I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s classis literary autobiography I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings explores the famous poet’s early years growing up a Southern Black girl. The story begins with her moving to Stamps, Arkansas to live with her grandmother, whom she affectionately called “Momma”, and concludes with the birth of her son at age 17 while living with her mother in San Francisco, California. The story begins around 1931 when Angelou was 3 years old. Her time in Stamps was marked by segregation of black and white society and by the underlying racism that required segregation. “In Stamps the segregation was so complete that most Black children didn’t really absolutely know what whites looked like.” Despite the ongoing Depression, Momma was reasonably successful, running a general store in the black community. Much of Angelou’s interaction with whites occurred at the store, especially the “powhitetrash” children. Because of Momma’s success, she owned ...

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The Garden by Jon Gordon

Through a short “spiritual fable”, Jon Gordon addresses the battles that we all face in life – fear, anxiety, and stress. Some may be turned off by the spiritual nature of The Garden. But it works. Jon Gordon does a great job explaining the fall of mankind and its consequences. While some readers may not believe the story of the Garden of Eden, most will attest to the consequences. In life, there is a battle between good and evil, and we are in the middle of it. As Jon Gordon states, “If you don’t know you are in a battle but your enemy does, you will surely lose.” Don’t be a loser. Recognize the tools your enemy uses to defeat you: Doubt, Distort, Discourage, Distract, Divide. Learning how to face these tactics will help you become the person you were created to be. October 16 – 17, 2020

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

Immigration. A highly partisan press. Virulent lies. Popular armed uprisings. Incivility and inaction in Congress. Power hungry politicians. A highly divided populace. Animosity. Pandemics. War. Sex Scandals. Riots. Racism. Court packing. Impeachment. Threats of succession. Familiar issues to everyone today. And yet our country faced these very same issues in its infancy. Which is what makes Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton such a compelling read today. Born an illegitimate child on a little speck of an island in the West Indies, Alexander Hamilton would rise to become a prominent figure in George Washington’s administration. Upon leaving his post as the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, Hamilton left behind a “sound federal government with a central bank, a funded debt, a high credit rating, a tax system, a customs service, a coast guard, a navy, and many other institutions that would guarantee the strength to preserve liberty.” And yet, Hamilton ...

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The Fight by Norman Mailer

They called it the “Rumble in the Jungle.” Muhammad Ali fighting George Foreman in Zaire for boxing’s heavyweight championship. And Norman Mailer perfectly captured the atmosphere and emotions surrounding the Rumble in the Jungle in his book, The Fight. Mailer chose to focus mostly on Ali’s training camp and the challenges that Ali faced in fighting Foreman. Most everyone in the boxing community fully expected Ali to lose spectacularly. Many said this would be his last fight. It would be the last hurrah of the former heavyweight champion. They were wrong. Ali won his second heavyweight championship that night. How he did it provides lessons that we can all learn in facing our own personal challenges in life. Have the right person in your corner Angelo Dundee was in Ali’s corner for most of his professional fights. He was there for the Rumble in the Jungle. Dundee knew that in ...

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Have you discovered your vocation?

Have you discovered your vocation?

In life, there are those who settle for the mediocre: a mediocre job, a mediocre salary, a mediocre marriage, a mediocre social life. While no one dreams of being mediocre when they are young, many allow their circumstances to define who they are and who they will be. It’s no wonder why so many people wake up to discover they are not satisfied with their life. They look around at the life they had made and say, “if only.” And they keep on living without joy. Then there are those who answer their calling. They ignore the doubters who said they would fail. They wake up every morning excited to begin a new day. And they succeed because they enjoy their work. Because it’s not really work at all. So today, ask yourself if you are following your dreams, or if you are just looking forward to a mediocre retirement.

Are you following your dreams?

Are you following your dreams?

The only path to long-lasting success is to follow your dreams. When you choose not to follow your dreams, you encounter boredom, lack of interest, and lack of focus. How can you possibly succeed under these conditions? The answer is simple. You can’t. Success requires total commitment. You will never work the hours necessary to be a success without total commitment. You will never solve the unsolvable problems that you will face without total commitment. You will never overcome complete failure that you will experience without total commitment. And you will never commit fully to your career unless you commit to following your desire. So, ask yourself this question. “What do I most want to do with my life?” Find that answer, and you will find your path to success. Nobody said it would be easy. You may have to start over. But you will find a way.

Start working on that big idea today

Start working on that big idea today

Remember that big idea you had? You know, the one that keeps popping back into your conscious at the worst possible moment. Yeah, that one. When are you going to get around to working on it? Someday? Maybe when the time is right? Guess what? Your big idea will never happen. Not unless you stop thinking about sometime in the future and start thinking about today. If you are trying to accomplish something, whether it is quitting smoking, saving for retirement, or starting a new business, then you must start. The right moment will never happen. There will always be an excuse. I am under too much stress at work. I have too many bills to pay.  The market is not right. The only way to get something accomplished is to think of now. Nothing will occur just by thinking about it. So, get started today.

Treat your people right

Treat your people right

No one ever becomes successful alone. Successful people know the only way to accomplish more is to enlist the support of other people. So, they form a team or hire employees to help them reach their goals. But not every business owner achieves their goals. Not every business owner attracts the right people. And not every business owner motivates their team to do their best work. Think about it this way. If you are in a position of leadership, you must have people willing to carry out your instructions. Because you must produce results. If not, you will be removed from your position. You depend on the support of your team to remain a leader, and to advance to a position of higher authority. How do you get people to support you? By taking care of your people. Treat people right, and they will treat you right.

Avoid the advice of negative people

Avoid the advice of negative people

Everyone wants to be successful. But most people do not believe that success is attainable. So, they offer excuses for why success has eluded them. Excuses such as bad luck, lack of sufficient funds, too old, or too young. What is worse, these same people will gladly give you multiple reasons why you will never become successful, either. When you face this negativity, do not be discouraged. Instead, take a long look at the person. Are they living the life you want to live? Probably not. So, take their negativity and use it as your motivation to prove them wrong. Do not let them rob you of your dreams. Finally, remember that you are a product of the company you keep. If you desire to be successful, surround yourself with amazing people. Find other like-minded people with dreams of their own. And build each other up with encouragement.

Believe you can do more

Believe you can do more

There just does not seem to be enough time in the day to get everything done that needs to be done. Or is there? Maybe, you need more time to get more accomplished because of how you spend your time. Think about all the things you do in the day, both at work and at home. Can you eradicate or curtail anything? I suspect so. But more often than not, we convince ourselves that we are already operating at full capacity. Instead of complaining about needing more hours in the day, start believing that you can do more. Capacity is a state of mind. Convince yourself that you can do more, and your mind will find ways to make it happen. More importantly, convince yourself that you should do more, and stick to your conviction. Eliminate your distractions – unmotivated coworkers, checking social media, etc. – and get more done.

Conquer your fears

Conquer your fears

Fear keeps you from acting. Ask yourself this one question, “What would I do if I were not afraid?” See how fear is keeping you from doing what you really want? See how debilitating fear can really be? Fear keeps people from speaking when they want to speak. Fear keeps people from deciding when they need to decide. Fear keeps people from achieving what they want in life. Don’t let anyone tell you your fears are in your mind. Your fears are not a product of your imagination. They are real. And unless you learn to conquer your fears, you will never achieve the success that you desire. The cure for fear is action. So, decide today what you most fear. And then decide what is the best action to conquer this fear. Then, act. Do what you need to do to achieve what you want to achieve.

Believe in yourself

Believe in yourself

The amount of success you achieve is directly proportional to the size of your thoughts. If you believe you will be a small success, you will achieve small successes. But big thoughts lead to big ideas. Big thoughts lead to big solutions. Big thoughts lead to big successes. Simply put, if you believe that you can do it, you will. If you believe that you cannot, then you will not. Believing big will not guarantee you a 100% success rate in life. We all fail. But you believe in yourself. So, you have the confidence to try again after stumbling. You have the wherewithal to keep trying. Because you know you are not a failure. You try again, and your belief and positive thoughts lead to finding the solutions you need. Your obstacles become your opportunities. Choose greatness. Have big ideas and believe that you can achieve them.

Learn to love

Learn to love

Such encouraging words from Nelson Mandela. He continues, “Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.” While these words were written more than 20 years ago, they still ring true today. Most importantly, these words should give hope to our society. Hope that one day, we can all learn to love a little more and hate a little less.

Don’t be afraid of change

Don't be afraid of change

Nelson Mandela was a prisoner at Robben Island for 18 years. In 1982, he was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison. Despite the terrible conditions that he lived in at Robben Island, change was not easy. He writes, “I have always found change difficult, and leaving Robben Island, however grim it had been at times, was no exception.” Change is difficult for all of us at times. We get comfortable with where we are in life. We get used to the idea of our current situation. But complacency robs us of our fullest potential. It tells us that we are fine. Complacency says, “You could make more money and be more successful, but it is probably not worth the stress.” And so, we maintain our current situation. Looking back on the past year, where have you grown complacent? What would have been different had you pushed ahead for change?

Are you interested in recognition or in results?

Are you more interested in recognition or results?

One can measure the quality of a leader by their accomplishments. Real leaders produce results. Those who are unable to produce results are not really leading. And yet, sometimes the results of a leader’s actions are not always known. Because sometimes, the best course of action is taken in private, behind the scenes. Not because a great leader must be sneaky or manipulative. On the contrary, the best leaders often act with a disinterest in public credit for their achievements. The primary goal of a great leader is the greater good of the organization. They are more interested in advancing their team than in their personal achievements. So they unselfishly lead their organizations, giving credit to the entire team when an achievement is known. They know that sometimes an achievement is reached that only they can appreciate.

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About David

About David

David is an accountant and adviser for small business owners. He also coaches clients on leadership and success. David is an avid reader. He blogs regularly on the books that he is currently reading.

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