Through Hell (Eric Thomas and Les Brown)

Eric Thomas giving a talk on adversity
Motivational Speaker and PhD in Education Administration, Eric Thomas

If you have ever listened to an inspirational video on YouTube, there’s a good chance either Eric Thomas or Les Brown was the speaker. Occasionally, you’ll get lucky and both will feature on the same clip. If I had to summarize the focus of their talks with one word, that word would be adversity. Eric Thomas and Les Brown are no stranger to adversity. Thomas was a high school drop-out who spent two years on the streets of Detroit. Brown was given up for adoption at an early age and declared “educable mentally retarded” in grade school. I’ve transcribed a raw clip entitled “Through Hell” in which the two mega motivators talk about overcoming adversity and achieving one’s dreams.


Motivational Speaker and Former Ohio Politician, Leslie Brown

Brown: It’s not easy. It’s hard changing your life.

Thomas: I’m talking about a problem in my life. For you I don’t know what it is, but that problem, you cannot ignore it. Why? It will not go away. It will not go away on its own. It will not. You won’t just wake up one day and it won’t be there anymore. It’s going to be there, and it will haunt you for the rest of your life. So I’m telling you from personal experience, deal with it. Deal with it.

And the sooner you deal with it, and the sooner you overcome it, the sooner you get your rewards, baby. The sooner you get on the other side of it, the sooner you begin to feel fulfillment. The sooner you get on the other side is self-actualization–your dreams become a reality. The sooner you get on the other side of the problem is a wealth of success. The sooner you deal with the fact that you have test anxiety–deal with it. It’s not the end of the world. Deal with it because when you deal with it you can create a solution for it and you can get over it. Deal with it. That you and your children don’t have the best relationship–deal with it.

Deal with the fact that you’re a procrastinator. Deal with the fact that it’s hard for you to execute. Deal with the fact that every time something happens you’re worried about it. Deal with the fact that you have this anxiety that every time you’re about to reach another level of success. Every time you’re about to go to another level, you feel overwhelmed. Deal with the fact that you’re struggling with your success, that you feel like why me? Or why not my sister? Why me? Why not other people? Deal with the fact that you feel guilty that you’re successful. Deal with it.

Brown: Ladies and gentlemen, I started working on my dream. And most people don’t work on their dreams, why? For many years I didn’t. One is because of fear. The fear of failure. What if things don’t work out? And the fear of success. What if they do work and I can’t handle it? The other thing is that most people, ladies and gentlemen, they get comfortable. They stop growing, they stop working on themselves, they stop stretching, they stop pushing themselves. And they end up becoming very cynical about life, and they throw in the towel on themselves, on their families, and on their dreams.

And the other thing is that most people don’t feel worthy. What I’m doing now I could have been doing years ago. But because I did not have a college education. Because I didn’t believe in myself. Because I allowed other people’s opinion of me to control my destiny I didn’t act on my ideas. And not only is it important for you to know it’s possible for you to choose your future, but it’s necessary that you work on yourself, that you develop yourself.

It’s necessary that you get the energy drainers out of your life–people who don’t want anything. People who are not striving. People who are not challenging themselves. People who aren’t growing. People who’ve stopped dreaming. It’s necessary that you align yourself with people and attract people into your business who are hungry. People who are unstoppable and unreasonable, people who are refusing to leave life just as it is. And who want more. My mother used to say “birds of a feather flock together.” If you run around with losers, you will end up a loser. It’s necessary that you get the losers out of your life if you want to live your dream.

The next step is that it’s you. That it’s you. That no one can do it for you but you. And even though you’ve faced disappointment. Even though you will experience some setbacks, it goes with the territory. You must understand that. What if all of us took that attitude after we’ve faced a rejection or a no? We have a meeting and no one shows up. Or somebody says “You can count on me,” and they don’t come through. What if we have that kind of attitude. The car’s repossessed. Nobody believes in you. You’ve lost again and again and again. The lights are cut off, but you’re still looking at your dream, reviewing it every day and saying to yourself, “It’s not over until I win.”

You are going to incur a lot of disappointment. A lot of failure. A lot of pain. A lot of setbacks. A lot of defeats. But in the process of doing that, you will discover some things about yourself that you don’t know right now. What you will realize is that you have greatness within you. What you will realize is that you’re more powerful than you can ever begin to imagine. What you will realize is that you are greater than your circumstances. That you don’t have to go through life being a victim.

What I like for you to do right now–I want you to think about your dream because I’m in a room full of dreamers. Think about your dream right now. I want you to think about it and envision it. Now ladies and gentlemen, let me share something with you. I do not believe that any of us has dreams that were not given to us for the purpose of accomplishing those particular dreams. And I want to share something with you that has changed my life. That dream that you’re holding in your mind, that it’s possible. See sometimes we can’t say “I can do that.” But what we can say is that it’s possible that I can have my dream as we run toward it.

As we work on it, day-in and day-out. It’s necessary to know that everybody won’t see it. That everybody won’t join you. That everybody won’t have the vision. It’s necessary to know that. That a lot of people like to complain but they don’t want to do anything about their situation. But you’re an uncommon breed. You know–you have to know within yourself that I can do this even if no one else sees it for me, I’m going to see it for myself. That’s necessary.

It’s also necessary, ladies and gentlemen, that you be creative when you’re working on your ideas. That you understand the importance of changing up. I can live my dream. It’s necessary. I’ll work on myself. Surround myself with winners. Become creative. It’s me. I got to make it happen. It’s not over until I win.

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