“That’s life, that’s what all the people say, you’re riding high in April, shot down in May but I know I’m gonna change that June when I’m back on top, back on top in June. I said that’s life and as funny as it may seem, some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream. But I don’t let it get me down, cause this fine old world, it keeps spinning around. I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I’ve been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing. Each time I find myself, flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race. That’s life, I can’t deny it, I thought of quitting baby, but my heart just ain’t gonna buy it. And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try, I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly. I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king. I’ve been up and down and over and out and I know one thing. Each time I find myself, laying flat on my face, I just pick myself up and get back in the race. That’s life and I can’t deny it, many times I thought of cutting out but my heart won’t buy it. But if there’s nothing shaken come this here July, I’m gonna roll myself up, in a big ball and die….My my” (Song: That’s Life by Frank Sinatra). This is a favorite song of our candidate choice for this week’s interview and if I may borrow the quote from his book; “’That’s Life’ will forever be my favorite Sinatra melody. This song is my anthem, its lyrics my storyline (Burrel Lee Wilks III Tattoos On My Soul…From The Ghetto To The Top Of The World…pg.78). Without further delay let’s begin our special Q&A with the former Chicago gang chief who turned his life around to become a successful developer, businessman and sought after life coach. A man who can truly say he’s been there done that and is still doing it quite well.
HOC: You have truly lived a life full of immense challenges and the cliché “I’ve experienced mountains and valleys” has nothing on the magnitude of your life’s journey albeit from a very young age. After reading your book, Tattoos On My Soul…From The Ghetto To The Top Of The World, it was like being thrust into a perspective few of us know and quite frankly don’t want to experience due to the costs associated with that lifestyle. My first question is a reflection on the foreword quote on the first page of the book, which reads, “I’m not the man I was and I’m not yet the man I’m going to be.” So as you now stand in a clear space have you become what you were striving to be?
BLW III: Yes I have and that’s the wonderful thing about life. I set out to be a better man coming from a young foolish guy to this wise man that I am today.
HOC: In the book you made the statement that you are a master of being alive. Have you since transcended that belief system (unclear what this means to a casual reader) or does it still apply at this stage in your development?
BLW III: I have and this is something you have to continue being, a master of being alive it’s not something that just happens overnight, it’s a belief that will carry you through your life because even though I’m no longer in the streets I still run into those same street guys and you have to know how to deal with them from that same perspective which is keeping it real and knowing how to navigate around the dumb stuff that goes on.
HOC: Your father played an intricate role in your coming of age as you mentioned him throughout the body of your book. In what ways are you like your father and in what ways are you different? Furthermore do you resent those similarities and/or differences?
BLW III: Well I have my father’s determination to win with integrity but we differ in that I don’t rule my children with an iron fist. That was my father’s way as he understood it but at the same time I can appreciate how he governed his children.
HOC: Chicago has gained a vast amount of attention from our political system. What are some of the necessary changes needed to address the negatives of the city’s population?
BLW III: Well to be honest the issues are somewhat pervasive, if we could listen to the voices of the people whose lives are directly affected by certain policies and beyond even those circumstances we can delve into the neighborhoods and start with better relationship efforts at a grassroots level. The ex-gang chiefs who are well versed in that inner-city voice can come forward and talk to the youths, I think it would allow for a better foundation of communication. But a possible roadblock will be authority’s perception of those retired ex-gang chiefs speaking up. They don’t want to be seen as still affiliated with those targeted existing gang factions they are addressing and trying to influence in a positive direction.
HOC: In the book, “Tattoos On My Soul” you speak of betrayal and you experienced it on a deep level from those closest to you while navigating a challenging life. Has your definition of betrayal changed now that you have achieved a high level of success in the business world?
BLW III: Yes, it has changed tremendously because once you have experienced betrayal on such a deep level you can see it coming no matter the form, size or color.
HOC: Can you tell our audience about the mission and your involvement in the non-profit called Ready-Set-Work?
BLW III: Well that was a great experience and the question takes me back to a great moment being involved with such a worthy organization. Ready-Set-Work was a program built to help inner-city kids and to teach them job skills and that was one of the most important roles within my journey and I still do some of that same type of work. I’ve created a platform towards initiating those key elements called Burrel Street Wise.
HOC: You wrote a second book titled, Success For Life and on pg.18 you stated that invisibility was never an option. How does that statement apply to the people you mentor and what steps would you introduce to help people become more visible in their respective roles?
BLW III: The first step is learning how to sell yourself and getting involved in your desired field. Gaining experience is relative towards your personal development and skill set. Also it’s not only based on what you know but who you know so building strong relationships is a proven asset towards maintaining a strong network.
HOC: In the book on pg.197 you speak about building a personal power brand. How would a young man or woman from the streets of Chicago where you were raised and gained your street-wise credibility go about developing their personal power brand given the harsh realities of their respective environments?
BLW III: I’ll be direct and say that instead of buying the expensive sports shoes why not take that substantial sum of money and invest in a new suit? You have to learn how to dress for success and that is how you begin to establish your power brand and more to the point it’s about how people perceive you.
HOC: When you were younger there was a specific song by an artist that held a special place in your heart (See first paragraph of this article). I would like for you to indulge us as you listen to the words of the Frank Sinatra tune “That’s Life” and tell me if it still embodies the same meaning towards your journey today as it did when you first heard it decades ago (song playing).
BLW III: Yes, that song still applies to my life because I look at it from a knowledge/wisdom standpoint and the thing about wisdom is that it’s timeless and for better or worse it’s written in stone. The youths make a mistake in trying to change it to suit a lesser purpose when it was meant to elevate the individuals who can receive it in kind. Utilizing the knowledge to improve your life is like having a passport to an opportunity that can be life altering.
HOC: On behalf of “The Visionary’s Manifesto” and Heart of Cool I want to thank you for creating a space for our audience and I would like to extend you the honor of having the last word. Can you bestow some of your street-wise knowledge upon us as an important takeaway from our interview?
BLW III: Always play fair, that’s one of my seven streetwise strategies in the book Success For Life which means if someone doesn’t play fair you simply turn them loose and continue on a good path and believe that what you put out into the universe will come back in the same manner, do unto others as you want others to do unto you.