Essentially homeless for three years at the end of the 1980’s, he lived in his 1976 Ford Tempo. He was divorced, sending three quarters of his limited income to his ex-wife to support their two children. With an Igloo cooler for a fridge and gas stations as his wash rooms, he traveled the country in pursuit of his chosen career. This was not the life he had envisioned as a youngster – but he was bolstered by the knowledge that this would not be his future.
Born in West Virginia, he grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where his coal miner father and Sunday school teacher mother had relocated the family. It was in a second grade essay that he first revealed his dream to, one day, be on television. He set another goal for himself around the same age. While he loved the family Christmas tree, he was overwhelmed by the massive tree at the mall. He was determined that when he made enough money, he would have a mall-sized tree in his home. He didn’t realize it then, but his parents had instilled in him traits to make his dreams reality – from his father, a work ethic – from his mother, faith.
After high school he studied first at Kent State University and then at the University of West Virginia. He then pursued a variety of professions including selling insurance, delivering mail, cleaning carpets – even boxing. Soon he decided to embrace his long time desire to be an entertainer – in particular, a comedian. That’s the chosen career that had him living in his car for three years.
Standup comedy is no laughing matter 🙂 – it’s a grueling career path which leads only a very few to fame and fortune. He worked in comedy clubs, night clubs – wherever there was a microphone and an audience. He polished his delivery, developed his own style and slowly realized a modicum of success. A strong showing in a national comic search led to his being named host of Showtime at the Apollo which, in turn, led to his being in a TV sitcom. Spike Lee’s move The Original Kings of Comedy brought his greatest fame.
His personal life however, was rocky at best. Divorced a second time, he had become a ‘player’ – a playboy. It was then that he ran into a woman he’d first met while homeless. His attraction to her was strong but he chose not to act on it given his situation. The second meeting occurred when he had found some success. They ended up getting married, the third marriage for each. His career was really taking off, he had finally met, and married, his perfect woman – this was more the life he had imagined as a boy.
He has gone on to have roles in several television shows and movies, hosted awards shows, written a bestselling book which itself was adapted to a box office smash movie. Currently he has a hit television talk show with over two million viewers. He is the sixth host of one the most popular game shows in television history whose ratings have tripled since he has starred. He has a daily syndicated radio show and recently launched a new dating site. It’s no surprise that he’s estimated to be a $40 million industry. He is happily married with a blended family of seven children – recently becoming a grandfather. These accomplishments are successful by any standard but they are not the measure of a fearless brand – rather they are the result of Steve Harvey building himself into a fearless brand through a strong work ethic and faith.
Fearless Brands are built through faith, hard work and conviction
Steve Harvey realized his passion early in life – he was going to be an entertainer. He had talent – the basic skills needed to reach that goal. Importantly, he had the drive to improve his skills, to polish his talent, to strive for continuous improvement. The result is a persona – a brand – which is relevant across countless platforms to an immensely diverse fan base. He attributes his success to the drive, support and guidance of his wife, Marjorie. He is a man of extreme faith who readily acknowledges God’s grace and blessings in his life.
He also realizes that receiving those blessings demands hard work – any of his three current roles would be considered a full time career by many. They demand that he split time between Atlanta and Chicago. Marjorie helps keep him in check, otherwise he might have twice as many jobs. Instead, he focuses on a quality family life – active with his children, encouraging them, teaching them, helping them discover their own talents and interests.
For Harvey it’s not just about work and family – it’s also about providing opportunity and guidance to others. He created the Steve Harvey Mentoring Program for Young Men whose stated mission is to share, teach and demonstrate the principles of manhood to young men, enabling them to achieve their dreams and become men who are strong, responsible and productive. A similar program aimed at girls is run by Marjorie Harvey.
There’s always so much to learn by studying fearless brands and that holds true with Steve Harvey. Perhaps the three main concepts to take from his experience are:
Embrace your vision – Harvey knew early in life what excited him – what he wanted to do – and used it as motivation. The power of your passion is immense – clarify your dreams, embrace your passion.
Hard is work required – Knowing what he wanted wasn’t enough. Having the raw talent wasn’t enough. Steve Harvey has worked tirelessly to achieve his goals. Do the work, make the effort – there’s no substitute.
It’s not about the money – Harvey speaks freely about his money, his earnings and making more. He understands however, that the money is merely a means to an end. For him, what is truly most important is a lifestyle, it’s creating a terrific family environment, it’s helping others to achieve their dreams. Maintain perspective –stay focused on your true objectives.
Steve Harvey is the embodiment of a fearless brand – authentic, passionate, skilled, relevant. Understand that you will not be as funny as he is – but you can certainly match him on those four qualities. When you do, you’ll also be a fearless brand – you’ll have achieved the goals that are important to you.
Oh, about Harvey’s Christmas tree goal – he has a beautifully decorated mall-sized tree in his five-storey Atlanta home. Build your fearless brand – achieve dream results.