The crabs-in-a-barrel mind-set is certainly nothing new. But it seems sometimes to take on an entirely new dimension in our community. This came to me one day as I overheard two sisters talking on the subway while on the way to work. They were engrossed in a conversation about a friend of theirs who had decided to leave her job to start her own business. The two women quickly rattled off a list of reasons why their “friend” was destined to fail.

At our recent empowerment seminars at the Essence Music Festival, Dr. Debra B. Morton, copastor of Greater St. Stephen Full Gospel Baptist Church in New Orleans and Atlanta, shared an emotional message with the audience, anchored in the idea that we all have “something to do, something to finish.” The problem, she said, was that we each have a plan for what we want to accomplish but are often unable to complete it because we get caught up in negative beliefs that block our full potential. One of those beliefs, she said, comes from listening to people who doubt our abilities and our dreams because they themselves have not done what they wanted to do, and they don’t want to see us succeed. Be task-oriented, Morton admonished the crowd, and focus on achieving your goal.

Ask yourself how many times you’ve let someone else’s fear and negativity keep you from pursuing your dreams.

Sometimes your ultimate success requires that you take a good, hard look at who is truly in your corner. It may seem counterintuitive that someone who claims to love you could be someone you need to distance from your life while you draw closer to those who sincerely believe in your dreams. One of the things I love about my own circle of friends is their unwavering loyalty. When one of us wants to launch a business, leave a job, buy a house, or pursue some other bold idea, we always encourage her by offering advice, sharing potential contacts, providing financial and emotional support, and cheering her on in our biweekly conference calls. True friends always have your back. No matter what.

For more inspiration on achieving your goals, even when the cards seem stacked against you, read our profile of Michelle Obama (“Beside Barack,” page 200). Even as she and her family are taking on the greatest challenge of their lives, she is clear in her belief: “If you focus on the fear, you do nothing. You’re frozen in place. And we’ve been frozen in place for too long. I want my kids to grow up free, free from fear.”

E-mail me at, and let me know what your big dream is and how you plan to achieve it. Your friends at Essence will be cheering you on!

Angela Burt-Murray