Every so often, someone leaves an indelible mark on the core of our souls in a way that inspires us greatly. Sometimes that person is someone we know from afar. Chadwick Bosman, who made history as the first Black superhero in his own movie, was such a person.

When he took his last breath last week, sending shockwaves on the web, we were dazed, lost in disbelief and confusion. Although he didn’t live as long as the legends he portrayed throughout his acting career had, he left a legacy far more significant and broader than his own life ever was.

The truths he lived by were not only depicted in the stories he weaved through acting but also his words. The following are two powerful truths that Chadwick Boseman lived by:

“I was conflicted because this role seemed to be wrapped up in assumptions about us as Black folks.”

In an inspirational speech, Chadwick told a story about how earlier at the start of his acting career, he’d landed a role where he was set to clinch a whopping 6 figure salary. But only two days later, he was out scouring for another gig.

Why? He dared to challenge the societal norms that came with being Black; poor, gang involvement, drugs, and a dysfunctional family.

It rubbed him off the wrong way to play a character who was not only all of the above, but who also didn’t have any sliver of talent or positivity.
In his words, “…but I was conflicted because this role seemed to be wrapped up in assumptions about us as black folks.”

For Chadwick, this was the polar opposite of the pride and standards that had been instilled in him. Eventually, another door opened. The rest, as they say, is history. The point being, the trajectory of his acting shifted when he challenged the misconceptions about his identity as a Black man.

Chadwick knew his identity and was willing to defend it from the presumptions of others. There’s a lot of truth in this because if you don’t define yourself, others will define you. And chances are, it’ll not be an accurate representation of who you really are.

Audre Lorde said it best,

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

In a world infused with so much noise, it’s easy to wade through life without a clear identity. But what exactly is identity?
Identity is the combination of your talents, passions, and strengths. It’s who you are on the inside. It’s not your skin color, background, or religion.

When you have a clear sense of identity, you’re able to love and appreciate yourself. You develop confidence within you that helps you to stand out and be memorable. This explains why Chadwick won our hearts with every performance.

“You would rather find a purpose than a job or a career. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you were put here to fulfill.”

Chadwick Boseman knew his purpose. He understood that finding one’s purpose is the greatest accomplishment for any man. Because its fulfillment reaches far beyond what any job or career can offer. He understood that purpose trumps life any day. Because it lingers on, long after the light of your life has been snuffed out.

That’s why Chadwick kept the ball rolling even with the thorn of cancer slowly chipping away at his flesh. He plowed along, creating a body of work that not only delighted us but also ignited a bright spark of inspiration.

As an African myself, Black Panther — Chadwick’s most incredible achievement ever — reaffirmed my identity and heritage. It was such a delight to see a story that depicted the vast wealth of Africa. An Africa free from the blight of western colonization. An Africa totally distinct from what international media portrays her to be.

This was everything.

The best part of all? Black Panther was more profound than that. It was an idea that rose above race — shedding light on the possibilities that could be unveiled in a world that gave women a fair chance at governance and decision-making.

That’s what purpose does. It sparks imagination, dreams, and potentiality. It forces you to muster the courage to keep pushing even in the face of enormous obstacles. Just like Chadwick did.

“When completing a long climb one first experiences dizziness, disorientation, and shortness of breath due to the high altitude. But once you become accustomed to the climb, your mind opens up to the tranquility of the triumph.”

But Boseman warns that living out purpose is a steep and daunting climb. That as you extend yourself, you’ll often be knocked out of your element. That you’ll lock horns with new pains. At times, things won’t go as planned. You’ll doubt yourself, and enemies will try to shred you into pieces.

Chadwick advises that you continue climbing. Believe in yourself enough to keep pushing towards your purpose no matter how many obstacles stand in your way. In the end, you’ll experience the incredible joy of winning.

“You have to cherish things in a different way when you know the clock is ticking, you are under pressure.”

One more truth we can all learn from the first Black superhero to headline his own franchise and whose legacy is for the ages is that none of us know how long we’re here for. Which is why we need to make excellent use of the present moment.

What will you do with your life? What impact will you leave behind? What will your legacy be?