Les Brown is a well-known motivational speaker, but what you might not know is that he came from humble beginnings. In this interview, he shares a couple experiences from his childhood that shaped and transformed the way he lives his life. The key was in changing the story he believed about himself!
Les is full of insightful knowledge and shares lots of quotes I’m sure you’ll find meaningful. He enjoys lifting people up, building confidence and clarity. He believes that in order to find your voice, you must focus on 1) not being afraid to dream big, 2) owning who you are, and 3) protecting your relationship circle; it’s important to only surround yourself with people who care about you and add positivity to your life.
Les has a coaching community called Coach Me, Les Brown, where he helps people transform their lives and finances. He shows aspiring speakers how to be successful and make money. His focus is on making a shift into mindset mentorship and meaningful connections.
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Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #35 Les Brown
“Live the Life You Love; Love the Life You Live”
(00:35) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Hi, I’m Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m with the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. And I invite guests who have a story, a story about what it was like to not have a voice. And somehow they woke up, they had a journey, and they did find their voice. And some of them, like my guest today, help others– in fact, have made a passion have made a life’s work out of helping others– find their voice. So welcome today to Mr. Les Brown. Hello, Les.
(01:08) Les Brown:
How you doing? I’m so glad to be with you Dr. Downing. You have such a beautiful smile.
(01:16) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Takes one to know one.
(01:18) Les Brown:
(01:20) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Okay. So, I would like to start. I know, I’ve heard you and you have–
(01:25) Les Brown:
But I want to ask you a question before you ask me to tell my story.
(01:29) Dr. Doreen Downing:
(01:30) Les Brown:
What do you mean by “finding your voice”? How do you define that? What does that look like for you?
(01:35) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Well, I think from what I’ve discovered about myself, not having had a voice, I have a PhD in psychology of all things. That’s a little bit about my story. And I was comfortable one-on-one in my office. But as soon as you put me in maybe six people, a room of six other psychologists, my heart would beat so loud, I couldn’t hear myself think. So, I was not connected to my voice. I couldn’t even speak up and share, let’s say some information about my case. So, voice was locked inside of me because of my fear. And a lot of times I think that is part of what people tell me, is that there’s some kind of hesitation, some kind of fear about being able to express themselves.
(02:30) Les Brown:
Well, I can really identify with that because I remember a long period in my life that I did not speak up when I was around people who had a college degree because I don’t have a college degree. And, people who work for major corporations, I never worked for major corporations and that was a golden dream that I had, to speak for major corporations around the world and various types of organizations, my fear of speaking in front of people had more education than I have was that I would look stupid or dumb or who wants to listen to me, somebody who was born in abandoned building on a floor and adopted and labeled educable mentally retarded in the fifth grade, and put back from the fifth grade to the fourth grade and failed again. When I was in the eighth grade, I just felt that no one would be interested in anything that I said because when I was in school, they call me “dt”, the dumb twin– I have a twin brother. And then I had a defining moment. I went into a class. I was a junior in high school and the instructor was someone with your kind of personality. His name was Leroy Washington. “Mr. Brown.” I said, “Yes, sir.” “Go to the board at the front of the room and work this problem out for us.” And I said, “Sir, I can’t do that.” And he said, “why not?” I said, “I’m not one of your students. I’m just here to see McArthur Stevens.” He said, “Do it anyhow.” I said, “I can’t do it, sir.” He said, “Why not?” I said, –and the other kids started laughing, saying, “he’s Wesley. He’s got a twin brother Wesley. Wesley’s smart. He’s ‘dt’.” And he asked, “What’s ‘dt’?” “He’s the dumb twin.” And I said, “I am, sir.” He came from behind his desk and he looked at me. He said, “Don’t you ever say that again! Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality. Do you hear me?” I said, “Yes, sir.” Now, my mother said, “sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you.” That’s not true; words can hurt you very deeply. And they did. But when he spoke on that day, how people live their lives, as you know, is a result of the story they believe about themselves. And so, he disrupted my story of how I saw myself which shows up and how I was living my life, and gave me a vision of myself beyond my mental conditioning and the limited thoughts that I had about myself, and inspired me to start writing a new chapter in how I live my life and showed up in life.
(05:17) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Oh, thank you. I love that story, especially around what you’re saying about the story we tell ourselves and for a good time, a period where we are most formative and early in life, you know, where the people in our lives mirror back to us who we are. And you were mirrored back as somebody who is less than your brother, and how do you know what else to believe if you’re not mirrored back? So that teacher, that moment, it’s like he broke the mirror that had been around you, or the whole surrounding sense…
(05:56) Les Brown:
Yes, because I was in an environment where I was treated less than, as you made note of. But the other piece is that– and as we look at ourselves, in and out of the pandemic– that part of what we must do is continuously embrace a strategy that will allow us to know that we are stronger than we give ourselves credit for being, you know, and Lion King: “Simba, you are more than that which you have become.” We’re living in a time and a place where we’ve never been before where there are people that are feeling fearful for their life, we don’t see an end to the pandemic, the new information and all types of misinformation that’s out here. We’re living in a time where there’s more stress and anxiety and uncertainty and fear, an increase in suicide, and spike in violence, bizarre behavior, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. And so, we and this place where we are, we have to– and the reason that I’m training speakers how to connect with their voice to be voices of hope, and inspiration, and, and voices of harmony and love, and, and create a new culture for us. You know, as Steve Jobs who said, “the storyteller is the most powerful person in the world.” So teaching people how to find their voice and create a new narrative of how we interact and how we show up in life is the mission that I’ve taken upon my life.
(07:42) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yes, I know you have. And that’s one of the reasons why I’m so happy to have you here today, to both show, like you said earlier on some of the beginnings, your early beginnings, which were not real positive, let’s put it that way, as a frame. But, so that message to people, no matter what the history is in your life, that you can come to know yourself in a new way. It’s a new story. And so, we’re talking about well, then, other than a teacher that comes in and says, “Hey, you, you’re magnificent, and just know that you’re so powerful, and you’re beautiful,” how do people– let’s talk about how people can find their voice? Yeah, I do this podcast, and I interview lots of people. So I have a lot of information about how people have done that. But I’d like to hear how you think people can find their voice?
(08:41) Les Brown:
Well, I think that people who are serious and want to make a living doing it, or they have some cause that they believe in that they want to be the storyteller that cause, they should get a coach, somebody who has experience who has done it the way they want to do it, and get some coaching from them because you can’t see the picture when you’re in the frame. And the other thing is that it’s very important that you work on yourself having a self-development ritual of listening to motivational messages on a regular basis, reading 30 to 40 pages of something positive every day. I do this now. I’m 77 years old. I’ve been doing this for 52 years, as I still have this ritual for mental maintenance because stuff happens. And we have to really fortify ourselves and keep our faith in our faith in order to begin to live life on our terms. And the other thing is that by working on yourself, strengthening your belief in yourself and something that represents your values and some impact you want to make with your life. Having something beyond your comfort zone, because in order to do something you’ve never done you got to become someone you’ve never been. And with a coach, you can begin to develop your intuitive abilities to make an impact on a larger level to live a life that will outlive you. And so, I’ve ventured into this area, I got a coach because I saw Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Albert Sweitzer was a guy that I read, and various other people that I read and love their work. And I wanted to talk about those things that interest me. And so, Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, all of these various books that I was reading, that I just developed a fascination with wanting to inspire people, because my mother, my adopted mother, she worked for wealthy families on Miami Beach and one of the families, Mr. Zdarsky, he used to listen to motivational messages on a regular basis. And I had to clean his office. And I remember listening to Earl Nightingale, who did a speech called “The Strangest Secret in the World is that you don’t get in life what you want, you get in life what you are.” Earl Nightingale was a very brilliant man. And then Zig Ziglar, who wrote a book called See You at the Top. He said, “If you give enough people what they want, they will give you what you want.” Jim Rohan: “When the end comes to you, let it find you conquering a new mountain, not sliding down an old one.” And so that began to give me a larger vision of myself. And I said, I want to do that. I love people. I love to inspire people, and make people laugh and feel good. I said, I want to do that. And so, I decided that I was going to do this, what I’m now doing, but I didn’t do it for 14 years because I was suffering from “possibility blindness”. I just didn’t believe somebody would pay me to speak.
(12:11) Dr. Doreen Downing:
There’s that wonderful laughter, and I have one quote too. It’s from Jon Kabat-Zinn: “Wherever you go, there you are.”
(12:22) Les Brown:
Yes. And Nancy Wilson, she recorded a song to that effect. Absolutely. And so but let’s take, for instance, your name, “Doreen”. “Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Doreen, I want to talk to you about finding your voice, and what I’d like for you to do is write this down: ‘dream big’. A lot of people who find their voice, they realize that in order to do something you’ve never done, you got to become someone you’ve never been dream big. Most people fail in life, not because they aim too high and miss; most people fail in life because they aim too low and hit. Dream big. The next thing is, “ladies and gentlemen, write this down: ‘ownership’.” Decide to own your life. Most people are living somebody else’s dream. Most people are allowing their circumstances in their environment or things that they’ve experienced to determine how they show up. They’re leading with their wounds and negative experiences that they have gone through. But when you have this ownership mindset, there’s a spirit of optimism in you that you know, the things may happen around you and things may happen to you. But the only thing that really counts are the things that happen in you. So, you take ownership of your life and of your circumstances and you begin to realize that the future belongs to those who create it. And the next thing is relationships. Surround yourself with people that have knowledge and abilities and skills that you don’t have. If you run around with nine broke people, I guarantee you you’ll become number 10. So, you want to surround yourself with OQP, “only quality people”, and when you do that– Sydney Poitier, who just passed recently, he said, “when you go for a walk with someone” –and this is in his book called The Measure Of a Man” — he said, “something happens without being spoken.” He said, “Either you adjust to their pace, or they adjust to your pace.” Whose pace have you adjusted to? “My name is Doreen. I just gave you a little sprinkle. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”
(14:42) Les Brown:
That’s another one of your things. Now you’re laughing. Well, dream, ownership, and relationship is what you just said. So, I just want to make sure everybody gets that written down. And I would say something that I said to you the other day about, you know, what you’re saying today that you’ve got to be somebody you haven’t been yet. And what I believe is deep inside is that somebody you haven’t been yet. It’s like you, being who you were, when you were born, who you were when you were in that, you know, that dilapidated place that you grew up in–
(15:19) Les Brown:
In an abandoned building on a floor? Yes, it was, here’s something else, as you’re aware, how we form our thoughts about ourselves is through observation, the conversations that we hear, the environment that we’re in, the people that are around us, we’re like sponges between zero and seven.
(15:43) Dr. Doreen Downing:
(15:44) Les Brown:
And there’s a voice. I remember reading the book called Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman. He said, “There’s a voice that formulates in our heart between zero and seven.”
(15:44) Dr. Doreen Downing:
(15:56) Les Brown:
“It’s either yes or no.” And that vision, those choices, that environment dictates for the most part, how we go forward in life. And that’s why it’s important. That one: we get to know who we are, the truth of who we are, and not who the world tells us who we are. My favorite Book says, “be not conformed to this world; be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” We’re living in a very dangerous time now, where we have technology that knows more about us than we know about ourselves. They have algorithms that can tell if a person is a homosexual, when they come into a room, or lesbian. Before they know it, by the movement of their eyes. Whoa. Oh, behave! I’m saying, “Are you kidding me?” I was talking to a friend of mine the other day about something I wanted to purchase. And then when I looked at my phone, there was all type of advertising for that particular product. Come on! And so, we’re being programmed to buy things, constantly, that data that, that even when we think our instruments, our phones are off, they’re still listening. And they have algorithms to follow when we go from one place to the other, in terms of our physical movements, but also in terms of our purchasing of products, or the conversations that we have. This is a different kind of space. So, getting to know who you are and what you stand for, and what you represent, is major in this space, unlike any place that we’ve ever been before.
(17:53) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yes. And I think that goes back to ownership, what you’re talking about his claim, and then what I what I started to say about ‘wherever you go, there you are’, and you, early in your life, before your message took hold, to ‘Who am I?’, you know, before the heart message at seven, I believe that your brilliance was hidden. And that’s what we have to do when you talk about “dream”. We have to tap into the part that never really got to live so expansively and let her/ let him out.
(18:31) Les Brown:
Doreen, you’re also on target because we’re made in the likeness and image of God. It doesn’t get any better than that. We’ve been given the power, authority, and dominion over everything on the face of the earth. However, we will never exercise authority and dominion over our lives until we exercise authority and dominion over what we are not.
(18:56) Dr. Doreen Downing:
(18: 57) Les Brown:
So, the world is defining us. And so, what we have to do is to amplify that voice inside ourselves. I saw an analogy this morning. And it said, “when an eggshell is cracked open from an outside force, the life force in that egg dies, but when a force inside the egg cracks it. That force is life.”
(19:31) Dr. Doreen Downing:
I love it. I love it. I love it. Yes!
(19:33) Les Brown:
Yeah. And so, what we do and what your program is doing is helping people to find their voice, to have a breakthrough on living their lives differently. It brings alive something in them that’s been lying dormant. Dr. Myles Munroe used to say, “Rob the cemetery of your gifts, of your dreams, of your talents, of your abilities, that most people die an unlived life.” And so, this problem that you are sharing with people on a regular basis is designed to create a new kind of culture. Steve Jobs said, “The storyteller is the most powerful person in the world.” When people find their voice, they can become a force for good, just as people who are right now reigning, who are forces for darkness. And so we owe it to ourselves and to our children, and our children’s children, to leave the planet in better shape than how we found it. It was Leo Tolstoy, he said, “as I face inevitable death, what in the purpose and meaning of my life that will not be undone or destroyed when I’m gone.” And I say to you, the people that you help find their voice, and they go out, and they decide to do a podcast, helping people to begin to realize that what they say, it does matter, and begin to connect with the power that they have within themselves to do more, have more and experience more, that work will not be undone or destroyed when Doreen checks out. That’s my story. I’m sticking to it.
(21:25) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Yeah. So it’s not just about being an inspirational speaker on a stage, it’s about being a PTA mother who goes to a meeting and says, “Hey, board, this is not working for my child.” It’s so many stories that I’ve heard about people who can’t find a voice, let’s say relationship, even, you know, where a woman who’s in a, in a bad situation, who says “no more.” And so I love just what you just said about ‘finding your voice is where your power is’, and you can speak and that goes back to ‘wherever you are, there you go, is that if you have your voice, and the situation is, well– one of the words you just use is “dark”– you can say, “whoa, wait, I need to turn on the light here.”
(22:15) Les Brown:
Yes, you realize that you are the light. And that death in life is in the tongue. So, we have to be mindful of what we say, and how we say it. And how we interact. Because if I say to you, after hearing you say, “You know something, Les, I think I’m going to do a podcast on finding your voice.” And if I say you, “You can’t do that, Doreen,”– MIT did a study. And the study indicated that somebody else has to come along and say, “Doreen, you can do it. Doreen, don’t listen to him. You can do it. You can do it” 16 times to nullify that one negative comment. Yes. So, words are powerful. And so, we have to be mindful of the words, not only what we say to each other, but the words that we say to ourselves. Because that conversation, we have to continue to build that up to build mental resolve to begin to rise above the noise of the world. They call this “the attention economy” for a reason. Because the world out here is so noisy, it drowns out the voice, that still small voice within, and we start living our lives from the outside in, rather than from the inside out, where the power is. Come on somebody. Wow.
(23:49) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Well, I think you shared exactly what I hoped today was that you both had your challenges. You had your wakeup and you’ve had your journey. And because of all of what you’ve taken in, the being able to own the ownership, have relationships, it feels like you are able to help people now. So how do people find you? I mean, there are a lot of people who are listening who say, “hey, this man can really uplift me. And I need him to tell me the kinds of things he heard that day in school. And the things that Doreen happens to be saying.” So how do how do they get in touch with you, Les?
(24:34) Les Brown:
Well, they can go to COACHMELESBROWN.COM.
(24:38) Dr. Doreen Downing:
That’s a great title.
(24:42) Les Brown:
COACHMELESBROWN.COM. I’m hungry. Yes. Yeah, ‘I want to do what you do,’ or, ‘help me to begin to connect with the power that I have within myself to live a life that will outlive me.’
(24:57) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Great. Well, were you near the end, but I want to give you an opportunity just to say anything that feels like it’s coming through you right now to listeners to end our time together.
(25:13) Les Brown:
We’re living in a time where we have the opportunity to turn our adversities to advantage. This is this place where we are. It’s a crisis. And as we are aware, crises in the Chinese language, it means ‘danger’. But it also means ‘opportunity’. And so, we have the opportunity now, to be a source of inspiration and help build communities of collaborative, achievement-driven, supportive relationships as we move forward into the future, to create a world that we could all be proud of to leave a legacy. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it.
(26:01) Dr. Doreen Downing:
Thank you, Mr. Les Brown.
(26:04) Les Brown:
Thank you, I appreciate you and who you are, and how you’ve decided to live a committed life to be a force for good.
(26:13) Dr. Doreen Downing:
“A force for good.” Oh, yeah!
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: https://www.doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: https://www.doreen7steps.com.