Tools for Becoming an Active Architect in Defining Your Destiny

An Interview with Hill Harper

By Evangelia Biddy

Hill Harper is best known as the cerebral Dr. Sheldon Hawkes on the hit CBS crime drama – CSI: NY. His numerous acting roles in The Sopranos, ER, Lackawanna Blues and He Got Game have been lauded for their depth and complexity. Harper’s academic pedigree is no less impressive. He graduated magna cum laude from Brown University and went on to receive an advanced degree in public administration from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and a law degree from Harvard Law School.

The multi-talented Harper worked on the presidential campaign of his classmate and friend, Barack Obama, is the author of three best-selling books and heads a foundation designed to connect young people with real-world mentors. In his New York Times bestseller, Letters to a Young Sister: Define Your Destiny he shares details of his own parent’s parenting styles and offers the engaging voice of a caring older brother to young women facing today’s challenges.

“Journaling is important because it gives credence and importance to a journey.”

—–Hill Harper


EB: In your writings, you speak with great honor and respect for the women in your life.  Please talk a bit about the impact your mother and her accomplishments had on you.


HH: My female legacy is important to me and I think to everyone. My mother didn’t raise me directly, my father did, but we have developed a relationship that I’m extremely proud of. My mother is a trailblazer; she’s a woman who was one of the first African-American anesthesiologists in the country, at a time when women weren’t even thinking about being doctors. If they were thinking about becoming medical professionals at all, they were thinking about being nurses. So my mother is really an incredible woman and an inspiration. She taught me there is nothing I can’t do.


EB:  In your book, you speak of the importance of journaling, specifically taking pen to paper in an age where young people are more likely to text message than write a letter.  Please talk about the importance of journaling and what it’s meant to you.


HH:  Journaling is important because it gives credence and importance to a journey.  It’s funny the way journaling is spelled – part of it is journey. Life does not have to be broken out into seminal moments. It does not have to be the time I went to the Empire State Building, it could be the time I went to the bodega and the cashier smiled with a gold tooth that made me laugh. You write about that because you’re giving honor to your daily life. That’s what journaling really is – giving honor to your daily life.


EB:  Some young people, unfortunately, are parenting themselves due to a lack of resources at home and/or in their immediate social circle.  What advice do you have for young people who are independently seeking out resources?


HH:  In my first book, “Letters to a Young Brother,” I indicate that you have to be an active architect in your own life. When you’re attempting to reach any goal, particularly if you don’t have people around to teach you how to do something, there’s a four-step process that I think is key:


The first one I call blue printing, every architect starts out with a blueprint. Second there is foundation building, that’s when you collect resources necessary to be successful, such as education, relationships and faith. Next there is establishing a framework; these are the choices you make as you go along. Finally there is establishing doors; door do two things, they let people in and usher others out, there are people in all of our lives who are toxic, those individuals we need to usher out of our lives because these people cheat our dreams. There are other people that we actively need to seek out – mentors, to help us get where we desire to go.  I would share these four components with anyone who is traveling on a journey with goals, but does not have a huge support structure.


EB:  In “Letters to a Young Sister” you talk about the transition from growing up with both parents to living only with your father and brother, save for weekends and holidays with your mother.  How did you deal with that time of your life?


HH:  As a young person, I was just trying to get through it. In terms of reflection, however, I see how it has affected me in later life.  It’s certainly affected me in my relationships with women. I don’t judge it and say something wrong or bad that happened to me. All the experiences we’ve had make us into who we are. I don’t like the notion of mistakes. You make a choice at a point in time because you believe that you will achieve a certain result. If that choice does not achieve the desired result then you have to modify your choices and your behavior. That is the key! Going back to my architectural example, architects use a pencil and paper for their blueprints; they don’t use a pen when sketching a design, because they know they will make modifications. Just because they drew it one way in the beginning, and later erased, does not mean they made a mistake. They realize they had to make a modification and that’s kind of how we build our lives.


Evangelia Biddy, Editor-in-Chief of Junior, The Magazine about Bringing up Successful Boys, is also a contributor to Raising Boys World, an expert for,  and an educational consultant. She can be reached at



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