Motivational Speaking to Ignite a Movement with Les Brown

If you want not only to inspire a movement but IGNITE a movement, there is no better voice to help you get there than the world’s top motivational speaker, Mr. Les Brown himself. 

Building a speaking career can often feel like an impossible feat. You may have the desire, but you don’t know how to get started or what to say to truly inspire your community into action. If you feel that tug that it is time to be known… it is time to speak up… it is time to be heard… then join us to learn how to speak confidently, command attention, and inspire others to move into action. 

Whether your goal is to speak to build your business, or to make a deeper impact on everyone you meet, this will be a game changer. No joke. Les Brown is one of the most inspiring speakers on the planet, and I can’t wait to bring this goodness to you!


Introduction to Les Brown

I would say that Les Brown is the most impactful motivational speaker the world has known. Here is how Les sees himself. He is his mama’s baby boy, and he is Tyrone’s pride and joy. He’s been speaking for 52 years; he’s 76 years old. What he does is talk about how to live your dreams as opposed to your fears. That has been his passion. He started out as a trainer, but you learn, you earn, and you pass it on, so now at this stage of his life, it’s time to train others, hence why he created Hungry to Speak

We need new voices now more than ever before. Evil prevails when good men and women do nothing. Particularly in this space, we need not only voices of transformation and hope, but entrepreneurs who want to become successful have to tell the story of their business to attract customers. This is the attention economy. The internet allows you to help bring attention to yourself. We have gone from brick and mortar to click and order, making this a level playing field. Les wakes up in the morning, asking, “What can I create today?” He wants to create and learn every day. “You’re never too old to learn, and you’re never too young to teach.” 

Les wants to provide people with the tools they can set up in their homes to earn money not just in real time but also non-performance income. These tools include a lighting kit, a screen, and everything else they need to practice and improve their presentation and then allow them to capture it in real time. People often don’t know how to get started, and many of his clients he partners with because there is value in the things that other people bring that are not Les’ superpower. Together, they are a powerful force. 

When we met a while ago at Cecile’s house, Les said to me, “I’m traveling so much. I’m speaking all over the world. It was a lot physically. I wish there was a way I could do this online.” We talked about live video, and look what he has created. Les turned down a live in-person speaking engagement for $70,000 because he is not getting on an airplane right now. That’s not what Tyrone wants. How are we going to recreate ourselves in and out of this pandemic? What skills are lying dormant that we haven’t reached for yet? How do we turn this disadvantage into our advantage? This is actually a golden age we are living in right now because the opportunities are ripe. 

Let’s do a quote remix. This quote is from Kung Fu Panda 3, an animated movie about Po, a panda, who is the Dragon Warrior. He was chosen as this goofy panda to be the top ninja in the world. In the third movie, he meets all of these pandas and is trying to teach them how to be ninjas. They are not getting it; it’s not their superpower. There is a moment where one panda rolls down a hill, and he knocks out a bunch of other animals at the bottom of the hill. The camera then “pans” onto Po’s face, and he says, “I don’t need to teach you to be more like me; I need to teach you to be more like you.” I was crying so hard when I saw this because this is my mission in life. 

    • Think about yourself right now. Sometimes cartoons can have some good quotes, as illustrated above. That is so real. “At the end of the day, you are an unrepeatable miracle. When God chose you, he had 400 million sperm to choose from. He chose you. Why? Because you came here with something in you that is unique to you, that is your own footprint, your own fingerprint, your own gifts in you… There is something about you that resonates with people. Your energy and your focus and your efforts to develop that greatness in you, that God placed in you.” 

Before this video started, we ran a giveaway where someone would earn the chance to join Les and me live on this video so Les could help them live on the spot. Our winner today is Christy Hernandez. Christy runs a faith-based dance studio, helping people of all ages to be able to move and connect with the Lord while they are moving. It will be a cool story that she will bring to us. So stay tuned for that! 


Creating an Experience for Your Community

Les Brown was looking for a way to stand out in the speaking industry. People told him that he couldn’t be successful because no one in the speaking industry looks like him, and it’s a good old boys network. There are over 3,000 motivational speakers in the National Speakers Association. So you have to find a way to stand out. Les began observing other speakers, and he also hired a coach because you need to have that outside perspective to help you find yourself. 

Les was born in an abandoned building on the floor with a twin brother; he was a foster kid and then adopted; he was labeled mentally retarded; he was held back multiple times; and he never received a college education. He had convinced himself he couldn’t do it. He was telling his mentor, Mike, this. “Sometimes you have to have someone in your life who believes in you until your belief kicks in.” Mike asked Les, “Are you willing to learn?” 

Because of the new landscape we are in with this pandemic, are you willing to learn? If you’re not willing to learn, no one can help you. If you’re willing to learn, no one can stop you. Mike told Les that all of these guys are giving information, a memorized script from Think and Grow Rich. If information could change people, everyone would be skinny, rich, and happy. Information only impacts two areas of the brain. 

What Les Brown does is teach people how to tell their story. When you tell a story that creates senses of connectedness and relatedness with members of the audience, that impacts five areas of the brain, including the chemistry and hormones we experience when we fall in love. Les leads with, “Hi, my name is Les Brown. I’m Mrs. Mamie Brown’s baby boy.” He tells the story about his golden dream of buying his mother a home. 

When you are giving a speech, there are three important things. The audience is asking who are you? Les tells them who he is. Next, what do you have? Les tells them he wants to buy his mother a home. He accomplished that, so he will share how you can do something special like that for someone who is special in your life. Lastly, this is why you should care. Les can teach you how to reach your goals on steroids. We now have the context of understanding how we can connect with Les. 

Working on My Story

When the San Bernardino shootings happened, it was awful. I had two young kids at home, and I had grown up in an awesome family. My dad has a powerful story about how he launched his business from nothing. I had this adventure of a life as a musical theater performer. In this moment, I am standing in my kitchen. It was one of the only times I had been hit by a download of how there was nothing I could do in this situation. I wasn’t involved politically. I didn’t know what I could do. Before launching my business coaching programs, I had been helping people to stand for joy, to find the things that mattered in life, to think about the possibility in the face of adversity. Until that moment, I thought what I did didn’t matter. I had been made fun of for it before. But I realized this was going to be my mission. I trademarked the phrase Stand for Joy. We make sure that fun and joy is part of everything we do, as it’s a driving force as to how connections are formed and content is converted. Help me condense this into something simple to communicate.

Here is Les Browns’ spin on my story: The world we are living in now has a lot of divisiveness. Divorce rates are up. Suicide rates are up. Violence is up. Antidepressant orders are up. You have to decide to make a decision. Bob Marley was wounded in a dispute. He had to do a concert in Jamaica. A reporter who interviewed him asked, “You’re Bob Marley. You were wounded in a fight, and you survived it. You could have taken off for tonight, and no one would have blamed you. Why didn’t you?” Marley responded, “People who do evil in the world don’t take a day off. Why should I?” Whoa. 

Think about that. Marley’s music, he stood for joy. “Evil prevails when good men and women do nothing.” As Benjamin Franklin said, “Until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are affected, change will never take place.” You decided that you were not going to be a witness, a perpetrator, or a victim. You decided to stand for joy, to do what I could to make the world a better place. What are you standing for? What kind of legacy are you leaving? What will they be able to say in your obituary that you stood for? I hope that you stood for joy. 

The way that Les listens is pretty incredible. He offers that the best speakers are the best listeners. They listen, they’re curious, they study, and they listen to the listening. Les got up and read first thing this morning because you’re never too old to learn. Right before hopping on today, Les asked me about challenges, and he wants my help after we get off. “You have to expand your knowledge or you are expendable… You have to run just to stand still.” The days of retiring on 40% after working a job for 40 years is over.

During Hungry to Speak, Les will stand up sometimes and show off these pants that he wears. They are his Mickey Mouse pants. I am thus wearing my banana pants in solidarity. Talk about standing for joy! 

The other thing that happens in Hungry to Speak is Les Brown has a squirrel named Tyrone. During the pandemic, Les was meditating, as he has done transcendental meditation for years. He was watching squirrels jump around in a tree, and there was this one squirrel that came around every day. Les named him Tyrone. Les has been staying inside because he has been dealing with stage IV cancer for 29 years, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. He’s working on his five pack because he has one pack at the moment. Tyrone comes in every morning and said, “If you teach me how to speak English better than I’m doing, I’ll teach you how to speak Squirrelese.” They became buddies. Tyrone became motivated and was picking up words here and there. Les asked him, “Do you mind if I introduce you to the people in my community?” Tyrone wondered if he meant Hungry to Speak. Once Les said yes, Tyrone said, “I listen to you all the time.” This drives his children crazy, that Les talks to a squirrel. Les can’t go anywhere, so he talks to Tyrone to fill the time. 

Honestly, this is a wonderful strategy to bring the community together because everyone talks about Tyrone all the time. When I got married, we decided my husband was a squirrel and I was an octopus. So I have had a stuffed squirrel since I got married 10 years ago. One year for Christmas, I bought my husband a giant squirrel necklace that I wear so that I could wear it and he could look at it. Squirrels also are a theme in my life.


Sharing Christy’s Story

Christy Hernandez is the executive director of Dance 4 Joy Ministries. They are located in southern California. Their mission is to train up the next generation to proclaim the gospel in dance. Their vision is that they are transforming the lives of dancers and all who see them by proclaiming the gospel in dance from one generation to the next. 

    • They got started through seeking the Kingdom of God, and all the righteousness will be added unto you. Only God has the vision. Christy was sitting in a Bible study when her daughter was three years old, and she started to see visions of dance. God told her she was going to start a dance ministry. She had no idea what that was, but He said that was okay because He did. Christy asked around for help on how to figure this out, and 15 years ago, she started teaching classes in her home. Now they have two beautiful locations where they train up to 200 dancers a week to proclaim the gospel.
    • Christy loves to be a part of Camera Confidence because it’s teaching her how to go live and be her because that’s what God made her to be. She also can encourage others to come and dance for Him because everyone’s gifts are perfect. Einstein said, “Everyone is a genius, but if you expect a fish to climb a tree, you’re going to think he’s stupid.” Everyone has a beautiful dance in their heart, and it needs to be proclaimed so you can live with joy. That’s Christy’s story, and she is stickin’ to it. 

Time for Les’ spin on her story: I decided I developed a hunger for God to express all the dimensions of my life. I decided to dance for joy. Kindred spirits. “Once you decide what it is you want to do with your life, it’s very important that you find something that resonates with you, that is your calling.” You get paid for a job, but your calling is what you’re made for. We want to serve Him. We ain’t turnin’ down no money to dance. We may have an extra beat to put in there, as we dance for joy. People are going through a tough time in this pandemic, and they are filled with anxiety and hopelessness. However, we are operating from the space that we are dancing for joy that we are still here and we are still healthy. “If you woke up, get up, and dance for joy!” Thank God for all the blessings of the day, every day. Dancing for joy demonstrates gratitude and provides us an opportunity to serve others, to connect others to their imagination and joy. Dance for joy because you’re still here. That’s my story, and I’m stickin’ to it. 

You want to be in a community of kindred spirits, with a group of people who go in the direction you’re going in, who share your beliefs and your values. “We learn through the conversations we hear, the behaviors we observe, and the people who are around us. Be around people who understand the blessings that God has bestowed upon us, that we haven’t earned, and we are going to dance for Him and let the world know about Him.”

The way Les Brown subtly included money in his spin of this story, because yes, we are charging for our services, to be able to see how charging for something can be a gift is so key. If drug dealers can get rich by what they do, spreading death in communities, we should be able to create wealth by spreading joy and the gifts of our gospel in the community. You have to reward good behavior if we are going to reward the bad. 

HUNGRY, the Acronym

Les Brown makes up acronyms as he goes, but he also expands on them as he goes. H stands for Heart-Centered. We should live a heart-centered life. U stands for Unshakable faith. “Faith, not tested, can’t be trusted.” N stands for Now, urgency. “Live each day as if it were your last because one day it will be.” G stands for Goal-Centered, or Grow. If you’re not growing, you’re saying goodbye. R stands for Reinvent yourself and Raise the bar on yourself. In order to achieve what you want to achieve, you need to get to that next level. In order to do something you’ve never done, you need to become someone you’ve never been.” Les is a spiritual person, not a religious person. Religious people are afraid of going to hell, but spiritual people have been there. To spiritual people, hell is the place you go when you die where you see the person you were supposed to be, the work you were supposed to do. 

Last time Les shared this acronym, it was totally different, but it was just as good. If you have a little bit of a framework or some anchors, like an acronym, that can help you remember what is coming next when you are speaking. I have four C’s that I use as my anchor. This helps me be more confident because I don’t need notes. Les would agree. You can improvise and expand on your anchors, taking them to another level, based on what is happening in your life at that moment. It’s like jazz music. You have the foundation and the format, but you can riff on it. 

Here is what Les shared last time when he discussed HUNGRY. H was for Hold the audience as your hero. U is Understand what it is that your audience wants. N is Never let what you want to say get in the way of what they want to hear. G was Generate energy. R is Read more than you speak. Y is Your message, Your moment, Your voice.

    • In that context, you have the flexibility to custom design an acronym for each audience. Making the audience your hero, many people speak and tell their story all about them. There is no opening for the audience to step into your story and connect with it and figure out how your story relates to their story. Creating connectedness and an inspirational bonding is so key. They want you to change your life, to inspire them. So take that time to know your audience. Most speakers operate from the philosophy of tell them what you are going to tell them, and then tell them what you told them. When Les trains, he says, “Never let what you want to say get in the way of the audience and what they want to hear.” It’s all about that understanding.
    • Energy is so important because people respond to energy more than they do content. When you infuse it with your conviction, your passion, your energy, your heart, people will never be satisfied to go back to where they were. I used to apologize for my energy until I realized the more I could hone and focus my energy for good, it would become a magnet for other people who are a match for that. Your energy may not be a match for everyone, but it will be a match for some, and those are the some you want to reach out to and connect with.
    • Les sets aside the first hour and a half of his day for reading every morning. He gets up at 3:30am; he’s given the angels permission to wake him up at 7, but they haven’t taken advantage of that yet. So he reads from 3:30-5. Then he meditates, and then he journals. He also listens to inspirational things. “Whatever you listen to, you turn into.” One man called Les and told him that he listened to Les speak in the Georgia Dome 25 times, and it changed his life. Les uses this time in the morning to read for him and journal for him. He examines his life and asks God for help on what he is supposed to do with it.
    • Your message is unique to you. Your moment is what you are creating. It’s all about the number of moments that take our breath away. Who are we becoming in the process of creating those moments?

Everything that Les has experienced has brought him to this place with me. Last week, Les set eyes on his birth father and mother for the first time. It was a huge discovery for him, and he shared that entire journey with his community. He is certainly glad that his birth mother put him up for adoption. Les’ nephew said, “I am so proud you are my uncle.” He sounded like Forrest Gump… His birth mother knew what she was doing when she gave him up to Mamie Brown. Even Stevie Wonder could see that that was a gift in Les’ life. Les’ birth mother was a motivational speaker. His grandmother was a motivational speaker, too. They have a museum honoring her, two churches named after her, and an annex on a school named after her. He cried like a baby when he saw all of this. Now he knows where he got his voice from and what’s been driving him. 

Maya Angelou said, “There is nothing as painful as an untold story buried in your soul.” There is someone who needs that story. That story may have happened to you, but it’s not for you. It’s meant for those who are still struggling, and they need to hear your voice. That’s Les Browns' story, and he’s stickin’ to it. 

Want more support in turning your message into a movement? 

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Additional Resources

Dance 4 Joy Ministries on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube