by Mellissa Thomas
An intimate evening with world-renowned speaker Les Brown is, for many, a fantastical prospect, so they are content to watch his speeches on YouTube and Vimeo. However, J. Jackson, Sr.’s RYSE Interactive Inc. made the opportunity real for Orlando’s entrepreneurs and businesspeople at an incredible price. Brown, who typically speaks for six figures per appearance, teamed with Jackson for Thursday’s sold out event at the new Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at a ticket price of only forty dollars. His speech: “You Have Greatness Within You.”
Realtor and entrepreneur Zahide (pronounced “zah-day”) Wallace, a seasoned speaker herself, was the night’s emcee, and the cavernous DeVos Family Room welcomed over 300 guests with live jazz. Included in the ticket price was a free raffle ticket for prizes sponsored by La Vie Wellness Spa in Metrowest. There were three drawings, including a free fitness training session in feature film stuntwoman and actress Shellita Boxie’s Booty & the Beast Bootcamp.
At 8:24 p.m. District 5 Commissioner Regina Hill declared a proclamation on behalf of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, honoring J. Jackson, Sr., RYSE Interactive Inc., and Les Brown with March 5th as their official day.
To introduce J. Jackson, Sr., Wallace spent her final moments on stage recalling how she met him, because he was a successful realtor prior to starting RYSE Interactive. “I was just starting out in the business…and a friend of mine said, ‘you should talk to J. Jackson, he’s kind of a big deal’.” She explained that Jackson took much precious time to assist and guide her, connecting her with other successful people who could augment her own success.
Jackson took the stage at 8:35 p.m., thanking the event sponsors, including BB&T Bank. “When Jay came to me with this idea, it took me about thirty-five seconds to say yes,” said Antonio T. “Tony” Coley, BB&T Bank’s Central Florida Regional President and Jackson’s personal friend. “Being born in Miami, like Mr. Brown, and listening to his speeches all my life, it made sense to partner with Jay for this event.” Jackson presented Coley with a RYSE plaque of appreciation for BB&T’s continuous support from RYSE’s inception.
As he introduced Les Brown, Jackson enthralled the audience with his story of how he met him. Jackson was in the throes of growing RYSE, a magazine aimed at “Rising Young Executives and Entrepreneurs” (the RYSE acronym), and hit a low point in 2012. By then, he had stumbled upon Brown’s material on Google while searching for a way to get “unstuck” in his business and began listening to him daily. A friend informed Brown of Jackson’s venture and passed along his contact information. One late night, Jackson received a call from an unfamiliar number and let it go to his voicemail. When he played it back, he was shocked to realize it was Brown himself. He replayed the voice message for the audience to hear, live on stage, with Mr. Brown seated just a few feet away. Brown ended his voice message with, “God bless the day you were born.” Jackson called him back, and their relationship grew.
The Man of the Hour
Brown received a standing ovation as he graced the stage at 8:44 p.m. His photo and speech title, “You Have Greatness Within You,” were emblazoned on the two projector screens flanking him. Right away he got the audience involved with a question. “How many entrepreneurs do we have in the audience? Raise your hands, please.” He then asked of those who were corporate executives, those who are speakers, then for those who wanted to make money as a speaker. “Oh, a lot more hands went up on that one,” he remarked with a witty lilt, drawing laughter.
He briefly recalled his family history, sharing that he was adopted and loved his mother dearly. He wanted to make her proud more than anything else. He also briefly mentioned an “angel”, a doctor who befriended him in the hospital while going through his prostate cancer treatments. “Brother, you’re going to be fine,” he had said. “That completely dispelled my fear,” Brown shared.
He then introduced his wife Julie, a dynamo who is both an M.D. and Ph.D. She briefly motivated the audience herself, speaking particularly to the women, even asking them to stand applaud themselves.
Brown spent the following eighty-nine minutes providing tips and strategies for the listeners to stand out and be successful in their respective industries while injecting his own personal experiences that not only roused roaring laughter, but made strong points, embodying the very advice he gave Jackson: “Never make a point without telling a story, and never tell a story without making a point.” One such point was, “you’ve gotta be hungry”—to take dreams seriously and never stop at “no.”
He used his foray into radio as an illustration. He went to the radio station and expressed his desire to become a DJ. He was turned away for his lack of experience (he had none). He returned the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, and kept coming until the man he kept speaking to, Mr. Butterball, could only say, “…Go get me some coffee, boy!” Once he got his foot in the door, he ran errands for the DJs at the station, including picking celebrities up from the airport and driving them around in the DJ’s cars—despite not having a driver’s license.
However, an opportunity opened up on a Saturday when a specific DJ, who was the only one in the studio besides Brown, was drinking on the job to the point that he couldn’t finish his show. The station manager called and asked him to call around and find out if any other DJs would be available to sub in. After waiting roughly twenty minutes, he called the manager back and said no one was available. The manager in turn asked him to work the boards, but not to say anything on the air. Brown did the exact opposite. He used the opportunity to jump on and wowed the audience with his pizzazz, and the rest was history.
Brown’s Seven Takeaways for Awakening the Greatness Within
1. Become a more effective communicator. It is the weapon that makes you unstoppable, and it gives you access to relationships you would not otherwise have.
2. Create collaborative, achievement-driven, supportive partnerships.
3. Expand your skill set. Always improve and reinvent yourself to get an edge.
4. Surround yourself with OQP: only quality people, people who know more than you do.
5. Distract, dispute, and inspire: Distract people’s (and your own) negative stories about themselves (and yourself), dispute the negativity with positive counterpoints, and inspire with valuable, immediately actionable information.
6. Make yourself stand out. Provide more service, and you’ll get paid more.
7. Ask for help—not because you are weak, but because you want to remain strong—and do not stop asking until you get it.
What’s Next for Les
The nineteen-year “cancer survivor and thriver” just turned seventy on February 17th, and he told the audience he was wondering to himself, “What’s next for you, Les? You’re seventy! What’s next?” He plans to coach a new course for entrepreneurs and businesspeople and continue to train his descendants to take over the business. He had everyone complete his opt-in form and survey, gave the audience his email address, and dictated what to use in the subject line. He promised to email the attendees four different motivational videos to help them become successful and all but guaranteed it, as long as they follow his exact steps. “I only train millionaires or millionaires in training.”
As a gift for the audience, he offered one hour of free coaching to three lucky winners he randomly drew from the stack of opt-in forms. One winner was Donald Colson, a Clermont Toastmasters member who had recently won the Toastmasters’ International Speech Contest.
Brown closed at 10:15 p.m. with another powerful point on how to stand out: “People don’t pay me for the hour. They pay me for the value I bring to the hour.”
The guests came away empowered, but for Jackson, this event was much more. “Les Brown is a personal mentor to me,” Jackson noted Wednesday, “so this event is my tribute to him.”