Choose to judge people (and yourself) by their future not their past.

Everyone has a past, and it is very ‘easy’ to judge them by it. It is so easy that we as individuals often get stuck in the past.  Part of the allure of judging someone’s past is that we do not have to get to know who the person is now, and hindsight is 20/20.  We as individuals and companies need to understand that someone’s past (albeit socioeconomic status, life events, or criminal history) do not determine their future.  I have yet to find a better statement of this then in Joe DeLoss’s TedX talk when he said: “We choose to judge people by their future not their past”.

Who is Joe?  He is an entrepreneur and social activist who started a restaurant named Hot Chicken Takeover in Columbus, OH.  The chicken is good, the mac and cheese is awesome, but his passion for breaking the poverty cycle and improving the world is what is amazing.  (See his TedX talk here: Joe DeLoss at TedX )

Joe’s belief that HR can be disruptive and help to break the poverty cycle is right on.  HCT intentionally hires, educates and supports individuals that are homeless, live in poverty or have a history of incarceration. Not only have they had great success building a reliable workforce but also they are actively giving back.  A quick look at their ‘benefits’ show something different as they are all optional but range from the normal (paid time off) to the unique (1:1 financial counseling, coaching, transportation, education and more).

It is a powerful model for HR.  I do wonder about how to get more individuals to embrace the concept though.   Maybe the start to valuing people by their future is by doing the same for us.

Everyone has a past (positive, neutral and negative). We often shortchange ourselves based on that past.  The self talk may go like this “well if only I had…” or “it is too late to change…”  Then what happens is we fall back into our past and limit our future.

Joe is trying to set a model where companies look towards the future, but what happens if everyone they hire is looking backwards?  You hear the term ‘break the cycle’.  The truth is that we all need to take part if we are truly going to focus on the future.

I’m with Joe that not everyone has bootstraps to pull themselves up by.   But everyone does need to take one step forward (and not worry about looking backwards).

So how do people move forward?  It is no surprise that my first answer is education.  That doesn’t mean formal classroom but learning something new.  It can be as simple as learning a new skill, viewpoint or just challenging yourself.  For the poor this may mean starting small, visiting the library or just finding a mentor.  The challenge is to find something new, outside your current circle (or cycle) and going for it.

For those of us with the means, it may mean formal education.  Taking a class or completing a certification can be more about engaging parts of your brain that have not been stressed lately Than another piece of paper.  Go and join a massive online open course (mooc). Get in the habit of watching a Ted talk everyday. Read everyday – more than Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s meet Joe half way.  As I sit here eating my hot chicken (which is good) and Mac (amazing) I count myself as blessed to have been able to see HCT at work.  It started as a small window in old towne east (3 blocks from my house) and is now a huge space in the north market.  HCT’s past as a small window in a store did not determine its future and the same goes for everyone out there.  Learn from your past but focus on your future.

This article was written by Jason Zigmont.  Jason Zigmont is a coach, consultant and author and can be found at, on Twitter and Facebook.  Jason holds a PhD in Adult Learning and provides coaching services at

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