store. And as

the inside state of her marriage and the outside state of her marriage begin to

separate and by the way, this is what I think Alice Walker and other

post 19 sixties 19 seventies feminist writers got from Zora

Neale Hurston was her separation in herself as a woman from

Joe Starks as a man regardless of race. This is where

this sort of really begins to happen in chapters 5

through 9 until eventually, Joe

Starks, well, he gets sick, and I

won't, I won't get into why he got sick.

But he gets sick And,

well, as he does and this is on page, well,

this is on late late in chapter 8, in their eyes are

watching God. As he gets more sick, he begins to become

more violent and abusive towards Janie.

And there's a scene that occurs and they're

basically yelling at each other. And,

this is noted by Hurston and I quote times and scenes like that.

Put Janie into thinking about the inside state of her marriage Time

came when she fought back with her tongue as best she could, but it didn't

do her any good. It just made Joe do more. He wanted her

submission, and he kept on fighting until he felt he had

it. So gradually, she pressed her teeth together and learned to hush.

The spirit of the marriage left the bedroom and took to living in the parlor.

That was a hell of a line, by the way, it was there to shake

hands whenever company came to visit, but it never went back

inside the bedroom again. So she put something in there

to represent the spirit, like a Virgin Mary image in a church. The

bed was no longer a Daisy field for her and Joe to play in. It

was a place where she went and laid down when she was sleepy

and tired. Close quote.

Joe dies, of course, because

in novels written by women, men die and they die

early and often. So he dies

and this allows her,

such as it were like a flower, to begin to bloom

into her late forties or not late forties, I'm sorry, early

forties as a widow. And that's sort of where

chapter 9 really trends downward. And

we get into the back, 3rd of the book.

A lot of different things going on in the middle parts of that with the

Joe Starks marriage. We already talked about Zora Neale

Hurston writing in the dialects of the people that she, that she

led. One point that we didn't or that she that she lived around and that

she researched and that she studied, one of the things that we didn't

talk about, and I think it's important to bring this up, and I kind of

obliquely referred to it when I talked about how I talk, is

that we have in our brains, whether we like it or not,

and linguists like John McWhorter talk about this and other linguistic

researchers talk about this. He's a professor at Columbia University.

He co hosts a podcast, with Glenn Lowry,

another, black, intellectual economics

researcher. And I occasionally will listen to that podcast, The Glenn Loury Show. He's

got a new book out, by the way. This is not an ad for him.

Just go read his book, confessions. I think it's confessions of a black conservative, I

think, is what it's called or something like that. Anyway,

McWhorter as a linguist points this out in Hurston's work,

and he points it out as a larger trend that we actually see in not

only American culture, but worldwide culture

where language is

changed for cultural or folk reasons, the

dominant dialect tends to look upon the minority dialect, and

this is in all cultures, as being less than. And the

speakers of that minority dialect as having less

than well, having less than in an intellectual capacity.

And we don't like to talk about this in America because it seems

vaguely prejudicial or somewhat biased, but it is

true. Just because it seems prejudicial books doesn't mean it's not true. It just means

it makes us uncomfortable. And this is part of the reason I

think why my grandma and probably your grandma too,

Tom, we're very

much. Consumed with the, at least my

grandma was consumed with the idea of language

as a proxy for intellectual capacity fourth even

worse. Whether we like it or not language as a

proxy for intellectual competence.

And we get really caught on that hook. And

even today we have issues and challenges with particularly in,

in black America. I mean, I remember a few years ago, I've been 15 years

ago. Now there was all this talk about. Black

English that we should be teaching this to kids in school fourth we

should write or rappers. You see this with rap music, but something

weird happened about 15 years ago, maybe 10, where we stopped

talking about this. And I think it's because Kanye West sort of went off the

rails a little bit, but bra rap music has sort of shifted around, and

they were the more popular purveyors of this sort of idea of a

particular linguistic flavor that that wasn't tied

to intellectual capacity, but was instead tied to entertainment.

Competency and language have to be teased apart by leaders, I think. And

this is actually one of the challenges, and I think this is the core challenge

that the eye is trying to solve. It's this idea that we have in

our heads, which is deeply embedded. I think McWhorter would say that into almost our

biology, that anyone who talks different must be

different all the way down. It's not

just, oh, they talk a little bit of a different dialect, but

they have the same intellectual capacity and competency as me, so I should just trust

them. I think that we fight against our biology and that all and our

psychology and that all the Tom, and I don't know how to solve that problem.

I don't think a DEI program solves that problem. I I I

also think there's something to be said about the way

that we categorize or classify some of this stuff too. Right?

Like, so for for example, like, somebody like, you you 2

people from the exact same family, right,

could be oh, like, well, he's really book smart, but he's street

smart. Right. And so we we we say it's almost like that that pat

on the head. Right? Like, that's his that's that's his her his participation

trophy that, you know, he may not be book smart, but he's street smart. If

I'm stuck in the middle of nowhere, I would rather be with this family

member than that one because but if I'm at a cocktail party,

I want that family member with me because it's gonna make me look better. It's

gonna make me feel better. It's gonna make me think think I'm smarter or whatever.

I I I think there's a lot of that kind of stuff too that kinda

has a little bit of a play in this. What I think we neglect to

think about, and go back to the DEI thing in leadership

today. And and that whole idea, to your point about somebody who

somebody who speaks differently has to think differently. And if they think

differently, then they they may or may not fit. And what we what we

sometimes forget to think about is sometimes though those

differences give us advantages

because they're they may not be looking at the problem the same way we are,

and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Mhmm. Like, so

and again, I don't think I don't know if this is a DEI thing or

not. I I I don't really know that, but but I often find myself

thinking that

intellect does not happen at school all the

time. Intellect intellect can be somebody

who goes out and learns on their own. Somebody who goes out and figures something

out. Somebody that's a somebody could be a problem solver without having a

PhD. Like, they don't need a PhD. They They don't need to speak the way

we speak in order to be a real problem solver. I I believe I forget

who I think it was Steve Jobs once said, if I want the easiest way

to do something, I find the laziest person in the room and ask him to

find a way to do it. Right? Like, it's because the laziest person in the

room is probably gonna find the simplest way to do something because they don't wanna

do the work. They're lazy. They're inherently lazy. That doesn't make them unintelligent.

That doesn't make them Right. Well, it's, like, it's linked to

it's the part of it is the Protestant work ethic. So

look. We we we try to talk around this

and not directly address it. And the fact of

the matter is whether we whether we are

happy with it or not, our emotions don't factor

in. The people that came

to this country from Europe had a very specific

world view,

And their worldview was based on Protestantism.

And specifically, German Lutheran

Protestantism tied to the idea

that you work along

with getting the grace of Jesus to get into heaven

and improve the world. We don't like that in our

postmodern era, that makes us uncomfortable and

America, now I can't speak for other countries. Obviously, Canada is

different. Mexico was different with the Spanish.

You know, Canada's different with the French, and then other countries forget it. Like, I

I can't speak to any of that. But in America, that

idea is so strong that it

impacts how we think regardless of book

smarts, street smarts, race, class, whatever.

It impacts how we think of what people produce as far

as work. Because Joe Starks one of the fascinating things about Joe Starks said their

eyes are watching god. He goes off and buys 200 acres to expand the

town of Eatonville, and he's a competent mayor.

He knows his crap. He's an incompetent husband.

He doesn't know how to lead his wife,

but he knows how to be a politician. And by the way, it's never really

clear where his money comes from. That's the other thing. You Tom about being

Libby? Yeah. It's not clear where his money comes

from. And Zora Neale Hurston isn't saying he gets his money illegally, but

he literally just shows up to Jamie's With with money.

With money. And, like, it's never explained. And she doesn't

ask. She's just so excited that he showed up with money because she's

like a 17, 18 year old girl. Yeah. And over the

course of, what, 12 years,

she doesn't ask it's not in the book. She doesn't

ask, where'd you get your money from? She doesn't ask that question. She

just observes how he uses his power, how not

power, how he uses his competency to get power, and then

how that power gets him more competency. She observes that

vicious cycle. In America,

because of how everything else is layered on top of the Protestant work ethic, we

have a real hard time teasing apart all that.

I I and I think because we have such a hard time teasing apart all

because that bowling not not bowling ball. I think of it like a, like a

ball on a billiard table. That billiard ball hits a bunch of other different balls.

Yeah. And cause and effect for us doesn't just as human beings, just in general,

doesn't we we struggle with cause and effect. Yeah.

I I think part of it too is I think we're we are also you

know, we're having less and less children, which gives us

less and less exposure in a very private setting to

different personalities. Right. Like like I said, I mean, I I

have 5 kids. All 5 of my kids are very different. Oh, yeah. I

got 4. Yeah. They're yeah. And I think parenting also gives

us a a much more clearer indication of how we can

have the same rules for everybody, but treat people as individuals.

Right? Because the idea of treating all your kids the same to me is

ridiculous. My kids are different people. I have to yeah. Exactly. You can't do

it. They have different personalities. They have different likes and dislikes. They have different, like

but they can all have the same rules. They can all follow the same rules.

They can all follow the same pathway when it comes to moral guidance, when it

comes to principles. They all they all were taught the same level and

the essays, but I interact with them differently.

Running a a company is no different Right. To me. Like, you you have

all your employees have to have all the same Sorrells, but you that doesn't mean

you can't interact with them on their level, at their at their

at on their in their space, at their whatever. However you wanna word

it. But I I I think that that's that's something

that's you can't teach that in a in a

corporate environment like that. It's not it's not that simple. If you don't

grow up with it or have it in your own home,

turning, like, okay. So you're one of 6 or 5 5 or 6

siblings or you grew up to have 5 or 6 kids. If

we maintain this 1 or 2 per like, right now, we're down

Tom, like I think when I was a kid, we were like I think it

was something like 2.8 children per household. So basically,

everybody was basically having 3 kids, which is okay.

The generation before us was having 4 or more. The generation before

them, like, to your point, Harrison was one of, what, 12, I think you

said fourth something like that? My my grandma was 1 of 12. But, yeah, Hurston,

I mean, like, her yeah. So we went from

12 kids to, like, 5 kids to 3. Now we're there are

plenty of families out there that don't have kids at all. They're just like, oh,

we don't want kids. We're we're still on with this. So how do you take

those people that have one kid or no kid? Even 2 2 kids, I think,

is not enough because how do you expect them to be good leaders

of a a a 100 person company, 500 person company,

and be able to I just I don't I find it difficult. I find that's

where some of our difficulty is. 3 kids is your I tell this to everybody.

3 kids. 3 kids is the minimum.

Minimum. Not max. Minimum. You need

3. And I know. I know. I know. I know. Your career

and the Kansas City Chiefs kicker and da da da da da. I don't

care. I don't care. Book Like, I was

talking yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I'm not gonna go too deep into this. No. I

won't. And he was at a Catholic college. What

do you think he was gonna say? I right? I Why

is everyone surprised? Stop it. Fake outrage. Get get out of town.

Again, critical turning. Context, environment.

Like, come on. Yeah. You didn't see anybody from that commencement, by the way, get

up and walk out either. No. No. They may have all had a problem or

someone may have had a problem, but their butt stayed right there. Right. They weren't

going nowhere. Let's move on. Anyway, let's move on. But but,

you know, I've even told my kids this. 3 is the minimum. If you can,

3 is the minimum. Because guess what? If you have one kid,

that kid isn't gonna learn anything about competition, and that kid isn't gonna learn

anything about having to do deals or do negotiation. They're just not.

They're gonna grow up being doted on. And, yes, even a highly

conscientious parent who tries not to do that with their kid, with one child where

all your energy is going towards that one child, we just know what human beings

are. Not just your energy. The grandparent energy, the aunt, uncle energy, like,

all of it. The other parent energy, all of it. Go into that one kid.

You're gonna dump all your resources into that one kid. Emotional, psychological, financial, all

of that one kid. And we've seen the outcomes of 1 parent, or

not sorry, not one parent, but one child families. Not great. Those

kids tend to knock about really, really ridiculously hard. Usually

starting in college when people start pushing against them going, oh, well, that's interesting,

but this isn't how it works out here. Okay. Yeah. 2 kids, 2 kids will

split you down the middle and what will wind up happening is 1 kid will

be favored.

Libby kid will not be favored, or will feel as

if they are not favored. And there's no ameliorating, to use a

word my grandma would have used, ameliorating middle. There's no

middle ground there. Plus they could split the parents. The mom's gonna favor 1.

Dad's gonna favor 1. If there happens to be a divorce, now they've got,

now they're doing manipulations with the it's all kinds of different things,

but with 3 kids, here's

what happens with 3. That kid in the middle,

that kid in the middle, That kid in the middle ain't putting up with any

shenanigans. That kid in the middle and I

know because I was a middle kid. That kid in the middle ain't gonna put

up with any nonsense. That kid in the middle is going to, to my point

about Hurston, punch both left and right. Clowns and

jokers. That kid in the middle is going

to keep the older kid level,

but also encourage that older kid to be a leader. They're also

going to domineer. They're gonna

domineer that younger kid. They are to the best of their ability. And by the

way, with that younger kid then learns that they can use mom and dad

to kind of leverage that middle kid. Oh, forget it. Like, it's game on at

that point. Now we've got some game on things and you have 5 kids. You

watch this happen. I have 4 kids. I've watched this, you know what we're turning?

We know what we're talking about here, but that third kid, that middle kid, that

middle kid is critical. And by the way, when you look

at the research around, where children go in birth

order, most middle kids. That's where your entrepreneurship

comes from. That's where your disruptors come from. Do you know where your CEO class

comes from? The older kids, the first

kid. Do you know where most of your worker class comes from

in general? It's younger kids fourth middle kids who couldn't make it, who couldn't figure

out how to like fourth of navigate that. 3 kids is the

minimum. That's the breakdown. Now, if you go past that, now you're into just you're

into the wild. I, I was one of 4 kids, please.

We created alliances. We did all kinds

of shenanigans. It was ridiculous because now

you've gone beyond the 3. Now you're into 4. You saw this with your kids

with 5. I mean, now the challenge there with parents, particularly

younger parents, I think, is that they sometimes feel surrounded,

with more kids. But you know what? As long as you've established who's

and you know that whenever the Marxist revolution comes, they usually come fourth,

you'll stay on your toes.

For sure. From a parenting perspective, this this is actually simple for

me. I I don't know anybody if you guys if anybody knows

football, I'll tell you. I I played for a very long time. I played at

a pretty high level. I played semi pro for 10 years, and I I

always I always I I pull a lot of my life back into

football. Like, football is is a lot I tell everybody that I learned everything

I needed to know about life by playing football. There you go. Because

anyway, as you're if if you're a parent,

you are playing defense. Let's just if you're Okay?

When you have 1 kid, this is simple. You have double coverage. It's like 2

defensive backs covering 1 wide receiver. Easy. That guy's that guy's

never catching a ball. Let's put it that way. Right? 2nd

kid comes, now you're playing man to man. You got 1,

I got 1. After 3 kids, it doesn't matter because you're playing zone

defense no matter what. Zone all the time. I got this half the room. You

got that half the room. Whatever kid falls into that zone is your responsibility.

Deal with it. Let me tell you that. Let me tell you something. The hardest

thing is as your children leave the house, this is happening to me and my

wife right now, as your children leave the house and get to migrate out, when

you have to go from playing zone for years to

now playing double coverage. That's the hardest thing. Like, you would think

it would be easy, but it's actually not. Like, the spaces in between, you're

like, oh. Oh. Yeah.

Oh. So I I would put that more in, like, a Tampa Tom where

you got one parent that passes off to the other. Like, it's Yeah. Mhmm. It's

double coverage, but it's still like it's a different it's a different different form of

double coverage. There you go. But anyway, but I also

so I also think the rule like, this this this thing flips too. Right? So

now all of my kids are basically out. Like, I have one kid at home,

but I mean, he's a full blown adult. I don't have to worry about him.

But so essential and he kinda comes and goes as he please. He he's essentially

lives on his own just in my in my house. Mhmm. So I look at

it differently. Now I'm on offense. I don't have to worry about defense anymore. I

don't have to protect you anymore. I don't have to cover you anymore. Now I

get to play offense. So now I'm like, oh, I wanna come take the grandkids

and spoil the crap out of them, and good luck to you when I take

them when I bring them home because that's

I'm receiving the child, and then I'm passing the child back to you. Look at

that. That's right. I I have been saying for the last for

a few years now well, not a few years. Really started saying it this year.

I'll probably say it more as I get more gray hairs. That's coming.

But, like, the lack of

pressure of being a

grandparent, I don't I'm I don't think I'm ready for that.

I'll be honest. I don't really think I'm ready. I don't think I'm ready for

that lack of pressure. I'm ready. I'm ready right now. I'm I'm still in

and by the way, I'm speaking as a person who has, like, a 7 year

old. I'm gonna be in the pressure hooker for Yeah. Please give me a break.

You've got another 10. You got another 10. 10 to the 10 years. I got

10 years in the pressure hooker, but I realize how fast 12 years goes.

And I'm like, well, at a certain point, there won't be, wow. What am I

gonna do then? Like, that's gonna be insane. I'm like, somebody

somebody asked me once if I was worried about empty nest syndrome and I went,

empty what? Right. Yeah. I like, I I don't even notice that they're gone at

this point. I have so much going on. Like, I I'm just happy. I was

happy when they hit, like, mid to late teens, and I didn't have to, like,

have my thumb on them all the time. I was like, alright. Good. Now I

know I I know I have a relative idea where you are. That's enough. That's

enough. That's enough.

One One other point about this that I want to bring up, and then, actually,

we are gonna have to do a 2 parter because I've got another appointment today.

Look at that. Are gonna have to do a 2 parter. Oh, that's okay. We'll

come back. We'll finish out. Their eyes are watching god is so good. We're gonna

we're at the right of the midpoint of the book anyway, so we'll we'll finish

out the book. Perfect.

Yeah. So when I was a kid, because of how I talk,

I was often accused by other kids

of talking white. And this is a phenomenon. And by

the way, Hurston mentions this in her book, like, out of one of her character's

mouths, and not just once, but several times, putting on airs,

acting white. There's a character in here named miss Turner

who is, light skinned just like,

Janie is and goes on a rant about how she doesn't

like dark skinned black people and and how she wants to separate away from

them and tries to get Janie to leave Tea Cake and go, because Tea Cake's

dark skinned, her third husband, and get her to go with, miss

Turner's, brother, who is, light skinned

and has straighter hair. This is a dynamic in the black community that,

again, very rarely gets talked about, or or maybe

it I wouldn't say very rarely. In the past was rarely talked about and now

is probably talked about Tom, as black Americans and

African Americans become just Americans. I I

think we're we're we're well down the road to migrating towards that,

whether whether we like it or not. But

that phenomenon happened in my lifetime or and to me and my life

where because of the way I talk and not just myself,

my siblings as well, because we were all raised underneath the same,

gentle regime of language by my grandma,

I didn't drop my r's. I didn't engage in,

code switching easily. I did a lot more when I was in my twenties because

I actually understood what the what the deal was at a conscious level, but as

a teenager and it was and particularly as a young kid, I

just, this is how I'm living my life. Right. And I would get a lot

of flack from other people. Matter of fact, I'm

writing, writing about a particular incident that occurred with

my mother, where she was accused. She disciplined us in

public and she was accused by another woman who was

also African American of, raising my

kids, raising her kids to be white. And and my mother

had an unpredictable reaction to that. Let's just let's just say

that. Is it really unpredictable? Well, not from my

perspective. No. I kinda knew which way the wind was blowing, blowing, but that lady

didn't. It was unpredictable for her. Okay. Okay. I get that. I

get that. There there were multiple viewpoints on this particular incident that

I remember, and this had to have happened when I was maybe about 7 or

8, you know, so things were well well boiled

in by that point. But I've

often been accused of talking writers. And I've

often Tom other black people never by other white people. Never.

Never. But by other black people accused of going above

my earrings, being too smart,

overthinking things, talking white, acting white. That was a big one when I

was a kid and a teenager. And

Hurston touches

on a lot of this because it is a dynamic that runs through African American

culture, and we see it in rap culture publicly. We also see

it in hip hop culture. But it's this

idea that it's somehow to be racially authentic, which I've

never understood what that means. But in order to be racially authentic, you have to

conform to certain modes of language and behavior, which

again don't necessarily imply competency or intellectual

capacity. And for me, I've always prioritized competency and

intellectual capacity, rather than

conforming. And this is probably why her son and I would hang out rather

than conforming to some arbitrary BS meter

that quite frankly, at the end of the day, none of the people who ever

accused me of acting or talking or speaking or thinking white,

not one of those people would I recognize on the street now, if I

could throw a stick at them. I wouldn't, they faded into the

background. I don't know what they're doing, but I'm gonna bet that

I put my resume against their resume, and I'm gonna win the Pepsi

challenge on that.

That's a dynamic that again, never really gets talked

about a contemporary culture because it's so

it's so challenging to how we think about race. Yeah. It's so

challenging to how we think about class too.

Well, it it it I I first of all, I I agree with you. I,

you know, I I think it's really sad that we're having a

conversation like this about, you know, your own, you know, your

own race and cultures saying that you're not black.

Right. That's that's precisely right. I I but I I just And

and, you know, and it's happened by the way, it's happened less and less as

I've gotten older and older. Sure. Because, you know Because you then select

who you're who you're hanging around. It's not so much yeah. So I I agree

because in school, again, the comment I made earlier about bringing, you know, to

my grandmother saying, you know, they were we we have a

similar scenario in the native community, Ehsan. It's not it's not

and and it's so I I've heard that about the black community in the past.

I've had several black friends that have said similar things, so it's not

surprising to me that you would say something like that. But

in the native community, it's not really talked about all that much. And in the

native community, when you're you're not native enough, the

difference is in the native community, they say you're not native enough and they can

prove it because you I carry a

card that says, like, that that says I'm native and you don't. So you're not

as native as I am because I have a card and you don't. And who

issues the card is the US government through

tribal governments. But, like, the tribal gover they they want you to think that the

tribal governments are the ones that yes. I will say, the tribal government's the

one that hands the card over to you. They're the ones that give you the

card. But the US federal government kinda dictates to

what we do with these cards and how we do this and what the rules

are. And there's a lot of there's a lot of BS that comes around with

this. So and and and I'll just say it right here for the

record. I am eligible to have a card. I refuse

to own one because I'm not gonna allow anybody to tell me who I am

and who I'm not and whether I am or I'm not native enough or whether

I am or not whatever. I just I refuse to allow

the federal government to dictate any of that to me. So but

that stuff happens in our community as well. It's and it's and

again, like I said, it's it's a little bit more

literal. Right? Turning, like and what you described,

if you surrounded yourself around 25 of your

black friends that spoke the same way you did, act the same way you did,

and another black person came in and said, you know, none none

of you none of you are really black, and the rest of you were like,

go fry. Like, who cares? You're not you can't you can't say

that. What are you using as a barometer here? You? Are you using yourself

as a barometer? Because quite honestly, we don't really care about your opinion. In

the native community, it's like, you're not native enough. Oh, yeah? Well, yeah, I I

could prove it. I have one of these cards and you don't, so go fry.

Like Right. And we and they could be talking about, I use

the I use 25 in your example. In our community, you could they could

be 10 of you, 25 they could be 25100 of you, and they don't care

because they still say the card wins over the 25100 of you.

It's very weird for me. It's very weird. Essays. That

so that that is nearly, not nearly, that is equally

as insane as what I have described. For sure. For sure.

And the fact that Hurston saw that insanity

and was able to put it in an anthropological and ethnographic framework,

and then actually write about it in an emotive way. Yeah.

That ring that brilliant. That rings down through Tom 70, 80

years to me, that's that's please. That's brilliant.

That's that's that's art. Yeah. That's art.

And I do and I'm not even dude, I am not kidding. I wish you

were alive today. I would love to have met this person. I really would have.

She was a genius. She was a genius.

And she also and I'm gonna close on this. She also had principle.

The essays principle that Tom talks about about not getting a card, the same principle

that I have about And for me, it's a a metaphorical

and an emotional and a philosophical rejection of the position. I

just reject your position. I don't accept your premise. And by the way,

you don't even wanna talk about what your premise is underneath. You just wanna make

your statement and tag me and then put me in a box and

then move on. No, I don't accept the premise.

That is what principle walked out actually

looks like. And it's the principle of, and it's the same

principle that Hurston had in her own life. It's the principle of the individual over

the group, the individual over the collective. You need to get to know me

as an individual just like I need to get to know you as an individual

before we can bring individuals together and successfully lead

them towards anything. And if we don't do that hard

work, then we fall into biases and prejudices

that are even more pernicious and endemic and

continue to lead to problems that were were I

think we were doing our human best anyway to actually try to

solve. I'd like to thank Tom for coming

on the podcast today. We're gonna do a part 2 of this. We're gonna come

back and revisit this because we only got through half half of the book. So

this is part 1. I think I would enjoy that, actually. Yeah. Well, you're you're

gonna be back for part 2. So, like, I'm gonna I don't know where you

think you're going. So this

is I'm not doing this without you. Come on. Give me a break. We're already

halfway down the road, sir. You have a lot of other very

well educated, cohosts that I wasn't sure if that would fall under. You know?

I I do. But a different kind of version of a hey. I'm just saying

that. I'm I'm happy to do it. I'm I'm very excited about it. Not only

are you happy, you are doing it. You've already been tagged and bagged.

And, and, yeah, you're you're already you're already in the you're already in the car,

so it's too early. Okay. Alright. The Blues Writers are going down the we're

going down the street. And so with that, I'd like to

thank Tom Libby for coming on the first half of our podcast today.

Their Eyes Are Watching God was wearing a Hearst in part 1

ending right here. And,

well, we're out.