Shaping History 

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Sequence 32

21-Shaping History

We can learn a great deal about preparing for success by studying people who’ve helped to shape history and our society:

Frederick Douglass:

Frederick Douglass was born into slavery. As an enslaved person, he didn’t know the liberties that we take for granted. He lived in an environment of oppression until he escaped. After he escaped, he devoted his life to becoming an agent for change. He taught himself to read, to write, and to become an orator. Then he wrote three autobiographies. By writing his life story, he communicated at scale and became one of the most powerful voices that led to the abolition of slavery.

Nelson Mandela:

Authorities locked Nelson Mandela in prison, and he spent 27 years inside because he opposed the racist laws of South Africa. Those laws existed during the Apartheid era. Despite imprisonment for multiple decades, Mandela did not harbor any bitterness. He did not hate his oppressors after his release. Instead, Mandela worked to bring justice and peace. He became a leading world figure, personifying the best of human dignity.

Viktor Frankl

Nazis locked Dr. Frankl in a death camp, killing his family members as he watched. On any given day, Dr. Frankl knew the Nazis might murder him. He refused to show anger. He maintained his peace by devoting his life to helping others.

Martin Luther King

Authorities locked Dr. King in many jails. They did not like his efforts to expand civil rights for all people. Dr. King led the way in bringing awareness to injustice. Dr. King fought against inequality between races. He crusaded and united people of all races. People from around the world consider Martin Luther King a global leader. We celebrate his life as an American historical figure and role model.

Steve Jobs

Participants may not know Steve Jobs, but I’m sure that everyone know his company. He and his partner started Apple Computer. Later, business decisions forced him out of Apple. Rather than being bitter at losing the company he started, Steve went on to start new companies. Then he returned to lead Apple. With the right attitude, he grew Apple into the most valuable company in the world.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates and his partner started Microsoft. Their company began with an idea. Bill wanted to make computers more practical. He believed that every business and every home should have a computer. With Microsoft, Bill turned those ideas into a reality. In the process, he became one of the wealthiest people alive. And he pledged to use his wealth to improve the world for everyone.                          

Jack Welch

Jack Welch studied chemical engineering in college. He began building a career with General Electric after earning his doctorate. He rose quickly, eventually reaching the top position. Under Jack’s leadership, the value of GE grew by more than 4,000 percent. Many people wrote books about his leadership philosophy and his commitment to success. 

Learn from Leaders:

Leaders like those described above inspired me during my 26 years in prison. Each leader clearly defined what he wanted to achieve. Mandela, Frankl, and King valued equality for all humankind. Jobs, Gates, and Welch placed high importance on creating value. When I write about learning from “masterminds,” I’m writing about people like them. They define success. Then they engineer the path that moves them closer to success. The journey never ends!

We should learn from masterminds. Their strategy can work for us. Notice how they identify values and make their values public. They invite others to judge them by their authenticity, integrity, and commitment to those values.


Describe a person you know who succeeded in one area, but failed in another. 

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