I think Martha Stewart and Maya Angelou were lucky early on.
In a recent interview in Parade Magazine, Ms Stewart said her father was the smartest guy.
“He said, you can do anything you set your mind to,” she told interviewer/writer Dotson Rader.
If there’s any truth to the messages in the words we tell ourselves as far leading us to an outcome, I’d say her father’s words were a fair representation of proof.
Whether or not you are a Martha fan, there is no denying the success she has achieved through creativity, perseverance and continual hard work, in not only one career arena, but in several. The lady has lead an interesting and successful work life, and at age 71 she isn’t ready to sit and rock the hours away. We could see Martha Stewart storefronts in the not too distant future, according to the article.
Everyone should be so lucky to have someone say that to them in their young years. Heck, even in the older years, people should count themselves among the blessed to hear such words aimed in their direction.
In an excerpt from Maya Angelou’s latest book, Mom&Me&Mom, she recounts the day that her mother told her . . .
“You are the greatest woman I’ve ever met . . . you are very kind and very intelligent and those elements are not always found together. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and my mother—yes, you belong in that category . . .”
Now I thought of what she had said. I thought, “Suppose she is right? She’s very intelligent and often said she didn’t fear anyone enough to lie. Suppose I really am going to become somebody. Imagine . . . “
Maya Angelou was 22 years old at the time, and had the good sense to stop and wonder at those words on her behalf.
These past several weeks I’ve been working with 4th graders on writing instructional stories in which they give their reader instructions how to play kickball, or ride a bike without training wheels, or prepare for a baseball game—and even on how to correct a poor softball throw. They chose their topics and we took it from there.
It became apparent quickly that they’ve had little exposure to composition and most of them had no idea how to begin. I began by asking them questions about their personal experience with their chosen topic. Do you remember the first time you pitched a game, or learned to ride without training wheels? What does the coach have you do before the ball game begins? They had no idea they needed to think to that level before they began writing.
Their first drafts were basic (and boring) step-by-steps because they believed all they had to do was tell someone the steps, in order, and that would suffice. (Yikes.)
When I kept asking them questions and encouraging them to think back to an experience they had with their topic, one girl commented, “I didn’t know writing was going to be so hard.”
I explained to her that it was important for her to remember her experience so she could share from it in order to write a more interesting article with dimension for her potential reader.
We talked about tone of voice in the writing, and using words unique to the topic, or even adding a touch of humor to make it fun, yet informative for the person who might read it. And I explained to them the importance of starting out with that one interesting sentence at the beginning that either hooks a reader, or doesn’t.
The second drafts of the kids’ articles definitely improved—and it took some time on their part and mine, but it was worth it. It gave me a chance to listen and then work in a learning moment as they remembered small tidbits we could weave into their writings. I’m hoping each one took one small tidbit of writing knowledge back to class with them.
When the last boy came for help I read through his initial draft, and I knew he was a better thinker. His instructional piece was about constructing towers using Legos®.
“The most important thing you need when working with Legos®,” he wrote, “is an imagination.”
When I told him his opening sentence was the best one that I’d read, his face lit up. And I meant it, too. Layering on insincere praise is an act of condescension as far as I’m concerned and does no one any good. That kid floated down the hall to his classroom. The light in his face was as good for me as it appeared to be for him.
It’s interesting how small comments come home to roost. When I obtained my first full-time secretarial position, my mother told me what she felt was one of the most important qualities to possess. I can hear her saying it.
“Whatever you are, make sure you are resourceful. Know how to do all kinds of things, where to find stuff–who to ask, when you need to.”
Years back when a critical financial document went missing from my department head’s office, he tagged me with finding it—and fast. Several hours later and beau coup steps around our cement-floored production facility I returned with it in my hands. I tend to like missions–or challenges.
“If anybody could have found it,” he said, “I knew it would be you.”
That’s the kind of little stuff that hangs with you.