Cornell Thomas is a basketball coach, trainer, motivational speaker & author. He just came out with his brand new book “The Power of Positivity.” In Episode 58 of the Defining Success Podcast Cornell shares how he overcame adversity by looking at the brighter side of things. He now motivates others to think, “What Now?” instead of “Why Me?”
His career has been a long and winding road that now has him coaching, training and motivating kids to be the best that they can be and motivating others with his message of power and positivity. The lessons he’s learned through basketball have played a crucial role in helping him through the adversity he’s faced in his life.
Cornell began playing basketball in high school and proclaims that he was absolutely horrible at it, after putting in his 10,000+ hours he improved and earned a full basketball scholarship to Minot State University in North Dakota., subsequently obtaining a contract to play professional basketball in Portugal. Two weeks before setting out for Europe, Cornell suffered a career ending injury.
Cornell describes this incident as a crossroad in his life regarding the options he was to choose next: “Am I going to work my way back?, Am I going to sit around and feel sorry for myself? Or am I going to try and find a different career path?” What he encourages others to do in similar situations where they are to overcome adversity or a set back is to remain positive. His motto is: “Everything happens for a reason.” a firm believer of this popular quote, especially since that is what his Mom, a single mother and strong female role model in his life always reminded him of since childhood.
Cornell admits to encountering difficult times and having negative thoughts at times, including while recovering from the devastating injury that ended his professional basketball career. He says: “It’s not like I’ve never had a negative thought before… I’m not a robot.” He describes these moments as “snowball effects”, if you dwell in negativity it begins to grow, build up and overwhelm. His approach towards avoiding the pitfalls of dwelling in failure is to address the issues immediately. He acknowledges and firmly believes in the power of self-reflection and asks himself a series of questions, for example: “Is this a life or death situation?” “Is this a situation that can’t be fixed?” and usually the answer is no and then he asks himself: “Now that it happened, what are you going to do about it, what is your solution?” and the last and most important: “Is there anybody going through something worse that you?” and the answer almost always is yes. “There is always someone, somewhere going through something a little worse than you.” He states that when he is able to honestly answer those questions to himself, he is better equipped to brainstorm a solution and power through obstacles.
Cornell also encourages those that are experiencing negativity or self-defeating thoughts when they encounter failure to not think: “Why me?” and instead ask themselves: “What now?” The significance of this thought pattern was inspired while Cornell was a basketball coaches event, where he heard a great speech by Assistant Coach for the Clippers: Kevin Eastman, about the new generation of basketball players. Coach Eastman said something that caught Cornell’s interest, he said: “A lot of players, when bad things happen to them, say: Why me? Why am I not getting playing time? Why am I missing all of my shots? etc., instead of saying: “What now?!” It was a light bulb moment, realizing that that this is not only a question applicable to basketball players on the court, but applicable to us all in life. For example he states: “When bad things happen, we immediately curse the heavens, and think why me? instead of saying, “Well what do I have to do now to fix it?” His belief is that life is “10% of what happens to us the other 90% is how we deal with it.” If you apply this mindset, you will be able to overcome adversity and problems better.
This power of positive thinking equipped him with the tools to make assertive decisions and to reflect instantly, realizing that through the most devastating adversity, he had found his true calling in life. Cornell was resilient enough to rapidly choose Coaching Basketball and obtained a job as Men’s Head Coach at Sussex County Community College. Cornell’s life purpose is to help people. Shortly after accepting the job as Head Coach he started Crossroads Basketball LLC which has developed into the perfect way for him to fulfill his dream of reaching out, motivating and inspiring others. When he started the program he had 1 basketball player and 5 coaches. Through word of mouth the program has grown to over 200 kids involved. Many of the guys and girls he has mentored, trained and coached are coaching for him now. He sincerely enjoys coaching and motivating kids to reach their unlimited potential on and off the basketball court.
Cornell describes his synchronistic journey as an author as beginning with his Facebook page and taking notice that he and most of his friend’s mostly posted to negative complaints about their lives. He made a choice to begin posting daily motivational, inspiring and uplifting quotes and the response and feedback from his friends was positive. Then he got a suggestion to begin blogging, which led to his initiation in to book writing.
Cornell enjoys seeing the growth, accomplishments and success of the kids he coaches, especially as they obtain scholarships and experience success doing what they love to do through the game of basketball and pursue their dreams along their journey. Some of the most memorable things to happen to Cornell since choosing the path to coach and mentor kids is to witness the growth and development as they progress and increase their skills especially when they have difficulty at the beginning and then they end making they’re high school team, playing college basketball or professionally. For example I have two girls right now, one is playing in England and the other in Germany “To see the joy they have and to see them accomplish their goal of playing professionally, I would sacrifice my dream of playing professional to see them play. The main thing is seeing kids live their dreams.”I call it: active dreaming, dreaming with you’re eyes wide open.”
On regrets, Cornell states that he regrets nothing about the path he has chosen or the circumstances he’s encountered, and that every step of the way has provided him with valuable life lessons. When asked if he could go back in time, before the injury and talk to his younger self. What would advise would he give young Cornell? His words of advise: “First, change your haircut!” and the second thing “Just start giving back more to other people and don’t loose your passion to write.”
Cornell defines success as “doing whatever you do everyday and being happy and giving back to others.” …”Success to me, is waking up everyday being happy and doing what I do, be it training kids, speaking, giving back to others, and affecting lives other than my own.”
When asked if he considers himself to be successful, Cornell answers with a resonating YES. He absolutely considers himself to have achieved success and states “There is not a day I don’t wake up excited for life!”…”I may not be in the tax bracket of the upper usher line, but I can say one thing, in terms of the tax bracket of the happiest people on the planet, I would put my happiness against mostly anybody’s, because everyday I wake up excited to tackle life!”
To learn more about Cornell visit the Power of Positivity website and blog at: powerofpositivity.net or follow him on twitter: @cornellthomas his book is available on Amazon: The Power of Positivity: Controlling Where the Ball Bounces.
In todays episode with Cornell you were able to capture that he is a very positive guy and always looks on the bright side of things. One of the things that I wanted to focus on was these questions that people ask when they face adversity. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, Cornell had a career ending injury as a professional basketball player and he could have taken that and simply said “Why me?!” However, he was fortunate enough to have had a mother who always influenced him with positivity and reminded him that “Things happen for a reason.” and that there is a reason why this had happened to him and he understood that it was up to him to find out what that reason was. As you can tell his mission and his message of positivity flows from him and is based on his experiences. Experiences which he has been able to take from and mold towards his new career, to impact his students and everyone else interested in hearing his unique message of not asking themselves “Why me?!”, “Why is this happening to me?”, “What I have done?!” Instead look at the positive and ask “What can I learn from this?”, “How can I grow from this?” and “What do I do now?”
On the Defining Success Podcast we have interviewed a lot of people who have been on the show: Shark Tank, and we’ve also interviewed a lot of people who are involved or with the Shark Tank Show. One of those people has been Ray Ibarra who has recently written his book called “Conversations with Shark Tank Winners.” and he invited me out to the book launch of his new book, it’s a multi media book, it’s not just text, there’s video and there’s audio files as well. So I attend his book launch, it’s in Downtown LA, in a tall skyscraper at a banking institution. It was an very fancy place, everyone at the event was well dressed. The book launch event room was huge and the were people who had been on the show “Shark Tank” and were also promoting the book and there were people that were there wanting to learn about the experiences and had also been involved with the book. It was a great experience and I really want to thank Ray for inviting me to attend his book launch and I really have to say I had a blast!
I wan to thank you all for listening to the Defining Success Podcast it has been a real pleasure, definitely go on our Facebook page, comment, share, Like and communicate with us. We want to hear from you, what your thoughts are about our podcast and how we can make things better. Lastly, I want to leave you with one more thing which is: “Go out there and find your success!!”
Engaging Discussion Questions:
- “What is your life purpose?”
- “What is specifically your doing to help other people?”
- “What is one of the most memorable things that has happened to you?”
- “Looking back on the things you’ve done in your life, is there one thing that you regret or a mistake that you would like to share with us?
- “If you could go back in time and give a younger version of yourself advise, what would that be?”
- “What is your definition of success?”
- “Do you consider yourself to be successful?”
Links to Great Stuff:
- The Power of Positivity – “The Power of Positivity is not just Cornell’s story of perseverance; it serves as a how to guide that offers a practical approach to dealing with adversity, pushing past “CAN’T”, and focusing on solutions not problems. The ball is in your hands-you control where it bounces!!”
- Crossroads Basketball – Crossroads Basketball was started in 2004 by Cornell Thomas. Cornell was two weeks away from playing professional basketball in Portugal when he suffered a career ending injury. Soon after the injury Cornell decided to devote his life to coaching the game of basketball. In 2004 he was hired as the head men’s basketball coach at Sussex County Community College.
- “Everything happens for a reason.”
- “Don’t ask: Why me?! ask yourself: What now?”
- “There is always someone, somewhere going through something a little worse than you.”
- “10% of what happens to us the other 90% is how we deal with it.”
- “Living your dreams is: active dreaming, dreaming with you’re eyes wide open.”
- “Success to me is waking up everyday being happy and doing what I do, be it training kids, speaking, giving back to others, and affecting lives other than my own.”
- “I may not be in the tax bracket of the upper usher line, but I can say one thing, in terms of the tax bracket of the happiest people on the planet, I would put my happiness against mostly anybody’s, because everyday I wake up excited to tackle life!”
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