Andrew Young on How to Accomplish Greatness

Andrew Young

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Andrew Young with John Lewis.

Recently I was given an incredible gift. I had the opportunity to spend four hours with Andrew Young. His list of accomplishments is long. To list only a few, he was a pastor, a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. during the civil rights movement, a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Also, he was the Atlanta mayor instrumental in bringing the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta.

During our afternoon conversation, he talked and I listened. I learned so much about life and leadership. In this series of posts, I will share what I learned from this man of God. He is a great leader who has made history multiple times. To read the rest of this series, visit paparelli.com and subscribe.


I had a meeting today with Darin George (not his real name). Darin is an entrepreneur who has built a successful FinTech company over the last 12 years. He called to run a few ideas past me and get some advice.

“I’m launching a new business inside my business,” he said.

I confessed I didn’t know the FinTech market very well, but I do know startups and how to break into new markets with new products. I think I helped.

As our meeting was ending, he said, “This meeting was very helpful to me. I haven’t really asked for help with my business in the past. Based on this meeting, I now know I should have asked for help.”

I get it.

“It surprises me how many people do not ask for help,” I told him. “And I completely understand because I am one of those people. But all the great leaders, the truly great leaders, always ask for help from others. They know what they know and what they don’t know.

“God made us with different skills, and we all have different experiences and perspectives. We need to open up and share. When we work together, great things happens.”

I told the entrepreneur this story.

Recently I was with Andrew Young. He is one of those great leaders I was talking about.

Andrew Young told me, “I read a book back in the late 1970s about how a nation’s wealth is created by cities. I believed it. It made sense to me. I looked at Atlanta and saw so much possibility. When I combined my new belief on wealth creation with my international experience, I had a new dream. I wanted to make Atlanta an international city of peace. So I ran for mayor.

“I won,” he said. “And you know the first thing I did?”

I just looked at him with anticipation.

“I held a luncheon and invited 85 of the top CEOs in Atlanta. They all came,” he said.

Then he sat back in his chair.

As he did, he touched the tips of his fingers together and continued.

“I went up on stage and welcomed them to the new Atlanta, to this dream I had of making Atlanta into an international city of peace. A city which would offer everyone, of every race and every gender, the opportunity to build great wealth.”

He leaned forward and looked me right in the eye and said, “I then told them, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing. This is the reason for this lunch. I need your help to achieve this dream. Will you help me?’”

He gave these men and women his office number and home phone number. “If you have any ideas on how to build our city or people I should meet who may want to do business here, call me. If a CEO comes to Atlanta who is thinking about establishing a presence here, they will need no appointment. Tell them to come to the mayor’s office at any time, and I will drop whatever I am doing and meet with them right then and there.”

He closed with, “Atlanta is open for business.”

Great leaders ask for help.

Here is a citation from the Wikipedia webpage on Andrew Young’s accomplishments as mayor.

As mayor of Atlanta, he brought in $70 billion of new private investment.[17] He continued and expanded Jackson’s programs for including minority and female-owned businesses in all city contracts. The Mayor’s Task Force on Education established the Dream Jamboree College Fair that tripled the college scholarships given to Atlanta public school graduates. In 1985, he was involved in renovating the Atlanta Zoo, which was renamed Zoo Atlanta.[18] Young was re-elected as mayor in 1985 with more than 80% of the vote. Atlanta hosted the 1988 Democratic National Convention during Young’s tenure. He was prohibited by term limits from running for a third term. During his tenure, he talked about how he was “glad to be mayor of this city, where once the mayor had me thrown in jail.”[19]

Wikipedia

Amazing accomplishments.

All because he was wise and humble enough to ask for help.