“You’ve got greatness within you!” These are the words of Les Brown, one of the world’s leading motivational speakers. But before you dismiss this statement as another sugar quoted, empty, and make-people-feel-good speech, you need to read the story of Les. One of my most revered mentors says that the secret of people is in their stories. So, let’s find out if Les has the right to tell us to look within.
Leslie Calvin “Les” Brown was born in 1945. Les and his twin brother, Wesley, were born on the floor in an abandoned building, in a low-income area of Miami, Florida. They were later adopted at the age of six weeks by Miss Mamie Brown, a cafeteria attendant and a domestic assistant. In the fifth grade, Les was labelled “educable mentally retarded” (EMR) and he became a child no one thought could amount to anything.
One day, Les was in a class, waiting for a friend who was to rehearse for a play. The teacher told him to go and write something on the board but he declined. When he was asked why he explained to the teacher that he was in a special education class. The teacher asked him what that meant and insisted that he should write on the board. Still, Les decline. Again the teacher asked him why then he said he was educable mentally retarded. The teacher came from behind his desk and said, “Don’t ever say that again. Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality”. That statement changed Les’ life forever.
Les Brown never had a college degree, never worked for a major corporation, and never had any MBA or Ph.D; yet, he became one of the world’s most renowned motivation speakers and a highly-sought-after resource for Fortune 500 Companies. What happened to Les? Was there magic in what that teacher told him? I don’t think so. What happened was that the teacher redirected his attention from outside to within. He had previously been confused by people’s opinion about him that he never looked inward to discover himself.
Several people are too focused on external factors that they think very little of the internal factors. How can we believe other people over our own mind? How can we accept an external verdict that we are a failure when our hearts are screaming that we can make it? When it comes to our personal success, the majority does not carry the vote. We as the minority should determine the outcome of our lives. This is particularly important when it comes to public speaking or communication generally. We need confidence to perform excellently.