On Tuesday, the Obama Foundation’s first national My Brother’s Keeper Alliance convening, MBK Rising!, began in Oakland, CA. This two-day event brought together civic leaders, young men of color and representatives of the MBK organizations that are supporting these young men nationwide.
The opening session of the convening featured a session with President Obama and Steph Curry answering questions from some of the young men at the conference. When asked, “ What were some of the struggles that you went through and how did you get through it?” Obama and Curry had particularly inspirational responses.
Steph Curry talked about how confidence wasn’t natural for him. Despite the fact that he had a passion for basketball from a young age and a father who spent 16 years playing professional basketball, his path to the pros wasn’t easy. “The swagger and the confidence you see on the court right now, it wasn’t always there”. He noted, “I always tell people that you have to be your biggest cheerleader, but that is harder to do than people might think.” He had to rely on the community around him for support. They helped him understand what he was capable of, to trust that his attention to detail and work ethic was going to lead him to the path he was destined to follow, and to “continue to grind” to get there. “So wherever you are in that process”, he told the young man, “just keep fighting.”
President Obama revealed that he was “all kinds of screwed up” when he was in high school: he didn’t have a sense of purpose or clear sense of direction. He noted, “I didn’t straighten myself out until I stopped thinking about myself and started thinking about how I could be useful to other people.” His confidence came from discovering he could help people, and he continues to be motivated by the desire to help others. He explained:
“We live in a culture where our worth is measured by how much money we have or how famous we are, and at the end of the day that will not give you confidence. People whose confidence is grounded in the fact that they do their jobs well, they look after people who are counting on them, and they are providing a positive impact in their communities. If you get that, that will carry you a very, very long way.”
It is important that our children, especially our sons, understand that it takes work to develop swagger and confidence, and that not having a sense of purpose from an early age doesn’t mean you are doomed. These are valuable lessons for us to share with them, courtesy of two extraordinarily accomplished men.