Monthly Archives: March 2017

NO Hugs Allowed!

NO hugs allowed. That’s how far the punishment goes.

You see, I went to give him a hug because he’d just inspired me so deeply. He’d just shared his amazing life story with me, and it blew open my heart and my soul. So of course, I didn’t just want to shake his hand and thank him – I wanted to give this man a hug.

When he extended his hand to say goodbye, I pulled him in for a hug. He stiffened… but I pulled him in anyhow.

Then I heard the rules,

“NO hugging! Only handshakes.”

This was the moment I felt the deepest sorrow over just how far away we’ve thrown away these human beings.

Today, I went into a maximum security prison for the first time. I spent the afternoon with inmates, men who’ve been locked away for decades, many of which have been sentenced to life.
The man I wanted to hug, Lionel, had been in for 20 years and wasn’t getting out any time soon.

No hugs allowed.

Driving in, I wanted to cry just seeing the prison from the outside. I can assure you, we’ve locked these people as far away from sight as possible and in the most desolate of conditions. No grass. No trees. No greenery. No colors. No art.

Just concrete, cages and barbed wire.

I went as a volunteer to help coach these prisoners to tell their stories at their first TEDx-DonovanCorrectional event, coming up in May.

The prisoners chose their own theme for the TEDx – “Looking Beyond the Surface.” Having been in there with them now, I get it.

Beyond the surface of a concrete facility in the middle of bleak and unforgiving desert is place that is filled with men who arrived as kids and who – if they are ever allowed leave- will leave gray-haired, institutionalized and old.

Beyond the surface of blue uniforms marked with “CDCR PRISONER” in extra-large yellow letters, are souls who are surviving realities that stretch the human spirit to dimensions impossible for most of us to comprehend.

This cruel place with its condemned people cracked my heart open wide and in rushed love, sorrow, inspiration and compassion.

They told me their stories.

Their stories showed me beyond the prison garb, the face, the crime and into the heart, the humanity, the universality, the oneness of us all.

I saw their light. I felt my own.

I will return many times to help them be ready to stand and speak on a red TEDx carpet – on a stage inside a high security prison – and courageously use their voices to spread hard-earned truths about love, regret, forgiveness, belief, faith, hope, choices, purpose, and the human spirit.
I will be there to let these men take me Beyond the Surface, where much deeper truths are hidden.
And although there will be no hugging, I’m certain love will carry the day.

Click here now more information on TEDx DonovanCorrectional which will be held May 21:
A day of mind- and heart-expanding big ideas shared through talks by inside and outside speakers and performers, held at Donovan State Prison in San Diego

Strong Families. Safe Kids.

“Strong Families. Safe Kids.”

I keynoted in November for an phenomenal, heart-centered organization Olive Crest. Olive Crest is a California company that helps abused and at risk children and families in crisis, largely by helping the children in their time of greatest need find adoptive and foster families. My heart was truly expanded by getting to know this organization and their impact in the world. I could relate so easily because my own mother was in need a loving foster family when she was a child, but unfortunately never found one.

The keynote I delivered to this group was titled “The Power of One” and for me, it was one of the most fulfilling and meaningful talks I’ve ever been privileged to give. It was all stories straight from my heart about what truly matters in life, family and helping one another with the power of love as our directive.

I hope you’ll take a moment to appreciate Olive Crest as an organization. They were started by a humble couple who cared and they’ve now transformed the lives of over 70,000 abused, neglected and at-risk children and their families. They work tirelessly. To request specific wishes for Olive Crest Children contact (714) 543-5437 ext #1262. For more information about them call 800-550-Child or visit their website.

I’m so thankful for organizations like this one.

3 Stories At Once

Recently I was invited to speak for, a company I massively admire. I decided to open by telling 3 stories – at once. It was risky because I’d never done it before. But I felt it had the potential to have a greater impact. They are all true stories. One story is about a rock climber. One story is about a clothing store in Boston. And the third story is about me and a napkin. Each one has a revelation by the end of the story.

Celebrating 23 years!

I’m celebrating 23 years of the great privilege of doing talks at Universities, to help students follow their dreams, succeed at their passions and unlock their greatest gifts…. I never imagined when I started doing these talks at 27 years old, that I’d still be invited to do them 23 years later. I love the opportunity more than ever before because more than ever I understand the true value of following your bliss and pursuing your callings…. I say this to you. If you feel you have a message in you of value to share with others, do it! Get started today! The world needs all the hope, inspiration and help it can get and you never know how many millions of lives you may touch!

My Commencement Address

I STUMBLED ACROSS THIS TODAY… The time I was invited to give a college commencement address. I gave it 13 years ago; I’m surprised that I still agree with all the words.

Commencement Address
By Patrick Combs
At William Rainey Harper College
May 30, 2003

“This is the first commencement address I’ll have ever given in my life. It is fitting that it is here because I love Harper students and I’ve spoken at Harper more than any other school in the world. You will find a lot of places in your life where you don’t really fit, and some where you really do. I suggest that you really notice and appreciate the places where you just fit. I think I fit here because I have so much in common with you.

A few years back, I sat at my graduation and I thought exactly what you are now thinking: What’s going to happen to me? Will I find my place in the world? Will McDonalds have me back? Was it smart to highlight all my books with a black felt marker? Should I have at least worn underwear under my gown?

In putting together this little speech – which I promise will be little because that is the mark of a great commencement speech – I decided that I’d like to give you 4 things, that I myself would have appreciated from my commencement speaker, who I cannot remember a thing about:

1. A few words of advice that hopefully help
2. An inspirational story
3. A gift
4. One final quiz

Okay I wouldn’t have wanted a quiz but I’m going to give you one anyway so I’ll move right to the quiz, so we can get it over with. Somebody else made up this quiz – I don’t know who – but as far as pop quizzes go, it’s a goody. You don’t need pen and paper. Just think through your answers:

“1. Name the five wealthiest people in the world.
2. Name the last five Heisman trophy winners.
3. Name the last five winners of the Miss America contest.
4. Name ten people who have won the Nobel or Pulitzer prize.
5. Name the last half dozen Academy Award winners for best actor and actress.

How did you do? The point is, none of us remember the headliners of yesterday. These are no second-rate achievers. They are the best in their fields. But tremendous achievements are soon forgotten. Accolades and certificates are buried with their owners.

Here’s the second part of the quiz. See how you do:

1. List a few teachers who aided your journey through college.
2. Name three friends who have helped you through a difficult time.
3. Name five people who have taught you something worthwhile.
4. Think of a few people who have made you feel appreciated and special.
5. Name half a dozen heroes whose stories have inspired you.”

The lesson is obvious. Life isn’t about achievement. Life is about the love you give and the love you get. Life is about the love you share. I really mean it. When I first came to Harper, 10 years ago, I was 26 and single. Now I’m 36 and have a child. I make less money now in my 30’s than I did when I was in my 20’s and I’ll tell you why. Because now I only work 3 days a week. I take Tuesday and Thursdays off just to play with my daughter. You have to make a living, but time with friends and family will always be worth more than a raise.

I’ll tell you a funny story that took place on one of my precious Tuesday’s and Thursdays. My daughter, Alyssa, who was two at the time, came out from her bedroom, carrying two little dresses, one in each hand. Her mom had just suggested she ask me which one I like best because Alyssa couldn’t decide which one she wanted to wear. “Dad, which one you like?” she asked holding up a red dress in one hand and a blue dress in the other. I pointed and said, “The red one.” Without saying a word, Alyssa turned and started walking back to the room where her mother was waiting. “Which one are you going to wear Alyssa?” called out her mother. Alyssa answered, “The blue one!…. Daddy is going to wear the red dress. ” Money will never be worth more than precious moments like these, whether they’re between you and your children or you and your loved ones.

Which brings me to the next thing I thought to mention: money. Everyone seems to want to make a lot of money. Everyone seems to want to be a millionaire. And since most people aren’t millionaires, most people don’t ever feel rich. I want you to feel rich, be rich and experience rich, so I’ll share some hard facts with you. Rich isn’t a million dollars. Actually the average household income in the US is around $33,000. And we’re the richest nation in the world. So if you manage to earn MORE than $35,000 in a year, you are making good money. No one around me ever seems to know that. And should you ever manage to have a household income of more than $60,000, you are officially in the upper class. Some of you will achieve household incomes of $125,000 or more, and when you do you are in the top 5% of the wealthiest country on earth. I know so many people who earn more than that amount who do not think they are rich or have enough money. These people are poor. Leave here today knowing you don’t need anywhere near a million dollars to be financially rich. Knowing the bar is much lower than a million dollars is the SECRET to actually living richer. Then you are free to devote your life energy to people, friends, passion and just being.

Of course, you don’t need a cent to be rich. When multibillionaire Sir John Marks Templeton, was asked about his definition of being rich, he said it could be summed up in just one word: gratitude. I couldn’t agree more. Personally, being grateful is my greatest secret to true success. Every night I say my prayers. Then I list all the things I am grateful for. I always fall asleep before I can finish. Even on bad days. A daily attitude of gratitude transforms your entire life, and I dare say overnight. When I feel unsuccessful, gratitude makes me realize I am great. When I feel behind, gratitude makes me realize I am ahead. When I feel alone, gratitude makes me realize I am always supported. When I feel lack, gratitude makes me realize I am rich beyond measure. And there is no level of achievement necessary for gratitude to work in your life. Someone put it this way:

I am thankful for:
* The spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.
* My huge heating bill because it means I am warm.
* The mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.
* The taxes I pay because it means that I am employed.
* The clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.
* The dishes that need doing because it means I have a home.
* The piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loves ones are nearby.
* The alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.

An attitude of gratitude. Live it and be truly rich.

Finally, since I am the author of book titled Major in Success, I’d like to share with you my favorite success story ever. It’s not in my book because it took place after I wrote it.

It took place during the 2000 summer Olympics in Sydney Australia. A 22 year old named Eric Moussambani, from Equatorial Guinea, swam the 100 meter freestyle, won his heat, and electrified the audience. He was a hero who would not soon be forgotten, but Eric wasn’t a hero for winning gold (he didn’t), and he wasn’t a hero for breaking any records (he didn’t). Eric was a hero for a different reason. Five months before, the OIC, has invited a handful of athletes from small countries to compete even though they didn’t meet qualifying standards. It was the Olympic Committee’s way of spreading sport around the world. Eric, who’d never taken an interest in swimming before, answered the call and began swimming laps. The largest pool in his town was 20 meters and had no lane markers. He swam any way, every day. No one took his Olympic dream serious. His mom thought he must have just wanted to see Sydney. Eric trained and trained for a five months. Then he found himself at the Olympics, on the edge of the pool, competing in the preliminary rounds of the 100 meter freestyle heat. The two swimming against him false started and disqualified themselves. That meant that all Eric had to do to win his heat was swim and finish, but it would be no small task considering the fact that he’d never raced more than 50 meters before.

The gun went off and Eric flopped himself into the water. He flailed, struggled, kept his head above water and swam. But he made it to one end of the pool, did an awkward flip turn, and swam back. He said the last 15 meters were very difficult. He looked like he might drown. It didn’t matter. The crowd loved him and cheered loudly for his success. He made it and climbed from the pool. The crowd went wild. His time was 1:52 seconds, a full minute slower than the fastest swimmer, but he’d won the hearts of everyone who watched. He was a hero for following-through on his dream. A person unafraid to live their dream. A brilliant reminder to all that life is about inner-triumphs, not outer-achievements. Still dripping wet, Eric spoke to the audience through an interpreter. He said, “I want to send hugs and kisses to the crowd. It was their cheering that kept me going.” The following day he declared that he hoped to “find a good coach” and swim in the 2004 Olympics.

I don’t care what rank you graduated. I don’t care about your GPA. I don’t care about your resume. I am standing and giving you an ovation because you dared to follow your dream, jump into the pool and you swam all the way to the end. So you are my favorite Olympians. Family and friends, please say NOTHING WHATSOEVER today to diminish these great graduates, or imply that they anything less than heroes. Please don’t rob them of this great moment by questioning their next step or their ability to get a job. Let today be today and tomorrow be left for tomorrow. Today they are champions and nothing less. Put reverence in your heart for them, buy them a drink, take them to dinner, rub their feet, make them a special meal, tell them you are proud of them, that you love them, period.

Finally, I promised you a gift. Point to yourselves. (People point to their heart) Notice that 95% of your are pointing straight to your heart. We point there because we know that is where we truly reside. Now point to where we manage our careers from and from where we do our To Do Lists? (People point to their heads). That’s the problem. Follow your heart, let it guide your life, and you will be most successful. It is your inner elder.

You are all unequivocally great. I love you for it. Thank you and best wishes graduates of Harper College.”

Ali – The Greatest

I often like to share this ancedote about Ali and the Stewardess. It just cracks me up that she delivered a knock out punch to the champ!

There are a handful of people who TRULY made me want to be a better human being…. Not because of their success. But because of their HEART. Muhammad Ali is among that truly select group.

To me Ali represents the impact that love fully-embodied can have on the world. Ali showed everyone watching what it looks like to love all people, to radiate joy, and to rise above oppression, judgement, and prejudice, to live with passion – and to confidently embrace self-love. (“It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”)

Ali demonstrated the conviction of peace when he refused the draft into war. “I ain’t go no quarrel with those Vietcong,” he said “My conscience won’t let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, some poor, hungry people in the mud, for big powerful America, and shoot them for what?” Ali said in an interview – and was swiftly banned from boxing for 3 years during the years experts say would have been his best professionally. It also resulted in a five year jail sentence that was overturned. But he lived his conviction for peace. Beautiful and epic.

Ali had a special place for children. After the biggest fight of his career when the world media wanted to celebrate him, he was no where to be found because he was far from the stadium doing magic tricks for children. That’s heart.

Thank you Ali for being one of my greatest inspirations and for filling the world with your spirit. You will always live on in my heart.