Becoming by Michelle Obama
This was a book that I heard a lot of positive things about and as I have admired the person that Michelle Obama is, I decided to check out the audiobook.
In the beginning of the book, she shares something that her mother taught to her when she was young. Her mother said to her, “Remember that everyone on earth is carrying an unseen history and that alone deserves some tolerance.”
I think that this is incredibly important, especially as the world becomes more and more connected internationally. We don’t know what many people are going through in present day, how then, can we expect to know what they have been through in the past?
I noted next about a parenting style that her mother practiced. I admired it and though it showed a lot about her trust in Michelle. I noted, “their mother listened and shared insight but gave confidence to make their own decisions and become adults, trusting they’ll make the right decision.”
What I didn’t anticipate about the book was the connection I would have to the way that Barack’s mind worked. Michelle shared about some of the things that he said he thinks about. There was a part of the book where he seemed to be looking off into the distance. When she asked what he was doing, his response was that he was thinking about income inequality. I noted the following:
Barack focuses on the day to day things but also spent time thinking about the abstract while also focusing on ways to resolve or improve things, like income inequality.
There were many things that stood out to me but this might have been one of the largest. I don’t believe you can fake it until you make it, you must truly become it first. Only then can you “make it” whatever that means in a specific situation.
“Barack arrived in my life a wholly formed person. From our very first conversation, he showed me he wasn’t self-conscious about expressing fear or weakness.”
I noted, Barack Obama delivered himself to Michelle after the funeral. He came to her arms, she loved him, she felt loved by him. They made it almost 2 years as a long-distance couple and now, they could be a short-distance couple.
This was something I admired. Presence is something that is seemingly hard to come by so I always respect that. The other thing that I noted was simply that hard work pays off. Long-distance relationships are not easy and take a lot of work and I love the way that Michelle phrased that, they were now able to be a short-distance couple.
This next part really spoke to me. I think that there are so many opportunities for everyone and so many things that as individuals, we are called to do. His perspective was empowering and simply incredible. There are two general mindsets that I believe we can have — one of scarcity or one of abundance.
“There is something bolstering about someone who sees their opportunities as endless, who doesn’t waste time or energy wondering if they’ll ever dry up. He worked hard for everything he’d now been given but he wasn’t notching his achievements.”
He seemed sometimes oblivious to the rat race. While living together, Michelle saw what she hadn’t been able to observe and evaluate as much earlier. He had a simple and buoyant faith that if you stuck to your principles, everything will work out.
After hearing what she said here about him and his perspective, I loved it. I was able to immediately embrace the mindset. I support it completely. While I know that we believe it for different reasons, I respect it and agree with the basis.
I laughed at the next part, not because she failed, but because Michelle thought Barack should have reviewed more before taking the bar exam. I tend to do the same thing, people think I should review or study more but really, I end up just fine and exemplify what I know by passing exams.
Michelle failed the Bar exam the first time, when Barack was studying afterward for his time, he didn’t review near as much as she thought he should. Michelle wrote, “The truth was, I wasn’t worried about whether he’d pass the bar and neither was he.”
Next, after the bar was passed, I noted some of the key things that Barack did. Here are the 3:
1. Barack was unintimidated by how much work there was to be done in the world.
2. He kept reminding her of how secure their love was.
3. Michelle said the uncertainty felt like a threat.
As for the first, I think that is such an incredible talent. Most people are either one way or the other, they are either focused on an individual task or responsibility or overwhelmed by all that there is to be done in the world. Barack, however, was able to balance both and focus on the things in front of him as well as the big picture of changing the world for the better in many many areas.
Following that up, I noted how she felt he kept reminding her of how secure their love was. There’s a big thing here for me, not only did he make the effort to make her feel secure but, she received the effort and accepted it, and I believe that’s even more important. That’s why that stood out to me.
For the third part of this section of the book, the section where the campaign had begun if I recall correctly, the uncertainty was threatening to Michelle. However, she brought it back to what she said earlier in the book, that he had a “simple and buoyant faith that if you stuck to your principles, everything will work out.” I really admired her maturity and perspective there. That while she felt uncertain, Barack knew it would work out.
Before Barack decided to officially run for president, they had a conversation. The wording was something I wanted to note:
They had a talk, the same dialogue they’ve been having for 17 years already. Who were we, what mattered to us, what could we do? Michelle told Barack yes to running for president because she believed that he was self-assured in ways that few people are, he had the intellect and discipline to do the job and the temperament to endure everything that would make it hard, with a rare degree of empathy to keep him in tune with the country’s needs. He also surrounded himself with people that were ready to help.
There were some key things in that paragraph that exuded a sense of admiration, confidence, and assurance I don’t often see. Especially with partners, I think it is so valuable to be entirely on board with someone’s vision. She knew how tough it would be, not only for him, but for her also, and for their family. But, she was able to have an open mind in a way that allowed her to see that he was the man for the job, he had, “The intellect, and discipline to do the job and the temperament to endure everything that would make it hard, with a rare degree of empathy to keep him in tune with the country’s needs.” Wow. That’s powerful. I see it time and time again though in the most influential people. I read Henry Ford’s biography and his wife, he shared, believed in him more than anyone else. Grant Cardone frequently talks about what his wife, Elena, does to show her belief in him.
Once in The White House, Michelle shared something that connected back to something she shared at the beginning of the book — respecting everyone’s story, especially if we do not know what their story is. In regards to the White House staff and butlers, “I wanted to make sure that our interactions were respectful and affirming.”
Reflecting on the duties of the president and the way that Barack went about his business in office, the way Michelle worded this portion was perfect. She wrote,
“He knew he had an obligation to stay open and shut nothing out. While the rest of us slept he took the fences down and let everything in.”
I think I re-read or re-listened to that part maybe 10 times after hearing it. The responsibility to empathize with the people of the United States is not a small task and the way that she saw him approach that was wonderful. I admired the ability to let everything in and still focus on the main tasks at hand.
In closing, Barack’s preparation and readiness were what I came to admire most about him. While I didn’t agree with everything he did in office (hard to agree with everything over an 8 year period), I respect him. Michelle shared, “Barack always asked both the widest and closest view of everything so he could be prepared and respond appropriately, to stay upright when everyone else was ready to fall down.”
Michelle provided an incredible lens into the connection between her and Barack as well as the way that they both worked interdependently. Many things from the book stood out to me and I learned a lot not only about them both as individuals but also, about mindsets needed to become successful by one’s definition. As I thought more about myself, and what stood out most in this book (Barack focusing on day-to-day things but also the abstract, like income inequality) I realized the following:
“Our minds focus on things that enter them for a reason, identify and understand that reason.” — Harrison Wendland
This was one of the best and most impactful books I’ve completed this year, I learned a lot about myself through understanding what made Michelle and Barack who they are as individuals and who they are as a couple.
I gave this book a 4.5/5