How a homeless girl got to Harvard 

Khadijah Williams’s mother was last spotted living in a storage unit in Los Angeles. But, Khadijah isn’t living there. She’s on her way to Harvard. What an improbable—yet inspiring—story. For as long as she can remember, she and her family, consisting of her mother, and her sister, have drifted from one homeless shelter to another. Yet, she’s still not drifting. And, she’s not just graduating from high school, or getting an entry-level job, or going to a community college, she’s actually enrolled in Harvard. (Don’t get me wrong. It’s a terrific feat to go from homeless to a job, or to graduate from anything. But, Harvard?…..)

 I read the article in my local newspaper so eagerly to find out what motivated this girl. What aspects of Khadjiah Williams’s life caused her to veer off the homeless, dependent path and toward higher education?

 Five exceptional points stand out:

 Hear the positive about yourself

 Someone told her she was smart. In the third grade, she scored in the 99th percentile on a state exam. Her teachers told her she was gifted, and put her in special programs—even though her schooling was intermittent—and she moved schools constantly.

 Question: Are you able to block out the negative and focus on the ‘positive you’?

Believe in your unique talents and skills 

Khadijah believed in herself because she believed what her teachers told her about herself—the positive.

Question: Do you have the tenacity to turn the positive comments into unshakable belief?

Seek out encouragement/inspiration from mentors  

She realized she couldn’t do it herself, and sought out organizations and mentors.

Question: Do you seek out mentors who encourage and inspire you?

Never give up    

Fueled by her belief in herself and the faith others had in her, she developed unbelievable tenacity to put herself into programs, stay in school, and ignored the taunts of the other students (you’re homeless, you can’t do this, etc., etc., etc.)

Question: How long are you willing to fail to succeed?

 Create your own environment  

Even though her mother and sister continue to live the homeless lifestyle, Khadijah has never blamed her relatives or her environment.

Question: How good are you at putting yourself around winners/

Yes. It’s a challenging market. But, if this homeless girl with absolutely none of the advantages almost all of us have can put these five attributes to work and step so very far out of her comfort zone, our challenges don’t look so huge, do they?

Who/what inspires you? Let me know who and what inspires you and why by putting a comment on either of my blogs on this subject (1-2 paragraphs, please).  You’ll see a blog post this week similar to this article in each of my blogs, Management in a Minute, or Up and Running in 30 Days. Simply write a comment on the blog, telling me who and/or what inspires you.

And, the winner is……I’ll pick three inspiring comments, and send each of you a complimentary copy of Your Professional Portfolio, which helps you choose your best skills and talents and shows you how to share them with your clients to create loyalty.

Deadline: Sept. 10. I’ll let everyone know who wins, and I’ll publish the inspirations for everyone in a later newsletter (and probably a blog).    

Managers’ tip: Why not do this as an exercise with your agents? You’ll inspire them and re-light the fires of desire so they’ll be eager and enthusiastic to do what needs to be done to get back into the action.

Read Khadijah’s entire article here

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