It’s a story that unfortunately is a common theme in Black communities across America: Young male spends his teenage years without a father in the house. His mother works more than one job in order to pay for basic necessities. He also struggles in school and with fundamental reading.
But this particular story doesn’t end the way most people think it would. The story ends with overcoming the struggles, overcoming the obstacles and emerging a new man. A great man. One with the ability to tell his story to others and provide inspiration.
“Step Out On Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges,” a memoir by “60 Minutes” reporter and CBS Correspondent Byron Pitts, deals with the aforementioned struggles and obstacles that he encountered on his journey to success. While growing up, Pitts suffered from a severe stutter, his father left the family when he was 12, and he spent a good chunk of his young life dealing with illiteracy.
The term “step out on nothing” refers to the times in Pitts’ life where people who didn’t have to help him out did so out of love. It was the care of man for his fellow man that lead Pitts down his path. Pitts tells stories of his grandmother, Roberta Mae Walden, who “taught me the strength that exists in calmness…for my grandma, it was quiet discipline.”
Not only does Pitts get help from his college roommate, who helped him practice vocabulary and speech (thereby tackling his issues with literacy and speech impediment all at once), a college professor provided help in a unique way. By labeling Pitts a failure, it fueled his work ethic and accelerated his motivation to excel. It led to a decade-plus of working in local television, which lead to work with CBS and, eventually, “60 Minutes.” Pitts’ writing is a triumph of epic proportions that will grip the reader to the very end.
“Step Out On Nothing” is a look into the world of one man, but his story could be that of any young, Black male in America. Pitts delivers his wisdom with passion, insight and care for his fellow man. These were all qualities that were taught to him growing up. With everything coming full circle, the student is not just the teacher. He’s the professor.