Today is August 24 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “do you want to achieve as much as you want to breathe?" People who navigate the chaos have experienced the need to achieve as much as they wanted to breathe. Motivational speaker Eric Thomas tells the story of a young man who asked a guru how to be successful. The guru invited the young man to the beach at 4:00am the next morning. Confused as to the request, the young man followed the guru’s instructions.
When the young man arrived at the beach the guru grabbed his hand and walked him out into the ocean so the water was at his knees. The young man had no idea what the guru was doing. “I don’t want to swim in the ocean,” the young man said, “I just want to be as successful as you.” The guru looked at him and said “You want to be successful? Do you really?” As the water started to rise to the young man’s chest he said “Yes! What does being in the ocean have to be with being successful?”
Just then the guru grabbed the young man’s head and held him under water until the young man was about to pass out. Looking into the young man’s eyes the guru said “when you were under water just now what did you want to do more than anything else?” “Breathe” the young man responded. “Right, so when you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you'll be successful."
Thomas concluded his motivational speech by telling the students: “And I’m here to tell you that number one, most of you say you wanna be successful but you don’t want it bad, you just kind of want it. You don’t want it bad than you wanna party. You don’t want it as much as you want to be cool. Most of you don’t want success as much as you want sleep. Some of you want sleep more than you want success.”
Thomas knows firsthand the necessity to want to succeed as much as he wanted to breathe since he dropped out of high school and was homeless on the streets of Detroit for almost two years. It was while living on the streets that Thomas met a preacher that changed his life for good. “He really just spoke life into me at a time when I was lost,” Thomas said. “He told me I had an untapped gift that if tapped into, would save lives!” The preacher’s advice motivated Thomas to go back to school, earn his GED, and eventually enroll at Oakwood University. After 12 years of study, Thomas graduated from Oakwood in 2001.
After graduating from Oakwood, Thomas took a fellowship at Michigan State University to complete his masters in K-12 Administration with an emphasis in Educational Leadership. While at Michigan, he continued to focus on mentoring and inspiring others, focusing largely on helping high-risk, minority students stay on track with their studies. To further his aims, he founded a non-profit organization, Advantage, while still a junior in college, and began touring universities as part of his efforts to inspire and motivate the younger generation to complete their education and get ahead.
During one of Thomas’ speeches at Michigan State University, he uttered the memorable line “When you want to succeed as bad as you wanna breathe then you will be successful.” A tech-savvy student decided to record the speech, overlay it to a video of former East Carolina running back Giavanni Ruffin working out, and then upload the result to YouTube. The video went viral, quickly amassing more than 6 million views, and turning Thomas into an overnight star. He would go on to write several books including The Secret to Success in 2012 that gave readers an introduction to ET’s life and message.
Thomas would go on to attain a master's degree from MSU in 2005, and a PhD in Education Administration in 2015 because he wanted to succeed as much as he wanted to breathe. Do you?