Fortune’s Include U Challenge for September 6:
Today, talk to or serve someone from a different background without any attachment to an outcome.
Instructor: Xian Horn, teacher, speaker, beauty advocate, and blogger.
Xian Horn calls herself a “joyful half-Asian with cerebral palsy,” on a mission to make everyone feel welcome in the world. She’s a busy public speaker, teacher, consultant and workshop leader, guiding discussions on inclusion and self-esteem tailored for any audience. “Many may struggle with the idea of being different, or having a disability,” she says. “But I say why not use our differences for greater understanding, greater empathy and as a source of empowerment?” Horn is also beautiful. But then again, so are you.
She’s winnowed in on a unique angle for some of her work: Beauty. Standard ideas about physical beauty, which are so prized and narrowly defined, adds to the unnecessary isolation that people with disabilities can feel. “I love to work with people to throw out these ideas of perfection,” she says. “We need to expand our collective thinking about beauty, and celebrate all faces and bodies.” She’s also been calling for the inclusion of people with disability in beauty campaigns since 2010.
Horn calls herself a positivity activist, “which can sound corny, I know.” But her work is built on a foundation of strength. “Positivity activism for me is not about being happy all the time, or never feeling upset or angry, it’s about the conscious, even defiant choice to find the light in dark situations and times,” she said in an interview with Barnard’s Center for Research On Women. “It’s about not letting a negative situation or person take your power, or pull you under.”
In 2015, she was chosen to be an “exemplar” for the AT&T NYU Connect Ability Challenge for the creation of Assistive Technology, where she worked with developers to help shape new technologies that would make it easier for people with disabilities to move through the world. For Horn, who uses ski poles to help her walk, better hands-free options would be a game-changer.
Learn more about her self-esteem curriculum Give Beauty Wings, which encourages the universal beauty in everyone.
Her blog, Positively Positive has a community of two million readers.
For today’s challenge, Xian Horn asks that you talk to or serve someone from a different background without any attachment to an outcome.
It doesn’t matter what it is — a chat, a free coffee, prayer, good deed or a simple smile, she says. “The other person’s reaction to the deed does not matter – it only matters that you put it out there,” she says. “If I smile at someone and they don’t smile back, it’s absolutely okay. If I hold the elevator for someone even when I’m in a rush, it’s okay if they don’t say thank you.” The purpose of the exercise is simply to do your best to be present with people around you without the need for a reciprocal response. “Especially those who don’t pose an apparent benefit to you or your organization,” she says.
Post your thoughts on today’s challenge on Twitter with #IncludeU30.
Looking for all the challenges? Start here.