6 Success Lessons I Learned From the Streets

6 Success Lessons I Learned From the Streets
From Recruiter - November 29, 2016

Article by Branden Collinsworth

Most people experiencea moment in life when everything suddenly changes. For me, this moment happened 14 years ago at a bus stop.

On a rainy and gloomy day in 2002, I sat at a bus stop on the east side of Las Vegas in front of a favorite local hotel, Sams Town. I was 18 years old, hardened, broken, and wearing a chip on my shoulder. I was in a personal hellwhich was fitting for a localeoften referred to as Sin City. This hell consumed myself, my friends, my family members, and every one of our dreams, one by one. I was a product of my environmentor the almost clich term, a statistic: a homeless African-American high school dropout, born into an uneducated single-parent household, living on welfare and food stamps in Section 8 housing. We regularly ate government blocks of cheese and powdered milk. Wonder Bread was considered a delicacy. Most kids my age were focused on college entrance exams, senior proms, and senior trips, but there I sat at a bus stop.

Poverty cant be explained to someone who has never experienced it. Its easy to look at the situation from the outside and say that poverty is self-inflicted or that if a person had more ambition or gusto, theycould make it out. What most dont realize is that poverty goes beyond the superficial. It is a psychological, emotional, and institutional disease. Once a person is in its grasp, rarely does it let go. Researchers have coined a term to reflect this fact: the cycle of poverty, which refers to the idea that it takes three generations to break free from the grasp of poverty.

Three generations.

Three lifetimes.

As I sat at the bus stop that day, things seemed to be going in slow motion. I was tired. I was tired of struggling, tired of fighting, and tired of being in fear,worrying about where my next meal was going to come from or if I was going to have a place to lay my head down at night. I looked around, and everyfaceI found had the same look: lost in thought, as if to say, Is this it?

For 18 years, the east side of Vegas was my world. I lived it, breathed it, and was shaped by it. It taught me how to hustle, how to survive. Every hood in every city around the world, although different in some ways, is essentially the same: the same stories, the same struggles. To an outsider, it just looks like a dilapidated part of a city, but it takes someone who grew up there to really get it. The hopeful turn hardened, and the could-haves turn into could-have-beens. Every so often, someone rises out of the chaos, giving hope to those who are still there.

But more often than not, its understood that if we make it to average, its notenough.

Unlike most cities, Las Vegas has a way of taunting everyone with what could behuge, flashing neon lights say, Come in, and maybe, just maybe, you could be lucky enough to win a fortune. But as with amousetrap, very few actually get the cheese.

That day, 18 years ago, my thoughts were raging. I thought about my mom: aging, working random minimum-wage jobs just to keep food on the table. I thought about the times that shaped me forever: digging day-old food out of supermarket trashcans so we could have dinner; taking ice-cold showers in the middle of the winter because we couldnt afford heat; sleeping on benches, rooftops, and random couches. I thought about my friends and how each in their turn was being chained down by the systemthat turns smiles to frowns and makes a rarity of laughter.

This cant be it, I thought. There has to be more.

The lives of passion, purpose, and success I see on TV cant just be pretend or relegated to the few with the right situation, skin tone, and family name.

At that time, I had never left the east side of Las Vegas.

There has to be more than this.

There was no blueprint, map, or GPS to guide me to where I needed to be.

I looked up that night at the sky and the moon in all its glory. Call it the universe, God, Buddha, Allah, Krishna, the divine motherwhatever you want to call it, it spoke to me at that bus stop. A feeling, an urge, a hunch came over me that if I truly focused, gave up my habits, and truly committed to being a better man, I could make it out.

That day, I set my intention and planted the seeds. I had no idea how I was going to make the shift. I had no idea how hard it would be and how staying in poverty might have actually been easier than if I had decided to leave it. I had no idea how many friends I would lose or enemies I would gain; no idea how many times I would slip and fall; no idea thateverything about myself and every morsel of my being were about to be tested.

Lao Tzu wrote, The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

That gloomy day, at a bus stop on Nellis and Boulder Highway on the east side of Vegas, broke, hungry, and lost, something shifted in me. The bus came; I stepped on it, took a seat, and never looked back.

Twelve years have passed since that day, and my whole world looks different.

I am now a successful entrepreneur and human performance coach, and only one of a few Master Trainers for Nike. I am an Ivy League graduate, and I spend 250 days a year traveling the world and helping people create lives of passion, purpose, and play.

The struggle to get here was not easy, but from it, I learned six things that can help anybody create an amazing life.

1. Education Is Liberation

Living in the Information Age grants us access to every imaginable resource on this planet with the touch of button. Want to take a course on entrepreneurship at Harvard? Want to learn forensic accounting at MIT? Its now possible and its oftenfree.

I knew that if I were to make it out of poverty, I had to educate myself. One book turned into 10 books, and then 10 books turned into 1,000 books. I went from barely passing my GED to receiving a masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania. For things to change, we first have to change.

Decide what you want to accomplish, and then go after it relentlessly. The resources are there; you just have to reach for them.

2. You Are Your Tribe

Show me your friends, and I will show you your future.

As a child, my mom incessantly told me that I should surround myself with good people. I didnt really understand this until I tried to elevate myself. Small minds think small, and big minds thing big. It is important to surround yourself with people who have similar values, goals, and ambitionspeople who see the best in you and believe that you are capable of great things. I have had school counselors tell me I was stupid, friends tell me I think I am too good, and family members tell me I am just a dreamer. It wasnt until I started to surround myself with people who inspired me, saw the best in me, and pushed me to be better that I wasable to elevate myself.


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