A cis male’s perception, and how much I still need to learn: reflecting on my impact conference season.

<Near the end of the piece I ask a question based on a recent experience. I’d love input.>

I am wrapping three weeks of travel, conferences, forums, and fundraising. While tis the season, I am not alone in being tired on the back end of this. I am still getting over a bout with bronchitis and bacterial pneumonia. These words are an attempt to begin to reflect on the past three weeks and plan for our near-term future.

I am a self-proclaimed gender smart investor, and our firm Marigold Capital, uses a highly intentional thesis around gender, diversity and inclusion to drive all our investments.

For the first time in forever I felt more comfortable throughout my conference circuit journey. As an introvert with moderate+ social anxiety issues, I literally wore a button on my blazer that stated “Fear Less”. I posted a bit on social and used silly hashtags such as “#cantstopwontstop” and “falldown7standup8”. These were all used for me… to feel more comfortable, to allow me the space to breathe. Feeling more confident and secure, the FOMO felt in the past slipped away a bit and I explored how I felt and reacted to those older feelings. Being alone, not talking, not chasing, not laughing authentically, felt wonderful without guilt. First time during a conference that I’ve felt like this. Heaven.

So, a more grounded, centred and authentic experience is what I felt from the inside out. I believe feeling and acting this way led me to strike more genuine, growth-oriented and curious conversations with people I’ve long known, and more importantly those I had not. I can’t describe how powerful it felt to walk up to someone new and strike a conversation without fear and anxiety stopping me in my tracks. The results? Personally, I feel better, and professionally I think I connected more than I ever have in the past. I believe these connections will be solidified over the winter as we follow up, so some may break down as expected, but nevertheless this is an entirely new experience.

In my mind, my ‘new’ way of acting is like a major OS upgrade. I am still in the honeymoon phase I guess, but I’ve been loving it so much thus far I had to whisper it from the rooftops.

This past week was great. Marigold Capital held its inaugural New Power Investing Forum, with the goal of beginning an open dialogue about how funders of all types and stripes can better inform their decision-making. Not by using the latest and greatest scorecards or frameworks (external, product), but by looking in the mirror and considering their WHY, WHO and HOW (internal, people) to a much greater extent. Hard work, certainly, but we believe much more useful than simply using new tools.

PROCESS > OUTCOMES > (funder) INCOMES

We’ve received great feedback and some essential reality checks as we build momentum and hopefully a movement. An event report and a signals report will be issued to help receive more feedback and guide us forward. Thoughts always welcome!

We also attended our last conference of the year. Great to meet a lot of new people in our space. The level of conversation held with a variety of stakeholders was deeper and more genuine (IMHO) than any I remember at such a broadly focused event.

I do have one anecdote to share. I was in a shared ride this week and travelling with others related to this past conference. At one point I was asked to ‘elevator pitch’ Marigold. I was taken aback. Not because I expect everyone to know what Marigold is doing, but because of the commanding way in which this person (cis male, white, Canadian) conveyed their thought. As another cis male, white, Canadian striving for systems level change around social justice and prosperity through Marigold’s investments, I just said no. Cold. Dead stop. Awkward silence for the rest of the drive ensued. I’m used to this, occasionally enjoy it, and sometimes use it advantageously.

Anyway, on reflection I noted a few things. I didn’t explain why I said ‘no’ to the request. I didn’t share why the command, and the way it was delivered, and by whom, in the context we were all in, wasn’t appropriate to me. I’ve been reflecting on whether I increased my reputation as cold and hard to read instead of using the moment as a teachable one, and whether I would’ve been heard anyway.

Why did I say ‘no’? It was 8:30 p.m. and I was tired. I was trying to catch up on a few small things while in transit. As an introvert, these inward actions were enabling me to recharge for another social event waiting for us at the end of the ride. The command, not a request, not an ask of whether I was interested in engaging in conversation of any kind, not an ask if I’d like to speak about Marigold, not an ask about how I was doing as a person, was jarring. Considering it takes so much effort, time and planning for me to be ‘on’, this felt unfair to me – rightly or wrongly. Is that enough to say ‘no’ and become the ice person I am somewhat known for?

I know this person didn’t mean any harm. I know it was just social lubricant boring banter. I assume alcohol was involved. I know he means well. And, I think that is exactly my point. We’ve heard all that before from those in positions of power. Implicit and unconscious biases run so deep and are so pervasive that it is easy to miss until its too late. In this case, it is too late.

In no way shape or form am I in any way thinking that my lived experience is similar to anyone’s, let alone the majority who do not share my privilege and experience far greater injustices, pain and trauma. I just wanted to share that despite Marigold’s coming out party and my personal growth-oriented mindset improvements, this 10 minute experience is exactly why Marigold (and I personally) think and do what we do.

What do you think? Am I looking into things? Am I trying to hard? Did I miss an opportunity? Should I just put this down?

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