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    Social Worker's Review of Watch Me Rise!

    As a social worker for 33 years I have heard many tragic stories. Doug Luffborough’s book Watch Me Rise about his life story was heartbreaking but so inspirational to all. He gives hope to everyone and teaches us never to give up no matter how devastating the circumstances and to ignore the negative people that get in the way of our success.


    I personally know his mother, who he credits his success among other positive influences in his life. I encourage everyone to read his book as it will make you a better person regardless where you are in your journey.


    Thank you Doug for having the courage to face the world against all odds and to share your life challenges and triumphs with all of us. You have certainly made a difference in my life.



    -Della A. Riolo, LCSW, Las Vegas, Nevada


    Superintendent, Adelanto Elementary School District Endorsement

    “We had Doug present at our “Administrative Kick off Day” at the beginning of the school year. Doug is an exceptional speaker and professional development trainer. Doug’s story and ability to connect with our administrative team kicked off our school year in the best way possible.  We are very grateful for the God given talents that Doug possesses—it is a gift that has inspired our team to do our best.” - Dr. Edwin Gomez, Superintendent, Adelanto Elementary School District


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    5 Keys to Effective Leadership: The P.O.W.E.R. of Leadership


    I know, I know - another piece on effective leadership?! The truth of the matter is that everything rises and falls on leadership - so, the more we can discover, the better. More importantly, being an effective leader who listens more than speaks, gets things done without demanding requests, and has both the fortitude to keenly see the forest and the trees is (and always will be) in high demand throughout any sector.

    Taking personal responsibility for growing your leadership style and ability requires understanding 5 keys to effective leadership. I call it the P.O.W.E.R of Leadership! We all have power but often we don't use it effectively or when we do, we use it in the wrong way. The P.O.W.E.R of Leadership is about taking personal responsibility for growing yourself first as a leader in order to grow others and your business. Start by exercising your P.O.W.E.R. of Leadership!

    1. P - Purpose Driven - I'm sure you have heard this: "If you don't know which way to go, any road can take you there!" It all starts with knowing and understanding your purpose in life. What do you want to do? Where are you trying to go? Start by setting personal and professional goals and holding yourself really accountable...insanely accountable. When I was young I wrote three goals that I wanted to achieve more than anything on an index card. I kept that index card in my wallet as a daily reminder of where I was going and the goals I wished to achieve. Over 35 years later, I still have an index card in my wallet with new goals that I am 100% committed to making happen.

    2. O - Opportunity Chaser - Every day, opportunities come your way to reach your goals but the challenge is that many people don't see the opportunity within their problems and life challenges they face. Think about how you can turn a disadvantage into an advantage. How can you use past pain in your life to now liberate yourself and others? What opportunities have come into your life that you brushed off as another task or just another thing to do without recognizing that the task was really a set up for a dream deferred. The key here is perspective and realizing that opportunity is there for the taking for those who see it! When opportunity the door!

    3. W - Willingness to Go Solo - "You can't soar like an eagle when you hang out with turkeys." I have met so many talented people with great ambitions and the only thing holding them back is their "friends" - those they associate with. Show me who you hang around with and I can show you how far you will go in life. Hang around people who lift you up and don't bring you down. Hang around the right people who make you feel good about who you are and the gifts you bring into the world. Hang around people who pat you on the back rather than stab you in the back. Hang around people who celebrate you and not just tolerate you. In order to go to the places you have been destined to go, you have to be willing to do things that other people just won't do. And do it over and over and over again, until what you do becomes who you are and who you are becomes what you do! Don't be afraid to go solo and leave some friends and family members behind. It is your life, your dream, your destiny. Make it happen even if you are standing all by yourself.

    4. E - Enthusiastic Spirit - Have you ever seen someone walk into a room and people naturally gravitate towards that person. Be someone people want to be around because of your enthusiastic spirit towards life. This type of person sees life with the glass half full and always has a positive outlook on life regardless of their current situation. They are relentlessly positive in all they do and the way they see things. The saying is true "that your attitude determines your altitude" in life and no one enjoys hanging out with a negative person, a whiner or a complainer. Those type of people are kill-joys to positivity but someone with an enthusiastic spirit brings light into any room. They can make even the hardest conversations comfortable. My philosophy is that when I leave a room I want people feeling better about who they are and on fire to achieving their dreams than when they walked into the room.

    5. R - Relationship Builder - One of my mentors once told me that the greatest deals in America are made on the golf course! Mainly because only a certain type of people play golf and you have two to four hours of uninterrupted time to build relationships with those you are playing with almost instantly. You never know who you may meet, the reasons why you met, and how you may meet them again in the future. I don't believe that you meet people by happenstance, but, rather because for one reason or another their destiny is tied to yours and vice versa...even for just a season. Building solid, strong, and trustful relationships is key to your success. What qualifies me to say this is the fact that I have messed up many relationships on my journey to figuring out how to do it right. What you know gets you in the door, but, who you know keeps you there! What relationships in your life need to be restored? What relationships in your life need to be further developed? President Theodore Roosevelt once said that "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care!"

    Start off 2015 with deciding to use your P.O.W.E.R. of Leadership in all areas of your life. Of the 5 keys above which one(s) do you do well? Which one(s) do you need to work on? Take action today by practicing your P.O.W.E.R. of Leadership on a daily basis. For over 15 years I have used the keys above to grow myself as a leader and take those I have managed to the next level.

    Continue to Rise!


    Excerpt from Chapter 18: Harvard

    “Ma, this is Douglas! I was thinking about going to graduate school to get my master’s degree in education. I want to help other kids and families that live in situations like how we grew up . . . and the number one graduate school for education administration in America is at Harvard. Do you think I should apply?”

    Mom broke out in laughter. “Douglas, why not Harvard, why not you? If they say no, you will be right where you are today, and that is not bad at all. But what if they say yes! If God put this thought in your heart, then follow through by at least applying.”

    That was all the advice I needed to hear. Every time I thought about applying, my chest pounded, and my body tensed up with enthusiasm . . . I faced the possibility of attending an Ivy League school. On a whim one morning, and because I lived so close, I took the T to Harvard Square to walk the campus and pick up more information from the admissions department. The T conductor’s voice belted over the speaker. “Haaaaaavard Square.” I jumped from my seat, each movement like an out-of-body experience. I stepped off the train and climbed the stairs to Harvard Square. With each stride, I remembered a bit of my journey up to that point in my life. Everything went in slow motion, and the movie in my mind allowed for the right timing and soundtrack to accompany my ascension.

    The first step symbolized my struggle of growing up in poverty; the next signified overcoming the absence of a father or father-like figure in my life; the next was seeing my mother get mistreated as a housekeeper; the next was the paralyzing fear of being bullied in elementary school; the next step was my uncontrollable stuttering impediment developed through the alienation and condescending remarks of my third grade teacher; the next was for my Little League assistant coach, who told me that I suffered from delusions of grandeur; the next was former friends that discounted my gifts; the next was my high school guidance counselor, who told me I was not college material; and the last step was for Diane at John Hancock. With each stair I climbed, I remembered how I overcame that obstacle, ultimately arriving at the Harvard Yard. Mama Luff’s words rang through my mind as I walked the uneven cobblestone sidewalks. “If not me, then who? If not now, when?”

    The doubt and insecurity that I’d felt when my third grade teacher asked me to read out loud among my peers paralyzed me briefly as I reached out to the double doors of the Education building, but the momentum of graduating from Northeastern and my visit to the White House pushed me through. A kind voice behind a plain cubicle-like secretary desk greeted me immediately. “Hello, welcome to the Graduate School of Education. How can I help you?” I froze, overwhelmed by Harvard and tradition, but it only lasted a second. “Yes, hi, my name is Doug . . . Doug Luffborough. I would like some information about the Ed school, and I’l like to pick up an application, please.”

    To my surprise, the secretary did not ask many any other qualifying questions: my GPA in undergrad, what qualified me to apply, or what my parents did for a living were non-issues in that conversation. She simply went to the back of the room and returned with a full application packet.

    Without realizing it, I blurted out my next request. “I’m sorry, but can I have two applications? I have someone else that I need to get one for as well.” I thought of my brother, Darrell. He was only one year younger than I was and had done well in high school and college. Out of the two of us, Darrell was stronger than I was academically, so I wanted to include him as well.

    Without balking, the secretary agreed, and I left the office with two applications, guarding them like a bank security guard. The glossy printed covers had embossed lettering that spelled out Harvard University Graduate School of Education: HUGSE. Reading the front made a smile spread across my face uncontrollably. The thought of both of us even applying thrilled me, and I felt a rush of excitement in my heart, like fizzing soda and sunshine. If anyone had overcome major obstacles to go to Harvard, it was certainly Doug and Darrell Luffborough.

    That weekend, I went to Worcester to see my mother and personally give Darrell his application. I felt nervous talking to him about it, because growing up, we used to tease each other with names like stupid-ass and dummy, which became his pseudonyms for my real name. A part of me felt that Darrell had a better chance than I did of getting into HUGSE, but I wanted to see at least one of us get in to the school. While the entire family was hanging out in the living room and Darrell was watching ESPN, I leaned over his shoulder and asked him to join me in the kitchen in the back part of our apartment. As he entered the kitchen, I pulled out a chair and asked him to sit down. Hovering over him, I said, “Darrell, sit down—I need to talk to you about something,” I said. “You may think I’m crazy, but I think we should both go back to school—graduate school. I did the research, and the number one school of education in the nation is at Harvard. I picked up two applications, one for you and one for me, and I think you should apply with me.”

    “Harvard?” Darrell burst out laughing. “Harvard! We can’t get into that school! You are crazy, Douglas.” For a moment, I laughed with him in agreement to his response, but then I sharply switched to stating my case about why we should apply.  

    I squared my shoulders, determined to get his attention. “Look, I know I’m not Einstein, but Darrell, I believe that you could get in, and if you did, it would be a win for you, for our family, for Ma, and for our community. How many gang-involved, formerly-homeless, African-American males from Tatnuck Square do you know who have gone to Harvard? Exactly. Come on! Plus, if we don’t get in, we will be just where we are right now, and that’s not too bad, is it? We are already college graduates, so what do we have to lose? Nothing!” I was fired up, ready to fight him over it; the winner would choose.

    We argued back and forth, escalating until Ma stepped in. “Lord, have mercy! My boys are going to kill each other over applying to Harvard! We really have come far as a family, but I want both of you to just calm down. Douglas, you have done your part. You gave Darrell the application, and it is up to him if he wants to apply . . . we support you, too, if you want to apply. Considering the road less travelled, Harvard is new territory for us, but, God is able!” After Ma spoke, our confrontation ended.

    Over the next couple of weeks, I worked daily on the application and called my brother to see how he was doing with the process, but we never went into too many details about it. In addition to sharing that I’d overcome gang involvement, low expectations, and homelessness, I also shared my graduation experience at Northeastern and our visit to the White House. I felt that if anybody had used education as a platform for success, it was Darrell and me. Also, my experience at City Year gave me a passion for educating children within an urban context because I had lived it.

    As the deadline approached, I tapped in to some of my mentors for feedback on how I could strengthen my application. Just one day before the deadline, Darrell and I completed our applications, and together we went to HUGSE and dropped them off. Our shoulders rose up, our heads lifted with a big sense of accomplishment, and Darrell and I decided to celebrate by going out to eat in Harvard Square. We had a little celebration but knew that even though we had done our parts, the rest was out of our hands. Because I feared friends would discourage me, similar to how my third grade teacher had, I did not share my application process with them.

    Months passed without incident, and on April Fools’ Day in 1996, I received a large envelope in my mailbox, and the return address said: Harvard Graduate School of Education. I remembered similar large envelopes showing up when I was in high school and applying to college, and it meant one thing: I must have gotten in. And despite this knowledge, I couldn’t find the courage to rip the envelope open to see for myself. I set the envelope on the kitchen table and paced back and forth until I thought my heart might beat out of my chest. I grabbed the envelope and ripped it open.

    “Congratulations! You have been accepted into the Harvard University Graduate School of Education.” I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing clearly, and I read the words over and over again. Like a leaky faucet gasket, ready to explode, I burst into tears of joy, covering my face with my hands as saliva filled my mouth and leaked onto my hands.

    I panted, barely uttering my words. “Thank you, God, thank you, God, we did it!” At that moment, I knew it was God’s will for my life, that it had been we all along. I went to my room, looked at the infamous boardwalk picture, and saw my silhouette on the other side of the mountain. I stood there staring at the picture, talking to Jesus and wailing until my eyes were bloodshot red, irritated, and sore from rubbing them. Not only was I college material, but I had been admitted into the number one Ivy League Graduate School of Education in the world.  I had to compose myself because I knew I had one very important phone call to make.

    “Hello? Darrell, this is Douglas. Did you get anything in the mail today?” My voice was still recovering from the weeping, but I was full of joy. “Yes,” he said, not giving off any indication of the outcome.  “Well, what did they say?” Instead of answering my question, he fired one back at me. “Did you find out anything?” Now it was my turn. “Darrell, did you get a small envelope or a large envelope?”

    The pause on the line was almost imperceptible. “I got . . . I got a large envelope.” His voice was confident, certain, happy. I went numb; I was beside myself with disbelief of what we were able to pull off. Not missing a beat, I replied.

    “I did too!” I wailed again like I had done just twenty minutes before. Both of us yelled and screamed into the phone as if we had won the lottery. Between the two of us, we recited every happy proverb we could remember. The one repeated most often, above the shouting and whooping, was, “All things are possible for those who believe.”

    Order more copies of Watch Me Rise on Amazon and give them out as wonderful holiday gifts to your friends and family!