Motivational Monday: Channeling the Light of Maya Angelou

Today’s motivation comes from the life of a favorite poet of mine: Maya Angelou.

About Angelou’s Life

While she is known for her book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” she was also known as a singer, actor, director, and civil rights advocate. In fact, she was a good friend to civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.

Most importantly, she was a spiritual leader to many through her words and no-nonsense attitude. She forbade curse words in her home due to the power the words could have. Leaders of peace like Nelson Mandela and President Barack Obama called her a friend. She was truly a “phenomenal woman” as she described in her popular poem.

Photo Courtesy of Maya Angelou’s Facebook Page

Angelou had a difficult childhood, having been sexually assaulted at the age of eight and being mute for several years after the incident. Even then, she knew that her words held the power to change the world. Eventually, she would pen the story for “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”  The memoir would be what took her from a famous entertainer and activist to a global icon.

What We Can Learn From Maya Angelou

This week, we are focusing on becoming your own inspiration, to use your life as an example of perseverance and success. There are very few people that personify this ideal than Maya Angelou who faced adversity from so many fronts throughout her life as an African American woman.

Even though she has passed on, I doubt that her words will ever be forgotten. They are not unlike the words of Elie Wiesel, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, or Malala Yousafzai. They serve as a testament to a life lived. She learned from her experience, reflected on it, and allowed those lessons to make her a better human being.

As an entrepreneur and as an influencer, you must learn from your own life experiences. What would make your life easier? Think of what inspires you, makes you happy or sad. If YOU don’t ask the questions…someone else will and they will be the ones that inspire the world.

So, follow Maya Angelou’s advice.  “Be a rainbow in someone else’s cloud.” Find your light so you may inspire others to do the same.

Motivational Monday: John Lasseter and the $7 Billion “No”

I LOVE Disney. Since its inception in 1923, the Walt Disney Company has prided itself on being the forefront of entertainment. However, as much as I love Disney, I will admit that there have been moments when it made mistakes that would set the company back as an innovator. My favorite mistake centers around Pixar and its founder John Lasseter.

I call it the $7.4 billion no.

Early Career

Photo courtesy of

John Lasseter used to be a Disney animator, living his dream job. In fact, some of his early career projects include “The Fox and the Hound” (1981), “The Black Cauldron” (1985), and “The Brave Little Toaster” (1987). Lasseter first introduced the idea of using computer animation in Disney movies while he was still an animator for the company. Unfortunately, Disney Animation shut the idea down. Using computer software for the arts was still a very new concept, brought on the crest of the computer wave that was hitting the world through Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Lasseter persisted, but his persistence and the deep dive of revenue for Disney Animation force Lasseter out of Disney animation and over to Lucas films. The company had revolutionized the use of computer special effects. Not long after though, George Lucas’s divorce and several box office bombs pushed Lucas to sell the division to no other than Steve Jobs.

Pixar Animation

Pixar worked mainly with Image Computers when Jobs first reimagined it. The computers did not sell well. John Lasseter, making short demos with the computers, saw this as a chance. He took his demo character, the now famous Luxo Jr., to a large computer conference. The Pixar Animation Company was born with great success.

While the computer sales continued to decline, the animation department continued to thrive. Eventually, it caught the eye of Disney Animation. In 1991, the two companies made a $23 million deal to produce three computer-animated features with Pixar. The first was a little movie known as “Toy Story.”

The Success

Disney and Pixar would continue to grow their relationship, many times butting heads over creative control. In 2006, though a deal was struck. Disney became the majority shareholder of Pixar for $7.4 billion, catapulting Steve Jobs to the largest shareholder on Disney’s board of directors (7%) and promoting John Lasseter to CCO of Pixar and Disney Animation.

To this day, Pixar has not had a movie that didn’t premiere number 1 their opening weekend. Lasseter revolutionized animation, much like Walt Disney did in the 20’s with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” It is his persistence and innovation that ensured Lasseter’s success. He continued to persevere despite the constant failure and disappoint in his early career. This makes him a master “influencer.”

And, to think, Disney could have saved billions if they had just said “yes” when Lasseter was still a young animator.


Motivational Monday: JK Rowling Inspires Magic

Our first influencer for Motivational Monday is a personal favorite: JK Rowling. Born Joanne Rowling in Bristol, little Jo loved reading and writing books. She first created the idea of “Harry Potter” in 1990 on her famed train ride Manchester to King’s Cross Station (you know, platform 9 ¾).

Photo of JK Rowling Courtesy of Twitter JK Rowling has inspired readers around the world to find the magic within themselves.

From there she began to map her way through the wizarding world. Even 10 years later, she’s still giving her fans new information.

In the early 1990’s, she moved to Portugal to teach English where she married Jorge Arantes and had her first stepdaughter, Jessica.

After a year of marriage and abuse from Jorge, Rowling moved to Edinburgh, Scotland. She struggled as a single mother, living off government assistance. She trained as a teacher and wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (the first book in the series) on the side. Sometimes, she wrote in coffee shops when she couldn’t afford power at home.

Once she finished the manuscript, she sent the first three chapters off to several publishers.

Twelve said no.

One asked to see more.

Since then, JK Rowling has been THE influencer in the publishing world and pop culture. The $15 billion brand has spanned seven books, eight movies, a spin-off series expected to span five more films, two theme parks,  two plays, and three fan-made musicals.  (If you are a Harry Potter fan and haven’t tried watching A Very Potter Musical, you need to.)

Rowling herself has an estimated worth of a little less than $1 billion. She could have been worth more. Instead, she donated much of her wealth to various charities. She remarried in 2001 and has had two more children.

JK Rowling is a perfect example of taking something you are passionate about to create an inspirational brand. Her determination to correctly portray her vision during the original filming process created a brand that persisted in every branch of the franchise.

However, what makes her a true influencer is the fact that she created a brand that inspires. It inspired millions of people to read and write. It inspired people to think about how they treat others. It inspired magic.

Her books influenced readers by inspiring something in them that will endure through generations and that is what makes JK Rowling as a perfect example of an inspirational influencer.