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Shoot for the Moon

Because even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.

Todd Eliason

Speaker and author Les Brown still feels
the sting of an experience from fifth grade
when he and his buddies were clowning
around and creating a disruption. The incident
wasn’t the fi rst, and the teacher had
had enough. “I remember the look of anger and disgust
on her face,” Brown says. “She was set on making a statement.”
To make things worse, the principal referred to
the kids as “stupid, dumb and retarded” because of their
poor performance. The students ultimately were required
to repeat a grade. From then on, Brown was labeled as
“educable mentally retarded.”

That one experience has fueled Les Brown’s drive
to succeed. It wasn’t until his junior year in high
school that he was he able to shed the destructive label
through the encouragement of a teacher.

Brown never had a class with
the teacher, Mr. Washington, but
he did crash his speech and drama
classes. He became such a regular
that one day Mr. Washington
called on him to write something
on the board. When Brown told
him he couldn’t do what he asked
because he was classified as educable mentally retarded,
Mr. Washington stopped him and said in front of the
whole class, “Don’t you ever say that again. Someone’s
opinion of you doesn’t have to become your reality.”

“Most
people fail
because they aim
too low and hit.”

That was a turning point for Brown. “Although I was
humiliated that he said it in front of the whole class,
I was liberated,” Brown says. “He looked at me with
the eyes of Goethe who said,
‘Look at a man the way that he
is, he only becomes worse. But
look at him as if he were what
he could be, then he becomes
what he should be.’ ”

In that one moment, Mr.
Washington gave Brown a sense
of his greater potential. “He gave me the creative thirst
for wanting to do more, achieve more and have more,”
Brown says. “But, most important, he saw through
“Greatness is a choice;
it’s not our destiny.”
the label that was affixed to my chest, and I fi nally realized the
opinions of others did not matter. What was important was how I
perceived myself.”

Finally, the possibilities of life were open to the young Brown.
From that point on, he continued to grow and stretch himself
in every facet in his life. He became a hip-talking morning DJ,
a community activist, a three-term Ohio legislator, a syndicated
television personality, and today a renowned professional speaker,
author and a leading authority on human potential. He has
been the recipient of the Council of Peers Award for Excellence
and has been named as one of the world’s top five speakers by
Toastmasters International.

Establishing a Successful Mindset
Now a father of nine children, Brown is committed to helping
people of all ages see their value and greatness. He says success is a
habit you embrace on a daily basis, and the earlier you get into that
mindset the sooner you will be able to give birth to possibilities you
might not be able to imagine.

“In order to do something you’ve never done,
you’ve got to become someone you’ve never been. I
think that all of us have great potential within us,
but greatness is a choice; it’s not our destiny. And in
the pursuit of our dreams we are introduced to trials,
failures and disappointments, which take us to the
door of discovery and greatness.” Brown says most
people fail in life not because they aim too high and
miss. “Most people fail because they aim too low and
hit. And many don’t aim at all.”

Brown’s message is equally important to his younger
audiences. “It’s so important to help our children get
a vision of themselves beyond their circumstances
and mental conditioning,” he says. “I know
there are a lot of parents involved with
their kids’ education, but if you don’t
affect and impact a child’s attitude about
themselves, it’s a losing battle. And if they
don’t have a vision of themselves of how
they fit in the future, they are going to act
like, dress like and conduct themselves like a
misfit. Just like I did.”

Be Willing to Experiment with Life
If there is one theme Les Brown lives by, it’s
that anything’s possible. “Most people have a
tendency to settle early in life,” he says. “They
stop experimenting, developing, growing,
pushing and challenging themselves. And in
this global economy, that mindset is no longer
an option. We have to begin to understand
that we must expand or we are expendable.”

Life sometimes throws us curveballs, but
Brown says these occasions provide opportunities.
“Had I not lost my job in broadcasting
as a disc jockey, I would have never run for the
Ohio Legislature. I would have never pursued
that goal and dream of becoming a talk show
host. I would have never seen myself as an
individual who could make a difference in the
community. My advice to all is to shoot for the
moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land
among the stars.”

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