This week I enjoyed a very special and wonderful life experience. I was invited to speak for a group of young leaders at Brookwood High School, near my home. The event was fantastic and the response of the students truly moving, but there is much more to the story, and to understand what this really meant to me, we need to go back to the beginning.
In 1984, when I was fifteen years old, my family moved from Chicago to the Atlanta suburbs. I was uprooted from my familiar world – school, friends, home, and surroundings, and transplanted to the South. For an inner city Chicago kid, this was a bit of an adjustment. And while the change real and intimidating, it was also exciting. A fresh start.
Because we moved mid-year, I transferred into a brand new school. You guessed it: Brookwood High School. I didn’t know a soul.
As it happened, shortly after my arrival, Brookwood was staging its annual Student Talent Show. And while I did not yet have any friends, I did have an act! I had been performing my one-man juggling, acrobatic, comedy show for a couple years at that point. So I signed up and started practicing. It was a risk, for sure. But by embracing the risk and putting myself “out there,” I made many new friends, even meeting that night the guy who would become the Best Man at my wedding! But that’s another story.
The Brookwood Leadership Summit held this week took place in the school theater, the very stage of that Talent Show, nearly thirty years ago.
So much has happened during that span of time. I used my talents to fund my education at UGA. I evolved my business from providing entertainment to delivering motivational experiences. I’ve authored two books. I’ve been married twenty years, traveled the globe, and now have a 15 year old son who attends the very same school.
When my son Eddie joined me on stage and we performed together, it was as if a part of my life had come full circle. I was deeply enjoying the memory, but it has become much more than a reminiscent moment. It was now a shared experience. A sense of completion.
It is my hope that the Brookwood Leadership Summit will be a pivotal event in the lives of the students who attended. Also speaking that day was the dynamic football star, Rennie Curran, who shared his experience and life lessons. My program was enthusiastically received, as well. The seeds of inspiration and tools to become extraordinary were planted in the minds and lives of the audience. It will take time to see how those seeds take root and supplement the encouragement and teachings of outstanding teachers and parents. I can’t wait to see that story unfold.