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Joseph Braithwaite: ” Understand that your current situation doesn’t define you”

Understand that your current situation doesn’t define you. How you got here, the struggles it took and the life chaos are behind you and already influenced who you are and where you are at in life. Your future doesn’t need to allow your history an opportunity to sway your forward progression. It’s ultimately your choice […]

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Understand that your current situation doesn’t define you. How you got here, the struggles it took and the life chaos are behind you and already influenced who you are and where you are at in life. Your future doesn’t need to allow your history an opportunity to sway your forward progression. It’s ultimately your choice to move forward, and you can’t change history, and for the most part, why would you want to re-live some of it? Start by identifying where you are going, what you are willing to sacrifice to get there; then, hold yourself accountable for your actions towards that goal. I was living on the streets with no plan; it wasn’t luck that got me out of that box; it was a determination to be more that got me moving.


As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Joseph Braithwaite.

Joseph is an example of evolution (from the streets to the boardroom) and how it can happen within a lifetime. His focus now is on helping his clients integrate leadership qualities into their everyday lives and in writing articles that help others ‘Aspire to Inspire.’

Joseph, who was once homeless, and is now a successful entrepreneur, author, and public speaker, promotes his message about GRIT and finding ways to succeed. With his book (Not Your Average Cup of Joe), he takes everything you might think about what the average person might believe they can accomplish and turns it on its head. With this book, and through his engaging appearances, Joseph indeed shows that every person has unique and admirable qualities and can parlay those qualities into REAL SUCCESS.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

Psychology has always been a fascination of mine. Developing insight into what we do and why we do it, not just how we make something grander than the sum of its parts, but why. This drive to make things led me into consulting, where ideas and insights and the application of these views helped organizations grow and prosper. A side benefit is when my actions help would-be leaders fine-tune their skills. The act of assisting others, helping them see they can be more, planting the seed of engaging work and working environments, and developing authentic relationships with their customers, clients, and employees seem second nature to me.

The desire to help drove me to write my book and is the basis of my speaking engagements. People should not be stuck in their lives because of a lack of self-confidence or because they see limited options. So, I wrote my book to help instill hope and outline how there are different ways to overcome and to become more.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

When I was 22, I was high school educated, a bouncer in a bar with spotty work history, and a life no one desired. Reality hit one night, while I settled down in my cardboard box; I realized if I did not step up and make the changes needed, my future looked very bleak. So, I made the changes required.

I enrolled in community college and started down a path of education.

Not an easy path, though, as I worked full-time at night baking donuts, slept on the flour bags for a few hours before catching the bus to get to class. On my off nights, I worked in the bars to bring in a few more dollars. This disjointed hybrid of activities was my life for three years while I finished my first round of diplomas.

After working for a few years, post Y2K happened, and the bottom fell out of the job market here in Canada. With few job options and no offers, I decided to return to school. I pursued a Joint Major Business and Computer Studies degree. Again, working full time for the last half of my degree and driving 200+ km’s a night (once a week) to finish.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I have always felt a need to prove to people that I am more than they see with their eyes. I was once a competitive bodybuilder, so people saw what they thought was a big dumb jock, and I always strove to prove them wrong. This feeling, the drive to prove myself, never left me; the more education I obtained, the more I wanted. I hit a wall, where the more school I had on paper didn’t matter as much as my ability to use that knowledge and experiences to create value for my clients and those in need; I stopped looking at my papers hanging on the wall. I started to focus on my work, and toward those, I could have a positive impact on, as the basis of proof that I was on the right path.

Finding and moving along that right path takes focus and GRIT. To develop your focus, you need to build a picture of what you want, a 4K image, in your minds-eye, and keep improving that image until you smell and taste the environment, and success. Once you have the picture, your GRIT will help you achieve it.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Grit, as defined in Angela Duckworth’s book, is the ‘ability to persist in something you feel passionate about and persevere when you face obstacles.’ I cannot define it any better than Angela, so I won’t try.

For me, knowing what ‘GRIT’ is or isn’t, provides little comfort. As many of your readers will feel the same way, it’s not about ‘what’ GRIT is but ‘why’ it’s essential to manage, shape and leverage.

GRIT is a core pillar to success; regardless of the challenges I found in front of me, I never looked backward and questioned my decision to change. GRIT didn’t allow me to wallow in history; there was too much ahead of me to worry about looking back. I always had the drive to be more than what everyone perceived me to be on the outside, and I had the confidence in myself and my abilities to show people who I am. My GRIT and determination supported my grades, my attitude towards life and my drive to expand and improve. Still, it’s my mindset to be better and inspire others that hold it all together.

GRIT did not turn things around for me as GRIT isn’t a tangible ‘thing’ that I hold in my pocket like a lucky rabbit’s foot. My continuous application and refinement of my GRIT, regardless of the daily challenges, support my changing of my focus and was the burning amber that drove me to become more. GRIT is a tool that helped, but it’s not the complete tool-kit, you need to want to change, and you need to have a direction to take that change. The deep-down desire to prove to myself that I could be more was the driving force that once started; I couldn’t stop if I tried. So, it’s not GRIT that helped me become successful; it is how I recognized and grew my GRIT and leveraged it to push me forward.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

1. Understand that your current situation doesn’t define you. How you got here, the struggles it took and the life chaos are behind you and already influenced who you are and where you are at in life. Your future doesn’t need to allow your history an opportunity to sway your forward progression. It’s ultimately your choice to move forward, and you can’t change history, and for the most part, why would you want to re-live some of it? Start by identifying where you are going, what you are willing to sacrifice to get there; then, hold yourself accountable for your actions towards that goal. I was living on the streets with no plan; it wasn’t luck that got me out of that box; it was a determination to be more that got me moving.

2. GRIT is something that helps you drive your direction in life. Like education, life experiences, success, and failure teach you lessons, your application of what you learn depends on YOU. GRIT is just a tool that supports your mindset to succeed. I changed my mindset from being a defeatist to being a positive influence. In our lives, not every day will be butterflies and roses. Being positive isn’t about being the life of the party; it’s about recognizing that you get an opportunity to prove to yourself that you can; every single day. Knowing that being negative is an option and that a negative mindset doesn’t provide any value.

3. Learning techniques to develop GRIT come through the act of doing and analyzing the results. One method is to not look at the big problems as a challenge but to break it down into ‘chunks’ and focus on the parts you can take-on currently. Success in overcoming a ‘chunk’ will boost confidence and allow for more ‘chunks’ to be taken and successfully achieved. Pretty soon, you look back and see that you have taken on more chunks and have completed more than you initially thought possible. Now, your bar of what is possible just got moved up a level.

4. Hope, optimism and self-belief are vital components that enhance the power of your ‘GRIT.’ Believe in yourself, nourish your confidence and set your mind towards your goal; GRIT will be there in the back of your mind, pushing you along. Not as easy as it sounds, but like #3 states, ‘chunk’ your tasks to build your self-confidence and optimism as needed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

I have had a few mentors who provided valuable insights that helped shape who I am today. Though none of them knew they were mentors, they still impacted me profoundly. Jack Welch is one who taught me that being candid moves conversations, discussions, and progress forward. An old boss of mine named Brian Howe told me that it is the effort you put into your actions that people see, not just the result. His reflection on how activities are perceived formed the basis of my work ethic from that point forward. It’s not the goal that is important, but the opportunities to become better along the way that matter most.

I have a few mentors that I have leveraged their outlooks and learnings over the years. I continue to look towards Jack Welch and his teachings. I also search out what I believe he would say when I get stuck, as a guiding light.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I wrote my book, focused on helping those who are stuck in their lives find options, find a different path, find hope and find themselves. Your future doesn’t care if you’re a recovering drug addict, prostitute, and politician or convicted criminal, your future is as bright as you make it. You have value to bring to this world, and you can develop and share it in meaningful and inspiring ways.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I recently enrolled to complete a Doctorate in Business Administration with a focus on Leadership; I continue to write articles for different organizations on engagement and Leadership. I have a feeling another book might be in the works soon.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

An executive position is just a title if you do not engage your employees and inspire them to do and be more than their role. Lead by example, foster trust, share candid feedback, communicate authentically, work together to achieve results, and celebrate your team’s success in meaningful ways.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

‘Aspire to Inspire.’ The intent of this is to continually look for opportunities to bring others along on their journey. I don’t want people to follow my path, just my example of helping others create opportunities for themselves and aspire others to inspire for something greater.

‘Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you

When you get where you’re going, don’t forget to turn back around

And help the next one inline
Always stay humble and kind’ — Tim McGraw

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have a couple that I think are important for people to be exposed to:

‘The greatest danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark’ — Michelangelo.

‘The distance between your dreams and reality is called action’ unknown

I believe most of us have exceptional dreams, but life happens to us, and we lose track of what is and what isn’t possible. When this happens, we settle for a path far less than what we desired and far less than we can accomplish with the right level of effort and GRIT.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.facebook.com/avgcupofjoe

Instagram: avgcupofjoe_josephbraithwaite

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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