Little Nat Williams started out life as an orphan in the Bronx with all the strikes against him. The 11th of 12 children, Nat never knew his father, and attended his mother's funeral at age five. He still remembers the five taxis all lined up to haul him and his nine brothers and sisters under the age of 18 to different foster homes throughout New York City.
It was in a foster home a few years later that Nat had an experience that would forever change his life. The value of the experience was discovered not in what happened, but in how Nat chose to interpret the experience and allow it to influence his behavior. Here is what happened...
One day while eagerly waiting for his brothers and sisters to come visit, the van they were riding in broke down; they would not be coming after all.
Saddened by this disappointment, Nat sat alone on the front septs of the foster home's administrative office brooding in his sorrow. Just then, the director of the foster home -- Sister Mary Patrick -- appeared like a rescuing angel with a bicycle for Nat.
Thrilled and grateful, Nat rode off to show his "cottage mates" the new treasure. Then, while watching one of them ride the new bike around, Nat had a life changing prompting. He realized that if he wasn't careful, then "telling a sad story and waiting for a handout" would dominate the narrative of the rest of his life.
That wasn't the life story Nat wanted told, and from that moment, he began setting his sights high. He even began signing his name: Nathaniel J. Williams, Executive Director, a practice that spawned derision from many of his peers.
"People were always making fun of me, saying: 'why the hell are you saying you're an executive director, and why are you signing your name that way?' But it gave me a pathway. I often say to people, if it's not written, it's not going to happen, so by me just writing down what I wanted to do, it made it very clear, so when drugs, alcohol, or other things came my way, I was able to plan my work and then work my plan, and was able to say yes or no to things based on what I wanted to do with my life."Along the way, Nat developed a diligent work ethic that empowered his success. At age 28, he founded a company that is now a conglomerate of nine different organizations focused on human care services that help others in need. Today, this organization has an operating budget of over 12 million dollars and employs over 200 people, and guess who the Executive Director is? That's right, Nat Williams, who, along the way, also managed to squeeze into his schedule time to earn four -- that's right -- FOUR advanced degrees, including a Master of Health Sciences (MHS), a Masters of Public Administration (MPA), a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), and a Doctorate in Education (Ed.D.).
Even more significant than his professional success is his personal success, which includes being a loving husband, and father to eight children. Dr. Williams' life has demonstrated the Self-Action Leadership power that comes from focusing your time and effort on what you can control -- your own thoughts, speech, and actions, rather than on external difficulties that arise beyond your control.
Dr. Nat Williams quotables:
"I think that a person has to recognize that you've gotta work with you you got, and you've gotta believe that what you got ain't bad."
"You've got to recognize and accept what you've been given [and what you haven't been given] and then figure out a way to work with it, and work with others."
"Everything isn't a burden; everything isn't a challenge; it can be seen as a blessing, and it can be seen as a conduit for major change. It's just based on the viewpoint that you have and how you look at the situation."
"You need other people to help you stay on the straight and narrow and you've got to be transparent."
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