Eric Thomas (@ericthomasbtc) is a motivational speaker, YouTube personality, podcaster, pastor, director of Breathe University, and author of several books, including The Secret to Success: When You Want to Succeed as Bad as You Want to Breathe.

What We Discuss with Eric Thomas:

  • How Eric Thomas went from homeless to PhD to become one of the world’s top motivational speakers.
  • How and why to get out of our psychological bubbles whether we’re broke or millionaires.
  • Why we do not have to accept life as it was given to us.
  • How to break out of patterns and mindsets that no longer serve us.
  • What taking responsibility for our own actions ultimately gives us (and what blaming others takes away).
  • And much more…

Like this show? Please leave us a review here — even one sentence helps! Consider including your Twitter handle so we can thank you personally!

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The Secret to Success: When You Want to Succeed as Bad as You Want to Breathe by Eric ThomasEric Thomas is a motivational speaker, YouTube personality, podcaster, pastor, director of Breathe University, and author of several books, including The Secret to Success: When You Want to Succeed as Bad as You Want to Breathe.

Known as The Hip Hop Preacher, Eric joined us to explain how people who grow up under limited circumstances can expand their horizons and break free of the bubbles that confine them, why taking responsibility for our own actions is empowering, how he’s stealing hip hop back, and lots more. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

Please Scroll down for Featured Resources and Transcript!

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Transcript for Eric Thomas | Success Secrets of The Hip Hop Preacher (Episode 297)

Transcript for Eric Thomas | Success Secrets of The Hip Hop Preacher (Episode 297)

Jordan Harbinger: [00:00:03] Welcome to the show. I’m Jordan Harbinger. As always, I’m here with producer Jason DeFillippo. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills are the world’s most brilliant and interesting people and turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We want to help you see the Matrix when it comes to how these amazing people think and behave. We want you to become a better thinker.

[00:00:26] If you’re new to the show, we’ve got episodes with spies and CEOs, athletes and authors, thinkers and performers, as well as toolboxes for skills like negotiation, public speaking, body language, persuasion, and more. So if you’re smart and you like to learn, then you’ll be right at home here with us.

[00:00:42] Today, on the show, Dr. Eric Thomas, we call him ET, The Hip Hop Preacher. He’s a PhD, author, speaker, educator, and a pastor, and as you’ll see today, he’s really full of energy. This one is from the vault and recorded a few years back, but it’s an oldie but goodie. I wanted to bring this one back out again, even though I’m not normally one for motivational speakers, as you all know. I just love Eric’s message and delivery. And originally he wanted to do this interview at 7:00 a.m. in the morning and we couldn’t find a studio that would even be open at that time. That’s the kind of hustle I like to see. Today, we’ll hear — although I will admit that I was secretly relieved we didn’t have to do it at seven. Today, we’ll hear how he went from homeless to PhD and now one of the top speakers in his industry. He’s living proof that it’s crucial to escape our psychological bubbles, whether you are broke or a billionaire, and how to take steps towards that actionable practical steps. Eric was requested quite a bit by you all, so I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as I did.

[00:01:40] If you want to know how I managed to book all these great people and manage my relationships using systems and tiny habits, check out our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free over at And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter. So come join us and you’ll be in great company. Now here’s Dr. Eric Thomas, the hip hop preacher.

[00:02:07] I noticed that about programs that actually do work, yours is getting a lot of acclaims because somebody coming in and being — I hate overusing cliches like this, so pardon me — but it’s like being real about it.

Eric Thomas: [00:02:18] Organic. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:18] Organic. Yeah. That’s a better way to say real. Well, you and I, we were both living in Michigan. I grew up in Troy, a slightly different area than you were.

Eric Thomas: [00:02:26] Yeah but it’s right there though.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:27] It is right there. Tell me, growing up in Chicago, I mean, were you there for most of your childhood, or when did you — ? 

Eric Thomas: [00:02:34] I think about five. My mom moved to Detroit, took a job with Ford Motor Company.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:02:39] That’s where my parents worked too. My dad worked there.

Eric Thomas: [00:02:42] My mom was in microfilm. I started school pretty much in Detroit, but my mom so loved Chicago that we literally traveled every weekend for seven years. We went back to Chicago every weekend for seven years straight until she had my little sister. And then, of course, she didn’t travel as much, so I spent a lot of summers in Chicago, so I’m kind of like a Detroit-Chicago kid. Great experience. The only thing I didn’t like about Chicago is they had gangs. I didn’t like that. Funny thing is I came to L.A., I don’t know, maybe I started coming here about 15, 20 years ago, and I literally came here wearing red. I didn’t know. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:03:18] Well, it depends where you’re at.

Eric Thomas: [00:03:20] Well, I was in the wrong place and some guys came up to me, asked me where I was from. I said Detroit, and then pulled out my license. “Literally, I’m from Detroit and it’s okay for us to wear whatever color we like to wear in Detroit!” That’s why I didn’t like Chicago. Of course, gang has territory and so you just can’t go wherever you want. What people don’t realize Detroit didn’t have gangs. We did have neighborhoods, but it was safe to go wherever you wanted to go. So the only thing I like about Chicago — the pizza Home Run Inn, Six Flags. I loved all of that. Detroit, definitely, man. I love that blue-collar mentality. And when you listen to my work, you’ll hear it infused in my work, but I’m really about just that grind, get up, go get it. So that’s why I said 7:30 I think, it’s the Midwest. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:03] It’s so funny coming out here — when you started traveling, did you ever go, wait a minute, not everyone has a Midwest work ethic? Did it hit you at one point? And you’re like, what the hell?

Eric Thomas: [00:04:11] So to be honest with you, this is what hit me. Industries are different. So when you come to the West Coast entertainment, Silicon Valley, people make their money in a different way. And so when you make your money the way we make it in the Midwest, you get up at seven o’clock in the morning.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:26] Yeah if you’re lucky.

Eric Thomas: [00:04:29] You go to the plant and you work, you grind. There are three shifts, morning, afternoon, and then there’s that graveyard shift. And I noticed that people make their money different on West Coast than South and it doesn’t really land to getting up early now or having that grind. It’s different. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:04:46] Yeah, that’s true. I hadn’t thought about it being industry-specific, but it definitely has something to do with that because my dad was always up at, I don’t know, five probably, got in the car. If it’s winter, you got out, you start your car, then you take a shower.

Eric Thomas: [00:05:00] Yeah, everybody did that. For 15 minutes, let your car warm up. And then you know, when you get here, you have to really slow down. So like you said, I’m thinking my wife wanted something this morning. I’m thinking, all right, I’m going to get up, go to a 7-Eleven. I want to go to a 7-Eleven at six o’clock in the morning and get her what she wants. And she’s like, “No, that doesn’t work like that.” And there’s a place, I’ve been getting vegan cuisine, and they had the tempeh barbecue sandwich or whatever, and my wife was like, “I’d love to have one.” And I looked him up and it was like, they don’t open until 11 and close at three. I was like, how do you make money? I was like, Eric, you’re not at home. You’re on the West Coast. Nobody’s probably be eating after four o’clock. They’re working out.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:42] Exactly. The way they’re making money is they just go, “Hmm, we can work half as much, but then we’d have to double the price,” and they’re like, “Yeah, let’s just double the price.” And everyone’s like, “Oh, okay, it’s $12 sandwich now.” 

[00:05:54] Why did you go back every weekend? That’s unbelievable. Did you take the train? 

Eric Thomas: [00:05:57] My mom actually drove.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:05:58] It’s a long drive. 

Eric Thomas: [00:05:59] t is. It was a three-hour, four-hour drive, but what I loved about it, we stopped every weekend on our way up to McDonald’s and got the Big Breakfast. I can always look forward to that, but my mom was very close — it was 14 siblings. And my mom is one of the older ones, and so she and her sisters had a very close relationship. A lot of her best friends were from there. She only moved to Detroit because she married. He wasn’t my biological father, but he raised me. She moved there for marriage. Her life was in Chicago. Her work and family were in Detroit, but most of our siblings were back in Chicago, so that’s kind of why we went back and forth. But it was great. I didn’t have any brothers. My sister, youngest sister, well, my middle sister is seven years younger. The other one is 14 years younger. I’m spending time with my cousins every weekend. They were like my brothers and sisters, so it was a great experience, man. It’s like watching something on Showtime.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:06:48] Sure. Is this like big sitcom family — but then you’ve get to leave before things get to — 

Eric Thomas: [00:06:53] Absolutely. And go home. You know, it was crazy cause it’s always like Oprah Winfrey Color Purple was like every time, “Don’t leave me, Celie.” And so when we’re leaving, my little cousins were running behind me and we’re crying and wave. And I was like, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll see you in another seven days.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:06] Yeah five days or the next weekend. That’s funny. So you ended up moving to Detroit. It’s almost like you guys just didn’t get the memo moving one dangerous area to another.

Eric Thomas: [00:07:15] Thank you, mom. Mom should have come to the West Coast or the South where it was warmer, but I will say it is, I think a lot of people in the world, not just in the US gravitate toward the message. Because at the end of the day, I think there are more people like the Midwest than it is. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:07:31] Oh yeah. This is a weird bubble. Whenever I look at election results and people are just shocked and I’m thinking, you just don’t know anyone outside this area. There are people that voted for, depending on where you are — “Who voted for Obama?” I’m like literally the majority of the country, most people did. It is easy to get caught up in the bubble. You see it with businesses too, where someone’s it’s a juicer. But it’s really expensive and you can only juice our package. You can’t put real things. And it’s like, this is a terrible idea. And they’re like, “I’ll give you $48 million.”

Eric Thomas: [00:08:05] Only in California.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:08:06] But the bubble goes both ways. You’re in the bubble of what’s going on here right now is something they see in movies and music videos that they either aspire to or that they think is so far outside their reach. They’re never going to get there, so why try.

Eric Thomas: [00:08:21] And I think that’s why it’s important. Grateful to be on the podcast today. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to show kids when you grew up in Detroit, it is that bubble of Ford, GM, and Chrysler — and I just want to show kids — and it doesn’t require a lot to get to the other side of, especially now with the different airlines, you know, et cetera. Like you can really get to the West Coast and get an experience. I was in Miami — and I never stay in Miami; I always stay in Ft. Lauderdale, but those are two different worlds, believe it or not, and they’re only 30 to 40 minutes away from each other. So I tell kids, “Get your passport, get out of your space and see another part of the world, and you’ll be shocked. When you see another human do it, it’ll click, and you’ll be like, ‘Yo, I could do this.'” When I was growing up anyway in Detroit, I never saw anybody making money speaking professionally. Nobody in my family made money doing what they love. Everybody made money doing what they hate. And that was going, no disrespect to the big three, but you know, working for a plant wasn’t necessarily their dream. But I mean, they make good money, but I’m looking now, it’s like, “Yo, you’re doing what you love,” and I think of my cousins or my uncles or my aunts that were all great orators, who never actually did it professionally because they didn’t think that it was an option. And I just want kids to know they’re way more options than you think and don’t allow the options in your community to be the only options you explore. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:09:43] That’s a great point. And I’ve mentioned this type of thing before on the show because when you’re a kid, doctor, army, police, and firemen — those are the jobs — teacher. Yeah, because that’s always on the radar. Then you go to high school and you realize. “Okay. I have like two more options other than army, teacher, and doctor, but not really.” Even in college for me, I thought at some point they’re going to tell us what we can actually do with all this stuff. Because I’m still thinking teacher, police, officer, except now I’m like in a Russian class. What am I going to do with this?

Eric Thomas: [00:10:15] They don’t have anything to do with anything.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:10:17] So if you grow up in that bubble, whatever bubble you’re in, there are probably kids that growing up in Palo Alto that are like, “I’m going to be a systems administrator on Facebook.”

Eric Thomas: [00:10:26] Absolutely. That’s what they see every day, and that’s why I’m saying, kids, you have to get a passport, which is doable. It’s probably the cost of a pair of gym shoes you’re wearing. Get a flight, which is probably the cost of two pairs of shoes you have and get on the West Coast. Come to the beach, go to the Valley, go to Golden Gate Bridge. I was talking to somebody recently at my church and I was like, “You know, look, I’m going to take a group of kids to California this year, DC, Florida,” And they’re like, “That’s a lot.” I was like, “I know.” But back to what you said, when you go to college or go to high school, I just want to make the connection because who goes to school for 180 days, taking subjects that you don’t have the slightest idea what they are and enjoys that. But if you could make a connection — oh, this is why school was important. 

[00:11:11] And again, I’m not an advocate of college. I went to college. I’m not actually a guy that believes you’ve got to go to college to be successful, but I do tell people by going to college, there are some things that I’m able to do, like analyze, be critical in my thinking, and use it in my profession. So it’s not like I’m using critical thinking to do some massive research or something, but you know, I like to call myself a leader in this generation, especially with the millennials. I can critically think in a way that I couldn’t when I had a GED. So, I’m not a guy that believes that everybody needs to go to college, but I am saying if you don’t do certain things, you’re going to be stuck in that bubble. And there are so many bubbles and so many big bubbles that I’m so grateful — somebody told me, “Get out of Detroit.” They sent me to Alabama before I went to Michigan State to go to college. And that was the thing that changed my life because I was literally around a group of people who didn’t have the same background, didn’t think the way I thought and really made me analyze myself or my gift in a way I had never done before, and now look at myself and I’m like, wow, it all started by 18 years old, just getting outside of Michigan for a couple of years. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:15] Yeah. I think that’s a problem that a lot of people have is there’s no reason for them to leave that they can see and they also, you don’t know until you leave that you’re going to have a different set of eyes on you giving you a different perspective because naturally as humans, we all just think the way that I view the world is totally real. This is the only way that you could see things.

Eric Thomas: [00:12:34] That is flat. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:34] It’s flat.

Eric Thomas: [00:12:35] Or was round, whatever it is. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:39] Yeah, whatever, Shaquille O’Neal.

Eric Thomas: [00:12:38] Whatever it is.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:40] But what did you think you were going to be when you were a kid? You probably weren’t thinking, I’m going to be an astronaut. Like what was going through your mind and your bubble at that time?

Eric Thomas: [00:12:46] I’m just, to be honest, you say you got to options. I really thought Ford, GM, Chrysler. If I could get a job at the plant or make 20 something dollars an hour. And then the other thing I thought — 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:12:57] In the ‘90s, that’s like 50 bucks right now. 

Eric Thomas: [00:13:00] It’s incredible. And I also thought, I saw preachers like I didn’t go to church much, but I saw preachers and I was thinking, yeah, maybe I can do that. They speak a lot. Yeah, maybe I can do that. But more like a Dr. Martin Luther King type guy, like not necessarily like local pastor that kind of stays in with that congregation. I saw myself more like a Martin Luther King, like somebody that was using their gifts to kind of change the world. And I don’t know why, but I was drawn to Mother Teresa. Even as a teenager, I would look at somebody like Mother Teresa, like I like that. I don’t know that I can do it. What I’d like what they’re doing, they’re doing good. I don’t know how much money you make doing that kind of stuff.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:13:37] Not a lot, free stuff.

Eric Thomas: [00:13:39] I don’t know what kind of checks they get, but I did admire. So those were the two things that I kind of thought about, and then when I started going to church with a friend, the pastor mentored me. And even as I sit here now, it’s unbelievable. He said to me at 17 when I was in a lot of trouble and a lot of problems, he said to me, “Yo, you have a phenomenal gift. You have this charisma. You’re going to do great things.” And I sit here now saying like how important was that to have somebody outside of my bubble looking at me saying, “You’re going to do great things.” And I would never tell anybody when I was a teenager, but I would really walk away from that building and thinking to myself, I’m going to be somebody. This guy said I’m going to be somebody. I don’t have a lot positive going on in my life right now, so I’m definitely going to clean, go on do these positive words. I look at myself 20, almost 30 years from the time he spoke that — well, actually it’s 30 years from the time he spoke that — and I’m like, wow, this guy was absolutely right, which is why I do what I do. Because if somebody can do that for me, I truly believe that I have the power to speak to some kid, or even some adults, you know, they are still coachable and make them see things, like you said, in their bubble, that’s outside of their bubble that they would never see.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:14:51] Right through a fresh set of eyes. It kind of reminds me of that. I think it’s Chris Rock where he’s like, if you tell some kid in the suburbs, “You can be anything you want to be.” He’s like, “I fucking know that.” But you tell somebody else that they’re like, “What are you even talking about right now?” And so it is very important to make sure that you have that other set of eyes. But how do you think, especially kids from disadvantaged backgrounds can break the cycle. Because I think it’s probably pretty hard for kids to take education seriously when they’re like in a situation where you were actually homeless for a while. How do you then go, “No, really stay in school?” And they’re like, “Are you crazy? I’m abused at home. I’ve got drug-dealer brothers and sisters. There are guns in my house. I’m not going to go to school. Are you crazy? What are you talking about?” 

Eric Thomas: [00:15:32] This might be a shock to you, but I actually think is easier to break the cycle now did it’s ever been before. And the reason why I say that is because. You talked about it when I was growing up, that was my bubble. Like I had an uncle who was a heroin addict. We didn’t have like cable TV, so it wasn’t like you saw images of yourself on television like that, you know, it was Good Times, Jeffersons.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:15:55] You know, there were heroin addicts in the Good Times. 

Eric Thomas: [00:15:57] You know it, you know, so you can watch cable now and you can see anything you want to see. You can see yourself in any light you want to. You can create, get an app. And they actually have you animated. So I really think it’s easier because I couldn’t see outside of Detroit. It was hard to see anything outside of Motown’s just because that’s where I am. We’ve got local stations. I’m studying Spanish now and it’s crazy. I’m going to Telemundo. That’s not something that I could have done 20, 30 years ago. I got an app that’s showing me I’m working with every day that’s teaching me the language. I didn’t have that 30 years or so. These kids with technology really have a way of saying, “Yo, this my uncle, but wow, this is how they live in Cali. Like, this is how they live in Miami.” I didn’t have that. I didn’t see Miami. If you weren’t in Miami, you didn’t see Miami, you know? And so I think it’s easier for kids to say, “I have Bill Gates. I’ve got Warren Buffet. I’ve got LeBron James. I’ve got Kobe Bryant.”

[00:16:53] I was studying, I think a guy, John Chambers yesterday, I didn’t even know who this guy was. I’m watching TV and he’s talking about the five things you need to do to be great in corporate America with a hedge fund. I’m like, “What?” I didn’t even know what a hedge fund — when I was a kid, I never even heard that term. So just being honest, I think it’s easier to break the cycle because you have way more models, role models. Call it what you want. I think when Barack became president of the United States of America, like Chris Rock said, you said, “Hey, you can be whatever you want to be.” “Okay. Whatever.” When Barack became president of the United States of America, it’s like, “Wow.” I even think with Trump being president of the United States of America, I’m probably more encouraged than I was with Barack Obama. I’m like, “Wow, this guy didn’t take the traditional — ”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:17:32] Anything can happen now. All bets are off!

Eric Thomas: [00:17:34] All bets are off, bro! There’s absolutely nothing I can’t be or do. I think it’s probably easier now. Will they have their a-ha moment is the question. Will they be in the environment or engaged in the environment? And I think if you’re just hanging around the environment, no, you don’t see the obvious, but if you get engaged, then whatever. And I tell kids all the time, “Yo, I hate school. I got a PhD. I hate school. There was nothing about the PhD process that I enjoyed, but it gives me options, and I love options. Doors that were closed to me 10 years ago are open to me now because of school, because of the network.” My top clients — Dan Gilbert, Michigan State grad. My guy who owns Which Wich, Jeff, Jeff’s a Michigan State grad.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:18:16] Oh, that’s a Michigan Company? I didn’t know that.

Eric Thomas: [00:18:16] I didn’t know it. He started in Texas. I didn’t know it. Now I’m working with a group called United Shores, Michigan State grad. Matt actually played on the 2000 National Championship team. I’m just saying college is not just about a degree. It’s a fraternity, if you will. You know, it’s networking, if you will. So I tell kids, “Without college or without an education, it’s going to be hard to make your dreams become a reality.” We already know what happens when you don’t do school. We already know what happens when you’re in gangs. We already know what happens when you’re dysfunctional, you know, it’s jail, dead-end life. And so for me, I just tell these kids like, “Yo, don’t look at school as science, social studies, English, whatever. Look at it as ‘cha-ching.’ Look at it as a gateway, a bridge to get from where you are to where you want to be.”

Jason DeFillippo: [00:19:05] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Eric Thomas. We’ll be right back. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:19:09] This episode is sponsored in part by Hydros. I’m a little bit of a — I wouldn’t say water snob. It’s not like I care about the brand of the water, but I don’t want to taste the pipes, the water is coming out of. That’s basic. I don’t know if that makes me a snob or just a little health conscious here. Hydros is a really convenient solution for getting delicious filtered water at home and on the go, and my friend invented this. It’s a brilliant product. If you look at a brim up, you’ve got to fill it up. It fills up this tank. It drips down slowly, takes like 15 to 20 minutes depending on how big the thing is. Hydros has fast flow technology five times faster than typical water filters. So it basically, you turn on the faucet, you run it through the filter, and boom, it’s full. You don’t have to sit there for 20 minutes staring at it, drip down. It’s really simple. The same filter works with all the Hydros bottles and pitchers, which makes it really easy to buy, really easy to save. You don’t have one filter for this kind, and the other filter for that kind, it’s all one. And it’s also very sustainable. Each Hydros pitcher uses 50 percent less plastic than most other brands. The filter is used only a hundred percent activated coconut charcoal. So there’s no plastic resin. A lot of these other filters, they use plastic and there’s plastic resin, there are plastic beads in there, there’s a plastic resin that goes into the water and their excuse is kind of like, “Eh, well you’re only drinking a little bit of it.” It’s like, “Hmm, am I?” And also that’s disgusting. The filters are tested and certified to the highest NSF 42 standard class one which for most of you means nothing, but for many of you is a big deal. So check it out, which is a 20 percent discount. Hydros for 20 percent off. It’s a great product. It’s really, really useful if you’re filling up your yoga bottle in the class from some sort of drinking fountain that’s not filtered or from the sink in a locker room. This is the bottle for you.

[00:21:01] This episode is also sponsored by ButcherBox. I’m looking forward to 2020 to eating some delicious new foods, less time at the grocery store, less money at the grocery store. ButcherBox is a meat delivery subscription Because why not? Everything else is a delivery subscription. You’re buying meat and you’re going to the butcher, or you’re going back and forth to different grocery stores. Each month, ButcherBox sends a box of the highest quality meat for a better price than at the grocery store. So in other words, you’re getting better meat and it’s cheaper than the grocery store. More affordable. It gives me more time to watch Jen cooks and share delicious meals with family and friends. I love it. They’re like to spend more time cooking, or in my case, spend more time, well, yes, enjoying the food. Every month Butcher Box ships a curated selection of high-quality meat to the house, free of antibiotics, free of added hormones, nine to 11 pounds of meat, which is enough for like 24 meals, packed fresh, shipped frozen, and vacuum-sealed, so it stays nice and fresh. I either customize my box or I go with one of their packages. Either way, we get exactly what we want. It’s kind of a no brainer shipped right to the door. They’ve got options like a hundred percent grass-fed and finished beef, free-range organic chicken, heritage pork, wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sugar and nitrate-free bacon. It’s really high-quality stuff and it’s around six bucks a meal. Free shipping nationwide except Alaska and Hawaii, because you all are just too dang far away. Well in Alaska you can hunt your own meat. So you’re good there. Sorry, Hawaii. Jason. 

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[00:22:45] Thanks for listening and supporting the show and to learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard from our amazing sponsors, visit Don’t forget we have a worksheet for today’s episode so you can make sure you solidify your understanding of the key takeaways from Eric Thomas. That link is in the show notes at If you’d like some tips on how to subscribe to the show, just go to As always, subscribing to the show is absolutely free. It just means that you get all of the latest episodes downloaded automatically to your podcast player so you don’t miss a single thing. And now back to our show with Eric Thomas.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:25] You grew up with your biological father not in the picture. And what age did you get male role models that were positive in your life? 

Eric Thomas: [00:23:32] I’ll be honest, they might’ve been there. I didn’t see them. I wasn’t paying attention. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:23:35] You turned it off. 

Eric Thomas: [00:23:36] Yeah I turned it off. But in college, when I went to college and saw guys that looked like me — everybody talks about Barack Obama. I saw Barack Obama in 1989 when I went to Oakwood University. I saw Barack Obama and Derek Green and the Cain brothers. You know, I saw Barack Obama and my boys Skip and then Equate. So I went to college, and for the first time in my life, I saw guys who looked like me who weren’t gangbangers or who weren’t trying to just play sports. And there’s nothing wrong with sports, but I didn’t see myself going to the NBA or to the NFL. I saw regular guys who had phenomenal dreams. And today, Derek Green is a lobbyist and he was a strategist for the governor in Jersey. So he was the lead strategist for this guy, and the guy became governor, and I’m watching D. That’s what D was doing when we were in college, like, that’s what he was about. I’m watching Pucky, who now is a pastor in Tennessee, and that’s what he said he wants to do. The Cain brothers are from Bermuda. This literally happened. They said they wanted to be in law, they’re from Bermuda. So they went to a university in London, and I remember going to court and he had a wig on his head, a white wig. “Hey, what are you doing? What are you doing?” You know, it was funny. I was just sitting in there and he was like, “All rise.” I’m like I ate ramen noodles with this guy. What do you mean all rise? For what? That’s not your friend anymore. He’s a judge. You’re in court. So I was around these guys for years. They became my role models and they pushed me. They were reading a book a week. They were having think tanks. They were going to conferences, we were going to communities and doing activism. Those were my first role models. And then from them, whoever they were reading their fathers, their brothers became my role models as well.

[00:25:23] And then I was able to go back to my community and respect my father, who again, wasn’t my biological father, but who raised me. I could go back and respect that relationship, which at one point I was just like, “Yo, you’re not my father”. I’m just being real. Like you can’t tell me what to do. I emotionally cut him off. I left home at 13 for the first time back and forth, and at 16 I left for good, but I was able to go back and realize that those guys that were getting up every day and going to Ford, GM, and Chrysler, the few women that were doing it, it was like, yo, E, these were actually role models. They showed you what consistency looked like. They showed you what grind and hustle looked like, and I was able to draw lessons from them and use it for these kids today. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:02] So what was going on in your life when you left home? Because it sounds like your mom was around, she took you to Chicago, you had great cousins, your stepdad seems to have cared about you, and then suddenly it’s like, “Nope, I’m leaving and now I’m going to be homeless.” Like what happened at that point and then how did you get your aha moment to snap out of it?

Eric Thomas: [00:26:19] Well, I think what happened my mom lied and didn’t tell me who my father was?

Jordan Harbinger: [00:26:22] . Oh, shoot. That was not in the Wikipedia.

Eric Thomas: [00:26:25] I’ve tried to reserve mom’s, you know, rep. you know what I’m saying with that one. I’m an adult now, so I get it. I understand my biological father. We started a relationship when I was 30. Weird. Grew up without him my whole life, up until maybe 13, 14 I didn’t know who he was. My grandma would say he’s a friend of the family, so I knew my uncles and my aunt, all my cousins, my grandma, I just didn’t know who he was. It was weird. It’s like, yo, he’s got pictures with you guys. He is like a real close friend. But when I found out at 12 that he is my real father, like the loyalty thing, like, yo, you weren’t loyal. You were a lie and so the relationship at that point, I can say emotionally, everything, I just cut them off. I was like, I’m living here, but you guys are liars, you guys, you know, whatever. And I’m getting in trouble because I’m lying. This is hypocrisy at its finest. 

[00:27:10] And so when I left home at 16 for good, I had a strained relationship with my mom. Pretty much cut my family off. I hated to not be able to be there for my sisters, but I cut them off and really got into a dark place. I was around people selling drugs, things of that nature. I never really got into that, but started stealing from the mall and just lifeless. It just didn’t have a whole lot of life in me. But I can say a good friend of mine started taking me to church. It wasn’t church like that wasn’t the thing. The pastor was a man. He was a military man, took care of his five children, was loved by his wife. I really looked up to this guy. And he became my mentor. He really helped me to get my life on track. He sent me off to college, helped me get my GED, sent me off to college. And my girlfriend at the time at the church, she went to the same university I went to and we started a road deep relationship, got married after our freshman year. We’ve been married about a little bit over 27 years now. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:03] Jeez, you figured out what you wanted early.

Eric Thomas: [00:28:05] Yeah, I did. Homeless will do that to you. When you’re homeless at 16, by 19 you pretty mature about it. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:12] You’re like two ways to do this. This way sucks. I’m going the other way.

Eric Thomas: [00:28:16] Going that way. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:17] That is such a crazy experience to have because I think a lot of people think that they’re going to leave school and do something else. They don’t think I’m going to leave home and leave school and sleep outside. I mean, were you homeless like eat from dumps homeless?

Eric Thomas: [00:28:31] Yeah, but I was smart. That didn’t last long. I ended up getting a job at McDonald’s and I was smart, so I wasn’t school smart, but I was life smart. What I ended up doing was taking a job at a 24-hour McDonald’s. And so I worked from 5:00 PM to 5:00 AM 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:28:45] So you’re in a safe place at night. 

Eric Thomas: [00:28:47] Yeah, safe place, easy to go to somebody’s house and act like you just coming over for breakfast. Then stay in a day then to go at night and act like you’re coming home for dinner, leaving. So McDonald’s proved to be phenomenal. And I say this my work ethic was so phenomenal at McDonald’s, not because I love working, but I knew I could not lose that job. Let me tell you, I was so good. I could flip burgers — what it would take three people to do- I could do by myself. And then there were a lot of guys that work with us who were also high school kids, so they were silly and immature. So I was like, I’ve got them beat all day. Like they’re not going to come on time. They’re going to come and play. Cause we were on Fenkell and Wyoming, which was very dangerous but playful. It reminds me of Crenshaw. Like everybody, Friday night with cars would line up, people drinking and smoking, and that’s where I would work. The manager, we became very close. He’d take me to breakfast after we closed; he knew I was homeless. Buy me things, you know, try to help me. I was like, a KD. I got drafted at McDonald’s. I was one of the best of the best. 

[00:29:43] So definitely a dark place, man, not really knowing where I was headed. It’s not like from homelessness, like that’s not really a track to anywhere. I was just kind of like out there. But I tell you, as crazy as it sounds, my mother used to say this all the time. My mother got pregnant with me at 17 years old, finished high school, but couldn’t go to college cause she had to get a job. And my mother always says when we travel together, “I didn’t know what I wanted to be but I knew what I didn’t want to be.” So that’s what my mom passed to us. It’s like, “Hey, I can’t say I’m going to be a doctor, lawyer, whatever, but I know what I don’t want to be, and I don’t want to be homeless anymore. I don’t want to eat out of trash. I don’t want to work for 12 hours at McDonald’s. This check is terrible. You know, I don’t want to do this.” And so I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I definitely knew I didn’t want to do that. So there were certain choices I didn’t make that other people my age were making because I didn’t want to go to prison. I didn’t want to die. I didn’t want that life forever.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:30:36] So you were planning a few moves ahead even back then. So when you dropped out of high school, did you think, “Now I’m going to be homeless,” or what were you thinking at that time? 

Eric Thomas: [00:30:45] When I cussed my mom out, I felt so liberated. It was a great story. Everybody is happy to be out. I got to show out for the neighbors. I was feeling good. Walked to one of the local stores, got me a little something to eat, and then the sun set. You know, and if you’ve ever been homeless, and when I said that, you knew exactly, like you were feeling me right there, just like the world stopped. It was funny, I was walking the other day, it was five degrees in Michigan and I just stopped and I was so reflective, was going to get my hair cut. My videographer was like, “Yo, E, are you good?” I’m like, “Yeah.” He was like, “You just had a moment. What happened?” And I was like, “Yo, I remember being homeless in this weather.” He was like, “Really?” He was like, “Yo, I can’t walk from the car to the barbershop. Like, what do you mean you were homeless?” I was like, “Literally, I was homeless in this — whatever,” and for me, it was, “E, you’ve got to do something to get out of here.” So I left home, acting a fool, went to the grocery store, and afterwards the sun set and I was like, “Yo, E, you didn’t think this all the way through. Like, where do you go from here? Where do you stay?” And I ended up going back home, not physically going back home, but I went back to my home property because I knew I would be safe if something happened, I could knock on the door. And my next door neighbor had these great — what do you call those — patio sets. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:31:57] Like a lounge chair?

Eric Thomas: [00:31:58] I took the padding off of that, put it on the ground. There were these bushes that were close to my family’s home, the wall and the bushes, and so I slept there for about two or three nights. From there, I found a friend who let me sleep in the car and then from a car to an abandoned building. If you could make it through it, it’s a great book, but when I was actually going through it at 16, 17, 18, man, it was scary. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:22] Yeah, you’re still vulnerable during that period of time. 

Eric Thomas: [00:32:25] I wasn’t thinking. I was just full of anger, you know, whatever. And I’m just telling young people who might be listening to the podcast or adults who might be listening, like sometimes for you get so angry that your ability to think, to be rational goes down, anger tends to be rational, zero and just really think through. My new thing is then what. I think that came out of my experience like, “Okay, E, you do this. Then what happens after that?” Now I think if we can do that, “then what?” with the same intensity we do the anger. I think we put ourselves in a much better place. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:32:54] How do you get people to do that? Because anger is by nature, really strong emotion. Getting people to go, I’m going to make a plan and stick to it. Not quite the same level of intensity all the way through that. 

Eric Thomas: [00:33:04] What I love about sports is that they do the stats. They do numbers. You know what I’m saying? Like right now, you know, everybody’s Cleveland’s whatever. I don’t really know what that means. Come finals, come in, playoffs. But right now it’s like, yo, Cleveland, you lost whatever, whatever. Go to state you right where you’re supposed to be. Like it’s numbers. And I think one of the mistakes that we make as humans is we don’t measure. When I started saying, “Okay, Eric, you made this decision and this was the outcome like you got pissed, now you’re eating out of trash cans. That’s not working for you.” So I would just say to people, until you get sick and tired of coming up short, sick, and tired of losing, you’ll keep doing the same thing, but once you get to a point where you’re like, I want to win, you’ll start measuring. What I love about measurement is, you know the numbers don’t lie.

[00:33:48] Jordan Harbinger: [00:33:48] Don’t lie, but what you’re talking about involves some level of personal responsibilities first. Because you can measure something and go, “Yeah, but that was his fault because I was there and then he just came and screwed it all up.” So how do you get people, especially young people, because I know I wasn’t about to try to take personal responsibility for everything? How do you get them to go, “All right, this measurement didn’t work and it’s my fault and I have the power to change it,” instead of just saying, “Well, my mom, you know, she lied to me about this five years ago, so I’m a victim”?

[00:34:19] Eric Thomas: [00:34:18] Yeah. You know what. Okay guys, so you all got to hear me. This is not going to be deep but I really need you to pay attention. So when I first started doing voiceover work — that kind of stuff when people start using my voice — I was so excited. I know you think about rights and I started realizing, “Oh, [indiscernible] [00:34:31],” and I watched the movie Ray. It was an aha moment like, “Yo, E, you need to own the rights.” This whole thing about the American dream is about not only liberty but owning your own freedom, your own rights. And that’s why I was upset when I left home. It was like, “Yo, ma, you made all these decisions for me that affect my life and we never got to sit down and talk about it. Like you may all of these decisions, like you lie, put me in this school. You sent me here. We didn’t sit down and say, ‘Son, what do you think about?'” And so for me, that’s what I discovered. The only true way to own your own rights is to take responsibility because once you give the responsibility to somebody else, they have all the power. They have all the rights, and I was like, “Yo, E, I want to own my own rights.” I want to be able to make decisions for Eric. I don’t care. I was never the guy who will say, “E grew up in Detroit.” There’s this teacher never sold dope. I never sold dope because I didn’t want to sell dope. And so I wasn’t going to get in trouble for you. Like I wasn’t going to stand on the block and give somebody else money and they don’t have to be on the block and they don’t have to get in trouble. But if I get caught, I got to do 20 years, but nobody even knows. I’m like I’m not into that. Like, so why did I steal from the mall? Look, this might sound crazy. But I was in control. I was the fastest guy I knew. They could never catch me. I would steal some. Since I was maybe 10, I would go into stores to steal something. I like to hide. I’m running, and somebody was like, “Well, Eric, you steal.” “Yeah, but I liked the fact that I was betting on me. I didn’t have to wait for five other people.

[00:36:05] And so for me, literally just to break it down, the reason why I take responsibility because I own the power when I take responsibility. I choose if this thing changes or if it stays the same. I choose if it gets better or if it gets worse. And I’m going to tell you that’s what I love about Kyrie Irving. You say whatever you want to say. Kyrie is saying, “Yo, if I want to make the last-minute shot, I want to get full credit for making the last-minute shot.” Like no disrespect to LeBron James. If I make the last-minute shot, the last defensive play and we won a championship, I want to be able to share fully in the moment. And I don’t know but when you look at Jordan and Pippen, it was almost like they were one. Never really said Jordan without saying Pippen. So for me, I’m like, yo, I feel Kyrie in that. I just want to own the rights. If I work hard, I want credit for it. If I make a mistake, I want to take full responsibility for it. So that’s just how I think. 

[00:36:27] So that young person out there, once you give away, “They did it and they did it.” You give away power, you give away how much money you can make, how much happiness you can have. I just don’t want to do that. I want to own my rights and get all the rewards. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:11] So if you’re going to own the glory, you got to own the consequences too. And so that seems like it makes a lot of sense. because I think for a lot of people that they want to own the glory, but the immaturity comes into play when then there are consequences and they go, “Yeah, okay, I don’t want that. I just want to look good when it makes sense. I don’t want to look bad when it’s also my fault.”

Eric Thomas: [00:37:29] You’ve got Yin and Yang, baby. You’ve got to take them both.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:37:31] So what made you go into education? Did you just have a desire to teach other people what you were or were not taught? 

Eric Thomas: [00:37:37] Do what works, not what you want to work. I got up on the microphone and I spoke, and guess what happened when I’ve spoken to my people who hate doing motivational speeches. They would just be like, “Yo, can you keep going?” When I would go in the classroom, I would shut the classroom down, you know, I would teach and kids were just like mom, “My son never wanted to read. He wants to read now.” It was the only thing I was good at. I wasn’t good at writing. I wasn’t good at spelling bees. I wasn’t good at standardized tests. I wasn’t good at a lot of stuff. The one thing that when I did it, it was magical was speaking and teaching, so I figure, “Hey, that’s what you’re good at. You need to stick with this.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:38:16] Yeah. Okay. So you found a natural talent and you lean into it. Speaking of leaning into some, you’re known as the hip hop preacher, but a lot of hip hop values don’t really mesh with religion. They don’t even mesh with positivity at all sometimes. So why lean into that branding? Because a lot of people associate hip hop with like misogyny, materialism, violence. Why lean into that?

Eric Thomas: [00:38:37] They’re new hip hop. I’m taking it back. You know that’s not the origin of hip hop and where it was just parents just don’t understand. My radio, that had nothing to do with the violence and some of the egotistic stuff that we see. And this generation — no disrespect to the generation — that hip hop is theirs. They own it. They do whatever they want. But the generation I come up with Queen Latifa, “U-N-I-T-Y, unity, don’t call me a B or ho.” Some of these artists give hip hop a bad name. And so I’m taking it back. I’m taking it hostage. And I do believe that pure hip hop is consistent with the positive stuff that I talk about and there is a lot of positivity in it. And I don’t want the legacy to be that. It’s what it is today. Like I want us to look at the body of work in hip hop. And like I said, in my generation, “Friends, how many of us have,” that was positive stuff. So I relate more to the original hip hop in the late ‘70s, early ‘80s more than I do the hip hop of 2018. Now, there are some great artists and very positive artists and hip hop, so this makes sure that we give them their credit. But to your point, there is absolutely way more negative hip hop than there ever was. 

Jason DeFillippo: [00:39:51] You’re listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guests, Eric Thomas. We’ll be right back after this.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:39:57] This episode is sponsored in part by Heineken 0.0. Heineken 0.0 is an alcohol-free drink. You can enjoy anytime. Well, maybe not anytime. Well, you know, you can do it anytime. In fact, I’d love to hear what happens if you pop one of these open at your PTA meeting, but unlike many non-alcoholic beers, Heineken 0.0 is completely alcohol-free, not like a little bit of alcohol in there, not those little remnants. It’s got 0.0 percent alcohol and still tastes like the Heineken that you’re used to and it’s got 69 calories per can. Good choice if you want to skip the alcohol, but still enjoy a beer during dry January. January is a popular time for people to quit drinking or do other resolutions. I think we’ve all made and broken them ourselves. For many people. January means no alcohol for an entire month. If you’re doing dry January or even if you’re not, check out Heineken 0.0 zero and skip the booze this January. You can save three bucks on your next purchase of Heineken 0.0 by going to That’s for three bucks off your next purchase of Heineken 0.0.

[00:40:59] This episode is also sponsored by ZipRecruiter. It’s a new year, a perfect opportunity to take your business to the next level by hiring the right people if you can, but finding qualified candidates can be challenging. I mean, that’s an understatement. makes it a lot easier. Hiring is such, can be just such a huge pain and if you have to hire a lot of people, you got your work cut out for you, man. This is tough. ZipRecruiter will send your job to over a hundred of the web’s leading job boards, but they don’t stop there with their powerful matching technologies. ZipRecruiter scans thousands of resumes to find people with the right experience, then applied them to apply for your job. So in other words, it doesn’t just blast it off to every Tom, Dick, and Harry. It finds people based on their profiles here. As the applications come in, ZipRecruiter analyzes each one spotlights the top candidates so you don’t miss the people that you should be hiring in a sea of schmoes and ZipRecruiter is so effective, four out of five employers who post on ZipRecruiter get a quality candidate through the site within the first day. A lot of you have been using ZipRecruiter and emailing me like, “Yeah, we actually did find someone within the first day,” or, “Yeah, we found someone within the first couple of days.” I mean that’s impressive cause hiring, even for low-level jobs, it can take months and it’s a huge, huge pain. So Jason, tell them where they can try out ZipRecruiter.

Jason DeFillippo: [00:42:14] Right now our listeners can try ZipRecruiter for free at this exclusive web address. That’s, ZipRecruiter, the smartest way to hire. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:42:29] This episode is also sponsored in part by Better Help, Better Help online counseling. It’s the counseling for the 21st century. This is not their tagline, it’s just kind of what I’m thinking because I’m wondering why did it take so long to get therapy over the phone on video chat. Whenever a business is a good idea, you have that feeling where you go, “Wait, that didn’t exist before?” Or, “How was it just now starting to exist?” That’s what I love about Better Help. One of the things I love about better help is that it’s one of those businesses — how is this not a thing? Better Help offers licensed professional counselors who are specialized in issues like depression, stress, anxiety, relationships, sleeping, trauma, anger, family conflicts, grief, self-esteem, hell some of us have all that stuff. So if one or all of those apply to you, Better Helps a great place to go and check out and try some therapy. Connect with your professional counselor. It’s a safe and private online environment. In other words, you’re not in some sort of weird group chat. You’re not writing stuff that people can go and grab. Everything you share is confidential. It’s very convenient. No driving across town trying to find parking, and then realizing your therapist is sick that day. Go get help at your own time, at your own pace, secure video or phone sessions. You can chat and text with your therapist. You can always switch therapists at any time. No charge for that. It’s a really good option and our listeners are getting 10 percent off the first month with discount code JORDAN. Jason, tell them where they can find that. 

Jason DeFillippo: [00:43:50] Yeah. Go get started today. Go to Simply fill out a questionnaire to help them assess your needs and get matched with a counselor you’ll love. That’s for 10 percent off your first month. 

[00:44:02] Thank you for listening and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers really is what keeps us on the air. To learn more and get links to all the great discounts you just heard, so you can check out those amazing sponsors, visit and don’t forget the worksheet for today’s episode. That link is in the show notes at Jordan If you’re listening to us in the Overcast player, please click that little star next to the episode. We really appreciate it. And now for the conclusion of our episode with Eric Thomas.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:44:33] So you’ve got to fight those influences in the kids that you talk to. How do you counter something like that? I mean, if kids see, I don’t know anybody, RiFF RAFF or other guys on TVs, like the literal worst example who is acting like thugs. How do you come back and say something like, “Actually, it’s cool to keep your promises and work hard and take responsibility for your actions and consequences”? Because it’s like, well, what track is that in? 

Eric Thomas: [00:44:53] For me, I was featured on Meek Mill’s album, Wins and Losses. And so the thing I love is that Meek says, “Yo, E represents this generation in hip hop.” You know what I’m saying? Like E is a part of this culture, so I’m going to put him on in his raw state of me being positive. And then as he’s rapping or other rappers rap. I just extrapolate the stuff that it’s congruent with what I’m talking about, so I don’t choose to talk about the murder and the son are drugs. I talk about Meek Mill’s right, Wins and Losses. If you are going to be successful in this life, you’ll take some losses. You can’t let that get you down. You’re going to get some wins. It’s just a part of, I think the year Brady went 16-0, they lost the Super Bowl. The next year they had a decent schedule and they won a Super Bowl. So wins and losses are a part of life. So I just tend not to focus on the negative. I pull out all the positive and I make kids focus.

[00:45:48] Now I also say to kids, let’s be honest. Look at the people that you look up to. Let’s measure. How many years of success are these guys have? You know what I’m saying? Like, let’s measure it. One-hit wonders that they last for three years, five years. So do you want your success to be three years, five years? Look at the people you look up to, look at their life outside of social media. What’s going on in their life? Look at some of the decisions they make. Is that where you want to end up? And if not, while I’m nowhere near perfect, let me be a modern-day example of a view of what happens when you live positive. You steal whatever these kids call it. Have some celebrity status, if you will. I’ve been married for over 27 years, went from GED to PhD. My son just graduated from Michigan State. My daughter’s at Michigan State. You see the people that I run with in terms of athletes, just everyday people. You see the success that I’m having.

[00:46:37] So I’m giving you an option. You could get with this or you could get with that. I’m giving you an option of mom’s 17 years old pregnant, south side of Chicago, grew up without my biological father. Where are you from? These are the choices I made. This is where I am at 47 now. Let’s just be honest. For those kids who watch me, the people who watch me, I’m not a one-hit wonder. Every year, the depth of the work, the reach of the work is global. So kids are seeing my stories with me and my wife enjoying ourselves, not divorced. It’s nothing against people who are divorced. Life happens. But kids are getting a see, “Yo, ET, is doing it this way, man, I liked the results. ET is good.” This guy, I liked the results he’s getting, but man seems like it only lasts three years or four years. Again, you could get with this or you can get with that. I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just providing a viable option to kids all over the world and saying, “You have choices. If I were you, I would choose the path that’s going to take you to sustain success.” 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:40] Sure. So if you zoom out far enough on the timeline, you can see who’s making good choices and who’s not. Because nobody’s like, my role model is DMX. Like that, it faded at some point after he goes to jail. And so the message of like drugs, guns, and money, sounds great when you’re zoomed in on the music — 

Eric Thomas: [00:47:56] Right on wax. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:47:57] On wax, and then you zoom out far enough and it’s like, “Oh yeah, he’s broke now. Oh, remember he got shot and then he went to jail and then they caught him with drugs and then they got on with drugs again.” Like you even look at OJ who is a huge role model for kids in the ‘90s and then you just think, “Oh yeah, but nobody’s trying to be OJ right now.” It’s just sad. 

Eric Thomas: [00:48:15] The story’s not over but not right now. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:48:17] And you can look at the choices that were made, like, oh, I didn’t mean to kidnap those guys and steal from them. It’s like, Oh man, you just look at that and you go, ouch. You just fell so hard. 

Eric Thomas: [00:48:27] I think the challenge though, you talked about that bubble we have to give kids options and say, hey, yes, this might be the path most travel, and this might be the path least traveled, but let’s measure it and let’s just see in the long run who has the most success. When I look at Martin Luther King and I’m like, wow, just celebrated his birthday a couple of days ago. This guy is no longer with us and his legacy — I look at Mother Teresa every time. I’m like, they’re a hundred? Okay, and this is amazing. All right. Forgive me guys for going on this soap box. This is unbelievable, though. They have like people, the top hundred people in the world, I’m like, “How did Mother Theresa keep making it?” There are people who are alive that are not making this list like I’m not trying to be funny, but they’re people who are alive and even in her death, her numbers, her stats are still better than people who are alive and active and well, and doing what they’re doing. So it’s like a Walter Payton, she’s like a Walter Payton and her own right, in terms of a humanitarian. Again, some of the people that you mentioned, three or four years, but a Mother Theresa, a Martin Luther King, we look at these people and we still go, “Wow. What humans they were?” And we’re still trying to be like them. So I just think in our era, and again, I do not compare myself to those people at all, but in this era, I think kids need to have a couple of outliers that they can look to and say it is possible to come from where I come from and still make it to where I hope to be. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:49:47] How do you tell people who in a disadvantaged situation that they can become a successful point to these outliers or these role models and then actually get them to believe you. It’s really easy to watch TV when you’re young and think I’m going to do that. But then you get older and you kind of, at least, I kind of go, “Oh, I’m not going to be on Beverly Hills 90210 or whatever.” Not that that was ever my dream, but if it were — 

Eric Thomas: [00:50:10] It was a good dream if it was.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:50:11] l I would have wised up at some point. But how do you get kids who are in that disadvantaged background to go, “Okay, so you mean to tell me that even though I’m 15 and I have a kid and my mom had me when she was 15 and I don’t know where my boyfriend is. Nobody’s helping me with this. You’re saying that I can not only get out of this, but I could go to college and get a career going. Like who? What are you talking about?”

Eric Thomas: [00:50:32] I think that most people who don’t think about what they can become, they’re on cruise control. I was on cruise control because my grandfather dropped out. My father dropped out. I dropped, I was on cruise control, and then one day I said to myself, “Oh, losing doesn’t feel good. I want to win.” So I think those individuals who don’t do well, it’s not that they can’t do well, it’s just they never reflect it. They never think. It’s just like, “Yo, this is the life that was given to me.” And I woke up one day and was like, “Yo, E, why are you taking what was given to you? You don’t take what’s given to you anything else.” And my cousin was telling me like, “Yo, here’s the shoes I wore for three years. Have these.” I wouldn’t take them. So why am I taking the academic legacy that my father gave me. No disrespect to my biological father. We have a relationship now, but he had multiple kids by multiple women. My grandfather, I never met, but he had multiple kids by multiple women. I was just like, “Yo, E, you don’t have to. You know how it felt not having your dad in your life.” Like as an adult, I’m 47 years old, it’s still painful looking back as a father who was there for everything my son ever did. Not having my father in my life. So it’s like, “Yo, E, you know what it feels like to lose. Why are you accepting it? At least try to win.” And honestly I don’t think kids who are disadvantaged ever wake up and say, “I can live in Beverly Hills. Like I can be a lawyer.” They don’t think.

[00:51:51] And the day I woke up and realized, “Yo, E, stop getting what they take you and go out there and make your own. Like even if you fail, do it on your own terms.” So I reluctantly studied for the GED and took the GED because my girl was leaving and said, “I’m not going to college and date you if you don’t come, like I’m breaking up with you.” So I got the GED and then I got the four-year degree. It took 12 years and then I got the masters. I didn’t think I can read or write enough to get it. Then somebody was like, “Okay, you got the masters. Go get the PhD. Try. If you fail, you try.” And I got the PhD and I was like I can do all these things if I try but I think those who are a disadvantage, you are not disadvantaged. In no disrespect when I talk about in my presentation, people like Tiger Woods who won his whole life, when he experienced his first defeat which I thought was his father’s death. To me, that was like this guy, his father had been there his whole life, and when he lost his father, it was like devastating. And I just thought him winning his whole life, winning early like that, that I just thought like tiger woods is a great dude. He just doesn’t necessarily have the tools to get back on his feet because he’s never really been like down. And so I tell people my homelessness is the greatest thing ever happened to me. I’m studying for PhD and guys are stressed out and they’re coming to me like, “Yo, E we got to take these exams. We got stats, we’ve got these tests.” I’m like, “Okay, and — if you don’t pass, you still get to go home. You feel good. Go to the movies. Still get to eat. Like what are you stressed out about?” But I realized that they had been so successful that they didn’t know how to take a loss. And for me, I hit rock bottom at 16, so everything has been up for me. 

[00:53:35] I remember doing voiceovers, it would take me an hour to do one line, and I was like, “All right, E, you can get through this. You ate out of trash can. Let’s make this happen.” Now I’m doing commercials, multiple commercials regularly. So I really think the disadvantage don’t understand, you’re not disadvantaged like you have made it through so much, and if you could just get up and start trying, and stop making excuses and stop taking what has been given to you and say, “Look, I’m about to write my own story.” And to those young people who are listening, that’s what the PhD was about. It was like with this PhD I can control my destiny a little bit more. You know what I’m saying? Because it’s not like multiple motivational speakers have PhDs. I’m like this is going to put me in a category where I can ask for the big bucks where I can ask for the first class, where I asked to stay in the Ritz. So I’m willing to go through whatever little pain I’ve got to go through for six years, so for the next 40 years I can live on my terms. That’s what I would say to kids, get to a place where you’re not a victim anymore and you’re pointing the finger, the live life on your own terms. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:39] It’s funny you should mention a car service thing because you’re assistant, I guess, had told my wife’s assistant, “Hey, are we going to get a car service for him?” And we were like, “How do we explain this without looking like super ghetto that we were like, we’ll call him an Uber, but it might be easier he does it.”

Eric Thomas: [00:54:55] If he does it by himself. Yeah, absolutely. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:54:58] I’m like, well, he’s from where I’m from, so he might understand that this is not happening.

Eric Thomas: [00:55:03] I was laughing because I went to the car dealership and they kept telling me, “Well, we’ve got the Q55,” and I’m like, “Oh, I’m good on that one, the Tahoe.” We don’t have any Tahoe.” I was like, “Give me an Impala.” “But we have a Q40s.” I said, “No, no, no, I’m sorry. I’m from Detroit. I like an Impala please.”

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:17] It’s like I just need to get there. I don’t even think fancy. I’m not trying to figure out how to use this like a European system — 

Eric Thomas: [00:55:22] I’m not, not in the car. I’m just trying to get from point A to point B. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:27] And then Jen’s like, “Do you think he’s going to be a diva?” I’m like, “No, no, no. He’s just used to being treated in a certain way because — ”

Eric Thomas: [00:55:33] He’s from Detroit, he’ll be fine. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:34] Yeah. I was like, he went to Michigan State, he grew up in Detroit. He’s going to be fine. 

Eric Thomas: [00:55:38] No disrespect at another school, but I went to Michigan State. It’s just like real normal people went

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:43] I went to Michigan and I wished sometimes I’m like, you know, I didn’t go to school with a lot of normal people.

Eric Thomas: [00:55:48] That’s the next level of Michigan. That’s the highest level you could go to. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:55:51] It was funny being there because I remember there were a lot of normal folks from where you and I grew up and there were a lot of — well, first of all, when I went to high school, everybody was white. There was like one black kid and we were like, “Oh, hi! Hi. How are you? Uh, all right, well, see you later.” Like, I don’t know how to handle the situation. I’m in a class where there are multiple racists in this class. We’re talking about issues today. Weird. And now retrospect, I just felt so bad for her because I’m like, how awkward is all this? But like growing up in that environment that going to Michigan and there’s like the Black Law Students Association and black students and the Indian and all this. And I remember thinking, I literally never thought about the fact that these other groups exist and have different views and have issues. But what was really strange for me, and I don’t know how it was at Michigan State, I had a lot of friends who went to state and they seem a lot more integrated. At Michigan, I can definitely say I had a few friends outside of the norm and I definitely had classes with like a girl from Ghana and we were pretty tight, but I don’t feel like I got more diversity experience really outside of that. I feel like I actually got almost more isolated because I felt like I was outside their world and I know they felt like they were outside my world because we grew up so differently.

Eric Thomas: [00:57:05] You know, man, all of our schools in Michigan have that makeup. You know what I’m saying? I’m sure. And just being from the African-American community, of course, my lens will be totally different, but I would say in terms of just being diverse like the state did it from me. And again, I was a part of the basketball program, part of the football program. Coach Izzo allowed me to come in and do some work, Coach Dan Antonio always opens the door. And so, you know, when you’re dealing with sports, it’s a different beast. It’s more of a comradery.

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:33] It’s the military or something.

Eric Thomas: [00:57:34] It is, way different. But I will say, I’ll never forget, I was in one class. I still to this day, don’t know how I didn’t get kicked out of the university, but I had a guy, a white male and a young lady had brought some cookies. I confronted him afterwards. He said he didn’t mean any harm, but I’ll never forget. He said to me, “Give me some cookies, cookie boy.” Bro. When you talk about yo — I was choking my man out. 

Jordan Harbinger: [00:57:59] I can see myself saying something like that and not having any clear that that’s affected you.

Eric Thomas: [00:58:04] That’s what he said. He was like, no, I didn’t mean anything by it. No, he was going to get some goodies. I was just teasing like, yeah, and we actually afterwards built somewhat of a relationship because we had to confront each other. And you know, it was a great dialogue where he got to understand my background and what boy meant. And then here’s the craziest thing. I went to Australia and in Australia, everybody’s like, “Hey, boy! That’s my boy!” I was like, “Whoa!” I told my boy, I’m like, “Yo!” He was like, “Yo, mate, we don’t even mean anything by that, mate!”That’s just a word. In our history, “boy,” that was a derogatory term. It stripped you of your manhood. And my man was like, “I just asked for some cookies!” Like, “I wasn’t really going there.” And so, you know, again, like you said, your lens, sometimes you can be sensitive. For real, there are times, and I heard a lady say it on CNN. You know that we do have to be cautious because well, sometimes based on your experience, you could think something is racism but it may not be racism. Then she was like, in some instances, it’s blatant racism. But that’s what Michigan state taught me is you have to, and I didn’t learn this just being honest from my grandparents or whatever. But I’ve learned you have to judge people for who they are and their character. Like you can’t lock people together and say that everybody in this ethnic background is this way and you can trust everybody grew up on the west side of Detroit were like. That’s not it. And Michigan state, I believe, prepared me to be a global phenom. 

[Jordan Harbinger: [00:59:33] This episode is sponsored in part by Michigan State University. They had to pay me extra because normally I only read Michigan. 

Eric Thomas: [00:59:43] This is what I love about the educational system. Like your teachers have experienced it all. That’s what I love about teaching. Like they’re great people. They could have been lawyers, doctors, engineers, whatever. And they come back and I always tell kids between a counselor, between a teacher, administrative principal, whatever, you have access to the entire world. You know, how many colleges are represented and one high school or one middle school. How many have gone, I mean, to a plethora of schools? So when you talk about touring, they could take, you talk about going out of the country, I’m sure during one of their spring breaks when they traveled outside of Florida or California. So they know the process. They can help you get the paperwork done.

[01:00:23] So anything you need, there’s not an excuse. There’s a teacher, there is a counselor, there is an administrator that can walk you through it. There’s the parent association, there’s a coach. Coaches traveled all over the world. You know, so there’s absolutely no excuse in. Let’s just be honest with technology, if you have a smartphone, you can probably fill out an application, passport application, or at least get started right there on your phone. So no excuses guys. You are not in fear when it comes to the basketball court. You willing to take anybody on. I don’t care how tall you are, how short you are when it comes to getting on that court or that field, you will take on anybody at any time. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that. I admire you for doing it. But don’t back down in the classroom. Don’t let a math test scare you. 

[01:01:09] Those of you who are in martial arts, whatever, like yeah, there’s a lot of you kids just not afraid to fight somebody else. So if you’re not afraid to fight another human, don’t be afraid to fight biology. Don’t be afraid to fight writing. Even if you’re not good at it, like don’t run from it. You face it and you let bullies know you might fight and you might win, but you don’t put up so much effort. You don’t want to go and deal with somebody else. You know, and I tell people I’m not perfect. I still have my struggles, but the one thing I will not do, I will not back down. I have phenomenal skill but I have a phenomenal will. And if you learn to fight it, you can get through anything, anything in his world. There is a blueprint. Somebody has written about it, somebody has left it in a book or in some video you can watch on YouTube, but just do me a favor. Stop fighting in sports. Stop fighting physically. And start fighting mentally and emotionally. 

Jordan Harbinger: [01:02:02] This is a great place to wrap, so I don’t want to screw that one up, but is there anything I haven’t asked you that you are like, Oh, we got to talk about this real quick? 

Eric Thomas: [01:02:09] The only thing is, I’ve been married 27 years, going on 28 this year. If you can find love, guys. Find that. I have two beautiful children that I adore. Money is good, travel is good, car is good — all that stuff is good, but there’s nothing like healthy, wholesome relationships. So if have you got a buddy you guys are close with, like stay loyal, whatever. I’m just saying relationships, your parents go back, show homage to your parents, but just don’t think that is just about the house, the car to stop if you have to do it alone. I don’t think it’s as sweet. Me going home and my daughter treat me like I was Michael Jackson when she was five, six years old. It meant the world to me. My son being at Michigan State and being a part of the basketball program and enjoying that experience with my son, he’s got an elite eight ring of final four, you know, to letter M jacket, like doing it with him. It was so much better than when I just went to Michigan State by myself. So look, relationships are key. Money has its place. Stuff has its place, but there’s nothing like being in healthy, wholesome relationships. So make sure on your journey to success, you don’t disrespect, destroy relationships because you’re trying to get rich. Take the people with you. It’s not lonely at the top if you take people with you.

Jordan Harbinger: [01:03:24] Big thank you to Eric Thomas. He is just such an energetic guy. As you can tell a great message. Really nice guy to be around. Great conversation as well. There’s a video of this interview on our YouTube channel at And also in the show notes, there are worksheets for each episode, including this one, so you can review what you’ve learned here from Eric Thomas. We also now have transcripts for each episode and those can be found in the show notes as well. 

[01:03:49] I’m teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course, which is free. That’s over at Don’t wait, don’t do it later. Don’t tell yourself you’re going to just do it at some point in the future. The number one mistake I see people make is postponing this type of thing, not digging the well before you get thirsty. Once you need relationships, you could be too late. You probably will be too late to make the ones you need in the moment. Procrastination leads to stagnation when it comes to your personal and business relationships, and you know that’s true because it rhymes. Definitely no cognitive fallacy there. These drills are designed to take just a few minutes per day. This is the stuff I wish I knew at 20, 30 years ago. It’s not fluff. It is crucial. It has been for my business and just in general. You can find it all for free at

[01:04:39] By the way, most of the guests on the show, they actually subscribe to the course and the newsletter, so come join us and you’ll be in smart company. In fact, why not reach out to Eric Thomas? Tell him you enjoyed this episode of the show. Show guests love hearing from you and you never know what might shake out of that. And speaking of building relationships, you can always reach out and or follow me on social. I’m at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram. 

[01:05:01] This show is created in association with PodcastOne and this episode was produced by Jen Harbinger and Jason DeFillippo, and our engineer is Jase Sanderson. Show notes and worksheets are by Robert Fogarty. Music by Evan Viola. I’m your host Jordan Harbinger. Our advice and opinions, and those of our guests are their own. And yeah, I’m a lawyer, but I’m not your lawyer, and by the way, I’m sure as heck not any kind of doctor nor a therapist. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. You know, sometimes I barely can hold my own life together, just like everybody else. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting, which should be in every episode. So please, share the show with those you love and even those you don’t. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen. We’ll see you next time.

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