Calvin Sims is an overachiever. He has made a science of it. He can teach it to others.
Calvin was born the illegitimate son of a young domestic worker. When he was four years old, his mother left him with a baby sitter and went to work, she took sick, was hospitalized and died. Calvin was never picked-up from the baby sitter by any member of his mother’s large family.“I didn’t leave the babysitter until I dropped out of school (in the tenth grade) and joined the Marine Corps.”The babysitter, the only mother he would remember, was a wonderful woman, but she had four adult children who could hardly keep a job or maintain a separate residence for very long. While his foster mother worked several jobs in order to take care of her adult children, young Calvin was left alone most of the time and often, unfortunately, with one of these foster siblings.These foster siblings were cruel and dishonest. Calvin was abused, molested and generally neglected. He was afraid to report his treatment, to anyone less there be retribution so he just learned to live with it. This treatment turned the young boy hard.
A childhood that lasted all of 9 years

At age nine; growing up in Vine City Bottom, Calvin learned to hustle, to steal and to survive on his own. “My childhood ended abruptly at about age nine.” Calvin got his first gun at that time. He was adopted by the neighborhood crime kingpin, because the smart, spunky, tough little boy entertained him. Calvin became a sort of mascot for the reining “mayor” of Vine City.Calvin was truly on the path to destruction, but there was another set of dynamics working in his life. For one, He loved school. While in the third grade, a teacher helped him to develop a love for reading. He had to sneak and read because the gangsters that he was surrounded by frowned upon such an activity. Calvin would often flee to his favorite hiding place; the large chinaberry tree that grew in his front yard. He would hide in the heavy foliage on a large limb and read for hours. He also watched a lot of TV. He was impressed by the family values of such shows as “Father Knows Best” and “Leave it to Beaver.” “I wanted to grow up and become a cross between The Lone Ranger and Ward Cleaver.”Having never laid eyes on his father, he was overly interested in these TV Dads and how different they were from the so-called men that he grew up around.

"Two major factors saved my life."

1. Mrs. Moore. Calvin’s life was transformed when “the meanest teacher in the world,” gave him a copy of the book, “Ivanhoe.” It was the first thing he remembered owning, and still he feared that someone would take the book away from him. He concealed the book under his clothes until he got it home, wrapped it in plastic from a dry cleaner’s bag and hid it in the fork of two branches, high in his chinaberry tree. He truly loved to read. He found that he could escape a horrible, terrifying world through reading. He discovered role models, he learned about the power of character and integrity.He was also puzzled why so many people around him seemed to get angry at him when he either read or tried to talk about something he had read.2. And then there were the cowboys. They got his attention because they were tough and carried guns and rode horses. But he noticed that these men also tipped their hats to ladies and that they didn’t abide in bullies. Their handshake was as solid as a signed contract and they took pride in their ability to work hard. While living a life of crime, Calvin was torn by the realization that there was another way to live that was more rewarding and more noble than that which was his reality.At age 16, Calvin became a father. That was also the year that the drug trade hit his neighborhood.“My friends were dying every day and I saw my own life flash before my eyes. I had to get out of there.”Calvin felt that he had a better chance of surviving in the jungles of Viet Nam than in his Atlanta neighborhood. He walked into a United States Marine Corp recruiting office and insisted on leaving for boot camp that same day, his wish was granted.

A world where character and integrity abounds

“If I had not left that day, I am sure that I would be dead by now.”“Suddenly, I found that the character and integrity that I had grown to admire in my heroes – but could not emulate or even talk about because I lived in an environment surrounded by gangsters and criminals – was not only acceptable, it was demanded.”Strong male role models were everywhere. Many of the NCO’s and officers were Viet Nam veterans who embodied what Calvin considered to symbolize more than just the fabric of a great nation, but the true essence of being a man, one made in God’s image.After a short stint in the military, Calvin took various jobs that were available to a young black man with a ninth grade education. He was puzzled because, whatever job he took, he always ended up in some sort of leadership position. He always worked hard and took pride in his work. He was usually recognized and respected by his employers and coworkers, alike.One day, while riding the bus, he overheard two women talking about the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act or the CETA program. He heard that they would test/evaluate an applicant and recommend a career, provide training and pay you while you were being trained. He heard that when you completed the program, they would help you get a job. He got off the bus and went straight there. “My love for reading and all the things I read, propelled me towards success.”Calvin was enrolled in a computer operations and programming training program. His friends laughed at him and called him a fool. His girlfriend left him; his car was repo’ed, yet he stuck to it. He met a counselor named Frank Holloway who often quoted great men and suggested that he read certain books. One of these books, “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude,” affirmed to him that he had what it takes to make a major change in his life, to make his dreams come true. Words first quoted to him by Frank still echo in his mind today, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.” These words became more than a mantra for Calvin, they became a battle cry.

TO BE CONTINUED...

Please be sure to return for Part 2 – The Conclusion of “A Case Study: Perserverance & Beyond” For more information on author Calvin G. Sims, Sr. be sure to visit his web site at http://www.calvinsims.com

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