A School Library is Like the Bat Cave: it’s a safe fortress in a chaotic world, a source of knowledge and the lair of a superhero.
~ Tom Angleberger
As with any book, let’s start at the beginning, which happens to be my beginning as well.
When I was nine years old, I decided there was a certain kind of book I had to read to change my life. It’s not that I was a spectacular nine-year-old prodigy, prone to making insightful decisions. I was pudgy with a hefty overbite and freckles. I can’t remember having a talent for anything except being cheerful.
My pivotal moment occurred while I was standing in an open-air vegetable market. It was half an hour before closing time and as vendors began shouting their reduced prices, my mother darted from stall to stall, grimly crossing off each purchase from her list. I remember wondering peevishly why we hadn’t arrived earlier to avoid the rush. Then I suddenly realized why we were there at closing time.
We were poor.
My father had just lost his job, so saving money on vegetables made a huge difference. I still remember standing next to a box of smelly cabbage when I vowed that I would be so successful my children would never see me without enough money. Even now, I can still remember the flood of passionate determination I felt when I made this decision.
With my limited childish logic, I decided that I couldn’t ask my parents for help. I knew how hard they worked to build a life in a new country but I figured if they knew how to make more money, wouldn’t they have done it already? I was too embarrassed to speak to anyone else about my plan, so I resorted to the only other resource I had. The school library.
Princess and adventure stories were replaced by biographies and autobiographies as I alphabetically worked my way along the shelves. I believed that if someone had had a book written about them, then they must have been successful. If I read their stories, I could learn how to be successful too.
I read relentlessly. It didn’t matter whether a book was about an actor, politician, explorer, businessperson, royalty or celebrity, alive or dead, I read it. I pored over a biography or autobiography every week over the following decade. As I read about every trial, tribulation, and triumph, a pattern of behaviour emerged before my eyes. Whether the person in the book had lived to twenty-one or one hundred and one, the pattern was the same.
Each book invariably described how someone wanted to be something or do something greater than their existing situation. They worked hard while always believing their dream future would become their reality. That feeling remained despite setbacks, obstacles, false starts, failures, and multiple disappointments. In every life story, there was a point when each person considered giving up, had been told by others that they should give up, or even decided to give up.
But they didn’t.
No matter the challenges they faced, they stuck it out because they felt a different future was possible despite their present reality.
Immersing myself in these real-life stories as a child was the most important decision I ever made. I learned that challenges would always need to be faced, but equally, there would always be an opportunity to create the future I wanted, if I believed it was possible.
The ability to feel a brighter future was around the corner despite challenge and change remained with me through the school years and into adulthood. And I needed it. There was the trauma of being in a fatal car accident in my final year, breast cancer, divorce, losing my senior corporate career because of ongoing ill health—there were many moments when all I had, was a feeling my future would be the one I wanted, just like the people in all those books. And when I wanted to give in, the ability, to feel there was a future completely different from my present circumstances, saved me from despair.
And now? I have the future I felt was possible, even during the tough times. I have a family I adore, a career as a best-selling author, interests in multiple businesses, and the privilege of speaking and coaching around the world.
Writing my latest book was a wonderful full circle experience that took me straight back to my childhood visits to the school library, so anxious to learn how famous people had discovered a way to have the life they wanted. My adult experience of detailed research and interviewing thousands of people about how they created their success only reinforced what I had learned from those library books. “Feeling Forwards” is the way to feel and behave in alignment with the future you want, rather than accepting or being broken by the circumstances you are in right now.
As school goes back, and school libraries open, I wish every child can find their bat cave, their fortress and especially the knowledge to change their life
A bestselling author and founding member of Randi Zuckerberg’s global leadership school at the Zuckerberg Institute, Elizabeth Gould experiences the joy of working with people around the world to unlock their potential. She has spent decades interviewing thousands of successful professionals to understand how they behave to achieve what they want. Her work is endorsed by world-renowned life and business strategist, Tony Robbins. Feeling Forwards is her third book. For more information, visit elizabethgould.com or connect with the author on social media at https://www.facebook. com/ElizabethGouldOfficial or https://www.instagram.com/elizabethgould/