By Amy Klein
When Toussaint Bailey saw the murder of George Floyd on the same day he came across the video of a birdwatcher being harassed in Central Park, he was overwhelmed with emotion. Before sneaking out of his office with tears in his eyes, of the wealth management firm where he served as the CEO and Principal, Bailey took an action for him that felt unexpected. He posted a question on social media asking if “we, as a country, were better than this?” After an outpour of support and empathy, Bailey posted an open letter on social media the following day in which he meditated on the grief he had quietly carried as a Black man in an unhealed nation. “I had tried to compartmentalize my emotions away my whole professional career,” Bailey realized. That decision, which Bailey calls “a micro-act of courage,” quickly created momentum.
In the days that followed, Bailey, the only Black man in his office, spoke with his colleagues about his lived experiences, and found that his courage helped them open up about the fact that they too were grieving the death of Floyd. Their collective grief and sadness made him realize that many were bothered. Soon Bailey was holding a series of public conversations on empathy with the goal of helping to heal racism through the power of listening. As his feelings of fulfillment grew, Bailey founded his own company, Uplifting Capital, to cultivate a connection between people’s core values and their alternative investments.
His story of grief became a story of transformation. As Bailey believes, the combination of acceptance and action sparks hope. Bailey created Uplifting Capital because he himself felt uplifted by aligning his voice and his actions with his most challenging emotions, and he “want[ed] others to feel the same uplifting feeling that comes from doing something about what we are quietly bothered by.” Ultimately, he views the purpose of Uplifting Capital as not only to help forge solutions to the crises our world is facing–solutions to racism, sexism, homophobia, climate change, and economic inequity–but also to cultivate optimism and collective trust.Uplifting Capital, a scalable platform for personalized private investments, aligns investors’ and wealth managers’ values with impact on people, the planet, and the economy. By fostering closer conversations between investors and wealth managers and igniting meaningful change, Uplifting Capital empowers investors to create more than just return on investment. The fulfillment investors experience when they act with optimism to direct their resources towards social justice produces a “return on impact” that grows more and more over time.
Uplifting Capital’s approach to building relationships challenges the old viewpoint that a financial advisor should act as a “barrier between a client’s emotions and their money.” Instead, Bailey believes that financial advisors should create an environment of psychological safety where clients feel free to share their feelings. The simple fact of living in today’s world means that “a lot of us are walking around grieving,” explains Bailey. The vast majority of us are “quietly bothered” by a challenge that feels insurmountable. As Bailey explains, the financial advisors who will excel in this new era of uncertainty and change are those who can prioritize “unburdening clients” while providing non-concessionary alternative investments that yield impact.
Bailey recommends that financial advisors start by inviting clients to share which issues affect them personally. “Don’t skip the hard stuff,” he advocates. Bailey believes investors can help clients “lean into where [they] feel the deficit most acutely,” whether it is climate change, gender discrimination, systemic racism, or any other social justice issue that makes feel them “weighed down.” As in Bailey’s own life, accepting grief serves as an essential step in forming true optimism, an optimism which is not naive, but rather one that generates meaningful action and fulfillment.
Bailey believes that optimism can cure learned helplessness, that feeling that people experience when we look at the news in the morning and feel so much stress that we decide to go back to bed. As groundbreaking positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman discovered, optimism can be learned, cultivated, and shared with others since “the basis of optimism does not lie in positive phrases or images of victory, but in the way [we] think about causes.” A central component of optimism is a belief in an internal locus of control, the understanding that we have the power to change our lives. As we take actions towards transformation, we become more and more grounded in our ability to transform the world.
“The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do,” explains James Clear, author of the bestseller Atomic Habits. By taking small, habitual actions over time–deciding to invest in business leaders who belong to historically marginalized groups, using our voices and our influence to advocate for sustainability and social justice, and bringing our resources to help solve the biggest challenges–the ones none of us can solve alone–we grow in our optimism, we inspire others to contribute the magnitude of their efforts alongside ours, and we begin to experience the fulfillment of committing our efforts to a purpose larger than our own individual selves. By investing in optimism, an unlimited resource with the power to generate unlimited returns, Bailey and Uplifting Capital are tackling the dual challenges of how we can heal our planet, its people, and the economy while living more meaningful lives.