How one of the few queer black women in venture capital clears her mind to overcome bias and get things done

Arlan Hamilton's productivity hack is forgiveness.

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Arlan Hamilton’s productivity hack is forgiveness.
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  • Backstage Capital founder and venture capitalist Arlan Hamilton’s productivity trick is to forgive other people for their wrongdoings.
  • Forgiveness will keep you from dwelling on what other people say about you or their unfair treatment toward you, Hamilton told Business Insider. That way you can focus more on your job.

Arlan Hamilton’s trick to getting stuff done isn’t jotting things down on a planner or drinking more water: it’s forgiving others.

Hamilton, the founder of Backstage Capital and one of the few queer black women in venture capital, found that agonizing over the unfair ways she had been treated in the past kept her from doing her job.

Earlier this year, for example, Hamilton said she spent days thinking about an instance where she had been “unfairly portrayed” online. She soon realized she was spending more time thinking about other peoples’ actions than getting her job done.

Hamilton made a decision to forgive the people who she felt wronged her – that way, she took control of the situation and wasn’t as impacted by other peoples’ actions.

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“Once I did what was in my power to do and forgave them, I was back in control,” Hamilton told Business Insider. “I got a lot of work done, and we’re stronger for it as an organization.”

Hamilton created Backstage Capital in part to counter the impacts of unconscious bias in venture capital. Founders who are women, people of color, or LGBTQ are less likely to get VC funding, according to a 2019 study. Hamilton herself recalled being told she must work twice as hard to be taken seriously in venture capital, she told Fast Company.

Hamilton’s experience isn’t uncommon. Women and queer people face greater sexual harassment in the workplace, and research finds racial minorities tend to get passed up for promotions or big projects due to unconscious bias. The New York Times’ Alan Henry recently said productivity advice is meaningless for people dealing with injustice at work.

“That’s the real factor determining whether you can take productivity advice at face value: privilege,” Henry wrote. “Ultimately, if your boss or co-workers believe that women shouldn’t be in the workplace, or that African-Americans are unmotivated, no ‘productivity hack’ will force them to objectively look at your accomplishments and decisions the way they would employees they view without biases.”

Hamilton says forgiveness can help overcome other peoples’ unfair treatment. Forgiveness helps you stop dwelling on the wrongdoings of the past and take control to move forward at work, she said.

“It’s really important to understand that a part of valuing yourself is knowing when and if you’re being treated poorly, but that you can also repurpose that by internally forgiving people of certain things,” Hamilton said. “This allows you to let go of that time that you would have spent letting it consume you and you can now use it for more productive things.”