I had no idea that one day I would write a book. I also had no idea that one day I would be the coanchor of Good Morning America. Isn't it wonderful how life can surprise you?
I remember my first morning as coanchor. The announcer said: "This is Good Morning America with Charles Gibson, Diane Sawyer, and Robin Roberts." All of a sudden I was on camera sitting next to Charlie and Diane. I wanted to shout to the TV audience, "I don't know how I got here either!"
Some part of me was thinking: Why would people listen to what I had to say? What had I experienced and learned in my life that I could impart to viewers? Then Hurricane Katrina hit right in my hometown, and I was thrust into the heart of it. GMA became a way for me to reach out and make a difference. I found my voice, and the viewers responded.
I have to admit, though, when my editor at Hyperion, Gretchen Young, told me they wanted to frame this book as my "rules to live by," I laughed.
"Right," I said, "Roberts's Rules of Order." As if I could give people rules for life. That wasn't me. I always felt like a person who had broken all the rules -- and the mold they came in too. I was a woman, I was black, and I didn't care if people said I didn't belong in sports or broadcasting. I pushed my way in. So the idea of writing rules tickled me.
But as I thought about it, I realized that in another sense rules were a big part of my life -- before I broke them.
When I was young I was totally focused on being an athlete, and I was the type of athlete who always played by the rules. Maybe the fact that my father was in the Air Force for more than thirty years has something to do with that. You don't retire as a full colonel in the United States Air Force without playing by the rules. My father instilled those values in his four children. (I'm the baby of the family.)
It wasn't just rules for the sake of rules. We learned that rules have a purpose. They teach us invaluable lessons. Lessons that we may not even be aware of at the time, like discipline. It's not always easy to do what is expected of us, especially when others aren't holding up their end of the bargain. But my parents never let us get away with measuring ourselves against other people's performance or blaming someone else's failure for our own. Our house was a no-whine zone. We were taught to take responsibility for our own actions.
When I was a freshman basketball player at Southeastern Louisiana University, my coach, Linda Puckett, devised a challenging drill. She instructed the team to stay in a crouched position as we slid all the way around the court. We were not to stand up until we reached a certain point. I was in the middle of the pack as we did the drill. When we were finished, Coach Puckett got right in my face and said, "Hon, you are going places in life." It turned out that I was the only one who remained in the crouched position for the entire time.
I could have easily been like everyone else on my team and come out of the uncomfortable position before I was supposed to. It took discipline, determination, and stamina to stay put. Traits that come in handy in life, whether you're on the basketball court, on the job, or raising a family.