This is where we take the inspirational spark of Motivation Monday (I kind of hate the cheesiness of this name—it may become Monday Musings or Monspiration—let me know if you have an idea) and take action!
Because you have to pray and move your feet. Right?
I got a message yesterday from a dear friend in response to my video about Oprah. It was very sweet in that the friend said she was inspired by hearing me talk for so many years about the need to tell our stories and our truths. She worried about me hitching my wagon to Oprah, whose speech contained much of what I’ve been saying for a long time. My friend further said that she didn’t find Oprah’s ideas particularly unique.
I thanked her, as I thank anyone who’s reading this right now, for coming on this journey and caring enough to engage. And I took what I could from the feedback. From now on, when I produce one of these (inevitably imperfect) missives, I’ll be asking myself if I’m being true to and honoring my voice.
Now, let’s get practical about why Oprah is important.
Oprah is important because she’s a role model.
Much as Sidney Poitier was a role model for young Oprah who got to see a Black person celebrated in a big way, she is serving as a role model for women and people of color.
I unabashedly admire her. She’s not a philosopher, and I don’t look to her for new ideas (though I gain a lot from many of the people she amplifies). But she serves an important role in our culture. Her willingness to be vulnerable has served as a model for me. Her making a decision on live television decades ago to share that she had been molested as a child was one more nail in the platform we’re standing on today to topple the patriarchal oppression we’ve lived with for so long.
One woman I do look to for original thought is Alexis Morgan of The Church of St. Felicia. Despite not being a big Oprah fan, Oprah’s talk was a confirmation for her. She writes:
[Oprah] has her moments of respectability and capitalist foolishness, but I’d be a damned liar if I said her speech didn’t make me cry. It felt like a force and a way bigger than her spoke through her and that was wild to watch. As a Black queer woman who is a survivor of severe and blatantly dehumanizing sexual violence – most of which was at the hands of a white man with money and power – that hit me so very hard… Thank you, Oprah. Thank you for the gift and being the voice of a calling to justice and liberation beyond white women’s love for you and your exceptionalism in this web of oppressions, whether you intended that or not.
Your capitalism is trash, but your pro-Black women work lives beyond it and will transform tomorrow in ways you cannot know or envision yet.
Role models are a critical part of individual success.
There was no Brazilian soccer complex until Pelé. Se Ri Pak of South Korea got South Korean women excited about golf, and today they make up a high percentage of winning LPGA pros. Anna Kournikova got a ton of Russian girls taking tennis seriously and now there is a string of high-talent women tennis players coming out of Russia. Why not in Poland or the Ukrain? I argue it’s because they didn’t have the same level of identity connection as Kournikova’s countrywomen. And note that her success did not launch a deluge of Russian men’s tennis talent. It’s the specificity of the role model’s identity that sparks belief.
Yes, role models give us information. But information is abundant. As my friend said, I’ve been telling people for years that truth is a powerful tool.
But there is something about seeing someone exactly like us do something that makes it approachable. These exemplars spark an interest and belief that make people think they can accomplish something, and that belief is a key component of success.
Get tactical and identify your role model(s) and embrace them as such.
Who do you know who is like you and has gone where you want to go? They don’t need to be receiving the Cecil B. DeMille award. They can be just a few paces ahead of you on the path. One of my role models is Penelope Trunk. She comes from a careers space, is a successful entrepreneur and homeschooler, and she tells the truth about the various parts of her life and how they intersect.
I got the chance to be a role model this morning for a man I met at the business incubator that serves as This Little Brand HQ. A lovely athlete-turned-app-developer I met has been making videos for a few YEARS, but not published one of them! He was worried that criticism of his videos might crush him as he used to be crushed if he did poorly in his sport. I was able to tell him that I just got called out on a video I put out yesterday. I assured him that if he could take his lumps and keep moving forward imperfectly. He told me he was inspired by my vow to produce content everyday, mistakes and all.
Who inspires you today? Who is enough like you that you know you could do what they’ve done? How can you increase your exposure to that person by spending more time with them, keeping quotes of theirs in your environment, or consuming more of their work?
If they can do it, you can to.
From all of me to all of you,
For more on why role models are important, watch this video where I explain the science behind becoming talented, as learned from reading The Talent Code.