May 12, 2022

How to Improve Your Narrative Intelligence and Increase Your Influence with Christina Blacken

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Conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion seem to be a more frequent and familiar part of both our business and general culture. But how are actual changes and improvements in individual and group behavior going to be made? 

My special guest, Christina Blacken has made a career for herself of looking at this very important question and chose a tool to do her work that is called Narrative Intelligence. In the episode, Christina teaches us all about Narrative Intelligence, her own childhood and childhood surroundings which sharpened her knowledge for story, and how stories influence people's thoughts and behavior. You will gain insight on how Christina expertly trains other people to be more aware of the stories that have influenced them, the cultures and policies they operate in, and to be more conscious about how they use their own personal influence.

Christina Blacken is a public speaker, performer, and founder of The New Quo. The New Quo is a leadership development and equity consultancy, helping leaders create equitable practices, habits, and goals through their narrative intelligence. She helps leaders identify the psychological impact of historical, cultural, and personal narratives on beliefs, bias, and behaviors to improve their bias recognition, as well as providing them with leadership tools to create more inclusive and equitable communication, goal setting, decision making, and relationship building skills. 

• [6:50] “So many of the things I've created in my life have always started from a pain point or a block or a barrier…”
• [8:32] Christina shares how and why she discovered that story was a big part of how people were ingesting different cultures and identities that they maybe never interacted with before.
• [11:12] Christina shares an example of “wholesale buying” of stories that influence and impact… “When there's discussions around beauty and professionalism, that straight hair is the norm. And if you don't have straight hair, you're not professional, you're not as attractive. 
• [16:03] Christina explains narrative intelligence as “the ability to recognize the patterns, and the narrative tropes that are internalized within you when it comes to societal or cultural stories, and how those then affect your behavior, your thinking, your biases, and shifting them appropriately if they're in the way of your full potential because there are stories we can ingest…”

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Christine Li  0:01  
Welcome back to the Make Time for Success podcast. This is episode number 74. The conversations about diversity, equity and inclusion seem to be more frequent and now are a familiar part of both our business and general culture. But how our actual changes and improvements in individual and group behavior going to be made. My special guest, Christina Blacken has made a career for herself of looking at this very important question. She has chosen a tool to do her work and that tool is called Narrative Intelligence. She's going to teach us all about narrative intelligence inside this episode, her own childhood and childhood surroundings sharpened her knowledge for story, and how stories influence people's thoughts and behavior. You're going to hear how Christina expertly trains other people to be more aware of the stories that have influenced them, and the cultures and policies they operate in, and to be more conscious about how they use their own personal influence. Christina Blacken is a public speaker, performer and founder of The New Quo, which is spelled q u o The New Quo is a leadership development and equity consultancy. She helps leaders identify the psychological impact of historical, cultural, and personal narratives on beliefs, bias and behaviors to improve their bias recognition, as well as providing them with leadership tools to create more inclusive and equitable communication, goal setting, decision making and relationship building skills. Her work is literally game changing, and she herself is a brilliant speaker and change maker. I can't wait for you to meet her. And I can't wait for you to listen to this episode. Let's go listen to it now.

Hi, I'm Dr. Christine Li, and I'm a psychologist and a procrastination coach. I've helped 1000s of people move past procrastination and overwhelm so they can begin working to their potential. In this podcast, you're going to learn a powerful strategies for getting your mind, body and energy to work together so that you can focus on what's really important and accomplish the goals you want to achieve. When you start living within your full power, you're going to see how being productive can be easy, and how you can create success on demand. 

Welcome to the Make Time for Success podcast. Hello, my podcast friends is Dr. Christine Li. Welcome back to the show. Today I have the pleasure of talking with an interviewing Christina Blacken, who is a leadership development and equity coach and leader. She is the CEO and founder of The New Quo. And she and I met a month or two ago, we were masked at a lovely mastermind of our mentor Pamela Slim. And I just loved everything Christina was saying her energy, all of her experience. And I knew I had to have her on the show. So Christina, thank you for being here with us today.

Christina Blacken  3:25  
Thank you for the lovely intro.

Christine Li  3:27  
You're very welcome. I love your energy. I love your podcast. Why don't we start there? Why don't you tell us the podcast so people know exactly how to find you after this conversation is over?

Christina Blacken  3:40  
Yeah, so I have a podcast called Sway Them in Color. That's S W A Y. Because people are like, what's that? And I really started it because I was listening to leadership podcasts and just felt like there was a significant story missing when it came to unconventional leadership and under heard voices, particularly voices from women, people of color. And really the focus of it is just personal and professional acts of courage, and the lessons, the leadership lessons and those acts of courage. So I'm always excited to talk about those stories and to showcase people who've taken a risk and gone against the status quo.

Christine Li  4:16  
Okay, I love it. While we're here on the podcast, I'm going to put it in another question. And could you share with us what your feelings were about launching a podcast? Because I know my own experience was delayed delayed delay stories about oh my god, how is this going to be? What's going to happen and what did what was your journey like there?

Christina Blacken  4:38  
I had a similar situation. I never wanted to be a podcaster and I actually hadn't even listened to that many podcasts before I had started my own but I would talk to people about the things I care about the stuff I work on equity leadership, creating new business models and people are like, if you thought about doing a podcast, it'd be great if you did a podcast you have a cool voice for podcasting And I was like, well, if I've had this, many people tell me that I would do well in this podcast, I should just listen and try it out. So I originally just started it based off of a pain point of not finding the kinds of stories that I wanted to hear. And I did everything myself from finding the guests, editing the audio, making songs I was doing the most, it was like having a restaurant and being the chef maitre d, the person who's like design the restaurant and built it, it was doing a lot. But it was a great experience, because it helped me to overcome internalized fears that I had around my own voice, what it sounds like, I always had a little bit of hesitancy of the rasp, Enos of it, and sort of the tone of it. And then as I started to get feedback, I realized that a lot of those internalized fears didn't matter and the impact of the message, and the things I was trying to share and say, especially when it comes to unconventional leadership was worth the risk of the internalized fears. And I had, you know, I had sex educators, I had a shaman on the show, really unconventional and interesting people who are extremely wise, they have incredible stories to tell them lessons to share, who typically wouldn't have a platform or get access to platform around leadership?

Christine Li  6:10  
I love it. I'm so glad you got over your own internal stories about that and thoughts about your voice, I think probably every podcaster almost every podcast or has some sort of neurotic thought about their voice. And then you find that, wow, this is what use your voice actually feels like. And I want to point out what Christina said, she said, she developed a podcast out of a pain point. And I just want to send that to our listeners. Because if you're feeling a pain point, know that you can create something, to heal that to solve that to address that. And there's room for you. So thank you, Christina.

Christina Blacken  6:50  
I love that, especially because so many of the things I've created in my life have always started from a pain point or a block or a barrier, I guess that might be my source of creation and innovation is when I see injustice, or if I'm told I can't do something. And then I feel like compelled to make a solution or to find a way and so a lot of the things I've created in my life for my business to this the podcast was motivated by that.

Christine Li  7:14  
Yes, yes, absolutely. Problems can be our biggest instructors, I think too. So I jumped in with the podcast, can we step backwards and talk about your personal journey, things that were important about your life, your upbringing, your experiences that have brought you to the woman you are today?

Christina Blacken  7:37  
Well, in 1987, there was a young woman who came into this world myself. I was originally born in Utah, and my family was part of the great migration. They moved from the south of the united states across the country and inland in any metropolitan cool area, they landed in Utah. I was like, why there was Chicago on the way like, why Utah, but it was because there was a lot of job opportunities, particularly because of the train. And it was just affordable, and less volatile as a south as at that time, which is in the 50s and 60s. And when they settled down, I really discovered an experience of what I call being an extreme minority. So not only were we racial minorities, because a majority of the population still to this day, I was white, and I'm a black woman. It was also really an extreme minority experience when it came to religion, and also when it came to politics. So I was always sort of on the outside of these groups. And I discovered that story was a big part of how people were ingesting different cultures and identities that they maybe never interacted with. And those stories that they would pick up from school or religious institutions, or what they saw on TV was then submitted into practices and laws. So watching that process was really fascinating to me. I'm like, couldn't How does story affect our beliefs and behaviors? This is so strange. And I became fascinated with stories as a kid. So fast forward, I wrote, I was in Utah, I was 18. Then I came out to New York State to go to Cornell University for college, I got in and got a one way ticket that my church at the time paid for, because we couldn't afford my flight. And then I flew out with two suitcases with everything in it. And I decided to try Cornell University and I studied policy analysis, because I thought it was going to go into the law fields. And when I graduated, I moved to New York City. And my first job was at a law firm. And I discovered that there was these internal stories around power, hierarchy, pecking order, that meant more than the actual work and then the outputs that we were creating. And that really bothered me. And then I went into the nonprofit space to see if I could use this passion of narrative and story to make a difference. And that's where I really first discovered you can create and construct narratives, to influence people's thinking, to get them to change their behavior to get them to support social causes. They may not have a personal connection to and I was so excited about that. And from there, I really discovered this passion for narrative as a tool for behavior change. and started to build out my own frameworks and do research. And that's really where the foundation of the new quote began. Because I was like, you know, people understand story when it comes to entertainment, or sales, or marketing, but they don't understand how story affects them as people affects their development or their beliefs or their behaviors, and how you can become a better storyteller. So you can more effectively connect with people who are not like yourself. And so from those insights, I built frameworks and workshops and now have a training company that's focused on equity. And leadership with narrative intelligence is this tool for helping people to create more equity in their business practices in their communications and their decision making as leaders.

Christine Li  10:40  
Okay, so I'm going to ask for some examples for stories that you picked up on that maybe other people were just Wholesale Buying, and not understanding the influence on them as people. And using those stories against other people, unconsciously not knowing the impact that they were having by not challenging the narrative that they were holding with this particular story.

Christina Blacken  11:12  
I love that I'll give two examples. So the first one, I could give us a pretty recent one, which is the idea there's a dominant cultural story that we see, particularly in magazines, and when there's discussions around beauty and professionalism, that straight hair is the norm. And if you don't have straight hair, you're not professional, you're not as attractive. And it's indirect stories, because we celebrate people who look a specific way. And we talk about beauty in a very limited frame. So those seemingly innocent narratives around straight hair being the norm, get them submitted into stereotypes and assumptions about professionalism, and how people present themselves at work. And that then leads to measurable outcomes and behaviors. So in the last two years, I've seen a number of stories, and research statistics around people being fired from jobs because they have kinky hair, or locks or braids. There's a pretty viral story, I think it was last year, where an individual was essentially removed from a sports team because they had blocks. And many times it wasn't because of a health concern or some other reason. It's distinctly because it was seen as they don't allow you to present yourself this way. Now, the irony of that is kinky hair is natural, it's what comes out of people's scalps. But if you've been in a society that doesn't accept it, and you will have repercussions of losing your financial stability, or livelihood, for whaling what naturally comes out of your hair, or out of your scalp, then people will do what they need to to straighten their hair to suppress that natural part of their bodies. And so that's just one example of many where there's this broad dominant cultural narrative that's showcased in entertainment, or magazines or anything else. That seems like it's not a big deal. And then it becomes a norm, that then solidifies a behavior into practice. Another great example is there was a psychological or it was organizational psychologists say that three times faster, name's Tina Keifer. And she works with business executives around the world. And she was doing an activity a couple of years ago abroad, I think they were in the United Kingdom. But she was working with a group of business executives who spoke a different language in her. And she wanted to understand some of the dominant narratives they had around leadership. So she asked them, I want you to draw a picture of what you think an ideal leader looks like. Just whatever comes to mind, put it down on a piece of paper, draw an actual picture, and then we'll talk about it. So at the end of the activity, she's getting the pictures handed back in, and she saw majority of the people drew a man in a suit with light skinned and straight hair, which was shocking, because I gave no parameters of what my dear leader looks like they said just drop it comes to your mind. And so they thought it was a fluke, like maybe it's just this group of business executives, maybe it's not like a normal thing. And that study was repeated dozens of times around the world. And almost every single time, a majority of participants will draw him in with straight hair in some sort of business suit or professional quote, unquote, where when asked what an ideal leader looks like, no matter the demographics of the group itself, and that is because we have tons of dominant narratives around who leaders are thinking about thing of Wolf of Wall Street, or other funny movies and stories around men in business. And almost always we see men in positions of leadership and power, and women as supporting roles or maybe not powerful. And if they are powerful in a CEO role, say Devil Wears Prada is typically in a negative sort of antagonist, trope in the narrative in and of itself. And then we also have societal specific structures that have made it really hard for different types of demographics to become leaders. So we kind of reinforce our own patterns and our own practices through narrative. So it's this weird self fulfilling prophecy of a story may not be real, but it becomes real and the practices and policies emulate those narratives and then the practice of policies, reconfirm that narrative is true, because you see real world examples. And it's like

Christine Li  15:08  
the era that we grow up in. It's not just story, it really is the assumptions. It's, the structures are there. I'm just saying what is coming to my head that we have to always have those stories in our heads as we are constructing our own identity growing up, and that there's always something as a minority woman, myself, there's always something that's other about it, that doesn't feel quite like the person I'm seeing in the mirror. This whole conversation makes me think about power and power structures. And obviously, you're trying to address inequity and discrepancies in power. And and how that affects each of us negatively. Can you describe how narrative intelligence can give you a way into addressing the power differentials?

Christina Blacken  16:03  
I love that question. So narrative intelligence is a term that's becoming a little bit more popular. It was first coined around the 1960s by AI researchers, because they're trying to figure out how to get robots and algorithms to organize information in narrative format, similar to a human brain. Because we're the only creatures really on the planet that constructs a narrative, to really understand the events and phenomena happening around us, we attach a narrative to it. And so they coined the term and the term has started to pick up some momentum, because essentially, narrative intelligence is the ability to recognize the patterns, and the narrative tropes that are internalized within you when it comes to societal or cultural stories, and how those then affect your behavior, your thinking, your biases, and shifting them appropriately if they're in the way of your full potential because there are stories we can ingest, that may not be true, but then could affect how we think and what we do. And then on the flip side, narrative intelligence is also the ability to construct story to influence other people's thinking and behavior. And it can be done for good or for bad, we've seen lots of leaders leverage and weaponize narrative, and we think about how COVID is a kind of unfolded a lot of the false stories, and really, just inconsistent data was wrapped up in stories around freedom. And they weren't necessarily based on truth, reality. But those stories, pricked people's values, they made people feel an ideological sort of standing stalling point. And there are people who have suffered because of believing certain false narratives about what was happening with this disease and with this virus. And so I think it's some powerful because you can essentially change the trajectory of your own life. And you can change how other people are interacting with the world if you increase and improve your narrative intelligence. So it's your ability to recognize historical narrative, cultural narrative, personal narrative, and also using it for good hopefully, not for bad to influence people to change what they do, and how they think. And I think most people understand this when they think of marketing. Marketing is essentially just a really sophisticated narrative that makes you feel a specific way, that it motivates you to hopefully buy something. And there's a ton of research and data that goes into color schemes, sound, humor, how to use metaphor and different sorts of approaches to get people to buy something to buy into an idea. Marketing is in of itself a powerful tool, we can market ideas, we can market ideologies, we can market belief systems, and that can completely change the trajectory of what people do and how our country functions. Even how our country is formed is usually based on a series of narrative tropes and myths. We have the bootstrap myth in the United States, this idea of picking yourself up by your bootstraps, self actualization, and personal achievement. These are all stories that were constructed to organize our country organize how we think, even if we're not living up to those events, they still become a central point of how people perceive and adjust what this country is and what it does and why we have certain policies.

Christine Li  19:07  
Wow, you have such a powerful way of explaining things. I am curious how you go into organizations, corporations, industries, and take on the prevailing culture there and assist. How do you start? How do you address people's resistance to seeing what they're doing, what they're participating in what is harmful for the culture there, and get them to see their other options for stories that they can create for the future.

Christina Blacken  19:42  
But I do feel what I call a three step change process, which is really the idea that change cannot occur unless you're aware, accountable and have a plan of action. So we first start with awareness which is the education of increasing your cultural competency, your historical knowledge, your cultural knowledge, Much of why does the world exist as it does right now, because I think people forget the structures around us when it comes to laws, policies, cultural practices, we've made them up. And they are constantly changing. And if you don't understand history, you cannot be an effective communicator, you cannot be an effective leader. It's kind of like entering a book at the fifth chapter, when there's four chapters ahead of it that you never read. So I think the awareness portion is important. And then accountability means understanding my micro or macro role in the status quo that currently exists. So what are the personal beliefs and behaviors and stories that I've ascribed to that have created the culture and the experience, it's around me right now. And I use a particular tool called narrative inquiry and self reflection. So people can connect the dots of their personal story to what they're doing and thinking right now, and how some of that can be for good, and how some of that might be in the way of their full potential as a leader. And then the last step is really after you're aware of the things around you, and the problems that might be existing, you're accountable to them, we create a plan of action. So that plan of action could be best practices for healthy communication, best practices for nonviolent conflict resolution, best practices for empowering other people and developing their skills and being a transformational leader, and giving them accessible and measurable goals when it comes to equity in every area of their business, from recruitment, to their production process. So I think it's both education, the psychology of why we do what we do, and how biases can get in the way. And also tactical tangible practices that can complement understanding the psychology, understanding how we think and how we relate to one another. And if you have one or the other, they're not effective, unless they're together. It's like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, you can't just have the peanut butter, or just the jelly you need both have a delicious, wonderful salad. So I always say you need education, and you need tactical solutions that complement that education. And I think what's exciting about this is, as human beings, everything that we do devolves into story in some way, how we look at our lives, how we talk about our experiences, how we think about the world around us, how we organize our families, and our communities and our friends, their series of stories that help us to remember the past that help us to motivate around goals and why we're subscribing to certain goals. And so it's great to know that you don't have to be a Jay Z, or Picasso or someone exceptionally talented to enact some of these practices in your own life, so that you can influence and inspire people towards a mutually beneficial goal that can help everybody. And that's really my goal is to help people to disrupt the bias in the way of their potential, and help them build better and deeper relationships with people, especially if those people aren't like themselves.

Christine Li  22:41  
Okay, what about the people who are resistors? I guess, I saw something you had written on Instagram, I think about kind of the paths. Were kind of like, Oh, I'm friends with this person. I'm not racist, where it's the individuals view of themselves is like a barrier to being open to seeing how other people might be seeing them or be being influenced by them or harmed by them. And I'm just curious about that. Maybe a few isolated individuals and how you see that and how you approach that?

Christina Blacken  23:24  
That's a great question. So what you're referring to is a podcast episode that I titled, being liberal does not give you an oppression pass. So this assumption of if you have liberal and progressive views, there's no way that you can enact problematic beliefs or behaviors that are harmful when it comes to social issues, or race or gender, or class or sexuality, you name it. And I think with that particular episode, I was trying to appeal to the point that we kind of have a values gap. I think there's a significant portion of people, if you ask them, Do you think that we should really strive to make sure that everybody's basic human needs are met? Most people would say, yeah, yeah, down with that. That sounds cool. Like, what kind of future what does that look like? But then if you question them further on, how are you expressing that value in your life? Are you conscious of the things that you're buying? Are you conscious of the stereotypes and tropes that you put into your products or your content or your communications? Are you conscious of the ways that you are potentially harming somebody or not and the things that you say do and then that starts to differentiate individuals when it comes to equitable values and actually express and act out those values. So for me, it's helping people to see the gap because a lot of people have low self awareness. We live in a society where we're constantly distracted. We're constantly externally focused, and have very little time for self awareness for self reflection, and improving our own perception of ourselves and clarity of what we want outside of fear and scarcity. So people get the chance to self reflect, and are given tools to create new narratives and norms for themselves, when it comes to their power or when it comes to sharing resources, then they can begin to actually close that gap between I really liked this equitable value. And I actually want to express that in what I do make and say, as an individual. So that's my first step is saying, Where are somebody on that skill? Are they actually expressing their values externally with what they do? Are they using the small elements of privilege, they have to elevate other people to give them access? Are they doing education and constantly sort of building the muscle of becoming more conscious of what they do and say, and if they aren't there, then I help them and equip them with those tools. Now, people who are extremely resistant, they don't fall into that camp, there are people who have a staunch commitment to a worldview of zero sum games, that if one group gains and other group loses, and it's IFR, and I write, and if you have that value system, it's not that you can't change, it usually takes extreme social pressure, where it becomes very socially unacceptable for those beliefs to be subverted. Or you essentially have a traumatic experience that then maybe creates an enlightening moment, those are the individuals who are very far in that camp. So I call those people who might go to Ku Klux Klan meeting, or who are actively part of Prometheus, and are white nationalists or something, for example, right? Those people, they can change. But I don't spend a ton of my work there. Because many times it's going to take extreme social pressure, or a massive experience to change our worldview. But I can work on the social pressure part, which is the people in the middle who have good values, but don't express them necessarily, or don't know how to, if you get more of those people on board and move them from passive to active, you then have enough social pressure, that the people on the very extremes might be like, wait a minute, it really isn't socially acceptable to be lynching folks. Maybe we shouldn't do that. Right? That's kind of what happened in the past, there were certain behaviors that were the norm going to a lynching, that was the norm sending a postcard with someone lynched on it. That was the norm. It wasn't seen as extreme and crazy. You do that now. You're a social pariah. And then came from social pressure, not necessarily someone going to that lynching meeting, and saying, hey, oh, maybe we shouldn't do the x y&z They, they, it's not going to convince them other things when it came to social pressures did.

Christine Li  27:21  
Yeah, I just saw a post from Wait, but why about what you were describing kind of, or maybe I'm going off on a tangent here, but how individuals think everybody around them is thinking exactly like them. And that that prevents them from voicing their opinion, when really everybody kind of has different ideas about things. So it sounds like what you're doing is you're creating the space so that the people in the middle, who may not be actively using their privilege, using their power, to help society as a whole to help issues, improve issues of equity and address issues of equity, you're helping them to be more active and to be more conscious about their role. And I think that helps everybody to have their own light bulbs go off about what they're doing and what their power is, power for good.

Christina Blacken  28:18  
May I add to that social change has many different levers, and there isn't a silver bullet for it. But if you don't help people to see the cultural dominant narratives that have led to today, they can't be an effective social agent of change. So I think it's important for people to be able to recognize that's what that narrative intelligence is, where were the cultural, social, racial stories that led to right now, how did those stories create policy and practice? How did those stories affect the structures around us? And then when you equip people with that knowledge in that insight, they can feel more empowered to be like, wait a minute, status quo isn't easily explained away by personal character flaw, or one person, one bad apple, right? Those are all also other myths that are used to dismiss valid conversations around social issues. And I think when you equip people with that, they become more powerful Knowledge is power. And leveraging your knowledge to motivate people around a centralized goal is one of the most powerful things you can do. And people do it all the time. But maybe they're doing goals that are based on scarcity or fear of cording resources, which is not that motivating and it's not that beneficial to everybody. And I think once you switch people's relationship, to power, and switch the relationship to the types of goals they're setting, they can use in really small and big ways in their personal lives. These tools to have deeper connection, deeper achievement, and clearly more socially conscious impacts and when it comes to leadership,

Christine Li  29:51  
beautiful, could you share some stories about how you've gone into an organization and completely opened up the culture and saw the health emerging from within the people that you were serving?

Christina Blacken  30:05  
Absolutely. So I worked with a really young startup that was in the CPG. World, they were sort of raising a ton of money. They're on exponential path of growth. But they were like, listen, we don't know what we're doing. When it comes to leadership and management, we have gotten an idea together for this energy bar that's blowing up. But we want to do business differently from the beginning, we need help, we need assistance, we need coaching. And so I help them with basic training on understanding social issues and bias and how it can affect their culture and the ways that they manage in their leadership styles. And then I worked also on an equity framework of goals for them, when it came to recruitment, learning culture, building, the vendor selection, and their production process, we work together through a series of activities, so that they can cement habits into the process from the beginning. So an example is they didn't have a structure for getting regular feedback on their culture. So we established that so people can feel genuinely empowered to flag Hey, this is what's working. And here's what's not working, when it comes to our performance reviews, or when it comes to people how people are onboarding into the company, they have a better process of finding vendors who are not just friends, or people who look like them, but actually pushing them to go outside of their comfort zone, to find a variety of vendors and partners, who they could collaborate with. And that came from the work that we did together. And even the leadership feeling like oh, this is not some inaccessible, nice to have nonprofit thing to strive for equity in our business. This is a central part of how I view my company structure. And it's going to affect the decision making I have when it comes to the type of goals I've set. So that's one example of an organization who are at the beginning stages of organizational growth, and who are trying to figure out how do we put a plan in place now, so that we're not course correcting? 10 years from now, when we have employees leaving in mass, and we have a PR fiasco on our hands or something like that. And I've worked with older organizations, and they are in a pattern of training and education, and not necessarily structural change. But I do think needs to shift, they'll do you know that one workshop a year, or they get a speaker for Black History Month, and then they don't have much tangible change after that. And so I encourage a lot of the organizations with to invest in this almost like a marathon. It's like fitness, you don't just pick up one dumbbell, and 9095, do one curl and you're like, I'm cardiovascularly fit for the rest of my life. I never have to work out ever again. It's like no working out is a habit. So if you're going to become more socially conscious, and equitable, as a leader, it's a habit that you have to think about what you read what you do what you consume on a regular basis. And that's what I'm really trying to teach all of my clients at this stage, I've trained, almost 9000 People across nine industries. And there's still some really common patterns have been revised in businesses way. But we have to start at the structural part of business and realize that having a pyramid hoarding a small group of people enacting most of the power and getting most of the return, that number itself is fundamentally flawed. And until we get to the point where we're changing fundamental structures and the stories on why those structures exist, we'll continue to replicate inequity. So my plan and my work is long term is going to be a lifetime. I don't think when I'm 50 years from now, I think there'll be some incremental progress, but I'm not expecting things to change overnight, nor do I think my work is the silver bullet for solving these things. I think it's just a set of tools and education that can help people in that process. And in that marathon of getting to a new future that we're excited about.

Christine Li  33:38  
I think you're an exciting person. I think your work is amazing. I find myself wondering, how is doing this work affected you personally, as an individual as a woman growing and developing and someone who grew up in Utah born in 1987, and where you are now kind of how is the work fed you back?

Christina Blacken  33:58  
The work has really made me question the narratives I believed around business before when I was first starting the Neuqua was focused on just traditional business practices of getting a product in the market pricing and appropriately, making sure I can feed myself and pay the bills. And then I started to really question how I was building my business. So what are the goals that I'm setting? What is the growth that I care about? What are the services that I feel like are genuinely impactful on this problem, and not just a quick way to make $1. And I had to really step back and start to unpack some of the unhealthy things I've learned about business when it comes to hustle, culture, or feeling like exponential linear growth is the only thing that means success. I had to really uncolonized my mind and unpack those things, so that I can set different goals for myself, I've made a decision of I'm not going to try to exponentially grow. I'm not going to say yes to everything just because it will lead to you know extra cash in my pocket. I'm going to turn away organizations who are clearly doing performative. If you're not committed to genuine change, so that was a huge process of me, excavating my own values and seeing how has it been put into practice in the business that I'm creating, and in the ways that I make sure that I'm extending those values into what I make. So it's not just me telling other people to do it, I'm also living at myself. Now a great example is I hired a virtual assistant who's worked with me in the last year. And I said to myself, I'm not hiring anyone unless I can pay them far above market price. I mean, we have labor prices are extremely low. And I think people matching market price think they're doing a good job. But in fact, people are chronically underpaid, and chronically underemployed, and so I pay her equal to what would be a six figure salary, she doesn't work full time. She's working part time for me, essentially. But it's still a much higher price than what people typically pay their virtual assistants. And for me, I was like, Well, I don't ever want there to be a massive sea wide gap between when I'm making what this individual does, if they're bringing impactful and useful work to the organization, I can't just exponentially benefit while she's taking pennies, because I don't believe in that as a structure. So I've had to really sit down as an individual and as a business owner, and see which different stories are on capitalism and success and money that I no longer believe, and what are the new stories that I do? And how can I use that to then make structures that I feel good about? And that's been a continuous ongoing process does not stop? Because there's some days I'm like, Wait, do I want to do that? Or is this actually making the change that I hoped for? What can I control? What can't I control? I think it's also made me realize that there is so many ways to expand the work that I didn't think of I recently, for example, had someone reach out who used to work for NASA. And she now works for a foundation that's focused on space exploration, and really making it accessible to the public. And she was like, you know, I love your work around equity, and narrative. And I think it'd be great to have you in as a consultant to write a white paper about the future of space exploration, and climate change, and how we can make it more equitable and a beneficial thing to the planet. And I was like, oh, that's dope, that sounds amazing. I would love to do that. I've always been accessible space, my friends are like, You're crazy. Because I told all my friends in 2052, there's gonna be like this crazy Moon thing that happens on my birthday put into your calendars. And so it's just interesting to see how this work can be flexible, and implemented in so many different unique ways, across so many industries in ways that I had never expected, and had never planned and being open to that. And adopting these tools for different unique equity problems, is exciting to me as well and pushes me to grow as an individual.

Christine Li  37:39  
I love this, I'm obsessed with this moon idea. Right? I want to be invited to that party. And

Christina Blacken  37:46  
I tell people, my glue party, I think it's like the closest the moon will be to the earth in my lifetime or something. I think that's what it was, I was like putting it on your calendar 2015 to December 6, and I literally had friends put it in their Google calendars. And my Google Calendar probably won't even be around in 2015. But just put it in there just in case. 

Christine Li  38:05  
Well, I love how your story is evolving. And you've already done so much. And you've got so much more to go and so many more dreams to fulfill, I can't wait to see where you go. So thank you for choosing to come onto my podcast, and to sharing your voice your beautiful voice. On this show. I want to give you the space to talk about your white paper, the one that you already have for yourself, not the space one. Please mention that because it's fantastic and how our listeners can grab that.

Christina Blacken  38:40  
Absolutely. So I have a white paper about narrative intelligence as a tool for leaders. And it's titled change the status quo through your narrative intelligence, you can find the, which is any N E W QUO Paper. And it's just a great way to dive into how story affects our brains, the science of it, how it affects what we do, and what we say and how we think, and ultimately how we can use it as a tool for better understanding and for building more equitable practices as leaders.

Christine Li  39:11  
It's fantastic. And I will link that in our show notes for our listeners, could you also describe how people can stay in touch with you possibly work with you just learn from you.

Christina Blacken  39:24  
They can go to and that has all of my life story, my podcasts, they're also all my services when it comes to training and online courses facilitation and consulting. You can access me through the website. And you can also find me on Instagram @ChristinaBlacken or on Twitter @cblacken

Christine Li  39:45  
Terrific. Any final words for our listeners in terms of being able to dive deeper into their own power?

Christina Blacken  39:56  
I would say if you want to change your outcomes you have to change your stories that you believe. So whatever internal stories you have about your worth, your abilities, the things that you think you can and cannot make. I want you to challenge those stories if they're just based in fear, I want you to make plans for the stories that might have real world structural barriers. And I want you to understand that whatever story that you believe will impact what you create in what you make, and it's one of your most powerful tools for changing your perspective and for changing the world around you.

Christine Li  40:31  
I'm overwhelmed with gratitude. Thank you so much for your beautiful words. That was the best thing. I think I believe absolutely the same. Although I don't talk in the same story language. I do feel like we really need to be conscious about how we're approaching ourselves and our power. So let's go let's shoot for the moon. Let's enjoy this big life we are in Thank you, Christina, for being here.

Christina Blacken  40:56  
Thank you for having me.

Christine Li  40:59  
Bye, everyone. We'll see you next week.

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Make Time for Success podcast. If you enjoyed what you've heard, you can subscribe to make sure you get notified of upcoming episodes. You can also visit our website for past episodes, show notes and all the resources we mentioned on the show. Feel free to connect with me over on Instagram too. You can find me there under the name procrastination coach. Send me a DM and let me know what your thoughts are about the episodes you've been listening to. And let me know any topics that you might like me to talk about on the show. I'd love to hear all about how you're making time for success. We'll talk to you soon

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Christina BlackenProfile Photo

Christina Blacken

Christina Blacken is a public speaker, performer, and founder of The New Quo. The New Quo is a leadership development and equity consultancy, helping leaders create equitable practices, habits, and goals through their narrative intelligence. She helps leaders identify the psychological impact of historical, cultural, and personal narratives on beliefs, bias, and behaviors to improve their bias recognition, as well as providing them with leadership tools to create more inclusive and equitable communication, goal setting, decision making, and relationship building skills. She's applied this methodology to a variety of equity problems, from social media content moderation, to creating equity goals and practices for every area of a business, to helping companies create more inclusive language in their content and services. She's trained 8,809 leaders across 9 industries, and has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, and among other outlets.