3. ROLE MODELS. I was blessed to have great role models growing up. It began with my mother, Juanita Smith, who told me she loved me everyday. It continued with my father, Johnie W. Smith, who owned and ran his own business for 54 years. I am a businessman today, because my father was. My mother was a part-time entrepreneur herself, making handy-crafts and selling them to her co-workers; and famously telling me, "John, the man will set your salary, but you decide your income…"
I am not brilliant, I am simply role modeling. I’m doing what my mother and father did.
And then there was this banker. He happened to be caucasian, but he might as well have been green, as in the color of U.S. Currency. I remember asking this banker when he came into my classroom (I was 9 years old) in Compton, California, “sir, what do you do for a living…..and how did you get rich legally?” And I was serious.
He told me that he was a banker, and he financed entrepreneurs. I said, “I don’t know what an entrepreneur is, but I want to be one!” And I am an entrepreneur to this very day. But, this magic also works in reverse.
Everyone is aspirational. Everyone. So, if all you see in your neighborhood as symbols of aspiration and success, are rap stars, athletes and drug dealers, then why is anyone surprised, that this is precisely who you grow up wanting to be? After all, we model what we see.
The building block of my life was this powerful and early combination of self-esteem and confidence from my mother (a sense of who I am), positive role modeling from my dad (a sense of yes I can), and a sense of possibilities and then the tools to do something about them, from that banker (a roadmap for how I can).
John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass). His newest bestselling book is How The Poor Can Save Capitalism (Berrett Koehler Publishing).
Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.
Bryant is the only bestselling author on economics who is also African-American.