In the 1970’s Detroit was booming – Motown, Smokey Robinson, the Jackson 5; Ford, GM, Chrysler all robust; Lions, Tigers, Red Wings and Pistons all vibrant sport franchises. Detroit was in a renaissance of sorts. For one particular youngster life was good – being raised in a loving family atmosphere – especially close with his Mother – he dreamed of playing football in the NFL. When he was around twelve he began hearing rumors and innuendo from family and others in the neighborhood. He confronted his Mother – “Is Dad my real Dad?” No was the answer.
Wow. He immediately felt as if he was unwanted – an accident – a burden. His behavior in school changed. He became disruptive and disinterested. Suddenly he wanted nothing to do with the man who had been his Father. He said he was leaving home and was told that if he did, he wouldn’t be welcomed back. He left home. He dropped out of school. That great relationship with his Mother became estranged. They didn’t speak.
He began to hang out with the ‘thugs’ in his neighborhood. Tough guys. Flashy cars. Good times. Except he was homeless – he missed his Mother. He would call the house and not speak – because he needed to hear her voice. He was drawn to the church and the minister asked him “Have you gotten your GED? You need to get your GED.” The next visit resulted in the same question – and the same answer, he had not. This continued for some time. Eventually, the minister’s wife spoke with him – but with an entirely different approach. She spoke with him and asked how he was. She held him. She kissed him…and then asked if he had gotten his GED. It was that ‘motherly’ approach that finally melted his tough guy facade.
He finally got his GED. Then his four year university degree. Then his Masters. Today he needs just a dissertation to earn his PhD. He is a professor at Michigan State University. He is an author. He is a motivational speaker. He has shared a stage with some true icons of business including Bob Proctor, Jeffrey Gitomer and John C. Maxwell. His clients include universities, professional sports franchises and some of the biggest corporations in America. These achievements are phenomenal, yet they are not what makes him a fearless brand. Eric Thomas has accomplished all of this because he is a fearless brand.
Fearless brands know their why and live their purpose with passion and conviction.
Eric Thomas – ET – the Hip Hop Preacher. African-American, high school dropout from Detroit has achieved things only a small percentage of people have. In the seventies, no one – including himself – would have believed he would accomplish these things – even in their wildest imagination. ET is not even close to being satisfied. He has already committed to the next goal – the one that will follow his doctorate. He will win the Nobel Peace Prize. He doesn’t want to win it – he doesn’t say he’s going to try – he says he will win the Nobel. There is nothing to suggest that he won’t.
Eric and his mother reconciled shortly after he changed his path as a teen. They continue to have a strong and loving relationship. His own wife and children experience is passion and drive and love. His goal of becoming a PhD affords him a unique way to challenge his own son to graduate high school. “If your Dad can get a PhD you should be able to graduate high school – and when you do, you’ll be the first male in our family to do so in over sixty years.”
Last week he was one of three headline speakers at an event – scheduled to speak at 2pm. Some speakers may have slept in, had a nice breakfast, perhaps done some writing or just relaxed. ET spoke to the youth at the St. Louis Detention Center. He spoke with the same passion as he would have if it were one of his high paid corporate gigs. His payment here though was not monetary, it was the knowledge that he was providing hope to kids that have none. He was telling them that they too could turn it around and have a productive life.
Then he was off to his speaking gig – not the paid one in the afternoon but one of two more talks he would give for the same payment as he received in the morning – the knowledge that he was fulfilling his purpose – his why – and spreading more hope where there was little. This time ET was speaking at Vashon High School in St. Louis – a predominantly black school in an area with too much poverty and seemingly too few opportunities. Two more talks. Twice more he brought his A game – that’s because he doesn’t have a B game. One of his many rally cries is “All In – All the Time”.
Then he brought his A game once again – four times before 3pm – this time at his paid appearance. ET brought the same passion and the same drive as he had three times before. The consistent message happens to be the title of his latest book Greatness Is Upon You! Another of his messages is “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe” which has become the catalyst for what he calls Breathe University.
Thomas has clearly built his fearless brand…and he’s not close to being finished. What can you learn from the Hip Hop Preacher as you work to build your own fearless brand? Here are four key points to include in your branding efforts –
Know your why – Embrace your passion. Hone your skills
Live with conviction of purpose – Achieve clarity. Believe in your vision
Work, work, work. – You have to want to succeed as much as you want to breathe.
Keep growing, refining, adjusting – Your brand must remain stable but never stop moving.
BONUS – Build YOUR Fearless Brand – Eric Thomas’ story is powerful. It is the stuff of movies. It is the stuff of Nobel Peace Prizes. Don’t allow yourself to judge your brand based on ET’s. First of all it won’t be authentic – there is only one Hip Hop Preacher and there is only one you.
Check out Eric’s books and videos and talks – there is unlimited motivation to be had. Use that motivation. Know that you too can build your own fearless brand and enjoy dream success and happiness.