Think Like a White Boy

A number of years ago I was feeling very stuck professionally, scrambling to figure out how to move forward with my career and creative dreams. I had lots of ideas for things I wanted to do, but I felt fearful and unable to execute them. I kept worrying about whether it was the right time, what the market would bear, what would other people think, did I have enough credentials or street cred; was I too loud, too Jewish, too late… hasn’t it already been said or done before, must have a support group first or go back to therapy, blah blah blah…

Despite decades of committed personal healing work in a variety of modalities, and even with my well honed took kit of spiritual practices in hand, I still kept crashing into this same boulder in my path.  I began to think about some people I know who seem adept at and confident about things in motion–how do they do it? My brother is probably my greatest inspiration in this regard. On the one hand, he enjoys the daily and lifelong privilege and power that comes with being a straight white guy in America. He has lived without the layers of self-loathing that many people grapple with daily in a world of privilege and oppression that diminishes and devalues them. On the other hand, he has lost a wife and a child, is a passionate artist, a Jew, an activist, and a father of two special needs children. He has a strong heart, and his feet are firmly planted in the ground of his truth. He is one of the most loving, prophetic voices I know.

Setting aside institutional oppression for a moment, family history also has a significant impact on one’s experience of personal power and success. Many people have grown up with a multigenerational family legacy of fear. Fear of persecution, fear of what other people would think, fear of being too much, fear of not being enough, fear of success, fear of failure. Both of my parents frequently waxed wistfully with regret about not having pursued their soul’s calling on the vocational path. I remember as a child thinking to myself, “I better figure out what I really want to be when I grow up so I don’t end up like them, holding myself back and then being bitter and disappointed that I didn’t follow my dreams.” I put tremendous pressure on myself to make the right choice immediately, which didn’t leave much room for making mistakes.

I looked up mistake in my faded, dog-eared thesaurus, and this is what was listed under antonyms: accuracy, calculation, certainty, correction, correctness, proof, success, truth, understanding.  Making mistakes brings me closer to truth and understanding, both of which are now at the heart of my work.

It’s not that I simply snapped my fingers and suddenly felt comfortable and free to take risks and make mistakes. Hardly. What happened was that I actively sought out people who seemed to be courageous risk takers. I marveled at their fearlessness, or at least their willingness to try something and risk completely screwing it up. In front of other people!

Years ago I attended a conference keynote presentation with Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician who has done research on health, wellness and exercise. She talked about a study she conducted about men, women and exercise. She said men, in general, would just put on their usual sweats, go to the gym and work out. Women, on the other hand, had to first discuss it with their girlfriends, go out and buy the right workout clothes, hair products, make up and sneakers, before they would go to the gym. Not surprisingly, men were overall more successful than women at executing an exercise/weight loss regimen.

Granted, these are huge generalizations about gender, and of course there are exceptions. But it got me thinking…how do those white boys do it?

For instance, some white boy stuck some adhesive shmutz on the back of a scrap of paper and boom! He and his white boy colleague at 3M invented the Post-it! Another white boy developed one of the most powerful social networking systems in the world, simply by thinking creatively about ways people might connect virtually.

What would it be like to “think like a white boy?”

TLAWB is a mantra of mindfulness I created for myself in response to seemingly intractable stuckness and self doubt. TLAWB does not condone the egregious injustices perpetrated by patriarchy and white supremacy.  After all, I am not interested in colonizing other people, waging war, exploiting the masses, or raping and pillaging other cultures. Nor does it mean I am advocating that white people, and white men in particular, are smarter, better, more adept than the rest of us.

What I am saying is that institutional privilege and power imbue certain people with access to internal and external resources, and as a result, fosters the unquestioned assumption that they have something valuable to offer. With power and privilege, risk taking is the name of the game, not the dangerous thing to be feared.

Personally I needed an inner cattle prod, a loving kick in the tuchas to remind myself to stop making excuses and get on with it. My friend and colleague Tara Mohr calls this “playing big,” a phrase I love, but I needed something even more irreverent and insistent.

TLAWB serves as a simple yet powerful template that can be applied to all kinds of situations and tasks. For example, in order to ignite and inspire my writing practice, I recently slapped a Post-it (true story) on my desk that says, “Write like a White Boy.”

Even Beyonce has a clue about TLAWB; check out these song lyrics:

“If I were a boy

even just for a day

I’d roll out of bed in the morning

and throw on what I wanted and go

Drink beer with the guys

and chase after girls…

I’d kick it with who I wanted

and I’d never get confronted for it 

cause they stick up for me

I’d put myself first

and make the rules as I go”


(lyrics from “If I Were a Boy” written by BC Jean and Toby Gad, 2008; performed and produced by Beyonce)

TLAWB functions as a shortcut to the following messages:

  • Be bold.
  • Get on with it.
  • Take risks.
  • Trust your inner voice.
  • Make a game out of it.
  • Do a happy dance when you achieve a goal.


I’m not trying to convince you to actually think like a white boy (After all, look at the mess our world is in right now). Instead, I’m suggesting that you create a simple reminder for yourself that helps you get out of your own way.

I’m not trying to convince you to actually think like a white boy (After all, look at the mess our world is in right now). Instead, I’m suggesting that you create a simple reminder for yourself that helps you get out of your own way.

Me & My BroWhat would be your version of “Think Like a White Boy?”

What mantra can you put into action that will make your dreams come alive?