016: Whitley and Ranya O’Connor-INPowering the homeless to be self-employed [Podcast]

016: Whitley and Ranya O’Connor-INPowering the homeless to be self-employed [Podcast]

The Spirit of Leading podcast, Leadership podcasting, Garland McWatters Tulsa OK, podcasting, author

Ranya O'Connor, Curbside Chronicle, homeless, street papers

Ranya O’Connor (rt) accepts award for Curbside Chronicle from International Network of Street Papers

What can you do to make things better in your community for yourself and others? What can you do to live INPowered?

Whitlley and Ranya O’Connor are helping the homeless of Oklahoma City become self-employed.

In this episode of The Spirit of Leading, they tell their story.

Their project is called The Curbside Chronicle, a street newspaper written and sold by the homeless and unemployed population of Oklahoma City. It’s going into its third years of production.

Whitley and Ranya’s interview revealed several enlightening aspects of their project to anyone considering whether to launch an ambitions project of their own.

  • Crazy ideas get traction
  • Create partnerships with those who bring skills and expertise you do not have personally.
  • Learn from those who have done similar projects.
  • Prior experience is not a prerequisite. When you believe in your project, you can learn how to make it happen.
  • The best advocate of your service or product is someone who had directly benefited from it.
  • Age is not a factor. Passion creates believers and advocates.
  • Passion never makes anything any easier. It just makes the hard work worth it.
Whitley O'Connor, Curbside Chronicle, street paper, homeless

Whitley O’Connor (second from right) with Curbside Chronicle vendors at a baseball game

For his leadership, Whitley was recognized by iON Oklahoma online magazine in 2014 as one of it 30 Under 30 Next Gen leaders. Ranya was selected to the 2016 NextGen Under 30 class.

The Curbside Chronicle, view online issues

More information on homelessness

Homeless, Street newspapers, Street magazines, Empowerment, Garland McWatters

The Curbside Chronicle
Oklahoma City street magazine

Report: The State of Homelessness in America 2015

The National Alliance to End Homelessness website

The Oklahoma City Homeless Alliance website


The value of being in motion

The value of being in motion

Nothing leads to success like getting started. If you don’t get going, you can’t get growing.

Overcoming obstacles, reaching goals, getting started, empowerment

Babies are great teachers and sources of inspiration. They are relentless. Just watch one get her eyes on something she wants. Even if she can’t crawl yet, she will wiggle and squirm and roll across the floor until she has the object firmly in her grasp. Success started with the first little wiggle.

Adults give up quicker. Many never try.

Because ultimate success takes a lot of wiggling, squirming, rolling, and scooting to finally get the prize in hand.

Crawling speeds things up. Eventually the baby figures out how to get on her hands and knees, but not after a fair amount of scooting around on her tummy. Walking is a major accomplishment, which leads to running. And now, we’re off.

Point: it all began with an eye on the prize and a wiggle.

I’ve noticed that when I get started on a project I build a momentum that keeps me going. The challenge is to get moving–overcoming he inertia to stay put–wiggling. This is true for me physically and mentally. There is value in action.

Usually, this momentum helps me past the obstacles that would slow me. When I find myself losing energy, I re-energize by delving into the project and focusing solely on the goal. I place myself where all distractions are out of sight and out of mind. Then, I wiggle, and squirm, and roll, and scoot until I’m back in full stride. It seems to work every time.

Do you want to be
Leadership training, leadership development, Garland McWatters

Start with a wiggle.

015: My favorite heretic [Podcast]

015: My favorite heretic [Podcast]




Heretics are non-conformists. They are outside-the-box thinkers who rub authorities and protectors of the status quo the wrong way. And we need them.

In this episode of The Spirit of Leading I talk about some of the world’s better known heretics and the contributions they made.

I reveal my favorite heretic and what I take away from his example that will make for being a more INPowering leader. Listen, and hear what I mean.

Then, think about your favorite heretic. What are the qualities that person demonstrated in his or her experience and example?


Four life changing words: Maybe I was wrong.

Four life changing words: Maybe I was wrong.

No one likes to admit he or she is wrong because of the stigma attached to it. But most often, the right thing to do is fess up. The problem with that is, even though confession is good for the soul, it goes against our nature.

However, once we admit the error of our ways, we can get on with setting things straight–improving, learning, and growing.

Red blur dots 900w

There are two things working against making meaningful personal change: blind spots and self-justification.

Blind spots

We have a physical blind spot in our visual field–that place on the retina where there are no photoreceptors. Anytime the eye lens focuses an image on that spot where the optic nerve exits the back of the retina, objects disappear right before our eyes.

We also have intellectual blind spots–those places in our mindset that are simply unreceptive to any ideas or points of view that are contrary to the way we have learned to see the world and position ourselves in it. Our idea receptors are missing. Because we cannot see any other variations on our reality, we cannot fathom that our view of the world could use any adjustment.

By the way, our blind spots cleverly delude us to believe we don’t have any, although everyone else seems to.

Such a blind spot can cause some vexing ethical problems. In their book, Blind Spots: Why we fail to do what’s right and what to do about it, Max Bazerman and Ann Tenbrunsel write, “Ethics interventions have failed and will continue to fail because they are predicated on a false assumption: that individuals recognize an ethical dilemma when it is presented to them.”

It does not occur to us that we could have intentionally been wrong, irresponsible, or corrupt. After all, we are good people with good intentions. Bazerman and Tenbrunsel contend that ethical judgments are based on factors outside of our awareness. In other words, they manifest from our intellectual and ethical blind spots. How could we have possibly been wrong?

Blind spot fixes

Step one: admit that blind spots exist. We can physically find the blind spot in our vision field. Finding them in our intellectual and ethical field is more difficult. Just the awareness that we are susceptible to them will put us on guard and open us up to those who try to help us see what we are missing.

Step two: aggressively seek other points of view so we can see issues from many perspectives. We can expand the field of view by expanding our sources for information.

Step three: accept the idea that everyone’s view of the world is real and legitimate to them. It is no more or no less real to them than ours is to us.

I have come to believe that everyone, in his or her own mind, at any point in time, is always exactly right.


If we end up with two ideas in mind that contradict each other, we are experiencing cognitive dissonance. This creates a psychological tension that throws us in disequilibrium. It must be resolved so we can find internal balance and feel good about ourselves again.

Psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explore self-justification in depth in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me). They explain the connection with blind spots. “(D)issonance theory is a theory of blind spots–of how and why people intentionally blind themselves so they can fail to notice vital events and information that might make them question their behaviors or their convictions,” (p. 42).

The goal of self-justification is to tell our stories to ourselves so that we always come out OK. We are always the hero of our own story, never the villain.

The notion that one might be mistaken never enters their mind. If it does, it quickly evaporates. No change required.

Self-justification manifests in debates of all types: religion, politics, whose version of an incident is correct, personality conflicts, customer complaints, employee disputes, and on and on. Usually neither party is willing to accept blame, and all parties want to be vindicated.

I repeat, everyone, in his or her own mind, at any point in time, is always exactly right.

But what if one said, “You know, I might have been wrong about that”?

Fixing self-justification

Step one: as with blind spots, admit that this happens and that we all are guilty of doing it.

Step two according to Tavris and Aronson: find a few trusted naysayers who will help us avoid operating in a hall of mirrors, “in which all we see are distorted reflections of our own desires and convictions,” (p. 66). Their job is to keep us honest with ourselves.

Step three: find new explanations that take into account honest appraisals of situations that lead us to more constructive solutions. If our need is to maintain self esteem, wouldn’t our self esteem be strengthened by knowing that through self reflection we can come out wiser, more inclusive, more balanced, more aware, and more able to deal with the complexities of our world?

Now, that’s a self I can justify.
That’s a self that is
Leadership training, leadership development, Garland McWatters

How to make an impossible dream come true

Leaders sometimes are challenged to make what seems to be an overwhelmingly impossible goal an inevitable reality. A visionary leader often tries to inspire people into action with the lure of what it would be like to accomplish something grand and enormous. But it’s tough to recruit a following for a journey of 10,000 miles.

Man on peak

So I advise leaders not to ask for a 10,000 mile commitment. Instead, ask followers to walk with you one mile, then another, and then another. Small steps.

A hula hoop is a powerful teaching tool. I use it to demonstrate how incremental success leads to great accomplishments.

I know when I begin the activity that I’m going to eventually get five or six participants to step through the hoop at the same time, but I don’t tell them that. They can not imagine that five adults could possibly squeeze through a hoop together.

City of Plano, TX leadership class, Garland McWatters, teamwork, mission accomplishment

I start by having the group join hands in a circle and pass the hoop over one person at a time. Once they have accomplished that level with relative ease, I challenge them to try getting two people through together. That turns out to be relatively easy, too.

Then I ask them if they think they can get three through together. They do.

Then four? The skeptics show up, but so do the believers. Everyone participates, and they get it done. What begins happening is the participants outside the hoop help those passing through the hoop.

Before you know it, the crowd is chanting, “let’s do five.” They are not sure they can do it, but they want to try for it. Inevitably, they succeed.

That’s the way the impossible becomes the inevitable.

Why? Because the goal wasn’t impossible. It only seemed so.

INPowering leaders set followers up for success by taking them on an improbable journey one achievable step at a time. With each milestone, there is an anticipation for the next leg of the mission.

Before you know it, the impossible is inevitable.

Learn the cumulative power of small steps,
and you will find yourself
Leadership training, leadership development, Garland McWatters