Turning life's mess into a message
Imagine a life filled with challenges and what seems to be insurmountable obstacles. It's not an easy task to rise like the Phoenix from circumstances that threaten our well-being and self-actualisation.
However, according to internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, author, trainer and talk show host, Johnny Wimbrey with hardwork, persistence, and an underlying belief that you are in control of your destiny, you can turn your failures into successes.
Wimbrey believes that anyone, regardless of their circumstances, can change their negative mindset, refocus and engage their entire being, fuelled by positive thoughts and energy to successfully rise from adversity to prosperity.
Wimbrey transformed his life from poverty and abandonment into wealth and opportunity, becoming a businessman, author and sought-after speaker in more than 30 countries. He has been featured on several prime time shows on ABC, NCB, Fox News, CBS, and most recently, The Steve Harvey Show.
"Where you have been has nothing to do with where you are going," Wimbrey told Outlook on a recent visit to Jamaica. "We all experience life's adversities in some degree. The question is how you will choose to respond. Your response is not your choice, it is your responsibility. You move from adversity to prosperity through the choices you make," he said.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Wimbrey faced many challenges and, at times, found himself in less-than-ideal circumstances. When he was three years old, his mother relocated with him and his two older brothers to San JosÈ, California, to escape an abusive relationship with their father.
"My father is a black man and was an abusive alcoholic. My mother, a white woman, decided to get herself and her children away from this man. At first, we moved from shelter to shelter, and then we settled into government housing," he recalled.
By the time Wimbrey started kindergarten, his mother decided to return to Texas, and this was where he had his first real memory of his father. "I saw my dad for the first time. He held me and my brothers all at once and screamed and hugged us so hard until it hurt. This is where we were transferred to our dad and for three years I didn't see my mom," he said.
"Mom said she would come back for us after two weeks. After three months she did not return and after three years, I convinced myself that she was, in fact, dead," Wimbrey said.
It was during this time that Wimbrey learnt the tenets of accountability, discipline, and how to be respectful. "We were quickly inducted into the hall of respect. For the first time in our lives, we got stability and life began to feel normal. I actually started the first grade and was settling in and doing well at school," he said.
However, this period of normalcy was short-lived as his mother did, in fact, return and without their father's knowledge, took Wimbrey and his brothers back to California. It was a tumultuous time for the young Wimbrey and as he recalled, they were going through too much at such a young age.
"We went from being loose cannons, to structure and stability, to being loose cannons again. We started failing school and my brother, Larry had already started to get into trouble. Willy was like my twin, but it was hard on us," he said.
It was only after his father had saved enough money to bring them back to Texas, that any sense of stability was restored. Wimbrey recalled crying for his mother as he boarded the plane, and in true dramatic fashion leapt from the stairway leading to the aircraft because he wanted to stay with his mother.
"She hugged me and told me that I would be fine and insisted that I go on the plane. I cried my heart out and was sombre for many days," he recalled.
For most of his teenage life into adulthood, his father raised him and his brother, Willy, while his brother, Larry, opted to live with his mother who had eventually returned to live in Texas. It was his fear of his father that kept him in check throughout his high school years, and although he got into a trouble too many times to mention, in his mind, he could not disappoint his father.
However, it was in high school after he lost a friend who was murdered during a cafeteria brawl, that Wimbrey's life changed permanently. He recounted that when the mother of the slain teen was able to verbally communicate during the wake that she had forgiven the person who was responsible for her child's death, her words awakened a new spirit within him.
"His mother had found forgiveness, and I decided that I, too, needed to change. I gave my gun to the preacher, Reverend James Fitzgerald and he said, 'you know you are not going to get it back' and I told him I knew. It was all so surreal as it was a gun I stole out of a car," he said.
It was during this period of bereavement that he also met his wife of now over 20 years - Crystal, who he credits for being an integral part of his transformation. "I prayed and I asked God to send someone in my life to steer me the right way. We met during the wake for my friend in 1993 and we were married in 1998. She exposed me to a different life and I am eternally grateful for that," Wimbrey said.
Straight out of high school, Wimbrey decided to start acting school, and for 18 months he attended school while looking for jobs that would not cause him to miss an audition. His first gig came as 'Pimp' in the play 'Man Child and the Promised Land' and from this exposure, he landed an agent and during that period of his life also worked in telemarketing and selling life and health insurance.
It wasn't by chance that he began making presentations. In fact, he was so good at it that when he learnt that Leslie Calvin 'Les' Brown American motivational speaker, author, radio DJ, former television host, and former politician would be visiting Texas, he pursued all available avenues to ensure that he got the opportunity to meet him.
"I met with him at his hotel and he invited me back to his presentation. At the time, it would cost me US$5,000 and I did not have that kind of money. I am not the type of person to ask for anything, but I took up the phone and asked my stepmother, Joyce, to help me and she agreed to assist me with US$2,500," Wimbrey said.
By the time he got off the phone with his stepmother, one of his friends from the 'hood' called him and he told him of his dilemma and he also helped with another $2,500. "This was an opportunity of a lifetime. Les put me on stage for 10 minutes, and afterwards more persons wanted to know more about me than any of the other speakers," he recalled.
Here began a great friendship between Brown and Wimbrey, and a mentorship that has lasted almost two decades. "One important thing is to learn to turn our failures into successes. Many people fail at something and decide that this is an end point. People who get what they want and achieve greatness simply look at a failure as a lesson, and try to see what can be learnt from it," Wimbrey said.
"Another simple way to learn how to get what you want is to learn from people who already have. Find a good mentor who will be honest with you about your strengths and weaknesses. See if someone will let you shadow them, as you may learn important skills from pure observation," Wimbrey added.
Despite his difficult years, Wimbrey transformed his life from a mess into a message, and now encourages others around the world to never allow their past to determine their future. As an inspirational speaker, motivator, and sales-training professional, Wimbrey has shared the stage with personal-development gurus such as Brown, Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, and many others.
He offers training and education systems along with personal coaching to help individuals, sales teams and companies, improve their bottom line and create prosperity.
In his book, 'From the Hood to Doing Good' (third edition), Wimbrey also gives individuals insight, information and encouragement on how to flip the switch to their future. "We are all designed to thrive and crave the thrill of increase. We only become fearful to move forward and advance after we are introduced to the reality of life's obstacles," he said.
While recently in Jamaica, Wimbrey recently gave his popular seminar 'Millionaire Mindset Mastery' at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston. Over the years, this seminar has armed thousands of people around the world with practical mindset changes needed to excel in today's landscape. His next stop will be Romania.
For more information on Johnny Wimbrey and his story of overcoming life's adversities to success phenomenon visit www.johnnywimbrey.com