all photos creative commons
Helen Keller went blind and deaf when she was 19 months old. She spent the next four-and-a-half years unable to communicate. She was frustrated, angry, and out of control, and who could blame her?
Then her parents brought in the brilliant and patient teacher, Annie Sullivan. The rest is history.
With Annie’s help, Helen:
Helen went from not even understanding the concept of words to accomplishing a list that would be extremely impressive for someone who was able to see and hear.
So for the love of Helen Keller, stop saying “I can’t” if there’s something you want to do!
If you can’t do it on your own, find your Annie Sullivan. Maybe you’ll need more than one Annie. It doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you get out of your own way. Find what’s holding you back, figure out a way through it, and go on to become the incredible, game-changing, world-changing you you’re meant to be.
I’m not saying it’ll be easy. And I’m not saying you need to live a life that even remotely resembles Helen’s. But there’s something you’re meant to do. There’s something your heart longs for. There’s something you’ll regret if you get to the end of your life and haven’t done it.
Start now. Find your something. Then do whatever it takes to make it happen.
Lately, when I’m not doing coaching-related stuff or napping, I’ve been writing biographies for first and second graders for an online reference site.
Not only is it a fun gig, but I get to learn a lot and be inspired on a constant basis. I thought I’d share some of my biggest inspirations (so far) in the hopes that you can get something from them, too.
Abraham Lincoln: As a kid, Abe barely went to school. Yet he learned to read, write, and do math and eventually studied law and grammar on his own. (He borrowed books from friends.) Plus, of course, he won the Civil War and freed all the slaves. Abe might have come from inauspicious beginnings, but he certainly didn’t let anything keep him from getting ahead and doing what was right.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Just because nobody had run for president more than twice didn’t mean jack sh*t to him. He ran a third time. Then a fourth. All from his wheelchair. And all because he felt compelled to help people who were struggling.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Like Lincoln, Eisenhower came from a poor family. Like Lincoln, he didn’t let that hold him back. First, Ike worked two jobs. Why? So he could send his brother to college. His BROTHER. There was no money to pay for his own college education. He went to West Point and the rest is history—and history-making. Ike went on to lead the biggest military attack in history and thus defeated the Nazis. Check and mate.
Christopher Columbus: Okay, so this guy thought he landed in Asia, but he actually landed somewhere in the Bahamas. He also inadvertently (one hopes) ruined the lives of many natives by opening the metaphorical doors of the so-called “New World” to Europe. To be honest, those things make me like him a lot less. But then there’s the whole “I’ll sail in a direction no one has ever sailed in before” idea he had, and I can’t help but be impressed by the dude’s chutzpah. Things may have gone differently than he’d planned, but you’ve gotta admit that his vision and bravery changed the world.
Amerigo Vespucci: Good ol’ Amerigo didn’t actually discover anything new. BUT. He was the one who realized the New World was actually a totally different continent and not eastern Asia. Sometimes it takes someone with a different perspective to help you see what’s right in front of you. We all have our blind spots, and that’s okay. Also, Columbus was totally chill with the new country getting named after Amerigo. They were buds, so he was happy for his friend. That’s what you call a good sport. It’s a pretty great thing to have relationships like that.
Cleopatra: When Cleo’s dad died, Cleo was supposed to co-rule with her 12 year old brother. (And marry him, as was the custom. Ew.) Cleo wasn’t having any of that. She declared herself Pharaoh. She knew she had to fight her brother, that she needed Rome’s help to do it, and that she’d never get anywhere near Caesar’s palace. (The actual palace, not the casino in Vegas, although she might’ve had more fun there.) Anyway, Cleo had people roll her up in a carpet burrito and delivered to the palace. Once she was inside, she unrolled herself and proceeded to seduce/convince Julius to help her. She ultimately took full control of Egypt. Talk about creative problem solving!
Amelia Earhart: As a kid, Amelia collected newspaper clippings of women who worked in traditionally male jobs. So basically, she was a rebel feminist badass from the beginning. Amelia broke all kinds of records—flight paths, flight heights, flight distance, and first to [insert one of many, many firsts here]. When her plane got lost, her husband read a letter she’d left him to read only in case she died. She said “Please know I am quite aware of the hazards. I want to do it because I want to do it. Women must try to do things as men have tried.” Preach it, sista!
Florence Nightingale: Florence said God told her to be a nurse. She listened, despite the fact that women of her class didn’t work, despite the fact that nursing schools didn’t even exist, despite the fact that her parents were totally against it. The woman studied in secret for years until daddy dearest finally said, “Fine. Go study nursing.” Once she was a nurse, she went to Turkey during the Crimean War because all the English soldiers kept dying—not in battle, but in the hospital. It was filthy and there was no medicine, but the stubborn, righteous docs wouldn’t let her help. “No worries,” Flo said. “I’ll just tell the biggest newspaper all about it, and once people know how you’re essentially killing our soldiers, they’ll get all outraged, and I’ll get all the support I need, and I’ll fix this place up, and it’ll drop the death rate from 40% to 2%. Oh, and then I’ll go back to England, fight for good healthcare for all, start a fabulous nursing school, and essentially save thousands and thousands and thousands of lives. ‘Cause I’m amazing and you suck.” Okay, I might be paraphrasing. But the accomplishments are all for real. Florence was pretty damn impressive.
All these people inspire me. Some found their purpose early on, some found it when they were older. But when they did find it, they went full steam ahead. They overcame all kinds of obstacles. They figured ways around every “no” they got. They believed in themselves. I’m all for that kind of history repeating itself—over and over again, and I’m all in. Are you?
Katie Baron: life coach, freelance writer, animal and nature lover, musician, relentless optimist