Who is Maya Angelou?

by October 3, 2017

Maya Angelou is a hero who leaves a legacy that will continue to inspire future generations. Today, Caterina Fake discusses Maya Angelou’s accomplishments and inspiring work:

“Before she died in 2014, Dr. Maya Angelou was one of the most admired people in America. She’d done it all: singing, dancing, activism, train conducting, greeting card writing, single parenting, writing, acting, teaching, leading, inspiring. She was a national hero, poet laureate, icon. She received 50 honorary doctorates. She gave all she did everything she had, all day, every day, to everyone that she met. She says so. It’s there to be given, she says in this wonderful interview on the Harvard Business Review.

You, me, new and future Angelou fans–let’s get some inspiration from her too. How did she do it? How is it done? How can we do it too? First of all, let’s look at her unusual working conditions. She works in a hotel!

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Although I live in a huge house, I keep a hotel room and go there at about 6:30 in the morning. I have a Roget’s Thesaurus, a dictionary, a Bible, a yellow pad, and pens, and I go to work. I encourage housekeeping not to go in, since I leave at about one in the afternoon and never use the bed. After a couple of months the management will slip a note under my door saying, “Please, Dr. Angelou, let us change the bed. We think the sheets may be moldy.” And I leave a note saying it’s all right. When I go in there, I feel I’m going to my own place. It’s waiting for me. And I step away from the world somehow.

Being happy and productive may involve occupying your “little mind”–you know those fidgeters that everyone is using these days?–makes it easier for you to work and think, according to Dr. Angelou.  This is how she deals with her “little mind”:

There are times when I sit on the hotel bed with a deck of cards and play solitaire to give my “little mind” something to do. I got that phrase from my grandmother, who used to say, when something surprised her, “You know, that wasn’t even on my littlest mind.” I really thought that there was a small mind and a large mind, and if I could occupy the small one, I could get more quickly to the big one. So I play solitaire. I’ve used up a deck of Bicycle cards—good cards—in a week and a half. Sometimes after that I’ve got two pages worth looking at; sometimes I’ve got 20.

And someone who is giving her all to everyone, all the time, knows it, and says so. She doesn’t just do it, she shares it, gives it away. The interviewer asks who she’s mentored, and she says:

Some are famous, and some are not. I mean, I mentor you. Everything I have learned, everything I’ve done, is at the ready when I talk to you. And in a way, you will never forget me.

Why waste your time on false modesty? Do your thing, and give it everything you’ve got.

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