'Self-Made' is a myth. There is no one who is self-made. Period. All the millionaires anecdotes and rags-to-riches stories that we come across, may make us feel like we are all powerful alone and we can conquer the world alone - but that is far from the truth. We are a social conglomerate and we need to be guided, inspired and navigated by others, people who have lived and worked in the right direction more than us. The fact is that today, we ain't got the time or the opportunities to make all the mistakes we can and then learn from them. Don't believe anyone who says otherwise.
Starting to do something in life, is so similar to when we started off as babies. We didn't know a thing, had no clue about the whats, whys and wheres of any skill whatsoever. Had we been left to teach ourselves everything, most of us would still be crawling the floors and inventing ways to ask for a sandwich. But no. We had folks to guide us, hold our hands, teach us best ways to walk, talk and learn or at least point us in the right directions. And that will always remain the case in life, no matter how old we are, or how high a feat we are trying to achieve. Living or dead, knowing about the experiences of successful people gives us perspective. In the People Perspectives series, let's take a look at key life lessons that we can learn from notable historical and modern figures.
Lately I have been reading 'I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings', one of the works of the late Dr. Maya Angelou. And she has surely made it to my list of heroes. It inspired me to dig up her other works and listen to her speeches - and it was a life changing experience. She is a well known American author and poet, who happened to also be an excellent singer, dancer, activist and scholar. She has also been credited with plays, movies and television shows spanning more than 50 years. She was also a renowned civil rights activist. Along with her legacy and the invaluable lesson that there is nothing stopping you from trying out everything in life, there are several life lessons one can learn from her and her works.
Here are the top five doctrines I think each us could learn and use at work and in life, from this amazing person who once walked on this planet.
- Being genuinely good. Kindness is a virtue the modern competitive world could really use right now. Part of living a content and fulfilled life is to have people in your life that make you happy and make it worth while. Dr. Angelou teaches this message well, for sometimes even the most non-committal of words and conversations can bring about a strong positive or negative response. Words can hurt, or they can elevate us, collectively. Always make sure that people remember you for the right reasons, rather than the wrong ones.
I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
- Make goals you love. Everyone comes to a point in life, where you got to choose between what you love to do, and what what society wants you to do for making a living. But most of the time when we choose the more trodden path over our passions, we end up miserable.
You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then, do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off of you
- The anger catalyst. This is one of Maya Angelou’s most prevalent and important lessons and quotes. Holding onto bitterness is one of the toxic and dangerous things you can do to your psychological self. It poisons your daily life and infects everything in it – your work, your relationships, how you treat other people and expect to be treated in return.
Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.
- The balance in being you. There is a very fine line between confidence and arrogance, between strength and brutishness. Working on yourself as a human being means being focused on the most compassionate and strong way of living that you can achieve. That means that focusing on your ‘enemies’ is a waste of time, energy and resources, as is letting anyone walk all over you in order to live an easy life at the cost of your self esteem. Maya Angelou teaches a message of balance – don’t channel your strength into becoming someone who invokes enemies and ‘haters’, but don’t diminish it for the sake of letting other people walk all over you.
A wise woman wishes to be no one’s enemy; a wise woman refuses to be anyone’s victim.
- Harmony of work and life. Maya Angelou advocated that a well defined work life balance is what will help us truly appreciate the life. Word hard at your job, and while working, give it your all; but when it ticks home time, leave it behind and go spend time with the people you love, doing the things you love. Life is too short – the blink of an eye to Mother Nature – so spending it in a daze and not comparing about what you’re doing is a sheer waste. Spending life living in anger and regret is futile.
I work very hard, and I play very hard. I’m grateful for life. And I live it. I believe life loves the liver of it. I live it.
Maya Angelou’s words and teachings affected millions of lives, giving a mainstream voice to women of color and the Black experience in the United States during a tumultuous period of social change. She helped create a positive change for people. Your work, whatever it may be, has the power to transform lives in a positive way, Your dreams and ambitions too – that novel you’ve been working on might inspire a scientist or a nurse or a schoolteacher; your ideas for renewable energy could help transform the lives of people around the world. Angelou was truly one of the great voices of her generation, of her community, and of the entire human race. She was an enormous inspiration in my life, and I will always be thankful for her wisdom.