My daughter recently read the fascinating story of how a poor child raised in the inner-city of Detroit became the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital at age 33.
There were many great take-aways for my daughter, who is 16, and I think there were just as many for me. This is Dr. Ben Carson’s message for you…
His mother was one of 24 children and was married at 13. He was an ethnic minority, and grew up in devastating poverty. These are not usually the ingredients for a successful career. If ever there was an excuse to fail, and fail miserably, Dr. Ben Carson had it.
But Dr. Carson refused to use the situation he was born into as an excuse.
Instead, he used it as motivation and became one of the most prominent physicians in the United States, not to mention the author of several books.
How did he do it? To paraphrase Dr. Carson:
Obviously, I had all the strikes against me: single-parent home, dire poverty, poor self-esteem, and horrible temper. These things tend to preclude success. And they would have in my case also, but my mother, who had only a third-grade education, refused to be a victim. That was the key. She never felt sorry for herself. And that was a good thing. But there was a problem—she never felt sorry for us either! So there was never an excuse that we could give that was good enough. And if we gave an excuse, she would come out with a poem called, ‘Yourself To Blame.’ And after a while, we just stopped looking for excuses. She worked 2-3 jobs at a time because she didn’t want to be on welfare. Even though she only had a third-grade education, she was very observant, and she noticed that no one she saw go on welfare came off of it. So she didn’t want to be dependent, and she didn’t want us to be dependent either, so she would work as long and as hard as was necessary. And one of the things she observed in the homes where she worked was that people didn’t watch a lot of TV. They spent a lot of time reading and strategizing. So one day, she just came home and turned the TV off and said, “You guys watch too much TV … if you improve yourself … if you improve your brain … one day people will be watching YOU on television.” And of course, she was right about that.
That was taken from a television interview. So yes, she was VERY right about that. Dr. Carson talked about how much he hated reading. So his mother made him and his siblings each read two books from the public library and submit written book reports to her. Carson’s mother could not read, but she would mark up the book reports like she had graded them.
Ben Carson HATED reading and doing the reports while all the other kids were outside playing. But as he continued reading, things began to happen. Suddenly he could spell. He learned grammar and how to express himself. He learned how to use his imagination rather than just observing someone else’s imagination. Within 18 months, Ben Carson went from the bottom of the class to the top of the class, and he began to have a much different view of himself. The biggest key to Dr. Carson’s overwhelming success is obviously his mother’s ability to see things differently than most people, her refusal to be a victim, her capacity to never make an excuse, and her willingness to work hard and do whatever it took to succeed.
And here’s another great part of this incredible story: Dr. Carson’s mother now has her GED, college degree, and an honorary doctorate.
So what are you going to do tonight … watch TV? 🙂
You can see Dr. Ben Carson here in Greenville on April 13 thanks to GHS (The new Greenville Health System, formerly Greenville Hospital System). He’ll be speaking at the GHS Minority Health Summit which will focus on health issues such as obesity and include BMI screenings. The opportunity to hear Dr. Carson speak locally is not to be missed! You can register for the event here.
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