From Obama to Pink to Oprah

I was floored by this opening paragraph from a recent Economist article about Barack Obama:

Eight years ago Barack Obama was thoroughly humiliated at the
Democratic Convention in Los Angeles. He had recently lost a
congressional primary in Chicago, and both his political and personal
bank accounts were empty. The rental car company rejected his credit
card. He failed to get hold of a floor pass and ended up watching the
proceedings on a big screen in a car park. He returned home with his
tail between his legs before the week was out—and left the celebrations
to the people who mattered…

Imagine that: Obama’s credit card was rejected and he watched from the outside.  And yet today he is in the middle of it all.  How do you go from the parking lot to the center stage in just eight years?  There is much suffering in life, and also the potential for great happiness and accomplishment, and often the difference between the two is a matter of persistence.  Luck plays a part, but by exerting energy toward a goal, you can make your own luck. 

This is what Dan Pink means when he says that "Persistence trumps talent" in his book The Adventures of Johnny Bunko.  Persistence trumps talent.  In other words, all things being equal, those that try are more likely to be the ones who do.  Here’s an excerpt from Obama’s acceptance speech from this evening that echoes that sentiment:

And when I hear a woman talk about the difficulties
of starting her own business, I think about my grandmother, who worked
her way up from the secretarial pool to middle-management, despite
years of being passed over for promotions because she was a woman.
She’s the one who taught me about hard work. She’s the one who put off
buying a new car or a new dress for herself so that I could have a
better life. She poured everything she had into me. And although she
can no longer travel, I know that she’s watching tonight, and that
tonight is her night as well.

Someone who would agree with Obama on these points is Oprah.  And, as you know, she has.  I have to thank Dan Pink for introducing me to Oprah’s magazine in his book A Whole New Mind.  I’m avid reader of Oprah magazine.  I find it to be a reliable monthly source of a good kick in the pants.  It’s a monthly reminder to be think big and to be persistent.  I’ve been reading it for about four years now.  As an aside, I’m mildly tickled to tell you that I’m briefly mentioned (and only by first name) on page 307 of the September issue of Oprah.  Check it out.

But I digress. 

In life, pick where you want to go as much as you can, work like hell to get there, and be persistent.  Learn all the time.  Do good.  Engage everyone around you by pursuing your passions.  Help others.  Do good work.  Bring cool stuff to life.  Above all, start.

5 thoughts on “From Obama to Pink to Oprah

  1. Your last para reminds me of Baz Luhrmann’s “Sunscreen.”
    I’m curious…what keeps you persistent? What drove you to where you are today?

  2. I’ve been an avid reader of your blog for a really long time. I was really pleased when you cracked open a new blog for your Unabashed Gearhead Gnarlyness ideas. I don’t usually comment on blogs but your plea for feedback touched a nerve and I had to respond. I looked over both blogs and realized that you don’t seem to get much feedback from your readers. Which is crap because you’re one of the top blogs, along with Seth Godin and Scott Adams.

  3. OK – commenting on old blog posts again…. I printed that last paragraph in a large-ish font and have it hanging over my monitor in the cubicle. Because it lifts me out of my apathy, my lethargy.
    I’ve started.
    And in my organization, I can already see the ripple effect, which is just incredible.

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