Twenty-two years ago I would’ve never thought I’d be invited to give a commencement speech at JP Morgan Chase’s Fellowship Program, a 3-year leadership program for at-risk high-schoolers in New York.
But get this: just a few weeks ago there I was, standing at the podium, speaking to a room full of kids who were just like I was—a teenager with a life-changing question to answer:
Do I carry on through life letting inaccurate thoughts—dictators, as I call them— control me, or do I champ up and take control of my thoughts and my life?
It wasn’t the first time I spoke at JP Morgan Chase. Just a few months before then, I was invited to give a workshop and teach my UPRISE curriculum to the high schoolers. And it was good to see that those kids stuck out the program and had made it to the next stage.
But honestly, I knew things would only get more challenging for the students. “The fight starts right here,” I told the high schoolers of the Fellowship.
We spend too much time waiting for life to happen to us. Tomorrow, we tell ourselves. When in reality the fight starts when you’re least expecting it, like the time I stumbled across my mentor, Tommy Thai, who became like a father to me and taught me I had the capability of doing something more with my life.
Tommy believed in me when no one else did. And at JP Morgan Chase, I wanted the Fellowship to know that I also believed in them even if no one else did. In other words, I wanted to be there “Tommy Thai” because I saw in their eyes the potential to become champions in their own rights. But I reminded them that to become champions, they needed to take the first step.
Back in my amateur fighting days, bringing home the win for my son, Jube
And when they take that first step toward hunting down their dreams, they leave the past behind and embark on a new journey. It’s just like what martial arts did for me.
I needed to take that step off the streets and into the gym to start my journey. I wanted the Fellowship to know that they needed to step out of that conference room and onto the start of their own paths.
But I told the kids at the Fellowship that reaching goals isn’t easy. Life is going to knock you down. But you have to get back up. When I was a fighter, I was knocked out in front of my friends and family. There’s nothing more humiliating than that.
But I came back better than ever and won the first ever North American Super-Middleweight belt. The students might step out of JP Morgan Chase and face challenges and setbacks, but these challenges and setbacks will make them much stronger.
But growth will happen only if they realize that they can gain control over their lives by thinking correctly. And this is why I enjoyed speaking at JP Morgan Chase’s Fellowship Program commencement so much, because it gave me a chance to take all my years of mental training—thinking accurately—and handing those tools over to the next generation.