My dream of playing in the NFL was OVER! I played football most of my life and much of my identity was centered around my ability and accomplishments as a hard-hitting defensive back in Texas high school football and at Mizzou (go Tigers!). But now one year after my senior season, my football life was officially over. Feeling dejected and somewhat lost, because I never had a larger vision of myself beyond the NFL, I wondered what to do with my 2.5 GPA and General Studies degree. Sensing my need for direction, a great friend who would become one of my professional mentors gave me a book titled Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, by Dennis Kimbrough, and it would become a defining moment in my life.
Many of the wildly successful people I read about had no formal education or notable credentials, yet earned millions by dreaming of the possibilities, having the courage to try, and the discipline and focus to achieve their vision.
Growing up in small town Texas, I had no idea that certain levels of success were available to me. I had a limited vision of myself and what was possible for me. But while reading this book I learned of countless black men and women who started with much less than I did, but achieved far greater than I could have imagined!
- Alonzo F. Herndon was born a slave in Georgia, but died a millionaire and was possibly the wealthiest black man of his time. He conquered ignorance, poverty and illiteracy to build a business empire that still exist today, and is worth well over $6 billion! Herdon, a board member at Tuskegee Institute in 1913, told students and faculty “wealth and creativity go hand-in-hand. The black man must possess dreams and visions if he really desires to do anything in a big way.”
- Susan Taylor, the illustrious editor of Essence Magazine, discovered her passion and created a vision of working for Essence after reading the very 1st issue published in 1970. At the time she was a divorced single mother with no college education, but just 11 years later in 1981 she became the Editor-in-Chief of the iconic magazine, which was the only one exclusively featuring African-American women. In spite of Taylor’s circumstances when she started her journey, her commitment and singular focus to filling a void that existed for black women in the publishing industry, would earn her the highest awards and recognition in the publishing industry, including the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame. In her popular monthly column “In The Spirit” she once wrote, “remember you have dominion! Each moment your thoughts, words and actions either lean toward frustration or build new hopes and visions.”
- In his 20s Calvin Peete was drug to the golf course for the 1st time by friends one summer day. Without ever having a lesson, he fell in love with the game and started to compete. He became known for his awkward swing due to a permanent bow in his left arm, which he broke as a boy and didn’t heal properly. At the age of 32 he qualified for the PGA Tour and went on to earn over $1.6 million as a professional golfer. Peete had 12 tour wins between 1979-1986 and was Tiger Woods long before the world knew Tiger existed.
Outside of talent, the game of golf had many unwritten rules that served as deterrents for black men in the 70s & 80s. Certain PGA country clubs still did not allow blacks to play their course. To golfers raised in the country club lifestyle, his homemade swing was unsophisticated and showed a lack of proper instruction. He even had to take a high school equivalency test when he was chosen for his 1st US Ryder Cup team before he could compete! Yet he had the courage to try and became a pioneer in integrating professional golf.
Reading these real life stories opened my mind and spirit to greater possibilities. I was able to envision uncommon success for myself, no matter if I believed it or not, at least I could see it. I then committed myself to be a life long learner and a voracious reader.
Jim Rohn said “Formal education can make you a living. But self-education can make you a fortune.”
After my football life ended, I achieved many goals in first 10 years of my professional life, but it ended in bankruptcy, no job and no job options for nearly a year. The next 10 years I reinvented myself professionally and became a VP in the molecular oncology sales industry with stock options. It was my commitment to reading and learning that transformed my life experience, and I continue to expand my vision how to serve others with the knowledge and skills I’ve developed.
Start reading about people you admire. I bet there’s a YouTube video of whatever subject you’ve ever wanted to learn! Stock Market, real estate investing, starting a business, import/export, cannabis lollypops or starting a clown school!! All you need is the courage to get started, and a focused effort to read and learn until you master the skills needed to fulfill your vision.