I purchased Becoming by Michelle Obama right when it released, but I never felt called to read it until recently. I trust Divine Timing, and I am glad to have read the First Lady’s memoir right now as my country tackles its deep-seeded, systemic racism.
For sure, Michelle’s book is about racism. How could it not be. She experienced racism (and sexism) throughout her life. But this book is packed with more – from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago, her days at Princeton and Harvard, meeting Barack Obama, having her daughters, the frustration of an absent husband – it was all there. Vulnerable. Authentic. Real talk.
Michelle didn’t sugar coat anything. She talked about the handmade clothes from her childhood to wearing Jimmy Choo shoes while talking to Queen Elizabeth II. She discussed the racism she experienced, especially as her husband sought the presidency, to the feelings of frustration about being alone and managing the house without him.
Hillary Clinton, Jill Biden, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump – she talks about them too. Make no mistake: This isn’t a gossip book. It’s an authentic view of being the first black First Lady and how she became the Michelle Obama who penned this memoir.
My big takeaways:
#1: Optimism is fear’s remedy
Michelle writes: “For me, [optimism] is a form of faith, an antidote to fear.” (page 420)
Though these words appear on the last pages of the book, the theme of optimism is on every page. Michelle comes across as a realist, for sure, but her life lens includes optimism, too. She stayed in faith that things would work out, from getting pregnant to finding the right, full-of-impact initiative as First Lady. Optimism flooded her as she and Barack left the White House to Donald Trump, despite their fears about how his presidency would evolve.
Optimism helps you navigate the fear. Optimism fuels faith. It’s something we all could use more of today.
#2: Demand your compensation
Michelle is very transparent about her earnings before she became first lady. She made excellent money as a lawyer but found it unfulfilling, resulting in her employment at City Hall. When a new start-up organization wanted her on her team, she demanded more money from them, not to be greedy, but to help her afford the assistance she needed at home.
She was also the first one in my recollection to point out that the position of First Lady is an unpaid one. FLOTUS has an important job, yet she earns no income for it. I wonder if a First Gentleman would expect the same.
(Yes, I think every First Lady should be paid for her work. Why shouldn’t she be compensated?)
Look around your life. Are you demanding the compensation you deserve?
How Becoming relates to entrepreneurs:
For me, anytime I can get my hands on a memoir of a woman leader, I know I will learn lessons that will help me as an entrepreneur. Becoming by Michelle Obama is no different.
In addition to opening my eyes about the racial injustices in our country, Becoming also reminds me of the goodness of my country. That’s an important thing to remember – no matter what job or business you have.
Additionally, Michelle Obama is a Loud Woman. She advocated for her self-worth at work, in her home, and in the White House. She is dedicated to the education of young women across the world (and still is to this day). She learned how to navigate several patriarchal systems to champion her causes. As a female entrepreneur, I found her inspiring. I think you will, too.
Grab a copy of Becoming here (this is an affiliate link).