Be the Change with Anthony Russo
Anthony Russo’s odds for success didn’t look very good when he was a child. It would be easy to believe he had no chance to escape poverty at all, let alone build a company worth over a million dollars before launching a national movement of positive change – but Anthony Russo learned how to take every setback and failure he experienced and turn it into forward momentum. That’s how he overcame overwhelming personal and professional challenges to be the change in his own life before starting a national movement to inspire others to do the same.
Today, Anthony is all-in on being a force to connect divided Americans, no matter how impossible that may seem. His platform, #BetheChange, is his vehicle for driving that change.
BetheChange promotes its message that Americans are about more than our politics and failures. It emphasizes the belief that the power of the people is greater than that of the government, and that we as people have the ability to create the change we wish to see by being that change, ourselves.
What started as a pull to create conversation has grown into an organization that hosts live interviews, sells apparel, runs events, and offers a platform for any engaged person to share their own voice – as long as it is done respectfully. Anthony also offers coaching on overcoming failure.
Respect, says Anthony Russo, is noticeably absent in today’s climate.
He got his first taste of that himself when he responded to a tragedy by sharing his thoughts online. Anthony was just a mile away from the scene of a 2016 shooting that left 5 Dallas Police Officers dead. “The Dallas Five” were all victims of a shooter who specifically targeted them. Ironically, the Police Officers were killed while performing their duty to protect protestors who were protesting against the police.
The incident occurred at a time in Anthony’s own life where he was at a personal crossroads. After achieving what most people would determine to be “enough” success in spite of the challenges he’d faced throughout his life, Anthony had been struggling with a new challenge. He was searching for the path in which he would not only achieve financial and professional success, but personal fulfillment.
The shock and senselessness of the shooting left him deeply disturbed. Even more than the brutality of it all, says Anthony, was the culture that had been exposed. “I started realizing that our country has become a country that just yells at the top of their lungs without a plan of action,” he says.
Unable to shake the emotions that incident evoked, Anthony wrote a 4 page article on it. He shared that in his eyes, the Obama administration had created an unacceptable climate that had led to this shooting. He wrote that Americans need to reverse course and come together.
That article is something he never imagined he would write. There was a time he’d been a tried and true Democrat, to the point that even a bumper sticker for a Republican president was enough for him to rule out being friends with someone. So this article was not created out of a political grudge or rivalry he’d been nurturing; His intentions had been pure when he wrote it. He simply availed himself of the right to free speech, knowing he was making himself vulnerable but believing that vulnerability was because he was so open about his personal feelings.
Most of the people who read it saw something they did not like, and their dislike had nothing to do with him being weak for having emotions. It was more about disapproving of what those emotions were.
Much to Anthony’s dismay, the response to his article was the opposite of what he’d intended. Rather than being perceived as a call for unity, many people who read it viewed it as a call for racism. Anthony was called a bigot. He was asked, “When did you become such an asshole?” It even went so far, says Anthony, that a hate group was created specifically about him. Over 100 members joined together to voice their disbelief and disgust for what he had written.
What was most shocking about this, is that many of those members were people Anthony knew personally. Even a couple he’d married (He’s an ordained minister) turned on him. The attacks were not just personal. Members carried their outrage into his professional world as well, reaching out to his clients to warn them that they hired a bigot.
It was devastating for him. It’s where a lot of people would retreat to a corner to lick their wounds, and never venture back out from. But Anthony had been cultivating his own resilience for years, and taught himself something he calls the “Double Down Strategy.”
Simply put, this strategy means when you lose at a bet, you double down and keep going instead of giving up. This way when you win, you are that much further ahead.
This strategy demands walking a fine line, he cautions. It requires you to take a hard look at the reason you failed, learn from that mistake, and never repeat it. The strategy is born from years of watching his father use it without that important distinction. “Negative progression” gambling, says Anthony, is when you combine doubling down after a loss, with a blind eye to what mistakes created that loss. His father taught him that well.
By the time Anthony Russo was six years old, he was effectively the man of the house.
His father was so enmeshed in his physical illness, multiple sclerosis, and his addiction to gambling, that he often lost every dime the family had. Anthony and his mother lived in a perpetual state of poverty, teetering on homelessness. He had no idea what it was like to have a father who took him fishing or camping or shooting or any of the things other kids’ fathers did with them.
His difficult childhood is something he eventually turned into an opportunity to learn resilience, but it was a very painful and hard-earned opportunity that also left him with little patience for being told to apologize or pay note to advantages he holds because of his skin color. “I do not regret anything in my childhood but do not call me privileged,” he says in response to those who insist on reminding him of the White Privilege he is blessed with.
This statement alone makes it virtually impossible for him to break through barriers between himself and many of the people he is working to bridge a divide with. In today’s climate there is no room for people like Anthony, who refuse to conform to mandated versions of healing racial divides.
Anthony Russo’s audience began modestly and has grown swiftly.
Kash Lee Kelly, who became an overnight virtual Influencer after a video he posted, has joined forces with Anthony. Their live shows and interviews regularly see hundreds or thousands of views in real time, with even more watching the replays. Anthony’s friends join them.
The group believed that their diverse makeup, with two of them more Liberal while Kash and Anthony are Conservative, not to mention Anthony being the only White host, would invite more open minded people to join them and stretch their mindsets together.
But even that was not enough. “You don’t have a Black enough audience,” some people complained. “You don’t have specialists in systemic racism,” came more complaints.
The harder Anthony tried to be inclusive and invite diversity, the harder the pushback came.
It’s not always so direct. Some people, like one of his friends, assured him she still thinks he’s great – it’s just his morals she questions since he began speaking out for what he believes in.
“I can’t buy into this,” he thought when the comments began coming. “Sweet Lord we’ve lost our mind!” he realized when the comments continued to pour in.
As each day passes and the political unrest worsens, personal and professional divides are being exploited and deepened to meet those political agendas. A staggering number of Americans message people like Anthony to secretly support him while publicly staying silent to protect themselves or their jobs.
The mission Anthony Russo has set for himself is much more complex than it appears.
Had he not already learned how to climb those big mountains, perhaps he would give up and go away. Instead, he’s doubling down.
He may not have enjoyed having to walk away from two businesses he started, work off $100,000 debt, or acknowledge he’d lost his passion for the company he built into being worth over a million dollars, but all those experiences provided him with an education in resilience and adapting to change that he is able to pull from now.
He made a decisive move that he knew would create some more negativity, but which would ultimately serve a greater purpose. He had to acknowledge that his middle-of-the-road approach was not working.
“I tried to keep balanced,” he says. He made every effort to keep his platform all-inclusive and middle of the road. He’d still like to return to that one day. Today, though, that message falls on deaf ears. So he’s begun embracing his own conservative views along with Kash while his two friends balance out their interviews with their Liberal perspectives.
As expected, many people left the platform, slamming the door on their way out. But gradually, more people are coming to take their place. This is largely a Conservative group, says Anthony, but he’s found they are more open to listening to Liberal talking points and work to find common ground than those with a more Liberal leaning tend to be. At least, that’s been his experience with the people who find him.
He’ll never roll up the Welcome mat for any American ready to have hard conversations and get out of their comfort zones in the name of unity or at least a truce in this country. All are invited to stop in to his page, listen to an interview, ask hard questions and connect with others, regardless of who they voted for.
For now, though, Anthony is focusing on igniting change by exemplifying the change he wishes to see.
He is helping thousands of Americans strengthen their platforms and their voices to do the same. He is remaining committed to working with people who disagree with him on policy but agree with him on core values, and he is committed to being at the forefront of the movement to heal the divide in America.To create an air of possibility, to empower people to realize they can rise out of whatever they are in and not use your past as fuel – to not be burned down by it – that’s my American Dream – Anthony RussoClick To Tweet
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