One of the greatest gifts is to be loved unconditionally. To be loved in spite of all your gaffs, errors in judgment, and moments of downright stupidity. To be celebrated for every, and I mean every, accomplishment—both small and significant.
That’s why mothers should get all the glory but often don’t, yet they continue to revel in watching their loved ones grow and succeed. A national holiday is a small gesture when compared with the critical role that mothers play in developing our future generations and sustaining healthy communities.
I’m blessed to have been raised by an incredible mother who made countless sacrifices and to have married an equally fierce mother who rejoices in parenting our son with me. As you know, I spend a fair amount of time exploring the importance of a leader’s ability to focus on their why and to share the prosperity of their purpose by lifting up as many people as possible on that journey.
I can’t think of better examples of uncompromising leadership than these two women in my life. They’ve not only freely and generously given their unconditional love, but they’ve also shared a hearty dose of tough love when it was needed.
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, I give you an excerpt from Chapter 1 of my book:
Odds are that you aren’t a single mother living in poverty, but I can almost guarantee there are things that stand between you and a life well lived—things that make your experiences more exhausting.
Maybe it’s racism (in you or around you). Maybe it’s low expectations by your teachers or parents. Maybe it’s the pressure to live up to the successes of your parents or siblings. Maybe it’s an abusive relationship. Maybe it’s an incompetent boss or a backstabbing coworker. Maybe it’s just your coziness with the status quo or your fear of getting out of your comfort zone.
Whatever it is, and it probably is more than one obstacle, it will shape your experiences and, therefore, shape what you believe and how you behave.
Regardless of what’s standing in your way, I’m convinced you can move past it—over it, under it, around it, or right through it. My mother did it. I did it. And I’ve known many others who have done it. It’s not easy. But you can do it, too—if you adopt an uncompromising approach to your life’s why.
The odds certainly were stacked against my mother, and there were many times when she failed or was knocked down by life. But there never was a doubt that her faith made her stronger than her circumstances, that she wouldn’t be defined by her mistakes, and that her four sons would swim in lakes of opportunity rather than wallow in cesspools of racial or class stereotypes.
Come hell or high water, she was dead set on building a solid foundation for her sons to escape the relentless cycle of generational poverty and broken families that ensnare all too many would-be victims, especially among African Americans.
She taught us about hard work and self-reliance, what it meant to take risks for something you truly believed in, how to steer clear of the things that might cause us harm, and why faith in God was the key to joy and contentment. She set rules and gave us firm boundaries, many of which we fought hard against, only to realize later that they saved us from the pain of our ignorance. When we did well, she praised us. And when we didn’t toe the line, she administered some old-school discipline.
While I owe much of my success in life to the lessons and values I learned while cleaning motel rooms with Momma, obviously, it didn’t all happen there. The things I believe have been shaped by a combination of experiences from my upbringing, my marriage, and my career. I believe what I believe, in other words, because of what I learned from being poor for twenty-five years, from being married for thirty-plus years, and from leading others for more than thirty-five years.
That feels like three lifetimes of experiences!
Some insights came early, while others took much more time and often involved the school of hard knocks — not just the circumstances that were beyond my control but the consequences of my poor decisions and mistakes that at times resulted in sizable failures in both my personal and professional life. All of those experiences, the good and the bad, ignited my passion to be my best and eventually fueled my desire to help others be their best.
No one has played a bigger role in my story, of course, than my wife.
Barbita Webster entered the picture when I was twenty-nine, just in time to become the rudder I had no idea I needed. It’s impossible to overstate how significant Barbita has been in helping me win at life the right way. First, she has sacrificed many times for my success, passing up opportunities to advance her corporate career to support me in my journey—which became our journey. And when I felt the weight of expectations, she encouraged me with invaluable insights and perspective. …
I hope you enjoyed this passage that touches on the strength of so many mothers in the world. Take the time to thank your mother or other mothers in your sphere who’ve had an influence on you.
Live your why,
P.S. If you enjoyed the book excerpt, order a copy for yourself, your teammates, your friends—and your mother! It would be my honor to help you celebrate this special day.