Lessons from MLK

Today marks the 87th birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. We remember King’s historic contributions to civil rights and his larger than life success inspiring Americans to advance equality. He taught us about empathy, tolerance, and the power of words to bring about great change. King was also a man of action who lived his message each day through courageous acts that challenged and disrupted the status quo.

As we reflect on King’s legacy, we can learn some invaluable lessons by looking at what made him such an effective leader and how he was able to communicate his important message so clearly.

In an article for Business Insider, James Rosebush, a former staffer in the Reagan White House who served as national strategy advisor to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, listed the following ways we can apply lessons from King’s work in our everyday lives:

1. Know your cause - Clearly define what you are fighting for and what you stand for. In other words, individualize your purpose and separate from the influence of others, because callings are as unique as the individual.

2. Craft a message –You must develop, refine, and establish a core message. Make it your individual brand. Then, adapt it to meet particular circumstances. As a test, ask your friends and family to relate what they think you stand for.

3. Live Your Beliefs –Not all of us have the opportunity to devote our lives to a noble cause like King. Nevertheless, there are small causes to be adopted in our companies, communities, and families.

Entrepreneur Magazine ran another great piece reflecting on King’s legacy. In it, Adam Toren, a serial entrepreneur, mentor, and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com, took similar inspiration from King’s work, which he turns into questions we should all consider:

1. You must have total commitment to your cause - King was a visionary. Even when he knew his cause was unpopular and his life was in danger, he remained committed to his vision. King was arrested over 25 times and assaulted at least four reported times. Short of jail and assault, are you bringing that kind of total commitment and devotion to your cause? How are you ensuring your values sync up with your actions?

2.  Disrupting the status quo is essential for change - King knew that his dream of equality was more important than the status quo. His actions backed his vision, and he shook up the popular culture of the time. How can you shake up the status quo in your industry? How about in your corporate culture or business values?

3. Have a dream...then communicate it and do it - "I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation," spoke King as he began his address at the Washington Monument. He had a dream, and he couldn't be silent about it. How effective is a dream if you aren't communicating it? Do you have a vision for your company? Is it prominently displayed somewhere people can easily see? And do you talk about how your actions, campaigns, and products back up that vision?

Join us in celebrating King’s legacy of equality and justice and be inspired by the positivity, creativity, and unwavering passion he brought to the cause of civil rights.