“My Name Is Nemo and I Don’t Do Small Talk”

Nemo Ashong’s bold vision is “a truly inclusive and empowered world”  He helps people to be fully expressed and to be more authentic, be more unique and be more powerful.

He grew up outside of Camden, NJ and often struggled with his identity growing up as a first-generation African-American: “I wasn’t quite African and I wasn’t quite American.”  He found that he didn’t really “fit in” with the black community, but found a home in the gifted program early in his life which exposed him to a very diverse population and forced him from an early age to carve his own path.

Using Agreements To Unlock Powerful Conversation

He is a fan of inviting people to be their full selves in the world and challenges people to think about how they can be “1% more themselves” each day.  In order to help people as a coach, he is very tactical about creating the understanding and space for such conversations.  He typically outlines three core agreements with his conversations partners:

  • “I choose to hide nothing and hold nothing back”
  • “I choose to serve, rather than please”
  • “I have a track record of having life-changing conversations, and at this point, I refuse to have anything less than that, are you open to having a life-changing conversation?”

Being Yourself In The Workplace 

We talked about the challenges of diversity & inclusion in the workplace and discussed Nemo’s initial aversion to getting involved in diversity events at his past companies.  He feels that we do not focus enough on inclusion and an inclusion in the sense that it gives someone:

the ability for someone to really feel that they can bring all their experiences to the table.  That ability for someone to really feel that they can present a new way of going about it because in their community and their experiences and the things they have done they have seen it work out differently.

By not fully embracing inclusion, he feels that “we miss out on leaders that can challenge the status quo” or at least explore and discuss difficult issues.  He asks a provocative question:

Are we creating a generation of leaders and people who will be able to really engage in dialogue and feel confident in themselves to respectfully invite other ways, other perspective other methods into the pool of knowledge?

Nemo’s core message to people is to look for the “hard lines about how life should be in the corporate world that we are taking part in perpetuating” and to question them and he feels that the best way to do this comes down to a simple message to people:

“Be more you.”

Not “be yourself,” but to look for opportunities where you can be yourself at least 1% more, whether it’s in a decision you are making or showing up to work as a different person.  These changes will lead you to more fulfillment and hopefully, more joy.

Reflecting On This Conversation

This conversation brought out some vulnerability in both of us and we barely scratched the surface around these topics.  I live for this type of tough conversation and appreciate that podcasts give the kind of space to explore topics with nuance.  I’m not sure we ended up with any clear answers, but I think had the type of conversation filled with respect and curiosity that can enable us to go deeper with each other and with other people.

Connect With Nemo