The Most Inspiring Speech: The Wisdom of a Third Grade Dropout Will Change Your Life | Rick Rigsby

– 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. (audience laughing) Mhmm. (audience laughing) Like fun run. Ain’t nothing fun about it. (audience laughing) Like Microsoft Works, y’all don’t hear me. (audience laughing) I used to say I like country music but I’ve lived in Texas so long I love country music now. (audience cheering) Yeah. 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? (audience laughing) 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. Always. Don’t ever forget that. Never embarrass momma. Mhmm. (audience laughing) Yeah, if momma ain’t
happy, ain’t nobody happy. If daddy ain’t happy, don’t
nobody care but you know– (audience laughing) 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. (audience laughing) 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. “Son, “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. Mhmm. (audience laughing) Back in my day, we’d have
called her a brick house. (audience laughing) 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. (audience laughing) 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. (audience laughing) 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. (audience laughing) We go on a second date and a third date and a fourth date. Mhmm. (audience laughing) 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– (audience laughing) 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. (audience laughing) 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. (audience laughing) 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?” (audience laughing) And it was coming from
my side of the family! (audience laughing) 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. (audience cheering and applauding) (uplifting music)

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