5 Leadership Lessons: Larry Thornton: Reflections on a Fifty-Year Journey from the Segregated South to America’s Board Rooms
ARTIST AND ENTREPRENEUR Larry D. Thornton says that growing up with brown skin in the 1960s in segregated Montgomery, Alabama, he was “socially and internally maladjusted.” He is often angry because “every day, everyone around him reminds him that he is inferior for no other reason than being born.” He said, “Because of that, I rejected school and ignored and discounted people with white skin. It’s a dangerous road I’m on, and I’m going full throttle.”
But as time passed, his thinking changed because of the people who cared about him and gave him encouragement. He decided, why not win. “Now,” he wrote, “I know that my change in thinking rewrote my history. Since then, I have been very lucky and blessed with many opportunities—beyond my imagination and more than I deserve.”
Beginning as a sign painter for the local Coca-Cola bottling company, he would become the first and only African American to serve on the company’s board of directors. He was also the first African American to own a McDonald’s franchise in Birmingham, Alabama, among other firsts in his journey.
on Why Not Win? Reflections on a Fifty-Year Journey from the Isolated South to the Borderlands of America – And What It Can Teach Us All, Thornton shares stories from his life and draws on key lessons that have shaped him into the person he is today. Here are just five of the 21 life lessons Thornton shared with us:
No matter how many opportunities or accolades you receive, or how humble or privileged your beginnings are, you can never give ‘too much’ to others in need. Who said, ‘Where much is given, much is required?’ That’s how you truly win—by giving to others and making them winners too.
If you don’t get anything, then you don’t get anything. The more you get, the more you get. I had to learn how to focus on the prize, because the rewards of life are only reserved for those who stay in the game.
Find your center and operate from it. Use, follow, follow the standards of life. They are meant to guide you towards a successful life. In most instances, ‘attention’ is all you have to pay. Are you sure you can do that?
People listen to your actions more carefully than your words. Your actions will reflect the importance or lack of your words. Some of the most honest messages you’ll ever say happen without working a single word. Let your movements, actions, and actions speak clearly. And remember—whoever said ‘those who deserve love the least, need love the least’ certainly knew what he was talking about.
The ugly truth always reveals itself: ‘I want to do what you do, but I’m not ready to do what you do.’ It’s not about ‘doing’ it’s about ‘being done’. The ‘done’ is where the value is. Be prepared to withstand the heat of the fire. Leave the winds and rain to the storms, then rest assured that the coming blue skies and sunshine will take care of themselves.
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