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How often do you want to achieve as much as you want to breathe?


Today is August 24 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often 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 he was dressed in a suit and tie. The guru looked at the young man, told him he was not dressed right yet grabbed his hand they both walked out into the ocean with the water at their 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.” He then added the phrase which garnered him a great deal of attention “When you want to succeed as bad as you wanna breathe then you will be successful.”


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. While homeless Thomas met a preacher who 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. He would go on to write several books including The Secret to Success in 2012 that gave readers an introduction to his 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. Such a strategy is necessary because you will most likely encounter rejections, naysayers, and disbelievers while navigating the chaos.


For example, when you are attempting something new or working towards some goal others do not believe you can achieve, ridicule is bound to happen. In 1940 “The Rotarian” magazine published an article titled “Bat It Out!” with the byline George Herman (‘Babe’) Ruth where he wrote: “One more point: A good player never stops until he’s actually out, running as hard for first base on the almost-certain-to-be-caught fly or grounder as he would if he were sprinting the 100-yard dash. If Henry Ford hadn’t kept going in the early days despite ridicule, we would never have seen the Ford car. It’s been much the same with almost every great man you could name. He kept plugging when everybody said his chances of making first base were nil. You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.”


This theme of never giving up is found throughout historical speeches. One example stems from American labor union advocate Nicholas Klein who gave an inspiring speech to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America in 1918 and said: “My friends, after this war, there will be a great unemployment problem. The munition plants will be closed and useless, and millions of munitions workers will be thrown out upon the market. And then the time will come to show whether you strikers and you workers believe one hundred per cent for organized labor or only 35 per cent.... And my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First, they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America!”

  • How often do you want to achieve as much as you want to breathe?

  • How often can you ignore the critics and keep going?

  • How often do you remind yourself ‘you just can’t beat the person who never gives up?’

  • How often do you realize that people will ignore you, ridicule you and even attack you while you are navigating the chaos and translating one dreams after another into reality?