Build Your Life Like Martin Luther King Jr

Martin Luther King JrJohn 12:24-25 I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Jesus Christ, fortelling his coming death

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot, Christian martyr, 1945

As a Caucasian, I have a lot of shame for the infamous history of slavery and segregation in our country. One man changed all that, and his name was Martin Luther King, Jr.

What can you and I learn about from this one man?


Readers are Leaders

Education is not everything, but it does develop our character and our knowledge, exposes us to different viewpoints, and gives us a platform to speak from. Marting Luther King, Jr. developed his personal effective through vigorous study, earning his PhD in theology. It takes vision and character to commit yourself to the effort, discipline, and self-sacrifice that such study requires. But, like all things in life, a key success factor to significance and fulfillment is to live life from a long-term perspective. This allows you to sacrifice the gratification of the short-term to reap the rewards of a long-term commitment.

Learn from Live Leaders

Martin Luther King, Jr., learned and absorbed lessons from many key leaders. His most important development came from his visit to India, to visit with Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. It was from this great soul that Martin Luther formulated his own values and vision of changing a society through peaceful, organized, and non-violent opposition.Who are you choosing as your role models? What are you reading? I urge you to start setting aside up to one hour per day purely for reading and study. And I urge you to be on the lookout for leaders who you can look up to and learn from.

Be Faithful with Little Things, and You Will Be Promoted to Bigger Things

Martin Luther King, Jr. started out as a minister at a small congregation. He honed his speaking skills, and became a gifted preacher. What is your personal career development plan? Do you have one? There are two extremes to avoid here. One is to become impatient with your place and to go negative. In this instance, you have a pair of complaining glasses on, and you can only see what is wrong with your boss, with your co-workers, and with the duties of your job. The other extreme is to avoid all planning for the future, to be afraid of taking on bigger challenges.

By paying rigorous attention to your personal career strengths, by setting your goals, by pro-actively taking on greater responsibility, being early for work, and staying late when needed, you will be sharpening your personal skills, which are your greatest assets. Don’t ever neglect to plow your own plot of ground, for in it you will find the diamonds of greatness that may lead to your next opportunity.

Clarify and Commit to a Bigger Vision

You will find that a pure pursuit of material success will, in the long run, lose its luster. True personal leadership development comes, paradoxically, with a certain denial of self, for without it you will not find true significance.

Before I lose you with this statement, you must realize that true legacies come from service to a greater good. In order to do this, you must clarify your values, know your abilities and talents, and figure out how you can align your abilities and talents with a way or ways to serve humankind and your Creator.

Figure out what legacy you will leave behind!

Check out this powerful quote from Martin Luther King, Jr:

I’d like somebody to mention that day that . tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day that . tried to love somebody.

I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.”

Wow! And again, I will say, Wow! What are you going to give your life to?

Be Willing to Be Controversial

Anyone who is doing anything of impact in life is going to get criticism. Be prepared. Make it your companion. Listen carefully and non-defensively to what is being said in the criticism. But then be willing to do what it takes to stay true to your values and to your vision. Martin Luther King, Jr. drew all sorts of criticism from whites and from his own race.

He was criticized for being non-violent, he was criticized as being a Communist, he was criticized for putting children in harm’s way during protests. He was under incredible pressure. Yet he prayed, he thought, he wrote, he reflected, and he made his stand.

Listen to this great quote in the midst of one of his waves of criticism:

“And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threats, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

Decide to Be Courageous!

As you can see from the quote above, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a courageous man.  Without courage, he never would have accepted the position of leading the civil rights movement.  Without courage, he never would have organized the first peace marches.  Without courage, he never would have stood up for his place in the midst of severe criticism from inside and outside his ranks.  Without courage he would not have stayed true to his larger vision and mission.  Without Martin Luther King Jr’s courage, President Obama might never have become president.   Without courage, people of all races in the United States would not have the same civil liberties they have today.

How do you get courage so that you can increase your personal effectiveness and promote your personal development?

  • Think of something that you have put off because of fear.  Put it on the calendar for sometime this week and Do It!!
  • Practice exercising your courage muscles on a regular basis.  When needed, assert your place.  Don’t be afraid to speak your mind.  (This is written for those who don’t regularly do so, not for those who often speak too much :).

I hope that you will take time to reflect on Martin Luther King, Jr. this week: his example, his life, and his legacy!

photo credit: caboindex


  1. says

    Hi Stephen,
    What a wonderful article! I’ve long been a fan of Martin Luther King so your story certainly rings true for me … especially the last paragraph about making the decision to be courageous. Some of us do have courage thrust upon us under circumstances not of our own making, but in the end we are the one’s who choose how to respond. Great inspiration to start the week!

    • says

      Marquita, it’s so much easier said than done, to choose to respond with faith and encourage to challenging circumstances. However, with God’s help, and by making small decisions of courage daily, we can become gradually more courageous. Thanks for the encouraging feedback :)

  2. says


    I enjoyed your post and the fact that you wrote it with conviction and sweeping life lessons spanning the experiences of an American great.

    The amount of life lessons present here are such that I’m like, Wow!

    Al these qualities are definitely must-haves!

    Yasser Khan

    • says

      Yasser, thanks for the feedback. I agree: there are many historical men and woman who were just like you and me. Yet they rose to become great by the way they lived. These qualities are definitely worth striving toward :)

  3. says

    Fantastic lessons and stories you’ve shared here. There is an old saying “Facts tell, stories sell”. The stories help to hit home and learn a lesson so much better than “just the facts”. Thanks for putting this together. – Debi

    • says

      Debbie, thank you for your encouraging words. I hope Martin Luther King’s story will help us put together our own life stories that will inspire generations to come!

  4. says

    Wonderful post Stephen,

    I really enjoyed the message and I was inspired by it.
    Martin Luther King is a perfect example of leadership.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  5. says

    Lots of good lessons can be learned when looking at leaders of the past. Thanks for pointing this out.

  6. says

    I greatly admire this man. I’m ashamed to admit that my parents considered him a “trouble maker”. I understand that to do great things, you must expect that will not make everyone happy. I’m grateful that their negative thoughts didn’t “take”.

    • says

      Yes, Arlie, it’s true that without ‘troublemakers’ there would still be a lot of trouble in the world :)

  7. says

    Powerful article Stephen! Your suggestion to take action to conquer a fear this week is challenging and one I believe I will enjoy. In my line of business I practice being bold and helping others like me to journey through their fears in order to overcome the stigma society puts on people with seizure disorders. I look forward to connecting with you in the future on this subject and more. Keep up the good work my friend. We all need to hear your wisdom.

    Be blessed in every moment –

    Terrific Tonya Heathco
    National Seizure Disorders Foundation

    • says

      Tonya, I’m really enjoying your site. I’ve worked with some clients who deal with seizure disorders, and the more information I can learn, the more of a support I can be. I admire anyone who takes up a cause and seeks to enlighten the world through their writing. Thanks for being part of the enlightening movement :)

  8. says

    Good day Stephen Borgman I really liked your great blog post on Build Your Life Like Martin Luther King Jr. Great website…and cool article man…thanx for the great post…keep on posting

  9. says

    Jesus Christ was the ‘only begotten son’………the one that was completely without sin.
    We must remember we are all sons of God & it tells us in the Bible we are capable of achieving greater things than he.
    Amazing thought……………some of these truly inspiring men are great role models.
    Incredible courage brought forward …………….by a great cause.

  10. says

    Yep. Very true. What you read sort of affects that confines of your reality. Based on your reading, you start thinking what is and what is not possible.
    Sebastian recently posted…I Love This BullshitMy Profile


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