Why I Still Rehearse Before Every Speech

I’ll never forget when my friend and amazing spoken word poet Joshua Bennett was reminiscing about a speech he gave during his early years of performing.

“Man, I thought I could just go up there with a topic and get my Malcolm X on,” Joshua laughed.  “But winging it was definitely not the best idea.”

Early in my speaking career, I used to have a similar mentality.  I thought that confidence, familiarity with my subject matter, and good intentions would be enough to produce a great speech. 

Looking back on it, I see that my ego was getting in the way of creating the most impact possible for my audience.

Posted on October 22, 2015 .

Worrying Is Not Productive

Why do we feel like worrying about something makes us better prepared for it? 

As a student, I used to worry all the time about tests.

As an adult, I worry about work and finances.

As a perfectionist, I worry about all of the things I’m not doing perfectly. 

Something about the worry feels productive.  Somewhere along the line, I think I internalized a story that says, “If you care about something, you worry about it.” 

Posted on September 28, 2015 .

Beauty In The Breakdown

Greetings friends!  I just got back from doing 15 motivational assemblies and workshops at K-12 schools in California, Nevada, and North Carolina over the past 2 weeks.  The students were amazing, and it was such a privilege to speak, rap, beatbox, and dance with them.  

As I was reflecting on the experience, I thought about how different I felt before and after the tour. 

When preparing to go on the Hip-Hop Motivational Assembly Tour, my business partner and I did some major construction work. 

Posted on September 10, 2015 .

A Year Of Hip-Hop Motivation

     Watch the Video! "A Year of Hip-Hop Motivation" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #52)

One year ago, my business partner and I came up with a fun idea as we were starting our hip-hop motivational work: 

What if we did a motivational blog post and recorded a rap video each week to inspire students and adults to live happier, more fulfilled lives? 

We started filming in my living room with an iPhone and turning the TV into a teleprompter for me to read the lyrics while I rapped. 

Posted on August 20, 2015 .

Has the Scarcity Mindset Taken Over Your Life?

     Watch the Video! "Scarcity" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #51)

When we think about the idea of scarcity, we often think of physical scarcity. 

We don’t have enough food to eat.  We don’t have enough money to buy the things we want.  We don’t have enough natural resources to support our energy consumption.

But scarcity can also be emotional. 

We don’t have enough love in our lives.  We don’t have enough friends who really care about us.  We don’t have enough people who understand us. 

Posted on August 13, 2015 .

Are You An Emotional Hoarder?

    Watch the Video! "Clearing" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #50)

One of my personal mottos for the past decade has been: “Rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it.” 

This motto has often helped me in life.  For example, when I was living in England, it only took one day of sun-to-crazy-rainstorm-in-30-minutes to leave me both drenched and resolved to always be prepared.  Thereafter, I always carried an umbrella, even if it was a perfect sunny day.  It saved me on numerous days when other people were a little too optimistic about the British climate. 

Posted on August 6, 2015 .

Living From The Inside Out

    Watch the Video! "Inside Out" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #49)

I love Pixar’s new film Inside Out, which depicts the inner emotions of a girl named Riley who is moving to San Francisco.

The film is brilliant and hilarious for many reasons, but I particularly loved the constant struggle the emotions face to interpret the events that occur in Riley’s life.

The move to San Francisco is an event that isn’t inherently good or bad. The various emotions (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust) constantly respond to stimuli in Riley’s environment to create an emotional story about what the event means.

Posted on July 30, 2015 .

Modern Man's Hustle

     Watch the Video! "Modern Man's Hustle" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #48)

In my doctoral dissertation, I researched how immigrant youth (especially men) in European countries were using hip-hop culture to form their identities and communities.

Stuck between their parents’ home culture and their new surroundings, these young people often turned to hypermasculine forms of hip-hop to give them confidence in an uncertain world.

Posted on July 23, 2015 .

What I Learned From Nearly Dying In CrossFit

     Watch the Video! "All I Need" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #47)

I thought I was doing great during the Monday CrossFit workout. 

I had just bench-pressed 125 pounds, which isn’t a lot for many people but was good progress for me. 

The two guys I was lifting with felt good about going up in weight, so we put another 20 pounds on the bar. 

As I lifted the bar off the rack and watched it lower toward me, I suddenly realized that I was going to need a lot more strength to get it back up. 

I dug in my heels, and as I tried to use my whole body to get the bar back up, my right foot slipped. 

Don't Follow Your Dreams, Swallow Your Dreams

     Watch the Video! "Dreams" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #46)

I’m not a big fan of the phrase, “follow your dreams.”  

This mantra implies that your dreams are out there wandering around, and that you just need to follow them along the road of success.  

In theory, it’s not a bad idea.  Keeping your focus on a long-term vision can definitely help you stay determined when roadblocks appear along your path.  

But I think it can be disempowering to think of our dreams as separate from us.  So I’m going to advocate a different approach:  Swallow Your Dreams.  

Posted on July 9, 2015 .

How I Learned To Love Running

     Watch the Video! "Running" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #45)

In the leadership development course, Creating Lasting Change, Tony Robbins describes 4 classes of experience:

Class 1 Experience:

  • Feels good
  • Is good for you
  • Is good for others
  • Serves the greater good

Example: Doing meditation that helps you be more calm, focused, and productive throughout the day.

What To Do When You Don't Know What To Do

     Watch the Video! "Slow Motion" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #44)

I read too many business books. 

Don’t get me wrong – I love learning strategies, ideas and techniques for creating value for people.  I also love understanding how to run and market a successful business. 

But I know I’ve been reading too many of these books because I feel like I always have to have a well-developed, perfect plan in place before I start doing anything. 

And as you might guess, that’s a perfect recipe for paralysis. 

Posted on June 25, 2015 .

Releasing The Fear Of Death

     Watch the Video! "Shadow Of Death" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #43)

My mother recently commented that I seem to talk and think about death often.

When Biggie said, "I'm ready to die," he did so as an aggressive declaration of confidence. Being ready for death can release fear: fear of an afterlife, fear of judgment, and fear of threats or danger.

In movies, a protagonist who has suffered extreme loss often clenches his or her jaw and grimly declares: "I have nothing left to lose." Then large weapons emerge and retaliation ensues.

Posted on June 18, 2015 .

Go To The Balcony

    Watch the Video! "Go To The Balcony" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #42)

Fight or flight.  A flash of anger when we run into a table.  Wincing when we hear a baby screaming behind us on an airplane.  The rush of adrenaline when we barely miss being hit by a car. 

Humans are reaction machines.  Our entire biology is structured to respond to our environment.  Our body temperature raises or lowers depending on the external temperature or internal infection.  Our irises enlarge or contract depending on how much light enters our eyes.  Our metabolism slows down or speeds up depending on how much energy is available to it. 

Posted on June 11, 2015 .

Expectation Overload

    Watch the Video! "Expectations" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #40)

It can be easy to feel frustrated by a host of things, big and small, that happen or don't happen every day.

Someone cuts you off in traffic.

A slow person blocks the aisle in the grocery store.

A baby near you won't stop screaming.

A rainstorm interrupts your vacation.

The One Step Cure for Internet Procrastination

     Watch the Video! "Stand Up" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #39)

When I feel stressed or dread working on something, my brain has a default solution: scroll my Facebook timeline. I think I'm going to spend 30 seconds checking updates, but sometimes 30 minutes will pass before I realize I've been sucked into the internet vortex.

Posted on May 21, 2015 .

When Have You Ever Truly Failed?

     Watch the Video! "Never Stop The Grind" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #38)

Sometimes people ask me how I can just freestyle rap in front of any audience.  They say things like, “I’d never have the courage/confidence/craziness to trust myself to make up a rhyme on the spot that wasn’t terrible.” 

The reality is that I don’t think I have a lot of courage either.  I’ve just changed the question I ask myself before I start to rap. 

Posted on May 14, 2015 .

What If You're Successful?

     Watch the Video! "What If" by Blake Brandes (Motivational Blog Rap #37)

I woke up on Friday to a wonderful surprise: incredibly talented photographer  and my dear friend, Joe Martinez, was featured in the New Yorker’s article on the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. 

But then I had an even bigger surprise when I looked at Joe’s Twitter feed.

Posted on May 7, 2015 .