I’ll be honest. Before my Apple News podcast spotlighted recently-deceased Bertie Bowman as the longest serving Black congressional aide, I had never heard of him. Herbert (Bertie) Bowman was the child of sharecroppers in South Carolina. In 1944, Bowman ran away from home at 13 years old, got a job sweeping the Capitol building’s steps for $2 a week and worked his way up the political ladder. Bowman died last week as the longest-serving African-American congressional aide in United States’ history.
I think there’s no doubt that this is a success story. A young, poor runaway rises to work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and stands at the center of American history for more than 40 years. In 2019, the US Senate Federal Credit Union named their headquarters after him. But, while these achievements are certainly incredible, success itself is something far more meaningful.
Success is simply doing ordinary things well. It’s about being the kind of person that someone else can look at and say “you inspire me to be better than I am right now.” That mentality allows us to focus more on the journey instead of an ever-changing goal that very few can define let alone achieve.
Bowman wrote a book, Step by Step: A Memoir of Living the American Dream in 2009 and endorsed by then Vice-President Joe Biden. Today, the book has 37 reviews on Amazon. From this, I learn that success isn’t solely determined by the amount of reviews an author has or how many followers (or lack thereof) on social media. If public notoriety is what Bowman was counting on to make himself a success, he would have been disappointed. But his focus wasn’t on numbers; it was on relationships.
CNN reported that Bowman still considered lawmakers who opposed civil rights to be friends. He forged friendships, treated everyone the same regardless of their race or social standing, and lived by a personal creed grounded in hard work, responsibility, and being true to oneself. These are the real hallmarks of success.
They are characteristics of a man that I can say inspires me.
So how do you measure success? Write in the comments and let me know.
About JP Robinson
JP Robinson is a prolific award-winning author. He graduated from SUNY Stony Brook university at 19 with a Bachelor’s degree in English and another in French. He is currently wrapping up his Master’s of Education.
JP is a contributor to Guideposts, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse, and the Salvation Army’s War Cry. His work has been praised by industry leaders such as Publishers Weekly and secured the #1 spot on Amazon’s historical thrillers category.