"As I tell my students at the end of each year: it's not who people tell you you can be, it's who you're willing to work to become."
This is wisdom from my pal Gordon Van Owen, a handsome, smart and devoted educator in the New York City school system.
He started out as a journalist, and then caught the education bug. While working full-time in an all-girls academy focused on business and leadership, Gordon earned a master's degree at Columbia. No small feat.
But as much as he's great at cracking a book, his heart is in his classroom where he's opening the door to the world for young women he wants to have their best shot at success.
Empowerment is everything. EVERYTHING! It's the equation of achievement. The X-factor that cannot be taught from a book.
Having that one person alongside you as mentor, friend, teacher, life star, can make the difference in someone believing they can rise up and out — or giving into their fears of failure. It cannot be overstated - having one person believe in you makes all the difference.
Remember: Your history is not your future. Your circumstances are not your predictor of doing well. You and you alone can make a choice every day to invest in a better life, a better way, bigger goals, pushing back on what some might see as your own background's inherent limitations.
The greatest stories of accomplishment rest in those who came from little but made much. Those who knew deep down that while the now might be tough, the future could be glorious — if only they made an investment in changing themselves. In fighting for what they dreamed.
All that you tell yourself is what you become. Are you whispering words of "I can't" or shouting at your soul "I will!"
Tune out those who might define what you should be — and work hard to become what your heart knows you could be.
Gordon's powerful message lingers as real wind beneath wings.