Why is it so difficult for an ex-con to find a job after he has paid his debt to society.

Because we focus on the “con” instead of the “ex.”

We read only what we agree with. Listen to what we want to hear. And treat people as we see them. 

With that label, we have already made a snap judgment about who this person is. We have filled in the blanks without leaving any room for better explanations.

Contrast that with the label of Harvard Law grad and immediately we begin to act differently.

The labels we put on others, along with the labels we carry, change the way we play our status roles.

Do we see ourselves as a higher class to this person or lower? Do they see us as above or below? Which story do we tell? Which story do they tell?

It’s difficult to shed labels that the culture slaps on us. But once we help someone flip the lights on, see what you see, things begin to change.

Now, when someone all of a sudden sees themselves giving a TED talk, they carry themselves differently.

Their conduct changes once they realize they belong, that they qualify, that they are good enough. It changes our posture. It shifts our perspective. It raises the bar. Changes expectations and our status-quo.

The key to building a better future, a culture that we can all be proud of, begins when we see the best and potential in others. But we can’t do that until we learn to look past the labels others have slapped on us.