Cornell Thomas

Cornell Thomas is an International speaker, multiple title author, social entrepreneur, corporate trainer, mindset coach, former basketball coach, player, and trainer. He also runs an Executive Coaching Program for CEOs that focus on EQ, team building, and culture. He aims to help his clients find a way to do what they love every day – “life mapping”. As a speaker, Cornell was blessed with the opportunity to speak all over the world sharing my story with others. His goal is to impact as many people as possible.

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Author and Coach, Cornell Thomas Shares His Story of How the Power of Positivity Transformed His Life

Pamela Bardhi
Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of underdog. Today I have an amazing guest here with me, super fun, amazing energy Cordell Thomas, how are you my friend?

Cornell Thomas
I’m doing great, I’m excited to be at the Bardhi party. Thank you for having me

Pamela Bardhi
That term has been coined so so well, by Jerome Myers. I gotta give it to him credit to you, Jerome, but it is a Bardhi party. We’re here to get it started. But today, it’s a Cornell party, because you are just a man who is so excited to have you here and hear about you. Your journey, your awesomeness.

Cornell Thomas
Thank you, I appreciate you.

Pamela Bardhi
Of course, I appreciate you. And I always start off like this is the most loaded question ever. But it’s so great. What inspired you on your journey to where you are today?

Cornell Thomas
That is a loaded question. What inspired me, I would have to say because my journey is so different. It’s so different from where it started like so completely 360 degrees. As of nine years ago, if I went back and took Cornell upon speaking and writing books and traveling the planet. I would have been like, no, you’re on crack. Like, that’s how different it is. But I would say that the inspiration probably was my son, about to be born. And also, you know, one day I saw the negativity on Facebook. Like I saw, I was on social media and I just saw how negative it was and I didn’t know at that point in time. I’d be a speaker or anything like that. But I felt that something had to be done.

And I was like, Okay, my little small bubble, my people that follow me on social media, if I can just post some positive quotes. Maybe that will change the way people think in the morning and my track was coaching division one basketball. And right before my son was born, I realized that if I did, if I went that route. I would never be in his life, I just wouldn’t have the time to be around for my son. So I was just asking the heavens, anything, anybody. Well, what is it that I was put here to do? Because I knew for a fact, as much as I love the game of basketball as much time as I dedicated into it. There’s no way I’m gonna let this young man grow up without me in his life.

Pamela Bardhi
Amen to that. That soul searching that you were doing? And how did you get to your answer?

Cornell Thomas
I think the universe got me there. Because a lot of times we think that like, Oh, you know, people ask me. How did you get into speaking and I think it’s some crazy story, I was walking down the street and I got hit by a rock. And then when I was in the hospital, I had this epiphany. It wasn’t that it was being on social media. Seeing negativity, getting a book of positive quotes, that I had in my house somewhere under something. Putting those quotes on social media every day. Then eventually waking up and not being able to find the book in writing my own quote. And when I wrote my own quote, people still liked it. So my personality is if I can do it myself, why would I like screw this book?

Like, I don’t need to look for books, I can just do it myself. So I started writing my own quotes every single day and a friend of mine. My friend, Stephanie, I will never forget, we’re in this place called Panera Bread and Rockaway, New Jersey. We’re sitting there and she said, Where do you get your quotes from? And I said, I just wake up and I made them up and she goes, Oh, my gosh, you should write a blog. Look, they’re dead in the face. That’s a great idea, what the hell is a blog, but I’d never heard of a blog before. She went to a car, got her laptop, but she made it this little WordPress site on the spot and I wrote my first blog, it was called risk.

And the title of the website was power of positivity and that’s how it started. Like, I just started blogging. Every Saturday, I wrote a blog on the power of positivity. Then eventually I said to myself, well, I would love to write a book. How are you going to write a book? I was like, I’m gonna ask Google and then I asked Google and Google was like, here’s stupid, this is how you do it. And then I wrote my first book and I named it the power of positivity, like my blog and all this stuff came out that I just didn’t know was there. I had all this trauma, all this suppressed emotion, you know, that was in there and I was very afraid to let it out.

It had nothing to do with me like on the man, I can’t cry, none of that like none of that nonsense. I didn’t cry growing up, because I didn’t want my mom to worry about me. Like I’m very, very close to my mom, very protective of my mom. And when I was four years old, my father, who’s a police officer in Passaic, New Jersey, passed away from cancer. My mom had to raise five of us by herself, like no money. So my whole thing was I show like emotion or show that something’s bothering me. Then my mom’s gonna have to put more time into me. And she’s already like, has so much stuff. She’s working three jobs. So I suppressed all that.

And I started writing, I started writing about the people in my life that have changed the trajectory of my life. Like the second chapter is called Ray, which is named after a guy that showed me how to first shoot the basketball. The first chapter is about a guy that I trained Jiu Jitsu with. Up until he passed away he had been diagnosed with stage four cancer. And he trained two weeks up until he was supposed to do that until he passed away. I talked about his inspiration. At the very end, I wrote a letter to my father. That chapter I was sitting in Starbucks and I was writing and tears started coming down my eyes and I haven’t cried. At that point, 15 years and these tears are coming down my eyes.

And I like it, I was so scared of the emotion because it was unfamiliar. So I closed my laptop and I grabbed my stuff and I just kind of really sped walked out of the Starbucks with my car. And I just started, I couldn’t stop it. I just started crying. Why talk about it now? So long, guys, like, I still feel it. I was so scared, I was like, what is happening and I just started, all this stuff just started coming out and I said. Man, writing is really like that. It started becoming therapy for me. Whereas I met all this stuff that you never addressed as a child, like. Now you’re writing and even when I first started speaking, I would never share things that made me super vulnerable.

Because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to stop it if I cried or I wouldn’t be able to. And that took a couple of years to transition into like, No man. Now that you’re sharing stuff, people are even more drawn to you. Because they see this big, like six foot five, you know, dude, and I’m almost getting emotional on stage. It’s okay to feel like it’s okay to have feelings, It’s okay to have these emotions. So I’m sorry, it’s a super long-winded answer to your question. But, it’s like, that’s kind of the process that I went through where, you know. It really started out with my son and with what I was seeing and then I’ll say to myself, okay, well, what else is possible?

And that’s a question I ask myself whenever I get to a different level of what I’m supposed to do. I always ask what else is possible? Like, okay, you went to Dubai to speak? Okay, well, what else is possible? Maybe you go to Africa, Saudi Arabia, maybe we can go here. Alright, well, what else is possible? And I just always asked myself that question and that’s how I’ve been able to, like, continue to grow and help people.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s outstanding. And you mentioned, I mean, you mentioned your journey a little bit kind of growing up, and I resonated with a lot. Because you know, growing up my parents, they’re always working. So I was that kid who also suppressed emotions, entirely. My coping mechanisms I learned was sleep and just more work, because I never wanted to face it, similar to you.

And I never realised how much I had to release as well and even creating that podcast of being vulnerable. Scare the living crap out of me, because I was like, Oh, no, I’m the tough one. Yeah. But when you come out there and you really share what you’ve been through. People are so much more drawn to it, they’re like, Man, this person is real. They’re authentic, they’re not putting this like veil or this filter on this is them. This is me, this is what I’ve been through. And here’s how I got through it. I dealt with

Cornell Thomas
It was an exact day, I will never forget. I was speaking at an event in Las Vegas, when I was probably two years into my speaking career. And the way these dudes set up the event is they’d show a movie clip. Then there were four of us. One of us would talk about a topic and the clip one with the topic. Like to go with the flow guy. You can say they’re off-topic. I could speak on it. I’ll just speak on it. And so the one guy was like, Hey, what are you talking about? purpose? Was like, Yeah, I thought about purpose. No problem. Five minutes before someone was supposed to go on stage. So I go, Yeah, do it. The clip they played was the end of the pursuit of happiness.

And at that time, I never saw the movie. I knew that. I knew the guy, I knew the true story. I’ve heard of the movie, but I have never seen it. So these cats play the last part of the movie. When Will Smith gets the job spoiler alert, sorry and he’s walking outside. This pack city in New York is on the block and he’s just clapping. And like Pam, I thought about my mom. Like, I just don’t think my mom, when the lights come on, hey, I’m on stage, it’s all dark. They show the clip, the lights come on and if you watch that tape, I am pacing back and forth so fast that you will think I’m trying to literally outrun the emotion.

And I started to tear up and I’m like, holy shit, like, what am I gonna do? Like I’m starting to tear up like, what’s going on? So, I finished and I Beeline off the stage and my good friend Mike Asma. Armand goes, No, he goes, man. He goes, that’s the way you need to speak. He’s like, I love the way you talk. You’re really funny and I was like, thanks, man. And I just kept walking. I went outside and I just, you know, cried and I was like. This is the only time I’ve ever cried in public and I was like, man, there’s something to this. There’s like power in this emotion and like you said, people can empathise with that. Right?

I feel like the way Pam’s thinking or like talking right now, I can feel that having parents that are just working all the time. And her being a latchkey kid, there’s a tonne of us. There’s millions of us that grew up as latchkey kids. When we come home, we have to figure it out. You figure out what you eat, you figure out. If you’re gonna do homework or not, you figure out, get yourself to walk to school, forget the bus. Whatever you have to do it, because I’m trying to keep a roof over your head and food in your sight. Right. So like, as soon as you said, you know, as soon as I said, hey, like my mom was working immediately. You’re drawn to it, because you went to the same thing. Yeah, Right.

And that’s the thing I love is like, you’re from Boston, meaning you don’t look like you’re way better looking than I am. Right. But we can both bond on that similarity, right? Like people don’t understand, like, if you watch TV in the media and all this nonsense as divisive crap. You will think we have no faith, no commonalities, you will think that like. We have nothing in common, we have everything in common, right? It’s just we choose not to see it, you know, so I just love that I love the fact that we can connect in like bond. And it’s just because there are experiences in life, right? You always have someone that is going to relate to what you’ve been through.

Pamela Bardhi
Absolutely. And I mean, with that, you know, growing up with parents that they weren’t home, all you wanted to do was make them proud. So you never wanted to bring problems to the table when you did see them. And that was it for me and I was like, Why are you so driven? How are you so motivated? It’s like, because at the end of the day, when my parents came home from that long, long, 12 13 14 hour day, Mabel said. Hey, Mom, I made an honor roll, hey Dad, I made an honour roll and haven’t been proud not to bring to the table, you know.

So I totally resonate with you. And like, the authentic connection of understanding where it is that we came from, right. I came from a totally different country, from Albania to here. And look at that we’re bonded. Somehow, we’re all so much more alike than we could ever imagine. It’s just, I mean, it’s the media that divides us.

Cornell Thomas
Because if we’re ever together, like we ever truly are, there’s ever a generation that actually came together and realised this game. This system has been doing the same thing since the beginning of time. Right? If we ever came together, then the 99% would take over. And the world will look different. So I always say The Matrix is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever watched. Because it truly is a documentary, the people in power are less than 1%. Rule the 99%, because they find ways for us to be divided over things like hue. Like skin tone, gender, religion, politics, Boston, Yankees, like they want to find anything for us to be at each other’s heads. But the great thing is that we’re finding each other and we’re connecting and there’s nothing we can do to stop.

Pamela Bardhi
Which is amazing. And I feel like at this point in time that we’re at now just a point of healing. It’s a point of authenticity. It was so interesting. I was on LinkedIn and I’m getting messages now on LinkedIn, they’re not typing messages. They’re voice messages. They are how LinkedIn is saying, Who put a cover story on. So like, more than ever, authenticity is becoming a thing. And I’m like, how could they God, It’s so cool. It’s so cool to see where the world is really shifting and how, you know. Creating avenues like this, like podcasts and social media and stuff like that could really be used in such a positive light. Which is so so cool and now, what I also love to see is that the collective is changing.

Standards are changing, like you said, being on that stage and being able to show emotion is a huge shift in our realities. People are talking about starting to talk about traumas and how to release them. Which means you’re not going to your story a little bit too. How you keep all that in for so many years and you know, how did you cope with it at that time? And how did you really overcome it? Because I mean, you realize that later in life that you still had that and you had to release it, but at that time. How do you how you sort of dealt with it is everyone deals with it differently. Like I know, like I said, my sleep and keep working and I just ignored them to a point where they just bottled up.

Cornell Thomas
Yeah. My mask basketball, like just saying that, I’ve never said that sentence like that. But it’s true. Basketball was my therapy and it’s not playing. I was 16 years old. Until that time, my coping mechanism was just like, be the younger brother be silly and Goofy and funny and you know, get beat up by older brothers. And that was that I had no identity. People didn’t really know my name. They knew me as like, Oh, that’s so and so’s little brother. Right? So, when I found basketball, it was the first time in my life, you know, after years of sucking. Because it’s just horrible at first. But when I started, like, the thing I did have, another thing that made you bond over is I had drive and work ethic.

So the first time I picked up a basketball, I was 16. And I got typical athletes who got cut from varsity as a junior and didn’t play my senior year. I remember sitting my mom down and my mom telling me she couldn’t afford to send me to college, I told my mom, I said. I’m gonna work two jobs, I’m gonna take two years off more two jobs, I’m gonna pay for a two-year college, I’m gonna get a full scholarship to play at a four-year school. And I’m gonna come back home, I’m gonna construct a professional basketball. My mom looked at me, she said, okay and like, not even hesitation and that’s what I did, I work at a pharmacy and a sneaker store.

I went to Sussex County Community College. After that second year, I got good enough, finally, to the point where I had scholarship offers, went to North Dakota. Played there for two years, came back home, got to play in Portugal in week four. I was supposed to go overseas and play professional basketball, I ruptured my Achilles. And I tell people is I always feel like when I speak of, Oh, my gosh, I had to deal with it, I was like, well, life was preparing me for that. Like, all these adverse things that I was going through. Was preparing me for that traumatic event, which could be like, you know, the end all be all, I could be saying, well, life is over. Right?

I did all this work. Life is over. But it was just preparing me. So all the hardships that we had. Basketball is my way of just picking up a ball and just walking to the court. And shooting baskets and pouring into them. The mask was like that of my therapist, that was my best friend. I just sleep on my basketball. And I forget, like, my girlfriend in college was like, I can’t believe you sleep in basketball. You would sleep on the floor before my ball did. Like, that’s how, I let everybody know and I wasn’t being mean, I was just like letting everybody know, like, my mom and basketball. Those are the two most important things in my life.

So that also helped my drive with everything else. When I started coaching basketball shortly after my drive was the same when I started. You know, like, it’s always been the same as an entrepreneur. I went on my first business-like 14 years ago. And the same thing my drive has always been the same. Because I was able to get those tools through my life, through the hardship, through the fire. I was able to get these tools to not just cope, but to thrive. And when I get punched in the mouth by life, not to lay on the ground and not get back up. We’re fighters you know, when we get hit, we might stagger. You might knock us down, but best believe we’re gonna get up.

But we’re gonna get up swinging and that’s the thing. That’s why I’ll never take anything back. You know, a mom raised us on everything that happens for a reason. I remember her saying to me that saying that to me, you know, six or seven years old. And I didn’t understand it. Because my big rebuttal for that was, well, why did I grow up without a father, why? Why would everything happen for a reason? I’m sitting here watching my friends, playing catch with their dad. Or hanging out with their fathers. It’s like, I don’t have a dad. I didn’t know until I had my son and my son was born June 4, 2013, for 20 of them.

And at that moment when I helped my son, I knew why I grew up without a dad. Because I was like, there’s no job that’s more important than me being a father, like no job. So I just pour everything into my kids, you know, and I know why. And energy doesn’t go anywhere and I know, I feel my father’s presence. Like once I started speaking, I started feeling his presence. You know, when I was younger, I didn’t feel anything and it wasn’t until I started speaking. I was speaking at Clark, New Jersey 250 educators, teachers, and special educators. And I spoke and then after I spoke for like two hours. This guy came up to me and he goes, I know your father, an older guy, like 60 years old.

I said, Excuse me, he goes, I was one of those kids that your father helped. Get off the street when I was younger and his name was Bernie gave me a hug. And I was just like, Okay, I get it. You know, they named the street up to my father, nine years ago, because he did so much community service work. He got kids off the streets, etc. And I was talking to one of those kids who’s now you know, an older man and I said something to him and he saw ghosts and he stopped.

He goes, your father said that same thing to me. You know, 40 50 some years ago at this very same spot, exactly what you just said. And I get goosebumps talking about it now, yeah. But it is like that affirmation, my dad has been waiting for me to do. What I was supposed to do, like, you know, and now that I’m doing it, he’s like, Okay, cool. Let’s go.

Pamela Bardhi
Incredible. You’ve just been guided this whole time when you realize now, would you write a book? What a journey. Oh, my goodness. And then going into, you know, from all this and writing a book and just not that book? Do you have many books? So you know, starting off from that and kind of branching off into like, building you’re building your brand. What was that experience? Like? Because Yeah, you know, entrepreneurship can throw you for a real loop. Especially in the first three to five years, especially when it’s brand new. So how did you sort of take you start building your brand? And what were some of the hardships in the beginning and breaking through that?

Cornell Thomas
I’m not just saying because I love you? It was an unbelievable question. And I don’t think I’ve been asked that. I’ve been interviewed a lot. But it’s a great question. When I opened up my basketball business, crosses basketball, I was 25 years old. And I was young and I’m like. Man, I got constant professional basketball, all I gotta do is run a camp, like the Pied Piper, hundreds of kids are gonna flood it. Because I’m putting on Thomas and I’m dope and kids are gonna just come. Not thinking about things like you’re pretty new to the area, too. They don’t know who you are. Because you’re in someplace that you didn’t even play basketball, like, you’re so far removed from it.

And three, it’s gonna be a little bit more than that. So I remember, I hired forecasters and I ordered 1000 t-shirts. Because we were gonna have four weeks again, so I was gonna say, Okay. Well, I mean, we’ll have 300 kids, 200 Kids per camp. Keep the other your so cam was gonna start at 915 at 850, it was me and the four other counselors by 915. One kid came in. By 930, we had three and that’s what we have for that first week of camp. So I was gonna read about two grand, right, 2500 the added cancel the other three camps, because we had zero signups. And I realized and I said this in the book, it’s not enough to just build it and think they can. They’re gonna come like Field of Dreams.

There’s a lot more groundwork you have to do. You got to do the legwork, you have to do the research and they came to speak. And I say this all the time, I could have easily done, what speaker ABC and D did. Have conversations with people and sell you the same bullshit right after the talk. Or do a video about my grandma, but at the end of it is going to lead to some coaching funnel, and blah, blah, blah. Like, you know, they do it. They’re like when I was seven, you know, my grandma gave me a piece of candy and I never got rid of it. And now I’m selling candy, you know, they’re like telling, they sell some type of candy. It’s like, okay, dog, so that whole story was crap, right?

So I said to myself early on, I’m going to do the groundwork. I’m not going to buy 30,000 followers, I’m not going to do any of that stuff, I’m going to be mean and I’m going to be real. And I’m not going to be a politician and if there’s something that is on my mind or there’s injustice, I’m gonna speak on it. Because none of these speakers, speak on any of that stuff that actually matters. Like, because God forbid someone doesn’t buy the kosher program, I don’t give a shit. So I’m gonna be mean and it’s gonna take a little bit longer. I have PR people come up to me like Coronel if you come here. You know, we can get you here, here, here.

And we could add the positivity guy. I’m like, Well, no, ever, and second, that’s not my name. So if you need to stick to getting me on some new show, I will not be on the new show. I’m taking the long way around and I have no zero people on my team. I just hired my first virtual assistant in eight and a half years. I want people to understand, like, all this stuff is possible. And that Road Less travel might take a little bit longer might be a little bit windy here. But when you are successful, you’ll show up as yourself and not a secondary version of your favorite speaker that doesn’t give a crap about you anyway. So for when it comes to branding, it’s all about being yourself.

It’s all about being ready to work and just understanding what opportunity is. And like I just went through Instagram, I was like. This person is following me in Dubai as an event planner. Why would I contact them and say, do you have any events that I can speak at? If I go to England in 2015, is the first I went to the UK, as I go to England says, I go to the UK speak, I’m an international speaker. So I know some in the UK, like, why don’t I go there and make something happen, like. Then I just started putting that stuff together and just being creative. And another thing really important, you can’t suck. Because the opportunity comes and you suck, guess what? That doors closed, you got to find another door.

So you got to practice, you got to work on your craft, you got to get better, you got to read like you got to be good at what you do. I know it sounds crazy and even though you’ll see that person, that’s horrible what they do. And they have some type of success, understand, there’s someone they know, or this smoke and mirrors and it’s not what it looks like. So you just you gotta be good at what you do as well.

Pamela Bardhi
Absolutely. Well, yeah, I always ask that, especially for entrepreneurs. The journeys are so different, but they’re all very similar. Like, it takes time to learn certain things. And the first three to five years are really, I like to say, trivial. It’s constant fires, that you have to put out constant learning, sleepless nights, and all these things. But now from the outside looking in, it’s also totally worth it, but entrepreneurs are a really big soft spot for me. Because they’re the ones I mean, the mental health, everyone has, you know, their mental health stuff. But entrepreneurs I feel like especially are not talked about as much. We’re here, we’re supposed to look super successful, but meanwhile, we’re struggling on the inside. Because we’re trying to figure out how to run this business.

But also be this positive person, but then run this business and do all these you know, so it becomes, so interesting. And whenever I’m speaking to another entrepreneur. I always want to shed light on the fact that like, Hey, we don’t have it all figured out. We’ve had our trials and tribulations along the journey, no matter what our journey looks like. Could be totally different realms. But it’s always amazing. That’s amazing and getting your first gig like how was that, you know. Going from your book, cuz you went from a simple blog. Then a book to then being on international speaker. So What was that like? And I’d love to know, like your mental mantras, like how you pull through, like in your own mind and just be super cool to hear.

Cornell Thomas
My first speaking engagement was in front of 14 people at a dance studio. And they’re all they’re eating lunch is really the worst-case scenario. Because when you’re in front of 14 people, it’s not a lot of people. They’re eating lunch, you can hear every snack. You can hear every you can see the tomato drop off the sandwich and a friend of mine that I was doing. We worked out the same gym, she was the head of it. And she was like, I wrote on my Facebook or my Instagram speaker and she said all I see that. We speak for free, of course. Am I a dance studio? I said sure. share my story. So that’s what I do, I spoke for free for nine months.

And luckily, I had my big basketball business. Because that was what paid the bills and I would speak. Wherever, anywhere, anybody would have me? I’d say yes. And speak to kids, because it’s all practice and we were speaking at high schools. I always tell people, if you want to get into speaking and you think your story’s pretty good, go to high school. Let me know how it goes. Like, you know, go to high school, let me know how it goes. Because they will eat you up, If they CBS they feel Bs, they’ll eat you up.

If you’re not engaging, they will eat you up warning you, they’ll give you a minute or two like adults will be courteous. Will be like, okay, like this person, not very good. Okay, high school kids, they’ll be on their phones so quickly, I’ll take Snapchat of you, like, and copy the speaker today for the assembly. Like, they’re gonna go ham. So it really was just me just going, you know, eight months in speaking and not getting paid. The first time I got paid, I was on a panel and I got $100. And I never cashed it, I needed the cash. I never cashed it and I said, when this has more zeros at the end of it, I always want to remember, you know, where I came from. And so I still have it in my bookbag and that’s how it happened.

It’s like, I just started saying to myself, okay, the more I speak, the more eyes they’re gonna see me. And we’re all trees with branches and those branches are other people. Like Frank introduced us, so we don’t you know who knows? Whoever whomever. So if I keep speaking, if I keep going out, someone’s gonna want to hire me. And if you’re good at speaking, one or two people will at least inquire about you. Or remember you so that’s what I did.

I just started speaking all over the place. Like my old pictures, it is so funny. You see me like a dare, like the drug awareness for little kids, that you see me like this random. I’ll be at a group home then you’ll see me at a business event. I’m everywhere you see me like at a circus, I’ll be at a bar mitzvah, it’s the weirdest stuff. It’s like why it’s called the McDonald’s playpen. And I like speaking, modeling, and grimacing just where and wherever whatever would have meant to be loved.

Pamela Bardhi
Like, what did you want to be when you grew up, like as a kid? What was it? Nothing?

Cornell Thomas
Nothing. I swear to you that this question haunts me every year at school. Because there was nothing that I wanted to be, I would also be content to be a kid. Nothing. It wasn’t till I was 16 and started playing basketball where I actually had a direction of like, okay, I want to be this thing. Other than that, nothing. I was just like, Oh, I’m a kid, you know, blah, blah, blah, like, I just want to eat my Lemonheads.

And, you know now and laters and like to just be a kid. Then I’ll be 16 and the idea of being a basketball player sparked that idea. Like you can be something like you can aspire to be something that you’re not. I just never had that. So it wasn’t until I was 16 that I actually started thinking about, well, what could I possibly be? Like, what is it?

Pamela Bardhi
Interesting. And I think you were just content with being yourself for all those years. I’m just gonna be me. So intuitively, you knew.

Cornell Thomas
Somewhere in there, the young Cornell that was eating way too much sugar and jelly sounded like he knew, Okay, he’s just gonna be himself.

What Would Cornell Older Self Tell His Younger Self

Pamela Bardhi
But so awesome. Oh, my gosh, I’m now like, on your journey. You know, what your older self tell your younger self based on what you know now?

Cornell Thomas
Man, I would probably say, if it didn’t have a butterfly effect and affect my life, I would say, listen. Listen a little bit more. And you’re good. Don’t worry. Like, it’s good. It’s okay to not know. Okay to not know, it’s okay. To not know what you want to be. It’s okay not to have an answer. A lot of times the answers are wrong like the kids are they just make stuff up anyway, just to appease the adults. When you want to build and grow, I want to be aligned to human needs, though. You don’t want to die. Like you don’t wanna be aligned. Never shut up. You’re just saying it, so the adult has an answer. That questions more for the adult and the kid.

It’s okay not to know, I know, college kids that have no idea what they want to be when they grow up. And it’s okay. We’re in a day and age right now, where you can run a business out of a phone. Something that’s like not even six inches long, you can run a business out of a phone completely. So like, you’re good, you have fiber you have all these different things like you need a website, boom. Your logo design, boom, you know, Hey, you got a business, your LLC, get that in 20 minutes. Alright, and now you’re good to go. So I always tell people to have patience with yourself. It’s okay. You’re 40 years old, you’ve started a new career, have patience with yourself. There’s something out there that you can do.

Pamela Bardhi
Amazing. That’s amazing. And so throughout your journey, what’s been like your favorite moment, would you say shaking or whatever, whatever comes up.

Cornell Thomas
While you gotta go and do that girl. I’ll give you two the birth of my children. 150%. It was very surreal. When they tell you this urban legend that you’ll be uptown and not downtown as the Father. And that’s not true. You are downtown, like you and it is a sight. But like, I wouldn’t change it. My kids are born. I was like, Okay, well, this is the health class I didn’t pay attention to. But when they came out, I was so overjoyed. I’ve never felt that type of emotion. Like it’s a different kind of love when you have kids and speaking, there’s two. One was the first time I went to Dubai. First I went to Dubai and spoke. I got on the plane and I had 25 30 minutes before my first talk at American University in Dubai.

And I took a quick shower and I ran out to the lobby and they drove me over and as I was speaking. I was having this conversation with myself. You’re in the Middle East right now. Like your little kid from Passaic, New Jersey, like, you’re in the Middle East, talking to people, like, How crazy is that? Because when you talk long enough, I have this conversation myself all the time when I’m speaking I’m like, oh, we’re gonna take the audience today. Like what are we gonna do?

And I said that to myself a couple of times, and I was like. I can’t leave them in Dubai and the first time, I went to England in 2015 I remember having a very similar thought. I’m walking down these cobblestone roads and we never had the means to travel. Never had the money to go and travel to different countries or whatever. I mean, our vacation was to where my mom was from Virginia. That was the exotic vacation and I was sitting there, I was like, man, if you’re younger self new. Like where are you traveling with one of my favorite books of all time is all the places you’ll go right now by Dr. Seuss.

And I actually have a pair of socks with a book cover on like a pair of socks and that’s another thing. I didn’t even know myself as a young child, as an adult, I didn’t have any interest in traveling before I started speaking. Because I didn’t know what it was and when you go to these inner-city areas, and it’s kind of impoverished areas, and the kids only know a couple city blocks. And they don’t know what’s 30 minutes away from 25 minutes away from home. Like, kids in Compton don’t know there’s a Santa Monica, right, not that far away. You’re not exposed to it. So even as you’re an adult, you kind of push it away.

And when I went to England for the first time, I said, I want to come back here immediately. I want to continue to do this. Now every time I go out, and I travel, and I meet these beautiful people from all over the world, I just like it just blows me away. I’m so appreciative. I’ve never understood how speakers and entertainers can be that moronic where they would take that stuff for granted. Like where they go somewhere. They’d have bad attitudes or I only want the blue m&ms, like, when I go places. I’m so appreciative when I went to Dubai, this last time last month and a half ago. Pam, they made chocolates out of my book covers. I swear to you, my buddy, for being hot at two jars.

Now this big incubator in Dubai, this big like an entrepreneur, you love it. Big entrepreneur, like, you know, he’s actually moving to an even bigger building. There’s a place where people are thinking about how we work, but people collaborate with each other. So I got in there and they’re like, I said, Can you speak for an hour and a half? I spoke for three hours. They’re like, brother, we have something for you. They open this thing up, I have a video on my Instagram handles these pictures of like, the cover of my book, like my face. And I was turn that camera on. I said never in my life. Have I seen this before, I want to eat my own face right now. I’ll take a bite and I was like, they were like Oh, it’s nothing?

No, like, no, that’s everything. Yes, the fact that you went out and did everything. And that would never change. But like the reason will always be like this is because how we were bought out. There’s a difference. Like if you’re raised, It’s always the first time. You never get like all this is old hat or whatever. It’s always the first time in hospitality for me.

When people do that, it’s like, you’re going out of your way to do something nice for me, I don’t care if it’s giving me a straw or a napkin. I’m always gonna say thank you, I’m always gonna say please, I’m always gonna give you a hug if you’re hugging people. And like, that’s just how I am. So I think those like, two moments as a speaker, and that moment as a just an adult, I’ll just know, I’ll never forget.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s so amazing. So these books of yours led us in a will to tell us a little bit about them so that everyone can check them out. And then, you know, let us know what are you up to and what’s up in Cornell world, the next six to 12 months.

Cornell Thomas
My fifth book just came out. It’s called gamma death on entrepreneur survivor guide. And it’s all about what we talked about, like the mindset of an entrepreneur. Don’t be fooled by the internet, like don’t think that everybody’s a six-figure earner in seven days. Like eight-minute abs, whoever made that sort of million dollars. And guess what, no one had ABS after that eight minutes. It’s not a quick fix, It’s not a blue pill. Entrepreneurship is a slow burn and sometimes you just get yummy. You get haymaker and the people that really want to do this, I really believe in it. They’re the ones whose businesses, they stick around and eventually you hear them making it. There was a podcast I listened to a long time ago, called how I built this.

And every entrepreneur’s story was the same hardship, hardship, hardship, work, work, work, something happens, tipping point and happens. Business goes, we have some more hardships than we took off. It’s always the same story. So this book is close to my heart, because it’s not just about mindset, like positivity, mindset, inspiration, it’s more about business as well. Like, you know, these are the things you’re going to go through and this is how you handle it mentally.

So I love that book. It just came out. And then I’m up to lots of trips, so the places I’ll go, I’ll tell you right now. Holland, back to the UK, we’re going to talk in the UK, like eight times seven times, Holland, back to the UK, Dubai, Saudi, Japan, because I’ve never been to Japan.
So I’m going back, Africa. When they open up, I want to go to Ghana. I’ve never been to Ghana, and then I go from there. You know that I figure out okay, what am I going to hit. I have this map in my house where I just get the chance to look at it every day. And I just like to put little checks on the places that I go and speak.

So the whole map I’m coming for it because I know what my story does for people. And when I do corporate workshops and all that, like how it helps to do corporate workshops on things like teamwork and culture, so I’m just coming for the map. And it’s like, I won’t stop until the maps are done. So I have a lot of work to do. There’s a lot of places to go see, but you’ll see the next because we’re now newly best friends. You’ll see in the next like, five, six months or so you’d like all criminals here, here, here, here. I’m gonna be all over this

Pamela Bardhi
Amazing Cornell. That’s amazing. Oh, man, I’m so excited to see your journey continue to unfold for you to take over that map, my friend. But now you got to let everyone know where to find you and your awesomeness.

Cornell Thomas
You can find me on the gram at Cornell Thomas 34. My website is And also, I have a speaker’s program now that I do a three-month program called Getting the game. I teach people that want to get into professional speaking the right way, how to put the stories together. Because that’s what it’s all about. Again, as I come at it from a way of like, you can’t suck like I got to get you better. And then each speaker has an opportunity to speak at one of my positivity summits.

So it’s really cool as though I’ve had two groups already my third group is gonna start. It’s been great to give back and see them grow and get speaking engagements and stuff. And for you guys that want to be speakers, anybody tells you they can get you gigs. They’ve never heard you speak before. They are full of crap. Don’t go that route. Because how can you get someone gigs that you don’t even know if they’re good or not? Right? So it’s like, don’t follow that route. Do the work, roll your sleeves up, put in your hard hat, do the work and then go from there.

Pamela Bardhi
You’re amazing. Cornell. Thank you so much for being here. Today. You are a total rock star and you’re just the baby.

Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with the amazing Cornell Thomas.

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The Underdog Podcast host is none other than Pamela Bardhi. She’s rocking the Real Estate Realm and has dedicated her life as a Life Coach. She is also Forbes Real Estate Council. To know more about Pam, check out the following:

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