Not long after starting Jim Rohn International I met one of the most inspirational speakers of all time, Les Brown. In fact, not long after meeting Les I started promoting him for multiple events around the country.
Two of his frequent companions were Gladys Knight (his wife at the time) and the great Billy Preston (Nothing From Nothing and You Are So Beautiful). I was walking in rarified air every time I connected with Mr. Brown.
Les’s story is amazing!
Shortly after they were born in a poverty-stricken Miami neighborhood, Les and his twin brother were adopted by Mamie Brown, a kitchen worker and maid. Because of his hyperactivity and nonstop talking, Les was labeled “educability mentally retarded” and placed in special education classes in grade school and throughout high school.
After he graduated he became a city sanitation worker in Miami Beach, but he had always dreamed of being a disc jockey. At night he would take a transistor radio to bed where he listened to the local deejays. He created an imaginary radio station in his tiny room using a hairbrush as his microphone as he practiced and introduced records to his ghost listeners.
One day Les boldly went to the local radio station during his lunch break from mowing grass. He got into the station manager’s office and told him he wanted to be a disc jockey. The manager looked at the disheveled young man in overalls and a straw hat and asked, “Do you have any background in broadcasting?”
Les replied, “No sir, I don’t.”
“Well, son, I’m afraid we don’t have a job for you then.”
Les thanked him and left. The station manager assumed that he had seen the last of this young man but underestimated the depth of Les’s commitment to his goal. For Les, it wasn’t just about wanting to be a disc jockey; he wanted to buy a nicer house for his adoptive mother. The disc jockey job was merely a stepping stone to his goal. Mamie Brown had taught Les to pursue his dreams, so he was confident he would get a job at that radio station despite what the station manager had said.
And so Les kept going back to the station every day for a week, asking if there were any job openings. Finally the station manager gave in and made him an errand boy – with no pay. He fetched coffee or picked up food for the deejays who could not leave the studio. Eventually his enthusiasm for their work won him the confidence of the disc jockeys who would send him in their Cadillacs to pick up visiting celebrities such as the Temptations and Diana Ross and the Supremes. Little did any of them know that Les didn’t even have a drivers license.
Les did whatever was asked of him at the station–and more. While he hung out with the deejays, he’d mimic their hand movements on the control panel. He would stay in the control rooms until they asked him to leave. Then, back in his bedroom at night, he practiced and prepared himself for the opportunity that he knew would present itself.
One Saturday afternoon while Les was at the station, a deejay named Rock was drinking while on the air. Les was the only other person in the building and he realized that Rock was drinking himself into trouble. Les stayed close, walking back and forth in front of the window in Rock’s booth. As he prowled, he said to himself. “Drink, Rock, drink!”
Les was hungry, and he was ready. When the phone rang, Les pounced on it. It was the station manager, as he knew it would be.
“Les, this is Mr. Klein.”
“Yes,” said Les. “I know.”
“Les, I don’t think Rock can finish his program.”
“Yes sir, I know.”
“Would you call one of the other deejays to come in and take over?”
“Yes, sir. I sure will.”
But when Les hung up the telephone, he said to himself, “Now, he must think I’m crazy.”
Les did dial the telephone, but it wasn’t to call in any other deejays. He called his mother first, and then his girlfriend. “You all go out on the front porch and turn up the radio because I’m about to come on the air!” he said.
He waited about 15 minutes before he called the general manager. “Mr. Klein, I can’t find nobody,” Les said. Mr. Klein then asked, “Young man, do you know how to work the controls in the studio?”
“Yes sir,” replied Les.
Les raced into the booth, gently moved Rock aside and sat down at the turntable. His moment had come and he was ready! He flipped on the microphone switch and said, “Look out! This is me LB, triple P – Les Brown, Your Platter Playing Poppa. There were none before me and there will be none after me. Therefore, that makes me the one and only. Young and single and love to mingle. Certified, bona fide, indubitably qualified to bring you satisfaction, a whole lot of action. Look out, baby, I’m your lo-o-ove man!”
That day Les wowed the audience and his general manager and from that fateful beginning, Les went on to a successful career in broadcasting, politics, public speaking and television.
And Les has wowed me and our audiences many times over.
Thank you Les Brown for setting such a remarkable example to us all of persistence and having a dream!
To Your Better Future,
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Kyle Wilson is the founder of Jim Rohn International and YourSuccessStore, he also is the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur’s Soul. To learn more about Kyle go here.