I had the most amazing opportunity to speak with Mr. Les Brown, world renowned motivational speaker, about unleashing the greatness in us, and how to keep pushing because it’s not over until you win! Warning! Reader’s discretion is advised – this article includes motivational, real-talk content that may cause reflection and self-evaluation. Decisions of purpose and determination will occur, but may be short-lived if you don’t pursue your dreams now!
Raeisha: How can a person unlock the greatness within themselves?
Mr. Brown: The best way for a person to unlock the greatness within themselves is to get into the game – the hardest thing to do in life is to get started. People don’t start out great, but they end up great because they got started. The first thing you have to do is be willing to participate in life and try things that you might not start out being great at, but eventually you will become great at them – IF you give yourself a chance.
Raeisha: How were you able to achieve your success and more importantly, continue in that success?
Mr. Brown: I’ve learned in life that we are students of life, and I am constantly learning and re-evaluating my life – what I’m doing, and which direction I’m going in, so my life in and of itself has been a school. I finished high school with a diploma of attendance, but I’ve had life lessons that have taken me very far, farther than I imagined in my wildest dreams. The main thing that has made my career continue to grow is, I continue to grow and continue to take chances. I’m now out here in South Africa, speaking to people about changing their lives; and starting from nothing, to create a life that they’ve dreamed of having.
Raeisha: What strategies can a person use to battle any negative thoughts?
Mr. Brown: The best advice I would give is we can’t control the thoughts that come into our mind, but we can control the thoughts that we keep in our mind. And what we have to keep reinforcing to ourselves is that it is possible and it’s not over until you win. Life is not a sprint, life is a marathon. When you start anything in life; you have to realize that you’re going to have obstacles; challenges; people who aren’t going to believe in you, who you expect to believe in you. You have to know that within yourself this is a passion, that this is something you dreamed of doing and that this is how you want to make your mark in the world; and that you need to take on those challenges. Because each challenge and each stumbling block, is nothing more than just a building stone towards your greatness and success. So, no matter what you’re facing, you have to realize that these are all challenges to see if you’re really serious about doing what it is you want to do with your life.
Raeisha: How were you able to move beyond the initial rejection, you may have received, and keep pursuing your dream job – at the radio station particularly?
Mr. Brown: I had a mentor by the name of Mr. Washington in high school, and he told me, number one, never let anyone’s opinion of you shape your reality. And number two that people are so negative, that they’ll give you a ‘no’ seven times before they give you a ‘yes’. So when I first pursued becoming a D.J., at the radio station in Miami, Florida, I went and talked to the manager at the time, and I asked him if he had a job. I came in with my overalls on – a country boy – and he told me that he didn’t have any work for a young man like me. So, I left but came back the next day – with a smile on my face, just as happy as I was the day before. I said, how you doing sir? Just want to know if you had any jobs today. He said ‘boy didn’t I tell you yesterday that I didn’t have any jobs?’ I said, yes sir, I was just wondering if maybe somebody got fired or got laid off. Thank you very much sir and I left. I came back again the next day, smile on my face, and said how you doing sir? He said, ‘How can I help you today?’ I said, I’m just coming in to see if you have any work for me today sir. He said, ‘No, we don’t have any work. Didn’t I tell you yesterday and the day before, that there weren’t any jobs?’ I said, yes sir, I’m just wondering if maybe you had any new openings, or maybe somebody might have quit the job or died! So regardless, I went back seven times, and finally on the seventh time I went back, I went in to speak to the general manager. I said how you doing sir? And he said, ‘Go get me some coffee!’ And I said, yes sir, yes sir, yes sir! So, you see persistence and relentlessness will make it possible for you to make your dreams come true. The first time I went there, it didn’t happen, but after going back relentlessly, he saw the fearlessness within me and he gave me an opportunity. The rest is pretty much history.
Raeisha: What would you say to someone who doesn’t think it’s necessary to be that persistent?
Mr. Brown: Well, what they will find is that they won’t get the results that they’re looking for. There’s a wall that you will hit in life, where life really challenges you to say, “How badly do I really want this?” So if you feel and believe that you don’t have to keep going back, you can’t be surprised at the results that come from that type of effort. Like I said, life is an ongoing school, and every day you get up believing your dreams, you must step forward, because, your dream doesn’t happen unless you make it happen. You can have all the people in the world believing in you, but none of that happens unless you make it happen. And, until someone comes to that understanding – that all dreams come through within them, then nothing else will occur. Until they take that action within themselves and decide that they’re unstoppable, and this is what they do [whatever ‘this’ is] – they walk, they talk, they live this…it will never become a reality.
Raeisha: You mentioned before, that you have to be willing to do something you’ve never done before. How were you able to get the confidence to host a radio show when you had not done such a thing before?
Mr. Brown: Well actually [chuckling], people don’t know that when I first gave a speech, it was in high school. I came out to do a presentation, and I spoke, but I was laughed at actually. I came out very nervous, I had no self-confidence, I was looking down at my feet, and they kind of laughed me off the stage! But Mr. Washington my mentor, would not allow that to hinder my growth, and told me to do it again. And eventually, I became very comfortable with what I was doing. When I first started out, I was terrible at this. People think that I just walked on stage one day and this just happened. Not at all, I’ve fallen on my face, many of times. People just weren’t there for that. They just saw the end product – they think I just jumped out here like superman.
Raeisha: How can someone challenge themselves to get out of their comfort zone?
Mr. Brown: In the words of Lou Hayman, “You have to be sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Until the pain of remaining the same, becomes greater than the pain of change, you will remain where you are. You have to realize that nobody is responsible for anything that happens to your life, but you… and that it won’t happen unless you take that chance. Other than that, you’re just wasting your time here on the planet. We have to give back. Life has been a blessing that’s been given to us, and our gift to life is what we give back. And you have to be willing to take that chance and take that risk. If you don’t, then your life will be unfulfilled, and you will be on your death bed, living with regrets. That’s not something people want to do.
Raeisha: How important is it to have a positive, supportive team?
Mr. Brown: When you start to pursue your dreams, life has a way of eliminating people from your life and bringing people into your life. So it is very important to surround yourself with a team of people that see your vision and that can help you get there; who recognize your talents, and have something to offer. I call it OQP – Only Qualified People. You can tell who’s in your corner by when you tell them about your dreams and what it is that you’re pursuing. Ask them questions and hear if they can help you. If they can’t help you, ask them if they know someone that could possibly help you, and if they can’t assist you in that fashion, then they might not be the people for your team. But you’ll get to learn to valuate people as you go along; you’ll be able to tell the people who are in your corner from the people who are not in your corner. Sometimes you learn the hard way; some people are actually just there to get what they can get. But that too is just a lesson, it doesn’t stop you. It makes you stronger and it gives you insight. Every person you meet is a learning lesson – consider yourself in school.
Raeisha: What stops most people from becoming successful?
Mr. Brown: The things that stop people from becoming successful are self-doubt and fear of success; fear of not fitting in. These are the main things that stop people from reaching their goals. A lot of times you’ll find we’re a very homogenized society – where we’re a lot alike, and in order for you to step into your greatness, you have to step away from the crowd and stand out. When you step away from the crowd, often times you’ll be criticized and people will be critical of you. And a lot of times people don’t want to face that. But on the other side of that is where greatness is developed and grown. You walk away and stand as an individual, and let yourself be heard and seen for who you are in the uniqueness that God has blessed you.
Raeisha: What is the key to becoming a motivational speaker?
Mr. Brown: The key to becoming a motivational speaker is finding out what it is that you’re passionate about; what your story is – and then talking to people. The first rule is talking to people. The second rule is TTMP, talk to more people. So it’s about finding what the message is that you want to share with the world, and get that message down within you. If it’s something that resonates with your spirit and your soul, that you feel comfortable with, then you go out and you start talking to people. And you keep talking to people. Success is a journey, it’s not a destination. Your success is in every day, doing what it is that you want to do with your life, and by you applying these laws, the law is unfailing. Continue going towards your dream – every day, waking up, talking to people, reaching out to people, going into different communities groups, reaching out to different organizations to see if you can come in, going to different churches and taking the opportunity to ask them if you can get up and speak before their congregation, to share your message and your word. You will become a speaker!
You can find out more about Les Brown and his upcoming engagements at www.lesbrownevents.com. You can also join his fan page on Facebook.