Living in NYC has its benefits! I was fortunate enough to hear Melinda Gates speak during her book tour for The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World. 

What impressed me the most about Melinda is how warm, approachable, and down-to-earth she appeared. When making visits on behalf of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she sits on the floors of the huts of the poorest people in the world. 

Her personal journey—from navigating an equal partnership with one of the richest men in the world and establishing their foundation—is just as fascinating as what she has learned about helping break the cycle of poverty. She shares her discomfort about asking Bill, the billionaire CEO of Microsoft, to drive their young daughter to school, as well as her personal struggle with opposing her own church to promote funding of birth control.

As a self-proclaimed perfectionist, she too has struggled with overcoming feelings of inferiority by attempting to be flawless. She shares how she over-prepares her speeches, which prevents her from listening well to others, and her realization that her less polished self is her best self.

That is the message I took from this book, that you can change the world by first accepting yourself, flaws and all. Ultimately, Melinda found that an empathy barrier is the block to social change, and keeps poor people down. To create change, one must have empathy for others, which begins with empathy for yourself.

Melinda ends the book with the heroic story of a woman who decided to leave her husband and baby because she could not walk the 12 miles each way to get water, as expected of the women in her village. When her husband asked what would it take to keep her at home, she said, “If you would fetch the water.” He agreed, but was mocked by the men of their village. Eventually he bought a bicycle for the task. When the other men began to fetch water and got tired of the miles of travel, they came together to create a catchment area to collect rainwater closer to the village.

Read this book and be inspired to become more authentic, less perfect, and generous!

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