Everybody wants success. Everybody strives for it, hopes for it.
The question is: how does one attain success?
This is where Tony Taylor, motivational speaker, life coach and leadership consultant, comes in. Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, his environment seemed to work against his road to achieving progress. He was surrounded by a loving family headed by an enduring single mother who worked day and night to support his sister and himself, with the help of his extended family. There was no lack of love between them. However, the unmistakable void caused by the lack of a father-figure still lingered. He soon grew resentful towards the circumstances of his life. He turned to his heroes: rappers and basketball players, as well as drug dealers whom he personally knew.
Tony grew up in what was labelled as the ‘Murder Capital’ – and it wasn’t given the nickname for no reason. Violence and drugs were the currency; Tony traded with it. He was no stranger to the sound of gunshots each night and the experience of being shot at. During his younger days, he despised going to school. To avoid skipping too many classes, he made bomb threats to empty the school out. He got into drugs and alcohol. He was both the bully and the victim, trapped in a vicious cycle, and was arrested twice.
Despite the rough circumstances under which he was brought up, Tony was still like most children in other aspects. For one, he loved sports. He got involved in basketball and football. Eventually he fell in love with boxing and subsequently took part in the National Junior Olympics Championships. It was the fight that appealed to him, both in and out of the ring, the drive to protect his loved ones and the underdogs simmering in his chest from a young age.
It was this drive that directed his focus towards doing the right thing. Tony considered dipping his toes in the drug business for a short time before realizing that he was endangering both his own life as well as his community’s well-being. At some point during his high school years – when he hadn’t been in school for over 3 months – Tony watched a television commercial on the U.S. Marines which depicted a battle between a person and a dragon. This person’s eventual triumph was what led to an introspection of Tony’s own life: he, too, had a ‘dragon’ to slay in his own life. And this dragon, he later discovered, was himself. A month or so later, Tony discovered his girlfriend at the time was pregnant. It was these events that set him on a quest to join the Marines, which, in turn, motivated him to finally go back to high school to obtain his diploma.
Being a Marine for two terms brought about the change Tony so desperately needed. It gave him a purpose, a goal to strive towards. However, character development doesn’t happen without a person taking two steps back every now and then. Tony’s marriage fell apart during this period. After leaving the Marines, he found himself homeless.
This was when he discovered the truth: his journey wasn’t complete.
“I don’t have a long, philosophical explanation to overcoming adversity,” Taylor says. “I think people think too much without taking action. Take action!”
Tony, now a single father, returned to school. He climbed the corporate ladder and became a Corporate Safety Director. However, once he attained this goal, he realized that his passion lay not so much in the nature of his given work – it in was the people he worked with. He centered his safety trainings and speeches around leadership and the methods of overcoming adversity. He recognized the dream that thrived within himself since his childhood: he wanted to add to the success of his community. Of his family. He stopped making excuses for himself by relying on the void left by his absent father. Instead, he took advantage of the men and women who were present in his life: his family.
Tony’s speeches didn’t just center upon job performances, but also his audiences’ personal lives. This moved people. They often approached him, relying on his experience to aid them with their personal and business-related issues.
The ‘Four Pillars of Success’ model is something Tony often relies upon in order to attain holistic progress:
- Your goal has to be something you want, not a dream which belongs to somebody else.
- Formulate a plan. Even if it’s a plan written down on a napkin – make a plan.
- Pursue your plan with the understanding that your plan is your life’s working document.
- Once a goal has been reached, you should reevaluate and prepare to work harder. Do it again.
“It doesn’t matter if it relates to business or [a personal matter]. The reason we do not progress is because of the inaction. We don’t move because we’re afraid,” Tony eloquently articulates. Tony’s difficult road has led him down a career path that involves working with several business leaders looking to fulfill their dreams in and out of the workplace. And this gives him fulfillment.
“In the next ten years, I would love to say that I have contributed to making a difference in thousands of lives.”
And indeed, perhaps attaining success is as easy – or tremendously difficult – as discovering which dragon is holding you back from your true potential, and subsequently slaying it. And then: do it again.