The Cost of Greatness and Success
The Cost of Greatness and Success ~ Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that Eric Thomas is my favorite motivational speaker. Yes, I study all of the greats, from Zig Ziglar to Les Brown to Tony Robbins; however, I most relate to Eric Thomas, and that allows me to plug into his messages in a way that is specifically unique. As a speaker, I understand the importance of being able to create the ability for your audience to plug into you. With Eric and myself, we both speak to multiple audience types, and so we have to be able to adjust our style and presentation to fit the moment. For instance, I would not speak to an auditorium full of 8th graders in the same manner that I would speak to a room full of educators.
While being able to communicate and connect with your audience is important, I have found that the most important element of becoming a successful and impactful speaker is authenticity. I have learned through observing others that the crowd will see through veiled attempts to be something or someone that you are not, but when you breathe words of empowerment from the heart, they can sense the sincerity, and they can trust what those words are doing for them at that moment.
What Does It Take to Succeed?
While there are many people who follow me, contract me, and contact me, who desire greatness, I always advise them that greatness is the subsequent fruit of successfully living life in their purpose, and fulfilling their design. Greatness is something that pursues the person who is pursuing their destiny with passion and commitment. Greatness is a state of being that simply “is” because you “are.”
Eric Thomas always says, “You have to want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe.” I agree with his assessment 100 percent; you have to want to succeed as much as you want life itself. Why? Because success can only be obtained by overcoming obstacles, enduring adversity, resisting the temptation to give up and overall perseverance. There are not a lot of certainties in life, but there is one thing that you can definitely be assured of; the vicissitudes of life are going to roll into your paradise. Whether you are successful or not will be determined by how well you handle adversity, delay, and direct opposition. If you are good at finding excuse thinly veiled as reasons, you will not succeed, because those excuses are easy to find and create.
Success is not passive, nor docile, it does not acquiesce to wishful thinking, and it does not succumb to hope alone. Success has to be overtaken and seized.
If your sleep, comfort, play time or social enjoyment is more important to you than your success, you will never truly experience success. You may experience an occasional instance in which something goes your way, but it will be short-lived because you lack the commitment.
Your desire to succeed must be so strong that it draws you away from the proclivity to entertain colorless dreams, dwarfed goals, and minimal aspirations. You have to want success so bad that you completely ignore the fear of failure. In fact, you have to embrace a mindset that fear is no longer an option. This does not mean that you will never experience setbacks. Trust me, you will experience setbacks, but you will not perceive them as failures.
What I Personally Know About Success
People who do not know me tend to look at the outward appearance and make assumptions (I am normally extremely casual, and I have a number of tattoos), which ultimately leads them to ask me what qualifies me to speak on success. My response is, “You mean in addition to the fact that I have successfully launched and operated 48 companies over the last 28 years, published 20 books (after being told I would never get the first book published), obtained two doctorate degrees, serviced clients on an international level, and more? Normally, people who prejudge me will quickly genuflect their assessment after a few minutes of dialogue. However, it is not my personal accomplishments that are important here. It is my story.
I was an extremely precocious child, learning to read by the age of three, and if my great-grandmother (my adopted mother, and so much more) was alive, she would add, quite loquacious. I literally started my public speaking career at the age of three and a half years old. My grandmother had taught me the story of the creation and once I learned it, she taught me how to recite it, and then she took me from church to church having me recite it. I became known as the little boy who does the creation story. Her teaching me the creation from the first three chapters of the Bible was also how I learned to read. So, my first encounter with reading was through word recognition — phonics came later.
I would read anything I got my hands, including the writing on household products, signs and more. At the age of five, my grandmother bought me the entire set of the Encyclopedia Britannica from an encyclopedia salesman who stopped by the house, and by the time I was ten, I had read the entire set.
Moving on to my adult life… I grew up in an inner-city community in Houston called Clinton Park (affectionately known as Killer Park). I was a young black male who never even met his father, and had no relationship with his mother. The statistics revealed that there was a good chance that I would not live to see my eighteenth birthday, but I was determined to make it out, and I not only came out of the hood, I came out on fire. I was driven to succeed, and thanks to my grandmother and a hand full of teachers throughout my school years that groomed me for success, I had no concept of failure. It seemed that the universe had been programmed to respond to my every whim. By the time I was thirty, I had opened numerous businesses, competed as a professional athlete, started a family and more — then life happened.
My success had exposed me to a world that I was ill-prepared to operate in. It took a while, but the core values that had been instilled in me were being eroded by the influence of the world I was operating in. I was beginning to buy into many fallacious concepts like “win at all cost,” it’s a dog eat dog world,” and “get them before they get you.” The lines became blurred, and I became more self-consumed. And, then the bottom completely fell out. After one of my major clients balked on an agreement that was worth a considerable amount of money, I responded from a position of diminished values and character, and that response cost me my freedom and my fortune.
Fortunately, that is not the end of the story. While I sat in my jail cell, I remembered something my great-grandfather (adopted father, and the greatest man I have ever met) taught me. Over the course of my youth, I had multitudinous encounters with my grandfather in which he infused me with his wisdom, and the greatest piece of wisdom that he ever shared with me was about to come to my rescue. I had gone from a 5,200 square foot home to a 6×9 cell, and traded designer clothes for a jail jumper. While lying flat on my back one night, I recalled that moment in which my grandfather shared the greatest jewel of wisdom of all.
He said, “Son, in life, you are going to find yourself in one of three places. You will either be going into a storm, in a storm or coming out of a storm. Your first inclination will be to find someone to blame for your storm. Don’t waste your time on such a frivolous pursuit, because nine times out of ten that person is you. Instead of looking for someone to blame, focus on your number one responsibility. When you find yourself in a storm, your number one responsibility, as a man, is to ensure that you come out of that storm a better man than when you went in. Son, allow the storm to develop you.” From that moment moving forward, it stopped being about me, and it became a quest to build a legacy that I could leave behind that said I was here and I made a difference.
After spending over four years in prison, I came home to uncertainty and a world that cared, but was too consumed with its own struggles and concerns. Within a year of returning, I found myself homeless. To top things off, I had moved from my hometown of Houston to Dallas to pursue a relationship that did not work out. So, I was homeless in a town in which I did not know very many people at all. All I had was a laptop and my clothes.
At this point, I prayed to the Divine Creator of the universe. No, I did not pray for mystical deliverance from my situation. I did not beg and plead to be dealt a new hand. I understood that this moment was both, the direct consequences of my actions and decisions as well as a part of my divine destiny. Knowing that this moment of difficulty was connected to my destiny reminded me that I was built for this. My prayer was actually very simple. I asked the Creator to simply continue to provide me with the breath of life. I promised that if I continued to wake up every morning I would answer the bell.
I was homeless for a year, but during that time, I published two of my sixteen books, started a company working on that laptop I had. I even spoke and served at homeless shelters, while keeping my own situation secret. In fact, the entire year, maybe three people knew my predicament. During that year, I met all types of setbacks and obstacles, but I wanted to succeed as much as I wanted to breathe. I had to succeed, I still had children who needed me to succeed. I still had people who needed me to live out a testimony that would provide them with the courage to stand up and face their struggles, disappointments, and delays. I can tell you from my experience that delay does not mean denial.
For some, this story will be a turn-off, because “prison” has a certain stigma. Well, this story is not for you. I will say that prison saved my life. This story is for the person who believes that their mistakes have sentenced them to a life of failure and mediocrity.
In that year of homelessness, I met the only two fears I had as a man face to face, being broke and being homeless. Nothing scares me now. I don’t fear man, circumstance nor failure. I was bruised by that moment, but I was not broken. I found that the darkness had surrounded me, but I was still standing.
It has been 10 years since the darkness rolled into my paradise, and I am now the Founder/CEO of an enterprise that owns and operates eight different companies, including a media company, business consulting firm, a life empowerment company (you are visiting this page now) and more. I have published 20 books, hundreds of academic papers and produced nearly 20,000 prose articles on multitudinous topics for my clients as a content creator. Have recovered everything that I initially lost? No, but I am long from being done. Plus, I see success differently now. I judge myself more now on the impact I have on those I come in contact with.
What I can tell you is that your past does not have to define you. You do not have to mortgage your future to pay for your past. Do you want to succeed? If so, it is time to get up, dust yourself off, and determine that you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe! Now, go make it happen. ~ Dr. Rick Wallace, Ph.D.