Home Behind the brand Taking lesson from Cornell Thomas – International Speaker and Author

Taking lesson from Cornell Thomas – International Speaker and Author

by Out and About Mag.

Cornell Thomas



Tell us a bit about yourself.

My father passed away when I was four years old, so I didn't get a chance to connect with him. It was my mum who raised five of us by herself, with no money. So, who I am is because of who my mum was and still is. 

My mum focused on solutions and not problems. She worked so many jobs that we didn't see her much. When she came home, she fed us, loved us, and put us to sleep. 

It wasn't till I was about 16 years old that I found basketball. I wanted to become a professional player, so my mum wouldn't have to struggle anymore; that was my purpose. And I got to that point of becoming a professional basketball player, but then I got injured. 

That was one of the hardest moments of my life because I felt like a failure. I didn't realise then that if I didn't stop playing basketball, I wouldn't be here with you right now.

What brings you to Dubai?

Well, the first thing that brings me to Dubai is my friend Maria, who is from Dubai. She's my concierge when I am here.

I'm also in Dubai to make an impact.

How did you get through that feeling of being a failure?

Positivity is not the absence of human emotion; it's just not living in negative emotion. So when I was injured, I was upset; I was angry. But then I started thinking about my mum and how she handles problems.

She always puts the solutions in front of the problems. So if you spend all your time on the problem, you never know what the solution is.

So I said to myself, "Okay, I injured myself. So what are you going to do next?" I went to the gym and started shooting from a chair, and I just started getting that mentality back. It did nothing for my basketball game, but it did everything for my mental stability. 

Cornell Thomas

What would the world look like if you realised your vision? Who would benefit, and who would suffer?

Real people would benefit. Fake people would suffer.

There'd be no media; that would be the first thing that I would do. The media, as it is right now, would be deconstructed. I'd give you real stories of real people. 

I would change the entire educational system, especially in the United States, for creating worker bees and not leaders and entrepreneurs or freethinkers.

And then I would go from there.

Where does your passion come from?

I've always been pretty driven, even as a young man. My work ethic comes from my mum.

I remember once my mum told me everything happens for a reason. That started framing my mind, in terms of problems and solutions. When I got injured, I lost that.

I was like, "Well, why would this possibly happen?" And the key to that sentence is that sometimes you won't figure it out until later. Sometimes you might not figure it out. For example, Martin Luther King was assassinated. He didn't see everything that he did, but long after, we saw that it was for us, not for him. 

Another thing that my mum told us was to always be grateful. 

What are you most afraid of, getting your way or not getting your way? Why?

I would say not getting my way because my way is pretty pure. So what I want in life is pure. I want to connect people; I want to connect the planet. I want to bring positive change. I want to change systems. So if I didn't get my way, that wouldn't be cool.

What do you spend most of your time doing?

I would say—outside of my family and playing with my kids—creating a lot of different things. So I'm working on a TV show; I have two podcasts, I have books, and I have a speaker's programme.

I just feel like the more you create; there is less stress. I love being in the creative process.

Cornell Thomas

What and who inspires you with awe and why?

There's a lot of people who inspire me. You inspire me, and I just met you. 

In terms of speaking, the first person I've ever heard speak was Les Brown. I was on a radio show with Les, like when I first started speaking, and Les inspired me because he looked like me.

He has this storytelling ability that is better than anyone that I ever saw to that point. I love the storytelling, I love his humour, and I love how he moves. He has swag! 

What are your top 3 tips for successful goal setting?

I think motivation is intrinsic. I don't think I'm a motivational speaker; I use the title because people will know what that is.

I can inspire you to action. I can inspire you to motivate yourself, but I can't just motivate you if you don't want to do something. And when it comes to goal setting, you have to understand that there are people that don't have goals. So the first thing you have to ask if you care is why.

Why are you happy just being in the rat race and doing the same thing every day, over and over and over again, and you don't set anything higher for yourself? And if that's the case, then that's cool; that's your life, you do what you got to do.

When it comes to setting goals, the first thing you have to do is you have to make them tangible. How do you make it tangible? You write it down. After you write it down, you have to say, "Okay, well, how do I execute this goal?" And then write an action plan.

The third and most important thing is, you've got to fully believe and work towards that goal because faith without works is dead. So you have to work towards it.

Is the old story that written goals are better than non-written goals true?

I do not think it is a one-size-fits-all situation.

I do both. So I have an action board in my room. Not a vision board but an action board. I love to visualise all the time, but I have an actual board in sight with words on it like "create" and "develop". It would be very nice if I had this.

Then there are times where I have a to-do list or to-do lists for my goals. So I am already doing this to-do list, and it sets my mind to working towards it. So I can do both…it just depends.

What does the end of your day look like?

Well, at 8:30 p.m. I play with my two kids, then put them to bed. I spend another half hour, 45 minutes creating, then I close my laptop. I also try to put my phone aside and give myself another hour to just chill, and then I go to bed. 

However, sometimes it doesn't work like that. Sometimes I get an email at 10 o'clock, and it is a big opportunity. Then I say, "Let me answer this real quick and then go". But, hopefully, by 11, I am already asleep. 

It was not always like that. I used to get 4 to 4 1/2 hours of sleep. But now I make sure I am asleep at 11 because I get up super early to workout, and then I go into the day.

Cornell Thomas

What's your view on journaling?

I think journaling works for some people. For me, I do not necessarily journal.

When I wake up every day, I say, "Thank you, God". That ability to wake up and see another day is an opportunity for me to make an impact. When I go to sleep, I say, "Thank you". So I don't necessarily write out things.

Gratitude is something that you practise. I don't have to write it down; I can show it. I can show you I'm grateful for this interview by following up and saying thank you so much; I had such a good time. 

Where are you with affirmations?

Well, it depends because you can have affirmations like, "I am beautiful" and "I am strong", but opposite every single day. There's a disconnect. 

So you're beautiful; stop using 35 filters on your Snapchat. You don't look like a cat; stop it. If you really believe you are beautiful, own it.

Look in the mirror for 60 seconds without flinching, without moving away. Look at you and see who you are. 

We have so many people on this planet who aren't good with themselves. If you're going to get good with yourself, no affirmation is going to help you get good with yourself. You got to figure out why you are not good with yourself and then take the action steps to get there.

You have your dream audience, and you have to speak to them tomorrow; what would you talk to them about, and why?

I would probably be talking to that audience about purpose.

There are probably billions of human beings who think there is no reason to exist,

and they don't think that they don't know why they exist. 

I always tell people, "Your life is not a linear thing. It is made with curves and 

roadblocks, but you are chosen".

In my TED talk, I said that to win the lottery is a 1 in 175 million probability, while

to be born is a 1 in 400 trillion probability. So you have to ask yourself, "Why am I

here?" There's got to be a reason.

I think once you know you have a purpose, life becomes a beautiful thing.

How do you manage stress? What techniques and tools could you offer people?

My fifth book is called Game Of Death: A Survivor's Guide To Entrepreneurship. It's all about entrepreneurship and the mindset of an entrepreneur. 

When it comes to entrepreneurship, mindset is the most important thing. You have to have the mental fortitude to get through the hard times. You are going to get punched in the mouth over and over; even when you are a millionaire, there is still going to be one thing that can cause your business to plummet. So you have to be able to get yourself up off the floor.

Another thing, your baby steps are still steps. So, even if you feel like you're not making leaps and bounds towards your goals, just keep going forward. Just keep moving forward, even if it feels like you're not moving anywhere. 

What has been your favourite book so far, and why?

I do have a favourite, First One. This is because it's the first one. 

In that book is everybody who has impacted my life and who has set me on the path that I am on right now.

If you had to write a story about yourself, it could be a book or a movie; what would it be called? Why would you give it that title?

I think I would call it 'Bouncebackability'.

I've had so many times in my life where I've been knocked down, and I've never thought about just laying on the floor. Even if I take one knee or grab onto something, I start pulling myself up.

I was raised by a lioness, so I'm taught to hit the floor and start working my way back up.

What's that quote that you live by?

I have a bunch from my mom, but I'll use one from Horace Mann. He said, "You should be ashamed to die until you score some victory for humanity". I love that quote because I don't live a life without purpose.

Realise that your purpose doesn't have to be saving the world; it could be taking care of your house, but don't live a life without purpose. That's what I live by.




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