An Evening With Stedman Graham

Jul 04, 2019

This is a reflection of a rainy night at a museum with strangers that helped me clarify who I am.  

The evening was spent with Stedman Graham and Dr. Robert J. Brown.  Brown is the CEO and Founder of B&C International and Graham is the founder of  S. Graham & Associates.

Brown struck me as a behind the scenes wizard that made life changing waves for people that may never know his name or see his face.  If I heard right, Brown is a Horatio Alger Award recipient.  This award is bestowed on outstanding Americans who believe in the free-enterprise system and the importance of higher education, community service, and the vision and determination to achieve a better future.  I first learned of the award from Dr. Joe L. Dudley, Sr. of Dudley Products.  I spent nearly a year driving 4 hours round trip every Monday night to sit next to and be mentored by Dudley.  Those were truly defining moments for me.  I only stopped going to the Monday night meetings after I met Dr. Myron Golden.  Golden flipped my norms and social programming on it's head and continues to be a great influence as I serve on his winning team and their inspired message. The Bible Success Secrets Facebook group is one of my favorite places in the world to hang out.  I can't help but respect a stage master who actually knows my name, pays me for what I do for fun, and lead himself from a $6.25/hr trash man to a multi-million dollar cash man.

The audience chuckled with me when Graham joked about his identity of being labeled “Oprah’s Man.” I also thought it was interesting that I understood that when he met her, he was bit clueless about his own identity and life direction.  I know that feeling. It sucks.

The experience was worth my time in the sense of knowing what not to do; especially since I had already read the book and went in with a question I wanted an answer to.  I left with the same open loop I came with, so in that regard I was not impressed.  However, it was a good experience to watch unfold to take pointers for my own events.

I wish there was less time with the two of them on stage re-hashing the stuff in the book and more time for audience Q&A; although I can understand why that can be dangerous and embarrassing if someone asked some off-the-wall question that created a media fire storm. There were only something like three audience questions and then the rush to get on with the book signing.  I didn’t get a signed book as I already have several book cases full and audio books are my new thing.  I was honestly excited when I saw Stedman’s audio version and to find out that he himself was the narrator.  He did a great job!  …but be warned, Stedman talks super slow and you’ll likely want to up the playback speed in the app to get through it without rolling your eyes to get on with it.  The book seemed very repetitive as well so hurrying past those points was nice.

I get that the moderator (Deborah Noel, UNC-TV) had a job to do in that they were recording for their show and the Museum of History was just a partner in the production, but it felt rushed so I didn’t come away feeling like I had spent “an evening” with anyone like the event title said.  First Graham spoke at the podium, then Brown spoke at the podium, then they sat with Noel.

Everything I do must be relevant to who I am and to what is important to ME.

My huge takeaway from the book was to make everything that I do relevant to who I am and what is important to ME; and to simply stop doing things that were not aligned with my purpose. Period.  The book prompted me to restate who I am and what I intend to do with my life which is:

  • Continue to be a follower of Jesus Christ;
  • Live by the Bible;
  • Live in my creative space and;
  • Make the world better in my own unique way.

The first thing Dr. Brown said when he took the mic after Graham sat down was how he’d been traveling all around promoting his book.  This event was clearly a promo to sell books, talks and programming to current (and/or future) clients… and so what?  I don’t blame them and anyone else for using whatever stage you can get on to share your message with the world. 

I loved the title of Brown’s Book…

"You Can't Go Wrong Doing Right

How A Child Of Poverty Rose To The

White House And Helped Change

The World"

I couldn’t help but remember how my Grandpa Hezzie would (painfully in my opinion) avoid making left turns while driving.  Grandpa constantly told us to, “Do the right thing.”  Brown had the ear of some powerful leaders, and this influence helped some of those leaders do that. I will read his book next on Audible. I didn’t know that Brown was instrumental in creating the Minority Business Enterprise program to create set-aside government contracts.  Brown is a real life influencer.

The question I would have asked Stedman was if he had ever done any personality testing beyond the career assessment test that he took that helped chart his original path.  And since his original path has changed to be where he is today, what were some of the key factors for making those pivots.

I've already done a bunch of "who am I" and "what do I want" kind of self-work to know where my talents and joys intersect.  Now I want to better understand how to find complimentary partners and teammates... I often feel like the lone cowgirl; the only one in the room that looks or thinks like me.  What's up with that?  Is that just the way it is or am I barking up the wrong me-tree?  God knoweth.

And because God knows (ALL) my work with Myron Golden is all the more important.  Golden teaches that real success is doing in life what you were created to do.  Stedman quoted the scripture that says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14); and as the Granddaughter of two powerful women, one an farming entrepreneur, and the other a Pentecostal pastor, I grew up believing there was a special plan for my life and it is my (our) lifelong duty to seek, understand, and implement that plan. 

Graham mentioned the importance of mentors; how they can help you side-step pitfalls and guide you into more productive activities.  He mentioned meeting Brown at Dr. Maya Angelou function he attended with Oprah.  He took the initiative to introduce himself and that lead to the two men working together and being called on to be with Nelson Mandela when he was released from prison.  Brown was supposed to go, but his wife had just been diagnosed with cancer and as important as Mandela’s release was he said, “I wasn’t about to leave her.  She’s been my girlfriend since the 5th grade.”  How sweet is that!!??  

Clearly at this point, Brown felt his mentee could help him “do the right thing” and be with his wife at a very tender time and appoint Graham to attend in his stead. Graham’s preparation was meeting this historic opportunity.

The part of Graham’s book that gave me pause was the constant acknowledgement of “the struggle” to identify yourself and shake off cultural victim labels. The title of  Graham’s book that I am referring to here is, “Identity Leadership: To Lead Others You Must First Lead Yourself.” So true!! I won't even go into how many times I have used self-leadership to do whatever it took to reinvent myself so I could survive and thrive.  However, I am already justified (through Christ) and already filled with “SOMEBODINESS”; so that part of the book wasn’t for me.  And yes, I am talking about that same “somebodiness” that Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of in his talk titled, “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” given to junior high school students six months before his assassination.

Somehow I have always known (even though I never said it as eloquently as King) that a deep belief in your own dignity and worth; and that your life has ultimate significance is the very best platform from which to start and continue the lifelong journey of defining an refining who you are and how you serve the world. Having the clarity that Graham’s speaks of is liberating.  As he said, true freedom comes from within.  Ironically, my “Bald Freedom” brand has a little to do with hair (not my thing)… and so much more to do with True Freedom to create a life you love within the boundaries of your values, your calling and your proclivities.  

I would have loved to have been given specific prescriptive advice about refining your path forward.  Stedman’s book seemed to be a repetitive urging to start the process of self-management instead of the process of perfecting it.  Maybe reading the book before attending the event stole some of the thunder of the message, but as I said, I had a very specific question before I even got there so consider that bias if you will.  If you are just beginning (or re-initializing) your effort to create your life blueprint, Graham’s book is an excellent on-ramp! As a certified project manager, I can totally appreciate that it represents a great plan forward.

All in all, it was a good night.  The North Carolina Museum of History auditorium was a great venue, though I would have liked to have known that they were going to be recording a UNC-TV segment so I could have been a little more strategic about my seat.  The lights were super bright, which made my skin look super shiny for this selfie…  I suppose I could have used the FaceTune app to tone that down, but the illumination reminded me that all that exfoliating was working.

The men were dashingly handsome and Noel was a classy addition. There was a healthy mix of all kinds of people in the audience; reflective of what life itself is and what creating a life you love will entail…  all kinds of people; all kinds of stuff.   Our job is to find and master our own value; truly owning how we will react and how we will adapt to whatever life dishes out.

Even though the event was stamped SOLD OUT, there were lots of empty seats; probably because of the nasty, rainy weather.  I won't lie that had had second thoughts around being out for an evening at all because it was thundering and lightning and just carrying on.  As grace, would have it, the rain stopped long enough for me to make it to and from the house and venue with no umbrella and completely dry.  

With that said, I especially liked that Stedman mentioned that we are in the “You Economy” and we should become our “own university” and never stop learning.  Jobs are being replaced everyday by technology.  We can't beat 'em so we may as well join 'em. This is so important as we aim to exchange our value in the marketplace; continue to build great relationships; and continue to realize our contribution in this a world where our very existence can be defined for us if we don’t take an active role in leading ourselves before we attempt to lead anybody else. Thanks Dr. Brown.  Great job on the book Stedman… Kiss Oprah for us.