Here is the full transcript of Les Brown’s motivational speech: ‘It’s Not Over Until You Win!’
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: It’s Not OVER Until You Win! Your Dream is Possible – Les Brown
Introducing Speaker: Ladies and gentlemen it is with great honor that we present to you, Les Brown.
Les Brown – Author, speaker
What I like me to do right now, I want you to think about your dream, because I’m in a room full of dreamers. Think about your dream right now, what you think about it and envision it.
Now ladies and gentlemen let me share something with you. I do not believe that any of us have dreams that were not given to us for the purpose of accomplishing those particular dreams. And I want to share something with you that has changed my life.
I started out, as was indicated by Jack, it’s very humble beginnings. I don’t know what that dream is that you have. I don’t care how far-fetched it might appear to be. I don’t care how disappointing it might have been as you’ve been working toward that dream. But here’s what I know that, that dream that you’re holding in your mind, that it’s possible. Let’s say that together. Please say it’s possible.
See, sometimes we can’t say I can do that. But what we can say that it’s possible, that I can have my dream, as we run toward it, as we work on it day-in and day-out. No one, ladies and gentlemen, could have convinced me when I started out just over six years ago, working on my dream.
And I want you to think about whatever your dream is, because I was willing to take a chance, and most people won’t do that. Most of the people that you talk to, to try and bring them into the business, these are not risk-takers. Most people have done all that they’re ever going to do. They raise a family, they earn a living and then they die. But people who are running toward their dreams life has a special kind of meaning.
And here’s what I will share with you, that in the process of working on your dreams you are going to incur a lot of disappointment, a lot of failure, a lot of pain, a lot of setbacks, a lot of defeat. But in the process of doing that you will discover some things about yourself that you don’t know right now.
What you will realize is that you have greatness within you. What you will realize is that you’re more powerful than you can ever begin to imagine. What you will realize is that you’re greater than your circumstances, that you don’t have to go through life being a victim.
As Jack indicated, I was born in Miami, Florida, in an area called Liberty City in an abandoned building on a hardon olean floor with my twin brother. We were six weeks of age we were adopted. When I was in fifth grade, I was identified as EMR, labeled educable, mentally retarded, put back from the fifth grade into the fourth grade and stayed in that category until I got out of high school. I don’t have any college training. But I met a high school teacher who one day changed my life.
I was waiting on another student and when he came in, he said to me, ‘Young man, go to the board and write what I’m about to tell you.’
And I said, ‘I can’t do that, sir.’
He said, ‘Why not?’
I said, ‘I’m not one of your students.’
He said, ‘It doesn’t matter. Follow my directions now.’
I said, ‘I can’t do that, sir.’
He said, ‘Why not?’
I said, ‘Because I am educable mentally retarded.’
And he came from behind his desk and he looked at me, he said, ‘Don’t ever say that again. Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.’
And that man Mr. Leroy Washington did something for me. He started planting seeds in my mind that enabled me to begin to dream as Dexter has been doing for you. And ladies and gentlemen, I started working on my dream and most people don’t work on their dreams; why? For many years I didn’t. One is because of fear — the fear of failure. What if things don’t work out. And the fear of success: What if they do and I can’t handle it.
The other thing is that most people, ladies and gentlemen, they get comfortable. They stop growing, they stop working on themselves, they stop stretching. They stop pushing themselves and they end up becoming very cynical about life and they throw in the towel on themselves, on their families and on their dreams.
And the other thing is that most people don’t feel worthy. What I’m doing now, I could have been doing years ago. But because I did not have a college education, because I didn’t believe in myself, because I allowed other people’s opinion of me to control my destiny, I didn’t act on my ideas.
So I applaud you for your dreaming, for your running towards your dream. I applaud you for believing in yourself, because that’s what life is about: stretching and challenging, looking for ways that you can begin to improve yourself.
And ladies and gentlemen, as a result of stretching out, of acting on my dream and I don’t know what that dream is for you. I can tell you that it’s possible. No one could have convinced me that after just over six years I would have my own book entitled ‘Live Your Dreams’.
Just over six years I would have five specials on public television. Just over six years I’ve done motivational speaking for AT&T, Procter & Gamble, Mcdonald’s Corporation, Xerox, IBM. Just over six years I will now have my own talk show that will premiere on Monday, Labor Day. I’m saying to you: your dream is possible.
Your dream is possible. But not only is it important that you believe and begin to know that it’s possible for you to live your dream as you run toward it. But I’ve done something that I want to share with you called choosing your future.
In fact, I’ve developed a set of tapes talking about how to begin to create your own reality by choosing your future. And not only is it important for you to know it’s possible for you to choose your future but it’s necessary that you work on yourself, that you develop yourself. It’s necessary that you get the energy drainers out of your life, people who don’t want anything, people who are not striving, people who are not challenging themselves, people who aren’t growing, people who have stopped dreaming. It’s necessary that you align yourself with people and attract people into your business who are hungry, people who are unstoppable and unreasonable, people who are refusing to live life just as it is and who want more.
My mother used to say birds of a feather flock together. If you run around with losers, you will end up a loser. It’s necessary that you get the losers out of your life if you want to live your dream. It’s necessary to know that everybody won’t see it, that everybody won’t join you, that everybody won’t have the vision. It’s necessary to know that, that a lot of people like to complain but they don’t want to do anything about their situation, that you aren’t uncommon breed. You know, you have to know within yourself that I can do this. Even if no one else sees it for me I must see it for myself. That’s necessary.
It’s also, ladies and gentlemen, necessary that you be creative when you’re working on your ideas, that you understand the importance of changing up, of readjusting your strategies. Many times we can have a great idea but if you’re not advancing it in the right way and things don’t happen, you become discouraged and think the idea doesn’t work. No, that’s not true. It’s necessary that we become creative.
I remember when I was in New York, walking down the street and a guy approached me and said, ‘Hey mister, can I shine your shoes?’
And I said, ‘No, I’m in a hurry. I don’t have time’.
I kept walking. Someone else said, ‘Hey man, your shoes look clutty. May I shine your shoes?’
I said, ‘No, I don’t have time. I am sorry, I’m busy.’
Now I was walking fast and many people solicited me for my business. And then finally young man stepped in front of me, and he said, ‘Excuse me’, and he started counting… 97, 98, 99, 100, he said, ‘Sir?’
I said, ‘Yes.’
He said, ‘Come here, please.’
I said, ‘What is it?’
He said, ‘Today is my birthday and every year just to thank God for another year of life, the 100th person who passes by shoeshine stand, I offer them a free shoeshine. Would you give me the honors?’
I said, ‘Why? Sure.’
I got up on the shoeshine stand and I sat there and he shined my shoes diligently. And when I got down, I looked at him they were sparkly. And I was walking away and I said, ‘Thank you’ and I stopped. I said, ‘Excuse me, but how much do you usually charge?’
He said, ‘Only 2 dollars.’
I said, ‘I tell you what: today is your birthday. Here’s $5, keep the change.’
He said, ‘Thank you.’
As I was walking away looking in the opposite direction as other people coming, he started counting again, 97, 98, 99, 100.
It’s necessary that you be flexible, that you are always thinking of how can I improve this better. This is a customer-driven economy. It’s necessary for you to always explore various ways in which you can improve the quality of service that you’re providing for the people in your organization.
I remember something a major company had talked about the extra value service they were providing for their customers. And the lady who had the news conference summarized it this way. She said, ‘It’s not our intention to satisfy our customers or to please our customers. Our intention is to amaze them’.
It’s necessary if you’re going to compete today that you look for ways to amaze your customers by being one of those individuals that keep your commitments, that keep your word that’s relentless. It’s necessary you work with the people that you bring into your organization, that they see that you are good example of a person to work with, because you model integrity and determination and ambition and truth and honesty, and the way in which you conduct business.
The next step is that is you, that is you, but no one can do it for you but you. And even though you face disappointments, even though you will experience some setbacks, it goes with the territory. You must understand that. I remember I was playing a game with my nine-year-old son John Leslie and I beat him 10 straight games in a game called Connect Four. And finally I said, ‘John Les, now I am bored. I don’t want to play anymore’. And I got up, I said I’m ready to go to sleep now. And repeat after me please. Let’s say, do this together. It’s not over until I win.
John Leslie said, ‘No, you can’t go now, Dad’.
I said, ‘Why?’
He said, ‘It’s not over until I win.’ That was his attitude. We sat down and we played several other games. And finally after the 11th game, John Leslie won and he got up and he yawned. And he said, ‘I’m ready to go to sleep now’. And I’m saying to you what if all of us took that attitude after we face a rejection and I know, we have a meeting and no one shows up or somebody say you can count on me and they don’t come through. What if we have that kind of attitude, the cars repossessed, nobody believes in you, you’ve lost again and again and again. The lights are cut off but you’re still looking at your dream, reviewing it every day and say to yourself: it’s not over until I win. Life will yield to you.
Now here’s the next step. Repeat after me please. It’s possible. I can live my dream. It’s necessary I work on myself, surround myself with winners, become creative. It’s me, I’ve got to make it happen. It’s not over until I win.
The next thing that’s important to know: Yes, it’s possible that you can choose your future and direct the course of your life, as you run toward your dream. It’s necessary that you have goals, that you write those goals down, that you plan, that you think constantly of how you can begin to improve what it is that you’re doing. If it’s your presentations, if it’s your recruiting skills, whatever that is, it’s also necessary that you look for ways to always find a way to pull it out when everybody else think that you’re defeated. That you’ve got to take personal responsibility to know that in order to become successful you’ve got to make it your personal business to do it.
But the next thing, ladies and gentlemen, I want to share with you that some of you already know, that it’s hard. It’s not easy. It’s hard changing your life. It was hard when just over three years ago in the Penobscot building in Detroit, Michigan where I was operating my business and I fell on some hard times. And I was sleeping in my office. It was hard coming into the lobby and the security said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. Brown, can we see you for a moment?’
And I said, ‘Yes’. And I walked up to the counter and he gave me an envelope.
And he said, ‘Would you mind reading it here?’
And I opened the envelope and the envelope was from management that said, ‘This is an office tower, it’s not a hotel. Please do not sleep in your office.’
And I said, ‘Excuse me sir’. I said, ‘I just work long hours in creating my business. I’m an entrepreneur. And right now things are bad for me. But they’re not going to be this way always.’ And I just asked for the opportunity to continue to operate like I’m doing. I’m not trying to make this my home. And it was hard coming through the lobby. And sometimes they would laugh, that’s the guy talking about becoming successful and look at him, he’s bathing in the bathroom upstairs on the 21st floor. He sleeps on the floor, him and two other dreamers up there. Look at him.
It was hard, ladies and gentlemen, coming to speak to people. And I was facing financial difficulties in my own life. I was behind on my bills and my dreams and I’m saying to them ‘you can live your dream’. It was hard, ladies and gentlemen. It was very difficult to pick myself up each day believing that I can do it. There were times that I doubted myself and say, ‘God, why? Why is this happening to me? I’m just trying to take care about children and my mother. I’m not trying to steal a rock from anybody. Why does this have to happen to me?’
It was very hard. And here’s what I want to say to you. For those of you that have experienced some hardships, don’t give up on your dream. No one could have convinced me by holding on, by continuing to push forward, by continuing to run toward my dream, that one day I would have my own talk show. It’s a longshot, ladies and gentlemen, from Liberty City, an abandoned building, on a floor, never knowing my mother or father. It’s a longshot. Being here with you today in this dome in Atlanta, it’s a longshot. No college training, labeled educable mentally retarded but I kept running toward my dream. Don’t stop. Don’t stop. Don’t stop running toward your dream.
It’s very important, as you hold on to that dream, there are moments when you’re going to doubt yourself, that rough times are going to come but they have not come to stay, they have come to pass. It’s very important for you to know that. Don’t say I’m having a bad day. Say I am having a character-building day.
It’s very important for you to believe that you are the one to make this happen. I remember this high school teacher Mr. Leroy Washington, at the end of school 1 June, it was just a few days before we were supposed to leave. And I just got my report card and it indicated that I had failed history and I failed English and I would have to go to summer school. And I was feeling within myself that I was a failure that I’m slower than most people in getting paperwork. And I was feeling down on myself and very negative.
And Mr. Washington was giving a speech to the graduating seniors and I was in the 11th grade. And even though I wasn’t supposed to be in there, I went in there because the speech he was giving, that speech was for me. And as he talked my heart began to beat fast, tears began to run by my eyes and I was in the back just listening to him, because he said — and he was a very dramatic man. I still talk to him to this day. He said:
“As graduating seniors of Booker T. Washington High School, I want you to know that you are blessed and highly favored and that as you go toward the future, begin to know that you have greatness within you. And if just one of you here begin to envision yourselves as being blessed and highly favored to reach your goals, if just one of you capture the essence of what that means that you have greatness within you and responsibility to manifest that greatness, that you can make your parents proud, you can make your school proud, you can touch millions of people’s lives and the world will never be the same again, because you came this way.”
And the students gave him a rousing standing ovation.
And as he left the auditorium, I ran down the steps and I caught him in a parking lot and said, ‘Mr. Washington?’
He said, ‘Yes.’
I said, ‘Do you remember me, sir?
He said, ‘No.’
I said, ‘My name is Leslie brown. My mother — she works in the cafeteria. I am one of the twins: Leslie and Wesley’. I said, ‘Mr. Washington, but you know I’ve got these big dreams and I like talking to people, I love people’, and I said, ‘I want to work with people and I’ve got this dream of buying my mama a home. Could I do that, Mr. Washington?’
He said, ‘It’s possible, Mr. Brown.’
And as he walked away I called him again, I said, ‘Mr. Washington?’
He said, ‘What do you want now?’
I said, ‘I’m the one, sir’. I said, ‘I’m the one — you remember me? I am Mr. Mamie Brown’s boy. I am the one, I am the one.’
And you must feel that but that’s why you’re here, because you are the one. And I remember when PBS first played one of my Specials called You Deserve, one Sunday afternoon in Miami, Florida, I had some friends call him to tell him to tune in. And he watched the program, he called me in Detroit and I answered the phone. I said, ‘Hello?’
He said, ‘May I speak to Les Brown, please?’
I said, ‘Who’s calling?’
He said, ‘You know who this is.’
I said, ‘Oh, Mr. Washington, it’s you.’
He said, ‘You were the one; weren’t you?’
I said, ‘Yes sir.’
He said, ‘And you were so crazy.’
I said, ‘I know but I’m rich now.’
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not going to be easy. It was hard laying on the floor of the Penobscot building looking out of the window daydreaming saying, ‘Les, can you do this? Can you make this happen?’ I used to listen to tapes day in and day out about See You At The Top by great friends Zig and and Denis Waitley and different other motivational speakers and Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Dexter saying Don’t Let Nobody Steal Your Dream. I used to ask myself: Can I do this? And something said within me ‘you’re the one. You’re the one’.
Now let me tell you something ladies and gentlemen. While you’re here and before you go back home to your respective cities and communities, write down at least five reasons on why you deserve your dream and why you won’t give up, what’s going to make you unstoppable, why you must be unreasonable, because logical practical thinking says you can’t do it today. But if you want to produce unreasonable results in your life, like living your dream and taking charge of your destiny you’ve got to be an unreasonable person, you’ve got to be an uncommon person. So write down the reasons of why you’re here.
My first major goal was to buy my mother a home. Now let me tell you something, ladies and gentlemen. What will reasons do, Les? Nietzsche said if you know the ‘why’ for doing you can endure almost any ‘how’. What do you mean by that? If you know why you’re doing something when the hard times come and they’re going to come, when the disappointments and rejections come and they’re going to come by the truckloads, your reasons will be your rod and staff to comfort to pick you up. Once again I got a saying on one of my tapes: if life knocks you down, try and land on your back, because if you can look up you can get up. Let your reasons get you back up.
I remember when I bought the home for my mother and she came out of the car. When I opened the door, I said, ‘Mama, I think I know these people in this house’. That was my first major goal. And then I couldn’t conceal it anymore. I said, ‘Mama, I got this for you’. And as she went from room to room looking at the house and saying, ‘Thank you Jesus. Thank you, Lord. No one ever could have convinced me that this could have happened to me.’ And she looked at me, she said, ‘Leslie, and you caused me so much problems as a boy, you were always into stuff.’ She said, “No one could have convinced me that day when I walked in that house and this lady was holding you and your brother and she said, ‘Ma’am, I want you to promise me two things’.
And she said what is it? She says, ‘One, promise me that you won’t separate them’. She said ‘I want them raised together. We’re going to know each other. I got pregnant while my husband was away in the war and I can’t keep him. Promise me that you won’t separate them’. She said I promise I won’t. I’ve never had children. I promise I won’t separate them.
And she said, ‘Promise me that you’ll never tell them about who I am because if my husband ever found out he would kill me’. She said I promise. And she said that she gave them to us and and she kind of cried and she was walking out the door and she looked at my adopted mother, she said, ‘Remember don’t you separate them’. She said I swear to God, I won’t. I won’t separate them, I’ll keep them together. And she said, as I held you all in my arms I never had any children my own. I didn’t know how I was going to do it but I knew with the help of God I will do it”.
And ladies and gentlemen, my mother had a dream of having children and raising us. She didn’t know how she was going to do it. You’re going to be just like that, and some of you are already there but you don’t know how you’re going to make this happen. But you just feel within yourself some way somehow with the help of God I’m going to make it happen.
Repeat after me please. No matter how bad it is, or how bad it gets, I’m going to make it. I’m going to make it. Shake somebody’s hand on your right and left and say you’ve got the right stuff.
So yes, it’s possible for you to live your dream. It’s necessary that you associate with winners, that you work your system, that you are relentless, that you never give up. It’s you, you’ve got to take personal responsibility. You’ve got to make it your personal business to make it happen. And you’ve got to resolve within yourself that I can do this, that it’s hard but you’ve got to say I’m the one, I’m the one to make this happen. I’m the want to become successful in this business. As you work to help other people to become successful, that feeds your success. But you know it’s going to be hard but find out what will make it worth it for you.
I told Mr. Washington I wanted to become a disc jockey. Someone asked me to tell the story. And he said, ‘Les Brown’, he said, ‘if you want to do anything worthwhile in life you’ve got to be hungry.’ And so I started working to develop myself. He said, ‘I want you to practice every day being a disc jockey’.
I said, ‘But I don’t have any job.’
Now he said it doesn’t matter. He said that it’s better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared. So every day I was working to develop myself and that’s what you must do. And as I was working to develop myself, I applied for a job as a disc jockey WMBF, Miami Beach. I went to a guy named Milton Butterball. I said, ‘How you doing, Mr. Butterball? I like to get a job as a disc jockey.’
He looked at me and said, ‘Do you have any broadcast background?’
I said, ‘No sir, I don’t.’
‘Do you have any journalism background?’
I said, ‘No sir, I don’t.’
He said, ‘We don’t have any jobs available.’
I said, ‘Yes sir.’
I went back to Mr. Washington and I told him, he said, ‘Don’t take it personally’. He said most people are so negative they will have to say no seven times before they say yes. He said go back again. So I went back again.
I said, ‘How you doing Mr. Butterball? My name is Les Brown.’
He said, ‘I know what your name is. What do you want?’
I said, ‘I like to know whether or not you have any jobs as disc jockey, sir?’
He said, ‘Didn’t I just tell you yesterday we didn’t have any jobs?’
I said, ‘Yes sir, but I don’t know whether or not somebody got laid off or somebody was fired, sir.’
He said, ‘No one was laid off or fired. Now get on out of here.’
I came back the next day: ‘Hello Mr. Butterball, how are you?’
He said, ‘Fine. What do you want now?’
I said, ‘I’d like to know whether or not you got any job, sir?’
‘Didn’t I tell you the last two days we didn’t have any jobs.’
I said, ‘Yes sir, but I don’t know whether or not somebody got sick or somebody died, sir.’
He said, ‘No one got sick or died. Don’t come back here’ and threw me out again.
I came back the next day like I was seeing him for the first time and said, ‘Hello, Mr. Butterball, how are you?’
He looked at me with rage. He said, ‘Go get me some coffee.’
I said, ‘Yes sir.’
And I went to get him some coffee. After a while I would give their lunch and dinner and I would go into control rooms and take the disc jockeys their food and I would not leave until they would ask me to leave. Then they started trusting me to pick up entertainers that came to town, entertainers like The Four Tops and the Temptations and Diana Ross and The Supremes. I would drive them all over Miami Beach in the disc jockeys big long Cadillacs. I didn’t have any drivers license but I was driving like I had some.
And one day, one Saturday afternoon while I was at the radio station, a guy named Rock was drinking while he was on the air. I was the only one there, looking at him through the control room windows, walking back and forth, young, ready and hungry. I was saying, ‘Drink Rock, drink. Drink rock’, I had to go and get him some more if he’d asked me to. Pretty soon the phone rang and it was the general manager. And I answered the phone, I said, ‘Hello?’
He said, ‘Les, this is Mr. Klein.’
I said I know.
He said, ‘Rock can’t finish his program.’
I said I know.
He said, ‘Would you call one of the other DJs in?’
I said yes sir. I hung the phone up. I said now he must be thinking I’m crazy. I called my mom and my girlfriend Cassandra, and said, ‘You all turn up the radio and come out on the front porch, I’m about to come on the air.’
I waited for about 20 minutes and I called him back, I said, ‘Mr. Klein, I can’t find nobody.’
He said, ‘Young boy, do you know how to work the controls?’
I said, ‘Yes sir.’
He said, ‘Go in there and sit down there.’
I said, ‘Yes sir.’
I couldn’t wait to get behind those controls. I put on old Stevie Wonder record called Fingertips. I sat down behind that turntable. I said, ‘Look out, this is me, LB, Triple P — Les Brown, Your Platter Playing Poppa. There were none before me and there will be none after me. Therefore, that makes me the one and only. Young and single and love to mingle. Certified, bona fide, indubitably qualified to bring you satisfaction, a whole lot of action. Look out, baby, I’m your lo-o-ove man.” I was hungry. I was hungry. You gotta be hungry. You gotta be hungry.
So ladies and gentlemen, if you want to make your dream become reality, the people that are running at that dream know that it’s possible that you can live your dream. That it’s necessary that you are relentless, that you have a plan of action, that you are creative. The people that are living that dream are fighting winners, to attach themselves to.
The people that are living their dreams, are the people that know that, if it’s going to happen, it’s up to them and they are resolving within themselves it’s not over until I win. The people that are running after that dream know they’re going to have hard times, they keep on running because they’re saying within themselves: I’m the one, I’m the one. No matter how bad it is or how bad it gets I am going to make it. The people that are running after their dreams are the people that are hungry. Shake somebody’s hand on your right and left and say: you’ve got to be hungry.
And as you run towards your dream, I want to dedicate this to you that I love very much and I want to thank Dexter and all of you. It’s something that I am known by. It’s on our tapes called Choosing Your Future and said simply this: that ‘If you want a thing bad enough to go out and fight for it, to work day and night for it, to give up your time, your peace and your sleep for it. If all that you dream and scheme is about it, and life seems useless and worthless without it, and if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it and lose all your terror of the opposition for it, and if you simply go after that thing that you want with all of your capacity, strength and sagacity, faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity, if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout, sickness nor pain, of body and brain, can keep you away from the thing that you want, if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, with the help of God, you will get it!”
This is Mrs. Mamie Brown’s baby boy, Leslie Calvin Brown saying it’s been a plum pleasing pleasure as well as a privilege. Thank you.
Resources for Further Reading: