I believe that the life story of everyone on Earth is not just a linear fairy tale with a straightforward beginning and end. Instead, it is a mosaic of mini-stories that come together to create a masterpiece like the work of Antoni Gaudi.
When I opened my copy of Michelle Obama’s book Becoming, I half expected a personal retrospective wrapped in a thinly veiled announcement to run for president in 2020.
Instead, what I got was a gift.
Becoming is a breathtaking memoir of the most iconic women of my lifetime.
I downloaded the audiobook version and listened with wonder as Michelle, in her own voice, took me through every bit and piece of her personal “Trencadís.”
Her stories start on the South Side of Chicago — before it became the deadly South Side we know today. Young Michelle LeVaughn Robinson is brought up on Euclid Avenue by an extended family, including her hard-working parents. I listen as this independent young woman starts her professional career after an eye-opening stint at Princeton. She is then haunted by a crisis of purpose — one of those “who am I?”, “why am I here?” moments. This happens after she witnesses her nerdy intern deliver a moving call to action during a community organizing event. She changes careers and starts a tour in city government. Shortly after that, she transitions again to take the helm of a new not-for-profit organization encouraging young people to work on social issues.
As the journey continues, this professional, driven Michelle suddenly experiences an unexpected love. That love transforms her into Michelle Obama, mother of two, and wife to an Illinois state senator. At this point, she is not far from her reluctant rise to becoming one of the most powerful women in the world.
She steps into the role determined to make her own mark as the first lady.
For instance, Michelle was the first to advocate for children’s health, successfully influencing a significant decrease in childhood obesity. Fueled by experience with this issue in her own children, she planted a garden in the Whitehouse and launched the Let’s Move initiative. By 2014, the obesity rate for kids between two and five years old dropped by 43 percent.
As I continued to read, I am given a tour of Michelle’s series of firsts: first black woman, first lady to the first black president, the first mother of two young black girls living in the East Wing, and first matriarch of the first black family to appear in Smithsonian’s national portrait gallery.
I also found an unexpected piece in her mosaic. It is a story of her insecurity.
As she is put under a global lense, it magnifies her own demons. “Am I good enough?” She would often ask herself. This only emboldens her to prove that she is.
I also found countless stories of love beyond her family born from this passion for excelling. She loves working with young women. She loves going back to Chicago to help her community. She loves speaking to all the little “Michelle LeVaughns” of the world, reminding them that each of them is good enough to achieve her dreams.
“Whether you come from a council estate or a country estate, your success will be determined by your own confidence and fortitude.” — Michelle Obama
There is so much more I can say about the book, but I don’t want to give it away.
Becoming is a story like no other. It is the tale of a young girl who journeys from Euclid Avenue to Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s a mosaic full of candid vignettes that elegantly come together to form a masterpiece of a woman filled with optimism for the world.
As Michelle famously prescribed, “when they go low, you go high.”
It’s not just a political strategy, but a recipe for looking within and finding the courage to rise above your station and become more.
Michelle may not run in the POTUS-2020 race.
She is already president in my eyes. She is president of the nation of strong, intelligent, independent women. A nation home to my wife, my daughter, my mom, my sisters, my colleagues and friends who are women, and many young women around the world who are not sure they are good enough.
John Belizaire is a serial entrepreneur, advisor, and investor. He is also the founder and managing editor of CEOPLAYBOOK — an online publication dedicated to exploring what it means to be a startup CEO. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter. Subscribe to his popular newsletter — Mental Candy — read by over 500 CEOs.