The tragic events of 9/11 set Baktash on a path of examining why people do what they do. Upon graduation from college, he decided to serve in the Peace Corps as an educator in a rural village in Mozambique. His father learned English from a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kandahar in the 1960s and that experience was the inspiration for his family to come to the United States.

After completing his service in the Peace Corps, Baktash went back to Afghanistan, the country of his birth, to serve as a combat interpreter and cultural advisor for three years supporting military and reconstruction efforts throughout the country. This life-changing experience put his Afghan-American identity on the front line on the War on Terror in Afghanistan.

After his service in Afghanistan, Baktash produced and translated a number of award-winning documentary films about free speech, photojournalism, the refugee crisis, and violence against women. He writes, speaks, and teaches regularly about individual, organizational, and societal change.

Baktash Ahadi is an agile leader with 15 years of helping companies and organizations solve their most complex human centric problems.

He specializes in culture change, digital transformation, and helping leaders make a positive impact on their organization and on society.

The recipient of numerous awards and compelling speaker, Baktash is a certified Executive Leadership Coach and is the host of the chart topping Stories of Transformation podcast.

Baktash Ahadi (00:00):

Teachers would tell parents of immigrants, if your child doesn't speak English, they won't, they won't learn English well, or they'll speak English with an accent. And now we know that's completely untrue. Children can learn up to 26 languages simultaneously and learn them fluently, but that wasn't the case in the 1980s. So the first thing that went for our family was language. And so my parents were told this information by teachers at school. And so they got very scared. So although they didn't speak English well, they started... the first thing they did is they invested all their money into a big television set so that their kids can watch TV and learn English from television. (laughs).

Emy diGrappa (00:47):

Hello, my name is Emy diGrappa. Each week we bring you stories asking our guests the question, why? We learn about passion, purpose, and the human experience. Brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, with the generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation. This is What's Your Why?

                 Today, we're going to take you on a journey with our guest Baktash Ahadi. He is a communications and leadership strategist, and he was born in Afghanistan. Welcome, Baktash.

Baktash Ahadi (01:37):

Thank you, Emy. I appreciate being here. Thank you.

Emy diGrappa (01:39):

Absolutely. I read your bio. I've, I love everything that you have been doing in your life. And I have so many questions about your communications and your leadership strategy and what you do. But before we go there, I wanna talk about, you know, your personal journey. You were born in Afghanistan and you joined the Peace Corps after 911, and just take us down that road.

Baktash Ahadi (02:08):

Sure. I'd be happy to. So my origin story is that I was born Afghanistan, uh, two years after the Soviets invaded the country, and the Soviet essentially put my father's life in danger, where he had to come home and tell my mother, uh, to pack her bags, get the kids ready, and that we were gonna flee the country. And what was really interesting at this point is my mother had never left her neighborhood at that point in her life. And lo and behold, my father comes back from work that day, grabs my mother. They get in a cab and they make it to outside of Kabul, where my father had ties with the Mujahideen. And we eventually get on horseback, uh, with the guide of Mujahideen, the milit- uh, the freedom fighters that were essentially fighting against the Soviets in Afghanistan with the support of the United States.

                 And we spent the next seven days and six nights trekking through the Hindu Kush mountain range, which is very much like the, the Rockies that exist in Wyoming. Very much like the Grand Teton. So you can imagine traversing those mountains for seven days and six nights with two toddlers. And that's what my parents did before we made it to refugee camps, Pakistan, where we spent two years of our lives there before getting sponsored and coming to the United States where my family landed in, in a town called Carlisle in the middle of Pennsylvania, uh, where we started new lives in America in 1986.

                 And what's interesting about that experience is that once we arrived, America was very much a place that didn't resemble anything that my parents understood America to be in terms of what they saw on television and media, right?

Emy diGrappa (02:08):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Baktash Ahadi (03:52):

Because they assumed that every place, everywhere in America was full of big buildings, flashy lights, and money grew on trees in some sense, right? What's amazing about Hollywood is that it depicts how America's a very sensational place where you can achieve all your dreams. But what it doesn't do is it doesn't depict on how difficult it is to be here, starting from scratch. (laughs).

                 And so my parents and my family, we spent a good chunk of time assimilating into American culture, and until 911 happened, which is when Afghanistan came back on the map, not just for my family, but for the United States and the rest of the world because of the nine att- 911 attacks.

Emy diGrappa (04:36):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Baktash Ahadi (04:37):

Those attacks were orchestrated from Afghanistan by Al-Qaeda. And so if you remember and your audience, audience remembers, the United States went into Afghanistan to pursue Al-Qaeda who was being defended by the Taliban at the time. And so what was really interesting is when that happened, I was in college, 911 happened nine days after I started college. And I went into college as a first-generation college student, not knowing what college was and what I wanted to study to almost overnight being deeply curious about why people do what they do. And that was the question that I pursued and that I'm still pursuing.

                 That kind of took me into the Peace Corps as a Peace Corps volunteer, to serve in Mozambique that took me to India, took me to Europe. And then eventually it took me to Afghanistan to serve as a combat interpreter with the Marines for three years, where I got to serve on the front lines of the war on terror in my home country, alongside my adopted country, in some sense. And so I lived that experience [inaudible 00:05:44] for three years, saw the good and the bad and the ugly that war can do to people and came back. And since 2012, when I got back, at the end of 12, 2012, until now, I've been very deeply interested in understanding the human condition, storytelling, and really understanding and helping people discover the meaning that they give to the lived experience.

Emy diGrappa (06:11):

And remind me how old you were when, when you came to the U.S.

Baktash Ahadi (06:15):

Yeah, so we landed in 1986 and I was five years old.

Emy diGrappa (06:19):

Okay. So that's probably a very distinct memory for you because that's probably when children really start to have their memories.

Baktash Ahadi (06:29):

Yeah. It's a matter of cognitive development, memory starts to begin around the age of three. So I have no recollection of my time in Afghanistan 'cause I was, I was three years old when we left. And I still slowly start to remember, I remember my memories from when I was, when my family was in Pakistan, but then as you quite eloquently said, when my family arrived to United States, that's when my memories kind of really took hold.

Emy diGrappa (06:55):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Baktash Ahadi (06:56):

And so they're very much ingrained in my, um, in my lived experience as a matter of how, you know, as a matter of my origin story. So I remember those, I remember those experiences very much where we lived, how we lived, who was helping us, uh, the things that my parents had to face. Um, so it was very much ingrained in my memory.

Emy diGrappa (07:20):

What kind of job was your dad able to get when, when you all arrived in this country?

Baktash Ahadi (07:26):

Yeah, so my parents, it's important to, to note that my parents, when we arrived to United States, my dad knew a little bit of English because he was taught by a Peace Corps volunteer in Kandahar in the 1960s. And he had, uh, a job as a key punch operator with USAID and Kabul before coming to the United States. And so he knew, he knew a little bit of English, not much. My mother didn't know any. And so when we first arrived, my father's first job was, uh, working as, um, a grocery store bagger sort of worked in a grocery store. And my mother started to go to school, uh, to become a beautician. And she took my brother and I, Delia and I with her every single day.

                 So my parents, uh, really started with nothing. Um, we're really grateful for the church group, the St. Paul's Lutheran Church that sponsored my family and I. They're very much responsible for helping my parents and my family get on their feet. So they put my mother into school and my father went to school and they helped my father find a job and essentially helped my family like navigate what it meant to be in America now.

Emy diGrappa (08:37):

That is really incredible. And what do you think the refugee experience is today, do you think it's similar to what you experienced or do you think it's changed?

Baktash Ahadi (08:48):

That's a really important question. What's really important about, I think the time in which my family came to the United States and me was that it was in the 1980s. The 1980s was a really interesting decade because I would argue it was the last decade before globalization really took off that demonstrated and showed the world that the world is smaller and smaller and smaller day-by-day. And the, the fundamental event that demonstrated that to us, I think was 911. And what I mean to say is, 911 was orchestrated from Afghanistan that affected the lives of thousands, if not millions of people across the world, in the West, in Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in South America, because overnight people knew what Islamic terrorism was. They knew the name Al-Qaeda. They knew the face of bin Laden, and it demonstrated to the world that what happens in one part of the world can affect others in a very distant part of the world.

                 And so the 1980s was still very much distant from that, meaning the, the, the town that my family and I landed in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, I mean, was still very isolated from the rest of the world. And let me give you some examples. When you think about finding a sense of home and belonging, and you ask people to tell you about their homes, they'll tell you about the foods that they ate. They'll tell you about places in which they worship. They'll tell you about, um, music that they listened to, right? At that time, there was none of that for my family. We couldn't find basmati rice. We couldn't find turmeric to cook with. We couldn't find cumin. We couldn't find a mosque. We couldn't find the music of, of my parents' upbringing, right? The technology wasn't there, the distribution services weren't there to get those sorts of things to where we were.

                 And so that isolation in many ways really, um, really, really caused my family to essentially assimilate as soon as possible based on what was around us. Okay. And take any job that was available to us. So the refugee experience and that's, in that, in that way is very different from what it is now. And so now the world is more connected than, than ever before. So now I know many refugees that come to the United States. My parents are very much involved in helping refugees resettle in Pennsylvania, where my parents still live. And the experiences they, they have is very different from my parents.

                 Many of them, for example, know English. Many of them, uh, know how to drive. My parents didn't. So they can come here and get a job right away as an Uber driver, for example. Or for example, even when they do get a job, they're able to send money a lot easier now, back to places like Syria or Afghanistan or relatives abroad, electronic, electronic money transfer is a lot easier. So the world, I think what I'm trying to demonstrate, Emy, is that the world is so much more interconnected that people are able to kind of find the things that they need right away to find a sense of home and belonging, which my parents didn't have when we came here in the 1980s.

Emy diGrappa (12:22):


Baktash Ahadi (12:22):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Emy diGrappa (12:24):

And I, and I think that, you know, that experience is so interesting because coming to another country, and I remember when my daughter went to go study Spanish in Argentina, and for the first six months she was so lonely because that cultural barrier, when you don't know the language is huge. And I mean, she would call me crying. And it was like, (laughs) I wanted her to fly home so bad, but I didn't let her. And once she crossed over where the language became part of her, she ended up staying there like 18 months. And it was so funny. And, and then she married an Argentine. So, you know, that language barrier is, is traumatic. How old were your parents when they came over and had to learn a new language?

Baktash Ahadi (13:17):

Yeah. So my mother was, um, let's see, my mother was about 23, 24 and my father was 32, 33.

Emy diGrappa (13:26):

Okay. Well, that's good. At least they weren't like 50 or 60, (laughs) which every, every year it gets harder. So let's talk about your work 'cause I think it's, it's extremely interesting. It's different. And the way that you're using your words, I would like some definition because you talk about specializing in cultural change.

Baktash Ahadi (13:52):

Yeah. The body of my work really, Emy, is about helping people make meaning of their lived experience, which will help them eventually change their perspective or reconsider a perspective they may have on a specific topic, whether it's an external object, for example, the, an understanding of what a Muslim may be, or a person from Afghanistan maybe, or even something even more internal to who they are, what they want, how they understood, understand their childhood trauma, how they can give their lived experience a different meaning. And so the way I kind of do that is by really facilitating conversations about the things that I believe matter most to us and the things that we're most curious about. So really a lot of what I do is just ask really keen questions of people to kind of help them, help them explore the things that they think they understand about the world and that their relationship with the world that they live in.

Emy diGrappa (14:52):

What is your education?

Baktash Ahadi (14:54):

Yeah, so I, um, I studied anthropology and sociology in college, and then I went to graduate school to study international relations. But my education didn't inform the work that I do now. I think the transformational thing in my life that kind of happened was I was, as I was growing up, I was very much interested in solving complex problems as it pertain to an external stimuli, whether it was trying to solve a war or bring peace to a conflict or, you know, aiding in terms of alleviating poverty in places like, you know, Sub-Saharan Africa where I was a Peace Corps volunteer.

                 But what I really realized was that I wasn't so much interested in the things that happen to people. I was more interested in the meaning that people give to the lived experience, because I realized that whether I was in Mozambique, teaching English to, to villagers or, you know, in Afghanistan as an interpreter, trying to make sense of this war, what I realized was if I thought to grand scale about the war in Afghanistan, it would have broken my heart because it didn't make sense.

                 What I found to be more interesting though, was how did people make sense of who they were in their environments? And I was really curious about people's stories, and I was really, really curious about hearing them and how they made sense of them and how people got to where they'd be, how they got to where they got, you know. I'm currently in the process of writing my memoir and the beginning of my memoir is going to start something like, "We are the combination of all the decisions we've ever made." And so it's really interesting as to say, what were those decisions that you made and how were you informed to make them? What were the experience that you kind of lived that allowed you to make those decisions? You know, people talk about history in terms of understanding history, because once you understand history, you can kind of understand where you're going.

                 And we do that as it pertains to locations, environments, and countries. What we don't usually do is apply that model to ourselves. And so I'm really interested in kind of understanding the story that a person, an organization, a community or a nation tells itself, tells itself about who it is, about how it's going to interact with the world. And so, so I do a lot of coaching for individuals.

Emy diGrappa (17:23):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Baktash Ahadi (17:24):

I do a lot of facilitation for companies. I do a lot of facilitation for, uh, organizations, and I do a lot of speaking about leadership. And a lot of leadership is really just about pursuing the things that you deem to be valuable, right? Their core values are related to emotional intelligence. And some of the core questions that I kind of pursue, I'll read them if you allow me.

Emy diGrappa (17:47):


Baktash Ahadi (17:48):

Some of the core questions that I pursue in my work are very much related to what's your relationship. So a question I may ask is, you know, I'll ask people to ask themselves the question, what's the relationship that I want to have with myself? What's the relationship that I want to have with the world? What's the type of person that I want to be? How do I want to be remembered? What will I regret not doing at the end of my life? What sorts of things do I really wanna think about and how do I want to grow today? And you can ask these questions, Emy, of anybody from any walk of life, you can ask this questions of community members, of organizations, of companies, because it really, really pursues, it helps people solidify their values and their cultural kind of their cultural values. And so pursuing those endeavors for me are very, very interesting. And I really like to understand how people give meaning to those sorts of things that they've experienced.

Emy diGrappa (18:47):

So, in, in thinking about that and just in learning also that you have a podcast, tell me the name of your podcast.

Baktash Ahadi (18:55):

Yeah. The name of my podcast is called Stories of Transformation.

Emy diGrappa (18:59):

Okay. Stories of Transformation. Do you really see people transform, you know, when you're working with them or is it really just like learning who they are and kind of their story, but not really their transformation?

Baktash Ahadi (19:15):

Yeah. That's a great question. We have to define the word transformation. And the way I kind of take a transformation is quite literally just a change in way a person sees themselves and sees how they are in relationship to the world. That in itself is a really big deal because I think who we are in relationship to the world is our message to the world. It's the person that we actually really wanna be. And so in my podcast, really the objective of my podcast is to have people share their stories, so people can, audience members that are listening can potentially learn something from them. And specifically, what's really interesting that I've learned about doing a podcast now for, for, for, for a year and a half now is these stories that people have that they share with me. And the more particular that they get in their stories.

                 There's an interesting thing that happens that their stories become universal. It's almost as though people can find themselves in other people's stories, they can find a connection with it, even though people get more and more and more specific about their own story. And I think that's the universality of human, of, of stories for human beings. And so the second objective that it achieves is that it allows people to make them feel like they're not alone.

Emy diGrappa (20:36):

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Baktash Ahadi (20:37):

Just by, just by listening to other people's stories, they realize like, "Oh my gosh, Emy's experience is very much like mine. Although it takes a different form, I can 1000% empathize with it." And, and so, and that's really, the objective is just to kind of talk about, allow people to kind of tell their own stories about who they were, what they went through, how they potentially changed, and then, you know, what their message is for other people.

                 And it's really great. I think the big, the biggest compliment that I get when I, when I do podcast interviews, is when the interviewee says to me, I've learned something new about myself by being in conversation with you. And what that demonstrates to me is that people seek to tell intimate stories about themselves to other people, because if you don't tell them they only exist in your mind, they only exist in your head. I think it's our responsibility, I think it's my responsibility because I really value this is that I want to create a space where people can kind of just tell their story in such a way that allows them to kind of remember who they are, if that makes any sense,

Emy diGrappa (21:50):

Well, remember who they are, but also remember why they're doing what they're doing. (laughs).

Baktash Ahadi (21:50):


Emy diGrappa (21:56):

And, you know, just, just talking out loud, even if you write something on a piece of paper, when you read it out loud, it, it changes the meaning of it just by reading it and, you know, just putting that word out there. So that, that's really exciting that you're, you're doing that. I, I also wanted to ask you about digital transformation.

Baktash Ahadi (22:18):

Yeah. So at the end of the day, what's interesting is the thing that I think is curious is the art of storytelling. And the art of storytelling is, is, demonstrates quite literally what, what an organization, what a person values, who they wanna be in relationship to the world, who they are and how they want to have a relationship with themselves. And so in the context of this digital age that we live in now, if you aren't living your story digitally, nobody will essentially know who you are. It's the nature of the world that we live in now. And I think COVID, in some sense has demonstrated that to us, you have to adapt and you have to essentially absorb what's happening in the world.

                 There's a reason why there's an uptick in podcast. There's a reason why there's an uptick in television views and television shows. There's a view... There's a reason why there's an uptick in online education. So what's happening now is, what I do sometimes as well as help clients figure out how they can take their in-person persona of their values and who they are and their story that they tell themselves and literally plant them on the digital, digital platforms. And that can take the shape of filmmaking, podcasting, interviewing, facilitating. It's really about how people wanna show up online. And believe it or not, I mean, you work in, in, in storytelling and you work in, in radio. And so this is very much your life's work.

                 And what's interesting is although you've had exposure to this, the world in some sense hasn't. And so now there's a huge shift to come online, to live and work amongst distributed teams. With somebody in Jackson, somebody in Rock Springs, somebody in Laramie, somebody in San Francisco and another person doing all your programming in Vietnam. So we have to ask the question, how, how are we going to be in relationship with each other online? How are we gonna maintain these relationships? How are we gonna essentially take what we know and throw it online and how will we manage it? And so a lot of the work that I do is really working with people to figure out how they're gonna work in distributed teams, how they're maint-

Emy diGrappa (22:18):

Oh, okay.

Baktash Ahadi (24:32):

How they'll maintain a sense of cohesiveness, how they'll crystallize their brand, how they'll share their brand. Um, so it's really just about, um, understanding who you are, but doing it from a place of doing it online.

Emy diGrappa (24:47):

Well, I th- I think the recording of, um, of the human experience is really important because that's why I do what I do for the humanities, but I also am really pretty tired of COVID. So I'm not really excited about thinking about everything digital and never seen another person or being so isolated from people. That really does turn me off because I think the human experience is about the touching and the feeling and, you know, the face-to-face. And, and really just understanding a person when you have a meal with them. I grew up in a big Hispanic family, having a meal and sitting at the table and talking for hours was just part of our life. And I'm sure in your culture is the same way. And I was gonna ask you, like, how, how did you hold on to your culture when you came to this country? I mean, you talked about assimilation. How did you, how did your parents deal with that?

Baktash Ahadi (25:46):

What's interesting about the American experience is that, especially in a time where my family came to the United States, there was a huge push to assimilate as soon as possible. And so the first thing that you give up is your language. It's what happens. And I'm not sure if you remember, but in the 1980s, there was a concerted effort to have immigrants assimilate to American culture as soon as, as possible under the American project. So in educational institutions, around, around the United States, especially in small towns, teachers would tell parents of immigrants, if your child doesn't speak English, they won't, they won't learn English well, or they'll speak English with an accent.

                 And now we know that's completely untrue. Children can learn up to 26 languages simultaneously and learn them fluently. But that wasn't the case in the 1980s. So the first thing that went for our family was language. And so my parents were told this information by teachers at school. And so they got very scared. So although they didn't speak English well, they started, the first thing they did is they invested all their money into a big television set, so that their kids can watch TV and learn English from television. (laughs).

Emy diGrappa (27:03):

Lucky you. Okay. (laughs).

Baktash Ahadi (27:05):

So a lot of the English that my brothers and I learned, and the, um, was from 1980s action films and, and Nickelodeon, and, you know, Sesame Street and all the things that were happening on TV, whether it was the Price Is Right. Or, um, oh gosh, Wheel of Fortune, just all these different things that we were just exposed to as young kids. So that was really difficult, right? So in, in, in that moment, it wasn't difficult because there's children who don't know any better. But I think from a parents is really difficult.

                 And we were in the path of assimilating as soon as possible until 911 happened. I mean, 911 was a very interesting experience for not only Afghans, but for Muslims in America, whereby there was no more, like we were confronted by people either being very curious about who we were or being very fearful about who we were, and both parts, both parties existed in my life.

                 Like I remember being threatened as a young, you know, as a young college student who are you? You're associated these people. This is your country. We're going to bomb your country to smithereens or other people that took a more, um, humanistic approach would just be like, "What's it like, you know, what's Afghanistan like?" Just being very curious about a place that harbored these terrorists. And so what did this do to me? It made me step into the role of being responsible for at least trying to have some of the answers that people wanted to, to know about. So I became very curious about Afghanistan, about culture, about psychology, about how people understand their lived experience. And so that's really the thing that I threw myself at. It took me all around the world that eventually made me realize that people do things based on the thing that they give meaning to.

                 So you can have a person, you can have two different people live one experience, the same experience. One person can commit suicide, and the other person can be completely grateful. How does that happen? But I started seeing these things in my life and, and I realized that it's all about the story that we tell ourselves based on the experiences that we've had, and your initial questions about how did my parents deal with maintaining a sense of culture? Well, post 911, I threw myself at what it meant to be Afghan because the world needed that of people like me. Like, although I fit the profile of one of those 19 hijackers, I to understand what it means to be an American. So my sense of responsibility is to say, okay, how can I be a bridge between these two worlds that I occupy? How could I be a bridge between these two identities that I was born into, in some sense?

                 I didn't have a choice about whether I was gonna come to America. I didn't have a choice about whether or not to be born in Afghanistan. These were things that were given to me. And so I think what's really curious about human beings is, you know, when we're trying to find our why and our sense of purpose, we oftentimes don't have to look that far. Sometimes we get confused and we lose our way because of what society tells us we ought to do. But if we're really keen about the signs that exist around us, we don't have to go too far to understand what our why is because a lot of what our why is, in my experience is what we're given.

Emy diGrappa (30:43):

Well, and, and see, what's interesting about what you just said is that, there's so many different arguments going on about that. You know, the American dream, does it exist anymore? You know, it's, it's about these conversations about erasing culture or a lot of confusion for people on their views of racial identity or cultural identity, or how do I fit in or how do I not fit in and whiteness. And just, it's amazing how there was such a simpler time when you knew your culture, you're proud of your culture, and you're living your life and you're not, you know, you're not feeling this kind of pressure that we're feeling right now. Do you feel that way?

Baktash Ahadi (31:35):

I think anybody who's paying attention feels that way. But I think what's more important is, is to know that this is no longer going to be... It's not going to get any, any better as a matter of noise, as a matter of the level of noise. Like we have to understand too, Emy, is that, you know, human existence, we are at the apex of the animal kingdom, kingdom because of our ability to create and produce new technologies, right? Whether it's writing, whether it's language, whether it's, you know, um, the airplane, whether it's railroads, whether it's the internet, human beings are fantastically good at creating new technologies. So I think what people have to realize is that we will continue to build technologies where everybody feels like not only are they the protagonist in their own story, but that everybody should listen to their story. Right? And so what does that lead to?

                 It leads to everybody being their own media center. It leads to everybody being their own, um, loudspeaker to the view and perspective that they have in the world. And so the confusion arises when people listen to those voices and they don't know who they are. And that's what I'm kind of getting to, is your sense of purpose and your, and your why, you really don't have to go that far if you dig deep internally to who you are and your experiences and your memory and the meaning that you give to your lived experience, because that's your life, right? If you listen to everybody in the world that are out there that tells you what it means to be white or what rich people should do with their money, or how victimize this specific group of people are, then it's not to say you shouldn't listen to those voices and those opinions, but you should do it from the perspective of realizing that everybody's speaking from a place of their own lived experience.

                 One data point is not all the data points, right? Just as though people are listening to me, not everybody who has the immigrant experience is going to have my experience. Not everybody from Afghanistan thinks the way I think. Not everybody from Pennsylvania is going to speak the way I speak. So I think that's really important for people to think about it's like a person is one entity. Although they're a node in a network, there's still one entity that they're showing you a part of who they are, not all of who they are, a part of who they are.

Emy diGrappa (34:21):

Well, I really like when you, um, said that we are our own media center, because I think that that is so true, and, and good and terrible at the same time. But you know, sometimes when you're just so busy out there yelling and making your own noise and you lose the ability to listen, you lose the ability to be empathetic. You lose the ability to walk in someone else's shoes. So I think that is the danger. Like, you know, I'm just gonna tell everybody about myself and my journey and my story, and it's all about me. And I really don't care what you have to say 'cause you're not me. And I'm, I'm me. And I'm important, I'm on Facebook, I'm on Instagram, you know, whatever. So I think there is a very dangerous place of being narcissistic.

Baktash Ahadi (35:17):

Yeah, I think that's right. I think what's interesting is those that are sensational or getting everybody's attention. Hence, the reason why they're sensational. And I mean, as a matter of the media landscape, whether it's CNN, Fox, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Snapchat, everybody wants engagement, and everybody wants to capture your attention. Everybody's in the attention capture business.

Emy diGrappa (35:49):

That's the name of the game.

Baktash Ahadi (35:50):

That's the name of the game. And so how do you co- how do you continue, how do you capture people's attention? Well, you have to scream the loudest and you have to be the most provocative, even though that provocation may not be based in a reality.

Emy diGrappa (36:03):

Unfortunately, that's very true.

Baktash Ahadi (36:05):

Right? And so what I would suggest for people is say, you know, misinformation spreads like wildfire because it's sensational. People need to think about the contextual space in which this information is happening. Whether it's a video, whether it's a conversation, whether it's a snippet of a conversation, people need to understand the context in which is happening because otherwise everything taken out of context, context will be seen as abusive, offensive, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, taken out of context, many things can be perceived that way.

                 But in context, they could be really funny or in context they could be proving a very, very important point. You just have to understand what is actually being said. I mean, that's the beauty and detriment of language. It's beautiful because it helps you interpret what's going on internally and mapping it to what's happening externally. But then also if somebody doesn't understand how you're using language and environment, when they map it to their environment, it doesn't map the right way. So people need to be extremely keen about context, sensationalism, how these structures are set up so that people, uh, are engaged nonstop to these platforms.

                 And I think that the, I think the main lesson from this part of the conversation, Emy, is that, you know, the world is going to continue to tell you what you think you should, what they think you should do and how, how, how you should feel and how you should think, more so now than ever before. And so people's responsibility is to say, that, that's interesting, but to know yourself, especially in a world where everybody's shouting and telling you how sh- how you should act as a Hispanic woman in Wyoming is interesting. But for the person who was probably only ever doing that to you before was probably your mom, your aunt, or a grandmother. Now, it's all of Twitter telling you how to act based on your identity.

                 And so the confusion arises because now we're, we feel like since there's information out there. We should give all the information equal praise and equal validity. When in fact, I think it's the opposite.

Emy diGrappa (38:31):

Yup. I think that's great. And this is a really good place to end our interview because that is such great ad- advice is to, is to take the time and just be quiet so that you can know yourself because it's all the noise out there that's telling you who to be, what you should be, um, why you should be, and taking the time to read and write and, you know, have that space of quiet, I think is so important.

Baktash Ahadi (39:04):

Yeah. I think that's right.

Emy diGrappa (39:06):

Thank you so much for talking to me today.

Baktash Ahadi (39:07):

Thank you for having, having me, Emy. I appreciate it.

Emy diGrappa (39:10):

Yeah, absolutely.

                 Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's Your Why, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, with support from Wyoming Community Foundation and generous supporters like you. To learn more go to, subscribe and never miss a show.