As the old adage goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
Have you ever heard of John Henry? He is an African-American folk hero from the 1870s. As the legend goes, “[Henry] worked as a ‘steel-driving man’ — a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing railroad tunnels … John Henry’s prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a one-man race against a steam-powered hammer, a race that John Henry prevailed only to tragically die in victory with hammer in hand as his heart gave out from stress.”
I guess old John Henry won. He took on the steam-powered hammer alone and now lives on in glory. They’ve erected statues to his feat and penned songs that live on forever.
But the reality is, John Henry died in the process. He proved his point, but he paid the ultimate price by dying from exhaustion. That’s called a pyrrhic victory, when the win was too great a cost to have been worth it.
The life of a D&I practitioner can often feel pyrrhic as well. Countless hours, days and years are committed to advancing progress against a perpetual steam-powered hammer of opposition — opposition through indifference, ignorance, miseducation and obstruction. It’s fatiguing to do this work, and it often feels like you’re doing it alone.
According to Atlassian’s 2018 State of Diversity and Inclusion survey, “People are tired of talking about diversity and inclusion, frustrated by talk not turning into impactful action, and overwhelmed by the number of issues.”
It’s important to step back as a D&I practitioner, employee/business resource group leader and ally to recognize that you’re not in it alone, and more importantly, that you should take time for yourself, as the fatigue can impact you as well.
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