TAuthor Cystal McCraryhis month marks the arrival of Crystal McCrary's new book Inspiration, a collection of first-person essays by black women who are changing the world, one remarkable story at a time. Here, in her own words, McCrary shares the far-reaching impact of their influence, and the top 10 lessons she learned from female powerhouses, including a singer, an environmental strategist, a journalist, an international diplomat, and more.
1. Be open to the excellence and inspiration around you.
Appointed by President Barack Obama as the first African-American woman Ambassador to the Bahamas, Nicole Avant shared a story about her godfather, the legendary music producer Quincy Jones. She talked about being home with him one night watching him write on dozens of pieces of paper, then ball them up and throw them away. She said he must have thrown over a hundred pieces of paper away. Finally, Nicole asked him what he was doing and he said, "Working on this new album for Michael Jackson called Thriller."
2. Always follow your gut.
Singer Mary J. Blige believes that following your gut instinct is one of the most important things a person can do because our "gut" is actually God telling us what is right and what is wrong for us. When you don't listen, you regret it.
3. Be the solution.
Majora Carter is an environmental strategist whose core mission is to help people realize that they are their own heroes. She believes that it's not big government and big business that will save us. Instead, it's when people in local communities start to understand that they can create environmental, economic and social change. When you act locally, the global will take care of itself.
4. Make your dreams into blueprints.
Debra Martin Chase has had a studio deal with Disney for over 10 years. She's the producer of Cheetah Girls, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Cinderella, The Princess Diaries, Whitney Houston's last film Sparkle, and more. All of her films are empowering in some way - stories of extraordinary women who are confronted with great challenges who deal with them using an inspiring mix of wit, courage and imagination. In many ways, these heroines represent Debra herself. She believes that even when things don't come easily, if you want them badly enough, and put in the time, effort, and faith, you can make miracles happen.
5. Marriage is a process; love is an aspiration and hard work.
The legendary actress Ruby Dee was married to fellow actor and partner Ossie Davis for almost 60 years. She explained that an enduring marriage is not made of one secret. You may think you know love when you marry, but you "arrive at love and discover it when you've been through things, answered questions, come upon obstacles and solved them together."
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6. Lead by example. Marian Wright Edelman is the chairwoman of the Children's Defense Fund, and a huge education advocate. She believes that children need clarity of values. In today's society, children often see adults saying one thing, yet doing another. It is important for parents setting examples for their children that they are who they say they are.
7. Be yourself.
Whoopi Goldberg - actress and co-host of The View - learned, by way of her mother's teachings, that we all have the right to be who we are regardless of what other people think. She explained that each of us is unlike anyone else who came before. We are all originals and that is what distinguishes us.
8. Know (and value) your own worth.
Fashion icon Iman told stories of many young models starting out in the business who would say "yes" to everything. Iman never felt like people in the modeling industry were doing her a favor by offering her a job. Even starting out, she evaluated each opportunity with confidence, knowing that she could always say no.
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9. Do your homework.
As a journalist, Soledad O'Brien credits the longevity of her career to one thing: being absolutely, pathologically obsessed with accuracy.
10. Pursue your passion at least once a day.
Shonda Rhimes, the prolific writer, creator and executive producer of Grey's Anatomy, believes that to truly be a writer, you have to sit down and write every single day.
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