Do you want to be scared your whole life or do you want to live your dream?
Those are the two words that have become synonymous with entrepreneur, motivational speaker, philanthropist and author Rob Hill Sr. Rob has been someone I’ve admired for quite some time so it was a pleasure to be able to speak to him about how he’s built his brand over the years.
Rob’s message really ties in with the theme REFLECT. He shared so much truth for this episode, I want you to get straight to it. This is one of my favorite to date, so enjoy!
What you’ll learn in this BRANDMAKERS:
- What inspired Rob to become a writer
- How he had to learn to “quiet” the noise and focus (and how this has helped him build his brand)
- Why “authenticity” is so important to your journey
- Why Rob thinks entrepreneurship “isn’t for everyone”
- How a Twitter direct message helped him meet his would-be manager Kenny Burns
- Why “people” inspire him to keep going
- The real reason most people have “trust issues”
- The best business advice he’s ever received…and more!
Check out the interview below in podcast form or keep scrolling for the interview below! (PS- this is my first ever podcast, so please excuse the sound quality. I’ve been wanting to do these interviews in audio format for a while. The only way I’ll ever get to great is by starting so welcome to the journey!)
What inspired you to become a writer?
Rob Hill (RH): I didn’t have any identity. Everything I had built and prided Rob off wasn’t really real: popularity, people knowing me, having a certain status. Alot of things happened to me. My son was born. I joined the military. I fell out with my family. It encouraged me to tap more into myself. It was when I established my identity and who I really wanted to be in this world that my life start changing.
How did you establish your identity?
RH: For me, it was through reading. That’s one thing I suggest to everyone. Reading for me is meditation and just sitting there. It really works for me. What I did was use my time. I noticed that I would start having certain down times in my days in the navy especially on deployments. I used to order books and have them shipped to the boat every week. I started trying to sharpen my mind. When I started doing that, I became a better writer. I was able to articulate the things that I was feeling and seeing much better. That helped me understand myself.
I was inexperienced in life. I thought I knew a lot more than I did. I didn’t respect authority, be it my parents or anyone else. I put them in a tough position where they had to choose the family over me. I wasn’t bringing the best energy or attention to the house. That was from being selfish and living on my own accord. I was at Norfolk State, but I wasn’t doing well. I was trying to work a full time job so I could be able to afford somewhere to live. I slept at school. I was on probation. I had to write a letter to get back in and then I flunked out after that. Finally, I joined the Navy. The things that I was choosing weren’t working out so I decided that it was time to remove myself from it all. I needed that consistency and the challenge. Joining the Navy gave that to me.
What were some of the beginning steps you took to build your brand?
RH: I’ve also prided myself on authenticity. I never really tried to prove to people that I was deep or smart. I just expressed myself in a way that I understood. I wasn’t scared to put it out there. I wasn’t scared to deem my own thoughts valuable enough to be quoted. If they weren’t going to be quoted by anyone else, they were going to be quoted by me. The funny thing about believing in yourself is if you do it consistently, other people start to believe in you.
I truly believe that what I write is valuable – maybe not to everyone, but it means something to a few people. if you keep doing that and you help some people get through some rough times, eventually they will tell other people. The thing that solidified my brand and continues to make it strong is the word of mouth aspect. I said something one time that mattered to one person. That one person deemed it worthy enough to share it someone in their life. One of those “one persons” happened to be famous. It’s really about contributing something of value. People will start catching. I tell everyone that the only difference between me and any other aspiring writer is the fact that I deem my opinions valuable enough to be put in book format. There’s no genius in that. I loved what I was saying and I thought it valuable enough. I convinced people around me that it was valuable enough to do so. That’s the core of my brand: me trying to contribute some value.
Were there any challenges that you’ve faced while building your brand?
RH: There’s new challenges every day. For me, it was quieting the noise and really committing to developing myself as a person. What do I think? What do I like? What makes me smile? What makes me happy? We all think we know. We think, “Sure I trust myself. I’m supposed to.” Half of the people with trust issues have them because they know they can’t trust themselves. I tried to sharpen myself so that when the blows came, I didn’t doubt me.
Half of the people with trust issues have them because they know they can’t trust themselves. I tried to sharpen myself so that when the blows came, I didn’t doubt me.
[I did this] through reading, taking chances, and putting myself around people who I knew were stronger, more talented or had more connections. I didn’t feel insecure but understood that my time would come.
Entrepreneurship is scary. You could do the work. You could do this show or speak here and there, but those checks might not come for 30-45 days. That’s the low ball. It could get worst. You think, “Damn, I might want to quit right now because this is tough. “ It’s about finding a way. Find a way. Entrepreneurship has helped my ability to respect myself.
Entrepreneurship has helped my ability to respect myself.
I know I ain’t quit.
What has the entrepreneurial journey been like for you?
RH: It’s shown me a lot about myself. I thought about quitting a thousand times. I haven’t allowed it to be an option for me. Every time I have gotten close to that edge, I’ve come up with something creative. Or, I’ve read something that made me remember why I love what I’m doing. Or, I met someone who said I made a difference. It’s those instances that help. I’ve learned that entrepreneurship isn’t really for everyone. I used to think that it was. I realized, having friends that have tried and those who have successfully become entrepreneurs. Some people add value to a dream that is already established. Some people join a machine and make it stronger.
Some people add value to a dream that is already established. Some people join a machine and make it stronger.
You might have a kid who grows up and his dream is to become an executive at RocNation. If Jay-Z didn’t follow his dream and establish that structure than this kid’s dream would have never been valid. That may not be an entrepreneur in the same way that Jay is but he is going to be living his dream. I used to think entrepreneurship is for everyone and used to encourage everyone to take that jump but now it’s more about what’s really going to bring you peace and make you happy. Follow that. Being apart of a company is a beautiful thing. We need people who want to be apart of companies. That’s the only way I’ll ever have one.
What would you say to the person who has a dream but is scared to pursue it?
RH: When I decided that I wanted to get out of the navy and be a public speaker, I took some speech courses. I had this teacher named Professor Jason Van Gardner. He gave me the quote, “Discontent is the catalyst of change.”
“Discontent is the catalyst of change.”
Alot of people say they want to do a lot of things. What I find is when a person is discontent or unhappy enough, they will make a change. Do you want to be scared your whole life or do you want to live your dream?
One of my favorite quotes lately is off of J. Cole’s album. He said, “Do you want to be another n*****a that never had things?” He asked a simple question. Alot of people say they want this and they want that but when it’s time to make the sacrifice, they don’t actually do it.
Me? I knew I could not take another enlistment in the navy. I knew for a fact that it would not end well. I took a chance on me. It wasn’t a blind chance. I took courses. I did online certifications that maybe weren’t respected by some people. You learn principle, which is all I have ever been committed to doing. I ain’t scared to fall on my face. I know I’ll get back up.
Do you ever feel that as a man of color that you are carrying an extra burden?
RH: Do I feel a burden? No. If I do make it to a level where people respect me as great, I won’t be the first great Black man and I know I won’t be the last. We’ve had thousands of years of great Black men. I feel responsibility to carry the torch. I understand my history well enough. I’m not talking about post-slavery and Africans in America. I know that we have a history before that. To those who fought in the Civil Rights era and even those today, I feel responsibility to them, but it’s not a burden. It’s an honor to be able to carry that torch.\
How did you get the courage to start monetizing your brand?
RH: I wanted to grow. Money is a tool. It allows you to grow. I had to find authentic ways to do that. You can make a wood thing and set a price. You can’t force anyone to buy it. People can click right past it. I decided to put my stuff in book format. I was taking a chance. I think it was valuable enough to be put in book format. If I’m made enough of an impression on you to buy this, then I’m in business. Almost 25,000 books later, I’m in business! I couldn’t force anyone to buy or support it. It’s really people deciding that your stuff is valuable. You’ve got to be confident enough to give them a chance. I knew I wasn’t a blogger. I wasn’t going to be able to write editorials every day and keep up with current events. I knew I had to leverage and monetize. I had a son. Books worked better for me.
How important has networking and building relationships been for your growth?
RH: People are what make you rich. I’ve had the privilege of meeting so many people that inspire me and add a color to my world. You know how a kid has a crayon box and it has 24 crayons in it and he thinks those are all the colors in the world. Then, you meet a kid that has 64 and he’s like, “Wait a minute! Let me use that Emerald Green.” Meeting new people from different places and establishing real relationships has helped me see life differently. It has expanded my mind. I’m excited about that. Network is everything.
How has building relationships opened up doors for you?
RH: My manager is Kenny Burns. He has done a lot of great things over the last 20 years in hip hop and pop culture. He’s been incredibly influential in me growing in the last year. Through him, I have been able to meet a lot of people. I’ve built relationships with brands off of his introduction. I met him because a couple years ago, i was on [a] mission. I would save up some money, book a hotel room and flight and go spend some time in a city and reach out to people who I thought were doing good business. I went to Atlanta. I direct messaged him and said, “I’m in the city for a couple days. I’d love to sit down and talk to you. I’ll take you to lunch.” He reached back. We exchanged numbers. From that conversation, we built an incredible working relationship. He also became an older brother to me. I would have never known if I had never reached out or thought, “He’ll come to Virginia eventually.” You have to go out there and make the relationship.
You are somebody that inspires alot of people. What motivates you?
RH: People. I love knowing that there is another level. I love knowing that I can improve and that if I improve, it has a good impact on everyone around me.
I love knowing that I can improve and that if I improve, it has a good impact on everyone around me.
That inspires me. I have personal goals. I like seeing people win. When Diddy buys something or when Jay-Z gets a new brand…I love that. I know that they are going to employ more people with that opportunity. I’m inspired by the opportunity to do the same. I want to be able to bring stuff back to Virginia and bring positive change. I want to leave a legacy. I gave my son my name. He is a junior. I want that name to open doors before he has to open his mouth.
Through your Thousand Kings Foundation, you do a lot for the community. Why is going back to the community you came from is so important for your growth?
RH: People have to see that there are options from here. People may not tell you about them. If you do enough research (and want it bad enough), you’ll find out. Most of the people from my neighborhood are either athletes, in entertainment, or in the military.
Anything is possible. You don’t think that you can be a young, cool author who gets to travel and be pictured with celebrities the same way a rapper would. You don’t think that that is possible. I like letting them know, “You make you cool.”
You make you cool. The stuff about you is so divine and necessary. it can be addictive to other people if you love it enough. If you love what’s in you enough, it will become valuable to someone. That’s just the way love goes.
It’s important to give back. If the community gets worse after I leave, then I should have never been there. Since I was there, it is my responsibility to make it better. Nothing I touch should get worse. I’m not saying I can fix and better everything but atleast I am going to improve it in some way. My $10,000 didn’t save anyone’s life in the community. What it did do was inspire a couple of kids to work harder for their families. It inspired a couple of mothers to be a little bit stronger on their sons and daughters to push them to accomplish something. If nothing else, that has value.
Is there is anything you’re working on that you think will help take you to the ‘next level’ of your career?
RH: Everything I put out is that. That’s the only reason I am confident enough to share it. That’s why I am on my fifth book. The first one didn’t take me to the New York Times best seller list. I’m excited about releasing part two to Audacity of a Good Heart. It sounds and feels better. I’m excited about doing tours and shows. I’m getting the chance to share the stage with alot of people this year. We have a lot of good stuff in the works. We just got The Heart Healer app.
What’s something that you love to do that most people wouldn’t expect?
RH: I love painting. I’m learning. I love drinking hot tea. Most of the time when I write I am drinking some hot tea. I can swim really well. it’s funny because so many people in the navy swim good enough to pass that test!
What makes you shine?
RH: My awareness of myself. I have a very solid core. I know who I am. I am confident in who I am. There’s not anything anyone can say to make me doubt that. I know I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. No one can back me in a corner and give me an ultimatum. It’s that I’m doing something that I feel at peace about or I’m not doing it at all. I don’t feel like I have to try to be anyone else. That radiates through everything I do. It’s my goal to encourage other people to do the same.
What’s the best business advice you’ve received?
RH: It all stops when you stop.
It all stops when you stop.
That quote has always been powerful to me because it reminds that it’s in my hands. I read this book called The Seven Decisions by Andy Andrews. In it, he says, “We never lack time nor money, only an idea.” I realized it’s on me. I can come up with an idea. Sitting on the couch is not going to get it. I need to read books and learn new perspectives. I can come up with something. Dont stop. Always find a way.
What did you love most about Rob’s BRANDMAKERS interview? Share your thoughts in the COMMENTS section below!
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