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Interview By Bobby Schuller
Les Brown (LB) is a businessman and speaker, and is a consultant to Fortune 500 companies around the world. Les was born in a poor section of Miami, Florida, along with a twin brother. They would be adopted at six weeks of age. In the 5th grade, Les was labeled educable, mentally retarded. A teacher in high school would turn his life around. Les has a set of motivational CD's entitled Unwrap Your Infinite Greatness. They are available everywhere. Bobby Schuller (BS) interviews Les.
BS: Our guest this morning is a consultant of Fortune 500 companies, and businesses and organizations look to him for wisdom. He's spoken to thousands of people around the world. Please welcome with me, Les Brown?
LB: Good morning. It's a pleasure to be here with you.
BS: Now Les, you speak to some of the most powerful, important people in the world. You're obviously a sharp dressed, powerful man. But you haven't always been like this.
LB: I was born in a poor section of Miami, Florida, called Liberty City in an abandoned building on the floor with a twin brother, Wesley. When we were six weeks of age, we were adopted by Mrs. Mamie Brown. I feel like Abraham Lincoln who said, "All that I am, and all that I ever hope to be, I owe to my mother."
When I was in the 5th grade, I was labeled educable, mentally retarded, and put back from the 5th grade to the 4th grade.
BS: Wait, wait, wait, stop right there. Say that again.
LB: When I was in the 5th grade, at Douglass Elementary School in Miami, I was labeled educable, mentally retarded.
BS: And you've gone from there to where you are now.
BS: That is amazing.
LB: Thank you.
BS: What happened?
LB: When I was at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami, I went into a class looking for a friend named MacArthur Stevens. And this instructor, Mr. Leroy Washington said, "Young man, come to the board and work the problem out for me. I want you to put it on the board."
I said, "oh I can't do that, sir." And he said "why not?" I said "I'm not one of your students." He said "doesn't matter, do it anyhow."
I said "sir, I can't do that." And the other students started laughing, saying "he's Leslie. He's got a twin brother Wesley. He's D.T." And the teacher said "what's D.T.?" They said "he's the dumb twin." And I said "I am, sir." He came from behind his desk, looked at me and said, "Don't ever say that again. Someone's opinion of you does not have to become your reality." And that was a turning point in my life.
BS: Wow, that's wonderful. Someone's opinion of you doesn't have to become your reality. How do you live that way in life? I mean people are always saying things about us.
LB: Well one of my daughter's, Ona Brown, she is a life coach. She said "we must learn to live beyond the good opinions of others." That what people think about us is none of our business. That what we have to do is discover who we are, and the purpose of our lives, and that sense of purpose will give your life a sense of direction.
BS: Les, if there was one message that you would give to the whole world, and you had one chance to tell everybody just one thing, what would that message be?
LB: That you have greatness within you. You have the ability to do more than you can ever begin to imagine. And that greatness, it's not our destiny; it's a choice that we must make every day to put ourselves in the perpetual state of discomfort, because in order to do something you've never done, you've got to become someone you've never been. You've got to be willing to die to who you are now to give birth to who you can become.
But most people, as Maya Angelou once said, go so far in life and then they part. They stop growing, they get comfortable, and they don't stretch themselves. And the time where we are right now, we have to have a sense of optimism. We have to continuously work on ourselves. We have to look for ways to expand our skill set, and deliberately create collaborative achievement driven relationships, because the people that you're around affect you. They impact your vision of yourself.
BS: So are you saying then that comfort and greatness are at odds with one another?
LB: Absolutely, without any question. When you're operating within your comfort zone, you can do the same thing every day the same way. But when you're pursuing your greatness, you want to have goals beyond your comfort zone, because in order to do something you've never done, you've got to become someone you've never been.
BS: So what you're saying is if we want to be great, we have to be okay with the discomfort that comes with maybe I could say training?
LB: Without any question. But also, you must realize that in order to achieve the goals that you want to achieve, you're going to have some challenges in life. Think it not strange that you face the fiery furnaces of this world. You will have some setbacks. You'll have some struggles in life, but all of those things will make you stronger, more powerful so we must embrace them and ask the question, what is it I must do? Who is it I must become in order for me to grow through this, rather than just go through this.
BS: Some of these things that you're saying sound awfully familiar to this church and to the Hour of Power. Have you had any influence from my granddad?
LB: Without any question. He said "you must expand or you are expendable." He said "I'd rather fail at doing something I love rather than doing something I hate." So without any question, a sense of optimism, a possibility when there's hope in the future, that gives you power in the present. He's had great influence on me.
BS: Les, you have an amazing story. You have come from it seems like, almost nothing; people putting you down, people saying bad things about you, to being an influential man of God and an influential person to businesses. I'm impressed and we all are. Thank you so much for coming.
LB: Thank you for having me.
BS: God loves you and so do we.
LB: Thank you.
BS: Les has a set of motivational CD's entitled Unwrap Your Infinite Greatness, which are available everywhere.