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The US Department of the Treasury recently announced Harriet Tubman as the replacement for Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. This makes her the first woman to be put on modern American paper currency.

Last year, I had the opportunity to participate in the grand opening of the Tubman Museum in Macon, Georgia. Harriet Tubman, the female abolitionist, was responsible for guiding many slaves to freedom through the use of several secret passages and road networks known as the Underground Railroad.

During my time at the museum, I had the opportunity to sign copies of my book, which I’m proud to say is available at the museum, and to interact with those in attendance. I also toured the newly opened museum and learned more about Harriet Tubman’s life. Since my visit, I have reflected several times on the story of this incredibly brave woman. Here are five quick observations I’ve made about her story:

  1. Leadership with no casualties.

As a person who consults leaders often, her story comes with an important lesson. As a leader, Tubman understood that she was responsible for not only her life but also the lives and well-being of everyone she led to freedom. The great danger that she faced on the job was no excuse for a bad performance.

“I was the conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger.”

—Harriet Tubman

As a leader, you must understand your responsibilities and take them seriously. Your decisions and actions affect the lives of many—not just your own. You have to know that it is possible to guide everyone to the finish line, every time, without any casualties. 

  1. She made a conscious decision to give back.

Once she became free, Harriet Tubman could have disappeared, never to return. She did not have to go back and rescue other slaves, but she did so anyway.

The lesson for me here is that when we achieve some level of success, it is important to understand that we have a responsibility to give back. 

  1. She did not do what she did for the attention.

The nature of her work required a high level of secrecy; her work was done “underground”—away from the public eye. It was not done on a public stage and only those who were directly affected by her work knew what she did. Her motivation therefore was not fame but the desire to do the right thing. 

  1. No excuses.

Being a woman in the 1800s had its challenges. Being an escaped slave in the 1800s came with another set of challenges. Tubman could have easily come up with a thousand different reasons as to why she did not have to go back and save others. No one would have faulted her for making excuses. But she did not let her circumstances limit her. She knew what she had to do—and she did it.

And therein lies the question for you: What’s holding you back in your life? What reasons do you come up with for not taking action?

  1. It starts with you.

It is important that we are aware of our problems, shortcomings and weaknesses. The quote below is often attributed to Tubman.

“I freed a thousand slaves I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves.”

Upon reading this quote, it is easy to center your mind on the topic of slavery. This quote, however, goes much deeper than that. I see it as a call for all of us to become self-aware of our limitations. Breaking free from our limitations starts with us. Whether in your business or in your personal life, becoming self-aware and embracing your limitations is the first step toward making real change.

On December 14th, 1903, the Wright Brothers attempted their first powered flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The flight lasted for a total of four seconds. Three days later they made a more successful attempt. I often wonder….. what would the world be like if the Wright Brothers had quit on their goal?

One of the interesting things about their attempt to fly is that they were not the first to dream of flying. Since the beginning of time, men have always dreamt of flying. What made the Wright Brothers different was their devotion to the cause and their refusal to quit. They understood this:

‘Failure is constructive feedback that tells you to try a different approach to accomplish what you want.’

-Idowu Koyenikan

A lot of times when people fail at something, they take it personally and call themselves a failure. Instead, they need to know that it is not them personally that failed but the approach that they took that failed.

Instead of labeling yourself as a failure, try a different approach. Keep trying till you find a way that works. There is a valuable lesson for you to learn with each try. Every “failed’ attempt gets you one step closer to the one that will work.

 

idowu koyenikan failure quote

 

 

 

 

Fear is a natural human tendency at play in different areas of our lives. Fear tells us that we cannot achieve a goal, or that something is too difficult. Fear is designed to hold us back from achieving our desires. Too move forward, you must discover what’s holding you back and confront it.  Your desire to succeed must be stronger than your fear.

“Sometimes, we must face our fears and our enemies on their ground, a place where they appear stronger but if we are well prepared, nothing can stop us. Their turf or not, success will be ours.”

Idowu Koyenikan

Idowu Koyenikan
Facing our fears

Overcoming obstacles

Whether in business or in our personal lives, we all come across obstacles from time to time. Often times, these obstacles appear insurmountable like mountains. Rather than worrying about the prospect of facing these obstacles, our focus should be on developing ourselves. As we develop new skills and sharpen our existing ones, we get better at navigating our way through the obstacles as they appear.

“Mountains are only a problem when they are bigger than you. You should develop yourself so much that you become bigger than the mountains you face.”

– Idowu Koyenikan

You don’t have to settle. You have what it takes to be more than you are. If you want the world to see you a certain way, you must first see yourself that way. Be bold. Show the world what you are made of.

Inspire someone today by sharing this image on social media. He or she needs to know that they have what it takes.

Dreams and goals—most of us have them. Some big, some small, yet all are important. A great portion of mankind’s greatest achievements began as dreams. From the first airplane that took to the skies to man’s first step on the moon, they all started as dreams so powerful that they drew the best out of mankind. It was not just the dreams alone that made these feats possible but, more important, it was the drive behind them.

Many people today walk around with broken dreams that are still very fresh in their hearts, but they will never take any steps toward realizing them. Childhood dreams, career dreams, business dreams all dissipate with time. These people continue to take the same approach through life, remaining in the same dead-end jobs even when they are clearly miserable.

One of the biggest reasons most people do not take action and instead remain in a position of misery is simply because of fear of the unknown. We ask ourselves, “What will happen if I leave this job with a guaranteed salary to pursue a business with no guaranteed income? What would happen if I make this business move and it doesn’t work out?” While these are legitimate questions, I also want you to consider the meaning of this quotation:

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”

—John A. Shedd

Ask yourself, “What am I made for? Am I made for much more than I am today?” If so, at some point in your life you must make a decision—a big one. Are you going to pursue your dreams and live life to the degree that you were meant to live life? Or are you just going to settle and live a so-so life? If you want more out of life or your business, you must summon the courage to pursue your dreams and goals. If you don’t, years from now you will look back with regret and wonder about what could have been.

Getting the motivation to follow your dreams and pursue your goals isn’t always easy to come by. There are many approaches to doing so, and one such approach is known as “burning the boat.” This approach has been used for centuries by important legends such as Alexander the Great. Alexander, the great conqueror, served as King of Macedonia from 336 to 323 B.C. During his time he led a great army, and together they conquered most of the known world, vastly expanding the Greek empire.

It is said that when Alexander got to shore before one of his many battles, he ordered his men to burn their boats. He felt that by doing this his men would be completely focused on achieving one goal—victory. And it worked. By cutting off all options to retreat, his men were fully committed to the cause with no way to go but forward. With this single goal in mind, they fought hard with everything they had and defeated their opponents.

Many times in life we are held back from achieving our goals because we do not wholeheartedly commit ourselves to them. With an escape route in mind, we hold ourselves back from giving our all. There are some battles in life where, if you are going to win, you have to “burn the boats.” In these battles, all of your efforts must be focused on victory. No quitting, no backdoor exits. As you give your goal your full attention, your focus will raise your performance level and help you rise to the occasion.

What “boats” do you need to burn in your life? What is holding you back from achieving your dreams or goals? Set yourself free so you can focus on the life you want and go after it with everything you have. Let me be clear: This strategy is not for everyone and it is certainly not a strategy to be used for all situations in your life. If failure is not an option—and success is your only option—then this is a strategy you may want to consider.

 

 

 

 

 

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