The wisest person I ever met in my life, a third grade dropout. Wisest and dropout in the same sentence is rather oxymoronic, like jumbo shrimp. Mm-hmmm. Like Fun Run, ain’t nothing fun about it. Like Microsoft Works. You all don’t hear me.
I used to say like country music, but I’ve lived in Texas so long, I love country music now. I hunt. I fish. I have cowboy boots and cowboy… Y’all, I’m a blackneck redneck. Do you hear what I’m saying to you?
No longer oxymoronic for me to say country music, and it’s not oxymoronic for me to say third grade and dropout. That third grade dropout, the wisest person I ever met in my life, who taught me to combine knowledge and wisdom to make an impact, was my father. A simple cook, wisest man I ever met in my life, just a simple cook. Left school in the third grade to help out on the family farm, but just because he left school doesn’t mean his education stopped. Mark Twain once said: “I’ve never allowed my schooling to get in the way of my education.”
My father taught himself how to read, taught himself how to write, decided in the midst of Jim Crowism, as America was breathing the last gasp of the Civil War, my father decided he was going to stand and be a man, not a black man, not a brown man, not a white man, but a man. He literally challenged himself to be the best that he could all the days of his life.
I have four degrees. My brother is a judge. We’re not the smartest ones in our family. It’s a third grade dropout daddy, a third grade dropout daddy who was quoting Michelangelo, saying to us, “Boys, I won’t have a problem if you aim high and miss, but I’m gonna have a real issue if you aim low and hit.”
A country mother quoting Henry Ford, saying, “If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you’re right.” I learned that from a third grade drop. Simple lessons, lessons like these, “Son, you’d rather be an hour early than a minute late.” We never knew what time it was at my house because the clocks were always ahead. My mother said, for nearly 30 years, my father left the house at 3:45 in the morning. One day, she asked him, “Why, Daddy?” He said, “Maybe one of my boys will catch me in the act of excellence.”
I wanna share two things with you. Aristotle said, “You are what you repeatedly do.” Therefore, excellence ought to be a habit, not an act. Don’t ever forget that. I know you’re tough, but always remember to be kind, always. Don’t ever forget that. Never embarrass Mama. Mm-hmmm. If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. If Daddy ain’t happy don’t nobody care but you know…
Next lesson, lesson from a cook over there in the galley. “Son, make sure your servant’s towel is bigger than your ego.” Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. You all might have a relative in mind you might want to send that to. Let me say it again. Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity. Pride is the burden of a foolish person. John Wooden coached basketball at UCLA for a living, but his calling was to impact people, and with all those national championships, guess what he was found doing in the middle of the week? Going into the cupboard, grabbing a broom and sweeping his own gym floor. You want to make an impact? Find your broom. Every day of your life, you find your broom. You grow your influence that way. That way, you’re attracting people so that you can impact them.
Final lesson. “Son, if you’re going to do a job, do it right.” I’ve always been told how average I can be, always been criticized about being average, but I want to tell you something. I stand here before you, before all of these people, not listening to those words, but telling myself every single day, to shoot for the stars, to be the best that I can be. Good enough isn’t good enough if it can be better, and better isn’t good enough if it can be best. Let me close with a very personal story that I think will bring all this into focus. Wisdom will come to you in the unlikeliest of sources, a lot of times through failure. When you hit rock bottom, remember this. While you’re struggling, rock bottom can also be a great foundation on which to build and on which to grow. I’m not worried that you’ll be successful. I’m worried that you won’t fail from time to time. A person that gets up off the canvas and keeps growing, that’s the person that will continue to grow their influence.
Back in the ‘70s, to help me make this point, let me introduce you to someone. I met the finest woman I’d ever met in my life. Mm-hmm. Back in my day, we’d have called her a brick house. This woman was the finest woman I’d ever seen in my life. There was just one little problem. Back them, ladies didn’t like big old linemen. The Blind Side hadn’t come out yet. They liked quarterbacks and running backs. We’re at this dance and I find out her name is Trina Williams from Lompoc, California. We’re all dancing and we’re just excited. I decide in the middle of dancing with her that I would ask her for her phone number. Trina was the first… Trina was the only woman in college who gave me her real telephone number. The next day, we walked to Baskin & Robbins Ice Cream Parlour. My friends couldn’t believe it. This has been 40 years ago, and my friends still can’t believe it. We go on a second date and a third date and a fourth date. Mm-hmm. We drive from Chico to Vallejo so that she can meet my parents. My father meets her. My daddy. My hero. He meets her, pulls me to the side and says, “Is she psycho?” But anyway. We go together for a year, two years, three years, four years. By now, Trina’s a senior in college. I’m still a freshman, but I’m working some things out. I’m so glad I graduated in four terms, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan. Now, it’s time to propose, so I talk to her girlfriends, and it’s California. It’s in the ‘70s, so it has to be outside, have to have a candle and you have to have some chocolate. Listen, I’m from the hood. I had a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine. That’s what I had. She said, “Yes.” That was the key. I married the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my… You all ever been to a wedding and even before the wedding starts, you hear this? “How in the word?” And it was coming from my side of the family.
We get married. We have a few children. Our lives are great. One day, Trina finds a lump in her left breast. Breast cancer. Six years after that diagnosis, me and my two little boys walked up to Mommy’s casket. For two years, my heard didn’t beat. If it wasn’t for my faith in God, I wouldn’t be standing her today. If it wasn’t for those two little boys, there would have been no reason for which to go on. I was completely lost. That was rock bottom. You know what sustained me? The wisdom of a third grade dropout. The wisdom of a simple cook. We’re at the casket. I’d never seen my dad cry, but this time I saw my dad cry. That was his daughter. Trina was his daughter, not his daughter-in-law. I’m right behind my father about to see her for the last time one this Earth, and my father shared three words with me that changed my life right there at the casket. It would be the last lesson he would ever teach me.
He said, “Son, just stand.” You keep standing. No matter how rough the sea, you keep standing, and I’m not talking about just water. You keep standing. No matter what. You don’t give up. And as clearly as I’m talking to you today, these were some of her last words to me. She looked me in the eye and she said, “It doesn’t matter to me any longer how long I live. What matters to me most is how I live.” I ask you all one question, a question that I was asked all my life by a third grade dropout. How you living? How you living? Every day, ask yourself that question. How you living? Here’s what a cook would suggest you to live, this way, that you would not judge, that you would show up early, that you’d be kind, that you make sure that that servant’s towel is huge and used, that if you’re going to do something, you do it the right way. That cook would tell you this, that it’s never wrong to do the right thing, that how you do anything is how you do everything, and in that way you will grow your influence to make an impact. In that way, you will honor all those who have gone before you, who have invested in you. Look in those unlikeliest places for wisdom. Enhance your life every day by seeking that wisdom and asking yourself every night, “How am I living?”
May God richly bless you all.
MAKE AN IMPACT
This was my shot. I cried a lot. It was so embarrassing. I got fired from Frasier. The one everyone knew was going to be a hit, and it was. This time, it was really hard not to think that it wasn’t meant to be, my career as an actress. A couple of months later, I was almost completely out of money.
Then I got a call from a friend, the actor, Richard Kind, who said, and this is exactly how he sounds, “I’ve heard what happened. I don’t know how you get up in the morning. How do you even get out of bed, get dressed, walk out the door, and show your face?”
Yeah, I was getting up in the morning and leaving my apartment, so maybe I was coping better than I was expected to. That’s a good sign. And I understand that because the 20s, they are that time in your life when you’re really getting acquainted to self-doubt when there’s so much seemingly at stake.
So let me reassure you, it’s not supposed to be easy. You’re supposed to have moments of uncertainty about which path to take, because the 20s are full of crossroads. When one door closes, another door always opens. It really does. That’s what I would tell myself to keep those moments of doubts, only moments. And it worked. I kept going.
Then it all changed. After many auditions, I was the second person cast in the pilot called “Friends Like Us”, which would later be changed to “Friends”. Jim Burrows also directed this pilot and the first 10 episodes of friends. One day, the six of us were talking with Jimmy, exchanging the time I got fired stories, and Jimmy told them mine. “Well, she’s got the worst one of all. She got fired from Frasier. Well. It’s a good thing you got fired, or you wouldn’t have been on this show.”
He was right. It was a good thing I didn’t get Saturday Night Live. And that Romy and Michele, that that pilot didn’t work out. And every other disappointment that happened. They were actually more like guideposts that kept me on my path. Oh, and after I got fired from Frasier, I went to a birthday party and, and feeling like I had nothing at all to lose, I flirted with a guy who was way out of my league. We dated and on Thursday, Michel and I will have been married for 15 years, and we’ll celebrate with our remarkable 12-year-old son. So, thank God I got fired.
There is a reason for everything. FIND YOUR REASON
There’s nothing worse than being stupid. Nothing. I mean, being broke is bad, but being stupid is awful. And what’s really bad is being broke and stupid. Right? That’s about the end of the world. There isn’t anything much worse than that, unless you’re sick. Sick, broke, and stupid. I mean, that is it. Right? There’s nowhere else to go.
So, make sure you get the information. It’s key. You don’t have to like it, but learn it. The talent story. Interesting story if you haven’t read it in a while. Just review it. It’s a good story, an ancient story. It says there was a master with three servants. He got them together one day, and he said to the three, “I’ve got these talents.” In those ancient days, a talent was a measure of gold. He said to the three servants, “Take these talents and see what you can do with them while I’m gone.” He said, “I’m taking a journey and I’ll be gone for a while. When I come back we’ll get together, go over the books, see how you did.” He said, “Here’s five of these talents for you. Five. Here’s two of them for you. Two. And here’s one for you. One.”
The master said, “Take those talents, see what you can do with them. When I come back we’ll get together and we’ll go over it all.” The servants said, “Okay.” Master takes off.
According to the ancient story, the master comes back from his trip. When he gets back, he gets the three servants together, and as he said he would, he asks, “How did it go with those talents? Your five, what happened?” That servant said, “Well, I took the five talents you gave me and I put them to work. A little shaky at first but,” he said, “things finally got rolling.” He said, “I poured it on.” He said, “My talents grew to seven, eight, nine, ten.” He said, “I doubled my talents from five to ten.” Books will show, Master said, “One heck of a job,” or something like that.
He said, “I gave you two talents. What happened?” That servant said, “About the same thing happened to me. I put those two talents to work, poured it on. They grew to three and then to four.” He said “I doubled my talents from two to four.” Books will show, Master said, “Well done.”
He said, “I gave you one talent. What happened?” That servant said “Well, I took the talent you gave me and I carefully wrapped it, and I dug a hole and buried it, and camouflaged it, I suppose, so nobody would steal it.” And he said, “Fortunately, nobody got it.” And he said “I knew you were going to be here today so I dug it up. Here it is, safely wrapped. I did not lose it while you were gone.”
According to the ancient story, the master said, “Take that talent away from him and give it to the man that’s got ten.” Now, you might say, “Well, I don’t like that arrangement. The poor guy’s only got one talent. He’s already got ten. It ought to be more even.”
Remember, I didn’t ask you to like it. But this one I would ask you to learn, because it simply means whatever you do not employ, you forfeit. Whatever you don’t use, you lose. Lack of use causes loss. If you tie your arm to your body, leave it there long enough, you’ll never use it again. It’s over for the arm. Now, it may not be over, but it’s over for the arm. The only way to keep the use of this arm is what? Keep using it.
If you quit, you lose automatically. They don’t bring it up for a vote. You lose automatically when you quit. The same thing that goes for your arm goes for your brain. Mentality. The same thing goes for all the human virtues. Ambition unused declines. Strong feelings unused diminish. It doesn’t grow, it diminishes. Faith unused decreases. It’s a law. Vitality unused diminishes. Energy unused decreases. The guy says, “Well, I’m going to save up my energy.” You can’t do that. That’s like trying to save today, put it on the end of the year. See, you can’t do that. They’ll come take you away. If you don’t use today, what? It’s lost. The guy says “I’ll work twice as hard tomorrow to make up for it.” See, that’s foolish. You could have done that anyway. Today unused is lost. A talent unused is lost. An ability unused is lost. Make sure that all of your talent, and ability, and mentality, and ingenuity, and vitality, and strong feelings, faith, courage, make sure that all you’ve got is being used, otherwise you lose.
USE ALL YOU’VE GOT
People were looking at me, people were pointing their finger at me and laughing.
I was born this way, and no doctor knows why I was born this way. My parents don’t know why I was born this way. Lady Gaga don’t know why I was born this way. In my life, seeing everyone with arms and legs, my brother and sister have arms and legs. I never imagined that I would be happy, but we’ve got to understand that brokenness is brokenness, but hope is hope.
Some people say, “Well, all you need is just to be positive.” Well, it’s easy for you to say, that’s what I’m thinking. People who have arms and legs, it’s easy for you. I just want you to know though that there is something I have come here to prepare a message for you, to let you know that there is hope beyond what you see.
When in life, we have things in life that come and we try to figure out, well, who am I and what am I doing, and what’s my purpose? Is there any purpose at all to my life in the end?
I stand before you without arms and legs telling you right now that I am absolutely not disabled. There is something greater, something greater than the disabilities around you, or the limitations around you. There is HOPE.
Overcoming Hopelessness by Nick Vujicic
His parents fought so much they neglected him, so he spent many years in foster homes as a child. The doctor severed a nerve in his face when he was born, leaving him partially paralyzed with slurred speech. He struggled at school, and was always in trouble. He was expelled from 14 different high schools.
In the early 1970s, he moved to New York City to follow his dream of being an actor, but could only get small parts. He had to work at a zoo cleaning lions’ cages and as an usher at a movie theatre. He was so broke, for 3 weeks he slept at a bus station.
One day, he watched a boxing match that inspired him to write a screenplay about an up-and-coming boxer. He stayed up writing for 20 hours straight and finished the whole screenplay in 3 days.
“It was either do that movie or rob someone, because I was at the very end of my rope.” ~ Sylvester Stallone
When he tried to sell the script, nobody wanted it. He couldn’t afford to feed his dog Butkus, so he sold him for $50 and walked away crying. He had $106 in the bank and his wife was pregnant. He finally met producers who wanted to buy the script but he refused to sell it unless he was allowed to be the main actor. He felt only he could bring the passion the role needed, but the producers wanted a real Hollywood star.
They offered Stallone $125,000 for the script with the condition that he wouldn’t play the lead. He refused, so they offered him $250,000 and then more, for just the script … still he refused. Finally, the producers relented, bought the script and let him star in the movie but only paid him a fraction of their initial offer.
Right after he sold the script, he bought Butkus back for $3000. Rocky won 3 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. The Rocky movies have made over $1.4 billion, making it one of the most successful franchises of all time. It is one of the most successful movies in history, making $200 million off of a $1 million budget.
“It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving on. That’s how winning is done” ~ Sylvester Stallone