Self Made

If they have ascended high, they have built their own ladder.
Frederick Douglass 
 

All my routines are off track, and I’m having a hard time reading. I am trying something different: re reading books.
 
I picked up a career book from last year Do More Great Work. Looking for my next job, this is on point. This book has a lot of exercises, which I skipped over the first time I read it. It’s time to dig in.
 
I got to the part where he asks me to come up with role models. Tough. Real people are more complicated than books. I started with people who had written books about themselves:
 
Benjamin Franklin and Frederick Douglass
 
Ben Franklin is the man on the money. His autobiography reads like almost every other businessman autobiography I’ve read.  Because they all copied him! He was a great inventor, and he may have invented the autobiography too.
 
As the oldest founding father, and the one who had the most popular writing style, he created the template for the “self-made man.” He starts his book by saying he was the fourth son of a fourth son.
 
IF you’ve read anything, you know that the fourth son doesn’t inherit anything, not the cat OR the boots. That’s supposed to be how it is for Americans. We make our own luck. Franklin told his adventures from when he was quite young, following ideas and making friends all along the way. He wrote in friendly humorous style. It was written originally in French, but has been translated and remains in print to this day. He wrote the book on being a successful American.
 
He had a little help from his brothers and friends, but I feel like I could follow his methods and be successful too. He was a nobody when he was born and became a great man.
 
That’s America! Cue the music. How could it get better than this?
 
Frederick Douglass, who must have read Franklin’s book, takes it to another level.
 
Frederick Douglass was born a slave, and the story of his rise to prominence is just as impressive as Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, Douglass’s family was taken from him, beaten and killed. They couldn’t help him in life. Also, he was not able to explore other places freely. No trips to England.
 
But Frederick Douglass found success anyway. He took every opportunity he found. He learned skills as a craftsman, learned to read and educated himself while still in captivity.
 
He took a risk and began to teach his fellow slaves how to read even though it was against the law. Generosity for him was for other people. Eventually, abolitionists helped him escape.
 
 A few years later he wrote Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. It has written in a more elegant style than Franklin. His books shook the world both because of the truth of the stories themselves but also the artistry of the prose.
 
He partnered with Susan B. Anthony to work for universal suffrage- the right to vote. He even ran for President, something Franklin did not do.
 
And I’m whining because I don’t have child care. Mr. Douglass, you make me ashamed and you inspire me at the same time. Maybe that’s what role models are for.