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Saturday, July 27, 2019

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.

Get IDENTITY LEADERSHIP on Amazon. Stay connected with Stedman Graham at

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