Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday and will become the first black woman in the Supreme Court when Judge Stephen Breyer retires this summer. Many observers took her stance during the intense interrogation, and three Republican senators voted for her, despite being nominated by a Democratic president.
Before becoming a Supreme Court candidate — or even a lawyer or judge — Jackson learned what to do when faced with humiliation or unfair hurdles. It is a lesson she has taught others and every leader should learn.
In a speech in 2019 at the University of Chicago Law School, she explained that she often found herself as the only black woman in a room full of white men. And she got more than her contempt, even from her high school counselor, who discouraged Jackson from applying to Harvard and said she would never get there. (Michelle Obama received the same advice about Princeton, but she ignored it as well.)
Jackson was raised by Jim Crow survivors in the South and taught her that the best way to deal with discrimination and hostility is to tune them. She added:
“I don’t remember the only time in my childhood when I cared about the humiliation, misconceptions and underestimations that came my way. I remember thinking often, ‘Hmm. Well, I’ll show them.'”
Hmm. Well, I’ll show them. She demonstrated this approach as a college student at Harvard when someone hoisted the Confederate flag from a boarding school window. University black students organized marches and other protests. Jackson also attended, but she had a warning for her black classmates. “Wait, as we do this, we lose hours. By fighting this injustice, we are actually serving them because we are failing,” a classmate recalls. her statement.
The students continued to protest, but also made sure to attend all their classes, complete all their homework, and generally shone academically in a highly competitive environment. It was a collective mentality Hmm. Well, we’ll show them.
I cannot imagine a more effective response to insults, criticism or dismissal. What if you said these five words every time someone put you down or didn’t take you seriously instead of anger? What if you told them every time someone told you you weren’t good enough to invest, work, or run your own company?
The next time you feel tiny, start by taking a deep breath. Then tell me how Jackson did it …Hmm. Well, I’ll show them. And then go for it.
An increasing number of Inc.com readers receive text from me every day taking care of themselves or with a motivational micro-challenge or idea. Many are entrepreneurs or business leaders and often text me about their work, life or their biggest ambitions. (Are you interested in joining? Here is more information and an invitation to an extended free trial.) Some desire to prove that their opponents are wrong has been a great success. What will it do for you?