Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Conversations Magazine, March/April 2024

Sunday, April 11, 2021

COLUMBUS SHORT: Living (and Loving) Life on His Own Terms

by Cyrus Webb

There is nothing like living a life of purpose. 

For Columbus Short*,  he has had the privilege of living many lives, both in front and behind the camera, doing work that he loves and building a fan-base around the world in the process. A true renaissance man, he is an accomplished actor, producer, choreographer and recording artist. In 2020 he added another title to his list of accomplishments: that of author. His book SHORT STORIES: The Autobiography of Columbus Short allows him to tell his story in his own words and on his own terms. 

We discussed the journey that led to where he is today in this fascinating conversation. 

Columbus, thank you for the time. One of the big takeaways for me is how through the book people really get to know who you are. Have you found that to be the thing that people who even think they know Columbus Short is that this book gives them a whole different view.

Absolutely. And that was the original reason for doing the book. I kept my life private as possible, being an old Hollywood kind of guy where I still believe in mystique. The less they know about me, the more they'll believe whatever characters I'm playing. They would dive into the roles that I play. What I think tends to happen now in Hollywood and the world is we're so inside everybody's world. We know everything about people. The public wants to know everything: when you're dating, when you're pregnant, etc. So when you see them in a movie, you're kind of seeing just that person. You're not seeing the character that they're portraying.

I just felt like for all of my career I did such a good job of that until, you know, headlines kind of created a narrative, and that was all they got. That's what they were left with. This book was not only a process of healing, it was also Columbus the man writing for Columbus the child that went through a lot. 

It kind of spoke to everything. It lends to that I am human, that I am fallible... I am all of the things that people kind of think actors or people in the limelight or celebrities aren't, you know?

 How did you get to a place, though, Columbus where you could share and let us into not just the makings of the man, but also the events that kind of impacted the man?

I love that, 'the makings of a man.' It's part of the journey, I guess. I think everything that I was going through in the moment I wasn't ready for and it kind of sends you reeling. And I think I got to a place where it was like, I lost myself. When you lose your keys, for example, I was always told that you retrace your steps. Like, how did I get here? I started retracing my steps, doing the hard work on yourself with therapy and things where you really can dive into...Some things that you really never paid attention to. Life just kind of goes by and you bury certain things and block them away and you never deal with them, but they will rear their ugly head unexpectedly. So I think that's it right there.

You share an interesting story for those who have the print edition of the book it's in Chapter 7. There you talk about a plane ride that stayed with you where you were with Aaron Sorkin. We sometimes look at events in our lives and the impact they make on us. How did that plane ride impact you moving forward?

I was on Studio 60 at the time in Los Angeles, but I traveled to New York to promote Stomp the Yard, which was the movie that put me on the map. I was traveling doing a press junket for that. I was on the plane back from New York to get back to work for the next episode of Studio 60 (written and created by Aaron Sorkin). Aaron, just Shonda, never gives you the script until the table read. I don't think they're even done with the script until the day of . It's hot off the presses when we get them. We never know what's happening the next week.

I'm on the plane, and I sit down and Aaron Sorkin's next to me. He's like 'What the heck are you doing here, Columbus?' 'I'm coming back to work,' I say. We chatted for a bit, and as soon as it was time for take off he was in the zone. He opened up his draft on his computer, and he had nothing written on the page. To myself I said he hasn't written the episode, and we got a table read tomorrow. I went to sleep, and by the time we were landing he was ending the episode. Literally he was writing end episode. I was like, no way.

In that moment I realized...  This is how a pianist sits down in front of his piano and can play a chart down, same as with any musician. To be a literary mind, a literary master is something. It's a true gift to sit down and really write a screenplay, or a television episode, a teleplay or anything... And as a writer, I always wanted to have that flow. Like I was just like 'How is he thinking about his dialogue? He's just flowing. He just had a flow. It just flows like butter.'

That's when I knew I wanted to do that. I'm going to do that, and I'm going to get really good at doing that.

There are some light moments like that, Columbus, that you share, but there's also some more reflective moments and even darker ones, too. I think one of the most powerful chapters in the book for me is chapter 14, EXORCISING LITTLE WALTER.

I  learned a lot about you in this particular chapter.  One of the big things I think that you do that has made you who you are, is being able to not only to read, but to embrace a become that character. And even after cut, not letting that character go.

Talk to us about the blessing and the curse of that, embracing the character but also the complexity of living the character.

It's crazy. I watched something Denzel said about this too late. I wish I would've known it before... How we are opening up our vessels, right, to embody characters. Especially when you're playing dark characters. It's a dangerous place to go. And if you're not an actor, you don't understand that, because we really go there. Most actors, if they really are worth their salt, go completely dumb to and open to the manifestation, embodiment and a possession of a character. 

And so in building that and being with a character so long... It takes 21 days to make a habit, right? If I'm walking and I'm talking like a certain way for 21 days.. I'm drinking---I never was a drinker ever---but I was drinking. I got to the point where I was drinking like it was water. It was like nothing to me, and I'm smoking cigarettes. And I was slick-talking. I was enamored by that, because that wasn't me. I very much loved it and the freedom to be that. 

If I was just this way in the streets, people would say "This is crazy." But on, and under the context (of the film), they're like, 'Wow. He's a genius." 

So when it was over with, I didn't properly cleanse my spirit of Little Walter and those habits that I acquired during that process. I didn't properly detox my mind, my body, and my spirit and clean my slate. So I just kind of just kept it. And I think those things, as wonderful as it was, I paid for. I paid a price for it: emotionally and spiritually for sure. Holyfield always tells me, 'My mama says if you don't ever pick nothing up, you don't ever have to put it down.'  That's why he never drank, never smoked. Never did any of that. I'm grateful for that learning process.

And then there was an insecurity to why I never broke character. I didn't want to lose it. I knew when I tapped in, I knew I was in and I never wanted to come out and not be able to get back in. That was  my worst fear. As I've grown so much as an actor in the game I know how to come in, and I know how to get out. That's one of the things I learned through all that, throughout that process, but it was an amazing process. One I wouldn't change for the world.

And I think it has definitely gotten you to where you are. We talk a lot about personal success.  People would look at your career: singer, songwriter, actor, producer, choreographer... You've done all these things and worked with all these amazing people, Does it feel for you that you have gotten what you wanted? It seems like along the journey that you have been searching for something or seeking something. Do you think you have found what you were looking for?

That's a really great question, Cyrus. I like this question. 

You know how in the corporate world there's upward mobility, right? If I, let's say, wanted to be a banker, I may have started in the mail room and worked my way up. My real goal is to get to that table to get to that upper, top floor office.

 I think I've looked at my career that way. Coming from the bottom as that boy from Kansas City. I got into the business, and I knew I was at the bottom. I knew I had to do guest starring roles before I could be the star. 

Everything has been like stepping stones. I'm always like 'Okay, what's next?' I'm always thinking about what's the next proper step, because I never wanted to fast-track myself or try to cut a corner. I wanted to do everything the right way. 

And I was like, 'I can do this. I know I can assemble and acquire a slate of great material, continue and be a job creator and be a creator, because I am a creator. I've been a creative my whole life. I wanted to be on the front lines of bringing great content and telling great stories. Not just African-American stories. Stories to audiences around the world. And so I think that was always my goal.  I was paying my dues, and there were times that I got impatient. If I would've just been a little bit more patient at the time, my day was coming. Right before my day came, I had a fall...but the fall is just part of the story.

I also think the fall is part of the test to see what I was really made of. It was never going be that easy. I can a voice in my head saying 'You thought you were going to get here like that? You thought you were going to just walk up in here and take over the game?' I think this was the test. What am I built of? What am I made of? Can I be an example? Can I be a leader? 

If I can't produce my life, how can I produce a movie? So once I realized I got to produce my life first then I realized I can now produce whatever I want. That is where I am now.

Stay connected with Columbus on Instagram at and on Twitter at

* All photos of Columbus Short by Erik Johnson

Monday, April 5, 2021

Entrepreneur and Author Clifton McKnight talks life, overcoming challenges and helping others along the way

by Cyrus Webb

Having known Clifton McKnight for a number of years, I can attest to the fact that he is a man of purpose, passion and principal. His book IF YOU CAN'T CALM THE WATERS LEARN TO RIDE THE WAVES gives you a glimpse into the lessons he has learned and what he hopes you are able to glean from them when facing life's challenges. 

That is just the way Clifton is: always looking out for others, wanting to add value. In this conversation we talk about how he got where he is today, the importance of helping others and how financial stability is something everyone has a chance to achieve if they're willing to do the work. 


Clifton, so glad we have this time to catch up and share your story with our readers. I first got to know you because of your inspirational book IF YOU CAN’T CALM THE WATERS LEARN TO RIDE THE WAVES. Have you always known that you have been meant to inspire others?

Cyrus, I can say I have always desired to encourage.  Being encouraged was always good for me and it always felt good to me so I wanted to spread it.  

Life has a way of shifting for us all. What has helped you to ride the waves that life throws? 

The inspiration for Chapter 4 in part and Chapter 5 more directly was born out of this question.  The short answer is Prayer, People and Perspective. When the waves are choppy, we can consider what actions we need to take.  We step out of ourselves to gain more perspective, to consider our problem in a way that perhaps is less alarming or concerning.  

It also can help a situation by appreciating another's vantage point .  If the waves are a bit more violent, we can talk to people who have our best interest at heart.  Sometimes we seek out those who are wise or knowledgeable or just who will listen. Perhaps it is so we can hear ourselves, we can just get it out and really look at it.

Now, when the clouds, the winds and the waters are very dark and ominous, when we are completely overwhelmed, then we discern the need to connect on a spiritual level, to take our minds off of ourselves and our problems, serving others while seeking divine guidance peace, grace and love.  This is actually where we could have begun.  Isn't it written "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."

 After the year we had in 2020 many people are looking for ways to adjust and to stay afloat. You have also made adjustments. Talk with us about it. 

Cyrus, one might say I have been knocked around quite a bit over the years and 2020 certainly was no exception.  I dare say many of us if not all contend with sometimes overwhelming challenges.  Many centered around one theme, "loss." Whether loss of loved one(s), loss of finances, foreclosure,  bankruptcy, loss of confidence, loss of others' confidence in us, loss of reputation, loss of relationship, in these days in particular, we add loss of health, and confidence in our systems, loss of employment or business failure.  The list goes on.

I frame it quite differently, though.  I acknowledge being knocked around, mind you.  But the truth is I suggest we are blessed with being knocked "ON course." Over the years I had pursued real estate investment quite successfully for a time, while working in service of others as a counselor and professor, conducting live workshops, keynotes and more.  When it all at its foundation seemed to shake and shudder and even shatter.  I tell you, it felt very much like travelling, "through the valley of the shadow of death." What it did was it opened my spirit to look at new possibilities.  

I reentered the world of voice acting, an area I had been encouraged to pursue for decades but only had stuck my toe in and retreated from a decade before.  I did not see how I could pursue this with so many other competing priorities. 

I did not feel I had the luxury of taking time to learn something new, then in a few years maybe make a few more dollars.  "The hole is too deep." Here I had just "retired", walking away from what grew over the years to be a six figure income so I could retrieve my retirement account to rebuild my assets only to lose much of that.  

I endeavored to learn about FOREX, foreign exchange, and more.  I enrolled in IM Academy.  For a little under $250 and a monthly subscription fee that I could pay from profits or even have waived by referring a couple of others, IM  Academy offers systems and technologies to help me earn as I learn to trade in the market with as much as 80 to 90% accuracy.  It helped uplift my entire outlook, in the midst of turbulent times. 

Forex is something that a lot of us have heard about or seen posts about on social media. I have to admit I know very little about it. Talk with our readers about what it is and why it appealed to you?

Forex or FX, refers to foreign exchange, the global currency market.  Anyone who has travelled to another country has had to exchange their currency with the currency of the country they visited.  

The value of money in one country is paired with strength of another currency around the world and positions regarding it's current position and what direction it is heading.  This is a multi-trillion dollar marketplace which greatly exceeds the more popular stock market, and it is no wonder most of us are unfamiliar with it, because it was previously only available to those with over a million dollars plus in income and assets.  

 With the advent of international retail brokers, anyone can participate.  Some people fund their account with a couple of hundred or a thousand dollars and some with as little as $50.  You can enter a trade with as little as 10 cents!  And in this market, you can make a great deal of money in minutes.  

You can also lose more than you initially invest so you want to understand the mechanics of a trade.  It is reported that 75% of investors lose money.  So I aligned with an academy where I can learn from seasoned, successful traders who make hundreds of thousands and those who make millions of dollars trading in this market.

 Even seasoned investors join the academy to access the tools and insights these masters provide.  It is a game changer. 

Helping others has always been something you enjoyed. Did you see the work with Forex as another way of being able to do that?

Directly, Cyrus.  At first I needed to see it work.  As soon as I did, it seems that all I can think about are those who have had to endure the setbacks and challenges of these days and times and those who are in the midst of personal devastation.  IF YOU CAN'T CALM THE WATERS LEARN TO RIDE THE WAVES: HOW TO SUCCEED IN TURBULENT TIMES was written to help people through.  Now I could help them through financial devastation or just help them grow or create a financial legacy.  

It’s not easy to start anything new. What about for you? Was it easy for you to introduce your business with others?

Cyrus, I was working on my on rescue here. The thought of talking to others about it was not even a consideration, at first.  I just wanted to balance my budget and see a future and leave a legacy.  Since it is never required, I liked that I could earn unlimited amounts of money without telling a soul...  I could learn and copy trade signals.  

I am not afraid of risk, but I hate the feeling of being "taken."  Whether we realize it or not life is full of risks.  Once I started trading, I would take baby steps. But when I experienced earning what to me was quite significant in a session trading the same pair, I knew there were people who could benefit.    

Still, I am reminded that we have all tried stuff that was not successful for us, stuff that may have worked for others but still eluded my greatest efforts so there may understandably be a reticence, even a fear to try again. I explored a bit and saw people of all ages, including a youngster whose mother watched a few videos and listened to an expert and I don't know the details but I imagine they copied a trade and her son had a very successful trading experience.

On the business-building side, Cyrus, I know of people in their 20s literally earning more in a month than I had earned in 10 years, not just because they knew a lot of people but  because they were willing to share with someone else who was willing to try or who understood how to use social media.  There is no requirement.  I could stop at any time! 

Social media is a must for us these days. You and I have discussed that in our personal conversations. How has it helped you in connecting with your audience?

Big blessings to you, Cyrus, for encouraging me about reconnecting on social media.  I have had a lapse in my social presence.  You reminded me that I only need to persist with some level of consistency to reach out to people who can benefit from my journey. Thank you for that.  

I don't have to try to force anyone.  I pray that they overcome their fear and their pain which may have occurred in the past but tends to cling to the now as if it is still so today.  So I do tend to reach out, encourage them to join me so they can see the miracle gifts of  the present.  Past experiences can be paralyzing. Been there and on occasion still go there.  Sometimes, we take action anyway.  I empathize.  I inform.  If I can, I inspire.  I will  follow-up and follow-through, but it is not out of desperate need but out of love.  I am already experiencing my blessing. If they see it for them, praise God.  If not, praise God.  I just want them to have the same success or better, if they are willing.  

Thanks for the time, Clifton. How can our audience stay connected with you and get more information. 

Cyrus, I am on Facebook "Clifton McKnight Motivision" and Instagram.  "IF YOU CAN'T CALM THE WATERS LEARN TO RIDE THE WAVES" has a Facebook page.  I am also available on WhatsApp and my google voice for text is 7048029283.  

Thank you for the privilege of addressing your audience.