Rob had an interesting childhood. He spent his adolescent years with just his mom and sister in Chesapeake, Virginia. Rob confided that in his early years he was a bit of a knuckle head. “I’m just not somebody who responded to rules very well. Well rules that I didn’t see as logical. Like if I thought the rule was just so you could have control over me, then nah I wasn’t wit it. Period. If it was for a good purpose cool, but other than that yeah I bucked the system. A turning point in Rob’s life was when his step dad came into the picture in 1995. “My mom and dad were married until I was 3 years old. Got a divorce and then my mom married my step dad about 10 years later.” His Step father was a military man, so the family did quite a bit of traveling. “I went to 14 schools before college. We started out in Chesapeake, then to Raleigh, North Carolina, San Pedro, California, Monmouth, New Jersey, I did my freshmen year of high school in Germany. It was an adventurous childhood.” They say traveling teaches us how to see, perhaps these adventures allowed Rob to see who he really is.
I sat down with Rob and Rob Jr in Chesapeake at a Jamaican barbecue spot called Cutlass Grille. He highly recommended it and I wasn’t disappointed. Rob Jr. was fresh out of school and had his coy hat on. He clearly wanted to feel me out first. I dapped him up and played along. Rob Sr. and I quickly dove into talks about branding and our upcoming speaking engagements. As Rob and I have known each other for some years now, we both take an analytical interest in each other’s work. Iron sharpens iron. I asked him what the last four years have been like. He said, “Growth!” What a lot of people don’t know about Rob is that he was in the Navy from 2008 to 2012. He’s been a full time entrepreneur for only two years. In a short time Rob has written three books, is a renowned public speaker, released an audio book that made Billboard Top 10 Gospel Albums, and on top of it all, Rob is a great father. It’s said, “A man that speaks from the Heart is heard, but the man who speaks TO the heart is respected and celebrated.” I think Rob is the perfect person for this week’s #ShineHard conversation.
What is your passion and when did you know?
Rob Sr: My passion is people, and influencing them positively. My whole life, man, I knew that I had an influence on people. I knew I did. I went to all these schools, east coast, west coast, overseas, and not even trying to be funny… I was cool in every single one of em! *Laughs* I’ve always been an individual man. I just want to be an agent of change.
My vision became clear in 2008. God let me join the Navy. Rob Jr needed surgery *as Rob Sr. showed the hidden scar on Rob Jr.’s head*. He had this thing called craniosynostosis and it was going to effect his growth. I knew I had to act immediately. The Navy covered it, a $200,000 dollar surgery. That was one of the biggest factors in me joining. But yeah, 2008 really changed my outlook on things.
Johnny: So, Rob Jr. how old are you?
Rob Jr: Six.
Johnny: Do you have a Passion?
Rob Jr: Wrestling.
Rob Sr: Yeah his favorite guy is John Cena. Who’s my favorite?
Rob Jr: The Rock!
Rob Sr: Sometimes we fight in the house, he’s John Cena and i’m the Rock.
Johnny: Who wins?
Rob Sr: John Cena is undefeated. smh lol
Johnny: Oh? Note to self: Stay on John Cena’s good side.
Rob, so who did you look up to growing up?
Rob Sr: I thought Pac was my big brother for real. My mom was a Tupac fan and I was a Tupac fan. I’ll never forget watching the “Keep your head up” video. Do you remember? I literally thought that he could show up in my neighborhood at any given time. Outside of Pac, I like Bobby Kennedy, Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King’s history is something I looked up to and also Malcom X. Man anyone who stood for something bigger than themselves. Anyone that cared enough about the truth to tell it. I kinda gravitated to people that had a voice. Oprah too!
Johnny: Have you met Oprah yet?
Rob Sr: Not yet, but I look forward to it though. Oprah tweeted me one day! Told me she’d check me out. That was a good day man, that was a good day.
What was your relationship like with your father?
Rob Sr: Well there’s two men…
My biological father, I believe him and I to be two different people. We came up two completely different ways. I used to judge my dad and say, “I aint never gonna grow up to be like him.” It’s funny now though, in my new book I say that, “I was far too inexperienced to be so self righteous.” One thing I underestimated was how hard life punches. I can’t even fathom the punches hes taken, he never knew his father at all. One of ten children. Grew up in the hood; Roberts Park in Norfolk . Our relationship was like every other weekend, but we’ve grown closer.
My step father, I used to think I couldn’t relate to him. He was always “too good.” He went to West Point, graduated. He was an officer and I just thought like “whaat??” I boxed him in. But looking at now, my mom hasn’t worked a day since they got married. My sister went to Hampton, he paid for it. And my whole life he has been the most consistent, dependable, encouraging person I’ve ever met. In my life! I can trust him with anything and he’s gon’ come through. He showed me what it was to be a man.
Are there any values that you missed as a kid that you’re now instilling into Rob Jr?
Rob Sr: Well the reason why I named him Junior is The Legacy of a Man. One thing I try to teach him about is what “We” do, Roberts. What OUR type of men do. Just explaining and instilling the legacy of our character in him. We are high character people and there’s no limit to what he can do. He needs to know that.
Johnny: Rob Jr., what do you love most about your Dad?
Rob Jr: Umm, playing… Eating Chic-fil-A. and Queso dip
Rob Sr: Yeah that Queso dip is my specialty *Proud Grin*
Rob Sr. what’s been the biggest challenge in your career thus far?
Rob Sr: Shoot, which one?? I feel like they’re all big! *laughs* But nah man it’s two things.
Finances. That’s always a challenge. I tell people all the time, I couldn’t afford to put out any of my books. I didn’t have the money. I would sell T-Shirts, host events, I would do pretty much anything I could to scrounge up some money. Even with Marque I told him, “Look, I need a digital person. I need to be able to put out videos, etc. and I don’t have the budget for it. I promise you one day I will have the budget for it.” I came to him and asked him. His work and buy in has helped establish the brand. That type of faith is what it takes to be successful.
Support. Getting it from people is always a tough thing. Challenging the mindset that is just some “thing” I do, but on the contrary, THIS IS WHAT I DO. Like I tell the people I’m close to, “If you treat what you’re doing like a hobby, nobody is going to wake up and say it’s a job. When you treat what you do like a job, the support starts to come.” But ultimately, not letting a lack of support stop you from whatever it is you want to do
Tell me more about the Living Life for a Living Tour and how you met Kenny Burns.
Rob Sr: The tour concept was living the life you don’t need a vacation from. The tour hit seven different cities. The idea was to inspire people to go after their dreams. What is it they really wanted in life, and to go after it! Knowledge and Motivation. Kenny and I get the question all the time “So uhh, what do you do??“
Johnny: Like in a condescending way or what?
Rob Sr: I mean you get it in a condescending way and you get the people that just really want to know. I met Kenny and I wanted to know what he did too! A while back I was on a “seed planting mission,” networking in different cities. I reached out to Kenny and he was already familiar with my brand. I guess it was divine because he was coming out with a book a couple months later and wanted to evolve as a public speaker. Kenny has done a lot: He was a VP at Roc-a-Fella, 2nd black designer at Saks 5th Ave, he helped Moet and Grey Goose become more prevalent. He’s influenced a large amount of pop culture. We both wanted to inspire and its become a brotherhood.
Do you feel as if your work has inspired progress in your readers? How do you know?
Rob Sr: Oh yeah! without a doubt. People get married. You can tell. People leave comments and I get emails every day from people who are appreciative. Ill never forget I did a show in LA and this girl drove down from Sacramento. She was crying and that was the most humbling part. but she said “I found your words at my lowest point”. That’s Divine, man. Just reminds me that God is real.
What really motivates you to succeed?
Rob Sr: Showing my friends and my family that what’s in your heart is really possible. You know what I mean, like you can actually go live it. And they have no choice but to believe it because they’ve seen where I came from. They’ve seen all I’ve been through. They’ve seen the whole process. Some of them still cant believe it to this day. I get the, “Yoo this is craaazy!” and then I’m like “I knooow, this is craaazy!”
Johnny: Dope! Those are the surreal moments of major accomplishments.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Rob Sr: My Son. This relationship right here. Doesn’t get any better than this. I’m able to take him to school and pick him up every day. I’m able to show him things about life. I don’t have to tell him that’s its OK to chase your dream, because he’s seeing me live mine. Being able to set the example for him means everything to me.
What is the #1 factor to your success?
Rob Sr: God. That’s it. If you ask me, I didn’t draw it up this way. Yeah I worked and I’ve taken advantage of opportunities, but I didn’t draw it. I thought I was going to be an actor.
What advice do you have for the young entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams?
Rob Sr: You can’t let this world trick you into thinking it’s not possible. Don’t be scared to go after it and don’t be scared to believe you deserve it. Too many people spend their whole life desiring things that they are not prepared to go after. We think if we wished hard enough that the dreams are going to come closer to us. I tell people if you will just work harder than you wish you will start to attract some incredible things. Work on your craft every single day; credit follows contribution.
Johnny: Exactly! It’s said great success is just an accumulation of a 1000 little things done daily that no one sees or appreciates. It’s true and it’s all worth it. Rob, glad to have you in the @ShineHardFamily