Friday, April 1, 2011
How Tracy Did It
"I have AIDS," Tracy said. She wanted to know if she could enroll in Urban FIRE. She had just been released from prison for stabbing her husband, a drug dealer. For three years he had viciously abused her. One night, the police came knocking on the door. To save his own skin, he accused Tracy of being the drug dealer. In that moment, Tracy reached her tipping point. Without thinking, she grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed him in the chest right there, in front of the police. He survived and Tracy went to prison for three years. She was one of 12 students who made up my first class in 1999.
As a 24-year-old mother of two, Tracy had never touched a computer nor finished high school. But after all that she'd been through, she promised her children that life would get better. She kept that promise and while success didn't come right away, she took the lessons of entrepreneurship and stubbornly kept improving her skills. Two years later, she told me she had become quite proficient with the computers. Another two years and she had become a web developer and within another year, she had launched her own business with enough work to hire four employees.
Entrepreneurs are made not born. Learning to think like one is the critical key.
Many people have asked me why I haven't expanded Urban FIRE beyond what it is today. It's true that we will soon have a national rollout but the main importance of Urban FIRE isn't to get big, it's to get better and work with students like Tracy. Every week, we conduct research and constantly make improvements to our curriculum. It's for people seeking their spark, maybe not when they enroll but when they discover what's possible through the lessons we go through together and honoring our roles as thoughtful students, as sharers of experiences and information; as respectful teachers and as people who learn to care about each other.
Today, there are millions of us deposited into situations of no value. A national survey released this week showed that more than 33 percent of us hate our jobs. Some of us have given up and some of us are trying, hoping that things will change. But the reality today is we need to become our own brand - Brand Me. What do I really want to be and what principles and values do I bring? How will I fulfill my destiny? It's a bit scary and it requires a notion of courage. In the back of our minds, we know it's a journey we must take.
If you or someone you know wishes to embark on that journey, there is no better time than now. And the final session of Urban FIRE for 2011 begins Saturday, April 9 - 12 weeks of discovery and taking action. The final orientation for those on the fence will be this Saturday, April 2 at 10am. Both the orientation and the class will be held at 935 Union Street (at 10th Street) in West Oakland.
You can talk to me at 510.655.1304 or go to our website: www.urbanfire.org
As Gandhi said: "You must be the change you wish to see in the world."