A lot of people are confused about what it means to be going out there and empowering yourself. It’s not a matter of arrogance or an excess of self-confidence; it’s all about finding strength within yourself to allow success to come because of the work you put in. Les Brown is a dynamic personality and one of the world’s most renowned and highly-sought-after motivational speakers. Les sits down with Solomon Ali to chat about empowering yourself – giving yourself the power – to find success in your personal and professional lives. Are you ready for the success you deserve?
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Empowering Yourself To Success With Les Brown
Welcome, Les Brown. Thank you for coming on the show. I won’t do you justice in trying to say who Les Brown is. I’m going to allow you to truly say who Les Brown is to our audience so they will understand who our guest is.
I speak for corporations, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies. I’ve spoken in over 51 countries. I’ve been doing this for many years. When I started out, it was unusual to see an African-American speaking to the general population people in this area and space, and teaching them how to make a point and make a sale. I decided to do this because of something that appealed and a defining moment in my life. I met a high school teacher who interrupted my vision of myself. I was born in a poor section of Miami, Florida called Liberty City on an abandoned building on a floor with a twin brother. We were adopted by Mrs. Mamie Brown. I used to have a talk show and I would always end it by saying, “This has been Mrs. Mamie Brown’s baby boy.”
When I was in my fifth grade, I was labeled educable mentally retarded. I was put back from the fifth grade to the fourth grade, and I failed again when I was in eighth grade. I had this high school teacher who had a personality similar to yours because I think the vision that you have and this program that you put together is to give entrepreneurs and business people a larger vision of themselves beyond the mental conditioning. Help them to get the tools and the strategies they need that will allow them to have breakthrough experiences in business and go to the next level, and how to create a different experience for their clients.
This gentleman, he helped to create a different experience of how I saw myself, how we live our lives as a result of the story we believe about ourselves. When I was labeled educable mentally retarded, faith comes by hearing and hearing. If you hear something enough, even if it’s a lie, you eventually begin to believe it. This defining moment when I met Mr. LeRoy Washington, he was a speech and drama teacher. He asked me to do something. I told him I couldn’t do it. He insisted and to make a long story short, the other students started laughing saying, “He’s Leslie. He’s got a twin brother, Wesley. Wesley is smart. He’s DT.” He said, “What’s DT?” “He’s the dumb twin.” I said, “I am, sir.” When I said, “I am, sir,” he came to me from his desk and he said to me, “Don’t you ever say that again. Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.” At that moment, he interrupted how I saw myself.
A lot of minorities are starting to go into business. They take what little monies that they have, resources, whether it’s from their 401(k)s, pension or equity in their homes. What would your words of wisdom be for them?
The primary ability to them succeeding in addition to them mastering the knowledge and skill in their area is mental resolve.
What does that mean?
Over 90% of businesses fail their first year, so you want to fail your way to success. Walt Disney filed bankruptcy seven times and had two nervous breakdowns. You’re going to fail your way to success.
That is one of the things I normally say. People want to go in business and they think they get a few business cards, open a website, things like that and that’s it. I say, “It’s a lot tougher than that.” It’s going to get lean.
Ask for help, not because you are weak, but because you want to remain strong.
During the lean times, the times that you’re prosperous, you put it in your pocket. Those lean times are character-building experiences and you learn things about yourself and how serious you are. I remember there was a lady in Detroit, Martha Jean “The Queen.” She had a radio show. She had a speech that was her signature message, “Do you really want to win?” That winning comes with a price. That winning requires sacrifice. That winning requires you’re willing to do the things that others won’t do in order to have the things tomorrow others won’t have. I remember when I started out, they used to tell me, “There’s no way that you’d be successful as a speaker and speaking to corporations. There’s nobody that looked like you. That’s not going to happen. You had the complexion of rejection.”
My mother taught me that opinions are like behinds. Everybody’s got one. I remember I paid a guy to give me some pointers of what it takes for him to become the first African-American vice president of Ohioville. He’ll spend a whole day with me. I paid him for his time and then told me afterward that he wouldn’t hire me and I said, “Why?” He said, “Because I know you and I can’t justify it. You don’t have any college education. Don’t you know if I can earn $5,000, $10,000 or $15,000 an hour, you think I’d be working for Ohioville?”
Because you didn’t have a college education, he would not hire you.
He could not justify it making the allocation to pay me.
I don’t have a hold of college education and I work in an industry taking companies public and raising millions of dollars for companies going from private to public or who need access to capital. Everyone thinks getting capital is easy. I’m like, “I don’t know what you’re talking about because banks don’t give it to you and if you’re not showing that you’re profitable, you can’t get it.” More importantly, when you’re down and out, for me, I went to one of your books back in the day. In my spirit, Les Brown’s books or audio or whatever it was, it was in my head so I got up. Take us from there because this is what my audience is going to want to know is, “When I’m out, I have no faith, everything is lost. Everybody around me is kicking me and telling me to give up and to get a job somewhere. What does Les Brown say?”
I was engaged to someone that I loved very much and she invited me to go to lunch with her, and she invited a friend named Roselyn. Roselyn asked me, “What do you do, young man?” I said, “I’m a motivational speaker.” “Who do you speak for?” I said, “No one yet. I will be speaking for major corporations all over the country and around the world.” She asked, “What college did you attend?” I said, “I have no college education. In fact, I was labeled as educable mentally retarded. I’m put back from the fifth grade until the fourth grade and I think that’s going to give me an advantage when I tell my story.” She said, “Mildred, can we go to the restroom for a moment?” They stayed in the restroom for a long time and when they came back, Roselyn said, “Bye, Mr. Motivator,” and Mildred’s eyes were red and I can tell she was crying. I said, “What’s going on?” She said, “You should not marry him.” I said, “Why?” Mildred said, “She is a psychiatrist and she said you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur.” I said, “Is that a bad thing?” She said, “Yes, you are crazy.” She broke off the engagement.
Is it right then and there? You must have been devastated.
I was devastated. She said she would be unevenly yoked. She was an ophthalmologist and there I was with no college education and sleeping in my office in the Penobscot Building downtown in Detroit on Griswold, and hiding in the closet when the janitorial staff came in to clean up. Let me tell you what happened. I spoke at a place called the Church of Today. I did a six-week series and the sixth week, because of my commitment and not giving up, news reporters came out to interview me to find out what was it that I was doing that brought over 2,000 to 3,000 people out to hear me do this series called Choosing Your Future. One of the King brothers, Michael King, was at a hotel. He was inebriated. He saw the interview and he called me the next day, “I’m looking for someone to be a black Jerry Springer.” I said, “I’m not your guy,” and hung up.
You passed up an opportunity that wasn’t for you.
I said, “That’s not me,” so he called back, “I’m going to send you something and you are to call me.” I said, “Don’t lose any sleep over it.” Three days later, I heard my secretary said, “This can’t be real. No.” I said, “What’s wrong?” She came in and she showed me a check and a contract and the check was $2.5 million. He offered me $5 million to do a talk show and they made a $2.5 million deposit. I was blown away. I’ll tell you, this thing called life is interesting because what are the chances that he was in a hotel and having to turn on that channel that day. I was being interviewed and it caught his attention. I encourage you to make no and rejection your vitamin. There’s a scripture that says, “Commit thy works unto the Lord and thy thoughts shall be established. In all thy ways, acknowledge him and he shall direct thy path.”
The keyword there is commit, the difference between commitment and involvement in the dream. The next time you have bacon and eggs, look at it. The chicken was involved, but the pig was committed. He had to give it all up and why? I had given it all up. I burned the bridges. I was no way thinking about going back to working for someone else. I’m not mentally fit to do that. I was determined that I was going to make my mark in this area of speaking. People say, “There’s no way you can do that. There are over 3,000 speakers. There’s no way that you can make yourself stand out.” I did because I was willing to commit myself to do the work.
I want my audience to understand what Les is saying. I’ve had more failures in business than I have had successes, but my successes trump everything collectively. The experience and the knowledge and the wisdom that we get and learn to go through a struggle, going through a difficult time must not be discounted. It must be placed in the credited column because you’re going to be able to spring off of that. When you can hear Les Brown and he’s got a book coming out, I want you to understand me carefully. He has a book coming out and we’re going to give away 1,200 of those books free to people who signed up and everything like that so that you can hear that voice like I heard that voice. Most of you know I got the fifth-largest energy company in the United States. That’s a minority-owned energy company. You know about the technology and everything that we control.
If I hadn’t heard one of the greatest motivational speakers to me in the world, I might not be here now. When I was down and out, things weren’t working. It didn’t look like it was possible or it was going to happen. Something in there kept me going. I contribute that to Les Brown. For people like me, you’ve got this book coming out. I’m down and out or might not even be down. I’m trying to do this new thing. I don’t know all the ins and outs, but I made that leap. What will the book say and how will it talk to them?
You’ve got to monitor what you say to yourself and that’s important. Studies indicate that over 85% of our self-talk is negative. There was a guy who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and part of what he won it for, he said, “When something happens to you of an adverse nature, do not listen to your first mind when that happens.” He said, “Let the time come past you before you look at it and make a decision.” Because when you make a decision based upon appearances, that would be the wrong decision. I submit to you that when something happens to you, that you have to stop, take a breath, look at it and put it in perspective. At that moment you need to know, “What is it that I don’t know now?”
I used to be a state legislator in Columbus, Ohio from the 29th House District. When I won an argument on a piece of legislation on the House of the Ohio Legislature, I won because of what I knew. If I lost that debate around that legislation, I lost because of what I did not know and that caused me to go back to the drawing board. Einstein said, “The thinking that has brought me this far has created some problems that this thinking can solve.” Part of what I encourage people to do is ask for help, not because you are weak, but because you want to remain strong and ask for help and don’t stop until you get it. Sometimes you need another perspective to look at it and to let you know, “Here are some other options that you have.” Many times, you can’t read the label if you’re locked in the box. You are able to get some other thinking and some fresh eyes.
It creates that different third mind.
The other thing is you’ve got to be willing to be persistent. Og Mandino wrote The Greatest Salesman in the World. He is a good friend of mine. He said, “I will persist until I succeed,” so even a broke clock is right twice a day. I kept on knocking. A guy told me that there was no way that I was going to make it. His wife asked him as they looked at me getting in my car, driving away and she said, “Do you think he’s going to listen to you?” He said, “No.” She said, “Why? He has such respect for you.” He said, “I know but he doesn’t know enough to know he can’t do it.”
I think that was me. I think I didn’t know enough to know that, “This probably won’t work or maybe I should stop.” I was dumb and foolish enough to keep on barreling right on through and I ended up on the other side.
Be intelligently ignorant. You don’t know enough about yourself to be cynical.
I think you have to be intelligently ignorant. We don’t know enough about ourselves to be a cynic. We have the ability to do more, but because we live in a culture where we’ve been told more about our limitations rather than our potential, most of us surrender and we have a limited vision of ourselves. You can’t fit a big dream into a small mind. That’s why mental resolve is important because as you begin to expand your awareness of yourself, that began to expand your awareness of what you can do. The Laws of Aerodynamics always existed, but because we did not know it, we were not aware of the Laws of Aerodynamics. We rode the backs of animals. As we expanded our vision, we began to look for other ways to transport bodies around the world and out into space.
Self-awareness, taking a personal inventory of yourself, constantly studying to expand your knowledge and your experiences. Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or it’s boring,” and upgrading your relationships, you earn within $2,000 to $3,000 of your closest friends. Dennis Kimbro said, “If you’re the smartest one in your group, you’ve got to get a new group.” You need to upgrade those relationships. I was on board with Bishop TD Jakes and he came in and said, “The meeting is now open. Listen to me clearly, as soon as I know as much from all of you around this table, you’re fired.” What was he saying to us? He has us there because there was something we knew that he did not know. As soon as he discovers that his knowledge is comparable to what we brought to the table, he would get us out of the room and bring in some people that he had to learn from.
What you said is powerful. They were smarter than him. He recognized that he had to surround himself with people who were smarter than he was, but the moment he obtained all that knowledge that they had, he knew he had to graduate and get a new group. That’s one of the keys that we will find in your book.
What Alvin Toffler said, “We must learn, unlearn and relearn,” because this is the era of what he called the three Cs: accelerated change, overwhelming complexity and tremendous competition. As we speak, I can have this interview with you with holograms and do it in 50 different countries. That technology is available because technology eclipsed geography. We have to run to stand still and stay on the cutting-edge because this is where we are. Artificial intelligence is replacing over 20,000 jobs a month.
I hear all the time people from my audience say, “I’m black. Everything’s against me.” They may say, “I’ve been arrested or went to prison. I can’t get a job,” or something of that nature. “No one will give me an opportunity,” to those people, what do you say?
There are three things that would allow you to make it. Number one is mental resolve. Two is increasing your skillset in some areas that are your passion. Three is creating collaborative achievement-driven and supportive relationships. Let’s deal with the issue of, “I have a record.” Don King who became a dominant promoter in the boxing world stabbed a man to death in broad daylight in Cleveland, Ohio and went to prison for manslaughter. While he was there, he studied the boxing industry and he came out and he decided that he was going to become a promoter.
What you’re saying is Don King took the time to do the work to become professional and an expert in the boxing industry.
You have to find something that you’re going to master, something that becomes your magnificent obsession. I don’t get paid $70,000 an hour to speak. I get paid $70,000 an hour for the value I bring to that hour, for the experience that I’m able to orchestrate that will transform that audience individually and collectively. The reason that I’m being flown to Dubai with seven of my staff, first-class and paid $225,000 because of the experience that I could orchestrate that will impact their bottom line. That’s the name of the game. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Once a man or a woman’s mind has been expanded with idea or concept or experience, it can never be satisfied with going back to where it was.” As small business owners, we have to create an experience with our customers to increase repeat business and referral business.
One of the problems that I’ve noticed with minority businesses is that they don’t want to spend the money in the right places to purchase the right resources that will help them to graduate and make that leap. Can you speak to that a little bit?
I spent years going to seminars and workshops reading a minimum of 2 to 3 books a month and thousands of them.
Did you say two to three books a month? You must be a great reader.
I’m a slow reader. I didn’t read well when I was in school and everything and I guess they didn’t give me the right books. When they gave me some business books and things of that nature, I was able to put that stuff together. I was like, “I got something.” A light came on and a fire lit up. I don’t read as many books as you do, but I do read about 1.5 to 2 books a month, and I’ve been consistent. I’ve been bad the last year or two because other things have kept me busy. Tell us about that. Why is that important?
You want to be current. Things are changing fast. You have to run to stand still. By the third year of college, the curriculum that you have studied is already obsolete. Things are changing rapidly. I’ll be able to leave a business for my children that my children and my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren would be able to see me through a hologram teaching the class and in my voice. The information will be upgraded to match that day in the data that’s available on that particular day. I’ll be teaching from the grave. That is the time that we’re living in. Tony Robbins, people have seen a hologram with him and other speakers now training in several cities simultaneously. They did this test with 2Pac and Michael Jackson. The game has changed in all of the industries. You expand or you’re expendable. This is no time to sit on your laurels. There’s a book called Average Is Over. You can’t be average. You’ve got to find something that’s you. Something that is your magnificent obsession. I was born to speak. I talk in my sleep.
You were born to speak, I was born to finance companies, put deals together and see what other people can’t see. A lot of people say, “That company won’t work. Don’t put money into that. That’s no good.” I’m like, “No, I think we’ve got something here,” and it always works out. Sometimes I say, I don’t know if it’s the many years of experience or of all the failures that I had that allows me to put the dots together quickly for the quick successes from all that hard work. What do you say?
I think that hard work is important. I don’t think that billionaires are born. I think they’re nurtured and they’re developed. Nobody could have told me, if my birth parents came in here, I would not know either one. No one could have convinced me by giving a 90-minute presentation at the seminar of the century with T. Harv Eker who wrote Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, that I would be able to earn $410,000 in 90 minutes. I had no idea that was available for me. There are things that we can do that we don’t know that we can do. What’s important that you’re doing is opening up people’s minds saying, “We have access.” You can point to the problems that we face of racism and discrimination or you can find a way to win and that’s what you’re doing. You are giving people the tools that they need, access, how to get into the game and win. I remember Jackie Robinson said, “Don’t make it a level playing field. Let me on the field and I will level that myself.” I say, “Just give me the mic.” I told my kids when I die, don’t let them embalm me for three days. Sneak in the morgue and put a microphone in my hand. If I don’t grab it and say, “You’ve got to be hungry,” you could call your brothers and sisters and say, “He’s gone now.”
Tell us the name and the title of your book.
It’s You Gotta be Hungry. If you have the complexion of connection, you can have a burning desire.
I want everybody to understand something. Anyone who has many years of experience and doing something, motivating people, cheering you on so you have that silent voice inside of you to get back up and to keep going, to march forward, you need to listen to him. You need to have the book. You need to listen to him. I didn’t mean to cut you off, but I had to because that many years is a lot of experience. That’s a lot of wisdom.
I know a thing or two because I have seen a thing or two. It’s been exciting. I used to think people in their 40s are old, but now that I’m 75, I believe I was a waiter at the Last Supper. When you are doing what you love to do, there’s a joy that comes with that passes all human understanding. I don’t get paid for the speeches. I get paid to get on an airplane. That’s what I tell them to get on another airplane and I look forward to it. I never ever get tired of what I do. I was taught and I do believe this via Mr. Washington, that inspiration, motivation and encouragement are perfumes you can’t sprinkle on others without getting a few drops on yourself.
If the audience walks away with 10% of what I provide for them in that experience, then they got something because I get turned on. I want to impact people and live a life that will outlive me because of the impact that I’m able to make with the people that I train and influence and the people they train, influence and make their mark with. Oliver Wendell Holmes said that we should be ashamed to die until we’ve made some major contributions to humankind.
I know you have a training program that teaches and trains speakers. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I work with a select few people. I don’t work with everybody. We do a vetting process, but for those of you that are interested, seven is my lucky number. They can email me at LesBrown77@Gmail.com. What we do is we conduct an in-depth interview to extract your story in those special moments, then show you how to organize that and develop a master keynote that allows you to go national and international. I’ve earned over $65 million in this area since I’ve been doing it.
I would say that you’re proficient and you know what you’re talking about. You made money at it. You’ve been doing it for many years. People, you need to listen. You need to pay attention.
Until you learn, you earn and you pass it on. This stage is about passing it on to people who want to invest in themselves. I say, “Put your money where your mouth is,” and be coachable because you can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame. All of us need someone with a trained eye and experience who can take us to a place within ourselves that we cannot go by ourselves and that can help us to have a breakthrough that can help us to get to that next level. We’ve all had some experiences, people in our lives that helped us to begin to see our lives with new eyes.
We would like to thank you for coming on.
I want to thank you for interviewing me. Out of 51 years, I probably have been interviewed by someone that looks like me, maybe eight times. 99% of my clients are white. I’m not complaining. I feel like Jesus, “Whosoever will, let him go. He who has fear, led him here.” What I’m saying is that I’m so appreciative of you, I have to contain myself being able to talk to you and to be on this program and have this moment with you. I hope your audience get some value out of it. I hope that you spread the word about this program because it is designed to expose you, not through motivation, but through methods and techniques and strategies that will allow you to grow yourself, your business, to attract more customers and to be able to dominate your market. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Thank you for who you are.
Thank you, Les.
I appreciate you.
- Les Brown
- The Greatest Salesman in the World
- Average Is Over
- Secrets of the Millionaire Mind
About Les Brown
As one of the world’s most renowned motivational speakers, Les Brown is a dynamic personality and highly-sought-after resource in business and professional circles for Fortune 500 CEOs, small business owners, non-profit and community leaders from all sectors of society looking to expand opportunity. For three decades he has not only studied the science of achievement, he’s mastered it by interviewing hundreds of successful business leaders and collaborating with them in the boardroom translating theory into bottom-line results for his clients.
As a premier Keynote Speaker and leading authority on achievement for audiences as large as 80,000—Les Brown energizes people to meet the challenges of the world around them. He skillfully weaves his compelling life story into the fabric of our daily lives. The thread is forever strengthened, touting why you can’t afford to be complacent and to aim high, achieve and actively make an impact on the world.