Remember that every person has a story. Make the effort to look for that story and to listen or simply consider that a person’s anger or desire to “create noise” may be coming from their stress in another area. Perhaps they’re caring for an aging parent or struggling to conquer depression or a debilitating addiction, or perhaps they’ve been required to work two jobs or to stay up so late they are suffering from a severe lack of sleep. They may be so hungry for a human connection of any kind they feel empowered by behaving badly online.
As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place,I had the pleasure to interview Lonnie Mayne. Lonnie is a former technology and turnaround executive who is now 100% focused on sharing the Red Shoes Living performance philosophy through keynotes, advisory roles with organizations ranging from the world’s largest corporations to associations and as the author of Red Shoes Living, the new book that premiered at the end of July. Red Shoes Living is an immediately impactful framework that inspires each individual to stand out for the positive in how they work and how they live. It helps organizations understand and apply the power of connecting with people in the most inspirational and human way. The concept has an immediate influence on customer experience, company culture, leadership performance, and the ways people live their lives outside of work. Red Shoes Living turns down the negative and non-productive noise in our world and helps people become the best versions of themselves at work and home. The philosophy is propelling individuals and companies to unparalleled outcomes through a framework that is simple, sustainable and wildly impactful.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?
I had an unusual childhood as the son of a famous pro-wrestling dad, Moondog Mayne. But one of the things that has always stuck with me was that every time he stepped out of the ring; he immediately shook off his Moondog Mayne persona to connect with his fans on a human level.
After he passed away, I spent my summers traveling with my uncle who was a CEO “turnaround guy” and my personal business mentor. I sat in meetings with him and watched him get the best out of others by treating them like people first and employees or customers second.
Over the last several decades, I’ve been a technology executive helping companies to achieve their highest potential and growth. During the most challenging times, I asked myself: “How can I turn the ‘noise’ down (the politics, gossip and negative energy) and develop the full potential of our people and our organization?”
I knew there had to be a more respectful way to have tough conversations, handle company changes and build trust and resilience into teams. The result was the formalization of my philosophy of Red Shoes Living, which in a nutshell helps people to have awareness, show gratitude, to remember that everyone has a story, to treat others with kindness and respect and to “put themselves out there.” In all, to use these behaviors to stand out in supporting customers and working with each other “just like a pair of red shoes.” It made such a profound difference I recognize ultimately that I needed to take my own advice in “putting myself out there” and left my most recent corporate position to found and formalize my current business, Red Shoes Living, and to take it far and wide to the world.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I’ve had so many interesting stories. A number of them are in my new book. One in particular was my trip to Charleston, N.C., to meet with a well-known publisher about my book. As I sped into the local Starbucks before my meeting, I encountered an older man sitting at a table. He asked if I would buy him some breakfast. Remembering my own motto that “everyone has a story” I withheld judgment of his circumstance and agreed, thinking he’d like something from Starbucks. He actually wanted a specific breakfast from a particular restaurant several doors down. I was a bit puzzled, but I obliged.
As I sat down with him with the breakfast, he’d requested he began to tell me a fascinating story. He was a book author himself, it turned out, whose portrait actually hung in the hotel I was staying in. His story was fascinating and provided me with advice about the book publishing arena that influenced me greatly. All of this was an experience I’d have missed if I’d judged him negatively or brushed him off instead of helping him out and taking the time for a visit. I walked away realizing I was the one who’d been blessed by this chance encounter. But I should say that in practicing these principles these are actually the kind of stories I experience and hear about from others most every day.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
As I was speeding off from Park City, Utah to present a keynote in Dallas, I got off the plane, jumped into a car and arrived at my destination only to realize that the red shoes I’d packed for the speech were from different pairs. I had two red right shoes, and sure enough, they stood out, but not in the way that I’d planned.
I actually told the crowd what I had just done. It was funny, but it was positive in that it created a human connection with them from the moment I stepped onto the stage. It reinforced for me that people want “real.” They want for people to acknowledge that on a stage or not, these things happen. They could laugh with me and had the chance to see me as human as I was making fun of myself. So thankfully, it had a good outcome.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, the current release of my book and the advancement of Red Shoes Living is the most exciting project I’ve been a part of so far. Far beyond the excitement of taking a technology company to substantial growth, this is the chance to influence hundreds and thousands of companies and everyone in them as well as communities, organizations (such as the British Citizens Awards held at the House of Lords) and even governing officials. I also work closely with the Spartan organization (which runs the Spartan races and the accompanying personal development programs) and through those experiences and my own podcast I have been able to share lessons from some of the most courageous people on earth. For instance, I’ve had the chance to interview Lara Logan, the reporter who was brutally attacked while on assignment in Egypt and what it took for her to survive that experience and move on. Gabby Reece, the world class athlete and author. The list goes on and on. And I’m hearing about how the Red Shoes framework is changing people’s lives every day.
It is an amazing thing to have major corporate leaders approach me in tears, feeling entirely humble and grateful for the transitions they’ve made. It is so gratifying I believe these experiences will fulfill me and hopefully thousands of others for the rest of my life.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever been publicly shamed or embarrassed on social media? Can you share with our readers what that experience felt like?
I can’t recall any time that I’ve been publicly shamed online. But I’ve observed plenty of cases in which I know that people have been significantly affected and hurt. I’ve been in situations when you leave an organization or go through a significant life change that some people feel the need to make remarks and to speculate and gossip. But thankfully, in my own case, just living my best life has so far allowed the truth of who I am to be evident.
For any speaker or public figure, though, there are always a few people who want to publicly take issue with the things you have said. They’re either educated in their field, so they feel the need to share another opinion, or their ignorant and simply angry and ranting.
What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?
I noted something interesting in the past week or so as I was having lunch with a trusted colleague. He asked what had changed for me now that my book is out. I noted how many people feel the need to voice an opinion. Overwhelmingly they’ve been positive. On the whole, I simply go forward with my good intentions and “I put myself out there” in everything that I do. There are invariably some people who want to give me their opinion in ways it is hard to imagine they would ever do face to face.
I thought it would feel bad. But what I’m realizing is that these opinions, in many cases, are a reflection of how the person is feeling. They want to make a connection, and they want to be heard. They want to have a voice and the things they want to say are also a part of their story.
For example, there’s one gentleman who comments on a lot of the things I post. He keeps saying, “You can’t just create a nice culture and be warm and fuzzy. You need money.” He keeps talking about money, money, money. He’s not talking to me, but he keeps putting it out there for the world to see. I realize in cases like this there’s probably a story in there and I’ve tried to reach out, to tell him, “Hey, it sounds like you’re in a job where you’re not being fairly compensated.” I’ve tried to reach out. I want to help him. I don’t know for certain if the guy is real or not, but he won’t respond to me now.
Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?
Not that I know of. I’ve read things and seen things I am shocked by. I feel bad that people feel the need to respond in the way that they do. I’ve had situations where I put things out there and after I thought about it, I thought I could have or should have said it better. But I haven’t put anything out that I wish that I hadn’t.
When one reads the comments on YouTube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?
I can’t help but believe people are really hurt by these things. Even really kind and genuine people who are in the public eye like Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) — he’s known for kindness and respect in everything he does, and I have to imagine some of the things people say would be hurtful even to someone like him. I’m familiar with him because my father wrestled his and we met when we were both boys. Even then (and ever since) I’ve observed that he is a great example of good intentions.
Sometimes it’s jealousy or professional jealousy, I believe, or just people who are hurting and angry and feel the need to do anything at all just to “have a voice” and feel heard. I believe in my good friend Bruce Kasonoff’s philosophy of serve, don’t sell. Create value for people instead.
Do you think a verbal online attacks feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?
A verbal online attack is much worse. Behind a keyboard and anonymously, people feel the need to say unbelievable things. One thing I say in my keynotes is Forrester says this is the age of the customer, and I believe it to be true. And if it is true, if somebody can go out and post something on Instagram, then more importantly it’s also the age of us, as individuals, meaning we have to stand tall in our intentions and be positive. If somebody does attack, we have to be living in such a way that other people would look at them and say, “You can say whatever you want, but it’s not true. This person didn’t do that or would never do that. You have to have the greater good you do that people are genuinely aware of speak for you. You have to show up every single day with good intentions and let your words, and even more importantly your actions, speak for themselves.
What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?
I think social media is tough and dangerous. There are certain things you can say about someone that can destroy them from a PR standpoint. We’ve come to a time that even public officials and members of the media are calling each other scumbags and losers, genuinely trying to destroy each other because they disagree. We’ve even seen admiration for this kind of behavior, and it’s being recognized as a kind of a norm. It is critical to realize this behavior hurts people, and also hurts the person sending the vindictive message. I do believe in freedom of speech however I also believe in kindness and respect. You can take an opposing position but do it respectfully with some level of kindness.
This is horrifying. It really speaks to the need for all of us, everywhere, to speak for the good and to change our own behavior in a way that can demonstrate the power of respecting and listening to each other and responding in a way that recognizes every person’s need for connection and their need to be respected and heard. Every single person deserves respect.
Many people who troll others online, or who leave harsh comments, can likely be kind and sweet people in “real life”. These people would likely never publicly shout at someone in a room filled with 100 people. Yet, on social media, when you embarrass someone, you are doing it in front of thousands of even millions of people, and it is out there forever. Can you give 3 or 4 reasons why social media tends to bring out the worst in people; why people are meaner online than they are in person?
There are people in workplaces and in life who feel hopeless and helpless. In a negative way, getting online and hurting others feels like a way of gaining or reclaiming their power.
Interestingly, in our own region (and in some others) there was a giant wave of online anger in the months after the Harvey Weinstein situation emerged. It was a trigger that brought out extreme anger in many people, not only around questions of sexual harassment but around discrimination, diversity, bullying and bad behavior of any kind.
For a time there was a wave of attention around any accusation of any kind and angry demands that other people be removed from their positions, publicly shamed and decried and some of the people doing the most to stir the anger were actually meek and gentle individuals in life who felt they were being heroic by uncovering and punishing grave wrongs.
Interestingly, in one case an organization that was striving as hard as it could to do right things and to make positive changes was under siege to such a degree it ultimately set up an independent council of experts who represented each of the interest groups for diversity, anti-bullying, etc., and set a policy that any complaint would go to the committee first, for a recommendation on the degree of the problem and what penalties and improvements to policy should occur. It was a venue for anyone who needed a voice to be heard and to the best of the committee’s ability to be treated fairly. The situation melted away. Without the impetus of taking down a specific person or forcing a company a complainant disliked or resented out of business, it became evident that everybody wanted the same thing — a safe and comfortable environment and fairness for all. By taking away the very real threat of destroying someone on social media or in the press, the committee had also taken the power and the juice away from the desire to revel in anger and hatred. We should be learning from this.
If you had the power to influence thousands of people about how to best comment and interact online, what would you suggest to them? What are your “5 things we should each do to help make social media and the internet, a kinder and more tolerant place”? Can you give a story or an example for each?
I love this question! It sounds deceptively simple but the five things we should do are the five steps in the framework I spell out in Red Shoes Living, as follows:
- Have awareness for the people and the situations around you.
- Show gratitude every day for the good things and the blessings every one of us has in our lives.
- Remember that every person has a story. Make the effort to look for that story and to listen or simply consider that a person’s anger or desire to “create noise” may be coming from their stress in another area. Perhaps they’re caring for an aging parent or struggling to conquer depression or a debilitating addiction, or perhaps they’ve been required to work two jobs or to stay up so late they are suffering from a severe lack of sleep. They may be so hungry for a human connection of any kind they feel empowered by behaving badly online.
- Treat others with respect and kindness. By doing this you may possibly disarm the angry individual into finding a better approach. Or in some cases by simply blocking and ignoring their negative behavior you may take enough juice out of the situation they are forced to engage more productively or to take their bad behavior elsewhere.
- Put yourself out there. In social media that could mean that you set an example for the behavior you’d like for others to model. You could issue a policy of courteous behavior on your sites while giving people an avenue in the case of a company to be sure their issues are heard and to the best of your ability are resolved. When necessary, be courageous enough to block and remove the people you see who are bullying others with the comments they make. So, in essence, we can boil all of these approaches down to just one: Red Shoes Living, or RSL. Science has shown that kindness is contagious. The changes it could make for us all would be nothing short of miraculous.
Freedom of speech prohibits censorship in the public square. Do you think that applies to social media? Do American citizens have a right to say whatever they want within the confines of a social media platform owned by a private enterprise?
Inherently freedom of speech gives any of us the right to say what we want. But we also have the right to avoid conversation that is meant to target and malign others in a nonproductive and negative way. I would maintain private organizations have the right to prohibit hate speech or threats on their platforms. And all of us have the right to avoid a platform or to block or avoid anyone who is unwilling to communicate or even to debate their differences in an environment of mutual respect.
If you had full control over Facebook or Twitter, which specific changes would you make to limit harmful or hurtful attacks?
I would go further in reacting and responding to bad behavior. For example, it is entirely possibly for someone to set up an account on Twitter anonymously and tagged to make it clear that the account exists solely to malign and harm a specific company or person or group. Twitter is reluctant to close them down, noting that even in extremely vulgar cases of impersonation, using a person’s name, their photo, and details in an obscene way, a “parody” account is considered to fall within the boundaries of freedom of speech, “even though you may not like it.” Even when accounts like this are closed down it is all too easy for the perpetrator to simply set up another “hater account” from another email address that shields their identity.
If needed, we could universally choose to make our wishes known or to avoid any platform that doesn’t act to limit harassing behavior.
But by and large the biggest arena for change lies within us, as human participants, to be better models of the behavior we’d like to see in others. Again, kindness is contagious, and by following the RSL principles we could bring about miracles in every interaction and every part of our lives.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite is my grandmother’s quote from my book: “Treat those who have more than you as equals [meaning all of us are equals] and those who have less than you as kings and queens.” The wait person is just as valuable as the CEO you are meeting. We are human beings first; titles and positions second. All of the things people define us by — age, religion, race, position in society — none of these things matter. We are all human beings with families, dreams, goals and aspirations. And in that context every one of us is of equal and infinite worth.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
I would say my brother who recently passed away, in that for every person near to us who passes away, we always wish we would have had a little more time. Beyond that, however, I’d want a conversation with anyone who’s passed away who could give me insight. “Tell me what I need to know. What is this life really all about? Do I need to be more kind? What is it that I should be doing?” That could be fairly well anyone who’s passed on.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Connect with me anywhere you would like! I’m Lonnie Mayne on Facebook. I’m @lonniemayne on IG and Twitter. I’m on LinkedIn. My website is www.RedShoesLiving.com. And increasingly, you can just search Red Shoes Living online and you’ll see what I’m about and what I’m doing. I am sincere when I say I really do look forward to connecting!
About the author:
Yitzi Weiner is a journalist, author, and the founder of Medium’s Authority Magazine. He is also the CEO of Authority Magazine’s Thought Leader Incubator, which guides leaders to become prolific content creators. A trained Rabbi, Yitzi is also a dynamic educator, teacher and orator. He currently lives in Maryland with his wife and children.