Hri-Write – Person of Interest: Les Brown

This is the first installment of the bi-weekly (every two weeks) ‘Person of Interest’ segments I’m going to write. Many of you may not have heard of this man, but that’s what this segment is all about. Person of Interest is about discovering new personalities.

Les Brown

Perhaps one of the most pivotal people in my life, even if I don’t know him, he doesn’t know me nor has he ever heard/spoken to me. Les Brown is a motivational speaker who I discovered late in Grade 9 (2015). I happened to stumble across his speeches after falling into a pit of bad grades mixed with trying times…and I was instantly hooked.

Leslie Calvin Brown.

In 1986, Les was sleeping linoleum floor of his office. By 1990, he had become one of the best motivational speakers in the country.

“It was very hard when I fell upon hard times, walking into the lobby of my office building, people laughing at me, snickering, ‘There’s the guy talking about being successful, bathing in the office bathroom, sleeping on the floor!'”

From Humble Beginnings

Les Brown was born in abandoned building, on the floor, in Liberty City, Miami, FL. Born to a mother who gave him and his twin brother Wesley away. Mamie Brown, a cafeteria cook adopted the twins. He credits her for all of what he’s achieved.

Coupled with his inattentiveness and mischievous nature, Les was never very good in school, and over time this took a toll on the way he was treated. In grade 5, he was labeled, ‘Educable, mentally retarded.’ It was until the day he met LeRoy Washington that all of this changed.

A Chance Encounter

As he was waiting outside a classroom for one of his friends, the substitute teacher called him inside.

“Young man, work out this problem for me,”
“Well, I can’t do that, sir.”
“Why not?”
“I’m educable mentally retarded, sir, I’m not supposed to be in here.”

As the class burst out in laughter to this response, Mr. Washington replied sternly, “Don’t ever say that again. Someone’s opinion of you doesn’t have to become your reality.” This is the one line that has become synonymous with Les, and rightly so, it’s empowering.

Les has a plethora of great quotes, but perhaps my favorite is this:

“If you want a thing bad enough to go out
and fight for it, to work day and night for it, 
to give up your time, your peace and your sleep for it…
if all that you dream and scheme about it, 
and life seems useless and worthless without it…
if you gladly sweat for it and fret for it and plan for it 
and lose all your terror of the opposition for it…
if you simply go after that thing you want 
with all of your capacity, strength and sagacity, 
faith, hope and confidence and stern pertinacity…
if neither cold, poverty, famine, nor gout,
sickness nor pain, of body and brain, 
can keep you away from the thing that you want…
if dogged and grim you beseech and beset it, 
with the help of God, you will get it!” 

Pushed on, despite the circumstances

Les fondly remembers the trying times of his days in the Penobscot Building in Detroit, where had moved with no money, just his clothes and one tape of his speeches. He didn’t have enough money to buy/rent an apartment so he insisted to stay and operate out of his office, like I said earlier. 

“I didn’t even want a blanket or a pallet on the floor,” he explained. “I wanted it to be hard and cold so it would motivate me to keep striving. I didn’t want to get soft.”

He tried his hand at being a disc-jockey, and then went on to become a member in the Ohio House of Representatives after the success of his motivational courses. Today, he runs a $4 million business.
Les’ most effective technique is that he makes our random faults and mistakes seem normal; he teaches the manner in which we begin to use those as learning steps. 


Les’ charismatic, humorous personality makes him different than any other motivational speaker you’ll come across. As the author of many books, speeches, courses and other things, Les is one of the most dynamic speakers you’ll hear.

Here’s one of his best speeches, and if you have some time to spare, go ahead and watch it.

Also, go check out his amazing facebook page:

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