(upbeat music) – I hated that job and I clung to that job. Ten years in a place without heat, six years at a job I felt stuck in, maybe I was afraid of change. Are you? When I was 29, I told myself the next acting job I get, no matter what it pays, I will from now on, for better or worse, be a working actor. And now I didn’t have either the internet or a cell phone or a job, but something good happened. I got a low-paying theater job in a play called Imperfect Love, which led to a film called 13 Moons with the same writer, which led to other roles, which led to other roles and I’ve worked as an actor ever since. I didn’t know that would happen. At 29, walking away from data processing, I was terrified, but this made me very hungry, literally. (audience laughs) I couldn’t be lazy. Now I tell this story because the world might say, you are not allowed to yet. Please don’t even bother asking, don’t bother telling the world you are ready, show it, do it, trust me, a rhythm sets in.
Just try not to wait until like me, you’re 29 before you find it and if you are that’s fine too. Some of us never find it, but you will, I promise you. Raise the rest of your life to meet you. Don’t search for defining moments because they will never come. The moments that define you have already happened and they will already happen again. Don’t wait until they tell you you are ready, get in there. I waited a long time out in the world before I gave myself permission to fail. What did Beckett say? Ever tried, ever failed, no matter, try again, fail again, fail better, the world is yours. Treat everyone kindly in the light of the night. (audience applauds) – You know my mother had me when she was 16 years old and I used to sleep on the floor and I had eight uncles in that same house and they they did everything under the sun, you know, going in and out of prison and my mother she worked at Wendy’s and she would get off work at Wendy’s and I would be about the last kid sitting in the park and I’ll be waiting on my mother because I didn’t want to go home because you know every other day or every other week our front door would get kicked in because my uncles, they sold drugs, so every opportunity I got in solitude to cultivate a vision for my life, I took advantage of it, but one night my mother came into the park and I walked off the field and I said, can you please introduce me to my father because I played every sport and every sport I played, we had to show our birth certificate and so every time I pulled out my birth certificate I would always see my mother’s name, but I never saw my father’s name, and so it bother me.
So she says sure and so my first encounter with my father, I shook his hand, I said, “Hey man, how you doing?” He said, Hey little man. He said, man I heard you could really play sports. I said, thanks I heard you can too. I said, but here’s what I need you to do for me. I need you to pick me up every Friday night, book me out every Saturday morning and you can take me back home after that. I don’t need any money, I don’t need any clothes. I just need to make it to the NFL, so I can help my mother and my grandmother. Can you do that? He said, Yeah, I gotcha. So he picked me up on Friday night, the first Saturday morning he shakes me, it’s a.m. in the morning. I wake up, I’m wiping the coal out of my eyes. He said, Little man you said you wanted it, right? I said, Yes sir. He said, Get up, we’re running two miles to this five station two miles back home.
I said, Okay, let’s do it and so he walks by me and he busted a u-turn and he looked up at me, he said, Son. I said, Yes sir. He said, I want you to pull that other person outside of you. No disrespect, I said, but I don’t see another person. I said, so I understand we have different lives and you have your job and so, if you’re tired, I get it you can go back in the house and you go to sleep, but you’re not stopping me from running to this fire station. I’m running to this fire station, whether you go or not. and he looked at me and what he said to me, it pierced my heart in such a way. He said, Son, what I’m trying to get you to understand is no matter how hard you work, there is somebody on the inside of you that works even harder.
He said, No matter how dedicated you are, there is somebody on the inside of you that’s more dedicated. No matter how committed you are, there was somebody on the inside of you that’s more committed and you don’t even know what commitment is yet. You think commitment is just saying, yes sir, I will, but what commitment is, commitment is staying true to what you said you were going to do long after the mood that you have said it in has left, meaning on the days when you don’t feel like doing what you said you would do, you get up and you do it anyway.
That’s what builds character and he said, I need you to understand the concept that there’s another person on the inside of you because one day in your life you will face something that’s a lot tougher than you and your strength and your drive and your commitment and your work ethic won’t do it you have to realize that it’s something on the inside of you that’s greater than anything that life can throw at you and immediately I got. And so when my life changed not only did my football career end, I got a paralyzed right arm and hand. Life changed overnight, but I was extremely grateful for because the whole time I understood that you have to tap into in order to get through one of the darkest, toughest, roughest moments of your life, there’s another person on the inside.
(upbeat music) – This was my shot. I cried a lot. It was so embarrassing. I got fired from Frasier, the one everyone knew was going to be a hit and it was. This time it was really hard not to think that it wasn’t meant to be, my career as an actress. A couple of months later, I was almost completely out of money. Then I got a call from a friend, the actor Richard Kind, who said, and this is exactly how he sounds, I heard what happened. I don’t know how you get up in the morning. (audience laughs) How do you even get out of bed, get dressed, walk out the door and show your face? (audience laughs) I was getting up in the morning and leaving my apartment, so maybe I was coping better than I was expected to.
That’s a good sign and I understand that because the ’20s, they are at that time in your life when you’re really getting acquainted to self-doubt. When there’s so much seemingly at stake, so let me reassure you, it’s not supposed to be easy. You’re supposed to have moments of uncertainty about which path to take because the ’20s are full of crossroads. And when one door closes, another door always opens. It really does. That’s what I would tell myself to keep those moments of doubts only moments and it worked I kept going. Then it all changed after many auditions, I was the second person cast in the pilot called Friends Like Us, which would later be changed to Friends. Jim Burrows also directed this pilot and the first 10 episodes of Friends. One day the six of us were talking with Jimmy exchanging the time I got fired stories and Jimmy told them mine. Well, she’s got the worst one of all.
She got fired from Freddie Jerk. Well, it’s a good thing you got fired, or you wouldn’t have been on this show. He was right. And it was a good thing I didn’t get Saturday Night Live and that Romy and Michele, that that pilot didn’t work out and every other disappointment that happened. They were actually more like guideposts that kept me on my path. Oh and after I got fired from Frasier, I went to a birthday party and feeling like I had nothing at all to lose.
I flirted with a guy, who was way out of my league, we dated and on Thursday, Michel and I will have been married for 15 years and we’ll celebrate with our remarkable twelve-year-old son. So thank God I got fired, there is a reason for everything. (upbeat music) – I had a lot of failures. I feel for funny things that I failed at a key primary school tests for two times and I failed three times for the middle school you know for three years I tried, failing the universities So I applied jobs for 30 times, got rejected. I went for a police, they said, no, you’re not good. I went to even the KFC. When KFC came to China, come to our city, 24 people went for the job, 23 people accepted, I was the only one guy, and we went for police, five people, four of them accepted.
I was the only guy did not receive it. So to me being turned down, rejected, oh by the way, I told you that I applied for Harvard for ten times rejected. (audience laughs) I know I’ll be rejected, I just wanted to say that. I think we have to get used to it, we’re not that good even today, we still have a lot of people reject us. I don’t think in this world a lot of people be rejected more than 30 times. If we, you know the only thing we never give up, the only thing like, we’re like a Forrest Gump. We keep on fight, we keep on change ourself. We don’t complain. Whether you are successful, not successful. I find that when people when they finish the job, if they make a mistake and they fail, if they always complete the others, this guy will never come back. If the guy only check himself yeah, something wrong with me here, something won’t be there. This guy has a hope. (upbeat music) – I said yes when I wanted to say no, I don’t want to do that.
He became physically violent with me. I’d never been in an abusive relationship before. I felt as if I didn’t have the profile of a woman who would ever be abused verbally, emotionally and sure not physically. And I remember when that relationship finally ended and I was grateful that it ended and I was alive because there are some days when my life was in danger. I had so much guilt and anger and blame and more than anything shame. How did I get here? And the bigger question was how will I get out? How do I move from this place? I remember sitting in the doctor’s office, sitting on the table and she asked me a myriad of questions. She left the room and came back with a piece of paper in her hand and she said, Lisa, you are clinically depressed and I need to give you this prescription and I looked at the piece of paper and it said Lisa Nichols, Prozac. I didn’t see that level of sad coming. I think when sad comes, you don’t know it’s coming. It’s a little, one little circumstance, another circumstance, another missed moment where you don’t speak your mind, another moment when you don’t say what’s on your heart, another moment when you say yes and you really wanted to say no, another moment when you just put everyone else in front of you and here I was in the doctor’s office, clinically depressed.
I asked my doctor could I do something before I fulfilled the prescription? Could I try something else? Because when she said I was really, really sad what I realized was that I had just forgot who I was. That I had become Jilani’s mom, that’s all I was. I’d become his fiancee, that’s all I was and then I was the woman that he abused and then I was the daughter trying to hide the abuse from my father and my mother and then I was the motivational speaker trying to hide the fact that I was sad from everyone. I just forgot who I was and so I asked her can I have 30 days to just discover me again and I did three things. One, I put affirmations all around my house reminding me who I was, you are an unrepeatable miracle, you are beautiful in your own right, you are, you deserve healthy love, you are a child of God, everywhere I could look at my house was Post-It note reminding me of who I was.
I read scriptures and I read words that showed me my birthright and then every day I got in the mirror and I completed three sentences. I looked in my eyes and I said, Lisa, I’m proud that you and I found seven things to celebrate Lisa for and the second sentence was Lisa, I forgive you for and I found seven different things to cut the shackles of blame, shame, guilt, regret and anger around and I said, Lisa, I commit to you that and I made seven different commitments to myself every day for 30 days and when I went back to the doctor I was completely ready to take the prescription and fill it if I needed to. When I share it with her, she asked me question after question after question again.
Then at the end, she goes I have two questions for you, Lisa. I said what, she said what have you been doing for the last 30 days and can I use it with other patients because I found my way back to me. And another moment that I’m super, super grateful for was when my daddy took me on my first date. I was 12 years old and he took me out to a restaurant on the pier in Marina del Rey and he ordered my drink and ordered my food and open the car door and all the things you would do on a great date that I didn’t know anything about at 12. And at the end of the evening, I went to walk in the house and my father was opening, holding the door open for me and he closed the door so I could not get in and I stopped and I was like, daddy what’s wrong and he said I want you to know something Lisa. Tonight I took you on your first date, so you get to see how you get to be treated. I wanted you to see how you get to be treated, now sweetheart, how you choose to be treated, that’s gonna be on you.
The big moments in your life are made up by the little decisions you make. I didn’t make a big decision to get in an abusive relationship. I made a little decision to lower my integrity bar. I made another little decision to stay when I saw the first sign that he didn’t honor me the way I deserve to be honored. I made a little decision when I crossed over, moved past that moment of discomfort and allowed his words to make up for his behavior. It was my job to fall madly in love with me first, That no one was going to show me how to love me, that I have to show not only me how to love me, but I had to show other people how to love me. That you are the first example of what loving you looks like, in the way you love you, is the way the world’s gonna love you. So when you say I don’t need rest, then we believe you. When you say no, don’t worry about me, I’m fine, we believe you. When you say no, I don’t need help, we believe you.
When you say I’m fine by myself, we believe you. So, here’s what I realized words are power, words, words speak life, words, your life as a physical manifestation of the conversation going on in your head and it’s a physical manifestation of the words that are falling across your lips and if you want to create a better life, design a better conversation. If you want to design a better conversation, think about a thought, not about them, but first about you and if you can feel it right now, something stirring in your soul, just that little something, you can’t even describe it then you’re still in the game. It ain’t over yet. it’s never too late at 20, at 40, at 55, at 75, at 88, it ain’t ever too late to press reset and fall madly in love with the life that you’ve been given and then you’ll look up and your life is barely, then you look up and your life is barely recognizable.
I’m a girl from South Central LA. Living between the Harlequin ’30s and the rollin’ ’60s, had three fights a week to get home from school. Got kicked out of college, I was considered academically challenged. I’m functionally dyslexic still. I wear everything as a badge. I’m fine with it. I’m not successful in spite of it. My success is beautiful because of it. I’m that woman who was on government assistance, okay. I’m that woman who got out of abusive relationship, okay. But I’m also that woman who’s authored or co-authored seven bestsellers. I’m also that woman who’s a CEO of a multi-million dollar business. I’m also the woman who has an international brand and touches over 30 million people a year.
I’m also that woman, don’t wear the labels and don’t let the labels wear you. You’re bigger than a label. I’m a woman before I’m a mother. I’m a woman before I’m a CEO. I’m a woman before I’m a daughter. I’m a woman first, all things. I’m not a hero I want to be a she-ro. And I want to give her a chance and I say to you as your sister, you don’t think you get to press reset, you better think again, it is not over.
Matter of fact, it just begun. (upbeat music) – I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I know. I was born in Follansbee, West Virginia. (audience laughs) And I went by where I was born last night about 10:30. I was born in a cellar at home delivered by Dr. McGraw. We had one bedroom for my sister, myself, and my parents. we had a half bath and a kitchen. Seven half years, we lived in that place. There was no welfare, there was no food stamps, there was no safety net, but I always had plenty to eat ’cause every time I asked for seconds, my dad would say, no you had plenty. (audience laughs) But the reason I was born with a silver spoon, my dad had only gone to the third grade.
That’s all the education he had. But why was I born with a silver spoon in my mouth because I was taught by my parents. That life’s a matter of making choices, wherever you are good or bad because of the choices you make. Don’t blame anybody else. But if you get an education, you’re willing to work and overcome problems and difficulty.
In this great country, you can amount to something. That’s why I was born with a silver spoon. I was in this country and I was taught personal responsibility for choices you make. When we talk about a commitment to excellence, that’s a choice you make. What do you want to do, having hopes and dreams and ambition? See I think that is absolutely critical, don’t make the mistake I made. I’ve done a lot of dumb things, but let me tell you the one thing I regret. We went to the University of Notre Dame, we took a program on the bottom, we took it to the very top and for nine straight years, we went to a January One Bowl; the Sugar, the Cotton, the Orange, and the Fiesta.
Nobody’s done it before, nobody’s done it since. We put it on top and we maintained it. That’s the thing I regret the most. See there’s a rule in life that says you’re either growing or you’re dying. The tree’s either growing or it’s dying. So is grass, so is a marriage, so is a business, so is a person, doesn’t have a thing to do with age. My birthday candles cost more than the cake, (audience laughs) but it has everything to do with my trying to get better, my trying to prove we got on top and say, you know, this is pretty good. Let’s maintain it, let’s not take any risk. We finished 2nd in the country at Notre Dame. Everybody’s calling me an idiot. Guy finishes last in medical school, they call him doctor. That doesn’t seem fair. (audience laughs) When I left Notre Dame, I never thought I’d coach again.
Where do you go from Notre Dame? According to my mother you go directly to heaven, you sit by the Pope, you don’t coach anymore. (audience laughs) and then I went to live in a town where the average age was deceased. (audience laughs) And what I found out I wasn’t tired of coaching. You have to have something to hope for, something to dream and even though you’ve done great things so far, what’s gonna happen now? I want to give you a simple plan.
Life doesn’t have to be complicated. I try to keep life simple. Do you realize there are only seven colors of the rainbow? Only seven. Look what Michelangelo did with those seven colors. There’s only seven musical notes. Look what Beethoven did with those seven notes. There’s only ten numbers. Look what Bernie Madoff did with those ten numbers. (audience laughs) The point I make is it doesn’t have to be complicated. So you need four things in your life. If you don’t have any of these four things in your life, you’re going to have a tremendous void. See everybody needs something to do. Number two, everybody needs someone to love. Number three, everybody needs someone to believe in and in my case is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. But the fourth thing you need in your life is you need something to hope for. There’s never a right time to do the wrong thing and there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Just do what’s right. And I think it’s right to be honest, right to be on time.
See ladies and gentlemen enjoy life, have fun. You’re going to have problems, you’re going to have difficulties. That’s part of life. And don’t tell people about your problems. Do you know that 90% of the people don’t care (audience laughs) and the other 10% are glad you got ’em, so you’re better off keeping it to yourself then. (audience laughs) You’re gonna have problems, but have fun with what you’re doing. People say did you have fun doing ESPN? Not really because if you had fun being there, people had fun being around. Doesn’t mean I don’t do dumb things and sometimes I wasn’t real honest. Do everything to the best of your ability with time allotted. You know, ladies and gentlemen, not all of us be all-American, not everybody can be first place.
Everybody can be the best you’re capable being and I want to tell you if you want to fail, you in the right to fail. That’s what’s great about this country. You do not have the right to cause other people to fail because you don’t do everything that you’re good in. When you join a spouse, you bring a child in the world. You join a business, you join a team, you have obligations, responsibilities and you owe it to other people to do the maximum you can in each everything you do. It’s not complicated. And the last rule, you show people you care and you walk in a room, your attitude, hey here I am, look at me, and thought no.
Your attitude, there you are, how can I help you? I wished I knew those three rules when I was 21. I’ve used them for the last 40 years. There’s a statue of me at Notre Dame. I guess they need a place for the pigeons to land, but (audience laughs) if you don’t look at, just don’t look up, look at three words on the pedestal, trust, commitment, love. (soft music) – I was flunking out of college. I had a grade point average. I hope none of you can relate (laughs) at a grade point average. I was sitting in my mother’s beauty shop. They still call a beauty shop now? What they call it now? Yeah, I was sitting in the beauty parlor. I was sitting in my mother’s beauty parlor and I’m looking in the mirror and I see behind me this woman under the dryer and every time she looked up she, every time I looked up she was looking at me, just looking me in the eye. I didn’t know who she was and I said, you know she said somebody give me a pen, give me a pen, so I have a prophecy, March 27 1975, she said boy you were gonna travel the world and speak to millions of people.
Now mind you, I flunked out of college. I’m thinking about joining the army. I didn’t know what I was gonna do and she’s telling me I’m gonna travel the world and speak to millions of people. Well I have traveled the world and I have spoke to millions of people, but that’s not the most important thing, the success that I had. The most important thing is that what she taught me and what she told me that day has stayed with me since. I’ve been protected. I’ve been directed. I’ve been corrected. Fail big, that’s right, fail big, you only live once, So do what you feel passionate about take chances professionally. Don’t be afraid to fail. There’s an old IQ test was nine dots and you had to draw five lines with a pencil within these nine dots without lifting the pencil. The only way to do it was to go outside the box. So don’t be afraid to go outside the box. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Don’t be afraid to fail big, to dream big, but remember dreams without goals are just dreams and they ultimately fuel disappointment.
So have dreams, but have goals, life goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, daily goals. I try to give myself a goal every day and understand that to achieve these goals, you must apply discipline and consistency. You have to work at it every day. You have to plan every day. You’ve heard the saying we don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan, hard work works. Working really hard is what successful people do and in this text, tweet, twerk world that you’ve grown up in, remember just because you’re doing a lot more doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done. Remember that, just because you’re doing a lot more, doesn’t mean you’re getting a lot more done. Don’t confuse movement with progress. My mother told me, she said, yeah ’cause you’ve been running in place all the time and never get anywhere. So continue to strive, continue to have goals, continue to progress and anything you want good, you can have, so claim it. Work hard to get it. When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up, each one, teach one. Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference.
(upbeat music) – I was 18 years old when I got married. I belonged to a very conservative family, a Baloch family. Where good daughters never say no to their parents. My father wanted me to get married and all I said was, if that makes you happy, I’ll say yes and of course, it was never a happy marriage. Just about after two years of getting married, about nine years ago, I’m in a car accident. (soft music) Somehow my husband fell asleep and the car fell in the ditch. He managed to jump out, saved himself, I’m happy for him, but I stayed inside the car and I sustained a lot of injuries, list is a bit long. The radius ulna of my right arm were fractured, the wrist was fractured, shoulder bone and collarbone were fractured, my whole ribcage got fractured, but that injury that changed me and my life completely was the spine injury.
Many people came to rescue. They gave me CPR, they dragged me out of the car and while they were dragging me out, I got the complete transection of my spinal cord. Those two and a half months in the hospital were dreadful. I was at the verge of despair. One day doctor came to me and he said, well I heard that you wanted to be an artist, but you ended up being a housewife. I have a bad news for you, you won’t be able to paint again. Next day doctor came to me and said, your spine injury is so bad, you won’t be able to walk again. I took a deep breath and I said it’s alright. Next day doctor came to me and said, because of your spine injury and the fixation that you have in your back, you won’t be able to give birth to a child again. That day I was devastated. I started to question my existence.
Why am I even alive? So what kept me going was one day I asked my brothers, I know I have a deformed hand, but I’m tired of looking at these white walls in the hospital and wearing these white scrubs. Bring me some colors, bring me some small canvas. I want to paint. So the very first painting I made was on my deathbed. Where I painted for the very first time. What an amazing therapy it was, without uttering a single word, I could paint my heart out. I could share my story. People used to come and say, what lovely painting, so much color. Nobody could see the grief in it, only I could and that day I decided that I’m going to live life for myself.
I am going to be that perfect person for someone. I am just going to take this moment and I will make it perfect for myself, that I’m going to fight my fears. So I wrote down, one by one, all those fears and I decided that I’m going to overcome these fears one at a time. You know what was my biggest fear? Divorce. But the day I decided that this is nothing but my fear. I liberated myself by setting him free and I made myself emotionally so strong that the day I got the news that he is getting married, I sent him a text that I’m so happy for you and I wish you all the best and he knows that I pray for him today.
Number two was I won’t be able to be a mother again and that was quite devastating for me, but then I realized there are so many children in the world, all they want is acceptance, so there is no point of crying, just go and adopt one and that’s what I did. (audience applauding and cheering) I gave my name in different organizations, different orphanages and I waited patiently. Two years later I got this call from a very small city in Pakistan. I got a call and they said, are you Muniba Mazari, there is a baby boy and would you like to adopt? I could literally feel the labor pains.
Yes, yes, I am going to adopt him. I am coming to take him home and that day Nael was two days old and today he’s six. You know when you end up being on the wheelchair, what’s the most painful thing? People think that they will not be accepted by the people because we, in the world of perfect people, are imperfect. So I decided to appear more in public. I started to paint. I have done a lot of modeling campaigns. I decided that I’m going to join the national TV of Pakistan as an anchorperson. I became the National Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women Pakistan and now I speak for the rights of women, children. I was featured in BBC 100 Women for 2015. I’m one of the Forbes 30 under 30 for 2016. So when you accept yourself the way you are, the world recognizes you. It all starts from within. We have this amazing fantasy about life. This is how things should work. This is my plan it should go as per my plan.
If that doesn’t happen, we give up. I never wanted to be on the wheelchair, never thought of being on the wheelchair. This life is a test and a trial and tests are never supposed to be easy, so when you’re expecting ease from life and life gives you lemons, then you make the lemonade and then do not blame life for that. It is okay to be scared. It is okay to cry. Everything is okay, but giving up should not be an option. They always say that failure is not an option. Failure should be an option because when you fail, you get up and then you fail and then you get up and that keeps you going. Embrace each and every breath that you are taking, celebrate your life, live it, don’t die before your death. Real happiness lies in gratitude, so be grateful, be alive and live every moment. (soft music) – If you want to change the world start off by making your bed. If you made your bed every morning you will have accomplished the first task of the day.
It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another and by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right and if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made, that you made and a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better. To pass SEAL training there are series of long swims that must be completed. One is the night swim, before the swim the instructors joyfully brief the students on all the species of sharks that inhabit the waters off San Clemente.
They assure you, however, that no student has ever been eaten by a shark, at least not that they can remember. But you are also taught that if a shark begins to circle your position, stand your ground, do not swim away, do not act afraid and if the shark hungry for a midnight snack darts towards you, then summons up all your strength and punch him in the snout and he will turn and swim away. There are a lot of sharks in the world. If you hope to complete the swim, you will have to deal with them. So if you want to change the world, don’t back down from the sharks. Over a few weeks of difficult training, my SEAL class, which started with 150 men was down to just 42.
There are now six boat crews of seven men each. I was in the boat with the tall guys, but the best boat crew we had was made up of little guys, the Munchkin crew, we called ’em. No one was over five foot five. The Munchkin boat crew had one American Indian, one African American, one Polish American, one Greek American, one Italian American, and two tough kids from the Midwest. They out paddled, out ran, and out swam all the other boat crews. The big men and the other boat crews will always make good-natured fun of the tiny little flippers, the Munchkins put on their tiny little feet prior to every swim, but somehow these little guys from every corner of the nation in the world always have the last laugh. sailing faster than everyone and reaching the shore long before the rest of us. SEAL training was a great equalizer. Nothing mattered, but your will to succeed, not your color, not your ethnic background, not your education, not your social status. If you want to change the world measure a person by the size of their heart, not by the size of their flippers.
The ninth week of training is referred to as hell week. It is six days of no sleep, constant physical and mental harassment and one special day at the mud flats. The mud flats are an area between San Diego and Tijuana where the rough water runs off and creates the Tijuana sloughs, a swampy patch of terrain where the mud will engulf you. It is on Wednesday of hell week that you paddle down in the mud flats and spend the next 15 hours trying to survive this freezing cold, the howling wind and the incessant pressure to quit from the instructors.
As the Sun began to set that Wednesday evening, my training class having committed some egregious infraction of the rules was ordered into the mud. The mud consumed each man til there was nothing visible but our heads. The instructors told us we could leave the mud, if only five men would quit, only five men, just five men and we could get out of the oppressive cold. Looking around the mud flat, it was apparent that some students were about to give up. It was still over eight hours til the sun came up, eight more hours of bone-chilling cold, of chattering teeth, and shivering moans of the trainees were so loud, it was hard to hear anything and then one voice began to echo through the night.
One voice raised in song, the song was terribly out of tune, but sung with great enthusiasm. One voice became two and two became three and before long, everyone in the class was singing. The instructors threatened us with more time in the mud if we kept up the singing, but the singing persisted and somehow the mud seemed a little warmer and the wind a little tamer and the dawn not so far away. If I have learned anything in my time traveling the world, it is the power of hope, the power of one person, a Washington, a Lincoln, King, Mandela, and even a young girl from Pakistan, Malala. One person can change the world by giving people hope. So if you want to change the world, start each day with a task completed. Find someone to help you through life. Respect everyone. Know the life is not fair and that you will fail often, but if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never ever give up. If you do these things, the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today and what started here will indeed, have changed the world for the better.
(soft music) – The wisest person I ever met in my life, a third-grade dropout. Wisest and drop out in the same sentence is rather oxymoronic, like jumbo shrimp. (audience laughs) Mm-hmm. (audience laughs) Like fun run, ain’t nothing fun about it. (audience laughs) Like Microsoft Works, y’all don’t hear me. (audience laughs) I used to say like country music, but I’ve lived in Texas so long, I love country music now, I, in fact, yeah, I hunt, I fish, I have cowboy boots and cowboy, y’all I’m a black neck redneck. Do you hear what I’m saying to you? (audience laughs) No longer oxymoronic for me to say country music and it’s not oxymoronic for me to say third grade and drop out. That third grade dropout, the wisest person I ever met in my life, who taught me to combine knowledge and wisdom to make an impact, was my father, a simple cook. Wisest man I ever met in my life.
Just a simple cook. Left school in the third grade to help out on the family farm, but just because he left school doesn’t mean a his education stopped. Mark Twain once said, “I’ve never allowed my schooling “to get in the way of my education.” My father taught himself how to read, taught himself how to write, decided in the midst of Jim Crow-ism as America was breeding the last gasp of the Civil War, my father decided he was going to stand and be a man. Not a black man, not a brown man, not a white man, but a man. He literally challenged himself to be the best that he could all the days of his life. I have four degrees. My brother is a judge. We’re not the smartest ones in our family. It’s a third grade dropout daddy. A third grade dropout daddy who was quoting Michelangelo saying to us, boys, I won’t have a problem if you aim high and miss, but I’m gonna have a real issue if you aim low and hit. A country mother quoting Henry Ford saying, if you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.
I learned that from a third grade drop, simple lessons. Lessons like these, son you’d rather be an hour early than a minute late. We never knew what time it was at my house ’cause the clocks were always ahead. My mother said for nearly 30 years my father left the house at in the morning. One day she asked him, why daddy? He said maybe one of my boys will catch me in the act of excellence. I want to share two things with you. Aristotle said you are what you repeatedly do, therefore excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. Don’t ever forget that. I know you’re tough but always remember to be kind, always don’t ever forget that. Never embarrass mama, mm-hmm, yeah, if mama ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy. If daddy ain’t happy, don’t nobody care, but you know, what can I tell you? Next lesson, lesson from a cook over there in the galley, son, make sure your servants towel is bigger than your ego. Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. Y’all might have a relative in mind, you wanna send that to, let me say it again.
(audience laughs) Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. Pride is the burden of a foolish person. John Wooden coached basketball at UCLA for a living, but his calling was to impact people and with all those national championships, guess what he was found doing in the middle of the week? Going into the cupboard, grabbing a broom and sweeping his own gym floor. You want to make an impact, find your broom. Every day of your life, you find your broom. You grow your influence that way. That way you’re attracting people, so that you can impact them. Final lesson. Son (gentle music) if you’re gonna do a job, do it right. I’ve always been told how average I can be, always been criticized about being average, but I want to tell you something. I stand here before you, before all of these people not listening to those words, but telling myself every single day to shoot for the stars, to be the best that I can be.
Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better and better isn’t good enough if it can be best. Let me close with a very personal story that I think will bring all this into focus. Wisdom will come to you in the unlikeliest of sources. A lot of times through failure. When you hit rock-bottom, remember this, while you’re struggling rock-bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow. I’m not worried that you’ll be successful. I’m worried that you won’t fail from time to time. The person that gets up off the canvas and keeps growing, that’s the person that will continue to grow their influence. Back in the ’70s to help me make this point, let me introduce you to someone. I met the finest woman I’d ever met in my life. mm-hmm, back in my day we’d called her a brick house.
(audience laughs) This woman was the finest woman I’d ever seen in my life, there’s just one little problem. Back then ladies didn’t like big old linemen. The Blind Side hadn’t come out yet. (audience laughs) They like quarterbacks and running backs. We’re at this dance and I find out her name is Trina Williams from Lompoc, California and we were all dancing and we’re just just excited and I decide in the middle of dancing with her that I would ask her for a phone number. Trina was the first one, Trina was the only woman in college who gave me her real telephone number.
(audience laughs) The next day, we walked to Baskin Robbins Ice Cream Parlor. My friends couldn’t believe it. This has been 40 years ago and my friends still can’t believe it. We go on a second date and a third date and a fourth date. Mm-hmm. (audience laughs) We drive from Chico to Vallejo so that she could meet my parents. My father meets her, my daddy, my hero. He meets her, pulls me to the side and says, “Is she psycho?” But anyway, we go together for a year, two years, three years, four years by now Trina’s a senior in college. I’m still a freshman, but I’m working some things out. (audience laughs) I’m so glad I graduated in four terms, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, so now it’s time to propose, so I talked to her girlfriends and it’s California, it’s in the ’70s, so it has to be outside, have to have a candle and have to have some chocolate.
Listen, I’m from the hood, I had a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine, that’s what I had. She said yes, that was the key. I married the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen in my, y’all ever been to a wedding and even before the wedding starts you hear this, How in the world? (audience laughs) And it was coming from my side of the family.
(audience laughs) We get married, we have a few children. Our lives are great. One day, Trina finds a lump in her left breast. Breast cancer. Six years after that diagnosis, me and my two little boys walked up to mommy’s casket and for two years my heart didn’t beat. If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I wouldn’t be standing here today. If it wasn’t for those two little boys, there’d have been no reason for which to go on. I was completely lost. That was rock bottom. You know what sustained me? The wisdom of a third grade dropout. The wisdom of a simple cook.
We’re at the casket, I’d never seen my dad cry, but this time I saw my dad cry, that was his daughter. Trina was his daughter, not his daughter-in-law and I’m right behind my father about to see her for the last time on this earth and my father shared three words with me that changed my life right there at the casket. It would be the last lesson he would ever teach me.
He said, “Son, just stand. “You keep standing, you keep stand, “no matter how rough the sea, you keep standing “and I’m not talking about just water. “You keep standing no matter what, “you don’t give up.” and as clearly as I’m talking to you today, these were some of her last words to me. She looked me in the eye and she said, “It doesn’t matter to me any longer how long I live. “What matters to me most is how I live. I ask y’all one question, a question that I was asked all my life by a third grade dropout. How you living, how you living? Everyday asked yourself that question, how you living? Here’s what a cook would suggest you to live this way, that you would not judge, that you would show up early, that you’d be kind, that you make sure that that servants towel is huge and used. That if you’re gonna do something, you do it the right way.
That cook would tell you this, that it’s never wrong to do the right thing, that how you do anything is how you do everything and in that way, you will grow your influence to make an impact, in that way, you will honor all those who have gone before you, who have invested in you. Look in those unlikeliest places for wisdom. Enhance your life every day by seeking that wisdom and asking yourself every night, how am I living. May God richly bless y’all. Thank you for having me. (audience applauding) (dramatic music) .
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