On Nov. 1, in the Ohio Room of Youngstown State University’s Kilcawley Center, Stedman Graham, renowned author and CEO of the management and marketing consulting firm S. Graham and Associates, spoke to students and faculty on leadership, the importance of personal identity and his recent book, “Identity: Your Passport.”
Graham, known in pop culture for his relationship with Oprah Winfrey, is also a prominent business figure, author, speaker, and educator — having written 11 books on self-identification and launched an online course based on his trademarked Nine-Step Success Process.
Whiseboro, New Jersey, Graham’s hometown, is where the business mogul founded AAD Education, Health and Sports, a non-profit organization made up of professional athletes committed to developing youth leadership in troubled communities.
Erin Driscoll, director of Student Activities and Greek Life, said that Graham specializes in speaking with young adults about achieving their aspirations.
“He is very passionate about working with teenagers and young adults about identity development, and helping people figure out who they are — their dreams, values — and getting to students early on about what they want out of life,” Driscoll said.
Graham told audience members that finding an identity is paramount in a world interested in preconceived notions based on race or gender. He said that to find out one’s true identity, one must first find out what it is he/she desires in life and that success depends on one’s own self-awareness.
“Find out who you really are. The world uses you when you don’t have an identity, and you don’t know who you are. Your success is going to depend upon how self-aware you are. What do you want to do with your life?” Graham said.
The next step, according to Graham, is to create a vision, a goal for the self that is free of the world’s stereotypes and preconceptions of race and identity.
“Don’t listen to someone that tells you can’t do something based on your race, or skin color because only you know what you want for yourself. The world likes to put us in a box,” he said. “We need to stop listening to what others say and focus on how we’re going to prove them wrong.”
Graham advised attendees to develop a plan for their future by suggesting they think about where they are going, where they will be in five years from now — in ten years from now — and what it is they want to create in life. He said that focus is a huge part of remaining on track and being successful.
“Everyone needs a plan, and once you know what that plan is, you have to work hard to be able to achieve it,” Graham said. “Focus is huge. … That’s the only way you can create excellence. You can predict your future based on the things you do every day, and how you think when a task is difficult, and finally how you’re motivated.”
Graham concluded his lecture with a rallying call by reminding participants of the merits of enthusiasm and of the dedication to their goals.
“Put all your energy and effort into achieving your goals. Enthusiasm and commitment generate excellence, and that leads to success. The challenge is to develop the ability to coexist with the world as it changes — never giving in and never giving up,” he said.
Kevin Watts, a YSU student and football player, said that he found Graham’s words both compelling and informed.
“He was a very motivational speaker, and I gained inspiration about my dreams from him. I think his words were moving to me, and he really knew what he was talking about in being a future leader,” Watts said.
Driscoll said that Graham presented an important opportunity for the campus and
“The trend for all the work he’s doing is helping people be intentional about identifying the resources for them to be successful in life, and I think it’s a great opportunity for our campus and the students,” she said.