9 Lessons To Learn From BARACK OBAMA
Posted November 10, 2008on:
from a guy who’s even busier than you are..
Name: Barack Obama
Occupation: Next president of the United States
President-Elect reveals what he belives, where he comes from and what
he can teach us. Use his advice to advance ur career, health &
fitness no matter who u vited for…
Lesson 1: Learn from your father, even if he wasn’t a good one
Barack Obama’s life story, starting with his father’s departure when he
was 2 years old, is the equivalent of a doctoral program in
abandonment, dislocation, and healing. And the last of these can come
about only when you truly come to terms with the first two. As Obama’s
memoir, Dreams from My Father, makes abundantly clear, he was one
twentysomething who took the time to understand exactly what it meant
that his father left the family.
“I would like to think that most of the issues related to my
father have been resolved,” he says, pointedly. “That’s part of what
writing Dreams from My Father was about:
understanding him, his own personal tragedy. He wasn’t a presence in my
life, he was an idea that I had to wrestle with for a long time.
“Somebody once said that every man is either trying to live up to his dad’s expectations or make up for his dad’s mistakes.
And I’m sure I was doing a little bit of both. But I feel that
somewhere in my late 20s or early 30s I sort of figured out what his
absence had meant. It is part of what I think has made me a pretty good
dad. I don’t think it would have too much of an impact on my
decision-making as president. There’s no doubt that it has contributed
to my drive. I might not be here had it not been for that absent father
prodding me early in life.”
Lesson 2: Be there for your family, even if you’re not around
We wondered if his wife, Michelle, and their two children, Malia and
Sasha, might join him on the day’s trip, to participate in the
blow-out-the-candles moment. But Obama had boarded the plane with
Secret Service and campaign staffers, not family members. So he himself
is something of an absentee father on his big day.
“Yesterday was the birthday celebration,” he tells. “We get everything
in, just not always on schedule when it’s supposed to happen. Yesterday
I sat on a lounge chair in a friend’s backyard, watching my girls and
Michelle dance. It was as nice a moment as I’ve had in a long time.
“I don’t miss the important things. I haven’t missed a dance
recital. I haven’t missed a parent-teacher conference. But there are
some things I do miss, and those are some of the tradeoffs you make.
“But, look, there’s no question there are sacrifices involved here. I’d like to say that quality time replaces quantity, but sometimes it doesn’t.
You know, a lot of the best moments of family life happen
spontaneously. If you have less time to devote to them, there are fewer
of those moments. What I’ve been able to do is create a zone of
normalcy for my kids. Michelle’s been wonderful about that. I have been
able to transmit to them my absolute interest in them and my absolute
love for them.”
Lesson 3: Make the future your focus
Another loss in the Obama family: the way a child’s life changes in the
glare of campaign lights. The senator notes that his daughters were
young — 5 and 8 — when he had to explain the upheaval that was about
to shake their family. He may as well have been talking about his plans
to file income taxes. The kids cut to the really important stuff:
“Their main concern was, ‘When are we going to get a dog?’ They did ask
about what they called ‘secret people,’ which were the Secret Service
folks. ‘Are we going to have to have these people with sunglasses and
earpieces following us around all the time?’ And I told them, well, not
right away. They’ve adjusted wonderfully. And I’ve tried to make sure
that they haven’t had to participate too much in the political process.
“The pledge is” — he can’t help making campaign promises, even to his kids — “they’ll get their dog, win or lose.”
Lesson 4: Turn early lessons into big successes
Sarah Palin might not be too impressed with Obama’s days as a
community organizer, but he built that modest beginning — putting
together coalitions of voters across Chicago — into the current
grass-roots organization that’s unlike anything our electoral process
has ever seen. It’s a classic example of applying a lesson learned on a small scale to the biggest challenge of a lifetime.
Clearly, he knows how to manage groups. By the time your outfit has its own plane, it’d better have a solid pilot.
“I’m part of an organization,” he says, “and one of the things I really
try to push in the organization is to make sure that everybody is
focused on the two or three things that are really going to be game
changers. I ask them to design my schedule in a way that focuses not
just on what’s coming at us, but on being active instead of reactive. I
think we’ve been pretty successful. I don’t spend a lot of time
returning phone calls or e-mails. If somebody needs something, most of
the time there’s somebody else who can handle it. Eliminating TV has
been helpful.” Wait, a confession: “I’m still a ****er for
SportsCenter,” he notes.
The goal of his organization, he says, is to clear time for job number
1: “The most difficult thing is to carve out time to think, which is
probably the most important time for somebody who’s trying to shift an
organization, or in this case, the country, as opposed to doing the
same things that have been done before. And I find that time slips
Lesson 5: The government isn’t your nursemaid
The organization theme comes up again when I raise a pet peeve of this
magazine: That the U.S. government maintains at least seven offices
devoted to women’s health, but no office of men’s health. This despite
the fact that men die earlier than women do of heart disease, stroke,
and cancer. I’m hoping to enlist him in the battle.
“I’m not sure we need an office,” he says. “We need to have an
awareness built in throughout various agencies charged with improving
health. I’ll give you a specific example. My grandfather died of
prostate cancer. As
men age, regular checkups are critical. But it’s hard to get them to go
in for that mildly unpleasant checkup. Increasing awareness of the
difference it could make shouldn’t just be the activity of the
Department of Health and Human Services.”
And then he launches into a story involving a friend of his. It’s a
theme he returns to again and again as we talk: a world peopled with
friends who taught him lessons, reminded him of what was important,
reproached him in a useful way.
“A good friend of mine who was the head of the Illinois department of
public health designed this wonderful program targeting black men,
where health information was provided through barbershops. The idea was
that a lot of black men underutilize doctors and don’t talk about
health much. But they go to the barbershop, and that’s where they kind
of let loose. The department designed programs where clinics at
different barbershops would provide various health screenings, talk
about prevention. Those kinds of strategies have to be developed and
targeted, perhaps, because a
lot of the time we’re more resistant to going to doctors. That kind of
thinking should be embedded in a lot of the work we’re doing.”
Lesson 6: Quit smoking (as often as you need to)
For all of Obama’s physical credentials, he’s carried around the
ultimate health taboo — smoking — for most of his adult life. And he
inhaled, all right. Then word came that he’d quit smoking.
“There wasn’t some dramatic moment,” he says. “Michelle had been
putting pressure on me for a while. I was never really a heavy smoker.
Probably at my peak I was smoking seven or eight a day. More typical
was three. So it wasn’t a huge challenge with huge withdrawal symptoms.
There have been a couple of times during the campaign when I fell off
the wagon and bummed one, and I had to kick it again. But I figure,
seeing as I’m running for president, I need to cut myself a little
He does have advice for people, like him, who are wrestling with the dependency. “Eliminate
certain key connections — that first cigarette in the morning, or
after a meal, or with a drink. If you can eliminate those triggers,
that should help.”
Lesson 7: Show others the way to common ground
When you’re a Kenya-Kansas hybrid, you either drive yourself nuts
trying to sort out your identity or you find common ground among
opposites. By all accounts, that nose for synthesis is why Obama’s
classmates selected him to be president of the Harvard Law Review.
Neither the liberals nor the conservatives had the votes to elect their
chosen candidate. But in Obama, both groups saw a guy who would give
their side a fair shake. And he did.
Years later, Robert Putnam, a social scientist and political theorist,
hosted seminars at Harvard’s Kennedy School on how to rebuild the
country’s broken sense of community. He recruited an obscure Illinois
state senator named Barack Obama to participate, along with bank
presidents, entrepreneurs, and such better-known figures as
religious-right strategist Ralph Reed and former Clintonista George
“Barack Obama was one of the youngest in the group,” Putnam told me. “At
the beginning of our sessions, he stood back a little bit, listening to
the others. But often around noon, you’d hear him say, ‘Well I hear
Jane saying this, and Joe saying that, but both Jane and Joe would
probably agree on this more fundamental point.’ Now, these were big-ego
people he was dealing with, but he made his mark. It’s a skill the
country needs now: An emphasis on synthesis, not divisiveness.”
Lesson 8: If you want to avoid disappointing others, don’t disappoint yourself
No surprise here. It’s something he’s thought about a lot: “I always try to make sure that my expectations are higher than those of the people around me,”
he says. “A lot of people have a lot at stake in this election. The
American people are having a tough time. And I never want people to
feel as if I’ve overpromised to them. I try to explain in a real honest
way how difficult some of the changes I’m talking about will be. But I
never want the effect to be that I’m not working as hard as I can on
their behalf . . . that I’m not continually trying to improve. I’m
actually glad for the high expectations. One of the interesting things
about a campaign like this is that it really does push you to the limit
and then some. And it turns out that you have more in your reservoir
than you expected.”
And at the beginning of August, he has plenty more testing to go through.
“I do,” he replies. “I’ve got 3 more months, and then it gets harder.”
Lesson 9: Don’t let ’em see you sweat
One of the sillier controversies in the campaign broke in the middle of a heat wave last summer: Did Barack Obama sweat? Ever?
An AP wire story went out, accompanied by head scratching from members
of the press, about people being unable to recall a single instance of
campaign-trail perspiration. One
day, his dry demeanor was even cited as evidence that he was using the
cover of a workout to interview veep candidates in a Chicago gym.
Nobody seemed to consider that he sweats less because he’s in such good
shape. It’s obvious he’s an athlete from his physical grace alone.
The way a guy carries himself can tell you a lot about him. For
instance, Ronald Reagan brought about morning in America by having a
demeanor sunny enough to dispel the early-’80s gloom all by himself. As
for Obama, he does move like a silky small forward, which is part of
his appeal. I witnessed a showcase of his physical skills upon our
arrival in Lansing, as he executed the perfect plane dismount while
waving at the Secret Service guys.
Robert Putnam wrote a book called Bowling Alone in which he built a
case that Americans have become isolated and American society
fractured. For me, the book title conjures an image of the weird,
haunted, solitary Richard Nixon repairing to the White House bowling
alley at midnight to chase his demons and roll a few lonely frames. But
bowling, alone or otherwise, isn’t Obama’s game.
When I first met the candidate, I observed to him that the White House
grounds are equipped for basketball, but it’s only a half-court setup,
too cramped for the full-court game he possesses, and in any case,
unavailable in rough weather.