There’s nothing better than a little fire in your belly to keep you moving forward. Find something to hate.

"The rage you feel? Listen to me carefully. It's a gift. Use it, but don't let anyone see it." - Nucky Thompson, Boardwalk Empire


Nucky may be a fictional character, but these are words of wisdom. I may not feel actual rage on a regular basis, but I’m also not a gangster and mob boss who traffics in violence like Nucky.

But whenever I’m feeling lazy or unfocused, I immediately redirect my attention on all the things that I I have spent my life working against:

  • The poverty that I have experienced many times in my life
  • The teachers and guidance counselors in high school who never spoke to me about college despite my excellent grades and laundry list of extracurricular activities
  • The former stepfather who did so much damage to my mother and my  siblings and cost us our childhood home
  • The long, cold, frightening nights spent living in my car in Somerville, Massachusetts when I was homeless
  • The police officer who arrested me for a crime I did not commit
  • The hours spent in a tiny jail cell, awaiting my arraignment
  • All the McDonald’s customers who treated me and my employees poorly over the years because of our place of employment
  • The prosecutor who railed against me at my trial – calling me me a thief and a liar – while trying to strip me of my freedom
  • The college professor who told me that I probably wasn’t talented enough to publish novels and should think about a different career
  • The people with so many advantages in life – supportive parents, stable homes, parents who paid for their college tuition, family businesses that accepted them with open arms – who fail to do great things with their lives and good fortune
  • The anonymous villains who tried to destroy my teaching career

When I am not doing my best, working my hardest, trying like hell to succeed, these are the people I think about. These are the things that get me moving again.

While I don’t want my children to be impoverished or homeless or jailed or told that they aren’t talented enough to succeed, my hope is that they have a little fire in their bellies when they get older. A reason to prove someone wrong. Something that has hardened them and sharpened them a bit. Maybe a little anger residing somewhere within, kept hidden as Nucky advises, but always there, pointing them forward and onward to greater things.

Success really is the best revenge.