The Sales Tax Institute Book Club most recently took to reading a book that brought us into the world of a girl/woman growing up with the odds against her who ended up reaching one of the highest titles in the United States government. In My Beloved World, we followed Sonia Sotomayor from the Bronx with her family all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Her story serves as motivation to dream big and never stop working hard towards your career goals because through perseverance, you can end up exactly where you’d planned. “Experience has taught me that you cannot value dreams according to the odds of them coming true. Their real value is in stirring within us the will to aspire.” By reflecting on what you want to accomplish and where you want to end up, you set yourself up with the best odds.
Sonia Sotomayor’s childhood was spent with her tight knit Puerto Rican family in the Bronx, NY. In her early childhood, she was confronted with poverty, language barriers, her family dynamics’ struggles, and an illness of her own – diabetes – all while maintaining a positive attitude and exceptional marks in school. Diabetes was Sonia’s first real test of determination and commitment to her wellbeing. Because her parents weren’t always reliable, she was responsible for her own health at a young age, sterilizing needles, injecting herself, and keeping up with her diet. Remarkably, throughout the book, Sonia never complains about her situation.
“There are uses to adversity, and they don’t reveal themselves until tested.”
Sonia would argue that her not-so-easy childhood was a key to her success down the line. The lessons learned from her challenging childhood led her to become the self-sufficient, determined, successful woman that was accepted into an Ivy League college with a full scholarship. Princeton University was Sonia’s first venture living outside of the Bronx. Surrounded by a new type of person – privileged and affluent – she had her eyes opened in a new way. While the other students were successful in their lives, Sonia knew that she had a unique perspective and experiences the gave her presence and opinions value. She quickly realized that she did belong there, and she helped lead efforts for the Hispanic community at universities in the United States.
“The dynamism of any diverse community depends not only on the diversity itself but on promoting a sense of belonging among those who formerly would have been considered and felt themselves to be outsiders.”
In her efforts to lift up the Hispanic American community and bring them together with the mainstream community, Sonia began her career. She was always inspired by her mother and grandmother to contribute to her community in a positive way. She worked at a law firm in Manhattan and was soon confirmed as a judge. She believes that legislative changes can help make the biggest difference. Throughout her career she has focused on efforts towards inclusion and equity for all. Her dedication and perseverance helped launch her career and her efforts continue to this day as she has become the first Hispanic U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
“That tide of insecurity would come in and out over the years, sometimes stranding me for a while but occasionally lifting me just beyond what I thought I could accomplish.”
Everyone, but especially those who come from an adverse background, is told at some point in their career that they are not good enough or lack some quality that would get them to their goals. Many of us struggle to believe that we could be the one or few to end up in our dream position. Yes, often these “dream positions” are limited in number, but there is always going to be space for those who earn it. Imposter syndrome, the persistent inability to believe that one’s success is deserved or has been legitimately achieved as a result of one’s own efforts or skills, is a difficult force to beat. With determination and a positive outlook like Sonia’s can you achieve your most important goals.
Question for Reflection: Do you ever deal with imposter syndrome? How have you found ways to rise above it and accomplish more than you thought you could?
“As you discover what strength you can draw from your community in this world from which it stands apart, look outward as well as inward. Build bridges instead of walls.”
We always hear about how important connections are in the professional world. We hear it so often that there are now social platforms dedicated to exactly that, like LinkedIn. However, the most meaningful connections are the ones that inspire you. Sonia’s motivation was rooted in her goal of bettering the world to affect her community positively. Her connections to those people supported, uplifted, and led her to where she is today – even though some of those lessons were hard to learn. It’s always best to build bridges with those that come into your path.
Question for Reflection: Who do you consider to be your community? What have you learned from them? How can you contribute in return?
“Whenever I make a new friend, my mind goes naturally to the question, what can I learn from this person?
And in that same vein, what can you learn from this experience? All encounters, experiences, and moments in time have their reasons. Coming into experiences with a mind open to understanding new facts, perspectives, etc. leads to a life full of learning. Access to formal education is a privilege, but everyone has an equal opportunity to look at life as an opportunity for growth. The more you know, the more opportunities you will encounter, and the more you can take.
Question for Reflection: How do you set yourself to learn even after finishing formal education?
Sonia Sotomayor’s story inspired our staff to reflect on our own goals and our goals as a company. We look forward to continuing to bring you the best version of ourselves! Here’s to growth and lifelong learning.
If you’ve read My Beloved World and have thoughts or insights, we’d love to hear! Email us here.
Next, the Sales Tax Institute will take on Mindset by Carol Dweck. We’d love to have you join us on our next journey. We encourage you to support your independent local bookstores. Our neighborhood bookstore is Sandmeyer’s Bookstore in historic Printer’s Row Chicago. Join us and support your own favorite local store!