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10 Lessons from Michele's Becoming

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

Like so many Americans, I read Michele Obama's book, Becoming. Like so many Americans, I was captivated by the First Lady's experience in her own words. Listening to the audio version, I had the pleasure of hearing her voice too. I highly recommend it. As Americans we share a collective memory of FLOTUS and many of the memories she shared - The Osama bin Laden raid, Michele meets the queen, and presidential elections. Reliving those events through her experience created a new perspective. It was both interesting and enlightening, but there was so much more. I was overwhelmed by the many lessons there were to learn from her journey. These are insights that everyone can discover from her best selling book.

  1. Discover the Growth Mindset. Michele didn't use the term of a growth mindset, but she demonstrates it perfectly. She believed if she worked hard, she could achieve. That's the definition of a growth mindset. A 'fixed mindset' is when you believe you are born with a certain amount of intelligence and you can't grow beyond it. Time after time, Michele pushes past each obstacle in her way. When an Ivy League recruiter said Michele should lower her goals, she worked harder and pushed farther. If you'd like to know more about the growth mindset, check out Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, the New Psychology of Success. Michele did not let her circumstances determine who she could become. A young girl from Chicago's south side lands two Ivy League degrees. That's what the growth mindset can achieve.

  2. Self Advocate. Starting at a young age, Michele stood up for herself. She clearly stated her needs, even to teachers. Being a self-advocate at a young age is rare. Most children are intimidated by those in positions of authority. Most children would not know to ask for what they need. Learning to speak up is no easy task. Developing the skill at a young age is invaluable. Many people, myself included, are still learning this as adults.

  3. Develop Yourself First. Michele and I are the same age. We faced college and adulthood during the same era. The similarities end there. I remembered the many relationships I had in my early years. Finding the 'right' companion seemed all-encompassing at times. Michele was focused on her own development far more than finding the right mate. Michele's commitment to her education put her on a path to success in her career and personal life. This is a lesson I wish I had learned sooner. There will be time for relationships. Develop your own skills and a healthy relationship with yourself first.

  4. Smart is Sexy. In a culture where 'bad boys' get a lot of attention, it's nice to see a smart guy who 'gets the girl.' Michele was attracted to intelligent men. According to her memoir, she didn't waste time trying to fix a man or tolerating bad behavior in relationships. Smart, caring, and committed men are sexy. It's time to put the 'bad boy' role model to rest.

  5. Define Yourself. As a public figure, Michele Obama was a frequent target for criticism. Remember the scandal around bare arms? It seems quaint compared to today's standards. Michele did not allow other people define her, at least not for long. Clearly, her self image was not based on the approval of others. She never could have survived being in the spotlight if she did. Michele has a strong sense of self. Because of that, she is less vulnerable to the attacks on her looks, the color of her skin, or even bare arms.

  6. Collect Great Friends. Michele shares stories of close friends throughout her life. It's a perfect example of the importance of a strong support system. She had influential girlfriends in high school, college, work and through motherhood connections. Great friends are important. They keep us going. This is a great reminder to collect great friends and value them.

  7. Don't Give in to Fear. Throughout the Obama presidency, I feared for the safety of the first family. Michele mentions this concern only a couple of times in her book, but none of the Obamas chose to dwell on their daily risk in the spotlight. Many of us would have been looking over our shoulders constantly. Michele reminds us the power is in living, not in fear of dying.

  8. Create a Sense of Purpose. Michele shares a sense of purpose throughout her story. As a young person, she was committed to her academics. As an adult, she was committed to helping others. Through Chicago's University Hospital, she helped to create the hospital’s Urban Health Initiative. As FLOTUS, she initiated the "Let's Move" campaign to battle childhood obesity. Having a sense of purpose provides a sense of drive and determination.

  9. Problems can Give us Power. Problems can make us feel as if we have no power. The way we respond to problems will help our power grow. Michele shares many stories of the problems she faced - from growing up on Chicago's south side, to the campaign trail. Problems didn't defeat her. Each time she raised to the challenge to face them. Each obstacle she overcame helped to create the powerhouse she is today.

  10. Work to Make a Difference, Not an Impression. Michele had a purpose and a focus. She didn't try to mold herself to impress others. That's what makes her so unique, and indeed, impressive. FLOTUS was committed to making a difference in the world, and that she did. In a December Gallop Poll, Michele Obama was named America's 'Most Admired Woman.' She claims that title because she worked to make a difference, not an impression. Through her book, we can see the difference she made and continues to make today.

Michele Obama is the perfect example of a Hero, Leader and Champion. She is a hero, committed to solving problems - for herself and others. She guides and inspires millions of people around the world. That makes her a leader. And, Michele shares examples of the many obstacles she has overcome. Overcoming obstacles is the job of a champion. If you have a young person in your life, consider reading the book together. Notice all the amazing insights and lessons Michele Obama, America's Most Admired Woman, has to offer. Examine the problems she has faced and how she has battled them. May we all become the best we can be. #MicheleObama #Becoming #HeroesLeadersChampions


I had the honor of hearing Michele Obama speak on the campaign trail in 2012. At that event, I carried my newly published book CinderSilly in my arms. People standing around in the tightly squeezed crowd asked why I was hoalding it. I confessed I hoped to give it to Michele. I am not a pushy person. I never would have pushed myself to the front of the crowd. But Michele Obama drew a different kind of audience. At least 300 people pushed me ahead of them towards the receiving line, closer and closer. As they pushed me forward, people told those standing ahead of me that I had a mission. Before long, I was standing on the front row behind the rope, just a few feet away from the first lady. After her speech, she came down to shake hands with those of us on the front row. When I passed the book to the secret service agent, those behind me cheered. I immediately stepped backwards to allow the generous folks behind me shake her hand. I received a lovely thank-you card from Michele for the book, but the real gift was from the many lessons in Becoming.

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