How Big is Your Hope?

It seems to me like many people are dissatisfied with the way their life has turned out. They feel like the cards are stacked against them. They can’t win in life because the “system” is broken. If only they had the opportunities that other people had, they could totally feel successful. Entire segments of our society believe that they are victims simply because of their skin color, economic status, gender or whatever else.

I know this is true because I used to be one of these people. Sometimes, I still think this way. I would whine and complain and think “if only” so much that I began to sound like Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite. My logic was: if only I had this (insert whatever i felt lacking at that moment) I could really be a success. I realize now that I felt like the would owed me something. I was an ethical, hard-working, intelligent person and i thought that because of this I deserved to feel successful and be successful. Looking back over that part of my life, I realize what i was lacking: hope. Deep down I felt like I could never amount to much. I felt doomed to borderline poverty (by USA standards) and mediocre success. I see now that I was limiting myself. No one was holding me back or oppressing me other than myself and my stupid thinking.

Have you ever felt like this? Do you fell like this now? Do you sometimes feel like the world owes you something? Do you feel oppressed by an enigmatic “system” or ‘’the Man?” This kind of world view and self-view might actually be what’s holding you back. What if you not actually a victim? Maybe you could think of yourself as a winner or a conqueror. But don’t take my word for it. I haven’t yet accomplished a ton in my life. Listen to what John Johnson has to say:

“ Men and women are limited by the place of their birth, not by the color of their skin, but by the size of their hope.”

A grandson of slaves, Johnson was an African/American and growing up in rural Arkansas and downtown Chicago in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s. He lived through the death of his father at age 6, the Great Depression, and the heights of racial violence and segregation. But this didn’t stop him because he had big hope and he worked hard. John did not look in the mirror and see a victim even though he had some legitimate claims to that title. Instead, he decided to overcome. His biggest business success (he had many) was Ebony Magazine. His big hope helped him become the first African/American on the Forbes 400 list. President Bill Clinton awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Google the man. His story is incredible.

I know for me, the next time a whiney “if only” comes out of my mouth I am going to think about Johnson.

Complaining about how you don’t have enough money? Didn’t stop John during the Great Depression and the years following.

Complaining about a “system” that is out to get you? Didn’t stop John during a time in history when there was an actual system in place to deter him.

Complaining about how because of your skin color you can’t get a fair shot? Didn’t stop John. Ever.

What would he think of your complaints? of mine? What would your ancestors think of your complaints and you opportunities? if your family has lived in the USA for any length of time, chances are that you have a family member who had to overcome immeasurable odds to ensure that you exist. Think about them. What would they think about what you are complaining about today?

I know what John Johnson would think. He would think (and be right) that you need a bigger hope. He would tell you to stop limiting yourself. So…

How big is your hope?