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    Excerpt from Chapter 2: In the Land of Fire, Leaf, and Snow

    My most vivid early school memory was at Elm Park Elementary School. I was in kindergarten and being bullied every day by one behemoth sixth-grade white boy. Every day, he grabbed me by the shirt, punched me in the chest, or slapped me upside my head and demanded that I give him my lunch money. He reminded me of my father and grandfather, who victimized me freely without fear of repercussion. I hated going to school and did everything I could to avoid being alone on the playground. When the bell rang, I ran as fast as I could to my classroom. Carl Lewis, former Olympic gold medalist in the hundred-meter dash, had nothing on me.

    One day, as the school bell was about to ring, I peeked around the corner to see my bully. He was scanning the schoolyard, clearly looking for me. I ducked back against the building, heart pounding. At this time, we lived less than twenty yards away, right across the street from school. Ma was washing dishes and caught a glimpse through the window of me holding up the walls of the school. She yelled, "Douglas, what are you doing, boy? Get your butt to school; you don't want to be late!"

    I put one shaking finger over my mouth, but it was too late. There he was, yanking my finger away from my mouth, grabbing me by the shirt, slapping me upside the head, and rifling through my pockets for my lunch money. I burst into tears and fell to my knees, but that day, the right person saw everything. In what seemed like seconds, Ma ran out of our apartment in her robe, hair uncombed, wielding a broom over her head. She grabbed my hand and ran after my bully on the playground. Without a second’s hesitation, she whacked him with the broom, yelling in rhythm with each hit, “Don't you ever put your hands on my son or take his lunch money! Do you hear me?” She let him have it. I watched in awe, thinking Serves him right, jack this fool up, Ma!—though a part of me worried he might turn his wrath on her.

    My bully threw his arms up to block the thrusts of the broom. “Stop it!” he cried. “Get off me!” At one point, I even remember him saying, “Here, take the money back, take the money back!”

    Later on that night when I was at home watching television, my mother came into the room with a determined, angry look on her face. She looked me intensely in the eye and told me to never back down from someone trying to get one over on me—even if I knew it was a losing fight.

    “I did not raise no chump, no sucker-punk of a son,” she said. “You go down defending yourself. You may not win, but you will gain the respect of many. You hear me?”

    I nodded, and something in me rose to the surface—some feeling of strength or pride, a resolution never to let others push me over again.

    After that day, everyone knew the son of Elsa Luffborough Mensah. We spent the rest of the week meeting with school officials and my bully's parents to try to resolve the matter. Ma was the nicest lady you could expect to meet, but if you messed with her children, she turned into a feral beast. She was as unforgiving of my bully’s parents as she was on him, making it perfectly clear that their son was to stay far away from me. To my surprise, it turned out I was not the only one he was victimizing at school. In fact, many other students and parents came forward with similar tales once my story was out. From that day forward, my bully never bothered me again.

    I learned a lot from my mother that day about standing up to others in moments of adversity. I learned about courage and facing my fears head on. My mother was the type of woman (and still is, for that matter) who carried the Bible in one hand and a belt in the other. She lived a crazy life, and those who knew her knew not to mess with her. She had to fight for everything she had, and that was one thing my mom was good at—fighting for the right to live a life she deserved, the lives her children deserved. I vowed to make her proud.

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    Excerpt from Chapter 1: Love Does Not Hit!

    Pike Street in Norfolk, Virginia, back in the 1960s was an up-and-coming, middle-class community of predominantly African-American families. They lived in single-story detached homes built perpendicular to a cemetery at the end of the street. There, in the shadows of headstones, was where my mother and father first met. Their beginning before a reservoir of death symbolized the doomed nature of their relationship, which contrasted with the strong sense of living that surged throughout my mother’s always-hopeful approach to whatever life brought her. Love and hope never failed to thrive within her heart, even as her union with my father was dead upon arrival.

    My mother, Elsa B. Haskins, was the oldest of two children. Her parents were divorced, and her mother made Mommy Dearest look like a children’s fable. Ma never knew when her mother, frustrated with the realities of life, would kick her down a flight of stairs or tell her she was too dark-skinned, too much a tomboy, to find someone to marry her. From the little I know, my mother endured verbal and physical abuse since the day she was born. It was a hole that gaped ever wider, begging to be filled with love, appreciation, and a sense of self-worth.

    She found what she so hungered for in her grandfather, Christopher Bell. Grandpa Bell was a great provider and hard worker, a family man who owned his first home in the heart of the 1950s, segregated South. He adored my mother. He took her to the park, bought her pretty dresses and Barbie dolls, and imbued her difficult life with words of affirmation. He told her she was smart and beautiful and that she would do big things with her life. Every time he spoke to her, he breathed hope into her heart. He helped her make important life decisions, such as leaving Virginia because she had no chance of developing as a woman while living under her mother’s roof. He took her to appointments when she was pregnant with me and did not have transportation, and helped her with rent or utilities when her bank account ran low. To this day, my mother tears up in reverent sadness when Grandpa Bell’s name emerges in conversation.

    My father came from a hard-working, educated family. His parents both graduated from college and worked at Norfolk State University. Like Grandpa Bell, my father’s father was a great example who built his Pike Street home from the ground up. He was a carpenter and constructed many homes and businesses throughout Norfolk, including many buildings at Norfolk State University, where he taught carpentry and woodworking. As a building superintendent, his name would one day find its way onto a bronze plaque at the home of the University President. His name, my father’s name, my name: Douglas Edward Luffborough. 

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    Watch Me Rise Introduction By Doug Luffborough

    As I heard the president of Northeastern University say, “Ladies and gentlemen, your student speaker, Doug Luffborough,” the world slowed around me. My heart beat like a strobe, flashing intense memories before me: using newspaper instead of toilet paper in the bathroom; helping my mother clean rich people’s houses and seeing first-hand the condescending way she was treated; staring down the barrel of a gun. I considered my life without a father or strong male role model by my side. I remembered the tremendous sacrifices made for me to be on this platform. Finally, I recalled being told that I was not college material, that I should stay home and continue working at the local factory. As I made my way to the podium at the Boston Garden, a heat wave of excitement shimmered for the student commencement speaker who would precede the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, live on national television. Some believe that everyone will have their fifteen minutes of fame—and for me, those fifteen minutes would shape the next twenty years.

    Since that day, people have asked why I have not written a book about my life. At first, I thought it was my enduring insecurities with writing that stopped me. Then I told myself that engaging help would be too expensive—not that I even knew where or how to start. Now I realize it took me so long because, month by month, year by year, and decade by decade, the story of my life was still evolving. I was still seeking answers to two questions: Who am I? And why am I here?

    My mother used to say, “The me I see is the me I will be.” In other words, the way you see yourself in life is what you will become. For many years, I saw myself as the child of a housekeeper, a boy who grew up in poverty without a father or a place that felt like home. Becoming homeless during my senior year of high school was, poetically, an outward manifestation of my deep inward struggle to find a home. People say that home is where the heart is, but when you live each day with a broken heart, “home” is self-doubt, depression, and unfulfilled dreams. Home is a shattering loss of hope. At eighteen, my heart’s homelessness led me to the edge of a bridge overlooking rush-hour traffic. Jumping seemed like the only way out, but God had a different plan for me, a plan that would eventually lead to the prestigious academic halls of Harvard University—and beyond.

    In the end, though, this book is not just about being homeless or graduating from Harvard. It is my journey to find meaning in times of deep sorrow, a personal account of transforming negative situations into moments of strength and triumph. The pages that follow will explore some of the lowest times in my life but also my highest moments of victory. I hope that my story will inspire you to see that quitting is not an option. If what you are doing is not working, change your approach, but never give up on your dreams. Hard work, persistence, and a positive attitude will always pay off.

    I believe in measuring success through the stories of lives we change. It has taken me over forty years to build the courage to tell this story, but I believe that relationships will be restored and destinies fulfilled because of it. This book is for everyone: the pregnant teenaged runaway looking for meaning and the Ivy League-educated executive seeking to rediscover humanity in a world full of greed, arrogance, and power. This book is for you.

    “The me I see is the me I will be,” and today I see myself as an international heart-inspired speaker, author, leadership consultant, nonprofit executive, coach, husband, and father determined to become a world changer. 

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    See It, Dream It, Believe It! It's Your Time!

    As we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was reflecting on the infamous "I Have A Dream Speech". It is so important to turn your dreams into reality. Dreams are the way God shows us our destiny and purpose in this world.

    It hurts my soul when I see or meet people with dreams deferred and something that is spoken about in abstract but never experienced or lived out in real life. If you have a dream walk it out. Day by day, month by month, year by year. Whatever has been planted in your heart grow it...come what may! When I was homeless and in high school I had a dream that I would one day become a college graduate. I could feel it, I could see it, and I could taste it. And day by day, and month by month I did everything in my power to make that dream a reality. When I graduated from college (Northeastern & Harvard) I was not surprised, I dreamed that day into existence. What dreams do you have and how committed are you to getting there? Did you know that your dreams don't just benefit you but they also benefit those around you. Today, me and my family have the freedom and liberty to benefit from a dream Dr. King had before I was born and because he dared to walk out his dream, my children are free to walk out their dreams.

    I achieved all of the dreams I had growing up and now I'm learning how to dream new dreams and doing everything I can to help others achieve their dreams. If you have a dream that hasn't happened yet stay encouraged that at the right place, at the right time, it is going to happen because it will. Someone has to live life to the fullest! Why not you! If not me then who? If not now then when? I'm cheering for you!


    Do You Know Your Leadership Style or the Leadership Styles of Others?

    The Leadership Compass – Do you know your leadership style? Do you know the leadership styles of others? This workshop will show you how to identify your personal leadership style and identify the leadership stlyes of others. Based on the directionals on a compass (North, South, East, & West) you will be able to clearly identity how to motivate and inspire yourself, those you lead, and those you follow. If you manage and/or lead others this workshop is a must. Improve the way you lead others to become higher performers in life. Contact Doug now for this half day or full day training experience! Email address: