Response to Andy Shaw’s Footstep “You must get good grades…Or your life will be bad!”

Earlier today I read Andy Shaw’s post (he calls them Footsteps) at his web site Andy Shaw’s A BUG FREE MIND. You can find the original article here:

Here is my response to the article:

Hi Andy,

Your Footstep post today (as many of them do) touched a cord in me and I wanted to thank you for sharing your thoughts on this topic with such great integrity. There are so many myths that pass for wisdom, and this is equally true in the personal development industry. I agree with your position vis a vis Jim Rohn’s canard about the 5 people you spend the most time with. I salute you for providing such sage guidance to your son about what truly matters and to all of us about being true to ourselves. I did not grow up in a family with parents who were self-made or conscious of the fact that they were creating their own realities. My father was incarerated during the first 20+ years of my life and then, soon after he was free from prison, was killed in an unsolved homicide. My mother, who I did not grow up with until I reached my teen years, struggled to survive and yet kept the maternal love in her heart for all of her children. As the high achieving child in my sibling group, I was left on my own to navigate the murky waters of what is true and what is false. Particularly, when one is young and impressionable, everyone seems to be vying for your “mindshare” and for your devotion to their version of reality. As a “natural leader” and an academically gifted child and youth, I was influenced to go to a “good school,” meaning at the time a small, private, four-year, top-tier, expensive liberal arts college. I applied, was accepted, received scholarships and grants and attended this lovely institution of higher learning (Occidental College located in Los Angeles). It was quite difficult (especially when one has no one else in the family to lean on for support or guidance) to know if this was the “right” decision for me. No one in my family felt they were in the position to give any qualified input about this decision one way or another. I took in the inputs from teachers, counselors, administrators, college catalogues, etc. and made the best decision that I could at that time. Would I make the same decision today knowing what I now know? I’m not sure. You see, the truth is that I was also a very excellent singer, a good piano player and a very gifted lyricist. But, even with so many urging me to go in this direction, I faltered and chose not to pursue this as a life course because, at the same time, so many people were urging me to avoid this path. They were concerned about the uncertainty I would face, the lack of “guaranteed success,” the loads of rejection I might face, the likely limited financial rewards, etc, etc. Years later I have sometimes regretted not having gone in this direction. Over time I learned to be much more careful about allowing others to influence my decisions and have found that I can incorporate all of those things that have meaning for me into my life and into the work that I choose to do. I am learning how to do this now and am finding that at any time in one’s life you can stand up and decide for yourself the kind of person you want to be and how you want to contribute your talents and gifts to this world. We are free if we choose to be free. One of my favorite singer/songwriters and performers who had commercial success in the 60s and 70s, and performed up until his death in 2013, was Richie Havens. When I think of my life journey and how it unfolded after I began to rely on my own feelings and after I became better at tuning into the agenda of my soul, I often recall one of his songs, “I Was Educated By Myself.” It has relevance for the message you are sharing today in your Footstep. Go give a listen (the song is on YouTube). Thank you Andy for being such a beacon of hope and clarity to so many who are waking up from the dream that has been dreaming them for far too long. You are making a difference in our lives. I am grateful for your having stood up for yourself and for having made the choice to claim your birthright to be fully yourself. – McKinley Williams

On campus at Occidental College in Los Angeles circa 2011

On campus at Occidental College in Los Angeles circa 2011