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What if Trashing

What if…Trashing is about Redistributing Power in our Community?

Welcome to your Sunday Love Letter by Kelly Diels. I send these every Sunday by email and publish a few of them here, on my website. If you’d like to get ALL of these doses of radical encouragement, you can subscribe, here.

Trashing is a power struggle triggered by “status dissatisfaction”. There’s a gap between someone’s capabilities and the attention they’re getting (or more accurately, notgetting) in our shared peer community. They’re super-talented and brilliant; they’re doing great work; but they’re not as well-compensated or well-known as another leader in the space who has the same capacities

In the International Community, a nation-state would start a war to prove their status as competent, powerful and prestigious (and alter the target nation-state’s status to be less powerful and prestigious). 

In our progressive, justice-oriented communities, an individual with status-dissatisfaction starts a Trashing. 

Trashing is fundamentally about changing the minds of a peer group about someone’s status. It’s a method for elevating that person’s status in the shared community. 

Have you ever witnessed an intra-communal controversy online that seemed petty and like it could have been solved with a phone call rather than in a series of Medium or Facebook posts? EXACTLY. The public attention is the point.

Trashing has to be public, not private. Trashing is a status battle that needs to be witnessed by a shared community — and won. That’s why, after a trashing, you’ll see posts saying “welcome new followers!”, links to payment accounts, a slew of interviews on podcasts, and even book deals announced. Because trashing works. It redistributes power and elevates the profile of a talented, competent peer who was previously under-recognized.

Important: the person starting the Trashing is not simply a hater or a troll trying to wreck everything. Instead, they are wildly talented but under-recognized or under appreciated — often, they are struggling to survive. It’s not simply that they’re jealous; it’s that they truly aren’t getting attention or rewards they deserve. Unfortunately, our internalized, oppressive, zero-sum/scarcity conditioning about power means that we unconsciously believe that a peer or colleague holding status or power means that we can’t also hold status or power…hence, Trashing. It’s how we redistribute power away from them and towards us. 

Our challenge, as a community:

  1. To check these unconscious, conditioned zero-sum/oppressive tendencies in ourselves and unlearn them
  2. To make sure that we’re taking care of all our members so that our folks don’t have to start trashings in order to survive or thrive.

love + justice


PS h/t to Martha Gelnaw for her note about status battles in drama; h/t to Meghna Majmudar for our many conversations about power and how to hold power; h/t to the folks who’ve trashed me in the past and the ones who’ll do it in the future. I love you anyways. Let’s get free together.

I write, work and live on land that is the unceded territory of the Stó:lō.

Important to note: just ‘cuz I mention someone’s work does not mean we know each other. It doesn’t mean they even know I exist nor does it mean that they like me or approve of my work. Nor does it mean I endorse them unequivocally or that they endorse me. It means that there’s a particular cultural thing that I’m trying to talk about and an idea or project of their’s is relevant and I want to give credit where credit is due.


Kelly Diels teaches culture-making entrepreneurs & creators how to develop a substantial body of work that changes EVERYTHING -- your life, your industry, our world. (AKA Thought leadership for people who cringe at the phrase "thought leader".)  Her Sunday Love Letter can help you surface *your* unique method, step by step, week after week. www.kellydiels.com/subscribe

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