Dallin Larsen: Good evening, everyone. I couldn’t be more thrilled for tonight’s Life Lessons. My guest this evening is none other than the amazing and great Les Brown! Les was born in Miami. He was adopted. His first job was a deejay. Maybe we’ll talk about a little bit of music tonight and how he went from being a deejay to being recognized by Toastmasters as one of the top-five global speakers. The National Speakers Association inducted him into its Global Hall of Fame. I heard Les Brown for the first time, I guess, about 30 years ago in Southern California, and I was inspired. I was inspired that day, and he’s inspired countless people all over the world throughout his career. What an amazing life he has lived.
His new book is—if you haven’t got it yet, make sure you go to Amazon and order it—You Gotta Be Hungry. In fact, Les and I were talking last week. He’s got 10 children and 15 grandchildren. My mom and dad had 10 children, 59 grandchildren, and 141 great-grandchildren. Les said, “Wow, you gotta be really hungry to get to those numbers!” He’s got such a great sense of humor. He’s full of wisdom. We certainly are living through some challenging times, aren’t we? A time which we’ve never seen before. I can’t think of someone better to have on Life Lessons to talk about perspective than the one and only, the great, Les Brown. Les, it is so good to see. I love your smile. It’s so contagious. Hey, tell me, how are you feeling? I sent you some products, and I hope you’re enjoying them.
Les Brown: And I want to thank you so very, very much. You know, it’s very important that we ask ourselves, “What’s your strategy for being here?” The quality products that you provide, people can incorporate them in a strategy to maintaining optimal health. We have to take care of ourselves. Health is truly our wealth, as people say.
Dallin: Well, Les, that’s so true, and I want everyone in the audience to know how grateful I am for you being on here. I’m so looking forward to having you keynote our global convention in August, and I’m grateful for you joining me for a few minutes tonight. So, this is called Life Lessons, and I’m really interested in some of the things that you’ve learned in your life. Some of the people who are tuning in tonight are scared. Some of them have anxiety. Any advice that you feel inclined to share?
Les Brown: Well, I was born in an abandoned building in a poor section of Miami, Florida, called Liberty City, with a twin brother. I was a foster kid and then had a mother who adopted us along with five other children. I always say that I’m here because of two women: One gave me life; the other gave me love. God took me out of my biological mother’s womb and placed me in the heart of my adopted mother. And I always quote Abraham Lincoln: “All that I am and all that I ever hope to be, I owe to my mother.” I feel that way. I’m a mama’s boy. And so, we’re always going to face places in life where we’ve never been before. There’s a lot of fear that the media is promoting. When fear shows up, one of two things happen. The majority of people turn, and they run. But there’s a few people who, when they are faced with something that people consider fearful, they face it and rise. And so, this is where we are. We have to face it and rise. Do we know exactly how this is going to turn out? No. But we’ve all had experiences in our lives where we had to leap and grow our wings on the way down.
And so, what I learned from my mother is when you are looking at your life and looking at expanding from where you are and dealing with the things that come your way—Victor Frankl calls it “unavoidable suffering”— is to have a ritual to fortify yourself. I listen to a lot of spiritual music. I encourage people, when you get up in the morning, you want to set yourself up to win. Do not get up with the news first thing in the morning. Why? Because whatever you watch and listen to when you first get up, it will affect the spirit of your day. And so, you want to set yourself up to win by reprograming your mind, and that’s an ongoing process. So, whatever you hear the first 20 minutes when you get up in the morning, it affects the spirit of your day.
I’ll never forget 27 years ago when an oncologist, Dr. Alford, goes, “Oh, boy, you have prostate cancer and your PSA [prostate specific antigen] is 2,400, and it has metastasized to seven areas of your body.” I said, “Wow.” He said, “Why are you smiling like that?” I said, “Seven is my lucky number. I’m one of seven children. I was born February 17th. Joshua marched round the walls of Jericho seven times and dipped himself in the River Jordan seven days. Seven is my lucky number.” He looked at his nurse and said, “This is a strange one here.” He said, “Doctors determine that diagnosis; You and God determine the prognosis.” Here’s what I learned from that session: we live our lives as a result of a story we believe about ourselves. When you say “cancer,” people have been programed to believe it’s a death sentence. And so, when you laugh at that, the mind shuts down and the heart opens up. So, what he did was helped me to become mindful of my thinking. We can’t control the thoughts that come in our minds, but we can control the thoughts that we dwell on.
This is a time you want to be concerned, but you don’t want to be fearful. You can’t be in a sound mind when you’re running scared. And so, when I get up, I listen to a variety of people. Don’t allow your negative thoughts to overpower you. So, we have to be intentional right now. This is a place we have never been before, and we got this. This has not come to stay. It has come to pass. And so, we have to encourage ourselves. We have to listen to motivational messages on a regular basis. I encourage everybody that’s listening to listen to three presentations on YouTube. One is called Getting Unstuck. The next one is called It’s Possible. And the other one is called Les Brown Speaking in the Georgia Dome, where I’m speaking to over 80,000 people. I was so frightened I don’t even remember giving the speech. We have to train our thinking and we have to make a mindful, conscious, deliberate decision that we’re going to focus on where we’re going because where focus goes, energy flows. It’s a challenge. It’s about focusing and aligning.
I’m encourage people to focus on why they said yes to this opportunity. Focus on why they made a commitment to control their own personal economy. Focus on where they are going, not where they are. Focus on doing the things and being mindful to keep themselves and their family and the people they care about out of harm’s way and continue to rebuild themselves, to rethink their lives because this is going to be a new normal. We have to look at it like we are in a cocoon. I don’t care how fast a caterpillar runs; it will never fly. This is no time to sit down. This is no time to spend hours on end looking at the television and looking at who died. Just be glad you’re not in that number or the people you care about. This is a time that you have to rebuild. You have to begin to look at your life, where you’re going. Raise the bar for yourself and ask yourself the question: Who is it that I must become in order to accomplish what I seek? We have to get quiet and ask ourselves, “Who am I really?”
I remember seeing a movie called The Truman Show, and this guy’s life was real, but the people surrounding him, they were actors, and he discovered what was going on. He was working to escape. And someone asked the question, “Do you think he’ll escape?” The guy said, “No, because most people accept the life that they have been given.” There are a lot of people who have accepted the life that they have been given. But there are people that are hungry who said, “No, I’m not settling for this.”
Whenever I’m speaking, I always ask people the question, “If you had your life to live over again, could you have done more than what you’ve done thus far?” And I always raise my hand too because I could have done more. But I’ve allowed the distractions and the interruptions of life to get in the way. At the end of the day, we’re all self-definitional. We can decide at any given time how we’re going to show up. See, when I was in the fifth grade, I was identified as mentally retarded and put back from the fifth grade to the fourth grade. Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality. And that was a turning point in my life. Work on your mental resolve because life is tough. You’ve got to be tougher. You have to fortify your faith and bolster your confidence. You’re going to take some hits. Walt Disney failed at business seven times and had two nervous breakdowns. You will fail your way to success. So mental resolve is major. We’re in lockdown. This is a time to write out, and I’m doing this myself, a list of people that you interact with and communicate with most and ask this question: “Who should I count on and who should I count out?”
Jim Rohn said to look at the people in your life and ask the questions: “What kind of person am I becoming because of this relationship? Am I growing mentally and emotionally and spiritually? Am I expanding my vision of myself?” The two types of relationships in life are nourishing relationships and toxic relationships. Nourishing relationships hold you accountable. They bring the best out of you. You are challenged by these people. This is the kind of leadership that you provide. Your reputation precedes you. I’ve talked to people who have been around you and they talk about how you make them feel better about themselves and that they can do anything. You are a man of integrity and you have a vision of bringing out the best in others, as well as bringing out the best in yourself, that you are not just the messenger, but you’re also the message. And so, develop your communication skills because once you open your mouth, you tell the world who you are. Developing your mind, upgrading your relationships, and developing your communication skills…those are three tools that will allow you to get through any of the storms of life. And when I speak at Convention, we’re going to share some other things that will be very helpful to the people that are watching. It’s common sense, but not always common practice.
Dallin: Wow, what a what a wealth of information you shared in such a short period of time! I love hearing your stories. Thank you. And you know, I really want to dedicate this program tonight to your mom. I mean, who knows where you are today if you were adopted by someone else. It’s amazing, really, isn’t it? And God sent you to that perfect woman. You talk about courage. Your mom, is she’s still alive?
Les Brown: No, mama made a transition at 89. She’s in heaven making sweet potato fries.
Dallin: We’ve both been blessed by amazing mothers. I hear exactly what you’re saying. And I always say my parents give me roots and wings, not loot and things. I was born on rich soil. I’ve got a couple things before we end, Les, I’d love to ask you. You talked about Victor Frankl. I love his Man’s Search for Meaning. Do you do you have a favorite book?
Les Brown: Man’s Search for Meaning is one I love very much because he talks about the resiliency of the human spirit. He said the Jews that were able to survive the Nazi concentration camps had one or three things going for them. Either they believed in God, they had some family member that they were determined to see again, or they believed in a cause bigger than themselves. What you have built, and the way that you live your life, you are determined to live a life that will outlive you. You have built this opportunity for people to take control of their own personal economy, to build something that they can pass on to their children. It’s a life that will outlive them. And so, hats off to you. We’re now in a place where we don’t want to just go through it; we want to grow through it. We got this, and that’s good.
Dallin: Well, I’ve been writing some notes. I hope you all did too. You heard what Les said. Go to YouTube and watch Getting Unstuck. Watch It’s Possible. And then go watch Les speaking at the Georgia Dome in front of 80,000 people. He said to work on your mind and fortify your faith. Make sure you’re surrounding yourself with quality people. And then develop communication skills. True or false? Readers are leaders.
Les Brown: Without any question. I heard a motivational message by Brian Tracy who said the average American reads one book a year. He said knowledge is a new currency. If you discipline yourself to read one book a month, in five years when the average American would have read five books, you’d have read 60 books. You are an expert.
Dallin: What does it take to speak to a room of strangers and transform them individually and collectively?
Les Brown: What you have to do is create an experience with your presence. Oliver Wendell Holmes said that once a man or woman’s mind has been expanded with an idea, concept, or experience, it can never be satisfied to go back to where it was. This is a time that we have to build a relationship “capital.” We must look for and listen to people. Never let what you want to say get in the way of what people want to hear. You want people to know that you care about them. Maya Angelou said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Dallin: Thank you, Les, for joining us tonight. Truly an honor. Godspeed.
Les Brown: Yes, indeed.