From 3rd Grade Dropout To ULTRA SUCCESSFUL | Rick Rigsby Motivational Speech


The wisest person I ever met in my life,
a third grade dropout.
Wisest and dropout in the same sentence
is rather oxymoronic
like jumbo shrimp.
Like fun run.
Ain’t nothing fun about it.
Like Microsoft Works, you’all don’t hear me.
I used to say I like country music
but I’ve lived in Texas so long
I love country music now.
I hunt, I fish, I have cowboy boots, and cowboy,
y’all, I’m a black neck redneck.
Do you hear what I’m saying to you?
No longer oxymoronic for me to say country music.
And it’s not oxymoronic for me to say
third grade and dropout.
That third grade dropout,
the wisest person I ever met in my life
who taught me to combine knowledge and wisdom
to make an impact,
was my father.
A simple cook.
Wisest man I ever met in my life.
Just a simple cook.
Left school in the third grade
to help out on the family farm
but just because he left school
doesn’t mean education stopped.
Mark Twain once said,
“I’ve never allowed my schooling
“to get in the way of my education.”
My father taught himself how to read,
taught himself how to write.
Decided in the midst of Jim Crowism,
as America was breathing the last gasp of the Civil War,
my father decided he was gonna stand and be a man,
not a black man,
not a brown man, not a white man,
but a man.
He literally challenged himself to be the best that he could
all the days of his life.
I have four degrees,
my brother is a judge.
We’re not the smartest ones in our family.
It’s a third grade dropout daddy,
a third grade dropout daddy
who was quoting Michelangelo, saying to us,
“Boys, I won’t have a problem if you aim high and miss
“but I’m gonna have a real issue
“if you aim low and hit.”
A country mother quoting Henry Ford, saying,
“If you think you can or if you think you can’t,
“you’re right.”
I learned that from a third grade drop, simple lessons.
Lessons like these.
“Son, you’d rather be an hour early
“than a minute late.”
We never knew what time it was at my house
‘cause the clocks were always ahead.
My mother said for nearly 30 years,
my father left the house at 3:45 in the morning.
One day she asked him, “Why, Daddy?”
He said, “Maybe one of my boys
“will catch me in the act of excellence.”
I wanna share two things with you.
Aristotle said you are what you repeatedly do,
therefore excellence ought to be a habit not an act.
Don’t ever forget that.
I know you’re tough but always remember to be kind.
Don’t ever forget that.
Never embarrass momma.
Yeah, if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
If daddy ain’t happy, don’t nobody care but you know—
I tell you.
Next lesson,
lesson from a cook over there in the galley.
Son, make sure your servant’s towel
is bigger than your ego.
Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity.
Y’all might have a relative in mind
you wanna send that to.
Let me say it again.
Ego is the anesthesia that deadens the pain of stupidity.
Pride is the burden of a foolish person.
John Wooden coached basketball in UCLA for a living
but his calling was to impact people.
And with all those national championships,
guess what he was found doing in the middle of the week?
Going into the cupboard,
grabbing a broom and sweeping his own gym floor.
You wanna make an impact?
Find your broom.
Every day of your life,
you find your broom.
You grow your influence that way.
That way you’re attracting people
so that you can impact them.
Final lesson.
“you’re gonna do a job,
“do it right.”
I’ve always been told
how average I can be.
Always been criticized about being average
but I wanna tell you something.
I stand here before you,
before all of these people
not listening to those words
but telling myself every single day
to shoot for the stars,
to be the best that I can be.
Good enough isn’t good enough
if it can be better.
And better isn’t good enough
if it can be best.
Let me close with a very personal story
that I think will bring all this into focus.
Wisdom will come to you in the unlikeliest of sources.
A lot of times through failure.
When you hit rock bottom remember this,
while you’re struggling,
rock bottom can also be a great foundation
on which to build
and on which to grow.
I’m not worried that you’ll be successful.
I’m worried that you won’t fail from time to time.
A person that gets up off the canvas and keeps growing,
that’s the person
that will continue to grow their influence.
Back in the ’70s,
to help me make this point,
let me introduce you to someone.
I met the finest woman I’d ever met in my life.
Back in my day, we’d have called her a brick house.
This woman was the finest woman I’d ever seen in my life.
There’s just one little problem.
Back then ladies didn’t like big old line men.
The Blindside hadn’t come out yet.
They liked quarterbacks and running backs.
We’re at this dance
and I find out her name is Trina Williams
from Lompoc, California
and we were all dancing
and we’re just excited
and I decide in the middle of dancing with her
that I would ask her for her phone number.
She, Trina was the first one,
Trina was the only woman in college
who gave me her real telephone number.
The next day we walked to Baskin and Robbins
ice cream parlor.
My friends couldn’t believe it.
This has been 40 years ago
and my friends still can’t believe it.
We go on a second date
and a third date
and a fourth date.
We drive from Chico to Vallejo
so that she could meet my parents.
My father meets her.
My daddy, my hero, he meets her,
pulls me to the side and says, “Is she psycho?”
But anyway—
We go together for a year, two years,
three years, four years
by now Trina’s a senior in college.
I’m still a freshman
but I’m working some things out.
(audience laughing)
I’m so glad I graduated in four terms.
Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan.
So now it’s time to propose.
So I talked to her girlfriends
and it’s California, it’s in the ’70s.
So it has to be outside,
have to have a candle and you have to have,
some chocolate.
Listen, I’m from the hood.
I had a bottle of Boone’s Farm wine.
That’s what I had.
She said yes!
That was the key.
I married the most beautiful woman
I’d ever seen in my—
‘all ever been to a wedding
and even before the wedding starts you hear this.
“How in the world?”
And it was coming from my side of the family!
We get married, we have a few children.
Our lives are great.
One day Trina finds a lump in her left breast.
Breast cancer.
Six years after that diagnosis,
me and my two little boys walked up to mommy’s casket
and for two years my heart didn’t beat.
If it wasn’t for my faith in God
I wouldn’t be standing here today.
If it wasn’t for those two little boys,
there’d have been no reason for which to go on.
I was completely lost.
That was rock bottom.
You know what sustained me?
The wisdom of a third grade dropout.
The wisdom of a simple cook.
We’re at the casket.
I’d never seen my dad cry
but this time I saw my dad cry.
That was his daughter.
Trina was his daughter
not his daughter-in-law.
And I’m right behind my father
about to see her for the last time on this earth
and my father shared three words with me
that changed my life right there at the casket.
It would be the last lesson he would ever teach me.
He said, “Son,
“just stand.
“You keep standing.
“You keep standing.
“No matter how rough the sea, you keep standing.
“And I’m not talking about just water.
“You keep standing.
“No matter what, you don’t give up.”
And as clearly as I’m talking to you today,
these were some of her last words to me.
She looked me in the eye and she said,
“It doesn’t matter to me any longer how long I live.
“What matters to me most
“is how I live.”
I ask you all one question,
a question that I was asked all my life
by a third grade dropout.
“How you livin’?
“How you livin’?”
Everyday ask yourself that question.
How you livin’?
Here’s, here’s what a cook would suggest
you to live, this way.
That you would not judge,
that you would show up early,
that you’d be kind,
that you’d make sure that that servant’s towel
is huge and used,
that if you’re gonna do something,
you do it the right way.
That cook would tell you this,
that it’s never wrong to do the right thing,
that how you do anything
is how you do everything.
And in that way you will grow your influence
to make an impact.
In that way you will honor all those
who have gone before you,
who have invested in you.
Look in those unlikeliest places for wisdom.
Enhance your life every day by seeking that wisdom
and asking yourself every night,
“How am I living?”
May God richly bless you all.
Thank you for having me.