Do any celebrities make you lose your cool? You know, the ones who make you feel all sorts of giddy! Those who would cause you to mumble your words, trip over and probably embarrass yourself? Go ahead! You can admit it. There’s no shame or judgment here! I confess to two! Prince (RIP) and Michelle Obama! The thought of being in their presence gives me the kind of childlike excitement I recall having as a kid when two things happened typically during the Christmas holiday. First, finding out I was going to get new shoes or clothes, and second, the house would be stocked with European chocolates or cookies. Yeah, I’m pretty easy to please and we’re going way back!
So imagine how ecstatic I was when on a typical uneventful afternoon in October 2018, I discovered Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, was going on sale, November 18, and I could pre-order. Now, you know I love books but rarely do I get excited enough to pre-order! This time was different, though. It was Michelle Obama’s memoir! Other than my mom, eldest sister, and Maya Angelou, there are few women I hold in such high regard as the First Lady. Her intelligence, compassion, devotion to advocating for women and children, grace, courage, and class make me want to do and be a better role model to women and girls every day.
I rushed to Amazon, secured my order, got on my social (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter) to share the great news with my family, friends, and our blog community! After all, it would be inconceivable to enjoy this moment on my own! I had to get the word out!
On the same day, I learned she was embarking on a book tour! Tickets were going on sale soon and I had to get in! Could I afford it, I pondered? Prices ranged from $26 to $400 plus! What were the chances I would be lucky to nab the cheaper tickets? I didn’t know! All I knew is this was a once in a lifetime chance and I was going to be first in line to get the affordable tickets.
Luck was on my side because on the day I called in for tickets at 10am, there were only two tickets available at a reasonable price! Although not cheap, they were justifiable with a few adjustments to my budget. Meanwhile, I had alerted two of my girlfriends about the tickets. I frantically called both and asked if I could purchase tickets for them before time run out and they went to someone else. One said yes and promised to reimburse. I knew she was good for it so I bought the tickets! The other had found another alternative.
People! I could hardly contain myself! In 2 months, I was going to be in the same building as Michelle Obama! I even fantasized about her signing my book, what I would say, how we would take a selfie together (don’t judge!) Wishful thinking on my part since VIP meet and greet tickets were way out of my league (a girl can dream!) Now if only November 18 and December 14 could get here sooner!
Let’s just say both the book and tour did not disappoint! I came away from both experiences feeling energized, inspired, empowered, courageous, hopeful, and ready to give even more of myself to women and girls everywhere!
It came as no surprise that the book was a hit (over 3 million copies sold to date and the top seller of 2018) and the tour sold out in every venue! The latter was so popular that she added more tour dates!
Psst…if you’re interested in the book tour, you can enter to win tickets to one of her upcoming events here. The tour is going on through May 2019.
There was so much buzz around the book that you were bound to hear someone talking about it at any gathering you went to. Even the arena had a rock concert feel to it! Who knew these many people would come out to see Michelle discuss her book! Clearly, I had underestimated her popularity. The energy and excitement were contagious!
Here are my most profound takeaways from Michelle Obama’s Becoming book and book tour:
1. Don’t be so quick to judge others for who they are
You have no idea of their story or journey. It’s easy to put labels on people – grouchy, mean, cynical, angry, etc. Unless you know the road they’ve traveled, reserve your judgment and show them empathy and compassion.
2. It’s possible (and okay) to feel out of place even in your own community
It just means that you’re still trying to find your voice, to reconcile who you are, who you want to hang around, and where you want to go. This takeaway resonated with me deeply because it reminded me of my own discomfort in my own circle of friends 10 years ago. I felt out of place and sync. I decided to retreat, a difficult choice since they were all I had known for most of my adult life. Though painful, I found a new circle of friends who accepted me for who I was and with whom I could be unapologetically myself. Looking back, I can say it was one of the best decisions of my life. It allowed me to identify and explore the things I valued most and to surround myself with people who aligned with those values.
3. Fear of failure is crippling!
Recognize that failure is a feeling NOT a thing. By wallowing in it, you make it become a thing, a “result” as the book says. Treat it like any other feeling – be aware of it, recognize it, and deal with it in a productive manner. Don’t allow it to become a reality because it will stop you from achieving your goals.
4. Lean on people who believe in you
This is one of my favorite takeaways from the book. I believe when you surround yourself with people who not only want the best for you but also bring out the best in you, you’ll thrive. Shed the noisemakers and naysayers. You only need to prove to yourself what you’re capable of!
For my big milestone birthday last year, I invited my true circle of friends to celebrate with me. Those who have supported me, laughed with me, cried with me, cheered for me and stuck with me through the good, bad, and ugly. Funny that most of them didn’t know each other but yet got along so well, a testament to how much in common we all shared. I didn’t have to worry if anyone was bored, feeling isolated or awkward.
5. Respect that everyone is unique
Yours is not the only or right way of being. Understanding that we’re different in the way we approach life allows us to appreciate others, to open ourselves up to a varying perspective, to learn, and to new relationships. In some instances, someone else’s way of doing things might even alter our lives for the better. You just never know!
6. It’s okay (and good for you) to share your challenging experiences
Many times we keep painful experiences to ourselves because we don’t want to be vulnerable, hurt, judged, or seen as weak. What you discover, though, is by hiding your challenges, you’re denying yourself an opportunity to get help from someone who may have experienced the same thing. Learning that someone else has gone through the same thing as you have and survived it gives you the stability you need to weather the storm and to survive through it.
I remember going through my miscarriage and thinking that it was the most awful thing I had ever experienced. I felt lonely, lost, hurt, and hopeless. Only after I decided to seek out groups of other women online who had experienced miscarriages (some multiple) and were now mothers of healthy children did I start to feel hopeful and capable of moving on and trying again. They may not have taken away my pain but they helped me work through it. Today, I have my beautiful, smart, and spirited 9-year-old baby girl to show my triumph. 🙂
7. It’s not enough to be inspired
Inspiration must be accompanied by action and effort to make whatever it is that inspired you possible. For instance, for the longest time, I knew I was inspired to make a difference in the lives of women and girls. I was passionate about it but did nothing. My excuse, no time! Between work and family, I rationalized that I just couldn’t do anything to advance my passion. I told myself that once my children were grown, you know, off to college, I would dedicate my life to empowering women and girls.
One day, I had an epiphany! Why was I putting off my passion for the future? Why couldn’t I find the time to do it today? What if something happened where I was unable to pursue it when my girls are grown? On that day I vowed I was going to dedicate 30 minutes a day towards my dream and passion of educating, inspiring and empowering women. With just those 30 minutes per day, I have been able to reach and inspire thousands of women and girls through this blog, a thriving community on Facebook, our Facebook group, gapmuseWomen, and our other social channels, including Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter. It’s a small footprint but it’s laid the foundation for a larger one in the future.
8. Be confident with the way you’re raising your children
Our day to day lives as mothers differ in so many ways. Some of us balance full-time work and family, others stay at home, others work part-time. No matter where you fit in, don’t try to conform to someone else’s idea of how you should raise your children. If your kids are loved, nurtured, and thriving, you’re doing the right thing.
9. Ask for what you want
Often times, we stay silent from asking for what we want because we may be afraid of rejection, vulnerability, and judgment. The problem is that if you don’t ask, you’ll never know the outcome. Besides, what have you got to lose if the worst that can happen is a “no” or someone thinking some sort of way about you? So go ahead! Take the leap, put it all on the table. You’ll come away feeling more powerful no matter the outcome.
10. Never allow other people to define who you are!
Who knows you better than yourself? No one! Be the master of your own story. Tell your story. Let your actions speak to your character and values. If you believe in giving back, do it. It’s difficult for someone to argue that you’re something else other than what you put out. If I you believe in something, live it. If I had believed in the Western notion of beauty, I would have filled my gap decades ago (notice I didn’t say fix because I have never viewed it as something to be fixed.). Because I believed it’s part of who I am, anything anyone said about it (including doctors) was nothing but noise.
11. Friendships with other women are not built through grand gestures
It’s the little acts of kindness over time that build and nurture your friendships with other women. Hold on to the friends who show up for you when it matters most to you; who make you smile or laugh; who love your children like they were their own; who don’t take themselves too seriously and remind you not to either; who bring positive energy; who accept you for who you are; who bring out the best in you; and who support your dreams.
12. Change takes time
When you decide to make a change in your life or your community, don’t expect it to happen overnight or even sometimes to materialize. Exercise patience. As my salsa teacher likes to say to new students or when he introduces a new move, “little by little.” Surprisingly, it’s one of the most encouraging and motivating things to say because it makes you believe you can do it…with time. Patience, when learning something new or trying to make a positive impact in the world, allows you to take everything one step at a time. It gives you the courage and strength to stick with it despite road bumps along the way.
When I decided to change my circle of friends 10 years ago, it was scary. I gave myself 2 years because I didn’t want to settle. It took 5 years to build solid relationships! Longer than I anticipated but well worth it! When I set out to lose 7 pounds 7 years ago, I gave myself a year. It allowed me to take pressure off of myself and to really make healthy living into a lifestyle. I ended up losing 14 pounds, 2 times more than my original goal!
13. Stay optimistic at all times
It’s easy to become cynical and pessimistic as you get older because let’s face it, life happens! Whether we want it or not, our experiences – good and bad – shape our outlook on life. Challenges, disappointments, loss of loved ones, jobs, or friendships, plus the proliferation of global problems zap our positivity and make us more pessimistic. It is only through optimism that we can keep going. Without it, we would be crippled by fear and a sense of hopelessness. Easier said than done, right? Yes, but possible.
The easiest way to cultivate optimism is through gratitude because no matter what you’re going through, there’s always something to be thankful for. It can be as simple as being thankful for getting up to see another day, breathing, your children, family, friends, having food to eat, or a roof over your head.
I have found that combined with gratitude, redirecting your negative thoughts by giving to others (even when you don’t feel like it) is the most rewarding and healing methods you can apply to your life. Giving comes in all sorts of ways – volunteering, acts of kindness, donating to a worthy cause (if you can), and wishing well for others going through a tough time; i.e., sending them good vibes. Corny, perhaps! But, trust me, it works.
Lastly, you cannot be optimistic if you don’t take care of yourself. Engage in the things that give you joy. For me, that means giving love to those that matter most to me, smiling through the hard times, finding happiness even in my smallest triumphs, keeping my endorphins going with yoga, exercise, hiking, and dance, immersing myself in a good book, and publishing to this blog. These things have kept me sane even at my lowest point. Be kind to yourself.
14. Keep evolving!
Never stop growing or changing. Every experience you have and the people you meet throughout your life’s journey will shape your evolution. Stay true to who you are but at the same time, be open to change, to adjusting your perspective, and to new possibilities.
I leave you with my most favorite quote of the book, which also happens to be the closing:
“There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This, for me, is how we become.” – Michelle Obama, Becoming
There was so much good stuff in this book! I chose these 14 learnings because they stood out and resonated with me the most. My hope is that they will reverberate with you too and motivate you to become the best that you can be.
Did you read the book or go to the book tour? What were your key takeaways? Please share with us and our readers so we can be inspired too.