We are all born into families, situations and places not of our choosing, and it’s those things that mold who and what we become and the life we live. As powerless as this reality may seem, there is a stark difference between choosing to be shaped by an experience or defined by one.

This notion of where we are from plays a significant role in the trajectory of where we are going and brings to mind a T-shirt seen throughout the country and social media. For those who didn’t grow up in the ‘90s, “Straight Outta Compton,” first a title track of a breakout album, is an American biographical drama depicting the build and destruction of the music group N.W.A. Its sound redefined a genre of music and brought this idea of being Straight Outta Somewhere to the forefront of American pop culture. Ironically, 20 years later the group’s sound and message are in your face (again) signaling the timelessness of their sound and message.

N.W.A. was not only recognized for where they were from, the group’s went a step further and used their members’ home as a platform for social change. Their music was raw, real and unlike anything that had come before them. This “realness” is what made them successful. They had the ability to embrace their story, their struggle and their reality. Then, use it as a way to change their world and the world around them – in essence by going their own way.

Owning where you come from and where your life began is the first step in going your own way. However, understanding how you have inevitably been impacted by where you are from is when the real journey begins.

While perspective may come from experience, in that experience there is danger and opportunity. When your world view is limited, your understanding of the world may remain small. But here is the secret and the ultimate point: We are all Straight Outta Somewhere and where you come from matters. It’s important because if you do not understand your story, you cannot go your own way. Although we do not get to choose our hometowns, our parents and our cultural status, we do have the power to move forward in our own way and in that, there is immense power.