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Sunday, July 28, 2019

[To You, From Me] Want to Be Inspired? Start in the Mirror!

This issue of Conversations Magazine is all about Inspiration.

For 16 years now I have had the privilege of sharing a message of inspiration, motivation and hope through the radio airwaves, online as well as offline and in the pages of this publication. Why is it important? Because without being inspired there is no way you are going to want to put your best foot forward.

Every day I wake up excited about the day ahead and the possibilities that can come from it. I'm able to do work that I love and share that work with people in the hopes of sparking something within them that says "I can do that too". I devote long hours to my work and my mission, and though it's not always easy I am always so fulfilled by the outcome.

What about you? Did you wake up this morning thinking that this is going to be an amazing day? Do you see your path as one that will lead to something bigger for yourself and others? If not, don't worry. It's not too late. Today can be the start of something amazing, but it begins with you.

In this issue I hope you find individuals in the arts and entertainment world as well as in business that will spark something in you that gets you excited about your own life. As you enjoy the articles look in the proverbial mirror and see how you can better reflect the qualities that have made these individuals and their accomplishments possible. And remember: it's not about doing what they do. It's about being who you can be. That's the key to not just being inspired but committed to the process.

Would love to know who inspires you to keep going and bringing your best to the day ahead. Feel free to comment on this post online at and let me know.

Happy reading!

Cyrus Webb, Editor-In-Chief
Conversations Magazine

[Book Chat] Author Deliah "Dee" Lawrence Returns with GOTTA GET IT BACK

by Cyrus Webb

It's hard to believe that before 2018's radio interview with award-winning author Deliah "Dee" Lawrence we hadn't talked books on the air for 5 years. The author who brought us GOTTA LET IT GO has returned with GOTTA GET IT BACK. Though it continues the story in many ways of the characters we got to know in her debut, this is definitely a book that readers can begin with and get a full story.

When I asked her about the response to the new book Dee gives the credit to her fans. "I have to say I have some very loyal readers and appreciate the love and support they have given me over the years," she told me.

Though we are able to meet some familiar characters with the new book and get introduced to new ones, writing a sequel wasn't something that Dee initially had in mind.

"When I wrote GOTTA LET IT GO I thought it was a one-off," she admits. Her plan was to "move on" to another creative project. Then she started hearing from her fans. "It was the clamoring of my readers that pushed me into saying definitely there is growth that the character could expand into something else," she says. "That's what prompted me to develop a series. It just took a life of its own. You'll see Deidre grow and get into some very sticky spots."

That is definitely the case with GOTTA GET IT BACK as we are able to literally travel with the main characters since it's written in first person. "When you write in first person it's more personal," Dee explains. "You're right there in the character's head. I wanted to be so close and tethered to my character, forcing the reader to be in each and every one of those scenes." She went on to tell me that "grabs the reader and places you right front and center with the character."

Dee is quick to remind readers that her main character Deidre is not her, but the two definitely can feed off of each other. I asked Dee if she shares her character's curiosity. "I think I do in some respects," she told me. "She can at times be larger than life, but she's human. She's very passionate about things. Friends that know me will say the same about me. I can see through her eyes. She's very driven in the pursuit of justice. In that regard I'm one with her."

Get your copy of GOTTA GET IT BACK on Stay connected with all things Dee Lawrence at

LeRon Barton: Using His Gifts to Make a Difference One Milestone at a Time

by Cyrus Webb

It's hard to believe I first interviewed LeRon Barton some six years ago, and in the years that have passed we both have grown and expanded in our work. As an author, contributing writer and motivational speaker he is able to use his platform to not just inspire others but get them to thinking about issues that matter to him and affect individuals around the world.

In 2018 he was able to fulfill  a long-time dream: deliver his own Ted Talk. In this conversation we talked not just about that experience what’s to come.

LeRon could you have imagined when you began this journey as an author in 2013 that you would be where you are today, achieving the things that you have?
No! I mean it's funny how like life sort of takes you right? I mean I started out with my first book. I wanted to write something, as I said in the first interview, that was really impactful. And Straight Dope was a labor of love. I learned how to write a book, then going on to becoming a contributing writer to a lot of sites.

And it's just been like everything just seems to be building up to this moment and it's going to build further. I am just truly grateful. God has really blessed me, and I love the movement, I love the struggle. I love how far I have come, and because I am so busy, Cyrus, and because I am moving all of the time, I don't really get a chance to step back and look at okay what have I done before. I am not really that kind of person to brag on myself, but like when you brought it up like when we first talked in 2013 I was like wow it's been awhile.

And I think the consistency is important. I can definitely appreciate that about you, LeRon.  You have been consistent over the years as well as dedicated. Even for those who don't know about Straight Dope I think we should tell them even from the very beginning when you introduced yourself to the world as an author you were bringing attention to causes even then. Do you feel as though now some six years later that your voice has just become more amplified and that you are able to do that in such a bigger way?
Absolutely. I am constantly talking about social issues, whether it be drug abuse, racism or others. At the end of the day I am just being of service, and I am speaking for people who do not have a voice. I think that's so important. As many accolades as I get or as I may get in the future, at the end of the day everything stems from the writing and also giving people a platform and speaking for those who may not be able to speak for themselves.

An obvious question would be then for those who are looking at this path that you have been on is how does it begin? When did you first realize that you had a message you wanted to share in some form or fashion, because even though the methods have evolved, whether it's going from books to contributing writing to now speaking you've known that you have this platform. When did that become clear to you that you had something that you wanted to share?
It's crazy. At my basis I am a writer and a poet. It just comes from my mother. She always said if you are not helping out you are not doing anything. I love to talk about things that are going on around me. I am very fascinated with people. I am pretty sure you know this, I am a pretty inquisitive dude. I just like hearing what people have to say.

So my being a writer, I also know it's a responsibility for me to talk about what's going on. I love writing fiction, but I kind of got away from that so now I just write about social causes, things that are happening. I write about being a young black man in America in addition to speaking for those who can't quite articulate what's going on but want to express themselves.

So it's all about telling a story as well as giving people a peek into my life.

You did that in a very big way, LeRon, in 2018. I was so proud of you when I first saw on Instagram about you were going to be giving a TED Talk. You talked about even online how that had been a dream of yours. What was it like for you to have that dream realized?
I love that question. I always was really fascinated by TED Talks. It was one of those sort of like pie in the sky things, and so what happened was my now fiancĂ© and I we went to one of her friend's house. She had a book how to give a TED Talk, and it just kind of made it real, like okay this is actually attainable.  I applied to about two or three of them, and I got in to one in Florence, Alabama for Tedx Winston Park.

I knew that I wanted to talk about something that was very personal. I had been putting off talking about my stutter, but I was like you know what? Let me be as honest as I possibly can. So I started to talk about it and formulated a speech, and I delivered it, and it was truly like one of the greatest moments in my life. Being on a Ted stage, I mean, the name is just synonymous with just brilliant ideas. I am not saying that mine was brilliant, but just being there was an amazing thing. 

And I will tell you, Cyrus, as great as it was to deliver it the response was just as great. I mean I have messages all of the time saying ‘hey man your Tedx it really inspired me. You showed me that we can live with stutter and do these things.’ I’ve been talking to so many people. And it's something that I kind of thought of recently and it's like act as if you are an inspiration to everyone, move as if you are inspiring someone.

What a great example of what we can achieve if we are willing to take the first step. Since that Tedx talk LeRon has achieved other milestones, including walking in a fashion show!  This goal is to continue to motivate and inspire others to go after their goals and dreams, using his gift with words to reach people online as well as offline.

Stay connected with LeRon’s journey on Instagram at

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Producer Parisa Dunn: Motivated by Stories, Inspired by the 'Dream'

by Cyrus Webb

Sometimes when you don’t find the kind of content or stories being told that you want to see you have to create them yourself. That is what individuals like producer Parisa Dunn have been able to do, and for her the result is the upcoming documentary called The Green Dream. In it she is able to tackle the discussion around the war on drugs and the role that race seems to play in it.

Parisa and I met each other this year in Los Angeles. The conversation was all about storytelling and what she wants to convey through projects like the Green Dream.

Parisa, you’ve been able to use the platform of film to tell stories. What has it been like for you to be able to have something that you are passionate about and then being able to share it with us?
I think it's a privilege really. I mean not many people get that chance, but also you have to create that chance. It doesn't just fall in your lap. You have to work for it. You build experience and you build contacts, and then you find something that you really care about and then you try and bring it to everybody else if anyone cares about it, too.

The two of us talked about motivation and you told me about the support of your family. Do you think that is one of the reasons you have had the courage to pursue your dream of filmmaking?
We are influenced by who brings us up and people around us, Like I said my parents are both strong characters with strong wills. They are vocal people. I think you take that as an example and say that's how you can present yourself in the world. And I suppose it gives you courage to know that there are people around as well who will give support when you are taking those steps.

Ultimately, it's you taking the steps and the risk and the challenges. It's like an insatiable fire to do something that's going to help other people. Maybe you do something that then brings public awareness and then helps to shift the dial somehow, or at least start the conversation that people should be having, which is kind of how I feel about my project. It's like the conversation needs to be a bigger conversation among people.

The Green Dream has to do with the Cannabis industry and the effects of its being legalized around the country in the United States. Tell us what made you want to tell this story and explore this topic.
California legalized cannabis in January 2018. I am from London. It is still illegal where I am from, and I was just blown away that it was even legalized in parts of the States. California is a very well-known place on planet Earth, so it's a big deal to legalize what essentially is a high-level illegal federal drug in a state where there is that many people.
That first triggered my brain to go what's going on here.  How is this happening? And then as I looked around for a story that I care about or something that I know would be really compelling, I kept coming up against this conversation because it was only happening in a very small corner that was about essentially people most affected by the decades of the war on drugs in the US.

Minorities were the ones having a really hard time getting involved in the Cannabis industry, even though it has been going for a while in the US, and not only medically but like recreational around 10 years. And those communities were really not involved in the legal side of it, although it's been very criminalized in the illegal side of it for a long time.

So I looked at that and I said look at that picture and then you look at the opposite picture. Why are some able to make a business out of it while lots of people are incarcerated for the exact same plant. I mean it goes back to this one plant. It just quite literally didn't add up. And I kept digging and digging, and I am like this is the only important issue about cannabis, everything else is just a bit of fun and this and that but this is the real thing that is happening with people in their lives.

Is your hope that you can not only address the history of the cannabis industry but be a part of the conversation around it?
Yes. The interesting thing is that since I came up on this issue and started this film, which was actually a year ago, this topic has suddenly become more talked about. There are several Presidential candidates especially on the Democratic side who are taking this issue as one of their core talking points. So suddenly the public is getting to know a little bit about this, and there are certain issues within the legalization and the issue of inequality that is getting attention. 

Look for updates coming soon about The Green Dream.  Conversations will be doing an update when information is available. 

'Don't Be Afraid to Adjust!' Advice from Actor/Musician/Photographer Benjamin Patterson

by Cyrus Webb

One of the individuals who have been a regular on Cyrus Webb Presents the web-series as well as Conversations LIVE radio show is Benjamin Patterson.

He's an individual who has been able to showcase his creativity and skills as an actor, musician and photographer.Most recently he has been thrilling fans of the hit show GREENLEAF on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

During our last chat in Los Angeles I asked him about two things: discovering his passion and defining success. What he has to say is something all of us can benefit from!

Ben on his journey: "It's been an interesting ride. On one hand I can look at the progress I've made and say 'I started off here and now look at what I've been able to do'. As a musician I listen to my own work, and now I can create stuff and say it's pretty good. Every day is about wanting to be better, wanting to be current and wanting to be unique."

Ben's idea of success: "#1 it's changed because I have a son. Wanting the big house and the nice car has been replaced with wanting a nice school and the best for my son. It shifts. It's like climbing in an airplane on a cloudy day. You have to adjust."

What I learned from our conversation was the importance of reflecting on where we were and now where we are, making sure we are headed forward and not backwards. I also appreciated the importance of realizing that success is personal and relative to the purpose. May we all keep moving forward towards our goals and not be afraid to adjust along the way. 

Stay connected with Ben at on Instagram at

Jonathan E. Hickory's BREAK EVERY CHAIN is a "Message for Hurting Hearts"

by Cyrus Webb

After reading Jonathan E. Hickory's book BREAK EVERY CHAIN it's hard not to get the appreciation he has for life and what is possible for him after all he has endured and overcome.

The book takes you into his lows, the highs and the reflection of life, what really matters and how by facing your demons you are able to achieve the impossible. Hickory didn't do this on his own, and that is where the appreciation also shows itself. He is able to reflect on the fact that his Heavenly Father was there to lead the way, pick him up when he fell and to offer forgiveness and mercy as needed. What great lessons for all of us.

We all have gone through situations where we felt "bound" by sin or by our challenges. What a great reminder this book is that we can break out of the captivity we are in and live a life that is full of happiness and shows others what they can overcome.

I had a chance to talk with Jonathan on Conversations LIVE the radio show about the book. When I asked him what it's been like to reflect on his life today he told me "The best word is redeemed. I had a very tough childhood,  losing my father at the age of 12. I started to harbor a lot of anger and sadness in my heart, and it stayed with me.

"When I became a police officer at the age of 23 a few years into it I started to see the violence, death and the brokenness of man firsthand, and I wasn't prepared for it." Jonathan told me that at the time he wasn't walking with God in any capacity, and what he was seeing and experiencing took a toll on his soul and his heart.

"It led to alcoholism and deep depression," he says. "Ultimately it led me to a point where there was a battle for my soul going on, and I had to choose." Jonathan chose to live and to turn to God for help.

"My life began to change," he told me. "It was like a new light was shining within me. It changed who I am and how I look at the world and how I treat others. how much I love others. It's been really freeing. God has restored my life and the life of my family."

When I asked him was it easy to chronicle the journey in a book, he said not at all--but it was necessary. "I believe very strongly that I was called to write this book," he says. "It's a inspirational story of hope that will be a message for hurting hearts."

One of the powerful things that Jonathan deals with in his life and the book is timing. For many people when a prayer goes unanswered or something doesn't happen when they want, they are quick to throw in the towel. "So many people when they are faced with the Nos in their life they want to give up and fall into despair and pursue something else," he said to me. "If you believe that God is in control you need to give it over to him. Everything happens in God's timing. It's not always up to us."

This lesson is just one of those that Jonathan has learned, and now we can benefit from the lessons and the healing he has experienced. Written with honesty, humility and appreciation, BREAK EVERY CHAIN is sure to inspire.

Get BREAK EVERY CHAIN on Amazon. Stay connected with Jonathan at

Author Sonya Visor: Writing Fiction While Sharing Our Truth

by Cyrus Webb

Ever since I was first introduced to author Sonya Visor she easily became one of my favorite storytellers. What sets her apart is not just her ability to tell a story. She puts you into the lives of the characters—for the good and the bad—allows you to see them intimately, which incidentally makes it more difficult to judge them.

In 2019 she delivered TRESPASSED, a book that easily became an Amazon bestseller, and proved once again that she had a gift that readers enjoyed.

Enjoy our conversation!

Sonya, let's just start off with what I just said. TRESPASSED is already a best seller on Amazon. I think there is a couple of things going on. I think people will see when they read the book why this book is special, and of course your supporters have a lot to do with the way the book has continued to rise. I also think this book will have a lot of longevity because it is so real. You are known for writing the real in these characters. Do you think that is one of the things that kind of set you apart as a storyteller?
Yes, I believe it is. It's my mantle. I have to deal with the real topics, things people don't want to talk about and things that smack you right in the face and make you look at it and call it what it is. It's just a part of who I have learned to become with my journey.

I think people are seeing a lot of themselves in your characters, too. In Trespassed there is a general premise that's there. We all know what it's like to be betrayed unfortunately, but I think there is a lot more that happens in this book about our decisions about betrayal, and our decisions about the one that we feel as though may have done us wrong and how we move forward. Did you know in the beginning that you were going to tackle these heavy topics in this one book?
No, I can say honestly I did not know, because I did not know these people. The two main characters, Nadine and Zane, were introduced to me after a prayer session. It was really scary to tackle, so as it was unfolding I had my own mouth drop open as it was unfolding before me too.

All I knew was the first scene, and it was at the laundromat. I had to go into a laundromat and stand inside of that laundromat and say why was Nadine there. That's all I had to go on.

Let's talk about that, Sonya, because one of the ways that you've even talked about that first scene is through social media. I want to talk about the experience of becoming her, because that's what you had to do in this book because of the way the story is told, I mean the readers will see we basically have to become these characters. What was that like for you to empty yourself of Sonya and to feel this vessel that was Nadine?
Well with Nadine I saw myself all up in Nadine. I saw ways that she responded to things and ways that she handled situations—how I kept myself quiet too long, not speaking up so I thought I would do the same thing. It was me. I was in pure love with her. I saw myself in her, so becoming her it wasn't too far-fetched for me. The simple fact is that I could relate to her.

Is that scary to admit, Sonya, that you could relate to this woman's life?
A little, but it's who I am.

There does seem to be a theme with you, Sonya. You think about how you and I connected over your book Love Me for Who I Am. Did it surprise you now looking back how some of those themes find themselves in TRESPASSED?
Yes, and as I look back over it, it's all Ministry. It’s all about how I can help somebody stand up better, do better and to not beat yourself up. It's all entangled. It's what I do, so it's going to be parallel across the board. It shows up in everything.

One of those things of course central in the book is the relationship between Nadine and Zane. As you said in the beginning you didn't know these people, and yet you said there was that relatability that you could feel with Nadine. What was it like for you to try to get to know Zane?
That was some kind of a ride. Typing this thing out and his character begins to unfold, oh my, I was like wow there is something here. I didn't know what that something was, and I just kept going. I can say that he's my husband favorite character. Zane is something. It's something with him that makes him want to be one of my favorite characters in this book.

And as his character begins to unfold, it was just amazing because he represents so many people. So many people who continue on in life. They try to continue on in life, and I better be careful because I don't want to reveal anything, but he just represents so many people. I never had a story like this before.

Well there are other characters that show themselves. We are not even going to talk about Charles in this conversation, but I do want to mention a conversation that Nadine has with Charles. In chapter 38 of the book there is an interesting dialogue that take place internally with Nadine. Nadine says to herself my timing was always late, I had to learn timing, when to speak up and when to be quiet, when to deliver truth and when to wait. I thought about that as the scriptures talk about there is a season for everything. What was it like for you to have Nadine realize the things that she had to work on and the importance of timing in her life?
That was a lesson for me when it comes to timing. When she said that—when those words rolled out—I was like ‘wow that's it’. I was just thinking about a couple things in my own life. Sometimes I jump too soon and sometimes I waited too long. People could attach to that they waited too long or they said something out of sync when they should have waited, when they felt the nudge to hush but they kept going.

I learned so many lessons from Nadine and now I am trying to apply all of them, but I have learned so many things from her—that timing thing and what she said about beating herself up, that's what I lived. I lived that, and that's why I said I can parallel myself with her because I would always be last.  I was quick to forgive other people, but last to forgive myself and that was the lesson that I saw with Nadine.

Get caught up in all the drama and lessons of TRESPASSED by Sonya Visor on Amazon. Stay connected with Sonya at

Actress/Producer Luciana Faulhaber: Telling Stories on Her Own Terms

by Cyrus Webb

As I have been traveling the country this year one of the greatest experiences has been meeting individuals who are not just passionate about what they do but are examples for us all as to what is possible. A clear example of that is Luciana Faulhaber.  She’s not just a talented actress and producer. She also is someone who loves to create and inspire as well. This year she is celebrated the release of her film DON’T LOOK.

During our conversation we will covered not just the new film but also what it has been like for her to share this story with the world and to see the way people are responding to it.

First of all, Luciana, congratulations to the team and you on DON’T LOOK. How does it feel now for the world to be able to enjoy the film?
I think it's the best part of this process. It's so nice to be able to have it out in the world and finally everybody can see what we have been working on for all of these years. As I mentioned before we have over 500 Kickstarter donors that helped us make this dream come true. And it's nice that they can finally see what we have been up to all of these years.

You are right, and I think that's the cool thing and it's such a great story we are going to talk more about that. I want to talk about this journey for you, Luciana.  Not only were you committed to the story but to know that other people were so committed. Was that one of the things that really kept you motivated along the way?
100%! Making something so hard, especially when you are doing it with no budget. A lot of the times we joked around saying that we were making this film with our rent money, because it really felt like that at the end of the month. Post production is by far one of the most expensive parts of this process, and we really had to put in all of the resources that we could pull together, so yes, it was really great to see it happen. As a team we just had to stay together through the process and see it through.

Let's go back for those who are just now discovering your journey, Luciana. When did you first realize that storytelling through film was something that you wanted to do?
I wanted to be a storyteller as a child, and I think a lot of children are keen to tell stories and play pretend. That was what I grew up with. I didn't have much to play with, so I would live in my imagination, and I would create with the things that I had around me.

When I started as an actress I met my partner in acting school. This was before we became producers, writers and creators. We kept encountering the same issues. We would go out to audition, and we would get the same parts over and over again—as well as parts that we really felt were outdated. So we made a commitment to create work to showcase and reflect what we believe, and put Latin people and other people of different diverse backgrounds in a more accurate light, so that's how we started creating.

Not only are you able to do something you enjoy, but how does it feel to know that people can now come up to you and thank you for being an example yourself as to what other people can do when it comes to pursuing their own goals and dreams?
It's a part of what we set out to do. We wanted to be an example and also be a resource. I always tell people if you have questions, if there is anything I can help you with let me know. That’s why I do interviews like this. If there is anything that I can say that will motivate another person to follow their dreams, then it's been worth my time. 

For those who are just now hearing about DON’T LOOK take us into it a bit.
DON’T LOOK is an homage to the 80s horror. My producing partner and I grew up with 80s horror movies, and we loved it. It was always a fun, exciting time of being a little scared but not too much. You know there is an absurdity part of it that's a bit satirical and the splashing of that slasher blood everywhere so it was an escape growing up.

So when we set up to do a horror we kind of wanted to honor that genre and show our love for it, but at the same time we wanted to reflect a little bit of what we believe. So in this film you'll get all of the benchmark of the horror genre, so for those of you who love the slasher film that's for you At the same time we try to make it a little bit different, so we put the female relationships at the center of the film. The friendship between the two female leads really carry the film throughout. 

We try to give every character a lot of depth and a lot of excitement. We also try to make sure that both the diverse cast and as well as the Caucasian roles were well-represented and as important in the picture. As creators we try to make sure that even though it is an homage film and we love the genre that we put our own point of view in there. 

You talked about challenges that content creators have to deal with. What do you think kept you from giving up and moving forward?
That's a really good question, and I don't think I can pinpoint one exact thing that has kept me going. I mean, I think it takes a village. When people say that I think that's so true. A part of it is the need to do it. I come from a very traditional Latin family and the arts was something that was viewed as it's for the rich.

I grew up with that mindset, and at the same time my mother was always saying ‘If you want to go to acting school I will find a way to pay for it…If you want to do ballet I will find a way to pay for it’… But it was always viewed as a hobby. It was viewed as something that you would do as a reward for all of the hard work that you have had. And it's partially true. I see now as an adult that for you to do the art it's very difficult. At the end of the day when you love something and it's a part of who you are there is just no way that you are not going to pursue it.

Another thing that kept me going is definitely my community. My writing partner is an amazing support. We have been working together for the last 10 years. There are a lot of other people that have helped me out throughout the road. And it goes from trying to help me get a job that will help me pay for my rent, to giving me a phone call when I don't book a part to tell me it’s going to be fine.

I think the people around me have shown support in so many different ways, and that's what's important. Now if you are someone who says you want to do something but you are not really taking action towards whatever your dream is, then you should re-evaluate that. I am a big believer of if you want to do something you should at least try to find a way and at least give it your best shot.

Thank you so much, Luciana, and congrats again on DON’T LOOK. Any last advice for our audience of dreamers?
You have to really be honest with yourself. I think artists are better at that than most people. You have to take a hard look at yourself and your life and say am I willing to work three jobs and then work nights, writing and directing and putting my rent money into this film to see this through? It comes down to action, and I am a big action person.

Get DON’T LOOK on Amazon or your favorite streaming service. Stay connected with Luciana on Instagram at  

Take Pleasure in Learning: Actor/Producer/TV Personality and Author LeVar Burton

by Cyrus Webb

I have been a fan of LeVar Burton since I was a kid. For me before he was a part of Star Trek he was the host of Reading Rainbow, the show that made me want to have a platform to encourage reading and meaningful conversations. To talk with him about life, his impact on others and the possibilities for us all was not just inspiring but something that I know will remind you that your life can have an impact on others.

 LeVar, you have been able to touch so many lives through your work, especially through the platform that is Reading Rainbow. What has it been like for you to use your life as an example as to what is possible?
It has been truly remarkable. My mom was an English teacher, and she always had several books for her own personal pleasure. Reading for me was like breathing. It is a natural part of the human experience. All the work is because of the woman my mother is, and that has allowed me to humbly have the impact that I have.

I can definitely agree with that. Part of the great thing is that books can connect us all and share life lessons that can change our lives. Have you always understood that impact?
You know I have! Some people say you are what you eat. I genuinely believe you are what you read. I am aware of how my life has been enhanced by being a lifelong reader. I genuinely believe if you are literate in at least one language you are my definition of free. A lifelong reader has the ability to be a lifelong learner. If you are a learner for life then you are a dangerous individual, because you don’t have to take anyone’s word for anything. You can read and learn for yourself.

I know there is a link between that which we imagine and that which we manifest in this realm. It is the imagination that connects us all. It’s also our imagination that connects us to our birth right that is storytelling.

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STEDMAN GRAHAM: Building A Brand (and Leaders) One Person at a Time

by Cyrus Webb

Being able to enjoy a conversation with Stedman Graham was truly a full circle moment for me, I first read a book by our him in my very first year of radio back in 2003. It was Build Your Own Life Brand, and since that time Mr. Graham has been someone that I have been able to follow as he has been able to write, not only about leadership but the importance of identity. 

In 2019 he is celebrating another bestseller IDENTITY LEADERSHIP, and once again it takes us not just into how we are able to affect others but how everything starts with understanding and knowing ourselves. In this INSPIRATION issue of Conversations I talk with him about the journey to doing work he loves, what keeps him inspired and what it’s like to affect the lives of others.

What has it been like for you, Mr. Graham, to see people grasping on to the lessons you have shared about Identity, and the importance of knowing who they are as they are kind of moving forward in their business and their life?

It’s been humbling to see the response and for people to get it. It's important to me, because I want people to raise their social, economic development. I want them to take control of their own destiny. I want them to focus on empowering themselves and their families, and I want them to understand that there is a process of success for doing that. Just going to school and trying to get a degree and coming out and looking for a job today is different.

So today the people are asking you to be more engaged and asking you to focus on skills. They are asking you to know your talents, your abilities, and we live in a global marketplace now with technology so we have a chance to be able to learn how to take information and education and make it relevant to expand our social, economic development. If we take charge of our own selves then the identity leadership is self-leadership. It's based on the philosophy that you cannot lead anybody else until you first lead yourself.

In Chapter 3 of the book IDENTITY LEADERSHIP you talk about leaders and you give your own personal experience there about how you were an individual who allowed other people to define who you were and how confusing that was. You also talk about the importance of realizing what you had to do for yourself. One point you make is when we buy into labels we allow ourselves to be placed in a box. How important was it for you to get out of that box so that you could be able to show other people what's possible?

Well I never tried to give my power away. I didn't know how to do it any other way. I didn't know how to overcome the labels: the racial labels, the family labels… growing up and having a fight every day in school and people calling you names. Those labels. 

When it came to racial labels, I did not understand people focusing on the color of your skin. I couldn't deal with that, and you have the race-based consciousness. I didn't realize it's about not knowing who you are. It's not about your race or the color of your skin or your gender. The world defines you when you can't define yourself, and of course my relationship with Oprah throughout the years I have been define by that.

And so you lose your name, you lose your identity. That process was a fantastic lesson for me to learn through, because the closest thing to Freedom is being able to focus on the internal and not on the external. That’s why I do this work, to help people through the process. 

The book you talked about Build Your Own Life Brand is all about you can make it happen if you are willing to do the work on yourself. I do all of this work and now talking about Identity Leadership—which is the ultimate self-leadership--it's all about leadership and the ability to be able to show people how to get beyond the labels, how to take charge of their home development and how to take the resources of the world and make it relevant to who they are every day. Everyone is equal because everybody has 24 hours, but the question is what do you do with your time, what are you doing with your 24 hours?

Another great thing you do in IDENTITY LEADERSHIP is give us real examples of individuals we can learn from. As I mentioned you share your own experiences but also individuals like Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and others. One thing they all have in common is not giving up or allowing fear of failure to stop them. Do you think that is also part of being an effective leader and force in the world?

Identity Leaders don't worry too much about failure, because if you focused on your purpose in life, if you are focused on your passion giving up is not an option. If you are focusing on what motivates you and what gets you up in the morning and what you are willing to give your life for, you will keep going. Like me this work motivates me. I am willing to give my life for this work.

So the ability to be able to overcome the obstacle and deal with failure is not as difficult, because you want to learn. And when you realize that failure is a learning process and what will get you to the next level is not repeating the same mistake over and over, then you are very careful about preparation. Success is when preparation meets the opportunity. It's all preparation. 

So it’s about your ability to be able to prepare yourself with knowledge, with information, with education, with what you have learned, with your experiences, with other experts and your resources in the world. And now through technology we have a different way to be able to organize that information. So if you reverse the process of making that information relevant to our purpose and what we love and what we care about, and take the 24 hours that we have every single day, then we can begin to organize our life around ourselves.

It's a self-actualization process around you and making sure that you understand that everything should be centered around you, so the more you have the more you can give back.

And to tie that in also, Mr. Graham, and to Mr. Bezos as well, another thing that you mentioned about him was about the use of time. Optimizing time. Have you found as you've been out talking about this work and talking about identity and identity leadership that this is one of the biggest things that we find ourselves working on: things that are draining us of our time and not using our time wisely?

All of your leaders, you have Bezos, Oprah and others…all of these folks they focus on saving time, making sure they can eliminate things that are not relevant to their development so they can stay focused. We have over 60,000 thoughts a day, so the question is how do you now focus?

What are you actually working on that's going to be actionable that's going to take you to the next level based on your vision? Do you have a plan to be able to write things down so you can set goals so you can actually get things done? Then can you build a new value for yourself? Not the value the world gives you. Start working so that the world sees you as you see yourself.

You also said this in the book Mr Graham another powerful thing when you are talking about defining factors of identity leaders, you say they know where they want to be. I think that direction is so important because you go on to say, and you know how they are going to get there. Do you also hope the book helps others to figure out the direction that they need to go to get to where they want to be?

Let's talk about where most people are. I mean 6.9 billion people soon to be 7 billion people or maybe more in the world right now. Most wake up in the morning, wash their face and they brush their teeth. They get something to eat and they get the kids off to school, they work all day and they come home in the afternoon and they spend time with the family and watch TV and they go to bed. And then they repeat that same process over and over and over. It's kind of a routine. For them there is no thinking, no developing, no building, no self-actualizing and no taking information and making it relevant to a self-direct or learning process.

We have to break out of that rut, out of that mindset. You are here. Where do you want to go? If the response is ‘I don't know where I want to go, I don't know who I want to become, I don't know what's possible for me’ it’s because we haven't created a vision beyond ourselves, and we haven't started with purpose and passion in what we love. There is no Focus around building anything, shaping anything, creating anything or designing anything, because we have no process to move forward.

So we have to begin to organize who can we become. What does that picture of the puzzle looks like 10 years from now? Where are you going to be 20 years from now? We can create that because we have a mind. We live in the greatest country in the world. We've got to turn around where everything is relevant to us so we can actually build something.

That's a beautiful thing if you can work on it. That's like a blessing being able to work on your purpose and to organize information around your purpose, and then everything you read, everything you learn, everything that you pick up you can pull out information that's relevant to empowering your life every single day. If you can get to a place where this happens you develop a process of continuous improvement so you are better today than you were yesterday.

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