We mourn the loss of legendary author and trailblazer, Maya Angelou, who died this week at age 86.
As the owner of a woman-run business -- in a business that trains professionals to reach their dreams -- I hear a lot about the glass ceiling for women, and women’s limitations... whether self-imposed or not.
Ms. Angelou never let anything hold her back.
I admired her not just for her incredible literary talent, but because she was a crusader, a woman who was not afraid to go where others had not yet gone.
I also admired her for living a courageous life, for overcoming the harshest of adversity, and for being an inspiration to millions.
Of course, we cannot all be legends. However, I do believe there is much to be learned from the life of this extraordinary woman. Here are just a few of her many accomplishments:
- In 2000, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton.
- In 2010, President Barack Obama named her a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.
- She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie.
- She received a Tony Award nomination for her role in the 1973 play "Look Away."
- She received three Grammys for her spoken albums.
Ms. Angelou transcended abuse, racism, homelessness, becoming a teenage mother, and much more.
It’s been said many times that we all have our hurdles to overcome, but I suspect few reading this blog post have surmounted the long list of challenges that Ms. Angelou rose above. Her story is the story of a woman who thrived by being and living the truth of who she was.
This quote by Ms. Angelou shows her character in no uncertain terms: "I want to write so well that a person is 30 or 40 pages in a book of mine ... before she realizes she's reading."
To me, she was saying that she would never settle for mediocrity, never settle for passing through this world and leaving it unchanged.
As I mentioned earlier, we can't all be legends, recognized by Presidents.
I do believe that we can all strive for excellence in what we do.
We can strive to make a difference -- in work and life, never letting anything hold us back from achieving greatness.
We can strive to be an inspiration in our own, personal way, but living our own truths and never giving up.
How has Maya Angelou’s life or her legend or her accomplishments affected you? Let me know in the comments.