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Ruth Rathblott thinks about ‘unhiding’ and building inclusive connections


In this series of Group Thinkers podcast episodes, our focus is on leadership. Throughout each episode, we’ll chat with leaders in the nonprofit and commercial space to learn more about their careers and the unique journeys that led them to where they are today. 

On this episode, we sit down with Ruth Rathblott, speaker and author of “Singlehandedly: Learning to Unhide and Embrace Connection,” to discuss:   

  • Her path into the nonprofit space and lessons learned (8:38) 
  • How she navigated leadership early in her career (13:30) 
  • The process of hiding and unhiding (18:07) 
  • The story behind her book and TED Talk (21:26) 
  • Navigating unhiding and who helped her along the way (27:39) 
  • How she’s serving as a mentor to others now (31:38) 

Meet our guest 


Ruth Rathblott 

Author & Speaker 

“Hiding is universal. Most of us are hiding something. And it’s not just disability—visible or invisible. People have shared with me they hide their educational background, their ethnicity, their voice, whether they have a stutter or an accent, they hide their mental health … and while I’m not advocating that workplaces need to be therapy sessions, I’m advocating, how is that holding you back from connecting with others?” 

Podcast transcript 

Justin McCord: Welcome to Group Thinkers, the podcast from RKD Group. I’m your host, Justin McCord, and with me is Ronnie Richard. 

And on this episode, we welcome Ruth Rathblott, who is an author, a speaker, a nonprofit veteran, and Ronnie, boy, does she have a unique story and point of view. 

Ronnie Richard: Incredible story. 

You know, she spent 25 years or so in the nonprofit space, working at Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York and the Harlem Educational Activities Fund. So she's got so much experience there. I mean, she was the CEO at Harlem Educational Activities Fund. 

But then on the side, she started, kind of, coming into her own as a speaker and on diversity and inclusion; she brings a very unique aspect to that, I think. She focuses on talking about disabilities as part of diversity and inclusion because she was born with a limb difference and always tried to hide it until she learned to, what she calls, “unhide,” which is the theme of the book she's come out with, called “Singlehandedly,” and she’s done a TED talk on it. She’s, like, to me, sort of just a really inspirational person, I found. 

Justin: Yeah. There are a couple things that stand out to me in the conversation for folks to be listening for or keyed into. 

One, we think that we're creating a safe space by normalizing and hiding things that are different about us or things that … maybe having a lack of vulnerability, we think we're creating a safe space, and we're actually making it harder on ourselves. Like there's … she goes into that, which is fascinating and the psychology behind that.  

And then the second thing that I loved, Ronnie, that I observed is as a leader, her unlocking a way to think about something and knowing that she can't do it alone. And so, bringing people alongside her to coach her, mentor her, challenge her, and what a model that is for us as individuals, for leaders of teams, for leaders in the nonprofit space, marketing space, the fundraising space, of how you're never too old to be coached. 

Ronnie: Yeah. I found it really interesting that there's, like, this theme of connection and community both in her career and in what she's talking about with unhiding because, you know, we all hide a little something, and I actually ask her a question about this. Like, you know, people hide things because we wanna be part of the group, the social community, but when you unhide, you actually form, like, a stronger connection with someone and develop this sense of community over it. And, again, I just, I just found the whole conversation to be really fascinating. So, without further ado, here is our conversation with Ruth Rathblott: 


Justin: I really wish we would have had the conversation we were just having now. Because it's a great way to ...  

Ruth Rathblott: Start this?  

Justin: Yeah. I mean, we were talking about the benefit of being able to look at someone when you're talking to them, whether or not that's on video or, ideally, it's in person. But just the benefit of getting to be able to look at that. And more specifically, the distraction of yourself in that same setting.  

Ruth: Totally, and how self-conscious you become about how you look, what you're saying, and it starts to impact, to your point from before, how present you are. Right? Because then you're sitting there thinking, well, should I say that? Do I look weird? Does my hair look right? Well, am I actually listening to what Justin is saying? Or am I thinking about myself? 

Justin: Right. Yeah, it's so interesting. There's a former colleague who, he kept a mirror on his desk―and this is pre-surge of video calls―but he kept a mirror on his desk because he wanted to maintain high energy and really have a smile whenever he was on the phone. And so, it's like this kind of forerunner, but that's before we were all staring at ourselves all day long, which we do now. 

Ruth: So he's the one, then, that we get to blame. He jinxed us because now we have to all look at ourselves all the time and smile and don't know if it brings up our energy anymore. Like, I actually keep a picture of my younger self close to my computer just so that I can remember why I'm doing what I'm doing. And sometimes my family when I'm giving a longer speech just so I'm talking to somebody because this is, yeah, if I don't see you, Justin and Ronnie, like, yeah, who do I see? 

Justin: Yeah. That's so interesting. 

Ronnie: We need a platform that, you know, I've been on Zoom and Teams and various platforms, and I haven't seen the feature yet where you can turn yourself off. Like, you're still on camera, but you don't have to look at yourself? Someone needs to come out with that. 

Ruth: Yes. Yeah. Sometimes I make it really small so I don't actually look at it. Like, I pull it off to the side. 

Justin: Right. So you're not drawn to watching your own mannerisms. 

Ruth: Right. No. This is about the audience. Just about your listeners. 

Justin: It's about the audience. It's about the audience. So, Ruth, welcome to, welcome to our chat. Thanks for being here. We really appreciate it. 

So, Ronnie, and for our audience, Ruth and I sat by each other―and we didn't have mirrors; we weren't staring at ourselves―we sat by each other in real life. What was it? We talked about this a couple weeks ago, seven, eight years ago, something like that? 

Ruth: Easily. It's definitely before COVID, but everything before that is PC. Yeah.  

Justin: Yeah. Right. Yeah. So, PC. So, we … and we're on a panel together for an event in New York, and, you know, we were talking about, you know, the future of fundraising at that point in time and those sorts of things. And Ruth, it was, it was while you were leading the Harlem Education Activities Fund. And even at the time, you know, I could tell, we could tell that there was something that was different about you in terms of the way that you wanted to engage the crowd and your vision around just nonprofits and connection. 

And you’ve really leaned into that. And so, that's really why we wanted to talk to you and have you be a part of this conversation today, to hear your journey. 

Yeah. So again, thanks for being here. 

Ruth: No. Thank you. And that probably is an understatement that there's something different about me. Right? 

And I think, yeah, I do think there are a number of things that are different. I mean, just in terms of even thinking about leading an organization was a different approach because I saw it ... oftentimes what you hear about nonprofits is, oh, well, they're not really businesses. And I'm like, well no, they actually are. And there ... so there's a salary component that needs to be thought of, there's a funding component. 

The one thing I think nonprofits still need to kinda get right is the research and development part that a lot of corporations get to do that nonprofits don't always have the luxury of playing with.  

And that diversity piece is huge in terms of how we include and how we exclude people. And so, that was always the space I wanted to understand more. 

Justin: Yeah. Well, and you have definitely gone hard in that direction. And so, just, as we get going, just share a little bit of your story. We're gonna … we wanna pick apart your story in different chapters and understand it, leading up to, obviously, your book, which is out and available, "Singlehandedly,” that we'll talk about. 

But share a little bit about your story, your path, into the nonprofit space and then some of the things that you learned early on. 

Ruth: Sure. It's interesting, Justin. I had gone into this in college, I went into psychology thinking that I was gonna be a clinical therapist, and that was gonna be my road map. 

And during graduate school, I went to get my master's in social work, and they put you in field placements where you're able to work directly and immediately with different populations. And I was counseling young people in an elementary school and loved that work. And then that summer, between my two years of graduate school, I went and lived in Appalachia. And I worked with women and children, building entrepreneurial skills with women, and I came back from that experience and thought, there is no way that I can sit in an office for fifty minutes listening to someone and feel like that's impact the same way that I wanna be making impact. 

So, I came back to Boston University, and I thought, I need to change this whole thing. I need to … I had enough credits at that point even to finish off a clinical part of my degree. But I really wanted the policy part. I needed to understand, how did policy impact young people, and how did young people impact policy, and I loved the group part of it, the group work part. 

And so, I changed my major and finished ending up at Boston University with a clinical degree, a Masters of Social Work with also the advanced policy piece. And a group work specialization. 

And then left Boston to try New York for one year. New York was only supposed to be one year. I moved in. No job. And I ... two weeks, like, a week later, I got this job at Big Brothers Big Sisters in New York. Thought that would only be for two months, and I kept looking for jobs. 

I ended up staying at Big Brothers for fifteen and a half years, building out my career there and my workplace connections and mentoring. 

And then, I also have been in New York over 28 years. So, the plans, I think sometimes we set plans for ourselves. Right? I know I did. And that wasn't the plan. That was my idea, but not my plan. 

And so, I, yeah, The Big Brothers Big Sisters was an amazing opportunity because what it allowed for is, How do you build interventions for young people? Give them exposure and opportunity to different mentoring, to workplaces, and allow for volunteers to also have connection with kids? 

And so, that was kind of my entrée into administrative work with nonprofits and leading nonprofits, and then went on to run a literacy program. 

And then, as you mentioned, ended up running the Harlem Educational Activities Fund as their CEO, which provided … 

Justin: It’s so interesting, Ruth, because it's, like, everything in your story builds to the now. And even then, you had no idea that your work with a diverse population of underprivileged kids that need mentorship, that need guidance, that need someone to step in and be a leader for them, how that was helping shape you to your next step. 

I think it's so fascinating whenever we take a step back and think about those things. 

Ruth: Yes. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. You get the privilege of looking back. Right? In it, you don't always know why these opportunities are showing up or how they're showing up. And I think, absolutely, working with students who are underserved in many ways has been was my calling for so long, and it was also safe, Justin. Because working with young people is … and it's an age I would never wanna go back to, my teenage years, because of my own story, which is, I started hiding my hand. I was born with a limb difference, and I started hiding it at 13. 

And that's, you know, for most adolescents, that's a time when you wanna fit in anyway. 

Add on a layer of something that's different about you―a physical, for me, it was a physical disability, something visible―and all I wanted to do was hide it. And so, I understand, I understand and understood the challenges of teens that I was working with in a different way. And built connections because of that, I think. Because there was no judgment. 

I understood it. And that's where I think, also, the social work piece of what I did, what I learned, was so important. 

But, yeah, no, things definitely build in your career. 

Justin: They do. And there's so much to your point about your experience even as a teenager and as an adolescent. 

What were the ... who were the people, not what were the triggering moments, but who were the people that helped you navigate as a leader and a leader with a difference? Who were the people that helped you navigate that early in your time at the Harlem Educational Activities Fund? 

Ruth: You know, it's funny. I didn't talk about my difference for a really long time. 

I didn't talk about my disability, or how it affected my leadership, or how it affected my learning or how it affected my relationships. I actually hid it. And when, even when I stopped hiding my hand, physically, like, not having it in my pocket, not having it with longer sleeves or under book bags or purses, I was still hiding. And what came to light was really interesting. It was a defining moment in my career where we were having a conversation about diversity and leadership, and I asked kind of a naive question at the time, now probably more powerful when I think about it, which was, “Do you see me as diverse?” 

And the answer back was interesting. It was, well, you're a woman. And I said, okay. That's a lens of diversity. That's a gender lens that we talk about. What about my disability? 

And the answer back to that was, oh, we don't see you like that. And I said, well, I'm not asking to be seen like that. I'm asking for it to be acknowledged as part of diversity. Because to me, diversity is about different experiences, different perspectives, and difference. 

And I started reaching out to my corporate partners where I'd done a lot of fundraising in New York City over the 25 years, and I started asking the question, how are they defining diversity, and who is being represented? 

And I was getting back a lot of the typical answers and really the strength of race, and gender and maybe sexual orientation, which are critical pillars, don't get me wrong, Justin. 

And what I wasn't hearing, I wasn't hearing about disability, visible or invisible, in those conversations. 

And it was one of my corporate contacts that said, you know, Ruth, we have this inclusion week coming up. Would you wanna come and tell your story because we don't have anyone with a visible difference. 

Justin, I had spent my life in nonprofit. I thought I was living and dying in nonprofit. Like, that was my, that was my track.  

Justin: Right. 

Ruth: And I went down and spoke. And what was interesting is that my contact said, Ruth, you have a story. Your story is, that you've told me, is that you hid for 25 years, you hid your disability. Because even when that question about diversity came up, and not seeing me as diverse, what I realized, even as angry as I could get about, hey, that's not fair, I hadn't shared out my journey with anyone. So, when I had the opportunity to start sharing it, what started to resonate with people was two things. 

One is, thank you for, people would come up and say, thank you for including disability in the diversity conversation because I have felt left out. And I said, me too.  

And the second was this idea of hiding. Like, it really started to resonate with people because most of us are hiding something about ourselves. And it keeps us disconnected from not only ourselves, but from others on our team and in our leadership styles. And I, as I reflect back on my own leadership style, because, and you mentioned it earlier, I wasn't talking to anyone about my difference or my disability. So, I was expecting and creating a workspace that didn't allow for people to share their vulnerabilities either because as a leader, I wasn't modeling that. 

I was creating a workspace of perfection and people couldn't get things wrong. There wasn't a sense of vulnerability. And that's ... I've definitely learned a lot through my writing and research and practice. 

It does start with leadership. 

Ronnie: That's really fascinating, Ruth. 

You know, we think about … we as humans, we're all very social creatures, and there's, like, this need, this want to fit into the group and be a part of the group. And part of that is that we do, you know, we hide those things that make us different from the group, and you kind of adapt to the things that make you fit in. 

So yeah, like, when you said, we're all hiding something … I'm curious, when you started to get this realization about hiding and stopping hiding, frankly, were you nervous about coming forth with that? Did you have second thoughts? You know, as you prepared … you know, you've done a TED Talk now, you've written a book, you know, before you really got to a broader audience, was there some hesitation about it? 

Ruth: I think because ... it's a great question, Ronnie. I think that the hesitation was, would have been there if I hadn’t done the work already. Right? Like, so hiding and unhiding is a continuum. 

It's a process. It doesn't happen overnight. It's not like one day you wake up and you say, I think I'm gonna share my story out there and tell people about my disability. Like, this thing that I not only feared rejection around if I showed my hand, I feared judgment, and I also told myself stories that were worse than the actual thing itself. 

And that I outlined definitely in the book. And in the TED Talk, I think that the hesitation was that no one would ... it wouldn't resonate with anyone. Like, I wasn't so afraid of telling my story. It was, well, does it matter? Does anyone need to hear it? And what's amazing is that what I got back in return is this idea that hiding is universal. 

Most of us are hiding something. And it's not just disability, visible, or invisible. It's, I mean, people have shared with me, they hide their education backgrounds. They hide their ethnicity. They hide their voice, whether they have a stutter, an accent. They hide their, definitely their mental health. They hide financial status, family background. 

I mean, people are hiding things all the time. And while we're not necessarily, I’m not advocating that workplaces need to be therapy sessions. I’m advocating for, how is it holding you back from connecting with others? 

Because if you're so worried about someone finding out about your, quote unquote, secret or what you're hiding, it's exhausting, and it's lonely, and you think you're the only one. 

So that's where I wasn't sure if it would resonate. And when I started to do the research, 10 years ago in 2013, Deloitte did a study with Kenji Uchino, and it showed that 61 percent of people were hiding part of themselves in the workplace. Well, let's fast forward ten years. The last three, we've all been able to if we needed to hide behind blanked-out cameras, muted microphones, working from home. And while some of that has felt safe, we also know it's allowed for people to hide other pieces of themselves. So, I'd love that study to be done again because I think that number's higher. 

Justin: It's, you know, it's to your point, you had done the work and didn't realize that you were preparing yourself for those sorts of things. So you go, and you speak in this diversity week, and you talk about disability, and you start to unlock the idea of the unhiding that now you've become known for, the principles and the practices around it. 

So, how did you go from that to the TED Talk and the book? Like, string together those pieces for us. 

Ruth: Sure. And I can even take it a step back just one step, which is the unhiding part itself was a process. Right? And a journey, and it is now outlined into, kind of, four steps, but that first step is acknowledging that I was hiding. I needed to understand and own that I was hiding this part of myself. 

So that's the first step. And then, it was I got so exhausted by it that I had to invite someone in to show me how to unhide. I had to actually invite someone in to show me how to unhide. 

And that was, that's not easy because you have to trust that person. You have to find someone that you can trust with that part that negates all of the voices that you've heard and the stories you've told yourself. 

And then I started to build out community. 

And I found I was randomly in a Duane Reade on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, and I ran into a woman who has one arm. And part of when you're hiding, you don't want to associate or affiliate with others who are like you or that are, you know, because that means that then maybe you'll have to be lumped into that category, and there's stigma around that. But when I started to accept that part of myself because I learned how from inviting someone in, I actually started to see people who had differences and disabilities. And so, I run into this woman, and she tells me about this group called The Lucky Fin Project, and there's a whole community of people with limb differences out there. I didn't even know the word limb difference. I had always just called it my hand, my small, my little hand. Right. 

It's a whole group of limb different people. And so, it's the idea of, then, the community part. 

Then that allowed me to start to realize there were other people. I didn't invent hiding. I thought I did. I thought I was the only one that was hiding. 

And so, when I met other people who also had had that shared experience, that opened the doors for then sharing out the story and then helping other people. And so, what I found after I started sharing out is, it resonated with people. And people said, wait, I'm hiding too. Like, how do I, how do I talk about it? 

How do I connect? Because it's holding me back at work. It's holding me back from connections with my team. It’s holding me back from my leaders as a leader told me back. 

And right now, especially, we want people to return to work. Right? Well, if you've gotten safe with hiding at home, why are you returning to work? Because you don't, you don't feel seen. You don't feel heard. You don't feel like you belong. And so, that's the movement, it’s this idea of creating spaces for people to unhide in the workplace. And so, by talking, and I'm getting to your question, I promise, Justin. 

Justin: No. You're fine. You're totally fine. 

Ruth: Because I think it's that the journey isn't overnight. 

It's not like I woke up and I, yeah, I had one presentation all of a sudden. I said, oh, I'm gonna throw up my career. I'm gonna do a TEDx. It was starting to that in by sharing out my story, it also reinforced that this was important, that this message resonated, and it helped me understand what was resonating with people. 

And so, I didn't realize that I was not, I'm not unique in the sense of wanting to do a TEDx. A lot of people do. There's also a whole population of people who never wanna do a TEDx that I found out after I did my TED. 

And that experience was really good because it started to clarify, you only have, they say, 18 minutes―they really want you to be under 12 to 13―you only have that much time to tell an idea that's worth spreading. And I felt like this idea of when I stopped hiding, I found freedom. Because I got back to living my life when I stopped hiding, and that resonated with people. 

And I'll say, after the TED, somebody introduced me to a speaker's bureau. 

And the speaker's bureau said, I said, “Oh, I have my TEDX Talk, look, and I have video, speaker reel, I speak. So, I'm ready, sign me up. And he said, “Where's your book?” I said, no no. 

I have a video. Like, you see that I speak. I am talking to you even as I speak. He said, it doesn't matter. 

You need a book. And what the book allowed for was to stretch out the TedX talk but also to clarify I have to own it. It was cathartic because a lot of people will tell you what you should write a book about, but the book has to come from you. 

And my book is the story of my hiding. And how I learned to unhide and embrace the connections around me. 

Justin: It's a lofty maybe ... It's just these big leaps, honestly, between, you know, you're running an organization, and then, as you said, you are called away from what you had known for two and a half decades into a new space. And there is this content-rich element of telling this thing, about really having confidence in who you are. And I'm curious if you're stepping out, like, were there moments of lack of confidence along the way, part one, and then part two, because we all need people to coach us and mentor us. 

Who was that for you as you were going through the transition out of leading a nonprofit and into this space that is somewhat unpaved to help you navigate or help you constantly come back to the work that you had already done? 

Ruth: Yeah. It's so important because, even, like, the title of my book is a play on words because you can't do it single handedly. Like, you need support. Right? 

And so, yes, and thank you for bringing that up because I worked with an amazing executive coach, Denise Harris, as the piece of thinking about my career, what was my passion, what was my purpose, and helping me think through what would next look like? And she asked me a really good question that might interest your listeners too, which is, in ten years, what does your life look like? Because I was turning one of those milestone ages. And she said, okay, so that next decade, when you wake up, what does that look like? 

And I said, “Oh, well, I'm traveling much more. I'm speaking internationally, and I have this amazing beach house.” And she said, “Well, that doesn't start at that decade. It starts now.” 

Like, you start building toward that. And so, what are the things that you can start to do? What are steps because they're small, they're steps. It's not leaps to your point. It's actually steps. But if you can have a vision and a road map and a North Star to where you're wanting to head. And again, as I shared with you in the beginning, I am not the best planner of my life because things show up … and change as we go through it. 

But she was the first real person in my life that said―and I had coaches before who were really good about navigating a nonprofit career―she was the first person to help me think about what would it mean to let go of a title and a role, right? Because I think that's important too. When you make that big step outside of being comfortable with a nonprofit CEO title, or executive director, or development director, or whatever the title is, you have to let go of it. 

And she used the metaphor of a trapeze. She said, “You need to let go of one trapeze to be able to get onto the next trapeze.” And I thought, and that has stayed with me. Every time I see a picture of a trapeze or I go by a trapeze, I take a picture of it because it's a really good metaphor. You can't hold on to both. It doesn't work. 

Justin: Yeah.  

Ruth: And so, she helped me navigate what that would look like, and then what was important is, I started to realize that I could, I didn't have to reinvent building a speaking business, and a coaching business and a consulting business, there were people who I knew did that. And so, I hired a business coach, Jane Atkinson, to help me build my speaking business. And think about what were the lanes that I needed to be in? Like, what was my, really, my niche? And she helped me think about this idea of expanding diversity. And then that kind of morphed into unhiding.  

I had a coach that helped me through my TEDx process. I mean, I, at one point my father joked, you have so many coaches. How do you keep them straight? I'm like, I think it's important, especially as you’re a solopreneur in building a business or doing things on your own, you need to surround yourself with really good people. Otherwise, there are a lot of moments that are unchecked of loneliness and fear if you don't have people in your corner. 

And there's still moments like that. It's just there's more of them. 

Justin: Right. For sure. 

Ronnie: Thinking about that, Ruth, as you, you've now been out there and are helping people, and you've talked about some of the conversations you've had with people about unhiding. As you think about those who've helped you, you know, build your business and your speaking business, are you finding that you're now, kind of, being a mentor for others, whether it's about them unhiding, or helping them grow into an executive role or anything like that? Are you finding yourself as a mentor? 

Ruth: Absolutely. And I think mentoring, I mean, I started my career, Ronnie, in mentoring. So, I absolutely believe ... I mean, the Big Brother Big Sister model of mentoring, has been part of my DNA since I started my nonprofit career and probably even before that. 

And, yes, I think that there are people who, whether it's ... I went to speak at my college recently as an alum and came back and spoke, and several of the students reached out and said, can you give me advice on pursuing a nonprofit career? Can you give me advice on thinking about writing a book. So, and I'm actually bringing on an intern this summer from my college because I think that, yeah, it's about, it's not just about looking forward, it's also about, yeah, reaching back on helping people. 

So, 100 percent, the mentoring piece is huge and part of my DNA. 

And you … also I'm still learning. I'm still in the beginning, and I think that's the part that has been interesting and challenging is, I'm still building a business. So, I'm still looking to learn from others, too, who've done this. And brainstorm with my peers. 

I mean, one of the best decisions I made in this next phase of my speaking, in addition to the coaches, was joining a community of people who are also building their businesses around speaking. So, I joined the National Speakers Association. So, just to, so you're not doing everything alone. Because there is a sense of, I mean, think working from home perpetuates it, that there's a loneliness to some of this work. 

So, you have to build community. You have to bring in those coaches and those mentors and then provide that more for other people. 

And I think, I think we continue to build out … I think different genders do it differently. I think women are still continuing to build out what, how we mentor others in our worlds and how we do it successfully. 

Justin: There, I mean, it's such a truism that, you know, you get what you give. Right? 

And so, there is, there is much around right now, whether or not you're a solopreneur or if you're a production artist, that just, you know, fulfills a campaign element and then moves it along. Right?  

That it's not good to do those things alone. It's not good for any of us to do those things alone. And so, I think that that's a space that nonprofit leaders need to continually reflect on and be very mindful of, you know? The team around them. Whether or not that's delivering programs or on the marketing fundraising side, of, you know, the how those people are showing up and whether or not they're doing it in a way that shows that they're being mindful and present, just, like, paying attention to those moments, that emotional intelligence side. 

Ruth: 100 percent. And I would add to what you're saying is, I think being a nonprofit leader is one of the loneliest jobs there is because ...  

Justin: Talk about that.  

Ruth: Yeah, because you are, there are several people looking to you for direction and vision. You have your Board of Directors, you have your funders, you have your staff, and you have the clients or constituents that you work with. And you are making decisions all the time. And so how … and that you're doing it often, not in a vacuum, but with, kind of, the last word. 

Like, people are looking to you for decisions, whether it is smallest decision, like, how much toilet paper should we order this month? To, wow, what's our strategic thought for the next five years? Like, you are, you literally span. And somebody at one point asked a question. I'm part of an amazing group of women leaders. It's called the Women's Leadership Council here in New York, of forty plus nonprofit executive directors and CEOs. And someone at one point said, “Just for a moment, stop and think, how many questions do we answer in a day?” Like, from the range of questions that we answer in a day and how many of them. And so, I think it's super critical for executive directors and CEOs and leaders and nonprofits to find their group and their cohort. Because this group has been invaluable in terms of resource sharing, in terms of just camaraderie in, in that this is hard. 

This board member called for this request today because they read something in New York Times or they read something, we want this to happen. And we've all been there. We know that feeling. So just that shared experience is super important and learning from each other. 

So yeah. As I'm reflecting on your question, it's such a good one because building community around yourself is so important in all of our work. 

Justin: In all of our work. Yeah. So, what does it look like now? So, we got the book, and it's available, and we're doing our consulting work. And so, now as you look ahead, what comes next for you, Ruth? 

Ruth: Yep. So, I am building a movement and a community around unhiding. And one of the first pieces that I'm doing that will be out in May―and you're hearing it kinda here first―May of 2024 is a one- woman show. 

And the idea is to allow for global voices around unhiding. And that's part of the campaign. And just that I'm collecting those stories now, to add to that one-woman show. So, it's my story, infiltrated with the other stories of people. 

And then some form of, I wanna call it a confessional. Some form of a confessional where people can share their stories because that first step is just saying what you're hiding out loud and having it acknowledged, having it seen and heard. 

Justin: Those are both incredible. Again, like, it's not that there's not all these little things, but you continue to leap. I don't know if you realize that. 

Ruth: There's a lot of behind-the-scenes flurry. What is like, with ducks, the paddle like that underneath? Like, there's short ... yeah, they look like leaps, but there's a lot that goes into them, for sure. 

Justin: Yeah, right? So okay. So then, how can we stay connected? How can our listening audience stay connected to everything that's happening in your world and just even connect with you if they wanted to? 

Ruth: Absolutely. I think they're probably three really great places where I spend a lot of time. There's my website, which is I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn and connecting with people that way. And then there's also Instagram, which kinda shows you a little bit more of my human side and not always my speaker side, the things that I'm interested in, because part of unhiding is also showing your best self and your, for lack of a better phrase, your authentic self, the things that you also enjoy doing. I love travel. I love theater. And so, just connecting with people that way. And I also have a postcard campaign and a job form that I can send you, Justin and Ronnie, about where people can start and take that first step of what are you hiding? 

And I think it all filters back because the second book is absolutely global stories. The One-Woman Show is global stories of unhiding. 

Because there is power in in community, and there's also power in unhiding because it helps others. It's almost like a flywheel. When you allow for it to ... when you share your story, somebody else immediately thinks, what am I hiding, and how, where is it keeping me stuck? And not connect it. And then that, when they start going through that process and they share their story, it helps more people. 

Ronnie: Like that advice on the plane when they tell you, first put your mask on and then put on somebody’s next to you. 

Ruth: Totally. Totally. I mean, it's funny though, Ronnie, that you bring up a plane because just a few weeks ago, I was on a plane. And, you know, you, first of all, I love talking to people. It's part of what is also part of my DNA. 

Though my father recently said I never wanted to sit next to you on a plane. And I said, why? And he's like, if you like to talk to people and find out, I said, yeah. And I said, guess what? I never wanna talk to you either on a plane. I'm good. Because he doesn't talk. But I was sitting next to somebody, and they were, we were talking about what each other does. And all of a sudden, the person's head goes down when I talked about unhiding. 

And I said, what's going on? They said, I dropped out of high school, and I never talk about it because I'm so afraid. And they're now the successful business owner, etcetera. 

He said, I never talk about it because I'm so afraid someone will judge me or think I'm not smart enough, or they'll reject my business plan because they will think I don't have the skills. Well, that's exhausting. He's like, all I wanna do when people bring up, “Isn’t college the best four years of your life? Where's your kid going to college?” He's like, I just wanna leave the room. And he's like, I often do.  

So those are the kind of things that people are hiding, and it's keeping us disconnected. It's keeping us having to think two or three steps ahead and not focused on the present, and that's how we even started this conversation. How do we focus on the present and connect with each other? 

Justin: Ruth, that's in, I mean, honestly, I am so glad that we connected first in person, sitting next to one another, and then reconnected through LinkedIn, as you mentioned, And just, honestly, we appreciate your time here, but also your mission and focus. And we believe that it, it pays forward, and we need more Ruth Rathblott’s in the world. 

So, thank you for all that you're doing. 

Ruth: No, and thank you for allowing the message to be amplified with your listeners and allowing me to come on. I mean, I appreciate both of you, Justin and Ronnie. Like, this is incredible to be able to connect and take it to a different level, to a different audience. Thank you. 

Justin: For sure. Alright, Ruth, well, thanks again for chatting today, and we can't wait to see the next chapter continue to be written. 

Ruth: Right. No, I appreciate that. And it does, it feels like it's everything is like a next chapter, right? Like, you get to a mountaintop, and then there's another peak to scale. And there's another peak. It keeps happening. 

So, these leaps are real and … but I need support along the way like everyone does. So, thank you. 

Justin: Yeah, for sure. 

Group Thinkers is a production of RKD group. 

For more information, including how you can partner with RKD to accelerate growth for your fundraising and nonprofit marketing needs, visit 

RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing services provider to hundreds of nonprofit organizations, including hospitals, social service, disease research, animal welfare, rescue missions, and faith-based charities. RKD Group’s omnichannel approach leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive online and offline engagements and donations. With a growing team of professionals, RKD Group creates breakthroughs never thought possible.

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