Merry Christmas! And Happy Hanukkah and Kwanzaa! Even though today is a holiday, you know I have to continue to motivate and inspire! Being that it is Christmas and all, I have a special gift that I’m sharing only with you!
I recently had the pleasure of conversing with Eric Thomas, or ET the Hip-Hop Preacher, as many people know him. If you are not familiar with his work he is a renown speaker, educator, author, activist, and minister. He has risen to national prominence by delivering high energy messages that are teaching his audience how to live up to their full potential and greatness by breaking the cycles of mediocrity. His video, “Success: As bad as you want to breathe”, has garnered more than 22 million views on YouTube, and as you will tell by our interview, he is nowhere near finished… In fact, after 20 years of inspiring and motivating people into action and with countless successes under his belt, he is just getting started!
Without any further ado… The Motivator’s Motivator…
Ash Cash: So, ET, thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk to me. I’ve been a fan of your work for some time now, so it is truly an honor to get to share your wisdom with my audience. So let’s jump right in… How did you become ET, the Hip-Hop preacher?
Eric Thomas: I was working at the University of Michigan, and one of the students actually gave me the name; it was my graduate assistant. I used to use Hip-Hop hooks as a way to attract young people and get their attention, and I knew they were familiar with the lyrics. A big part about learning is really making connections so in telling young people… if you study and handle your business, “you can have whatever you like” *T.I voice*, so that’s where the Hip-Hop came from. And then, a lot of people say my style of speaking is like “you preaching at me” like a preacher, so thus the name, ET, the Hip-Hop preacher. People have called me ET for years; when I was in school, ET the movie was out, so people referred to me as ET.
Ash Cash: When did you know that motivating and inspiring people to be better was your calling?
Eric Thomas: I’d say in college, you know, I did my first message. And you might laugh, but I was at an HBCU, predominantly-Christian institution, and my first message was “pimping ain’t easy but somebody gotta do it,” and people took to it! It was risky and way out of the norm, but the audience was receptive and responded to the rawness and transparency, and at that point, I knew I had something and I knew I had to develop it. I kind of knew that there were a lot of people that didn’t go to church and normally wouldn’t listen to people, but they would come and listen to me talk. At that point, around 19 or 20, I knew this was a unique opportunity.
Ash Cash: How did the secrets to success video change your life?
Eric Thomas: I tell young people all the time, because they think I’m an overnight success, I’ve been doing this for over 20 years! And that means inspiring and motivating people. I started as a GED instructor, I created my own GED program, and I realized that a lot of young people that don’t do well academically. It’s not that they don’t have the competency to do it or the skill set to do it; it’s just that they weren’t motivated to learn. They weren’t interested in school, so I started just talking to students and just really going in on them like, “Yo, this is life or death.”
So when I got to Michigan State University, I did the same thing in that particular program, and it’s a program that I did for free, so I’ve been doing this forever. But what YouTube has done is expose more people to my message. The Internet is global, so as a result I’ve been to Egypt to do some work. Now I’m on my way to London to do some work; I’ve gotten an invitation to South Africa and Australia. Not that the work changed; it’s just that YouTube gave me a platform or a stage that was much bigger than the stage I had prior to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc.
Ash Cash: You talk a lot about waking up early. What’s the significance of that? Why should people wake up early?
Eric Thomas: Somebody asked me the other day, “Yo E, I don’t know if I’m an early person? Or a night person? I like to work at night.”… I said, “Listen to me. I’m going to keep it 100, because if you’re working at night, you are working on the dreams of the man who woke up at 3 in the morning. You’re making his dreams become a reality, because you’re working while he’s up at 3AM doing business plans. I’m discovering that the people that wake up early are really the trendsetters. They are up giving the commands on what the whole world needs to do, so the worker wakes up at 8AM, but the dreamer, the innovator, the creator, the engineer is up at 3 or 4 in the morning making it happen. So that’s why I feel you have to get up early. So what, you like to work late! Yes, I’m a worker, too, but I’m working on what I’m passionate about and what I believe in, not what someone else is passionate about!
Ash Cash: What is some advice you would give to Generation Now on how to succeed in business?
Eric Thomas: Work! Look at the secrets to success; look at your family, your community, your culture. Take a look at what they have done to be successful, and don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that you are going to get success on discount. So one of the things I know about my family, my generation, and my ethnic background is that we put in work, and I’m not just talking about just to eat. You have to think about the Civil Rights movement; they were putting in work, marching, walking miles and miles, sacrificing, getting on the bus, feeding one another. They had schools, voter registration. They were working! They were hard workers, so my advice is to work. Understand the value of work, and know that you get out of life what you earn.
Some things have to be taken; it’s not given to you. They are not handing out multi-million dollar contracts or degrees. You have to use your brain! I don’t just work! I think about my work, reflect on my work, and think of what changes can I make. How can I elevate my game? What adjustments need to be made? How do I prepare myself for a year from now, five years from now, 10 years from now? What can I do today to position my wife and kids, where they don’t have to worry about anything if I die? My community? My church? So I would say work!!
And appreciate the value of work; don’t look at work as something negative. Embrace it, and don’t ask yourself, “What can I get out of the process?” Ask yourself, “What can I become?” And finally, think big! Don’t be afraid to see yourself as a CEO, don’t be afraid to see yourself owning that company, don’t be afraid to see yourself with stocks… I tell my son, don’t just buy 59/50 [fitted caps], own some stock in 59/50. Dn’t just buy Jordans; own some stocks in Jordan. Get past the low-hanging fruit. Anybody can grab that! Elevate your thought process and your mind, and be creative.
Ash Cash: So far, you’ve worked with the Michael Jordan Classics, you opened up the NBA season, you have contacts with Nike, NFL, and college basketball teams, you have a best selling book… What’s next for ET?
Eric Thomas: Finishing this PhD in May! I’m behind a little bit, so I gotta put in some major work to graduate on time. So that’s immediate for me right now. I have a book coming out in 2013, and then I’m aiming for the Nobel Peace Prize! I’m trying to serve so many people! Somebody has to recognize me for blessing people, changing people’s lives, me pouring into people. And I don’t have to get it in my lifetime; I just want my kids to see that when you serve and put other people first and invest in other people, it will come back!
We live in a society that says “you gotta get yours,” and I’m not suggesting that you don’t handle your business, but I want to show people… Gandhi gave, Mother Theresa gave, Martin Luther King gave, Rosa Parks gave, Sojourner Truth gave, and these people had a rich life! They may have not had a Rolls Royce, Range Rover, or lived in the best neighborhoods, but they changed history forever, and they changed lives forever, and that’s what I aim to do. I want to change as many lives as I can. I want to help as many people as I can, and I want to let people know that serving and doing for people is not outdated – and certainly not overrated!
Eric Thomas is the author of The Secret to Success and owner of Eric Thomas & Associates, LLC. For more information, visit ETinspires.com.