Now that a new year is upon us, everyone at Powers & Sons Construction looks forward to meeting new challenges with spirits of innovation and excellence.
The winter months are some of my favorite times of the year to enjoy interesting books, especially those based on the true stories of men and women who overcame unimaginable obstacles and challenges along the path to success.
Author Michael Crichton has been quoted as saying, “If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.”
Here are a few stories rooted in both fact and history that have inspired me. I hope you find inspiration in them, too.
This is the compelling story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose airplane crashed in 1972. My wife read the book first. Later, I heard a survivor of the crash speak in person and was inspired to read the book myself. I marvel at the will human beings have to survive even in the harshest of conditions. These survivors took each negative circumstance and turned it into a positive.
Written by Chicago native Nathan Thompson, this book fills an important gap in Black history. It is a remarkable testament to the inventive, entrepreneurial spirit of African Americans at a time when all other doors to economic prosperity were closed to them. Without Thompson’s research, most people would never have known today’s modern lottery system was invented and perfected by an African American.
This is the true story of eight young Black college students who would go on to play pivotal and leading roles in America’s civil rights movement, including the 1959-62 Nashville Student Movement. They protested the segregation they saw at Nashville’s lunch counters. They led similar protests in cities like Montgomery, Birmingham, and Selma. Their courage and vision changed history. It demonstrated that well-organized, nonviolent protest can change the course of a nation.
These books document the life stories of two women who overcame astonishing odds to achieve their dreams of success. The first is about Sarah Breedlove, a self-made entrepreneur who would become known as Madam C.J. Walker. She built a business empire centered on cosmetics and beauty products for African Americans. Parallel to Walker’s story is that of Annie Turnbo Malone, another pioneer who is believed to be one of the first Black female millionaires in America. Rumor has it that Walker stole one of Turnbo’s formulas while she was a Turnbo employee. While that may or may not be true, what I find inspirational about their stories is that both women were innovators and entrepreneurs who did not follow the “normal” societal and business rules of their era. They inspired countless other women (and men) to pursue their dreams. Walker and Turnbo both devoted their later years to philanthropy and political and social activism, causes that I deeply admire.
C.J. Walker and Annie Turnbo were, in my opinion, precursors to Samuel Fuller, founder of the Fuller Products Company. Fuller also utilized a business model that began by selling products door-to-door and created a wildly successful company. Through the 1950s, Fuller employed a sales force of 5,000 “Fullerites” with sales averaging $18 million a year. With tenacity, an innovative spirit, strong work ethic, and penchant for eschewing many of the prevalent social and political views of the era, Fuller was the first African American inducted into the National Association of Manufacturers. He, too, inspired future generations of successful entrepreneurs. They included John H. Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, and George E. Johnson, founder of Johnson Products which manufactured products Ultra Sheen and Afro Sheen and was exclusive sponsor of the Soul Train television program in the 1970s. I found this book inspiring because Fuller believed that nothing could stop the right product or the right idea whose time had come.