This is the cover of the birthday card I received from my dear friend this year. A month later, it still sits on my counter because I smile every time I look at it! And the wording reminds me that we have many sources of inspiration, including “…the right hat…”
About five or six years ago, I transitioned from primarily reading fiction to nonfiction. It wasn’t a particularly conscientious decision. I think it came from being unfulfilled in my work. I didn’t want anything academic. What I really needed was some inspiration, true stories of common people who have done uncommon things. One of my favorites is Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I was fascinated by the mental and physical challenges faced by the climbers. I felt like I was there (which will never happen!)
One of my more recent reads was Quiet Strength by Tony Dungy, the former professional football coach. Truth be told, I’m not much of a professional football fan. However, I had heard many positive comments about this man so when I came across the book, cover facing up on a table, I picked it up and checked it out. I’ve always wondered how professional coaches and their families handle the seemingly constant threat of being fired. And how do you motivate and lead a group of people that are breathtakingly overpaid and poorly behaved? (A major generalization, I know.)
We all have stories to tell and Mr. Dungy is no exception. I have a better understanding of why he has a good reputation and I certainly learned a few things about the challenges of coaching. But one of the most interesting parts of the book was the use of quotations to start each chapter. To me, the “right” quotation is like the perfect photograph – sometimes that’s all that’s needed to make a point. I actually took notes while reading this book and the one quotation that stood out was attributed to Booker T. Washington: “If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.”
I’ve certainly found this to be true in my own life. When I was 27 years old, my first husband took his own life. This happened about 3 years after my mother died of a malignant brain tumor and once again I found myself in a really dark place. Perhaps what was most strange was my almost total emotional disconnect from life. In retrospect, I came to see this as a protective factor. Instead of being overwhelmed and incapacitated by too much emotion, I felt almost nothing, which enabled me to at least keep moving. Feelings about anything came back slowly and in small bits.
At the time, I was working in communications/marketing for a local non-profit organization. I had found a woman in town who was self-employed as a typesetter and printer. Her business was named Bestype and she produced good quality work at a price our non-profit could afford. She was not married and at age 30-something, she got pregnant. Her business was small, located in a rather run-down area of town and she had no one to help her, personally or professionally. I knew several other women who were her clients as well and after some telephone calls we decided to give her a surprise baby shower at her office one afternoon.
She thought we were there to do business. When she realized we were there to give her support and needed supplies for her baby, she was moved to tears. And for the first time in months, I felt the stirrings of emotion again. Just enough to remind me that I was still alive. As we left her later in the afternoon, I realized I actually felt good. That’s when I learned that doing something kind for someone else is one way of helping yourself.
Now as my friend Deb and I are scratching together the foundation of what we hope will be a successful business, I am grateful for all those people who have met with us, shared their ideas, answered our questions and provided guidance and encouragement. Surely this is along the lines of what Mr. Washington had in mind. It will be our privilege to do the same for others some day.
Do you have a favorite quotation that motivates you? Share!
Do you like inspiring non-fiction? If yes, what is the title of one of your favorites? It’s past time for another great read!