Michelle Obama went from a straight A student on the South Side of Chicago, to a corporate lawyer, to one of the most influential women in history — and now she’s sharing how she did it.
Thousands of women have flocked to her sold out book signings eager to be in her presence. Millions more have clung to the spines of Becoming hoping to soak up some of what has set her apart.
Haven’t gotten your hands on a copy yet? Don’t worry! We’re sharing 11 of our favorite life lessons from Becoming that are sure to make your 2019 sparkle.
Even If You Think It's Out Of Reach, Still Go For It
After testing into one of her her city’s most prestigious high schools, Obama was surrounded by “Jack and Jill kids,” who were international travelers before they could even drive.
So when the school sponsored a trip to Paris she automatically assumed she wasn’t going because her loving parents sacrificed so she could have bus fare.
After learning about the trip from the school, Obama's parents asked why she hadn’t mentioned the trip. She replied, “Because it’s too much money.”
Obama was shocked when her parents told her that wasn’t for her decide, and shortly after she was on a plane to France.
Reach out for what you want. You might just get it.
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama speaks at The Royal Festival Hall on December 03, 2018 in London, England. The former First Lady's memoir titled 'Becoming' has become the best selling book in the US for 2018 according to figures released by her publisher Penguin Random House. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Sitting In A Position Of Authority Doesn’t Make A Person Right
When Obama's guidance counselor made a snap judgement that she wasn’t “Princeton material” she refused to take her words for gospel. Instead she reached out to other educators and community leaders who were actually familiar with her and her work and gained entry into her university of choice. It can be easy to assume that someone’s title qualifies them to dismiss you, but don’t believe it, Obama advised.
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 24: Michelle Obama discusses her new book 'Becoming' with Michelle Norris in front of a sold out audience of more than 20,000 people at TD Garden on November 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Paul Marotta/Getty Images)
Someone Having A Head Start Doesn’t Mean They’re Smarter Than You
When Obama arrived to the “very white and male” Princeton campus she found out that the perception that affirmative action students were less intelligent was completely false.
She was initially “intimidated” in classroom discussions because “It requires effort, an extra level of confidence, to speak in those settings and own your presence in the room.”
But once she started to hear other students arguments she understood that “they were simply emboldened, floating on an ancient tide of superiority, buoyed by the fact that history had never told them anything different.”
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 13: Former first lady Michelle Obama kicks off her ?Becoming? book tour with a signing at the Seminary Co-op bookstore on November 13, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. In the book, which was released today, Obama describes her journey from Chicago's South Side to the White House. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Sometimes You Can Start A Business Without Even Realizing It
At its core, building a business is just fulfilling a need. And when Obama started regularly babysitting for a mentor on campus at Princeton she inadvertently did just that.
Before she knew it she was running a child care center that catered to professors.
Keep your eye out for opportunities for innovation. You never know when they’re going to appear.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 03: Former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama watches the surprise video message from her husband Former President of the United States Barack Obama during Pennsylvania Conference For Women 2017 at Pennsylvania Convention Center on October 3, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Pennsylvania Conference for Women)
You Don’t Have To Go Broke To Make A Difference
When Obama realized that she “hated" practicing law she had to find a way to pivot towards the non-profit causes that aligned with her purpose. Still, that pivot came with a serious pay cut.
While accepting that she wouldn’t have the corporate perks or the substantial cash flow she was used to she made sure that she would be able to sustain herself by “asking for exactly what I needed in terms of salary.”
“I couldn’t be shy or embarrassed about my needs,” she wrote.
Sometimes we are so afraid to look greedy that we sell ourselves short. Learn from FLOTUS and put yourself first so you can have the room and resources to serve others.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 01: Former first lady Michelle Obama visits The Lower Eastside Girls Club to meet and greet the members and discuss her new book "Becoming" on December 01, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)
Worrying About Others Opinions Could Cost You Your Soulmate
Obama initially was so worried about how dating her subordinate would be perceived by her coworkers that she ruled the former president out as a romantic prospect completely.
She even went as far as trying to set him up with some of her girlfriends.
Obama eventually gave in after the two enjoyed a pair of ice cream cones on a “warm summer evening,” but had she refused to set her concerns aside, the course of history might have been changed.
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 31: Former president Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet guests at the inaugural Obama Foundation Summit on October 31, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The two-day event is scheduled to feature a mix of community leaders, politicians and artists exploring creative solutions to common problems, and experiencing art, technology, and music from around the world. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Evaluate Your Partner Based On Who They Are
Proud bus pass holders the world over have praised Obama for being willing to overlook her husband's lack of funds when they first started dating.
But what they conveniently fail to remember is that he had a character that outshone his checking account.
“So many of my friends judged potential mates from the outside in, focusing first on their looks and financial prospects,” she wrote. “If it turned out the person they chose wasn’t a good communicator or was uncomfortable with being vulnerable they seemed to think time or marriage vows would solve the problem.”
Obama knew from the beginning the man she was falling for was mature enough to handle a true partnership that was worth a little financial uncertainty.
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 03: Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama arrives on stage at an event at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School on December 03, 2018 in London, England. The former First Lady's memoir titled 'Becoming' has become the best selling book in the US of 2018 according to figures released by her publisher Penguin Random House. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
A Busy Man Can Still Make Time For You
When a new beau named Barack Obama told Mrs. Obama that “I’m not much of a phone guy,” she made it clear that “If I’m not talking to you, I might have to find another guy who’ll listen.”
We all know how the story ended.
Not because the man in question was so special but because the woman he was pursuing set standards.
Keep this in mind the next time you’re tempted to get giddy about a good morning text.
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: President Barack Obama (R) gives Michelle Obama a kiss as they wait for President-elect Donald Trump and wife Melania at the White House before the inauguration on January 20, 2017 in Washington, D.C. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States. (Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)
Your Marriage Still Needs Maintenance, Even If You're Madly In Love
The former first couple share a “visceral and grounding love” that has changed a nation, reared two beautiful children and even inspired a feature film. While their relationship is iconic it’s also imperfect. Obama reminds readers that even legendary lovers can benefit from counseling sessions when recounting a rocky period in her marriage.
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: Former U.S. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama participate in the unveiling of their official portraits during a ceremony at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC. The portraits were commissioned by the Gallery, for Kehinde Wiley to create President Obama's portrait, and Amy Sherald that of Michelle Obama. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Play Out All The Possibilities When Making A Decision
When the subject of her husband considering a presidential run was approached, Obama only gave her blessing because she thought “he’s never gonna win.”
Countless political attacks and dozens of secret service briefings later, she was married to the leader of the free world.
Before you passively give yourself or your partner permission to take a risk, make sure you’re prepared as possible for every outcome. .
Former US first lady Michelle Obama attends a roundtable discussion at Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in Chicago, November 12, 2018. - Former US first lady Michelle Obama's book, "Becoming," hits stores on Tuesday. Obama, 54, will head out on a multi-city arena tour to promote the memoir, with celebrity friends like Oprah Winfrey and Reese Witherspoon tapped to moderate the events. (Photo by JIM YOUNG / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM YOUNG/AFP/Getty Images)
It’s Okay To Admit You Need Help
“There is no handbook for incoming First Ladies of the United States,” Obama wrote. And admittedly, she was “overwhelmed” by the way her life was about to change.
Obama was wise enough to look to her mother for help in adjusting. She even went as far as enlisting her brother’s help in convincing her to move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
The former first lady didn't worry about appearing like she had it all under control. She focused on actually trying to get things under control instead.
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 30: Former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama signs copies of her new book 'Becoming' during a book signing event at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, November 30, 2018 in New York City. The former first lady's memoir has sold more than 2 million copies in all formats in North America during its first 15 days on the market, according to a statement released on Friday by Penguin Random House. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)