Way of the Bootstrapper: Making it Against the Odds


"The beauty of bootstrapping is that you don't need much," says Reverend Floyd Flake. "You don't need to win the lottery, or receive an inheritance or help from rich relatives to turn your dreams into reality."

He speaks from experience. Raised in the segregated South and one of thirteen children, eight of whom were brought up together in a tiny two-bedroom house, Flake went on to become a member of the U.S. Congress, dean of a major university, and pastor of one of America's largest churches—a church that has ...

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"The beauty of bootstrapping is that you don't need much," says Reverend Floyd Flake. "You don't need to win the lottery, or receive an inheritance or help from rich relatives to turn your dreams into reality."

He speaks from experience. Raised in the segregated South and one of thirteen children, eight of whom were brought up together in a tiny two-bedroom house, Flake went on to become a member of the U.S. Congress, dean of a major university, and pastor of one of America's largest churches—a church that has become a nationally renowned model of community development.

Yet what is most inspiring about Reverend Flake is his enthusiasm to motivate people to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, rely on their boundless personal resources, and become doers!

What is Bootstrapping?

  • A process—to achieve success by making it against all odds.
  • A mind-set—to take responsibility for your thoughts, feelings, words, actions, and life circumstances.
  • A value system—to transform your relationship with yourself, your neighbors, and your environment.

Bootstrapping is the strategy our ancestors used to raise families, work the land, start new businesses, run the government, build wealth, and care for the less fortunate. The Way of the Bootstrapper shows you how to use this creative and empowering approach to life to fulfill your passions, talents, and dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Reverend and former Democratic congressman Flake, an influential New York City figure and nationally known churchman, challenges readers to succeed materially and spiritually by "pulling themselves up by the bootstraps." Demanding relentless commitment, he espouses traditional values of hard work, discipline, faith and self-determination. Flake gives specific action steps and intriguing questions for self-analysis, illustrating them with stories from his own life--including how he withstood a major legal investigation--as well as from the lives of Michael Jordan, Lee Iacocca, Oprah Winfrey and others. Flake exemplifies his belief that human beings can overcome "almost any odds" with "vision, courage and will." Born to a strong but impoverished Texas family, his "bootstrapping" philosophy, along with tremendous faith, led to his success in college, graduate school and the ministry, and ultimately to 12 years in the U.S. Congress. Under the entrepreneurial Flake's guidance, the Allen A.M.E. Church in Queens, N.Y., grew in size and, more significantly, in mission. Through its many social and economic programs, including a well-regarded private school and restored housing, community and work initiatives, Allen A.M.E. is credited with renewing its neighborhood. Said to be a powerful speaker, Flake's presence on the page can be stern and rather intimidating. However, his national prominence and his fundamental appeal to Christian readers and to others across the political spectrum should insure wide reading and discussion. Major ad/promo; 12-city author tour; 25-city radio campaign. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062515957
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/5/1999
  • Edition description: 1st Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.99 (d)

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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Read an Excerpt

Who Is the Bootstrapper?
A Profile

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 andpraying coming from our living room. The melodious 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 ABC’s 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.

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