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Motivating Yourself and Others

I just finished Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming and the one part that stood out the most to me was a story she told about the connection she made with an underserved school in England.

On her first visit, she spoke to the students about her own journey from the South Side of Chicago to Harvard Law School. Mrs. Obama made a point to acknowledge the obstacles facing these students. She didn’t attempt to sugarcoat their reality. She explained how significant her early education was to her success, and she told the student they had teachers, mentors and academic resources available to them if they apply themselves. When it was over, she hugged as many students as she could and let them know that she believed in them.

Sometime later, she returned to the same school and arranged to take a group of students to see Oxford University. But here’s the thing, she didn’t bring the “best and brightest” students from the school. Mrs. Obama asked the teachers to select the students who were not reaching their potential. She was looking for students who could be doing better, but weren’t.

She believed that if these underachieving students could see firsthand what options were open to them, they would reinvest themselves in their education and set higher expectations for themselves. And once again, she told them that she believed they belonged and were worthy of higher education.

What Michelle Obama did for these students is something we all need at some point. And it is something we can offer others.

  • Acknowledge the current reality.

  • Find and notice the resources available.

  • Be open to greater possibilities.

  • Believe that it is possible.

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