I get asked a lot of questions. For the most part, I try to answer many of them in the FAQ section of the HSCT website.
But then there are questions that don’t fit in the area of frequently asked questions on a website. And I’d like to answer some of those questions today.
How do you have the energy and the time to do all of this?
I don’t. I have just enough energy to get done what I can get done and I don’t really have any more than that. Typically, I am ruthless with my time and I spend a lot of days (and nights) up late doing the things that I need to do to make projects come together. I also try to keep my priorities in order. Which is about as tough as it sounds.
Do you really practice what you preach?
As much as is as humanly possible. Which is a fancy way of saying that I fail much of the time. Look, I consult and train people in how to address conflict effectively in their lives. I have many ways of addressing conflict in my own life, but there are times when my professed values fail to match up to my stated values. But none among us are righteous. No. Not one of us.
How do you handle a client in a consultation situation?
As carefully as possible. I tend to listen more and provide more assurances than when I do in a larger group setting. This is because individuals are granular. Groups are not. People in a group can sometimes be influenced by the nodding of agreement of other people in the same space. In a 1-on-1 situation, listening to the issue and providing accurate, non-circuitous advice is critical for long-term client success.
What kind of stories do you tell yourself?
Ones that are personal to me, and that reflect the parts of my identity that I’m comfortable with. Many years ago, I decided to stop being such chameleon and start being more of the “real” me. With all the vulnerabilities and problems that come with that decision.
What’s it like to be a black entrepreneur in your field?
I was thinking about the answer to this question in the context of another black entrepreneur that I know a little bit more personally than in the context of Twitter or LinkedIN. There are two models of black success—and from that black entrepreneurship—that black folks my age see:
The Bill Cosby/Generation X model—this is the model I see the most often. It’s not flashy. It’s not shiny. It’s based on the idea that a college degree, and then an advanced degree, must be attained before entrepreneurial success can even be considered. This is the model that my mother (who is 65) pioneered for me in my house and that one of my sisters’ (who is 43 this year), followed—or at least tried to. For that generation, entrepreneurship was something that was only considered after a “fall back” was already established in some kind of way.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air/Jay-Z Model—this is the model that many black entrepreneurs look up too. It’s the model based on leveraging another talent (Jay-Z leveraged money from record sales and other areas to produce other artists’ work and to eventually buy a stake in many other ventures); and then using that money to do something else. Kanye and Will Smith have done this well. Sports stars such as Michael Jordan and LeBron are doing the same thing. The other piece of the model is based in an idea that you may be able to stumble into something if you are fortunate enough to have a “Bill Cosby” like rich uncle.
In the field of peacemaking there are many black people doing great work under both of these models; or doing great work in a hybrid of two of these models (or more). But for me, as a black entrepreneur in the space of peace making and peace building, sometime it’s a lonely walk.
There are so many tools and techniques that are laying around that all the old models are going away. That’s the nature of my game.
-Peace Be With You All-
Jesan Sorrells, MA
Principal Conflict Engagement Consultant
Human Services Consulting and Training (HSCT)
Email HSCT: firstname.lastname@example.org