Les Brown’s Secret – Be persistent, Be Prepared, Stay Hungry

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How does a man who is deemed mentally retarded achieve success? Not just success but recognized as one of the greatest public speakers of the modern age. He was elected to the Ohio legislature. An award-winning author. The host of a national television show. All this from a boy who they said was too stupid to be worth anyone’s time.

Les and his twin brother Wesley were born in 1945 in Miami, FL. Their birth mother was a military spouse whose husband was overseas. Her husband was not the boys’ father. She went to Miami to give birth in secret. Weeks later she gave the boys up for adoption.

Les and Wes were adopted by Mamie Brown. Mamie was a cafeteria worker who loved those boys as much as any mother can. Les credits his mother’s strength and character for inspiring him to rise above his circumstances.

While in the fifth grade Les was labeled as mentally retarded. He was eventually placed in special education classes. He allowed himself to become what he was labeled until high school. His speech and drama instructor saw the potential in young Les Brown. He worked to foster that potential and to motivate Les to become something more. When Les used the excuse that he was mentally retarded, this teacher responded by saying, “[Do not ever say that again! Someone’s opinion of you does not have to become your reality.]” It worked.

Lesley Brown had a dream. He wanted to be a radio DJ. He wanted thousands of people to listen to him speak. He wanted it so bad he used to practice in his bedroom using a hairbrush like a microphone.


Les Brown’s dream was beginning to catch fire. He practiced every night, talking into his hairbrush microphone. He slowly built his own radio studio in his bedroom. Not a real one, a mock-up of a real one. He drew out all the equipment on cardboard. He practiced over and over moving his hands across those hand drawn controls.

Les would practice until his mother and brother screamed at him to be quiet so they could sleep. Night after night he crooned to his imaginary audience. Playing pretend records on his cardboard phonograph. Les was preparing himself for the day his opportunity would come. He was focusing his vision of success to exactly what he wanted it to be.


Les Brown went to the station manager of a local radio station asking to hired as a DJ. The manager asked him if he had any experience. Les told him he didn’t. The manager asked if he had any training. Les said no. The manager laughed at him and told him there was no DJ job for him. Les left and came back the next day and asked again. The manager dismissed him telling him he could not be a DJ. Les came again the next day and the day after that. He would not quit.

Finally, the station manager gave Les a job as an errand boy. He fetched coffee and such for the DJs. But, Les didn’t give up. He studied the DJs as they did their job. He learned all the controls in the broadcast booth. He went home and made that mock-up in his bedroom. He practiced every night mimicking what the DJs did. He was hungry.

One Saturday Les got his chance. The DJ on duty was drunk and getting drunker. He could no longer do his job. The manager called the station and Les answered. There was nobody else there. The manager told Les to call in any of the other DJs that could get there. Les called Mamie and his girlfriend. He told them to turn on the radio because he was about to come on the air.

Les waited 20 minutes and called the manager back. He told the manager that there was nobody else. The manager asked him if he could change the records. Les said he could. The manager told him to keep changing the records and not say a word until he could get to the station.

Les went into the broadcast booth and moved the passed out DJ aside. He waited for the record to finish and he flipped on the microphone and said, “Look out! This is me LB, triple P – Les Brown, Your Platter Playing Poppa. There were none before me and there will be none after me. Therefore, that makes me the one and only. Young and single and love to mingle. Certified, bona fide, indubitably qualified to bring you satisfaction, a whole lot of action. Look out, baby, I’m your lo-o-ove man.”


Les’s preparation and persistence paid off. He achieved his dream. But, the story doesn’t end there. Les settled into his new job and started to get hungry. He wanted to use his microphone not just to entertain folks. He wanted to empower them, to educate them. He became hot and controversial. Too hot. The radio station fired him.

Les worked with some of the other DJs and managed to get his job back. But, he hadn’t learned his lesson. He got fired again a short time later. Someone suggested that he run for public office. He said I can’t do that I don’t know anything about being a politician. They told him, neither do most of the people who run for office. So he did it.

Les ran against an endorsed incumbent who was sure to win. Les won. Resoundingly. With no money and only his family and friends to support him. In 1976 Lesley Brown was elected into the Ohio House of Representatives. He was re-elected twice more. How does a mentally retarded man with only a marginal high school education achieve so much? Hang on ‘cuz we ain’t done yet.
Les left public office and became a public speaker. Motivating people to dream big and to achieve their dreams. Les has written 4 books and has numerous motivational audio recordings. He had his own King World Publications television talk show called [The Les Brown Show]. He has earned several public speaking awards and even an Emmy. Say what you will but this man is anything but mentally handicapped.


There is no secret. Les shares his motivational message to a massive audience quite openly. So what is the message that Les Brown shares? Be prepared. Be persistent. Stay Focused. Stay Hungry.
What is your dream? Are you prepared for it? If the opportunity came along today are you ready to seize it? If so, great! If not, what can you do to prepare yourself?

Are you persistent? Can you take no for an answer and come back again tomorrow? Are you ready to stake everything on your dream? I hope so. This is what it takes to get there. Don’t let anyone trample your dream, stand up and reach for it. Find the people who will support your dream instead of trying to crush it. Keep your vision alive in your own mind and don’t let it slip away.

Staying focused is rarely easy. There are so many distractions clamoring for your attention. What do you do to keep your focus on where you want to be? Focus is what enables us to achieve our dreams, to attain success.

How hungry are you? Can you feel it? Are you driven by that hunger? If not then maybe you are chasing the wrong thing. Try out [this exercise] to see if your vision of success is what is driving you. If you are not hungry you probably won’t get very far.


Les Brown was considered mentally deficient and a waste of time. He might well have remained that way if not for a high school teacher who saw the potential in him. You have the potential within you too. Get your vision of success deeply embedded in your mind. Prepare yourself for that success. Hunger for it. Work for it day after day. Do not stop until you have achieved it.

Thank you for reading my ramblings. If you have any feedback or suggestions for me please leave a comment below. You can also use my [Contact Form]. I welcome your questions as well. Have a wonderful day.