You Don’t Have to be a Product of Your Environment

How do some people who appear to have the odds stacked up against them go on to succeed in life and accomplish dreams that seem larger than them? I am talking about people who grew up in or surrounded by poverty, individuals that were raised in broken homes or dysfunctional families or those who were the unfortunate victims of abuse or witnessed violence or the people around them living the fast life of drugs and addictions.

While some people choose to limit themselves by accepting labels or stereotypes placed on them by society because of their backgrounds and perceived disadvantages others choose to defy the odds, break through and raise above those very perceived limitations and go on to do big things with their lives. They refuse to fall through the cracks and become a statistic by the choices they make.

I can definitely empathize with the frustration and hopelessness the Youth in Baltimore, Maryland expressed during the recent civil unrest that took place in their city this past May as a result of Freddie Gray’s death in the hands of the city’s Police. To most of them, the future seems very bleak and unpromising as they struggle with trying to determine and identify their place in society.

Racial discrimination and disparities are still very prevalent in the current world we live in. The black race still faces numerous injustices, disadvantages and is often looked down on and not taken as seriously as it should despite the fact that Slavery was abolished years ago and America is considered the land of justice and freedom. A lot of Black Men unfortunately have experience a lot of injustices first hand and as a result have become embittered and developed great distrust for authority figures, governance and the white race.

As a black woman, I feel it is time for the black race to realize that we are responsible for shaping our own destiny, have the power to re-write our stories as well as create the lives we desire. Not all black men who live in the Projects earn a living through selling drugs or will end up in prison at some point in their lives just as not all Caucasians who live in trailer parks are uneducated meth junkies who live off welfare and get their food from local area food bank. We need to rise above these stereotypes and define our own labels as individuals before we can do so as a family, community or race.

I am reminded of two stellar examples of black men who have done extraordinary things with their lives despite the odds having been stacked up against them while growing up. With Mother’s Day having just been celebrated this past month, I would like to mention that just like the Baltimore mother who stepped in to remove her son from the volatile situation upon recognizing him in the frontline during the unrest; these men’s mothers were instrumental in and responsible for instilling belief, confidence, determination, and discipline in their sons’ lives and encouraging them to dream big. Parents should never underestimate their role in shaping your Child’s life; they are their child’s first teacher and cheerleader.

Dr. Ben Carson; currently in the limelight for his bid for a Republican nomination ticket for President of the United States of America in the upcoming 2016 Presidential Race.

Dr. Ben Carson was raised in a single parent family home in an impoverished neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan by his Mother. His parents divorced while he was eight years old leaving his mother to struggle with solely raising him and his older brother on a meager salary.

Ben was a below average Student who didn’t enjoy school and often placed last in his class until his mother instilled in him the importance of education and being diligent. She encouraged him and his brother to borrow books from the Library and had them write two book reports each week which promised to review despite being illiterate. It wasn’t long before Ben and his brother developed an affinity for reading and studying. He transformed himself from a self-proclaimed dummy into a star student class and went on to receive a full scholarship to Yale where he studied Psychology before proceeding to the University of Michigan Medical School.

Dr. Ben Carson went on to make history by becoming the first Surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined by the head while a Surgeon at John’s Hopkins Hospital where he was the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at the time. This is a guy who could have easily fallen through the cracks and not amounted to much based on his childhood background had he not made the proactive decision to change his life and go after his dreams.

Ben Carson has gone on to receive numerous medical and academic awards and honors and written six best-selling books including Gifted Hands which was adapted into a made for TV movie. He is an inspiration to many and was once ranked sixth on a list of most admired men in the World; all this from a below average student raised in the poor city of Detroit by a single Mother. He rose above it all and refused to become a statistic!

Chris Gardner; the inspiration behind the movie; The Pursuit of Happyness (yes, spelled with a “y”) based on his real life and portrayed by Will Smith.

Chris was raised in Foster Care for a majority of his life after his parent’s divorce. He witnessed alcoholism and domestic violence in his biological home and experienced a great deal child abuse in his Step-father’s hands before being placed in a foster home.

He struggled with homelessness at one point in his life while single handedly raising his toddler son; Chris Gardner, Jr. after him and his wife divorced. He and his Son often slept in shelters, parks, on public transportation and at one time, on the floor of a public restroom in one of New York’s Subway Stations. Although Chris had it bad, he was determined to give his son a good life and make something of himself despite the many challenges and injustices he encountered along the way.

Upon one day noticing an impeccably dressed man emerge from Ferrari and learning that the man was a Stock Broker; he determined that was the career path for him. He studied for the entrance exam and was able to gain acceptance into the Dean Witter Reynolds Stock Broker Program where he became a top trainee and was eventually offered fulltime employment. He was able to accomplish all this while struggling to make ends meet and provide a home and basic necessities for his son and himself.

He went on to become a very successful Stock Broker before establishing his own multi-million dollar Brokerage Firm and having his life story adapted into a movie, with Megastar; Will Smith, portraying his life on screen. Chris is today known as an entrepreneur, author, philanthropist and motivational speaker who encourages and inspires others to dream big and believe in themselves and life’s possibilities.

I am sure you know of people in your own life who have overcome adversities, not allowed Society to dictate what they could do and be and have gone on to do what was considered impossible with their lives. Maybe you are that person, yourself and have transcended limitations and become a success story and inspiration to others; if so, Kudos for not allowing yourself to fall through the cracks.

Let us remember the responsibility we have to ourselves and not allow ourselves to get caught up in or believe the stereotypes or limiting beliefs placed on us by others; be they our family, friends, colleagues or Society. Write your own story and determine that you will not become a statistic.


One thought on “You Don’t Have to be a Product of Your Environment

  1. Magda May 11, 2015 / 9:33 pm

    I wish everyone can read this article. It will change one’s direction. This is a very encouraging and action provoking article. Keep up Yvonne.


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