Her drink of choice was Johnny Walker Gold. Famous in the New York Arts Community for holding New Year’s Day parties for her extended family of writers, dancers, and singers at her old Brownstone home in Harlem, she lived and laughed and loved. Even up to her dying day, she was still planning one last big party. But being a bon vivant was not her only inspiration.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Maya Angelou moved to Stamps, Arkansas, where she experienced the pain of racial discrimination. When she returned to St. Louis she suffered through physical abuse at the hands of her stepfather. He was jailed, and soon after being released, was murdered. The shock traumatized Angelou for years, but she turned this period into something beautiful. It was during those dark days that she developed her love of literature. She would go on to become one of America’s most prolific female writers, performing on Broadway, and even reciting one of her poem’s at Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration. Ms. Angelou passed away on Wednesday, May 28th, at the age of 86.
I don’t want to argue her politics. Instead, I want to celebrate her words and her life. I want to give her credit for making me a better person, and for helping my business achieve a deep emotional connection with people from all over the world.
Angelou has left us with a treasure trove of material, including quotes that can, yes, truly change lives. She has taught me how to step outside of my comfort zone, to man-up, and to be a better person. Before I was straightened out by her advice, I did not treat people as courteously as possible. I would rush through conversations. I was selfish, immature, and inconsiderate.
That was, until, I read one of her most famous quotes. It is a grand claim that a single quote could change my life. But it has. When I first read these words it was like a glass of ice-cold water to my face. As someone that can be impatient and curt, and even shamefully rude, her words have made a world of difference. It changed my behavior, and changing my behavior has altered my life for the better.
“We had come so far from where we started, and weren’t nearly approaching where we had to be, but we were on the road to becoming better,” Ms. Angelou once wrote in A Song Flung Up to Heaven. She could have been writing about my personal transformation. But that’s not the quote that inspired me to become a better person, to transform more lives, and to stop being an inconsiderate jerk.
Before I reveal it, let me tell you what this quote has allowed me to accomplish. This past weekend in San Diego we held our 4th annual Turbulence Training (TT) fitness event and had over 150 attendees from nine countries, including visitors from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, England, and Ireland. Over fifty attendees chose to become Certified Turbulence Trainers, joining my mission of helping 10 Million Men and Women transform their lives by the year 2020.
The event went phenomenally well, thanks to the expertise and planning of our team, and because each one of our team members was dedicated to bringing the energy and creating an amazing experience for everyone. Before the event, I encouraged our team to:
- Please make a list of all attendees you’ve connected with in the past, and make sure to welcome them. Introduce yourself to all others and make lots of new friends.
- Please take lots of photos of happy attendees for us to share on our website, in social media, and for my newsletters.
- Bring the energy!
- Create experiences!
- Make it remarkable!
I reminded them, “Don’t forget that some of our attendees are coming from as far away as India (Gilroy D.), Australia (Peter J.), Dominican Repulic (Gustavo R.), and the UK (Steve A.). We must make our guests feel excited, energized, and educated. We want them to go home raving about the weekend (as they have always done in the past). If you see someone confused, overwhelmed, lost, or disappointed, please go out of your way to cheer them up, give them the information they need, and solve their problem. This is going to be even better than last year. Here’s to another great event!”
This past weekend was a far different experience for attendees than what they would have experienced when I put on my first big event back in 2007. Back then it was my natural inclination to deliver ‘just the facts’. I would step on stage and deliver substance without regard to the style. But that’s not what people want. That’s not what people remember.
I learned this lesson the hard way…never seeming to achieve big breakthroughs in my speaking business. Then I read her quote.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
It seems so obvious. It’s probably how you have always dealt with people, but it was not in my introverted nature to do the same. Again, it’s embarrassing that I’d need a lesson on how to treat people, but I was taught it, and I’ve taken it to heart.
Without it, we wouldn’t have had another packed house on the weekend. We wouldn’t have had attendees crying tears of joy for the connections they made and the transformations shared on stage. Without Maya Angelou, my business would not be making the impact it is today. It might still be struggling.
I never had a chance to thank her in person, so writing this article is the best I can do.
Though she may be gone, she is immortalized in words. She inspired millions of people to transform their lives, to rise up and to overcome the suffering they faced in the past. Among them was a young TV anchor named Oprah Winfrey. Oprah refers to Ms. Angelou as her mentor-mother-sister-friend.
“She was there for me always, guiding me through some of the most important years of my life. The world knows her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. ‘When you learn, teach. When you get, give’ is one of my best lessons from her. What stands out to me most about Maya Angelou is not what she has done or written or spoken, it’s how she lived her life. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds,” says Winfrey.
Or as Ms. Angelou once said, “Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.” Her words and actions will carry on transforming lives and healing hearts.
“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know amazing you can be.” – Maya Angelou[Ed Note: Craig Ballantyne is the editor of Early to Rise (Join him on Facebook here) and the author of Financial Independence Monthly, a complete blueprint to helping you take control of your financial future with research of proven methods in your career, in your business and in your personal life. He has created a unique system to show gratitude and appreciation to stay on track for these goals each and every day. Click here to follow the exact 5-minute system you can use to improve your life.]