The ability to know you are more than who you are. It’s inside each and every one of us.
As much as we are different, we have many things in common.
We are all broken… and yet at the same time we are all amazing. Each and every one of us.
The challenge in life is to take what’s broken and manifest it in a way which can serve us and serve others, by sharing the lesson of how we too have overcome.
This is the essence of the human spirit. And those who find it inspire each and every one of us.
After all, everyone has a story.
I am Mark Brodinsky and this is The Sunday Series.
The Sunday Series (111): The Power to Serve
“One thing I learned from my mother and from ET (Eric Thomas) – she would show it -he would say it and do it – the power of serving. The power of serving. That’s how you separate and go to the next level, learn how to serve and you will be blessed more than you will ever be by taking.”
– T.J. Tyus
It’s not easy to do, they don’t teach it to you in school – it’s the lesson and the trait you have to learn and develop out there in the real world. The challenge is the real world tries to give you every reason not do it. The challenge is to develop great character, and them to make good choices.
For T.J. Tyus it should have been easy to build. Growing up in Lansing, Michigan, in a military-style family, in a household filled with boundaries and beliefs, T.J. actually thrived, at least as a little boy. He was disciplined, he had a desire and he had a dream.
“At only six-years-old, I decided I wanted to play football in the NFL”, says T.J. “My father was in the Air Force and he gave me a VHS tape of Herschel Walker. I started doing 1,500 push-ups and 2,000 sit-ups every day and built up my body. I watched a lot of TV, and during every commercial I did push-up and sit-ups throughout the day. I started doing them in my bedroom with the door closed. My parents actually took me to the hospital one day because my stomach was hurting. They thought it was something I ate… it was just because I was doing so many crunches.”
T.J. continued to build his body, becoming one of the strongest kids in his freshman year in high school, playing as a linebacker and a running back for his football team and getting recruited by a lot of teams, eventually deciding to attend Central Michigan University.
But that’s where the trouble began.
For all the discipline and the dreams he had T.J. became attracted by the danger. “Living in a military household there were a lot of boundaries”, says T.J. “I got wild with my college friends and I started hanging out with the bad side of Detroit. One guy was from Florida and he grew up hard, I admired him. I kind of wanted to live that life, popular and glorified. I lost my way, I had an identity crisis trying to be something I wasn’t.”
Life went south in a hurry. In 2004 T.J. was charged with a felony crime after resisting arrest during a college party. But the trouble didn’t end there. During his senior year T.J. was accused of murder, after a man was beaten and stomped to death during a brawl outside a bar in Mount Pleasant.
T.J. says, “Some of my closest friends were charged with manslaughter, some went to jail. I remember to this day the same police officer who talked to me during my junior year after the fight at the party, he told me ‘we didn’t get you for resisting arrest, but we’re going to get you for murder’. They were out to get me. My car was confiscated. But I was nowhere near this incident.I had nothing to do with it. I got nervous and returned to Lansing. My wife was by my side the whole time.”
T.J. was never charged in the case and he eventually graduated from CMU with a Bachelor’s in Health Fitness and a minor in Athletic Coaching. By this time his family was growing, as was his faith.
In life it can be one idea, one circumstance, one person who can turn it all around for you. For T.J. it was a visit to church and a pastor just starting to make a name for himself, Eric Thomas – ET. (http://etinspires.com/)
“ET didn’t hit me over the head with a bible, he taught me how to develop a personal relationship with God. My mom raised me to believe in God, but ET taught me to have this personal relationship with God, to change my mindset and read more then I ever did in my life. The first book I read, As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen. It’s a hard read, but it changed my life. Then I read everything I could on leadership by John Maxwell. And I read the Principles and Power of Vision, by Dr. Myles Munroe. He just passed away last year. He is phenomenal.”
“Cherish your visions; cherish your ideals; cherish the music that stirs in your heart, the beauty that forms in your mind, the loveliness that drapes your purest thoughts, for out of them will grow all delightful conditions, all heavenly environment; of these, if you but remain true to them, your world will at last be built.” ~ James Allen, As a Man Thinketh
The time had come for T.J. to build his new life… and ET was willing to help, taking T.J. under his wing and allowing him to travel with the self-proclaimed Hip-Hop Preacher, as he spoke all across the country. T.J. says he learned so much from the man who has been called one of the world’s most inspirational speakers, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Oxz060iedY ), and is proud to serve as associate pastor at Dr. Eric Thomas’s church in Lansing, Michigan. T.J. says traveling with ET, his story is motivating and changing people at every turn. And he has inspired T.J. in so many ways.
Despite growing up with a speech impediment, a stutter, which was never officially diagnosed, T.J. found the courage to speak, not only on a Sunday at church, but to groups all across the country. He has developed his own company, Strength II BE, helping people, especially young athletes, to grow in mind, body and spirit. “People see me as a body builder, because I’m in great shape”, says T.J. “But you can’t have just one of those things, you can’t just build your body, you have to build your mind and your spirit, you have to have all three.”
T.J. now knows you also have to build character. As he learned in his own life your character can be fragile, it can become misguided, you can be led down the wrong path and he wants to stop this from happening to young people who are attracted to so many distractions illusions of grandeur. T.J. knows the time to get to them is before it’s too late.
“So many athletes like me are not making it because of character issues. Or they do make it, then they start beating-up girlfriends, or get in other trouble and go to jail. Let’s teach them while they’re still in middle school, or high school, because you don’t get character development in high school, you are not taught that – you get science and math – but you don’t get the other stuff.”
Now T.J. is going into elementary schools, middle schools, high schools and sharing this message. He was even invited back to Central Michigan University to speak to the football team before a game, a moment T.J. says he won’t soon forget. “It was the best feeling in the world to go back and speak to the team. I had not been back since the incident, because it was hard for me. But after I spoke one player pulled me aside and as a tear came to his eye, he told me he wanted to thank me for the speech. He told me, ‘I’m hurting. I’m a senior and I don’t know what I am going to do with my life.’ My speech inspired him to know there is life after football. For many of these kids their whole lives have been football. Some even commit suicide, because it’s all they know and the sport can consume you. They have to know there is more to life.”
Even T.J. had to learn there is more to life than football. He never made the NFL, he did sign a pro-contract with the Canadian Football League at one point, but then the team’s owner went bankrupt, T.J. never even played a down. He did play three years in the Arena Football League, but then he got a job to support his family and to fulfill his purpose.
T.J.’s purpose is serving. He and his wife Vylissa have three boys, 13, 11 and 9 and all are excellent athletes. Vylissa is studying to fulfill her dream, to be a lawyer. But she still suffers from the lingering effects of a medical condition for which the treatments are expensive, that’s why T.J. keeps his job as a probation officer in Michigan, and the state insurance helps to cover the costs of those treatments. His ultimate plan is to leave in about three years, once his wife’s practice is up and running and go full-time with his own business – Strength II BE, to publish another book, (with ET’s help and inspiration a few years ago T.J. published, Unleashing the Power, 40 Principles to a Powerful You) and to start a university, which teaches what T.J. knows to be a valuable life lesson.
“I want to start a university, The Athletes of Character University, and take kids from middle school through high school and even into college. This way when they are recruited they can say they went to ACU and the coaches will know they not only learned their subjects, but also learned character development. I don’t care how talented you are, it doesn’t make it right when what you do is wrong. Some parents and coaches are looking the other way, we have failed these kids. I want to turn this around.”
It all comes back to serving. What T.J. has learned watching and engaging with his pastor/mentor Eric Thomas and his own personal relationship with God, as well as reading and constantly improving, has changed his life, not only for himself, but as a husband and father. And T.J. now understands all of this is part of his mission and his personal mark on the world.
T.J.’s personal message is powerful: “Serving, man, serving. Serving has changed my life so much. I really believe the bible teaches you when you find your gift, your gift will make room for you. We are all here for a reason, for a purpose, find your purpose, find your reason and give it away as much as you can and you never work another day in your life. Stop finding money, or things to change the world, serving with your purpose will change you… and eventually change the world.”
Until next time thanks for taking the time,
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