I was invited to give a Welcome Week speech at VCU and the occasion provided a great opportunity for me to reflect on my college years. Ultimately, I decided to leave the incoming students with three pieces of advice (the Freshmen ABCs) that I hope will serve them well for a lifetime.
100 Ways to Motivate Yourself
This section explores the many faces of motivation. From values to vanity, we're all driven by something.
I gave the Senior Convocation Address for Richmond Public Schools this year and I count the experience among the great privileges of my life. I accepted the challenge of addressing 2,000 (2,000!) people—graduating seniors from eight city high schools and their friends, family and teachers—because of a William James quote that sits on my desk: “Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
Dressed in regalia from robe to mortarboard and flanked by school and city officials, I took in the contrast between the girth of the Richmond Coliseum and the elegance of the ceremony. Somehow the interplay between the pomp (Mendelssohn’s “War March of the Priests”) and the circumstance (a hulking sports arena) felt appropriate. It mirrored my charge as a speaker—to say something lofty enough to suit the occasion yet concrete enough to make a real-world impact. I was addressing a diverse body of students headed for the rigors of college, the military and the workforce.
I celebrated a birthday in September and, in true internet-age fashion, did a Google search on women born in my birth year, 1980. Turns out I share it with Christina Aguilera, Gisele Bundchen, Kim Kardashian and Venus Williams. All four are powerhouse women at the top of their games in highly public fields. They’ve built multimillion-dollar personal brands with incredible work ethic and uncommon drive. Three are also moms.
I could look at these peers and see a lot standing between their accomplishments and mine. But that would miss the point. Birthdays give us a perfect occasion to ponder the gap between where we are and where we’ve always longed to be.
I never aspired to be a pop icon, supermodel, reality star or elite tennis player. But I always thought I would be a nationally recognized author. Problem was: I didn’t always work like one.
I suspect that the ladies above grasped early on something that I was slower to recognize. That once you figure out your niche — something you’ve got some talent for and interest in—you’ve got to imagine yourself performing at your peak and find the motivation to pursue the vision relentlessly. Every day.
Gisele remarked in British Vogue: “I tell my five sisters, who don’t work at it very hard at all, whatever you put in, you get out. I’m not afraid of working hard at anything, whatever it is. I just always want to be the best that I can.”
My big dreams remain, but as a mother, I’ve got to be considerably more creative in their pursuit. Getting from point A to point B with a two-year-old in tow requires a bit more strength and flexibility than when I was flying solo. Now I have to work at the dream and at finding time, space and energy to pursue it. Fortunately, motherhood builds just that kind of muscle with its nonstop demands and the ultimate motivation—a little being who’s watching your every move.