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As 2013 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect… and to find your focus.
I want to share with you the story of an amazing young woman who conquered overwhelming odds to achieve her dream. Khadijah Williams, a young woman from the streets of Los Angeles, was homeless for most of her life. Struggling to dodge the advances of drug dealers and gangs, she lived in cheap motels, public parks and homeless shelters. By the time she was 18, she had attended twelve different schools, always determined to hide her circumstances from her class mates and teachers.
When she was nine years old and in her ninth school, Khadijah took a state exam on which she placed in the 99th percentile. A compassionate teacher took her aside and told her she was gifted.
It was at that moment that Khadijah found her focus. She wanted to get the best education she could, and she refused to use her homelessness as an excuse. In the 11th grade, once again at a new school but determined to get her high school diploma, she had to board a bus every morning at 4:00 a.m. She didn’t return until 11:00 p.m. each night.
In her senior year of high school, Khadijah decided she wanted to go to college. She also decided to finally tell her story, and she did so in her application letter to Harvard. Rather than focusing on the many hardships she’d overcome, she spoke of the skills she’d gained living on the street and the lessons she’d learned. It was at this point in 2009 that Khadijah gained the attention of the media, including Oprah Winfrey, who profiled her on the Oprah Show.
Khadijah was accepted to Harvard, and she graduated this year. Oprah Winfrey, who gave the commencement speech, was there cheering her on.
We’ve all known people like Khadijah, who succeed despite what appear to be insurmountable odds. These are the people who never give up. They make a decision, they find their focus and they achieve. They know that failure comes only when they stop trying.
As we enter into a new year, it is time for us all to stop and consider where our focus really lies. Are we putting our time, our energy and our focus into creating the lives that we were meant to live? Are we making the decisions that will define our destinies?
Here are the lessons I learned from Khadijah:
- Find your focus: From very early on, Khadijah knew what she wanted. She knew her destiny wasn’t on the streets of L.A. She knew she wanted an education, and she decided to do whatever it took to get it. What do you truly want out of life? It all starts with knowing what you want and focusing on your goal.
- Never give up: Once you’ve found your focus, you have to persevere. Khadijah knew there were no excuses. She knew she had to spend 19 hours a day to go to school, so that’s what she did. She worked toward her goal and she achieved. You can too.
- Live with purpose and passion: Once the media got ahold of Khadijah’s story, she did not sit back and let others take care of her. She continued to live with passion and purpose. She continued to achieve on her own merit, graduating from one of the most prestigious universities in the country.
Wishing You Your Best Life
Once you find your focus, your life can become anything you want it to be. A focused life is one that looks forward, not backward. Rather than focusing on the struggles of her past, Khadijah focused on what she’d learned. Keep in mind that it’s where you are going, not where you’ve been, that truly matters.
Tony Robbins said, “Every direction leads to an ultimate destination: our destiny. More than anything else, I believe it’s our decisions, not the conditions of our lives, that determine our destiny.”
My sincerest wish for you during this upcoming year is that you find your focus and your passion. I wish you joy and peace and all your dreams come true. I wish for you your very best life, the one meant just for you.