Categorized | Advice

Montel Williams offers his Life Lessons and Reflections.

Posted on 16 September 2008

It was the early 1970s, the room was dim and the crowd was lively. The thumping sounds of funky tunes had the audience grooving and the band knew it. As the musical introductions went around the stage, there I was on bass. I was only about 15 years old back then, but I already had a taste for the world of entertainment and an idea of the hard work that it takes to be successful in that field. Who knew where it would take me?

Work Hard
Even behind the glitz and glamour of showbiz, there were a lot of responsibilities that had to be handled. I had to schedule time for rehearsal, ensure that my instrument was in good condition, keep my grades up, and–as a minor–I had to stay far away from trouble on road trips. At least I had to try. For a high school sophomore, having a chance to travel around Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, earning eight grand a year in addition to the other perks, made it worth the extra effort.

Looking back, I now understand why I have always worked so hard. That work ethic was instilled in me at an early age. As a child growing up in Baltimore, I remember my mother taking care of my sisters, my brother, and myself before she hurried off to work. While my mother worked two jobs, my father worked three and went to night school. They sacrificed and put in long hours to make sure that our family had provision. Ultimately, they worked their way out of a low-income situation.

There was no way that you could be lazy coming from a household like this. Around age 12 or 13, I knew that I needed money to hang out with my buddies. That’s when my independent streak whispered in my ear: “Hey buddy, time to get a job.” Too young to legally get a working permit, I put on my cap of ingenuity. After a small lie about my age, I was a part of the summer staff prepping food and washing dishes at the Red Rooster Inn Restaurant. While I don’t condone lying, it served a purpose at that time.

Be Determined
When you are really determined, I know that you can and will move all types of mountains to achieve your goals. That is why I disagree with the concept of being blocked by a glass ceiling. I know that glass ceilings really exist in the workforce, but there are only two ways to break through. You can try to punch your way through or you can use the old adage: A rising tide lifts all boats.

Be that rising tide. If you hit a glass ceiling, I challenge you to learn every intricate detail about your job and demonstrate that knowledge and work acumen that distinguishes you from your colleagues. You will see a difference. There are legal prohibitions against discrimination and modern day corporate America can’t hold you back forever. Discrimination still happens, but if you work hard and clearly demonstrate that nothing is going to stop you, then that glass ceiling will shatter as you rise.

In the military, I became adamant about displaying a serious work ethic as I moved up the ranks. After building a solid career as a Naval Officer, my motivational speeches to young people around the country led to the idea and development of The Montel Williams Show. Wanting to reach a larger audience with discussions of hope and resolutions, I knew that television would be the best medium. Without an agent or manager, I packaged the show and took it to the appropriate Hollywood executives. Although I did not have experience in television, I knew what I needed to make a successful transition into a new field.

I gained as much knowledge about the entertainment industry as I could. Compiling research and speaking to insiders who understood the business were keys to preparing for my negotiations. Leaping into this would change my life one way or another–so I had to go in understanding the ramifications. Just like anyone else who wants to change careers, I had to ask myself certain questions: “How is my life going to be different? Am I willing to accept the challenges involved? How long will I have to study to have a grasp of the field and the respect of my peers?”

Keep Learning
My time to negotiate had come, so I hired people who could help me build a foundation, pitch the idea, and secure a deal for the show. It all came together. Ten years later, I still get a rush from interacting with my guests, the audience, and learning. Learning is a major part of excelling at any job, but especially in entertainment. You need to be well versed in the information that you will be covering. People trying to break into this field should come with a vivacious appetite for knowledge. I won’t cover a topic unless I have learned at least as much cursory knowledge as my panelists.

This thirst for learning has spawned new ventures for me. The world is my safari adventure. I have established several new business ventures, including a Film/TV production company, a publishing company, a record label, three sports equipment patents, and partnership in a post-production facility and a sports equipment company.

My career has been bountiful, of course, but I have found a greater gift since dedicating 100 percent of my royalties from Life Lessons and Reflections to the Montel Williams MS Foundation. Giving back has been an important part of my life, and I firmly believe that with success comes accountability.

Success will also test one’s character. When you really achieve something, there will be people who want a piece of your success–and some will stop at nothing to bring you down. As my career began to peak, there were a few people who tried to destroy my success and it took a court of law to prove that they were liars. During those long days, I could have given up, but I held on to my integrity. It was a painful learning experience, but it reminded me that you can’t put a price on one’s dignity.

Now, when those challenging days surface, I remind myself that I am the only one that defines me. If you don’t define who you are, others will do it for you. You may even compromise your character to appease them. I define my own limits, strengths, and abilities to sustain my work level. That is the true secret of my success.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. payday loan says:

    Montel is very intelligent and determined. I think it’s amazing how he fights for what he believes true!! too bad he signed on the promote those fraudulent obama coins… everyone makes mistakes..

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