Until she made the decision to start focusing on how her now created her later,
she lived a life of unfulfilled expectations.
Last week in Chicago, Liz Murray opened our conference with riveting revelations about her journey. Liz’s story is chronicled in the powerful movie Homeless to Harvard. The daughter of drug addled parents, Liz moved from dysfunctional home to foster home to life with no home to Harvard graduate. The story is gripping and illustrative.
On this night in Chicago, Liz focused on the theme that adversity is universal. The movie scenes I share with my students each semester emphasize what can happen when a person stops focusing on the adversity and starts moving toward what could be.
Liz told the audience that we all make a difference. When she was just attempting to survive on the streets, she didn’t believe she could make a difference. She did dream of a better life but she did not know how to get there. Thus her life became one of “later.”
As she said, “I thought I had a ‘later.’ I thought I would see my mother one more time later; get a job later.” Her mom would say, “One day I’ll get sober.” Which was another way of saying “later.” And until she made the decision to start focusing on how now created later, she lived a life of unfulfilled expectations. In fact, one could wonder if there were any expectations beyond the day-to-day struggle to survive. I see this in so many of my students.
Let me share a few more of Liz’s nuggets from her talk:
- “Lead with your heart and the rest will follow.” (She related that when she was in a group home, the staff were terrible to her and the other children. Power trips. They were not leading with their hearts.)
- “People can’t give you what they don’t have.”
- “People grow into the conversations you have about them.”
- “Cynicism is the atrophy of your imagination and your heart.”
- “YOU NEVER KNOW!”
Liz knew there was a better life for her—she just did not know how to get from “a” to “b.” Then on one day, after being rejected by alternative school after alternative school (mostly because of the way she interacted with the school interviewers; she rejected them before they could reject her) she made a decision NOT to go with her friends but to go to one more school interview. She could have just as easily given up and said, “What’s the use?” Well, something inside urged her to persevere. And she got into that school. And that began a cascade of positive and life altering events in her journey. What if she had said, “Oh, they will just reject me I’ll do it later” and she missed that opportunity?
On another powerful day in her life she did three things:
- Applied for welfare
- Interviewed to go to Harvard
- Interviewed for the New York Times scholarship.
The only one who turned her down was the welfare agency!
As I type this, the coffee cup I have beside me, coincidentally, boasts the message “What we think we become.”
Video recommendation for the week:
Liz Murray, thank you for the inspiration.
Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.
Information on my newest book, Choices for College Success (3rd ed.), can be found at Pearson Education.
(c) 2014. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.