Maya Angelou: Poet, activist, and overall inspirational human being. She was one of my heroes growing up – her tales of rising above the tremendous hardships in her life and her lessons for the rest of us kept me going through my own tough times in my youth.
Now, all grown up and well into the world of entrepreneurship, I’ve brought many of Maya Angelou’s lessons with me to face the inevitable tough times in business and life. Here are three of her lessons that have helped me, and are still helping me, stay on the straight and narrow… and will help you, too, if you let them.
Lesson #1: Find Your Talent
Maya Angelou once said (paraphrased): “Talent is like electricity. We understand only a tiny fraction of it. But it can light up cathedrals and synagogues, or it can kill a man strapped to a chair. Electricity doesn’t ask to be understood – it just says, ‘I’m here.’”
She then continued: “Likewise, you don’t need to understand talent. You simply need to know that it’s there. I believe everyone is born with certain talents. It’s up to each one of us to find it and tap into it and make the world a better place.”
I’m lucky in the sense that I’ve known what my talents were long before I went into entrepreneurship: I knew how to talk to people, and I didn’t know how to quit. That’s why business seemed to be the perfect fit for me.
I had to learn skills like marketing, leadership, sales, culture, and all that… but having my talents at my core kept me going even when things were going south.
Lesson #2: Just Do Your Best
Maya Angelou also once admitted that she never really meant to inspire millions of people through her work. She said when she wrote her books, poems, and memoirs, all she focused on was to do her very best. She was glad her work inspired people, but that was never her intention.
I’ll probably carry this lesson to my grave. Just do your best in everything you do. Your legacy (and the currency) will follow.
Lesson #3: Just Do The Right Thing
Maya Angelou once said (paraphrased): “If you walk into a room and people say, ‘Oh dear,’ then you’re doing something wrong. So just do the right thing at all times. It may not be profitable, and it may not be expedient, but doing the right thing will satisfy your soul. And when you walk into a room, people will say, ‘There goes a sweet, wonderful person.”
For me, that simply means that win or lose, I will do the right thing at all times. Yes, even in business, where “all is fair” as long as it feeds the bottom line. Whenever I’m tempted to do wrong, I remind myself of Maya Angelou’s words!
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