Big Dreams, Commitment, Courage:
Where You Start Today, Does Not Define Who You Are Tomorrow
Chicago — Shawn Taylor spoke to an auditorium of captivated 6th-12th grade boys on Monday, March 25. Now a successful business owner and entrepreneur, Mr. Taylor defied the odds. The youngest of four in a single parent home, Mr. Taylor said "street gangs recruited in my Southside Chicago neighborhood like corporations do at the best colleges." He feels obligated to speak to boys growing up as he did because it was an inspirational career talk that changed his trajectory in life.
Parents should set high expectations
Mr. Taylor encouraged the boys to thank their parents for caring about them. He attributes his ability to break the cycle of poverty and despair to his mother's resilience and steadfast support. With a family commitment to good grades, and a strict rule to be home before the streetlights turned on, she always told him, "You are going to be better than you can ever imagine."
Taylor urged parents to be tough, disciplined and to set high expectations. "Parents will make the difference when a kid faces a fork in the road and has to make a tough decision. It will come down to what you taught them." In his house now, there is no TV Monday through Thursday. He tells his kids, "I can't watch TV at work, so why would you be able to watch TV when being a student is your full-time job?"
A Mentor helped him out
Mr. Taylor asked boys to think outside of the box, seek help and resources, and never give up on their dreams. He shared the numerous obstacles he ran into while starting his Taco Bell franchise. Ultimately, he went to a trusted mentor, who was a top businessman, and asked him to write a letter of recommendation for him. Good mentorship is key.
Courage to be a good friend
"It takes courage to want to be a good student, and you need to figure out who your real friends are." As the boys navigate their friendships growing up in Chicago, he suggested, "Ask yourself: Does this friend help me to be a better person? Can I make this friend a better person?" He befriended those who agreed, "I will do better in school," and "I will respect my parents." That made all the difference.
Education is everything
When Mr. Taylor fell asleep at his professor's desk due to football practice exhaustion at Purdue, his professor told him something he will never forget. "Shawn, for the last four years you used every muscle from your neck down. Why don't you try using the one on your shoulders: your head?" He decided to quit football and committed to a rigorous study schedule. When discouraged late at night, he would call his mom. "Son, don't worry. Study hard. Pray. Hand it over to God. Now get back to work!" He knew his mother and teachers were looking out for him because they believed in him and were willing to invest in his success.
Shawn Taylor is passionate about helping young boys realize their potential, and this group of Chicago Midtown boys left his talk with some tangible advice for their own transformational success. Thank you, Mr. Taylor for your generous visit!