Rock Thomas – Redefine Yourself

Rock Thomas delivers a powerful, personal story on how to resist the labels forced on you in order to redefine your self.


I had to feed 22 horses every morning before I earned the right to have breakfast. Imagine an eight-and-a-half-year-old kid getting up in the dark in Canada and going outside and opening the barn door. I remember there would be like 30 rats every time I opened the barn door, and they would scurry around, and I would hope that none of them would stay around. One time, I went back to the house, and I said, “Dad, can you come with me?” He locked the door, and he says, “Go out and do your chores, and don’t come back until they’re done.” That was kind of the beginning of me realizing that I wasn’t in a supportive environment.

By the time my parents were divorced, I was five years old. I moved in and lived with my mom. By the time I was eight-and-a-half, I had wreaked so much havoc, I guess to get attention, that she shipped me off to live with my dad. Now, my dad, by then, had remarried and moved on a farm. And if I thought I was having trouble getting attention when I was the youngest of four, try it again when there was like seven. He remarried and now I was the youngest of seven. I learned one thing and one thing only is that if I was willing to work hard, then I could get my dad’s attention. Otherwise, there was no time.

I remember waking up, I was about 13 or 14 years old, and this was the day my dad had promised me it was going to be yes. This was the day we were going to play together. We were going to throw the football back and forth, and I was super excited. I popped out of my bed, and I ran down the stairs, and I saw my father where he always is. His ankle is chained to the desk. But as I got closer, I knew something was wrong. It’s was like I could feel there was a heaviness in the air, and I started to get nervous. I went, “Dad?” He went, “Yes?” I went, “Uh, um, you, you ready to go play?”

And the weirdest thing happened. He turned, he looked at me, and I felt myself shrinking down. He stood up and this shadow cast over me, and I felt myself going like this, and he stood up and he goes, “Do you have any idea what it takes to put food on the table? Do you think that this roof just puts itself there? Money doesn’t grow on trees, you know. One day you’re going to have to work hard for money. Now get out and play on your own before I put you to work.” [inaudible 00:02:22] never again.

I don’t have one memory of playing with my dad. Not one. The only way I connected with him was when he was working around the house doing a chore, I’d say, “Dad, can I help you?” And he’d hand me the nails, or I’d hold the measuring tape, was the only way. He never once, he never came to my hockey games. He’d drop me off in the car and stayed in the car. All the other parents were tying their skates, I was there alone. I would try to score as many goals as I could so I could go in and tell him that I scored the winning goals so he’d want to come and look, and he never did.

I remember winning honors in school for academic achievement, looking up in the crowd, and I couldn’t see my dad. He was not there. So, the only solace I had was to work hard, so I doubled down on that, and I worked hard. I’d call him out to look at the task being done and it invariably was never good enough, so I’d double down again and work harder.

Thankfully, my father kept on putting me in situations to grow. It didn’t feel good at the time, but in life what you do, if you do what is easy, life will be difficult. But, if you do what’s difficult, life will but easy. I got the difficult part up front, and I got really good at it. By the time I was 14, I saved up enough money to get a scooter. By the time I was 16, I had my first car. By the time I was 17, I thought, “You know what? I’m outta here. This sucks. I mean, I could go out and make four times the amount of money living on my own. Even if I have to pay rent, I don’t care.”

So, I moved out, and I started to accumulate lots of money, enough so I could save and then travel to Australia. I drove a taxi. I did carpentry. I cut lawns. I washed windows. I did anything that was hard work, because that’s all I knew.

I remember this one time, I was in Asia on my way back from Australia, and I’d lost all my traveler’s checks. I had $20 in my pocket, and I remember thinking, “What am I going to do?” And I thought, “Well, I can reach out to my parents,” and I got nervous. I actually started to sweat. I was thinking, “If I call my dad, and I have to call it collect, he’s going to be so upset at me. What am I going to do?” He’s not going to … He’s never been there for me. When my brothers used to beat me up, he’d say, “If I have to protect you now, I’m going to have to protect you for the rest of your life.”

I spent my whole upbringing feeling alone, and now I was stuck in Thailand, in a foreign country, with $20 in my pocket. God knows, I was going to maybe go to jail, so I dial the phone, and the operator sends through the collect call, and I hear my dad’s voice, “Hello.” And she said, “Will you accept a collect call from Rock Thomas?” And he’s like, big pause, “Yes.” I went, “Dad! Dad! I lost all my traveler’s checks. I got no money. Can you wire me some money?” Big pause, I’m sweating. He doesn’t do it, it’s going to go up. I know the way he thinks. “You got yourself there, you’ll get yourself home.” Click.

Oh my God, I felt so lonely. I turned, and I was staying in a hostel at the time, and I walked down the hallway, and I noticed to the right of myself a little sign that said Teach Japanese People to Speak English. Now, that sign had been there for weeks while I’d been living there, but I never saw it before because motivation comes out of inspiration or desperation and I had desperate times ahead. I pulled the little paper off. I took their number. I called, and I became an English teacher. I became resourceful. I became capable of doing things I didn’t know I was going to do.

And then, my life changed. I got a call from my stepmom, and she said, “Your dad has cancer.” So I jumped on a plane. I flew out to Australia, and I did everything I could. I took care of the house. He said to me he had some back taxes from Canada that were unpaid. I said, “Yes, I’ll pay them for you.” I did everything I possibly could. This was going to be my shining moment, when I was going to hear those words, “I’m proud of you, son.”

I remember the day I had to leave to go back to take care of my family, I had a young son at the time, and they had nothing left. I asked my dad, well, he was probably 98 pounds, lying in the bed, and I said, “Dad? Can you think of a time when I made you proud?” And I’m thinking to myself there’s a whole bunch. I was almost a millionaire by that time. I had done so many things. I’d risen up. I’d opened a restaurant. I’d learned a new language. I’d done so many things, this was the time he was going to go, “Of course, son. Let me read from a list.” But instead, in his wonderful Dutch Canadian way, he said, “Nothing that I can think of.”

I don’t know if it broke my spirit, or if I thought I had hit rock bottom I hit another layer, but I tell you what. When you’re down there and you think there’s nothing left, it’s the foundation to grow from. When I got back home, actually, I was fired from my job. My marriage had fallen apart. I had no money left that I had paid to support him, so I got evicted from my apartment. I moved back in with my mom at the age of 30.

So there I am, 30 years old, working 16 hours a day for 20 years, and I have absolutely nothing to show for it except maybe a skill set on how to work hard. And I thought, “What am I going to do now?” Some little bird mentioned real estate, so I thought I’d get into real estate. I got into real estate, and that’s when I met my first mentor that transformed my life. I remember starting out, and I was afraid to be in the training sessions because I was afraid to look stupid.

I was in my office one night really late, and I was having a conversation with my mentor. He walks in, and he leans against the door, and he goes, “You’re still here?” I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “You really have a great work ethic.” He says, “If you let me mentor you, I think I could make you to be the best real estate agent in this office.” And I went, “You talking to me?” He goes, “Yeah, I’m talking to you.” He goes, “You’re awesome.” I’m like, “Are you still talking to me?” Because I’d never had anybody tell me that they believed in me. My father certainly was always, “You could do better. You could do better. You could do better.” Yeah, it drove me, but it didn’t make me feel good.

I doubted it at first, then we started to talk and he goes, “Oh, so you’ve labeled yourself stupid, as a loser, and a skinny little kid.” He goes, “How do you feel about that?” And I said, “I still feel that way.” He says, “You’re 30 years old.” I go, “Yeah, I know,” but I still felt that way inside.

He says, “Okay. Well, we’re going to change that. Who’s an idol that you have?” I said, “You mean like Tom Cruise or somebody like that?” And he goes, “Yeah. How do you feel about him?” And I said, “I feel good, but I’m not like as good looking as him.” He goes, “Well, who else?” And I said, “Well, one of my favorite is Clint Eastwood. He’s like rugged. I’m kind of rugged. I feel rugged.” He goes, “Perfect.” He goes, “Tell me about it.” I go, “He’s like ruggedly handsome.” He goes, “Perfect.” He goes, “How does that feel when you say that?” I said, “It feels pretty good. I feel pretty good.”

He goes, “That’s it. So now what we’re going to do is you’re going to reprogram your brain. You’re brain is like software. We’re just going to reprogram it.” I’m just thinking I don’t know that. I said, “How do I do that?” He goes, “Just every time you get a chance say ‘I’m ruggedly handsome. I’m ruggedly handsome.'” He said, “If the words that follow I am follow you, you just didn’t know it. You had shitty programming, but now we’re going to change that, and change that forever.”

I remember driving home. I was so excited. I was so excited because I could change my programming. I didn’t know it. I thought I was stuck that way my whole life. All I had to do was have the energy to put into changing the way I see myself, and it was so … I just said it over and over, I remember screaming in the car, “I’m ruggedly handsome! I’m ruggedly handsome! I’m ruggedly handsome!” I’d get up in the morning, I’d say it over and over and over again. I said it as much as I possible could, and I went from one sale in first year to within two years, 100 sales. I broke every record there was, and then I bought the freaking company.

I went from farm boy to financially free from one event. From one person. From one mentor that taught me that the most powerful force in the human psyche is how we describe ourselves to ourself. Who’s giving you labels? Who’s telling you who you should be? You can rewrite that. You can make it whatever you want. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. You can [inaudible 00:10:28] insert it, and then program it. What are the words you keep on saying to yourself day in and day out? I am … I am … You are what? The words that follow I am follow you. I am gifted, guided, grateful, powerful, passionate, playful, sexy, sensual, sensitive, and blessed. What are you? Those are my words. How do you define yourself?

Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and you get to redefine yourself if you want to. What do you want? Who are you? Because the strongest force in the human psyche is a desire to remain consistent with how you define yourself, so who are you, and who do you want to be? The words that follow I am follow you.

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