For the family, the beatings were frequent – many were brutal. The verbal abuse that was equally common left deeper and longer lasting scars than did the physical. Emmitt Perry, Sr., the family patriarch, knew no other way. His wife and children lived in constant fear and turmoil. That’s the childhood that Emmitt Jr., born in September of 1969, and his siblings knew as they grew up in New Orleans, La.
At one point their mother, Willie, packed the kids in the car and took off seeking a new life. Emmitt reported his car stolen, the family was stopped and returned to New Orleans. There seemed to be no way out. Emmitt Jr., however, discovered a form of escape – he would go places in his mind.
One day he was watching the Oprah Winfrey show when she talked about the power of writing about things in one’s life. Emmitt took that advice to heart and began writing deep, soul-searching letters about his experiences. He changed the names involved in case his writings were ever discovered. That practice would be life-changing.
His writings and self-reflections, soon led him know it was time for him to take action. The first thing he did was distance himself from his abusive father. Discarding the name Emmitt, he changed his name to Tyler. He dropped out of high school, took on a myriad of jobs, saved his money, and, eventually moved to Atlanta. There, he continued to work, save money, and actively pursue his practice of writing and reflecting.
The result was that Tyler became inspired to write a play. It was 1992 – Tyler was twenty-two – when he finished writing I Know I’ve Been Changed. Certain that his play would be successful, he committed his entire savings, $12,000, producing the play, and renting a theater. The play drew a total of thirty people over three days – a dismal failure.
Through the years, Tyler had developed a deep faith. His faith reinforced his belief that everything would turn out well in the end – so long as he put forth effort. Tyler traveled to find work and save money. He continued to rewrite and improve his play, staging new productions as money and opportunity allowed. The success he was certain of continued to elude him.
Six years later, Tyler was back in Atlanta, where he staged the play once again. This time, the results were wildly different. The play drew such large audiences, it had to be moved to a larger venue, the historic Fox Theater. After years of believing, improving, and adjusting – often living in his car – Tyler had found success. He wasted no time, however, moving on to his next project. He adapted a book by T. D. Jakes into a play titled Woman, Thou Art Loosed. This, too, was successful.
In 2000, Tyler wrote and produced I Can Do Bad All by Myself, a play that would vault Tyler to stratospheric success. The play introduced Madea, a God-fearing, gun-toting, grandmother – a role played by Perry himself. Having been inspired by Eddie Murphy’s portrayal of “Klumps” in Nutty Professor II, Perry had decided to play the role of a female character. Madea has become a blockbuster.
To date, Perry has been the creative force behind 17 feature films (9 featuring Madea), 20 stage plays, 7 television shows, and a New York Times bestselling book. He purchased a former military base just outside of Atlanta and has built one of the largest and modern studios in the world. Perry has won countless awards as a writer, producer, and actor. The extent of these accomplishments is mind-boggling – but not surprising. They are evidence of what can result from building a fearless brand, and Tyler Perry is without doubt a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands combine faith, passion and purpose to achieve stratospheric success
Tyler Perry has become one of the most successful and powerful people in the entertainment industry. More importantly, he is one of the most respected and well-liked people. Think about that. Who would have wagered that a poor, black youth, beaten and abused throughout his childhood, would rise to such a lofty position? One person for sure – Tyler Perry wagered on himself early and often.
His plans and plays failed time and again, yet he continued. He believed that things would work out. He believed in God. He believed in his dreams. He believed in himself. He believed in hard work. He still believes…and he’s only just begun. Tyler Perry wants to own a network – one that is family friendly, filled with positive reinforcement every minute of the day. He wants to present opportunities to others to pursue their dreams. He wants to provide rewarding jobs and careers in entertainment and in related businesses. Tyler Perry has big plans.
There’s much we can learn from a man who has achieved such incredible success – and much that we can incorporate into our efforts.
Know true success – It’s important to know how to measure success. It’s not how much money we make – though making money is a very fine goal. It’s not how many things we accumulate – though it’s nice to have things. True success is measured by our character. Consider how Tyler Perry defines success: “My biggest success is getting over the things that have tried to destroy and take me out of this life. Those are my biggest successes. It has nothing to do with work.”
Embrace the power of faith – Tyler Perry is a man of faith, and that faith has served him well in life. His faith allowed him to embrace hope – it reinforced his belief that things would turn out well. His faith led Perry to find the courage and grace to forgive. Forgiveness didn’t benefit Emmitt Sr. – it benefited Tyler Perry himself. In his words: “It’s not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you” For Perry, forgiveness allowed him to exorcise demons that began to haunt him at the very beginning of his life. There’s a power greater than us at work. Discover your faith. Embrace its power.
Self-reflection is incredibly powerful – Imagine a young boy, oft beaten, living in near poverty, with little reason for hope, listening to the suggestion of a television talk show host. Go further, imagine him actually taking action – tough action. Self-reflection is hard. It can be scary. It makes us vulnerable. Tyler Perry changed the names in his writings in order to thwart any negative fallout if the pages were found. Yet he wrote – and reflected – and dreamed. Look at where that took him. Look at where it’s taken Oprah for that matter. Makes sense to me that we should follow suit.
There’s little, if any, chance that one of us will match what Tyler Perry has accomplished. It doesn’t matter. What we can do is learn from the philosophies and actions he’s used to achieve his dreams. We can benefit in the same way Tyler Perry has. We too can build a fearless brand. We too can know true success.