Ethan Lipsitz is the founder of Extremist Love, a platform that advocates for love activism with media, art, technology and experience, and he's the creator and host of the podcast, Love Extremist Radio.
After suffering a horrifying seizure and discovering I had brain cancer at the age of thirty-two, I stepped down as CEO of my clothing company and focused on healing. Through my body recovering from surgery, radiation and chemo, I awoke to a newfound awareness of what life is truly about… actionable, tangible, authentic love.
My journey had been pointing in this direction for a while. Four years ago I founded Extremist Love, an experiment in opposing extremist hate. I started by handing out heart shaped pins that said ‘extremist’ inside them. When I discovered the brain tumor and was confronted by my mortality, I realized that my purpose in this body was not to be a CEO or a pin designer, but to become an activist for love and sharing how to live life from the heart.
A few months ago I interviewed Alua Arthur, a death doula, on my podcast, Love Extremist Radio, and she said the two most common questions people ask when they die are ‘did I love?’ and ‘was I loved?’ That’s it. Right there. When she said that I saw my own ‘mortality check-in’ led me to the same conclusion – love.
If you stop and think about why you do what you do and truly get the core of your motivations, I’d be willing to bet they’re either driven by a quest for love and acceptance, a fear of losing love or a drive to love more. When I speak of love I’m not just talking about romance and partnership, I mean love of self, love of others and love of the world and the communities in which we participate.
When I use the word love, I mean it as a verb, an action ‘to love’ and I echo the definition Bell Hooks and Erich Fromm share, to paraphrase; love is the belief in something greater for yourself, your partner(s), community and your world.
I believe in our incredible potential as humans to love and I advocate every day for our expansion and growth into that loving capacity we all carry.
Here are 6 things I’ve learned during my exploration and study of love activism over the last two years. I also wrote action steps you can take that have helped me become an activist for love:
1. Start with Yourself
You can’t be an activist for love if you can’t love yourself. It sounds cliché but it’s so real. When I was diagnosed, someone challenged me, as part of my healing, to find my perfect day and try to live that day as often as possible. This is not an easy exercise. Discover what makes you fall in love with yourself and your life and practice doing the things and feeling the things you love to do and feel!
Action Step: Write down what your perfect day looks like. How can you live that day once a week? What parts of that day can you incorporate into every day?
2. Forgive, Release Judgement and Be Patient
These are all key skills to becoming an activist for love. If you hold grudges or judgements towards others, they only imprison you and keep you from being in a loving state with them and yourself. Similarly if you’re impatient for things to happen, your life to change, or love to show up, it's only a disservice to yourself. Be patient and practice connecting with your heart in a compassionate way.
Action Step 1: Write down all the judgements you hold towards yourself, practice releasing them by saying you are willing to see things differently, write down an empowering statement that negates the judgement. Then do the same for other people for whom you hold judgements.
Action Step 2: Reach out to anyone you hold a grudge against and forgive them (ahem, old relationships). Regardless of whether they respond, cut the cord of tension that exists and let it go.
Stop letting that lack of forgiveness hold you hostage and out of your heart.
Action Step 3: Write down all the things you’re impatiently awaiting or need to happen now. Cross each one off and visualize it disappearing like you’re emptying the trash on your desktop, poof! Release the tension you hold around these expectations, let them happen naturally with perfect timing.
3. Approach all People with Love
Understand that everyone wants to be loved even if they don’t know how to ask for it or know how to act with love themselves. Love is possible in all of us and at our core we all know it is infinitely more meaningful than money or control, even those of us who never experienced any type of love in our lives are craving it.
Action Step 1: Write down a list of at least 3 individuals who seem loveless or undeserving of love. Then try to write down why they may have become this way. What in their lives may have hardened them? Was it their upbringing? Family life? Community? Did they have to hide who they truly were? Was their value based on external social standards instead of personal self worth? Can you still love them when you see what they may have struggled with? Can you find compassion for them? Perhaps you know what they may feel like.
Action Step 2: Practice various forms of uplifting interaction.
Look up from your phone to share a smile with somebody you don’t know, tell a joke in the elevator at work or randomly send an old friend a few bucks for a coffee.
Action Step 3: One of the most powerful gifts you can give is to listen to people, truly learn how to listen actively (search active listening on youtube for tutorials) and respond to what they’re saying. Allowing people to feel seen and heard is an incredible form of loving leadership. Even if you don’t agree, to understand them and share that you get where they’re coming from is an act of love unto itself.
4. Lead From the Heart
In any moment or activity ask yourself, is this the most loving thing to do for myself, for others and for the world? Strive to find the intersection of all three, it always exists.
Action Step: Think about some situations in your life that don’t feel right or cause you pain. What is a loving way to approach these situations? Could you reframe how you view certain people or circumstances so they’re not so painful? Do you have to forgive someone or release judgement in order to be okay with the way things are? Maybe you have to accept the choices you’ve made and get comfortable in the discomfort they may have created… Write down some heartfelt things you can do to lead with your heart in these challenging situations. What are the tough things you may have to accept in order to progress?
5. Check In With Death
Your body is limited, death is promised, this is not an intellectual thing to understand, it is a full body knowing. Your time will inevitably come, do you want to enjoy what you’ve got left?
Be patient, forgive, release judgement and learn to love the body and life you have, as it shows up – then it will only get better from there.
Action Step: Close your eyes and imagine your funeral. Who is there? What are people saying about you? How do you feel? Did you die happy and ready? Or were there things you wished you had done? What are they? Write them down! What’s keeping you from doing them right now? Can those obstacles be overcome?
6. Use Your Power to Empower Others
Personal power is important for healing and leadership and one of the most powerful things you can do with it is find ways to teach and empower others to lead. When you are entrusting others to find harmony and occasionally leading the group in song, you are loving them and uplifting their potential.
Action Step: Notice what you’re good at and where you’re powerful. It could be in a relationship or simply personal power around how you do something in support of yourself. Consider how you could share that power. What is a workshop you could offer others? Perhaps there’s an article, like this one, that you could write. Even if it’s just making a meal for a friend at your kitchen table, how can you share your power so others can grow and heal too?
How can you offer support that isn’t patronizing but rather empowering (tied to love and the belief in their potential)?
We all have abilities to uplift and share our gifts, let’s use them!
Next time someone asks you what you do, stop and consider purpose. We find commonality in shared passions and dreams, not always in our jobs. I intend to keep sharing my purpose as a love activist and, if I do my job well, you will join me on this mission to spread love in practical, meaningful ways.