I try to infuse my kids with the attitude that as they think, so they will be. This is the brilliance in Dr. Dennis Kimbro’s books and speeches. He deals with reconfiguring our thought processes so that we are aligned with our greatest goals. In truth, what truly separates one person from another is not birth, skin color, or economic status. Thoughts and action are what separate one from another, and one family from another.
by Darryl L. Mobley, MarryBlack.com
Dr. Kimbro and I have known each other for several years now. He knew me before I married and became a father. I became a huge fan of his when I read the book, Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice. As that book indicates, so much of what we accomplish in life is all about our thoughts. The same is true for what we accomplish within our relationships and with our families.
In his previous bestsellers, Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice and What Makes the Great Great, Dennis revealed the success secrets of top entrepreneurs, corporate executives, famous celebrities, and Olympic athletes. In his most recent book, What Keeps Me Standing, he turns to another group of sages and mentors: the grandmothers who have long been the backbone of the African American family and community.
Dennis contacted one thousand grandmothers–women from a wide range of backgrounds and locations – asking, “If you had to write a one page letter to your children or the next generation, what would you tell them about life?” The lives they describe and the advice they offer capture both a richness in spirit and a strong belief in the power of every individual and every family to take charge of their own destiny.
This is Dennis’ side of the conversation we had about creating new destinies for our families.
Dennis: For five years I went around the country and I asked 1,000 black grandmothers, “if you could write one letter to your children, what would you tell them about life?” I got letters from every type of black grandmother under the sun. From doctors and lawyers to those who had just a third grade education. From high school dropouts to women Ph.Ds from Harvard. From grandmothers whose children and grandchildren are thriving and surviving to one black grandmother with five children in prison.
I received a letter on January 4, 1999, from Hampton, Virginia, and this kind soul titled her letter, “Where there’s hope, there’s life.” Here’s some of what she said in her letter to her children:
“At some point in life, you’ll be faced with a crisis that seems so overwhelming it will shake you to the core. A loved one dies, a marriage crumbles, disease strikes, a child goes astray, or a life savings is squandered. But, this I know. Unto each life a little rain is going to fall.
In June 1992, I was diagnosed with cancer. Following surgery, I faced months of chemotherapy. Each treatment lasted for hours and left me so weak, I needed assistance just to function. I’d lost my appetite as well as weight, and my hair, well that came out in clumps. Being bald was the least of my worries.
Let other families lead small lives, but not yours! Let other families cry over small hurts, but not yours! Let other families leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not yours!
To be honest, I didn’t know if I was going to make it. I had nearly given up hope, but in my hour of need, the Lord spoke to me, as he so often does, and I thought ‘you know, this is not the end.’ I mean, what can cancer do? Cancer cannot control my outlook, cancer cannot steal my faith, cancer cannot destroy my peace, cancer cannot erase my memories.
Cancer cannot invade my spirit, and it will not shatter my hope. Where there’s hope, there’s life and I choose to live. I thank God to be able to wake up each morning and move under my own power, but if I didn’t, well, I’m confident I could handle it. There’s still hope. If not for me, then for someone else. I would instruct my doctors to give my eyes to the boy who cannot see, to give my ears to the little girl who cannot hear, to give my heart to the woman who is in nothing but pain, and to give my kidneys to the child chained to dialysis. Regardless of your circumstances, you have so much to hope for.”
On Taking Action
My mind goes back to that story of the preacher and the soap maker. The preacher and the soap maker were walking in a little country town, and soon they encountered two men in the streets fighting. And they were at each other’s throats and using foul language, and the soap maker turns to the preacher and says, “Preacher, what good is religion after all?
The soap maker continued, “Just think of all the Sunday sermons you have given, just think of all the Wednesday night Bible studies you have led, just think of all the auxiliary boards that you serve on, and here we have these two individuals, fighting and cursing. Listen to that bad language. Preacher, what good is religion anyway?” And the preacher didn’t say a thing and they continued to walk.
Pretty soon, they came across a little girl playing in the street, and after playing outside all day, her little white dress was muddy, soiled, dirty, and the preacher turns to the soap maker and says, “Soap maker, what good is soap? I mean, just think of all the detergent your company has produced.”
This time it was the preacher who continued, “Just think of all the soap and detergent you’ve sold in all the grocery stores throughout the country, Soap maker, here we have this little girl who, after playing all day, she’s dirty, she’s soiled, she’s filthy. What good is soap anyway?”
The soap maker turned to the preacher and says, “Preacher, that’s not a fair question. You know soap won’t do you any good unless you use it.” The preacher’s point was driven home.
On Keys To Success
I don’t care whether it’s Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice or What Makes the Great Great or What Keeps Me Standing. What good are they if we don’t use some of the principles that they contain?
No matter who I interviewed, I found the following four common chords in all successful men and women:
Number one, successful people dream big dreams. They had a dream, a passion, something they desperately wanted to accomplish in their life. I remember a letter I got from Lucille Singleton. Ms. Singleton retired as a domestic at age 70. After retirement she decided to hand out water to members of the New York Roadrunners Club during races as they ran by. Six years later at the age of 76 she decided to run her first race, the New York Marathon, 26.2 miles.
Come to the edge, he said, and they said we are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came, he pushed them and they flew.
She told me that she finished the marathon in eight hours and ten minutes, and she said, “guess what, I didn’t even come in last place.” Some people didn’t even finish. They quit before the end. Ms. Singleton had a quote in her letter that was so powerful. She said, “so many times people make commitments until real life shows up.” So, dream big dreams and stick to them until the end.
Number two, successful people are inner-directed versus outer-directed. In other words, they weren’t so quick to believe well-meaning friends and family members who told them how they couldn’t do what they dreamed of doing. They walked to the beat of a different drummer.
In other words, you are unique. You cannot succeed being like everybody else. We’re talking about differentiation. What is so different and unique about you? What are your gifts? What are your talents? What do you bring to the table?
Point number three, successful people dedicate themselves to lifelong learning. We’re all in school every day of our lives. And we can learn from anybody.
We live in a society that’s predicated on the fact that if you want to earn more, then you must learn more. It doesn’t take much to succeed. Why? Because the average individual won’t take the time to learn additional information.
Look at the data. Fifty-eight percent of adults never read a book after high school. Six hundred thousand words in the English language, the average adult in our society uses the same 1,200 over and over again. Only 3% of Americans have a library card. You find me a house in my home state of Georgia that sells for a quarter of a million dollars. You know what you find out? You find a library built into it.
You see, the bigger the house, the more personal volumes they have in their library. But, the smaller the house, the bigger the television set and the fewer the books. So, what am I telling you? Either read or learn to fail gracefully.
So many times people make commitments until real life shows up.
Point number four, successful men and women flat out refused to fail. I’m not saying they didn’t fail, what I’m saying is that failure was never a viable option for them. There is a quote in my first book from Confucius that reads, “A man or woman is great, not because they haven’t failed. A man or woman is great because failure has not stopped them.”
It’s never a question of can you succeed. It’s always a question of will you succeed. Will you pay the price? Will you go the extra mile? Will you believe in yourself when no one else will? Perseverance and persistence make the difference for successful families and in life.