Eric is a renowned author, speaker, educator and minister.
He’s been called upon by professional sports teams in the NBA, NFL and MLB, to help inspire, motivate and energize elite athletes to perform at the highest level. And he’s also spoken to several colleges, schools and companies with the same mission in mind.
But this wasn’t always the case.
Growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Eric dropped out of high school at the age of sixteen. And after a heated argument with his mother and step-father, he left his home in a fit of anger and found himself living in the (very cold) streets of Detroit.
From earning whatever he could by stealing, to sleeping in abandoned buildings, to eating from garbage cans, this was the most challenging period of Eric’s life. But it would also prove to be his greatest strength later on.
My greatest asset is I was homeless.
So, I can’t feel a whole lot of pain.
I’ve already been alone.
At the age of seventeen, Eric met a pastor who inspired him to go back to school to complete his GED exams and go to college. Realizing the harsh realities of life on the streets, he was motivated to help others who were facing similar struggles to turn their lives around like he did.
And that motivation, soon became a calling.
So I get up every morning at 2:30, 3 o’clock!
‘Cause greatness is upon me!
Dr. King is dead!
Malcolm X is dead!
I’m that new guy!
I’m that new inspiration!
I’m the guy you look at when your daddy ain’t in your life!
When your daddy in prison!
I’m that guy that comes in your high school
and tells you,
you can make it happen!
From starting the Break The Cycle-I Dare You! (BDC) program when he was in college, to developing The Advantage Program at Michigan State University in 2005, to his weekly Thank God It’s Monday! (TGIM) YouTube series, to inspiring audiences in England and Australia, Eric has used his life experiences to inspire the world.
Drawing on the adversity he faced early on, and the determined action and faith he used to not only get through, but also grow through, those times, Eric’s message is clear: If he can do it, so can you. So stop whining, and start grinding.
I was homeless for two and half years.
And the problem with most of you,
You’ve never felt no pain before.
Some of y’all spoiled.
Your parents have done everything for you.
You’ve never had to do nothing for yourself.
We’re going to keep it real tonight.
Some of you are spoiled brats!
And in his Secrets to Success speech(which has since gone viral – watch below), Eric speaks to a group of Michigan State University (MSU) students about the true essence of success.
As you’ll see, he passionately shares his motivating story, along with the now famous “When You Want To Succeed As Bad As You Want To Breathe” antidote, as he challenges the students to reevaluate how committed they are to their success.
This is one speech, you don’t want to miss.
So, here is Part 1 and Part 2 of Eric’s Secrets to Success Speech, along with 20 of my favorite quotes from it (browse all 33 quotes here).
Secrets To Success Speech – Part 1
Secrets To Success Speech – Part 2
#1 to #5
There was a young man who, you know,
He wanted to make a lot of money
And so he went to this Guru, right.
And he told the Guru,
“You know I wanna be on the same level you’re on.”
And so The Guru said,
“If you wanna be on the same level I’m on,
I’ll meet tomorrow,
At the beach, at 4 AM.”
I said I wanna make money. I don’t wanna swim.”
“If you wanna make money,
I’ll meet you tomorrow. 4 AM.”
So the young man got there 4 AM.
He all ready to rock n’ roll.
Got on a suit.
Should have worn shorts.
The old man grabs his hand and said,
“How bad do you wanna be successful?”
He said, “Real bad”.
[The Guru] He said, “Walk on out in the water.”
So he walks out into the water.
When he walks out into the water it goes waist deep.
So he’s like,
“This guy crazy.
I wanna make money and he got me out here swimming.
I didn’t ask to be a lifeguard.
I wanna make money.”
So he [The Guru] said, “Come out a little further.”
[He] walked out a little further.
Then he had it right around this area,
The shoulder area.
“So this old man crazy.
He making money,
But he crazy.”
So he [The Guru] said,
“Come on out a little further.”
He came out a little further,
It was right at his mouth,
My man like,
“I’m not about to go back in.
This guy out of his mind.”
So the old man said,
“I thought you said you wanted to be successful?”
He said, “I do.”
He [The Guru] said, “Walk a little further.”
Dropped his head in,
Held him down,
Hold him down,
My man getting scratchy,
Holding him down,
He [The Guru] had him held down,
Just before my man was about to pass out,
He [The Guru] raised him up.
He [The Guru] said, “I got a question for you.”
He [The Guru] said, “When you were underwater, what did you want to do?”
He said, “I wanted to breathe.”
I’m here to tell you,
That most of you say you want to be successful,
But you don’t want it bad,
You just kinda want it.
You don’t want it badder than you wanna party.
You don’t want it as much as you want to be cool.
There was a commercial,
Emmitt Smith had won his first Super Bowl
And he had this commercial when he was lifting weights.
When he was lifting,
“You know what,
I won the Super Bowl,
So I can rest now.”
He was doing his bench press.
So he said,
“I won the Super Bowl,
So I can rest now.”
So he throws up about 325lb; BOOM!
And he rests for about two seconds.
And he [keeps lifting]: BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Did you see that?
He’d already won a Super Bowl,
“I think I’mma take a rest.”
And he rests for how long?
#6 to #10
Somebody came into my office crying.
“Look, don’t cry to give up!
Cry to keep going!!”
Don’t cry to quit!
You already in pain,
You already hurt!
Listen to me.
I’m here to tell you today that you can come here,
You can jump up,
You can do flips,
You can be excited when we give away money.
But listen to me;
You’ll never be successful
Until I don’t have to give you a dime to do what you do.
Listen to me.
All men are created equal.
Some work harder in preseason.
When I went to college,
Guys were way smarter than me.
They went to the Ivy League high schools.
Came to Oakwood from these great high schools.
Most of them are not doing what I’m doing.
‘Cause it’s not about where you come from;
it’s about heart!
You come to a place where,
Being smart ain’t enough.
#11 to #15
Some of you,
You focus until the phone ring.
And then you like,
“I gotta answer it!
If I don’t answer the phone I’m gonna die.”
I’m saying to you today that there are some of you,
If you give up your cell phone,
You will be successful.
But your cell phone
Is more important to you than your success.
Some of you need to give up your cell phone!
Because the time you spend on your cell phone,
Could be used for your success.
The time you could be using to be successful,
You’re using on the cell!
I’m so grateful that the slaves didn’t drop and quit…
Listen to me,
The slaves said,
We will live because one day we will become.
We won’t always be slaves.
Although we’re slaves,
We’re going to act like we’re free.
And one day our children will be free.”
This a soft generation!
You quit on everything!
Our people did not quit.
Some slaves said,
“I don’t care what we go through!
We’re gonna survive this.”
400 years of slavery.
We’re gonna get through this!
And you can’t get through an 1825?
You can’t get through a writing class?
And you got tutor,
Resource after resource.
#16 to #20
“Eric, your mother’s a tyrant.”
She kicked me out.
But she developed a man
Because she put me out there and said,
“You’re gonna have to grow up.”
The day has to go from external to internal.
You have to give it everything you’ve got!
No more TV.
No more parties.
No more playing.
‘Cause when I was homeless,
I knew something was wrong.
I knew that wasn’t the best of me and one day I said,
“Will the real Eric Thomas please stand up.
Will the real Eric Thomas please stand up!
Stop being this high school dropout!
Stop giving up!
Stop sleeping on the streets!
Stop walking up and down Finkle Avenue like you ain’t got nothing,
And get your GED!
Stop being afraid to take a test!
Stop being afraid to go to college
‘Cause your daddy didn’t go and your momma didn’t go!
Stop being afraid!
And be the best Eric Thomas you can be!”
But listen to me.
But I’m exactly where I wanted to be because I realized,
I gotta commit my very being to this thing.
I gotta breath it.
I gotta eat it.
I gotta sleep it.
And until you get there,
You will never be successful in life.
But once you get there,
I guarantee it,
The world is yours.
So work hard
And you could have whatever it is you want.