B.J. Armstrong – Executive Vice President & Managing Executive, Wasserman

Benjamin “B.J.” Armstrong joined Wasserman in 2007 as a player agent and was elevated to co-manage the Basketball Group in 2012. A certified NBA player agent with more than sixteen years of NBA experience as a player, front office executive, and agent, Armstrong is an invaluable resource to Wasserman. Armstrong’s clients include the 2011 NBA MVP and New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose, Golden State Warrior Draymond Green, and New Orleans Pelican Omer Asik. In 2012, Armstrong negotiated one of the biggest shoe and apparel deals in history between client Derrick Rose and Adidas.

Armstrong has an insight into the sport that only a former player can provide, playing a total of eleven seasons in the NBA and winning three championship rings as a member of the Chicago Bulls dynasty of the 90s. He was named to the NBA All-Star team in 1994 and later played for the Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets, and the Orlando Magic before finishing his career with the Bulls.

After retiring in 2000, he joined the Chicago Bulls front office, where he worked as special assistant to the executive vice president of basketball operations until 2005, when he left and became an NBA analyst on ESPN and a regular contributor to ESPN.com. A Detroit native, Armstrong currently resides in Los Angeles.

Tell me about your background.
I was born in Detroit, Michigan. I don’t think there’s anything outstanding about my childhood. However, I was always surrounded by family and given a lot of examples of what to do and what not to do. The big thing about my childhood that sticks out to me is the environment in which I grew up. Detroit was a lot different back then compared to how it’s portrayed now. I clearly remember a growing city with a lot of people who migrated to the area for work. What the North offered was the opportunity for people of color to work, provide for their families, and create a better life for themselves. All my family was here. That is what I remember the most. I had an environment that allowed me to speak not only to my parents every day, but also to relatives and to people who were close to my family. To me, that was a great opportunity. Positive. It was very positive for me in that way so that I learned what not to do, as well. I had a lot of people who would always encourage me to do better and to shoot for the stars. With that encouragement, it developed into empowerment. I always felt empowered knowing that I had people who were sharing information with me, whether they knew it or not, that was giving me a blueprint to be successful. That’s what I remember about Detroit. I always loved Detroit. Always cherished Detroit. It was a place where I grew and that gave me an example of what hard work is all about. It gave me an example of a city where people had opportunity.

What did your parents do?
Both my parents worked for IBM. They were just incredible people who worked hard. My mom made a big impression on me, showing me, from a woman’s perspective, how to raise a family and how to provide for a family. Be a woman. Be a mom. Be a sister. So I just always respected her for that. I respect all mothers, but now that I’m an adult, I say, “Mom, how did you do all that, working for us?” Something as simple as, every morning, she made sure she cooked breakfast for the entire family. She got herself together. Went to work. Sometimes drove us to school. Made sure we got home, cooked, and did all these things. Went shopping. It was a different time back then, and a different era, but she did it. We always joke and ask her, “When did you sleep?” So I was very fortunate to have both my parents, who are still married today. I’m very fortunate that my kids get a chance to see them and be with them and see the same example that I had.

When did you start playing basketball?
I can’t remember not playing basketball, and not enjoying basketball. I just always played it.

What drove you back then to become a great player?
I never tried to be a great player. That wasn’t my goal. I wasn’t interested in becoming a great player, or your idea of what a great player is. For some reason, I’m not interested in other people’s ideas when it comes to telling me what I can or cannot do. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. Some people say, “Well, I want to be a great player.” I say, “What’s the blueprint then? Do I have to shoot three pointers? Do I have to play a certain way? What does a great player look like?” No one knows. So what drove me to become a great player is I enjoy competition. I still enjoy it. So to be quite frank and forthcoming, in every game I ever played in, even in life today, the score is always 0-0. I’ll let the people watching the game and who can’t play the game keep the score. Give them a job to do. Every game I play in, the score is always 0-0. I don’t win. I don’t lose. I enjoy the competition. I learned how to play the game on the playgrounds. I didn’t learn the game in basketball camps. I didn’t learn the game doing individual workouts. My father said, “If you want to play this game, go play the game in its raw form, but learn how to play it before anyone else tells you how to play it.” So he encouraged me to play pick-up basketball as much as I could because he said I would learn the game in its purest form. I’m not going to learn how to be a skilled player or a workout player. I want to learn how to play the game and compete. That’s what the game is. You compete. Anyone who plays the game on the playground understands that, as soon as you lose a game, the first thing you say is “let’s play again,” because you have to compete, and only the people who learn how to compete will actually survive in that type of environment, because if you win, there’s always the next game. There is no game over. I learned that very quickly on the playground. I learned there’s no fouls. No such thing as right or wrong or being fair. You make the out of bounds where the out of bounds is. Once I was able to play with rules and regulations, the game, to me, was incredibly easy and simple because I learned how to play in an environment where physicality was better on the playgrounds and the speed of the game was faster. That’s what drove me then, and that’s what drives me today. I love to compete. It doesn’t matter what game, whether it’s cards or handball. In our house, it’s a competitive environment. That’s what we do. You show up, and you play. You compete. That was what drove me then and what drives me now. A lot of people say things like, “Oh, I’ve got to work on my game, and do that.” Look, all you have to do is go to the playground. Everything that is weak about your game, you will find out instantly. Anything that’s strong about your game, you will find out. So I never went to a basketball camp. I owe my success to the city of Detroit because that’s where it came from. It showed me how to compete. It showed me how to get up every time I fell down. It showed me how to go out there and find a way to get things done. So that’s what motivates me.

What was your practice schedule like in the early days?
I just got up and played.

Every day?
Every day, you got up and played. You went wherever the games were being played. Again, it was a different time. There was no Internet or cellphones. You went where the best games were being played. That’s what we did. We were always looking for the best players. That’s how I learned to play. You went and accepted all challenges on the streets.

Did you always know you would play in the NBA?
I didn’t know anything. I just knew that those kids going to school weren’t better than me. I just knew those guys playing in the NBA, when I saw them in the summertime, weren’t better than me. That I knew, because that’s all I could see. I didn’t know the business of the NBA and didn’t pretend to know it. I just knew that every summer, when those guys that were supposed to be NBA picks went away to college, they would come back and I would evaluate myself versus them, and I was honest with myself. I knew they weren’t better than me. That I knew, so I didn’t worry about it. I just knew what I knew and didn’t worry about what I didn’t know and just kept believing that I will continue to pursue whatever it is I thought I could do, which is compete, show up, and give myself an opportunity and give myself a chance. I knew those were good players, and I wasn’t cocky about it, but I always maintained confidence in my abilities. Always maintained confidence in what I could do. When guys would make it to the NBA from the city that I played against, it just gave me more confidence. I knew what I had to do and what I could do. I just had confidence knowing that if I worked and did my thing, then I would have a chance. I was always happy when guys made it, because it just gave me more confidence that I was on the right track.

Why did you choose the University of Iowa?
First, I thought it was good for me to leave home. Growing up in the city, I thought that was good for me. I just met great people there who fit who I was. I had a chance to go to a number of schools, but the people in Iowa are what sold me. It wasn’t recruiting. From the minute I stepped on campus, I just met great people who fit my personality and the type of people I wanted to be around. For whatever reason, even when I was young, I always look at people and their environments. Those were the type of people I felt comfortable with, and I still have many people from there who are friends with me to this day.

What pregame rituals did you have?
I clear my mind of everything. I felt that was my responsibility to my teammates. I felt an enormous amount of responsibility to have my mind present every time I stepped onto that floor to play the game. I feel that responsibility to be present wherever I’m at, and I hold myself accountable to that. Whatever I have going on off the court, that’s there, but every time I come to a team setting—my marriage, my kids, my work—I’m responsible to be present. My pregame was to clear whatever was going on, for those forty minutes in college or for those forty-eight minutes in the game, and be present. I’m sure we’ve all seen this, where people are there but talking on the phone and just not there. For this interview, for example, I want to be present. Clear off everything to this moment where there’s no more distractions. Every opportunity I have in a group setting, where other people are depending on me and I’m depending on them, I have to be present. That’s my responsibility, and I hold myself accountable to that level of excellence knowing that I was there and gave everything I had. That’s what I did every game. I didn’t worry about how well I was going to play or if I would shoot well. That’s ridiculous to me. What was more important to me is “were you there and did you have the courage to be present, knowing that we went out and fought together?” With that, I could always accept.

Losing streaks. Whether it’s missing a number of shots in a row or games, what would you do to get your confidence back?
You could never lose it. How are you going to lose something? You can’t gain something that’s already there. Most people are always trying to gain something. They’re trying to get something. Trying to get, get, get. We’re in a society where we’re always trying to get. When I was young, a coach told me one time that I needed to improve my shooting. You see, as a kid, I was very stubborn. My dad, in my mind, had given me the blueprint. My dad didn’t tell me how to play, so why am I going to let a coach or someone else tell me how I should play? Once my dad empowered me to go find out who I was, I had to answer that question: “Who am I?” I had to answer it. So it was impossible for you or anyone else to tell me what I could or couldn’t do. My dad didn’t tell me who I was, so how could you? You don’t know me. So I never learned about getting things. I just learned about not allowing things to get in my way. I just eliminate things. I don’t worry about getting confidence. Why am I going to get confidence? All I have to do is not let doubt seep in, not let the fear of what’s going to happen if I don’t make the shot. So I don’t try to get anything. Everything that is needed, I have already. I just have to not allow my mind to doubt. Not allow me to become insecure about who I am and who I’ve become. So I don’t let things get in my way. I eliminate things. That’s part of my process of making sure that I’m responsible for the people I have a responsibility for. I have a responsibility to not walk away from every fear I’m confronted with. Of course, I’m going to be nervous before a game. However, I have a responsibility to show up and play. So confidence, to me, is not about gaining confidence. It’s about not allowing all the negative things that come up in your life get in the way. So I learned quickly it’s not about what you can get, what you can do, or how many shots I take. It’s not about any of those things. It’s about knowing what not to do, and I learned not to let you, or anyone else, tell me and put limitations on myself. People telling me what I can and cannot do is a distraction to me. I would imagine it would’ve been a distraction for you to tell Picasso he couldn’t become a great painter. Or Pavarotti that he couldn’t sing. Those are distractions. If you told Michael Jordan he wouldn’t become a great player, that’s a distraction. You are who you are. It is what it is. The only limitations you can place are the ones you put on yourself. So my whole idea about playing was competing. Every opportunity that I had a chance to play, I had an opportunity to look at the results of competing. I won or I lost. Now, so every day, I was able to look at myself and look at the results. So my only focus every day was winning. It wasn’t how many shots I made, my confidence, or how many rebounds or assists. Every single day, every single game, I had an opportunity to look at the results of my ability to show up and play. With that, what could you possibly say? You couldn’t say anything. So the empowerment that was given to me early on just gave me everything that I needed, because I had everything I needed for the trip I was about to go on in my journey. I just had to make sure that mentally I was strong enough to not allow people outside of myself to tell me what I could and couldn’t do.

Did having Michael Jordan make your job easier or harder?
The mind is a very interesting tool, because it loves to share and do things after the fact. After the six championships, after the game is over with, then the mind begins to tell what it knows and what it doesn’t know. Here’s what the mind tends to omit. You didn’t know that was Jordan when you were watching him then. That Jordan now that you’re talking about wasn’t the same Jordan in 1990-1991. He didn’t win anything yet. He was just another young kid in shorts and a tank top, just like the rest of us, running around, playing a game we all loved. So how didn’t we know if it was easier? Because he wasn’t that Michael Jordan yet. Evolution teaches that people evolve. He evolved into all those things you read about, but you never saw him play. There was no DirectTV. Every game wasn’t on television. You didn’t see him play. You only heard about him. You read about him. You saw highlights of him. There were no cellphones back then. So the access of knowing who Michael Jordan was, you didn’t have. You didn’t see him play. How could you see him? What channel was he on? You did not see him. So the greatest player, you did not see. You heard about how great he is, but you didn’t see him as much as you see LeBron James or Steph Curry. So, did it make it easier? Well, nobody knew who he was. He was a good teammate. I didn’t walk in and say, “That’s Michael Jordan.” We didn’t know him. He didn’t win any championships yet, so how did we know? The mind wants to project on something then that we didn’t know. We didn’t know who he was going to evolve into. What we did know is that he showed up to work every day. When we lost in the playoff rounds together, he was willing to come back and continue to fight and have the energy that was necessary to compete. All the other things, who knew it? Nobody would ever imagine that Michael Jordan would evolve into the player that people consider to be one of the greatest ever. So did it make my job easier? No. Now I could look back and say, “We had a good time. Good run at it.” Clearly, he was a phenomenal talent. Clearly, he was a great teammate. But I can assure you that the public didn’t see it because there wasn’t access yet. They didn’t have a chance to see him.

How did your practice schedule change when you made it to the NBA?
My preparation had already taken place in Detroit. There was no pressure once I got to the NBA. The big leagues were every time I went home in the summer to make sure everyone respected my game. I didn’t worry about money. Money was nothing to me. I grew up with no money, so money meant nothing to me. Means nothing to me now. Nothing. So, for me, it was about respect. I give everyone respect. I don’t want your money or fame or to be your champion. I didn’t want to be any of that. I don’t want to be famous or become some celebrity. I have a responsibility to tell young people that those are all just fantasies. It’s not true. So all those things, money and all that, keep it. Now, with that comes respect. With respect, everything that’s needed is there. I respect you as a human being. I respect you as a person. I respect what you do. I respect your job. When anyone doesn’t respect you, then that’s when you have to fight for what your respect is. So, for me, all those things, playing in the championship games, what’s the pressure? It’s about respect. When I went home, my people that I grew up with, in my neighborhood, respected the fact that I represented them and the way we do things here. When I go home now, it’s about respect. People don’t care about how much money I got or how famous I am. When I go home, people know that B.J. is B.J. That’s a responsibility I have. What is fame? I’m not buying that one. So now I got money. I’m not buying that one, either. Now I’m a celebrity? I’m not buying that. I have a responsibility to tell people that and to be who I am.

Do you believe in the Law of Attraction?
I don’t believe in the dualities of life: positive and negative. For example, if I say right, you can easily say left. If I say up, you can say down. If I say cold, you can say hot. So I don’t believe in positive or negative. If you have the capability and courage to see life for what it is, there is no opposite to the truth. For example, wherever there’s light, you cannot put in darkness. In the daytime, it is impossible for you to put in the dark. The night. There is no opposite of light. How light interacts with your environment is impossible. With darkness, it is possible for us to shine in some light. Light is not the opposite of darkness. It’s just the absence of it. That’s how I see the world. If there’s light, what are you going to say? It is what it is. I’m not interested in the dualities of this versus that. That person versus this person. It is what it is. Now, can you get to that? That’s where I’m at. It’s impossible for you and me to disagree. But it is possible for you and me to arrive at the truth, in whatever fashion that is, that we determine is the best way for us to get there. As we are all continuing to evolve, people will get there at their own time. There’s only one truth, but we can all form our opinions and share our thoughts and do all those things, but it is impossible for us to live in the dualities. I’m a Democrat. You’re a Republican. I’m black and you’re white. Whatever it is, everybody can always play that game, but let’s just arrive at who we are and what it is. If it is what it is, I focus in on truth. My truth, and I hold myself accountable to it. I’m self-correcting. That’s just what it is for me.

Do you set goals?
No, I don’t need goals. I figure out what it is I want to do, map out the best way to do it, and I do it. I accomplish it. I don’t need goals. This is what I want to do, and then I do it. You see, success has no failure. Success doesn’t have an option. If you set out to do something and it has to be done, it will get done. So the first time you hit a speed bump or a roadblock, you give up? That’s not success. Anyone who has ever been successful found a way to get it done. So if you want to become a great writer, you will find a way to do it. You will find a way. Now other people will say for you to give up, but you will do it if you set out to do it. If you were hungry enough and you want some food, you will get some food. You will get it, but you have to be hungry enough to do it. Most people aren’t hungry enough, so I don’t need a goal, or motivation. I just need to figure out what it is I want to do and then set my mind to find a way to do it.

What are some quotes that you live by?
I try to eliminate any distractions that I have. Anything that gets away from being present. So I don’t have any quotes but just reminders, like what’s the fastest way to get to a place, from A to B? Straight. Just go there. Straight and narrow is the path. I don’t want to waste any more time. I don’t wear a watch. I don’t want to waste any more of my time or your time. What’s the quickest way to get there? Straight to it. Waste no time. I constantly remind myself to go right into it. Quit messing around browsing the Internet. Quit messing around having meaningless conversations. Quit messing around doing things just because you’re procrastinating. Straight and narrow. Go right at it. Waste no time. Get rid of the watch. Get rid of all those things and go right at it. Go for it.

Talk to me about your retirement from the NBA.
I didn’t retire from the NBA. I knew what life demands of me, which is to transition. You’re in constant transition. For example, from high school to college, from college to your adult life, from your adult life to having children. At thirty-four to thirty-five years of age, you transition to another part or phase of your life. That’s a fact. Now, I can talk to you about the transition. Retiring? What did I retire from? It’s impossible. The body doesn’t work that way. I can talk to you about my transition, from that phase to this phase. The preparation was done years ago for the transition to the next phase of my life. So I don’t look at anything as you retire or you stop. You never stop. Stop knowing what? Life goes on, with or without you. When I hear words like stop and retire, what did you retire from? Who gave you something? I’m not looking for anyone to give me anything. The NBA was a partnership, and I transitioned from that phase of my life to the next phase. I’m now closing in on fifty years old. I’ll transition into that. I continuously transition and move on. That’s the rule of the universe. Keep it moving. Don’t ever violate that rule. The universe never stops. Never will. Never has. It’s infinite. Therefore, I’m going to continue to do what I do: keep it moving. The universe never retires. It transitions. It moves on. So this was one big transition to me. Change is life. Life is change. So you keep changing with it.

How did you transition to the sports agency business?
It just evolves. My curiosity is what brought me here. My curiosity for how business and sports come together. It’s some type of hybrid. I was just curious. I didn’t grow up with a lot of money. I didn’t grow up in that world, but I’m very curious. I was always very curious. How can they afford to pay me this money? What are they really doing? How are arenas being built? How are they putting us on these airplanes? How are all these shoe companies involved? How did television come into play? I was very curious. So that’s what brought me here: my curiosity.

How was the transition?
What I remember about when I started this was all the things I didn’t know. I began to realize the business and all of the things that were happening around me I wasn’t aware of as a player.

What is your primary source for new clients?
I take stewardship over the people I work with. I don’t want any referrals. I don’t want any help. The stewardship is making sure I identify two things with every client I work with: 1) Does he have the talent? Talent is defined as something you can do every single day. That’s your talent. If there’s eighty-two things, I try to identify something that each one of my clients can do every single day. That’s a talent. Some people have a talent for rebounds. Some people have a talent for blocking shots. Some people have a talent for shooting. So you have to identify talent. That’s what I do. What can you do, every single game, and that’s what you can do on a consistent basis? That’s a talent. 2) Then I identify toughness. You can’t make somebody tough. You either have it or you don’t. So I identify two things and I take stewardship over that. So every player I take as a client will be talented and tough. Every single one. Whether it’s a Draymond Green, a Derrick Rose, or a Denzel Valentine. Every single one of them is going to be tough. So with that, I take stewardship. I don’t want referrals because the way you see the game may be different from the way I see the game. There’s too many people who are always looking to promote themselves. This isn’t about me. It’s about allowing the game to be what it is. Some people may look at Michael Jordan and say all these great things. I saw only two things: incredible talent and incredible toughness. Without the toughness, the talent means nothing. You saw Magic Johnson. I saw incredible talent and incredible toughness. When you look at the great players in this league, there’s a common thread. When you look at successful people in life, there’s a common thread: toughness. So I look for that. If there’s anything that I recruit or I take stewardship over, it’s toughness. I look for the toughness every day, because the tough people know that “tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” So I look for that. I look for the people who won’t accept no as an answer. So I don’t want any referrals because I know a lot of people don’t understand what I’m saying. People talk about it. They give motivational speeches about it, but toughness recognizes itself on its user. Everybody knows the tough people when they see them. I’m not here to act like I’m the toughest person on the planet. I’m not talking about that type of toughness. I’m talking about the type of toughness where you have the ability to do what you say you’re going to do. That’s toughness. So I don’t want referrals. I don’t want people telling me who can and cannot play, because everyone is not looking for that common thread. I look for talent and toughness, and those are the people that succeed.

What do you believe your clients care about the most?
Basketball. That’s what they care about. Everything that will come is a result of how they are prepared for their profession. People get complicated in life and say, “I want to be a mentor.” No. Everything is going to come as a result of your preparation and dedication to your craft. Everything. That’s it. So that’s what they care about the most: basketball. This is what we do. Basketball. How am I going to do my job as your agent if you’re not dedicated to your craft? It’s impossible. So let’s stop acting like it’s something different. You’re great and dedicated to your craft, so all the things will come as a result of that. That one thing, so let’s get right to it.

How do you define success?
Success means nothing to me. Nothing. That word is meaningless. It’s only what you put on the word. Again, as I stated earlier, what’s success? Do I have to be Michael Jordan in order to become successful? It’s only what you put on the word. What do you put on that word? Once you study words, then you study definitions. Once you study definitions, then you study interpretations. Once you study interpretations, you begin to study translations. So success is what you put on it, which is a subjective answer. It’s subjective. There’s no standard meaning of success throughout the world. For better or for worse. I’ve travelled the world, therefore I understand it’s impossible for us to have a standard of excellence in the English translation. There are many cultures, so these types of questions, to me, are meaningless. So it is possible for people to be who they are and do what they do. So when I see people, I say, “Do what you do.” Every one of my players. Every one of my clients. “Do what you do. Be who you are.” But do you have the discipline to do that every single day? If you’re supposed to be a rebounder, then rebound every day. Do what you do. Do it every day. Be a rebounder. Be consistent. Be a consistent, ten-rebounder-per-game player, but do it every single day. Do what you do. Say what you’re going to do, then do it. What more can you ask? Do the best job you can do. So people give these terms like success and have a kid thinking he has to reach goals that aren’t attainable, like they have to work harder. No. Just do what you do. Whatever it is you do, that’s good enough. What’s wrong with that? Everyone can’t be Michael Jordan. What’s wrong with that? Everyone can’t be Magic Johnson. What’s wrong with that? Everyone can’t be President Obama. What’s wrong with that? Everybody can’t shoot the ball like Steph Curry, so what’s wrong with that? You want me to say that if you shoot fifteen hundred shots, you’ll be able to shoot like him? Well, no, you won’t. So travelling has given me a perception of the world that is now beyond what they say it is here in American culture. So a kid who grew up in Sudan, how would he define success? Probably a little different from a kid growing up in Australia. Probably a little different from the kid who grew up in the Caribbean. Probably a little different from the kid who grew up in Brazil. It’s different from a kid who grew up in Los Angeles, and it’s probably a little different for a kid who grew up in Idaho. So I’m very fortunate to have been able to expand my mind to know that it’s a trick question. Success. People can’t define it because nobody knows what it is. The best thing you can do is put your spin on it. You can tell me what somebody else did and hold everyone else up to the same standard. This person won three championships and this person won four championships, so does that mean he’s better? Again, that’s the dualities of the world. Save me that argument. That’s meaningless to me.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
That no one knows anything. No one knows. Humble yourself to know that you don’t know. When you humble yourself that you don’t know, that’s the greatest lesson I’ve ever learned. You don’t know. I don’t know anything. But guess what I know about you: you don’t know anything. I don’t know anything. It’s a humbling experience to know that I don’t know anything. Because I don’t know anything, I have to respect every time I’m in touch with knowledge. I respect intelligence. I respect other people. I respect the fact of how hard you had to work to get to where you are today. I respect all these things, because I don’t know. I don’t know your story. I don’t know your history. So I respect the fact that none of us know. It’s how you deal with not knowing that determines your level of happiness. There’s an infinite amount of places that you can choose from, so that’s the greatest lesson. I don’t know anything, and I respect that, every day.

What advice would you give to young athletes?
Do what you do. Do what you do. Do what you do. It’s an enormous amount of pressure and, to some, that may sound like a very simple saying. Some may get it. Do what you do. It puts an enormous amount of responsibility on someone who truly understands what that means. Do what you do. Don’t come to me and ask me what my secret is. There is no secret. There is no secret to hard work. I don’t have a secret or anything that I did special that was out of the ordinary. Do what you do. It’s a very powerful statement. It will force you to go into the depths of who you are as a person. It’s going to force you to look inside of yourself. It’s going to force you to evaluate who your friends are. It’s going to force you to evaluate everything you thought to be true. I don’t have any secrets to how I got here. I work at it, and I still do, every single day. Everybody works hard on things that are important to them. I do what I do.

Do you believe the American Dream is dead?
Let me tell you a quick story. My grandfather grew up in the South and shared a lot of stories that you don’t read about in American history. When I went to school, I read about the Revolutionary War and all these great things about America. Being black here in America, you learn that there’s history that wasn’t told. There were experiences that were told growing up in the South that you just don’t read about. My grandfather challenged me at a very young age. At eight or nine years old, he asked me what I dreamed about. I told him what my dream was the previous night. He said, “That’s interesting. I want you to do this. You’re up right now, right?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “So you’re conscious? You’re conscious now, but when you’re asleep, you’re unconscious. Right now, you’re up, aware, and you’re conscious?” I said, “Yeah, I’m up.” He said, “What are you dreaming up right now?” I said, “I can’t dream right now because I’m not asleep.” Now, that was a very powerful thing for me back then, as it is now. It’s impossible for me to dream when I’m awake. I’m awake now. My eyes are open. I don’t have any more dreams. I don’t have any more belief patterns. No more hopes. I’m awake now. I’m in a very conscious state, twenty-four hours a day. Now, it was important for me then, and it’s important for me now. I don’t know what the American Dream is. It’s impossible for me to dream when I’m awake. So when it comes to all those types of things, wake up. Go do it. Go do what you do. Go do it. I’m not here to dream about what I could be. No, I’m going to do and be who I’m supposed to be. So that’s my dream story. I didn’t come here to dream. I’m not here for people to give me anything. This world owes me nothing. I have everything I need right here and I create the opportunities I see fit that’s best for me. That’s what I do. I do what I do. All that dreaming? No. Nothing has ever come to me in a dream. Nothing. That’s my dream. I learned that very young from my grandfather. He didn’t have an education, but he was conscious enough to know that everything he was looking for happened for him when he was awake. So he maximized his time when he was conscious. Every time he was awake, he was doing what he had to do. I’ve taken that with me every step of the way. I’m awake now. So the people who dream may know something I don’t know. But nothing has ever come to me in a dream. Nothing. It only happens when I’m awake, so I stay awake. I’m up now.


This interview is an excerpt from American Dream: Interviews with Industry-Leading Professionals by Jason Navallo.

This interview was conducted for research purposes by Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.