Tommy Breedlove: Surviving Abuse, Learning to Love Himself and Living a Legendary Life #22

Warwick Fairfax

June 2, 2020

Tommy Breedlove isn’t one to make excuses. Yes, the physical and emotional violence he endured as a boy led him to become violent himself as a teen, landing him in jail for his 19th birthday. But when he was mentored by a fellow inmate and inspired to avoid another trip behind bars, he took responsibility for his recovery. He toiled at low-wage jobs by day and studied hard at night, landing a position at a prestigious financial services firm just three years later. And yet, while his career skyrocketed — promotions, pay raises, the respect of his bosses and envy of his colleagues — the bottom fell out of his life again at 36. Lying in a ditch, unsure how he got there literally and figuratively, he once again had to summon the strength and courage to bounce back. In the aftermath of this second setback, he tells Crucible Leadership founder and BEYOND THE CRUCIBLE host Warwick Fairfax, Breedlove decided to strip himself of all the identify-hiding masks he’d worn on his way up the corporate ladder — and discovered how to love himself and let others love who he really was. Those breakthroughs have led him to a rewarding career as a best-selling author and in-demand leadership coach and speaker, sharing with clients and audiences his hard-earned insights on discovering their life’s purpose and living legendary lives.

Highlights

 

  • How being a victim of violence as a boy led him to be violent as a teen (4:43)
  • The power of a mentor — even behind bars (5:41)
  • The hollowness of “success” achieved when you’re not living your true purpose (6:42)
  • The transformative power of just being yourself (8:28)
  • How abuse led to wearing masks that comforted, and devastated, him (11:32)
  • The worst abuse is that which gets into your soul (14:50)
  • When you’re forced to wear masks to survive, you must learn to live without them (17:23)
  • Healing comes by not comparing your crucible experience to others’ (19:47)
  • How money is a character magnifying glass — and why that isn’t always a good thing (22:37)
  • Prepare now for your response to the crucibles to come (26:17)
  • Why he left his high-profile, high-salary financial career (29:13)
  • We all have a purpose. Here’s how you figure yours out (30:00)
  • The only things we’re really in control over (34:18)
  • How helping others heals us (38:03)
  • What it means to build a legendary life (40:51)
  • Why he’s angry about the lack of legendary living (48:05)
  • The power of people being “for” your real self (49:10)
  • Key takeaways from the episode (52:31)

Transcript

Gary S:
Welcome, everyone, to Beyond the Crucible. I’m Gary Schneeberger here, the co-host of the show and the Communications Director for Crucible Leadership, and you have hit PLAY, you have, we hope, hit Subscribe to a podcast that talks about our crucible experiences. Those are those moments in life, those failures, setbacks, those painful things that can happen in our lives that can change the trajectory of our lives, can really lead us to places where we sometimes don’t feel like moving on. But what we talk about here, why we talk about them here, is to encourage you, listener, to move on, and we interview guests, who have done that very thing.

Gary S:
And with me, as always, is the architect of Crucible Leadership, Warwick Fairfax. Warwick, I predict we will have, and you’ll understand why I’m saying this, listener in a bit, I predict we’re going to have a legendary show today.

Warwick F:
Absolutely, Gary. Well said.

Gary S:
And the reason that I use legendary, listener, you’ll hear as I read the bio of our guest, Tommy, who has the coolest last name ever, Tommy Breedlove. Tommy Breedlove is a Wall Street Journal and USA Today best-selling author of the book, Legendary, and Atlanta-based business relationship and mindset coach, who is a regular featured keynote speaker at global events. Tommy started his 20-year corporate career at one of the largest financial consulting firms in the world and eventually became a shareholder, the international practice leader, and a member of the board of directors for one of the largest public accounting and financial firms in the Southeast US.

Gary S:
At the top of his career, Tommy experienced a transformational moment, inspiring him to walk away from the corporate world, to change his life, and follow his true calling. Tommy now serves clients and audiences everywhere by empowering them to build and live Legendary lives. He guides people to discover a life of significance. You’ve heard that before, listeners, here at Beyond the Crucible. He guides people to discover a life of significance while building a lasting legacy. The simple tools he shares shows them how to work in their zone of brilliance, obtain financial freedom, and live with meaning and balance. The goal is to help everybody to become the person they’ve always wanted to be.

Gary S:
When Tommy isn’t speaking or serving his clients, he enjoys traveling the world, hiking, and spending quality time with his wife and two dogs. And I will add, Tommy didn’t write this in his bio, but I will add that by the time our time is over today, listener, you will realize that Tommy Breedlove is a beautiful human.

Tommy B:
Oh, yes.

Warwick F:
Wow, thank you, Gary and Tommy. Awesome to have you. I just love the whole concept of Legendary leadership and helping people live lives of meaning and significance. I’d love to get into that here in a bit, but I like to start with your story, and in particular, I think you’ve had a couple of crucible experiences. Tell us a bit about Tommy Breedlove and who you were growing up and just some of those early experiences as they formed who you are, or who you were, anyway.

Tommy B:
I’d be happy to, Warwick and Gary, and it’s honor to be here. You guys are my people.

Warwick F:
Yeah, thank you.

Tommy B:
I could just tell you’re in my tribe the first time we spoke, so I’m super thankful and grateful to be here. And by the way, I’ve been asked this so many times lately, Breedlove, I was born with that name. It’s not a name that I came up with. It’s actually legitimate. I was born with it. But for some reason, I get asked that a lot, especially at the grocery store. “Is that your real name?” I’m like, “Yeah. I was born with that.” So thank you.

Tommy B:
So I’ll start at the beginning, Warwick. I grew up in humble beginnings in South Atlanta in the Southeast United States in the State of Georgia, and it was a good hard-working part of town, but not many people from that area went to college, graduated college, and would be what I’d call in the professional world. They were mostly mechanics, worked at the airlines, Coca-Cola, Ford Motor Company, and just good, solid, hard-working part of the world. And my mom and dad always wanted something more for me, and so I had incentive to be the first person to ever go to college and graduate college and to be a little bit more than what my family was before, just in the terms of financial and money success.

Tommy B:
Unfortunately, inside and out of this home, I grew up with a significant amount of abuse of all kinds and of violence. And so the worst thing that happens to a young child when they grow up in that particular, they never feel any safety inside or out of the home. Unfortunately, I became what I hated, and I became the violence. So instead of at 18 years old, me heading off to college to be the first person in my family to go into this new charted territory, I unfortunately committed a violent crime, was charge with two felonies, and looking at seven years in prison and thought my life was over.

Tommy B:
Fortunately, due to some luck and some good lawyering, it was dropped down to two heavy misdemeanors. I was sentenced to two years and ended up spending my 19th birthday incarcerated. So that’s the first crucible moment I had in my life, and I’ll go ahead and go to the second one, but I want to talk about a little bit about what it was like to be incarcerated. The most amazing thing happened to me there is an African-American gentleman stepped across racial lines, which is very unusual in an incarceration setting, stepped over the lines, he saw something in me, he loved me, he mentored me, he coached me, and he said, “You’re not going to end up like me, and you’re not going to end up in this revolving-door system.”

Tommy B:
And so it was the first strong male mentorship that really had appeared in my life, and because of his guidance, his grace, and his love, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, got out, and went to work, listen to this, for a nuclear waste container factory during the day. Very hard work for $6 an hour. Went to community college at night, ended back at the University of Georgia, and then I went from literally jail to Deloitte, which is one of the largest financial consulting and public accounting firms in the world, in three years just by hard work, not wanting to go back in that system, and getting rid of that violence out of my life.

Tommy B:
So let’s fast forward to crucible number two. So I was just going to be that guy that out-worked you. I came from a different part of the tracks. Here I am in the top of the game in one of the largest financial institutions in the world. So I was just going to out-work, out-hustle, and out-move people, and I did. So fast forward until I was 36 years old, I had moved on to a different firm, but there I was, corner office all of glass, fancy cuff links, nice car, you name it, power, prestige, money, what I thought was going to make me happy in life. And I’m not one of those people that don’t think money’s important. I think it’s very important, but for me, as a young man, I was living the life that wasn’t me. I was wearing all of these masks and armor, I was the tough guy, the cool guy, important guy, couldn’t-ask-for-help guy, couldn’t-show-weakness guy. And it was all because I didn’t deal with those wounds and demons and mistakes from my past.

Tommy B:
And so when the money, the title, the success, the next big paycheck, or the prestige, when that wouldn’t fill me up, I turned to everything else, all the darkness that you read about and see about in the Wolf of Wall Street and all these other horrible stories. And there I was at 36 years old almost at the top of my game in my career, and found myself laying in a ditch in Atlanta, Georgia, in downtown Atlanta, staring up at the blue sky, asking myself, “Why did I get here, who am I, and where am I going?” And just really, I don’t know if it was that little boy who never thought he had a chance, I don’t know if it was some divine power, but every fiber in my body says, “You’ve got to get up, and you’ve got to fix this.”

Tommy B:
And so that was crucible two at my moment. I get up, and I went, some people call it, well, the sexy word is a spiritual transformation. Really what it was was hitting rock bottom, and I decided to do something about it. Took massive action in my life, personally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and eventually, the most amazing thing happens to me when I just became me, when I just became Tommy, and felt self-confidence, self-respect, unconditional love for myself. My marriage became the best that it had ever been, my network and friendships increased 10X, negative influences disappeared out of my life, and financially and business, I went from junior partner to senior partner, to board of directors, to running the international practice of this large firm. Literally 5X’ing my income in three years just by being a decent human being, living with significance and integrity.

Tommy B:
And at that point, all of these alpha men and women started reaching out to me from my network, and said, “Look, man. You didn’t give up your drive and ambition, but you seem more at peace, your relationship is the best it’s ever been, you seem more fulfilled. What drug are you taking, and how do I do that?” They thought there was just some quick easy fix. And by about the 20th person, I realized, “This is my calling. This is my career.”

Tommy B:
So I decided to walk away from the game and do one-on-one business relationship and mindset coaching. I run retreats, I run Master Minds, I do a lot of public speaking. Eventually, the tools and systems that I found that changed my life, that I’ve seen change countless of others’, really from a state of making them the best human they could possible be, that’s how this book, Legendary, came to be. It’s a simple read with a lot of simple tools of how do we live our best life from purpose to time to mindset to unconditional love to financial confidence to intimate relationships with our significant others. It’s a simple playbook and tools and stories of how I did it and how countless of others have done it through this system.

Tommy B:
And so those were the two crucible moments in my life, and Warwick and Gary, I’ll let you take it from here.

Warwick F:
Wow. That is an amazing story. So our bounce back is often informed by the crucibles that you went through. Your second crucible was undoubtedly influenced by your first crucible. So talk about that. As you were growing up, you mentioned you suffered abuse. I think from what I understand, were you bullied at school? Some kids are captain of the football team, and others are picked on. Talk about who you were, because that probably influenced your self-image. Who were you as a kid growing up?

Tommy B:
Really good question. So it flipped. I went from being the skinniest, youngest kid in an all-boy neighborhood, usually between one and three years younger than everyone else, to a big alpha kid, because I became tough and cool. So I went from being this nerdy picked-on kid, and when we switched high schools, I became the cool kid. But I want to step back because the violence for me, there was a lot of bullying in my neighborhood, because it’s an all-boy neighborhood, good hard blue-collar part of the world. I would consider that more normal than not normal. I know that sounds probably weird in these times, but that’s just how we grew up as young men. We liked to beat each other up, and I happened to be the youngest skinniest. The problem was what was happening inside the home.

Tommy B:
There was a very close family member that I experienced every type of abuse you can imagine, and that was the part that was simply overcome. So because of that, I was able to become what I call like a chameleon. If I was around the cool kids, I could become the cool kid. If I was around the nerdy kids, I could become a nerdy kid. I could literally from a humor to a fun to, again, wearing all this armor just to survive, I became that kid, so I went from being the nerdy, picked-on kid in the neighborhood.

Tommy B:
That part of the world during that time, there was a lot of racial friction and violence as well, so I experienced that in and out of school, in the playgrounds, on the streets, and so that made it very difficult. And what I was told way later in life is I never felt this sense of safety. But I never dealt with those wounds and those insecurities and those fears that come up for you, and we have all them, we all have our mistakes, we all have our wounds, we’ve all had things done to us. Some more extreme than others, but there all very real, and they all change us.

Tommy B:
So fast forward to high school when I became the cool kid, and even at school, I probably look like I had it going on, but I started running with the wrong kids at night, more violent kids, more kids getting into alcohol and drugs. And then they started carrying guns, and then we were fighting. And I was very thankful that I committed that violent, I wasn’t thankful that I hurt someone, but I was very thankful that it happened when it happened, because it changed my life because I would’ve probably ended up in a ditch and dead if I would’ve kept running with the same crew that I was running with.

Warwick F:
So listening to your story, I just wonder who was a young Tommy Breedlove? I would imagine abuse just robs you of your soul, of who am I as a person. When you put on masks, sometimes it’s like, well, who was the real Tommy beneath the mask. Did you even know who you were as a young kid or as an adolescent?

Tommy B:
That’s a great question, and it’s interesting. I’m going to fast forward and then come back to the question. Once I hit college and into my professional financial consulting and public accounting career, it was like my childhood didn’t exist. I guess it was this unconscious mental block. It went away. I never talked about it, I never addressed it, I never talked about my childhood or the friends. And so it became this unconscious mental block or wall or armor, because I didn’t want to deal with that. I’m just moving forward now. And so as a young man, if I had to look back and take an educated guess is I became whatever I needed to become. And so there was no authenticity, there was no vulnerability.

Tommy B:
It’s interesting. I don’t know how everyone feels about this. My sister’s also had challenges throughout her life. It’s interesting how we’ve dealt with them. She simply is, in my opinion, in denial. She says those things didn’t exist, those didn’t happen, but if you look at the trend of our lives and how unproductive and the mistakes that we’ve made, they tend to, she experienced the same thing I did, but she just never chose to deal with them in the way that I dealt with them. And so for me, I think it was because I became whatever I needed to become, whether it was at home, whether it was on the street, whether it was at school. I just needed to fit in, and I needed to be liked, because I knew if I didn’t fit in and I wasn’t liked, the consequences were horrific if not severe.

Tommy B:
And I think, regardless of the type of abuse that you experience, I think the worst is what gets down in your soul, into your emotional, and when you start believing, and I’m going to say something pretty harsh here, so forgive your audience. I hope this doesn’t come across, but it’s true. When you’re told you’re a piece of shit as a young puppy, and you start believing it, there’s nothing more soul-sucking. So you do everything in your power with your mask and your armor to prove you’re not that. But deep down in your soul and spine, you do believe that’s who you are, and it creates a really tough thing to overcome when you at your core have been told and taught and it beat into you at a young age, it’s really hard to overcome that.

Gary S:
Is safe to say, Tommy, based on what you just said, that you don’t know who you really are, you’re wearing masks all the time. Is it safe to say that that guy who wore the cuff links, the cuff links in the corner office, that was part of a mask, that was a different mask?

Tommy B:
Totally. It was a mask. The jokes, the constant … I was still the kid in the locker room, how we talked to each other, how we treated each other, not asking for help. The fancy ties, the suits, the watches, the cars, it was all armor. It was all shiny things. It was literally that little boy, saying, “See me, hear me, love me. And I’m valuable, and I’m important. See? See how fancy I am? See how cool I am? See how big my office is? Oh, look. I have a TV hanging from the ceiling. Oh, look. Here’s my title.” And if I would’ve been someone who had a lot of self-confidence and self-respect, those things would’ve been like, “Hey, I earned these.” But for me, it was a mask. It was just simply tools to make me hopefully feel better. The problem is they would only make me feel better for a second.

Warwick F:
Sadly, some really important lessons. The tragedy is whether it’s the abuse of being told that you were worthless, it robs you of your soul, it robs you of your individuality. If somebody had said back then, “Who was the real Tommy?” You might’ve said, “I have no idea,” if you gave truth serum so that you didn’t just joke about and just fob it off or something. And for any individual to say they don’t know who they truly are, and that just robs you of your soul, of your individuality.

Warwick F:
Me, I obviously grew up radically different. As listeners will know, I grew up in a wealthy family media business in Australia, which couldn’t be more different. But yet, not quite the same as you. I’ve had close family members at times say, “Yep, you’re wonderful.” At other times, you’re kind of worthless, or somewhere along those lines, and certainly in that environment, who you are as an individual was irrelevant. It’s like, “Okay, there’s a goal. You have to run this 150 year old, several thousand person organization, and there’s a person you have to be. Therefore, equip yourself to be that person.” So what mask do you need?

Warwick F:
In my case, it was the corporate mask, so Oxford, Wall Street, Harvard Business School. Off you go. So what I wanted to do as an individual, which we’ll talk about later in terms of your passion and your design and your skills, totally irrelevant. So even though we couldn’t have grown up more different, that sense of “I don’t know who I am,” that is a terrible, terrible feeling. Obviously, I don’t know your family, but I think, at the risk of offering a value judgment, I think you’ve chosen the better course.

Tommy B:
Indeed.

Warwick F:
Even to other family members, because it’s easy to say, “I’m not going to deal with it.” If you don’t deal with it, it’s this chain around your neck your whole life. And so I’m sure it wasn’t easy to get through it, but I’m sure you have a much better idea now of who Tommy Breedlove is than you did when you were a kid.

Tommy B:
Yeah. Absolutely. And I want to say this, Warwick, and it’s interesting to say. The consequences were almost my life, twice, literally, whether it would’ve been in a jail cell, and who knows what happens to that, or a revolving-door system into the penal code, or just flat losing my life at 37. So it came with severe consequences. I think you brought up a good point. I don’t know how this happened, but I’m thankful it happened. It’s interesting the way you were growing up. Two things that have fallen in my lap. I have my general coaching mindset relationship, but I also have these niche practices that I don’t really advertise, because these people don’t like you to advertise this.

Tommy B:
Legacy wealth families, as well as celebrities and celebrity adolescent kids, have fallen in my lap, and it doesn’t mean that the pressures, the shadows that you have to live in, the almost unreal expectations and pressures from family that they put on themselves, and with those responsibilities and those pressures come real challenges, real insecurities, real fears, but we can’t ever let them see you sweat. And so I hear this on a regular basis is it doesn’t, and I want to say this for anyone for listening, it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your story is, we all have our story, we all have our wounds, we all have our mistakes, we all have our fears, and we all have our insecurities, and they’re all very real, they are all very relevant, and we can’t compare and compete ourselves to others, because our story is ours.

Tommy B:
And if you asked a million people to put their mistakes and tragedies and wounds into a pile and go pick them back up, pick up someone else’s, they won’t pick up someone else’s, because we know our wounds, right? But it doesn’t make them any less, it doesn’t make them any more unimportant, but I want people to hear this, too, is that you’re not alone. You’re not alone, you’re not alone in your fears, your insecurities, your wounds, and it’s never too late to stop living that story that we’ve been telling ourselves and start living our lives. So I do want to put some hope out there as well.

Warwick F:
No. I think that’s well said. I want to get to Legendary leadership here in a moment, but just to fast forward to the second crucible, there’s a lot of folks out there, a lot of listeners, that they want to be successful, and like you, there’s nothing wrong with being successful, but in part depends on how you define success. Nothing wrong with having money. Money brings freedom, it enables you to have nice vacations. I remember back when we could actually go outside our homes, because we’re living in the coronavirus world, at least as we’re recording this, a bit over a year ago, my daughter was working, I have three kids in their 20s, my daughter’s working in Australia. We’d gone back there for a lot of family gatherings. I didn’t want to go back again. So we figured out, “Why don’t we meet halfway.” So we had Christmas on the big island of Hawaii. It was fabulous.

Tommy B:
Fabulous.

Warwick F:
Not the cheapest place to go at Christmas, but it was worth it. And so I’m not against doing nice things, and money gives you that opportunity, so I think that’s great. But as you say, money in and of itself doesn’t satisfy. It gives you the opportunities to enjoy things and to help. So here you were, growing up in more of a blue-collar background. You’re working hard, you’ve gone through some tough times earlier, and you were making it, you were hitting every hurdle, you’re doing incredible things. The money, as you say, the shiny cuff links and everything, but yet, somehow, despite your meteoric rise, you felt hollow. So talk about that sense of hollowness, because a lot of people would say, “Tommy, you’ve made it. What’s there to be unhappy about? The nice car, the nice house. It’s all with the American Dream. What’s there to be unhappy about? How could anybody be dissatisfied with all of that?”

Tommy B:
Yeah. I think you make some really good points. I want to recap what you said, and so I think money is A, it’s important, especially for those of us who want to make massive positive impact in the world. The more money we have, the more impact we can make, and I think it’s super important. But it’s also a ridiculously powerful magnifying glass, and if you’re an insecure ass, it’s going to magnify that insecure ass-dom to a point that you wouldn’t believe it. But if you’re an amazing human being, who wants to be of service and make impact and employ people and grow a positive force and movement for good, it’ll do that. And so for me, because I was that little boy, and we all have our own demons.

Tommy B:
Here’s the thing about the shiny things. To me, life is about experiences, events, and the people you love, and more money will give you the freedom to experience more, to have more, and to do more. The shiny things, it doesn’t matter if it’s a fancy new Corvette or a Ferrari, or everything in between, that’s not going to fulfill you inside, because if you don’t have unconditional love and respect for yourself, and you’re struggling with your mindset, i.e., that inner voice that says, “What if they figure out I don’t know what I’m doing? What if they figure out I’m scared? What if they know my deepest, darkest desires?” We all have some level of that.

Tommy B:
And so regardless of the amount of money you make, you’ve got to have unconditional love and respect for yourself, you’ve got to do the work to build your mental, emotional, and spiritual fortress, not just your business and financial fortress. And so for me, I was missing all those pieces.

Warwick F:
As you were in that ditch.

Tommy B:
Yep. I was still that-

Warwick F:
That sense of unconditional love that gives you. I love how you put it. That self-love, that “I am worthy of being loved. I am worthy of being admired.” That wasn’t there, as you were sitting in the ditch.

Tommy B:
It didn’t exist, and my wife and I have talked about this subsequently is she was able to love me when I couldn’t love myself. I had zero self-respect and love for myself. I was never taught that, I didn’t know what that meant, I was incapable of receiving love, and so for me, it was just this little boy who didn’t feel valuable, who didn’t feel enough, who didn’t feel worthy, and who didn’t feel lovable. And it was up to me to rewire my heart, my brain, and my soul, so that I develop that self-confidence, to start mastering that mindset. And so that little boy still was just screaming in all the wrong ways, just trying to be the tough guy, cool guy, important guy, sexy guy, funny guy, whatever mask I wanted to wear, and it was never going to be enough, and that’s what put me in the ditch.

Warwick F:
It’s easy to say you believe in yourself, love yourself, give back to others, but how did you flip that switch, because that was years in the making, years of pain, trauma, abuse, maybe some mistakes. How did you change that mindset? Because that ditch seems like it was a pivotal moment in your life, maybe the pivotal moment. How did you flip that switch so you actually could think, “Maybe my wife loves me, and you know what? I’m worthy of her loving me, I’m worthy of family and friends admiring me.” How did you flip that switch?

Tommy B:
There is no switch is the honest answer. What I had a burning desire for at that time, staring at that blue sky, not knowing where my car was, why I was half-dressed, and what the hell just happened to me? What happened to me was this intense fear that A, I didn’t want to die, and B, I didn’t understand this, but there was this burning desire to just change. There was no switch of all of sudden developing self-respect and unconditional love. And I say this all the time, and I’ll tell you exactly how I did it. I say this all the time is we need to keep ourselves in physical shape, and we’ve got to do that. We go walk, we exercise, we lift weights, we play basketball, whatever we do, but you’re not going to stay in physical shape and/or get in shape if you don’t exercise those muscles every day.

Tommy B:
And so your heart muscles, your self-respect muscles, your mind muscles, they’re muscles as well, and you’ve got to nurture them, work on them, and flex them every single day so that you build that mental and emotional fortress so during times like we’re in right now, this COVID virus hit, or family does hit, or tragedy hits, or business failures hit that you will be ready, willing, and step in, and you’ll have the self-confidence and courage to lean in. And so it didn’t happen for me overnight, because I hadn’t flexed any of those muscles. I just had a fear and a burning desire to change. It looks like Gary’s dying to say something, so I want to stop.

Gary S:
I can sense the conversation’s about to turn to how you did indeed bounce back, and one of the things that was so beautiful for me in your book, and I’ll hold it up here for folks who are watching on YouTube, you can see it right there, was this idea, because it’s so simple and yet so powerful. And I think it probably, and I’d love to hear your reaction to it when I say it and ask you the question, is probably very instrumental in your bounce back from that ditch, and that’s the purpose formula that you draft in your book, right? How do we find our purpose? And this is the purpose, listeners, or the purpose formula that Tommy prescribes in his book, Legendary. Pretty simple. The purpose formula is “We love it” plus “We are talented at it” plus “The world needs it.” Add those three things together, and that equals our purpose. Even if you hadn’t made the formula in your head yet, how was coming to that realization instrumental in getting you figuratively and literally out of that ditch?

Tommy B:
For me, the truth and the transparent answer is I didn’t find my purpose for another three years. And thus, because my life transformed, I started developing my mind muscles, my heart muscles, etc. When I got to the top of the game and knew if I stayed in this world that I would have eight figures in the bank account when I retired, but I wouldn’t be happy and fulfilled, that’s why I knew I had to leave at the top of the game, because I was so conscious and so aware and had done so much work with coaches, mentors, myself, I knew that I wasn’t working in my purpose, and I would never be fulfilled or happy. That’s the moment that I knew that I’ve got to use my God given talents, all of these people were reaching out to me, these ambitious, driven professionals, “Hey, I don’t want to give up my ambition or drive, I want to be financially confident, but I want to have better relationships with my family and friends. I want to have a better network, I want to cultivate unconditional love, I want to be the master of my mindset.”

Tommy B:
So my purpose fell into my lap by doing all of these right things, but that’s the reason I left the financial world is because I knew it wasn’t my calling, I knew it’s starting to suck out my soul, and the money would never fulfill me and make me happy. So it took great courage and great fortitude to walk away from that kind of paycheck and distributions every month, but I knew I had to do it, because it was bigger than me, and I was going to use my God given talents in things I enjoy. I’m telling you when I’m talking on a podcast or on a stage or doing a retreat or doing one-on-one coaching, I am not more fulfilled. Time literally stops, because I love it. I love seeing people realize the best of themselves. And so I didn’t have that in the financial world, and there was no amount of money that was going to fulfill me.

Tommy B:
And so I didn’t find it until later, and here’s something I believe about purpose, and I want everyone to hear this. Every single human being on Earth has a purpose, and that purpose changes depending on the season of our lives. But everyone of us until our last breath on this beautiful planet has a purpose. It’s just for us, and it’s an art and science to find it, but the simple formula is this. You’re super good at it, and if you don’t know what you’re super good at, go ask your closest friends and network and family. They’ll tell you what you’re super good at. You enjoy doing it, and whatever you believe, the planet, your friends, your community, or whatever this world needs, you use those two things to go do something bigger than yourself to serve, for lack of a better word. That’s where you find fulfillment, and it can be inside of the career or outside of the career. So I just wanted to say that.

Tommy B:
I didn’t find my purpose in that ditch. I knew, however, I was meant for something great. I didn’t realize why I was still on this planet. All the things I had done and been through, I was like, “There’s no reason I’m still here, so I’ve got to trust that. So I’ve got to find it.” And so that was part of my journey.

Gary S:
And that’s not altogether different. In fact, it’s very similar to what Warwick talks about and Warwick’s own experience. I don’t want to tell your story, Warwick, you can tell it, but the idea that it can take a while. As you’re moving beyond your crucible, as you’re moving beyond those moments, it’s not instantaneous. You said it earlier in this discussion, Tommy. It’s not a switch that you can flip, necessarily, to move beyond those things that you’ve struggled with. It is a process.

Gary S:
Warwick talks about it in depth in the Crucible Leadership model, and it’s always exciting for me to come in and see two, I’m looking at two guys on the screen, who could not have more different backgrounds, and yet, and more different experiences, but the emotions of what you went through and the way that you, bit by bit, reclaimed your sense of purpose in both of your cases is inspirational, and I hope that’s what listeners get from this is that you don’t have to be Tommy and go through the things he went through, you don’t have to be Warwick and go through the things he went through. The emotions of how they processed what they went through, that’s the formula for getting you beyond. Sorry, Warwick, I cut you off.

Warwick F:
Yeah, yeah. No worries. It’s all good. I love what you’re talking about, Tommy. Just finding things that we love, that we’re talented at, and the world needs, I think that’s so true. And purpose, I think, really is, purpose is when it’s a God given purpose, a purpose from within you, it is very fulfilling, and it does bring joy. But I keep thinking about the Tommy in the ditch, and you made a decision. You didn’t really have all this figured out. I didn’t when I was trying to claw my way back. I didn’t have the whole Crucible Leadership model figured out. That kind of stuff comes afterwards as you look back, unfortunately. It’s good for other people. It doesn’t really help us at the time, but we make our way through and muddle through.

Warwick F:
But part of it, I think, is you make a choice, and you made several choices. One was, “You know what? I know maybe I don’t like myself, I certainly don’t love myself, but I am going to work on that. For better or worse, I’m going to be the authentic Tommy Breedlove. So be it. Forget the mask. I’m done with the mask. I’m going to be myself, and I’m going to work on,” and I love that phrase you use, that of self-love. It’s like exercise. We all use different things. For me, faith is a huge deal, so just the thought that we’re all loved by God unconditionally. Over time, as I read, meditated, prayed, and fortunately, I’m sure, like you, I have a wife that loves me unconditionally. That was a huge help. But over time, it’s like, “I’m going to be the real me, and that’s it.” So that’s a choice, and just the sense of purpose of trying to do something that really makes the world a better place.

Warwick F:
So talk a bit about that, because to me, that was key for you. You made a choice, forget the mask, to be authentic, and in some ways, you wanted to do something that was purposeful. Does that feel true, that choice you made?

Tommy B:
So true, so true, and I’m going to talk a little bit before that and right at that moment. So there’s so many who keep saying, over and over again, that it’s the absolute most powerful thing, that maybe we’re going to say today is we, as human beings, like to feel like we’re in control, but we are in absolutely control of nothing with the exception of one thing, and it’s our choices. Including in those choices are our mindset and attitude, so choices, mindset, and attitudes. The rest we can influence, we can inspire, we can lead, and we can do the best we can, but at the end of the day, all we have in our control is our choices, mindset, and attitude.

Tommy B:
So pre-ditch, I was completely unconscious, I had the wall up, and the truth be told, this is kind of a cute story, is my wife and I were going through all of these wedding counselors, because we were trying to figure out why we were so unhappy and blah-blah-blah-blah. And so about the second or third visit of every single one of those counselors, the counselor would be like, “Heather, why don’t you stay home, and Tommy, we need you to come back.” At first, I thought they were going to say, “Hey, Heather’s the problem, and Tommy, you’ve got it all figured out.” But that’s not what they were saying. They were seeing this deep darkness, they were seeing this wall that I wasn’t even letting them penetrate. I was completely closed, I couldn’t feel, and so I was closed. I don’t know I had the ability to choose something different. That’s how closed I was.

Tommy B:
But one of those counselors said something to me that I’ll never forget. He says, “There’s a facility in Tennessee that can do more for you, Tommy, in seven days than I can do in 10 years.” And when I woke up in that ditch, I remembered that, and I made the choice to listen to a man who’s in this profession, go to this place in Tennessee where they cut me open for four days and 30 others. I knew I wasn’t alone, I could feel again. They let me know that “Hey, this is going to be okay,” and then they gave me three days of tools to put it all back together, and that was my catalyst to start participating in my own rescue, investing in myself, and making me and my mindset, my emotional, my spiritual, my physical life my number one priority so that I could serve others better.

Tommy B:
And so I finally knew I could choose, and the first choice I made was to listen to that guy, because I hadn’t listened to him for four years before, and say, “Hey, there’s something out there that can help me find who I am,” and it’s called the Living, I’m going to give them a prop, they give me nothing, it’s a Living Center Program in a place called Onsite Workshops outside of Nashville, Tennessee. And that seven-day program was the catalyst for me becoming the man, human, and person I am today.

Warwick F:
That’s awesome. I keep reflecting on that phrase, “Investing in yourself,” which sounds self-centered, but it’s really not. It’s in a sense, other-centered. I’m sure your wife and those who know you are very grateful that you’ve invested in yourself. It’s almost denying, as those negative voices never quite go away.

Tommy B:
Ever.

Warwick F:
It’s a bit like exercise. “Hey, I worked out in a gym yesterday. I’m good for the next six months.”

Tommy B:
Not at all.

Warwick F:
Life’s not like that. Same as spiritual and emotional, because there is the voice, that one that said, “Hey, Tommy. You’re worthless,” in a bad moment. That never goes away totally.

Tommy B:
And loud.

Warwick F:
It’s like, “Okay. I hear that voice. I’m not going to let you gain traction, okay?” Whether it’s yoga, meditation, prayer, whatever spiritual practices work for you, use that to help you realize that I believe every human being is perfectly and wonderfully made and loved by God or some spiritual force, however you look at it. Claim that truth, and that’s the internal. The external is just what you’ve done, which I love, is just this whole concept of purpose and significance, because I feel like as we’re able to contribute to the world, there’s a healing balm in that. As you’re helping others, you take your focus off yourself in terms of self-centeredness, and you do that, you help people all over the country, all the world.

Warwick F:
So talk a bit about how clearly you love Legendary leadership, and it feels like, I’m not saying that because, “Oh, you like it. You’ve written a book,” but it’s more there’s a sense of purpose, there’s a sense of excitement. I’m not just going to get this big paycheck and the corner office at the 50th floor of some big building. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you’re changing people’s lives. Right? It’s not about the speaking and endorsements. So talk about how you know who you are. I think to the best degree you can, you actually feel that you’re worth loving. Am I right?

Tommy B:
Indeed, indeed. 100% now. Still have bad days, though.

Warwick F:
Correct, but you’re focused on helping others. So talk about how Legendary leadership has transformed your life and transformed others’ lives, this mission you’re on.

Tommy B:
Yeah, absolutely. I can’t tell you … So when people usually … So one of the hardest investments we make, and I want to go back to something you said, is investing in yourself. It’s not selfish. There’s the great faith-based joke is the guy, the flood’s coming, and the guy’s sitting on top of his house. And then the boat comes by and says, “Jump in,” and he’s like, “No. I’m waiting for God to save me.” The helicopter comes in and says, “Jump in.” “No, I’m waiting for God to save me.” And then he drowns. “God, what happened?” He goes, “Well, I sent two things.” So you’ve got to participate in your own rescue, and I believe in order to be the best leader, husband, man, woman, family member that you can is it starts and ends with you. And so I’m very rigid.

Tommy B:
For me, living a life of significance and purpose and serving is about every day getting up, making sure I have my gratitude exercises, my physical exercises, my meditation, my daily readings, my prayers. I literally spend 90 minutes to two hours every day working on myself, my fortress, in order so I can serve and love people to my fullest. And some of the stuff I do is pretty heavy. I’m in the pain and purpose business. I carry the weights and burdens of pretty successful people but also help them find their purpose.

Tommy B:
And it’s interesting that you talk about serving and finding. It’s interesting. If you looked at my client base, I have everything from people just getting started in their life to as the wealthy as they come, and it’s interesting to see how similar people are. It’s no longer anecdotal. It’s statistical. And so it’s interesting. It doesn’t matter, sometimes, how much money they make, people are like, “I’m still not happy. I’m still not fulfilled. Why do I find myself looking at the stars at night?” And almost 100% of the people, whether it’s in a group setting or on a stage or one-on-one, almost 100% of us, and it’s almost statistical, we all struggle in our relationships with our family members, our significant others, and sometimes our friendships. It’s 100%, so we’re not alone.

Tommy B:
And so for me, building and living a Legendary life is doing the best we can every single day, and I’m going to give you some of the things that it includes, and these are things that I believe deep down inside. And this book is all about simple tactics, great stories, and easy, actionable things that you can do in the following categories. And to me, you can’t overwhelm yourself and start on all of them. You’ve got to start simple, dream big, start small, but just start daily exercising these different parts of your mind, heart, soul.

Tommy B:
And so for me, it begins and ends with purpose, is we’re all here for a reason. We’ve got to figure out what that reason is why. And to me, the only real asset we have in life that’s literally depreciating every day, that’s a business term, is our time. And so how do we reconquer our time, and how do we prioritize our time to do the best we can. I believe that financial freedom and confidence is as important as it can, especially in the Western world. It helps us make impact, it helps experience life, and it helps us have freedoms we wouldn’t have. Then it moves into how do we cultivate networks and leverage our friends, our family, our colleagues to surround ourselves with the best people possible, but also come from a place of service?

Tommy B:
And then it takes a dramatic turn. It takes a turn into, “Okay. Now, we need to start developing unconditional love and respect for ourselves,” but a lot of us alpha individuals have a real problem with receiving love and giving love. How do we that? How do we be a little more vulnerable? And then it talks about how do we have better intimacy with our friends, family, and significant others? How do we master, you talked about it, that critic that can get so freaking loud sometimes, and tell us we’re not good enough, and, “Hey, you are this bad person, and what if they figure …?” And so it takes a wholistic approach, and it talks about the power of choices, but to me, it’s a simple playbook on how to live the best life.

Tommy B:
And I’ll tell you why I chose Legendary. In a world of constant self-promotion, “See me, see me, see me. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn. I’m important. Here’s me getting out of the car. Here’s me getting out of a jet. Here’s me important. Look how pretty I am.” And we’re all guilty of it on some regard, right? But to me, Legendary is something that’s given to us by our communities, our societies, and our tribes. And you can either be a beautiful legend, and it doesn’t have anything to do with rich or fame, or you can be a horrible legend. And this playbook is all about when we leave this world, we take the U-Haul of stuff with us, and no one’s going to read our resume, but when we leave this world, we’re going to leave ourselves, our communities, and this planet a little bit better than we found it. And to me, that’s the journey, building and living a Legendary life choice.

Warwick F:
I think that is so true. As you’ve been talking about some of the … We all have pain, and some of the wealthy or Hollywood folks or different people. I grew up with that. For whatever reason, we were on the map with my parents, and my mother would throw incredible parties, so Hollywood people would come to Australia and stuff, and it’s like, “We’re used to good things in Hollywood, but the stuff that Lady Fairfax has in Sydney, it’s another level than we’re used to,” so that just tells you something. So there was legendary parties, to misuse your phrase.

Warwick F:
But yet, you can be really successful and famous and be empty. And to me, what fills the emptiness is yes, you’ve got to love yourself, and there’s that self-work you need to do, but you have to live a life on purpose, which to me in some way makes the world a better place. It could be through an invention, it could be through a non-profit, it could be in a corporate arena. That can have very diverse arenas, but when you’re living life on purpose, doing something, as you put it, that the world needs, which is other-focused, that gives even the wealthiest, most successful person, that can often be the most depressed person, meaning, as well as people on the other end of the economic spectrum. And it also feels like maybe I am worth loving in some weird way as I’m helping others. So that sense of other-focus, to me, it’s difficult have a sense of purpose which isn’t in some ways other-focused on some level. Does that make sense?

Tommy B:
100%. Couldn’t agree more. Gary, looks like you’ve got a question, brother.

Gary S:
Yeah, well, I have a thing I do in every podcast, Tommy, where I say it’s about time to land the plane. We’re not landing yet. The captain’s turned on the Fasten the Seatbelt sign, and the gear may be coming down, but I want to summarize for the listener here that is really, really interesting to me. Folks who’ve listened to this podcast since its inception know Warwick talks about the importance of living a life of significance. To hear you describe a Legendary life, there’s so much overlap there in the way that that comes together, and that’s one of the truly great things about being part of this podcast is to see people from different walks of life, who’ve arrived at the same place through different circumstances, to help people with that very thing.

Gary S:
Tommy, there was something today. It’s funny that you talked about Facebook. I sent you a Facebook friend request yesterday, and you were kind enough to say yes. And I saw a video you posted on Facebook today. It was just you, and you were so excited, and you’re like, “I just have to share this with everybody really quickly.” And you were actually there in your home studio with your good microphone, and you were just doing this short, it’s 15, 20 seconds long, but this is what you said. You quoted someone, but this is what you said, and I think it’s a great way to begin the process of hitting the runway. You said this, is a quote that you quoted. “I cannot do all the good the world needs. The world needs all the good I can do.” That, to me, summarizes Crucible Leadership and summarizes A Legendary Life. Is that fair?

Tommy B:
That is completely fair, and when I read that, it was part of my daily routine that I was just talking about that I read that, and I had this, “Oh, my God. That is genius.” “All the good that I can do.” It’s about something bigger than us, it’s about service, it’s about impact, it’s about significance, and what I like about it, I wish there was three million or billion other Tommys and Warwicks and Garys in the world, because we all are beating this drum of “We can do this. You can do this. We can overcome things, and you can actually be happy and successful.” And Warwick might be strawberry, and I might be chocolate, and you might be vanilla, and this person over here chocolate chip, but there’s a flavor for everyone. And find your flavor, find what voice resonates with you, find what message resonates with you, whether it’s books or podcasts or mentors or coaches or your tribe or your inner circle or your friends, find it and go chase it and take one small step. So I love that.

Tommy B:
And that quote, I can’t remember who said it. It was Janis something, and I just read it for the first time. It’s laying around in me somewhere, but I don’t want to go digging during the podcast. Let me show this. This is kind of crazy. There’s my daily readings. And so I just think this message, and candidly, if I’m going to be fully transparent, I’m angry. I’m angry that so many amazing, beautiful, ambitious, driven people who want to serve, they’re unhappy, they’re unfulfilled, they don’t know what they want to do. And I think, and I’m not one of those martyr/victim people, but I think we’ve done a piss poor job in our society of teaching people money, emotional health, mental health, and spiritual health. And it’s all a wholistic stew, and if we take one ingredient out of the stew, the stew doesn’t take good. You take salt out, the stew’s shitty. Forgive that word. The salt’s not so good, but you know what I’m saying?

Warwick F:
The stew?

Tommy B:
Yeah, the stew. The stew. And so I forget the word there, but what we want to do is there’s just baby steps that we can do, and it’ll be a little hard. If you’re not happy with where you are in life, just go find the nearest mirror, look in it, and just say, “I want to change,” and then take one small action. Pick up a book, listen to a podcast, just move.

Warwick F:
And you’re right. We don’t really teach it in schools or anywhere, I suppose, families, community groups, churches. I guess we could all do better, but getting to the point that you’re at, and I like to think I’m at, where you accept who you are, you believe that you were worth loving, you are contributing to society in a purposeful way, you have people that are for you, and they’re not for the mask version of Warwick or Tommy or Gary. They’re for the real version. When you’re your real self, and somebody says, “You know what? I like the real Tommy. The other Tommy was okay. This one’s better. It’s really you.”

Warwick F:
It’s quite something when the mask is down, and people love you for who you are, and you’re contributing to society. That, to me, is a Legendary life, a life on purpose, a life of significance. That is possible, it is mission-possible. Not mission impossible. It’s not an easy road to get to. It is possible, you’re an example of it, I’d to think in some small way I try to be, but being authentically you, in a way living on purpose and helping others, it is possible, it’s worth the effort, it’s worth getting out of the ditch.

Tommy B:
And the work never stops.

Warwick F:
It’s worth it. Exactly.

Gary S:
Yeah. I can see that-

Tommy B:
The work never stops. Yep.

Gary S:
No, I can see the guy in the ground with the flashlights doing this. So we’re getting to the point that we’re going to land, but I would be remiss after all of this great content, all of this great experience that you’ve shared with listeners, Tommy, if I didn’t give you the chance to tell people where they can find you, and not just you, but also choose goodness where you do a lot of your work from. So how can people connect with you, find your book, and learn more about how to live a Legendary life?

Tommy B:
Well, the book is everywhere, and I was going to say even in your airports or bookstores, but no one’s going to the bookstores or airports. So it’s all over Barnes & Noble, Amazon. You can get the book anywhere. Because of what’s happening in the world right now with COVID, if you go to TommyBreedlove.com/gifts, the first thing I give you is my purpose statement about here is my purpose right now during this season of my life, and the formula and a blank page for you to work your own, as well as my Legendary lifetime, what we talked about, my daily routine to help me be the best person possible, to hopefully build theirs. What we’ve added to that is the Financial Competence and Freedom chapter, as well as the Mastering the Mindset chapter for free, because I think there’s an undercurrent of fear, insecurity, “What am I going to with my money?” And so these two chapters are so vitally important, and I also share my story, so you get the preface as well.

Tommy B:
So if you go to TommyBreedlove.com/gifts, you can get two free chapters of my book, Legendary. I put so much content out there on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, whatever your flavor is, it is all about us being a little bit better than what we are, hope, innovation, love, grace, and being more financially free. So @TommyBreedlove on Instagram. Of course, I’m on Facebook at Legendary Choice, which is under the Tommy Breedlove brand, and as well as on LinkedIn. I put stuff out there every day just to be inspirational. Know that you’re not alone, and know that you’re worthy enough and valuable, and we’re all in this together. And I think right now, we’re craving connection, and we’re craving vulnerability and authenticity more than we ever were, so let’s all give people the gift of going second, let’s be honest and vulnerable, and here’s to all of us, Crucible Leadership and building and living Legendary lives.

Gary S:
Fantastic. Let me, for your listeners, summarize some takeaways of this robust conversation that we’ve had today. One thing, I think, comes through loud and clear from Tommy’s story is that mentoring matters. You can find it anywhere. Tommy found it in jail. Not only did Tommy find it in jail, but he found it from an unlikely source in jail. So look around you, see the people that you admire, see the people who are doing things like you wish you were doing things, like you aspire to be doing things. And then ask for help, see if they will help you. Most people when asked to give some counsel, some advice, to pass along their wisdom, will jump at the chance. And having a mentor who will pour into your life in that way can make all the difference in the world. Tommy’s living proof of that.

Gary S:
The second takeaway, this is very powerful as Tommy and Warwick are talking about their crucible experiences and their bounce backs from those crucible experiences, is do not compare your crucible to other people’s crucibles. Your worst pain, your worst setback is just that, your worst pain and your worst setback. Tommy gave a great example of if we took all of our crucibles and threw them in a bucket, and then everybody went to pick them out, we wouldn’t pick out other people. We’d pick out our own, because that’s our worst pain. So that’s what you have to find your way back from is your worst pain. And to paraphrase the title of the podcast, that’s where moving beyond your crucible begins, by digging into your pain and learning the lessons of it.

Gary S:
And then the last thing that we can take away from this is find your purpose. Tommy has a great, great formula for how to do that. It is “We love it, we’re talented at it, the world needs it. That equals our purpose.” And the other important point there, both for Warwick and his life and Tommy and his life, is that it may not happen immediately. It probably won’t happen immediately after your crucible, but you do have a purpose. And even if it doesn’t happen immediately, keep after it, because the world needs your purpose, and the world needs you.

Gary S:
Thank you, listener, for spending time with us today on Beyond the Crucible. You can do us a little bit of a favor by on the app that you’re listening to right now, click Subscribe. That will ensure that you never miss conversations like this one we had with Tommy Breedlove today, and it’ll also help us make sure more people get a chance to hear the insights that Tommy has to offer on how to confront a crucible, learn from a crucible, and bounce back from a crucible. If you’d like to learn more about Crucible Leadership and the resources that we offer, you can visit us on the web at CrucibleLeadership.com.

Gary S:
So until the next time that we’re all together, thank you truly for joining us here on Beyond the Crucible, and I’m going to steal a word from Tommy and say, “You’re all beautiful humans,” and remember that your crucible experiences are not the end of your story. It wasn’t the end of Tommy’s story. You already know it’s not the end of Warwick’s story. It’s not the end of your story either. But you dig in, you learn the lessons from them, you apply those lessons, and you push yourself to live life on purpose, as Warwick says. It can be not the last chapter of your book. It can be the next chapter, the best chapter, because where it leads is to a life of significance.

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