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No Barriers Podcast Episode 91: Action & Activism with Courthney Russell



Erik and Dave chat with creator, activist, and social entrepreneur, Courthney Russell about his mission to leverage his medical degree and experience to be an authentic, determined, humble leader by example. From his nonprofit to his podcast, Courthney is on a mission to educate and create change in his community.

Courthney Russell is a creator, activist, and social entrepreneur.

At one time on a collision course with incarceration or death, Courthney turned his life around after high school when he applied and was accepted to a pre-med program. Though he found his calling in med school, he continued to struggle with homelessness until graduating in 2011.

Courthney’s resolve to overcome his difficult life experiences propelled him to be the authentic, determined, and humble leader he is today.

Courthney is the co-founder of A2H2, a non-profit focused on meeting the health needs of those experiencing homelessness in Atlanta; he co-runs WeUp, a company built on the idea of uplifting community through hope and empowerment; and he co-hosts the podcast, Humanize, which broaches uncomfortable topics with the goal of disrupting social order and creating a more just and equitable society.

Resources:

Visit A2H2  and follow on Instagram: Changing Healthcare & Facebook: Changing Healthcare – A2H2

WeUp.org & on Instagram

Humanize Podcast on Instagram Facebook

 

 

 

“Find a need and fill it, and do it in a way that’s unapologetic. There’s a lot of reasons why companies and businesses and nonprofits, and things of nature will fail. But if you don’t risk failing, you will never succeed at anything.”

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Episode Transcript

Courthney: Find a need and fill it, and do it in a way that's unapologetic. There's a lot of reasons why companies and businesses and nonprofits, and things of nature will fail. But if you don't risk failing, you will never succeed at anything.

Erik : It's easy to talk about the successes, but what doesn't get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weihenmayer. I've gotten the chance to ascend Mount Everest, to climb the tallest mountain in every continent, to kayak the Grand Canyon. And I happen to be blind. It's been a struggle to live what I call a No Barriers life. To define it, to push the parameters of what it means. And part of the equation is diving into the learning process and trying to illuminate the universal elements that exist along the way. In that unexplored terrain between those dark places we find ourselves in and the summit, exists a map. That map, that way forward, is what we call No Barriers.

Erik : Today we speak with Courthney Russell, creator, activist, and social entrepreneur. At one time on a collision course with incarceration or death, Courthney turned his life around after high school when he applied to and was accepted into a pre-med program. Though he found his calling in med school, he continued to struggle with homelessness until graduating in 2011. Courthney's resolve to overcome his difficult life experiences propelled him to be the authentic, determined, and humble leader that he is today. He's the co-founder of A2H2, a nonprofit focused on serving those experiencing homelessness in Atlanta by meeting their health needs. He runs We Up, a company built on the idea of uplifting his community through hope and empowerment. And he co-hosts the podcast Humanize, which broaches uncomfortable topics with the goal of disrupting social order and creating a more just, equitable society. Enjoy the conversation.

Erik : Courthney, one of the things I like about your work is you're very rooted in this authentic, personal story and personal journey of your own struggle as well, which is much like the work that we do at No Barriers.I mean, it sounds like from what I've read of your personal journey, the route to going to medical school for you was never guaranteed. It was a bit of luck that you ended up there. And I'm wondering if you might tell us a little bit about how you ended up getting to medical school despite all the circumstances that might've precluded your ability to get there.

Courthney: My mother is a praying woman, and my father is one that literally had to push me out of the house to get where I was going. Because I was heading straight for either death or jail. Growing up in the community, it's really not cool to be educated because you fear what you don't know. And individuals that look like me, we've had to accept, I don't know if this is HBO Showtime, but we had to accept the bullshit for so long. I've always felt as though I should be living or experiencing life on the other side of the tracks. And so while I was in, and living in and around poverty, I always looked and felt as though what else is going on over there? Why are white people so happy? What makes it so that the only way out of these situations is through basketball or rapping, or something like that. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's just that I was not one of those individuals that enjoyed to do that too much.

Courthney: And however, I like to read. I like science. And so I had to, not dumb myself down, but not enjoy what I wanted to enjoy to put on a persona of being cool. You know? And so when I was doing a lot of ignorant things, my mother in her wisdom signed me up for med school. And I had a couple credits from undergrad, and I got into a pre-med program, a very intense pre-med program. And if you passed it, you got interest into a medical school. And so I said, "All right, mom." Just to shut her up I said, "You know what, I'll do it. All right, whatever. Whatever. You want me to do, I'll try it."

Dave : That is so prescient. That's the way my kids respond to me. "Dad, whatever. Okay, just shut up. I'll do it."

Courthney: Yeah. Please stop bugging me.

Dave : That's so effective.

Courthney: Yeah. Yeah.

Dave : Now, were you in Atlanta at this time? Where did you grow up?

Courthney: Yeah, I grew up in Atlanta. [crosstalk 00:05:03]-

Erik : Grew up in Atlanta, all right.

Dave : I'm really curious, Courthney, how your parents, they seem really psyched on education as well. What was their perspective?

Courthney: I mean, they're immigrants, man. I'm the first one from my parents to grow up, and were born in America. And so the immigrant mentality is one of education is the only key. We came over here. We came from the Caribbean for us to solidify our name. And me and my father were really close. He was that guy. And he is that guy to me, in my life who made me the entrepreneur that I am. Yes, yes, just mentally. And just, Russell has to be etched in stone. When you leave here, if you get A-, why couldn't you have got an A+? What did that guy do to make sure that he got a better grade than you? Your name is Russell, know who you are. And so it's always been a juxtaposition between my mom with love everybody, hold them close.

Courthney: And my dad like, roll over everybody. You are a King, know who you are. I didn't struggle this much, and we're living in this property for you to be average. Even before I knew I want to do social justice, I knew I couldn't come back home just a white coat. I had to come home bigger than life almost. And so when I fell into homelessness and social justice work, and working for marginalized individuals, it gave me purpose. My business partner, I tell him all the time, "Man, thank you." If it wasn't for what we built, I don't even know if I would have even succeeded as a physician. Because I quickly saw that medicine is a business. And medicine is just another system of oppression for people of color. And while being in there I felt really hypocritical. I felt like, I'm here. And the individual that really need me are in the streets. They're dying. And unless I risk my life for them, I haven't succeeded.

Dave : Idea that, okay, I got to work through the system, even though it sounds like it didn't feel quite right. You know what I mean? Kind of a system that's riddled with hypocrisy. But you got to work your way through the existing system so that you could make some kind of change in your community, in the world. Did you have that right at the beginning? Or were you learning that as you went along through med school?

Courthney: That's a great question. In the beginning, I was lost. I was trying to be something that I was not living in a place that's riddled with a mindset of hopelessness, you know? And so the things that we prioritize are things that are not going to lead the type of legacy that's going to uplift a culture. And so I've always felt out of place. This is the first time in my life that I feel like I'm at home. I'm living a reality that is as me. And it's less about, see the thing about me and money is, you can always have money, but you can't always have purpose. You can't always feel as though you're doing something in your life. And I've never felt like I was doing something purposeful in my life until I created these two companies.

Erik : Right. When everything seems hopeless, how do you teach people to still have hope?

Courthney: Leadership by example is what David and I believe in. Representation is huge. When you look throughout time and to present day, when you see someone that looks like you, who comes from where you come from, who speaks things that you can resonate with, it feels attainable. And so when you have someone that looks like me who has become a doctor, [crosstalk 00:08:59] like my business partner, who has become an entrepreneur. And we are walking this walk towards liberation, there is someone who can do it better than us who just doesn't have hope. They feel as though, to become a doctor, there are no doctors that looked like me. And the doctors that look like me have separated themselves so much that they're not like me anymore.

Courthney: And so I think representation leads to hope. It always has to be someone to jump out and say, "You know what, I'm going to do it." And we can talk about slavery, it had to be someone who felt different about slavery or we would have still been in slavery today because it was a law. And someone said, "You know what? That's not normal." It was a normal existence to wake up a slave, for a slave to say, "Okay, I'm going to make the best out of this life." Those people who are willing to die for the abnormality of freedom, were outliers back then. And so I think David and I are the outliers that are going to lead a culture that needs that kind of fearless representation to make it normal to not live in poverty, to not drink water filled with lead, to not live in a place that you have to... Or worry about your education because your zip code dictates where you will live and die.

Courthney: Your healthcare, you can't get healthcare because of your zip code. All of these systems have been normalized to be oppressive. And so when you have individuals who represent where you come from and look like how we look, who are talking differently, now we start to normalize success from a liberatory standpoint. Instead of success from being like, oh, he went to jail, now that's gangster. No. You know what's really gangster, intelligence. How to balance a checkbook, to navigate the stock market. That's really what is popular. And so normalizing liberation is a mission that should be, and is done from David and I, with our companies.

Dave : And back to you, I mean, so talking about hopelessness or hopefulness, you obviously are a hopeful person. Maybe you got that from your parents. And to get through med school you got to be hopeful. One, you got to be super gifted. You got to be driven and have full of energy. And you have to have hope, because you got to be able to see the future, right? So you somehow got it.

Courthney: You got to kind of be delusional too. You know? [crosstalk 00:11:55].

Erik : That's true. Yeah.

Courthney: You have to feel like-

Dave : There you go, there's your next slogan for your t-shirt. [crosstalk 00:12:00] Delusion is the foundation of hopefulness.

Courthney: It has to be. Because there's some times where it's dark. Right? You can't see, you don't see the forest for the trees. You're really, how am I going to get through this situation? I am living in my car right now, but I walk into a hospital with affluent people. How do I stay focused on a diagnosis? How do I stay focused and get through and pass my exam, pass my boards? What am I going to do? You got to stop. You know what, I got it.

Dave : Tell us how you wound up in your car.

Courthney: Oh man.

Dave : If that's okay to talk about.

Courthney: Oh, no, no. I'm an open book, man. When I came back from med school you feeling yourself, you feel as though you can do what you want, say what you want. Me and my parents got into an argument. I was disrespectful. And you know what, I left the house. I left. I said, "I don't need this." And I left. And it was the greatest thing. My father told me, "You leave, don't expect me to run after you, don't expect to come back. It is what it is. You can live with your car." And the pride that I had, okay, cool. I'll figure it out. So when I was living in the car, I think that was the best, worst moment in my life. I had to literally lose everything to start to gain everything. Because I felt like if I stayed where I was, I would have been entitled.

Courthney: I would have been an arrogant person. I would have been a person I forgot where I've come from, my community. I would have gained a level of success and left individuals behind. And so as I'm waking up next to a dumpster, looking out of my car window, putting on my shoes. Haven't taking a shower in two, three days, throwing on a white coat, trying to get extra shifts to shower in the hospital. Putting on my Jordans, going in there, it gave me a perspective. You know what, there may be other people out here like me. Because the assumption is, once you're homeless, oh, I don't know what you did with your life. You know? And so I guess it set me on a path that I'm walking right now. So I always said, "Dad, thank you. Thank you." So for me, I ended up homeless, I think as an act of God, man. To be honest.

Courthney: And going back, I'll never change anything that happened in my life. Up until almost dying, because it put me on a path that either you work for liberation or you die a nobody. Those are my only options in life. So at the end of the day, the homeless part of my story is actually the most empowering part of my story, because I don't think I would have the perspective I have if I didn't see... I mean, people serve homeless people on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I got an intimate look into the hopelessness and the eyes of a sex worker, or a mother with three kids living next to a dumpster, roaches and rats. I intimately stayed there. I stayed at a homeless shelter sometimes. Just knowing that from an intimate level gives you a perspective that, what else can happen to me?

Dave : Now, were you too embarrassed or prideful? Or you just like, I don't want to air my dirty laundry? I'm wondering if you told people about your situation. Right?

Courthney: 100%.

Dave : Or is this just too much?

Courthney: No, 100%. It's not too much. It's never too much. People deserve to hear a story. Because with me hearing my story, it may show you that there are other individuals out here. And whatever level of success that I've gotten today, you can get that and more. So I think it's a job of mine to educate, to always speak from a place of authenticity, and just bear it. When people ask me why don't I expect individuals to call me Doctor Russell, it's not because I'm ashamed. I feel very blessed to have gotten an education to open the doors, but I'm more of an artist. I feel like I'm more than a doctor. I think that doctor is putting me into a box. And I've used the MD to open doors for individuals. It's not for me to be happy about education that I've gotten. I'm blessed. I'm very happy. But I have to transcend medicine in order to save the lives that I want. So my name is, and my title is Courthney Russell, social entrepreneur and social activist. I hold that more important and proud than an MD.

Dave : Yeah. I mean, so sticking with med school for just a little bit. You must've had both incredibly positive experiences and some negative experiences through that process, right? You must have, I imagine, had some good mentors, right? But you also probably had some stuff that pissed you off along the way. I remember in your podcast you were talking about something with sickle cell anemia. So people that were real disrespectful. So just to talk about the gamut of both of those.

Courthney: Wow. You see, I didn't have too many mentors. Actually, my patients were my mentors. Because the world that is medicine is not one of, it's like the army. People only see the good parts. "Oh my God, you're a doctor. You must be really..." The power that you get from other individuals is not the same power that a first year, second year person gets while you're in medical school and you trying to go through. And so it's do or die. It's like, you have to know what you know, or you're going to get ran over. And so every day I laced up, it was like we were playing ball. Some days I get dumped on, other days I'm doing the dunking. And so I didn't really have any mentors, but I can always, like the sickle cell example. There are so many more where I had to fight for patients.

Courthney: And I always got in trouble for spending a little bit too much time with patients really getting to know them. Because I love relationships. I feed off of that. I can go in there and get a diagnosis in two minutes. But the reason that people of color feel so manipulated and exploited by the practice of medicine is because we've been exploded and manipulated by medicine. And so it's simple. So if I can go in there and put them at ease during a most vulnerable time in their life, I think that's my job and my duty.

Dave : Did they teach you that? Or is that not really part of the med school training?

Courthney: No. The only time that it's okay is when your money is representative of the time that I can spend with you. So if you come and deal with insurance, I can take my time and finesse and massage a diagnosis. But in there on some Medicaid, yo, bra, it's what it is. I need to get reimbursed. I don't have time to waste. I'm in and out.

Courthney: How can you monetize the health and wellness of someone in their most vulnerable period? When obviously if someone comes in they're on Medicaid, they may need more time because they don't see a doctor as much. And so not only do you have diabetes, you have high blood pressure, you have kidney disease, you can have an ingrown toenail. That's 30 minutes out the gate. You know, now I need to know family history. Oh, we doing that. Oh, you have cancer. Now, we in there for an hour. But there is no way I can spend that much time with one patient because money is running up. But that person needs that much work because they're literally dying.

Courthney: And so I want to create a system, or I will create a system that gives, whether you're affluent or whether you're poor, the same quality healthcare. They need the same time, they deserve the same type of attention. And so I saw that a lot, and that was a huge problem for me. A huge problem for me. I mean, I saw great things too, like assisted in delivering babies, and talking to families. Those miracles I will never forget. And I appreciate the opportunity to hold a MD because I would've never seen those things. However, I have to push it forward because now that I have it, I feel as though I'm a part of a system that needs to be reformed.

Courthney: The system is not horrible, it needs to be reformed. And so until we do that, we can't just be comfortable and say, I appreciate the fact that I became a doctor. No, I appreciate the fact that I'm a doctor. However, there are things that needs to be done so that healthcare can reach the heights that it should reach, and serve those that needs to be served.

Dave : I also imagine, if you're seeing that hypocrisy, you're seeing people who look like you get shot on the street. That there's a tendency to get really angry. And I know in my personal life, I know anger can consume you. How do you teach maybe young people and the people that you're working with in your movement to walk that line, to navigate that line between gratitude and frustration?

Courthney: We spoke about representation before, and I do get upset. See, the thing about my culture and where I come from, I love it. But a lot of times we move on emotions and we make decisions that affect our life. And sometimes irreversibly. So when I get really upset on certain things, whether it's social justice, whether it's finance, whether it's healthcare, all the systems. The systems upon systems, mass incarceration. I think about, okay, you know what, that's why we're in business, David. This is why we have to work. So, let's do what we have to do. And during the process, let's make some people smile. Because if you think about slavery, this is why they used to get together and sing. They used to get together. Because at the end of the day you got to realize, laughter, smiling, is therapeutic.

Courthney: That's why some of the best comedians in the world come from poverty, come from hopelessness. They learn how to laugh at their pain, literally. And I feel as though when I see the injustices in the world, and I think about the company that David and I have built, I start to smile. Because the world doesn't even understand what is about to happen. And when I'm talking to, in the future, when we're on Forbes, and we're trading on Wall Street. And they ask, what is the motivation for you to have so much money give so much back? I said, "Because I come from this. I would be nothing without this. And so I have to make sure that I pay it forward with every thing I do." And the job of being hopeful, that right there is a full-time job. Because it takes extra effort to look at something, see someone who is doing just the most egregious thing, and still look at it from a place of, okay, you know what I see what you're doing.

Courthney: It is racist. It is all the -isms. It is sexist. It is all of that. I'm going to love you regardless and show you that you're not going to hijack my emotions with your ignorance. Because that is what the problem is. Every culture is reacting and not looking for solutions. We have a election right now. We've had four years of, you know what, a representation of individuals who felt like they were forgotten. And I think sometimes we don't do a good job of inclusion. It is, you should understand that the progressive agenda is the only agenda that should be. But how can you understand that if that's not your upbringing? Racism is not a genetic ... there's not a genetic code for me to hate you, Eric. There's not a genetic code for that. That is a learned behavior.

Courthney: That is a conditioned tendency. So once we reverse manufacture that, then you start to understand, okay, you know what? I may not hate you for the color of your skin. I may be afraid of you because of the color of your skin. And it shows up in protection, because everyone wants to feel protected. And the system of oppression was put in place to keep in power white people. However, at the end of the day, both of us need to come together. White people have to admit, black people have to understand, and we have to start be in a conversation and to grapple up, what are the best next steps in order for us to co-exist in this world? Mainly the US. So being hopeful come from a place of, what else can we do? Should I continue to live in my existence upset? Or should I say, you know what, I'm very upset with this injustice. I'm very upset with Mr. Floyd, someone having his knee on his neck and killing him in the street like a dog. I could be very upset with that.

Courthney: The country showed up. Protests happened for months. Now, what is going to happen after it? What are we doing for the legacy of Mr. Floyd? I don't care if he was a criminal. There were systems in place that may have pushed him toward the life of crime. We will never know. I'm not talking about him being, not the greatest guy. I wasn't the greatest guy. You there, but what are we going to do now for someone else to mitigate other men of color from being shot down in the street and dying? Okay? That is the legacy that we should be trying to use the unfortunate passing of Mr. Floyd. Not continue to be upset with white men. And so that's where I don't have the luxury of my emotions, because I'm trying to shift a culture. And so while I sit in my house and be upset and mad, I leave that to those individuals. I am in the business of creating a solution.

Dave : Well said.

Erik : I want to make sure, Courthney, that we talk about the work of A2H2. So I'd love for you to tell us how you're working to combat homelessness in Atlanta through A2H2.

Courthney: A2H2 is a business that Dave and I do solely to eradicate poverty via healthcare and healthcare access. You cannot escape poverty and not be healthy. Or access to healthcare, quality healthcare. Not just checking your blood pressure, giving you some medication and sending you on your way. Healthcare is all encompassing. You have to understand, you have to realize that healthcare should be a priority. Right now we're working in Denver to create ... we're working on a mobile unit to go into certain communities around and in Denver to deliver healthcare free of charge, so that we can increase access. And so now, while I'm speaking and I'm interacting with individuals and educating them on disease processes and nutrition, and why is it important to eat this, and what does this mean when your doctor tells you this?

Courthney: We have started to see that you can be empowered by your own health. You can understand that and compliance to treatment and regiments and things of that nature come a lot more easy when you understand what the hell you're being treated for. And why is it important? I feel very blessed to be owner/operator of a company that can really, real time, give individuals the service that they deserve. And so in Atlanta, we rented out a Penske moving truck, a 26, 28 truck. And partitioned it in three parts. You have triage, you have laboratory work, and then you have examination room. And so a homeless or a person who's transitioning, or working poor, or any individual will come through free of charge. And it will be like you're receiving healthcare in a clinic. And so that's what I want to replicate. And we're going to replicate in Denver right now. And soon, hopefully, across the country.

Erik : And Courthney, for our listeners who are pretty far away from the experience of poverty in America, and how that connects to your medical experience, can you... Obviously everyone's experience is different, but can you paint a picture for us of that vast disparity?

Courthney: Time is money. When you have insurance and you have ability to pay, you gain a different type of excess and education, and things being taken care of. When you are poor, you may not even have... So it's just two, we have working poor with insurance. You have individuals who have substandard insurance, and then you have individuals who don't have any insurance at all. Right? And so if you don't have any insurance, you are only seen if you are damn near dying and you go to a hospital with an indigent fund. Their job, really, and we probably going through the emergency room. And so their main job is to give you the bare bones attention just to keep you alive. Right? That's their only job. Their only obligation is to keep you alive. Which is great, we need ERs. I'm not disparate. But an emergency room visit is different from a primary care visit.

Courthney: And so if you go in there with diabetes and your sugar is out of control, your glucose is out of control. And you have headaches. You about to die, this and that. They'll lower it, but they haven't addressed the reason or the cause of it not elevating again. And it will elevate again, because you're going to eat what you need to eat to survive. Right? And so a person with no insurance is going to continually have to go back to the ER. Now you have the person with substandard insurance, they go into the emergency, or they go into a clinic with their Medicaid card. They get, "Hey, Dave, how you doing, man? Okay, cool. Take this medication. Have a nice day. I'll talk to you later." What? So now you take the medication, you have side effects. You don't take the medication anymore. Now you're going to die.

Courthney: Because now the medication that's supposed to save your life, which it could, you're not going to take it because you don't understand why you're taking it. And you got wrapped up in work. You weren't educated on it. The doctor didn't prioritize you, so you're not going to prioritize this. It's just a downward spiral. So that's that person who got the substandard, who has substandard insurance. And the time of the doctor wasn't equivalent to, I don't have the time, or even, I want to help you. A lot of doctors want to, but they don't have the time with a backlog of patients in the back room. So you were an easy case, right? Oh, just take this Metformin. Have a good day. Cool. So you're gone. Now you have the person, again, who is a college student who wants to understand, I guess, to get some information about STD.

Courthney: And so they go to the doctor, they have insurance. However, again, it's a thing about time. I don't have the time to really educate you on this. Just take some medication and go about your business. Now, by doing that you probably created a public health situation. Because now this person don't see why it's important to wear condoms. So now they just going crazy. And at school and college, having a good time, and infecting everybody. So doctors, a lot of times we don't understand how important it is to do what we signed up for. We are front lines in a public health situation. And so now we're seeing that with COVID. You don't have enough doctors to address this need and what's going on. And so now, unless you have the greatest insurance in the world, you can't be comfortable with COVID.

Courthney: You can't sit there. We can't give you... Now you have individuals dying left and right who are living with families, and you telling people to social distance. Healthcare is such a convoluted mess, that poverty and healthcare are intertwined. Because if one is not done well, poverty is going to perpetuate. And so the gap is going to continually get more and more and more widened. So that's why poverty and healthcare is such a thing that I have to address. Because if I take money out of the equation and everybody starts to get seen, now we can really start to address. We can start to talk about liberation and equity, because there's no equity being seen now in healthcare. Equality, I don't need equality. I need equity.

Dave : So this conversation is a really meaningful circle in a way. Because it was like, some of the stuff you were talking about maybe a half an hour ago, with the idea of just treating people isn't enough, you got to educate them. You got to get them to trust you, to see you as an ally. So they believe you, right? And they know why they're doing the things that they need to do to stay healthy.

Erik : Yeah. Courthney, one of the things I love about your work, whether it's at A2H2 or We Up. Or we haven't even talked about your recent podcast, which is called Humanize, which I encourage our listeners to check out. I listened to first couple episodes, and it was a wonderful conversation. And I learned a lot. I think that for some people when you look out at the world, whatever your situation is, it can feel overwhelming. We work with a lot of people in our different communities at No Barriers that get overwhelmed with hopelessness. And what I love about your work, Courthney, is there's a lot of reasons to be hopeless, but you are making the choice, as you described, to be hopeful and to pursue routes to change the system. And to figure out pathways forward through the work that you do. And so, where can our listeners go to learn more about the different businesses that you've started?

Courthney: They can go on Instagram @changinghealthcare. You can find me on Facebook again, Changing Healthcare A2H2. That's one of our companies. You can go on Instagram as well for my for-profit company, We Up, WeUp_CBO. You can look on a website for We Up is, weup.org. And A2H2, you can find us at A2H2hope.org.

Dave : Awesome. Erik, why don't you close us out here? I know you've got one burning question left.

Erik : Yeah. Courthney, so you not only started a nonprofit, but you're starting a movement. You're beginning this movement with this mission. Very powerful mission behind it. It's similar to what Dave and I have been trying to do with No Barriers.

Courthney: Love it.

Erik : So there are a lot of people out there that want to begin a movement, want to be part of a movement. What's some of the advice you might give people, some of the hardships along the way, some of the practical advice that you might give people for some of the stuff you've learned?

Courthney: Find a need and fill it. I work at a school now, Eagle Rock, and that's one of the main things that they do. They say, find a need and fill it. And do it in a way that's unapologetic. There's a lot of reasons why companies and businesses and nonprofits, and things of that nature, will fail. There's a lot of reasons why. But if you don't risk failing, you will never succeed at anything. And so if you're trying to be comfortable, don't start one. If you're trying to be safe all the time, you shouldn't start one. But if you see a need that you're trying to address, and you go into it knowing that you may fail, but it's worth the attempt, that's the first step towards true success. And so the work that Dave and I do, of course we can fail. And we have failed along the way.

Courthney: But the community that we're working for deserve those kind of warriors that may get stabbed, may get shot. But if I can draw a breath, it's another day for me to walk towards success. And that's what you have to be fearless in your desire to create a movement. What movement are you trying to start? And why are you passionate about it? Should be the questions that you address when you're trying to start a movement.

Erik : And that's beautiful.

Dave : We'll Courthney, this has been a wonderful conversation. We have a real thrilled to have you on, and applaud your work and look forward to ways that maybe No Barriers and the efforts you've started might work together in the future. So thank you for taking the time to join us today, and happy holidays to you.

Courthney: I appreciate you guys. Thank you guys so much. Thank you, Dave. Thank you, Eric. Thank you, Ms. Pauline. I appreciate the time. I'm so humbled by the opportunity. Much love.

Erik : Thank you. Thanks Courthney.

Courthney: Thank you.

Erik : Good to know you.

Courthney: Great to know you too. Peace.

Erik : The production team behind this podcast includes senior producer, Pauline Shafer. Sound, design, editing, and mixing by Tyler Cottman. And marketing support by Heather Zoccali, Stevie DiNardo, and Erica Hoey. Special thanks to the Dan Ryan band for our intro song, Guidance. And thanks to all of you for listening. We know that you've got a lot of choices about how you can spend your time, and we appreciate you spending it here with us. If you enjoy this podcast, we encourage you to subscribe to it, share it, and give us a review. Show notes can be found at nobarrierspodcast.com.


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