I wanted to read “Becoming” by Michelle Obama for a while and I am so glad I had the opportunity to read it last month. Becoming is an incredible masterpiece and an absolute joy to read. The 400-page book is an eloquent memoir by Mrs. Obama sharing in vivid detail her entire life, from her childhood all the way through her experiences as the First Lady of the United States. The book is separated into 3 sections Becoming Me: covers her early childhood through early career, Becoming Us: It’s about her meeting Mr. Obama and building her family life, Becoming More: experiences as the First Lady and beyond.
While there are many touching stories and powerful learnings from the book, I am going to share the 5 key takeaways from my perspective
1. Set high standards
As you read the first few chapters, it's very evident that Mrs. Obama had humble beginnings growing up in the south side of Chicago. She grew up in a close knit nuclear family with loving parents and a protective brother. Right off the bat, it's clear that she set high standards for herself even as a child. In the book, she shares an instance as a kindergartner when she struggled to read the word “White”during a school test and how it bothered her; drove her to practice it even more and demanded a do-over from her teacher the next day.
2. You are enough
“Am I enough? - strong enough; confident enough; competent enough; or add any adjective before enough... This seems to be a question many of us ask ourselves at some point in life and is something Mrs.Obama asked herself several times as well.. She talks about her insecurities in high school and questioning “Am I good enough?” She worked through these insecurities by working hard and diligently building on accomplishments one small win at a time. In addition, it also took changing this negative self-talk to a positive one “I am enough”. So, if you find yourself asking this same question, change the narrative to a positive one and get to work on the things you want to accomplish.
3. Don't let others define your abilities
We often stop dreaming or worse yet, let others plant failure in our heads even before we give it a try. What stood out to me in the book was Mrs. Obama’s experience with her high school counselor who quickly dismissed her interests in going to Princeton by saying “I am not sure that you are Princeton material”. She decided to not believe her and let the counselor or anyone else define her abilities to achieve her goals. We all know the end result right?- admission to Princeton!
4. Mentorship is critical
In all 3 sections of the book and all phases of her life so far, she has actively sought mentors and mentored others. I think having a mentor and being a mentor to others is so important as we navigate through the complexities of life, growth, personal development and career. To sum it up, Be a mentor and seek a mentor!
5. Don’t be afraid to define your own job description
Often times we pick a career path and stick with it even when it may not turn out to be what we actually want. We get comfortable and are afraid to self-reflect and ask some tough questions around what we want to become and if what we are doing is aligned with who we are or aspire to be. Mrs. Obama sets a perfect example for many women to not be afraid of self-reflection, to get out of our comfort zone and swerve when we desire to do so. Throughout her career in non-profits and at the university, she took the path less traveled and brought her dreams to reality. She took her role as the First Lady to a whole new level by making some significant strides for the causes she truly believed in.
This book also has increased my awareness around black history and culture and the challenges faced by diverse communities. Of course there are many more valuable nuggets of learning from this book that I am not summarizing here.
Don’t wait, pick up the book and read and get inspired!