Dr. King and you: 5 ways to follow his lead

Posted by on Feb 3, 2013

On the third Monday of every January, America honors Dr. King for his good works and great legacy. But 365 days a year, we all have the chance to follow his lead and make a difference. Here are five ways:

Devote yourself to a positive purpose: At age 14, Martin Luther King Jr. won a speech contest with his entry on “The Negro and the Constitution.” On the bus trip back home, he and his teacher were forced to stand while the white people sat. He could have turned bitter, but instead, he resolved to take positive action. He made it his mission to create a world where people are judged not “by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Turn weaknesses into strengths: Young Martin had wisdom beyond his years and a high IQ to match. He skipped kindergarten and entered first grade at age 5. He skipped his senior year and headed to college at age 15. He moved forward so quickly that his reading skills fell behind. Many people would have steered clear of their weakness by avoiding books, but Martin Luther King did just the opposite. He became a voracious reader and writer — and a lifelong seeker of knowledge and insight.

Exert discipline to get the job done: At age 25, he was pursuing his doctoral degree while serving as a church pastor — enough responsibility to keep several people busy. He applied extraordinary discipline, waking well before sunrise to work on his doctoral thesis, then plunging into his pastoral duties, then ending each day with more work on the thesis. He earned his Ph.D. in 1955, but he didn’t stop to rest. He promptly took on new challenges.

Use your gifts to the full: Dr. King ably used his great gifts of communication. Before and after his Dream soared from the Lincoln Memorial, he spoke out time and again from pulpits, parking lots, courtrooms, classrooms, legislative halls, and the Oval Office. Even in isolation, he kept up his mission of creating a better future, sending the nation his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.”

Strive for excellence every day: Six months before his great life was cut short, Dr. King spoke to a group of students. He talked to them about the importance of having a “life blueprint” — a deeply held design of what each of them intended to accomplish in life. He encouraged them to strive for excellence at all times. His words apply to all of us: “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.”