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Way of the Bootstrapper: Nine Action Steps for Achieving Your Dreams

Way of the Bootstrapper: Nine Action Steps for Achieving Your Dreams

by Floyd H. Flake

Former Democratic congressman and pastor of one of America's largest, most prosperous churches, Floyd Flake inspires us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, turn obstacles into springboards, build stronger families and communities, and make our dreams come true.


Former Democratic congressman and pastor of one of America's largest, most prosperous churches, Floyd Flake inspires us to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, turn obstacles into springboards, build stronger families and communities, and make our dreams come true.

Editorial Reviews

[Flake] offers specific, concrete strategies for those who, like him want to pull themselves and their communities up by their bootstraps.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.61(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

What is bootstrapping? It is the process of achieving success by making it, against the odds, through self-directed action. It is a mind-set that allows you to rise over and above the ordinary and become an extraordinary person by taking responsibility for your own thoughts, feelings, words, actions, and life circumstances. It is a value system that directs your relationship with yourself, your neighbors, and the environment. A bootstrapper functions like a soldier in boot camp, who through basic training is always preparing and getting ready to take on any situation that represents a potential challenge in the pursuit of his or her goals. A bootstrapper takes the heat, humiliation, suffering, and pain of the moment in preparation for the joy, peace, and happiness of the future.

Bootstrapping is a way of taking responsibility for and building your own life while bringing reality to your dreams. You can be kept down only if you don't see those metaphorical boots that offer you a way out of your current predicament. Bootstrappers do not see themselves as victims but have confidence in their ability to rise beyond the limited expectations that others may have imposed on them. They develop inner strength from their experiences and sufferings, which allows them to persevere even in the face of challenging odds.

I would like to share with you a bit of the story of my life, to give you an example of how bootstrappers learn from and use their experiences.

MY first memory of my early childhood in Houston, Texas, is from about the age of three. I remember hearing singing and praying coming from our living room. Themelodious sounds of "Jesus Build a Fence All Around Me" and "Oh, How I Love Jesus" were coming from a "prayer band" that visited our home weekly to conduct worship services when my mother was unable to attend church. She could not attend on a regular basis because the first six children in our family (of which I am the third) were born within seven and a half years. The impression that the prayer band made on my life was not limited to a mere introduction to religious teaching or training but also played an integral role in my ultimate call to the ministry. I reenacted their prayers and songs and mimicked their preaching starting at this early age.

I am now fifty-four years old, but I still remember a very painful experience I had at the age of four. This experience taught me a valuable lesson about discipline, respect, and love. Our house sat on brick blocks, which meant that there was at least one foot of crawl space beneath it. We had explicit instructions never to play under the house. However, my inquisitive nature made me venture into this forbidden territory. I heard my mother calling me but did not respond, knowing that I had broken a rule. Thinking that she had gone into the house, I eventually crawled out, only to see her waiting, strap in hand. I dashed into the house, with her in pursuit, and accidentally fell on a space heater, which burned my arm. Within seconds, my mother's temperament changed as she lifted me up and rushed me next door to Uncle Robert, who drove us to the doctor. In an instant, she had changed from disciplinarian to concerned mother showing love and compassion for her ailing child. I still have an eight-inch scar on my arm, which is a constant reminder of the requirement that is placed upon us to respect persons who are in authority, expect retribution when we have acted incorrectly, and know that we are loved even as we endure discipline. Any successful bootstrapper should allow these three principles to be a part of his or her arsenal for dealing with life.

The atmosphere in the community where I grew up was one of respect. We called all of the adults in the community by titles and first names. My immediate neighbors were Mrs. Dorothy and Mr. Van (Williams), Mrs. Ruby and Mr. Goree (Turner), Mrs. Ossie Lee and Mr. Frank (Hardeman), and Mrs. Doris and Mr. Buster (Kendall). You dared not call them by their first name without prefacing it with a title. The level of respect was such that neighbors had the right to discipline you for misdeeds, although in most instances, they reported you to your parents, who disciplined you accordingly. We could not deny their charges because they were adults, and calling an adult a liar was a sign of disrespect. The slogan that has become popularized today, "It takes a village to raise a child," was more than rhetoric; it was a reality of our everyday life. I acquired many of the values I still have today because I lived in an environment where community support structures and systems were in place. The operative construct was that of an extended family where everyone participated in helping to raise one another's children.

At the age of five, I was admitted to the George Washington Carver Elementary School. I thought it unusual that Daddy had taken a day off to accompany Mother and me to school, but I learned later in life that they had gone to plead with Mrs. Reed, the principal, to let me enter in September, although my sixth birthday would not come until January. I remember Mrs. Reed having me say my ABCs and count to twenty. I suppose that was her way of testing to see if I was ready for school, since I had not attended kindergarten. Fortunately, since Mother was a housewife, she had time to teach us the basic rudiments of education. She was living proof that even when parents have a limited education, their desire for the success of their children is no less than that of other parents.

On the second day of school, I had to ride the bus and faded to accurately calculate the time of the bus ride. I had an accident running from the bus to the outdoor toilet in the corner of our backyard.

Meet the Author

Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake is the senior pastor of the more than 15,000-member Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York in Jamaica, Queens, and is also the president of Wilberforce Univeristy in Ohio. Flake is also the founder of the Allen Christian School, which he established with his wife, Rev. Elaine Flake. From 1986-1997, Flake served in the U.S. Congress, and is currently a commissioner on the President's Commission on Excellence in Special Education and a member of the NYC 2012 Olympic Committee. A native of Houston, Texas, Dr. Flake holds a B.A. from Wilberforce University and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from the United Theological Seminary in Dayton, OH. Author of the best-selling The Way of the Bootstrapper: Nine Action Steps for Achieving Your Dreams (HarperSanFrancisco), Rev. Flake lives in Old Westbury, NY with his wife and four children.

Former U.S. Representative, Reverend Floyd Flake is the senior pastor of the 10,000-member Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in Queens, New York. Under his direction the church has grown to include expansive commercial and residential development, a private school, and various commercial and social service enterprises that have made it one of the nation's most productive religious and urban development institutions. Because of this success, Allen A.M.E. is a national paradigm of church and non-profit efficiency and is the second largest African-American employer in New York City. In addition to his role at Allen A.M.E., Reverend Flake is also a Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an influential columnist for the New York Post, and a board member for the FannieMae Foundation.

Donna Marie Williams is the author of Black-Eyed Peas for the Soul and Sister Feel Good. She lives in Naperville, Illinois.

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