As Tribal citizens, we have numerous opportunities to prosper and achieve our dreams. It’s a blessing to look forward to work every day without it feeling like a chore or an obligation. Had it not been for the foresight and sacrifices of our ancestors and Tribe leaders, our history would have been dramatically altered.
Despite every hindrance designed to enervate our optimism and spirits, we transformed those setbacks into advantages. It was common for us to abandon camps we lived in if danger became imminent. As nomadic people, we sought areas that provided stable establishments in which we could fortify and expand our communities. Solidarity allowed us to align our hearts and minds to evolve into business-savvy Seminoles.
I’ve often wondered how people such as Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey continue to find passion in their work despite being successful billionaires. I think many people would retire if they became just millionaires. We all have heard the phrase that money is not everything, but who wouldn’t want to have a lifestyle in which working wasn’t necessary? Gaining ownership of Hard Rock International in 2007 greatly improved the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s stature as an economic powerhouse throughout the world.
Being a Tribal citizen is still surreal to me. I grew up in an environment where struggles were commonplace, so I longed for financial stability.
When I was in eighth-grade, my mother bought my twin and me school shoes from a vendor in the parking lot of a gas station because that was all she could afford. In contrast to my upbringing, my 3-year-old son Nnamdi probably has had five new pairs of shoes within the last year alone. There were winters during my childhood in North Carolina when my family and I would leave the oven door open and boil water to warm up the house because of a broken heater. Those memories still cross my mind, occasionally serving as a reminder to be gracious and make the most of this blessing. None of this would be possible had I not been a Tribal citizen, so I try to never take it for granted.
Over the years, I’ve learned that as circumstances change, so must mindsets. Because I didn’t grow up with much, I constantly think of everything coming to an end. I want to put myself in a position to be more self-sufficient and not rely fully on the Tribe’s support. There is no guarantee that our business and profits will continue in the manner they have during the past decade.
As a die-hard fan of the Los Angeles Lakers since 2003, I’m well aware of Kobe Bryant’s incredible performances that have made him one of the NBA’s all-time greats. During the 2005-06 NBA season, Bryant was unequivocally the most dominant player in the NBA. He averaged 35.4 points per game and scored 81 points in a game, the second most in NBA history behind Wilt Chamberlain’s 100. In order to achieve this level of play, Bryant spent countless hours improving his craft despite already being among the league’s best players. It could have been easy for him to become complacent with solely the benefits of being a superstar. But his insatiable desire to be the greatest NBA player ever constantly pushed him to work arduously throughout his 20-year career to enhance his basketball skills. The fame and millions of dollars he amassed didn’t eclipse his ambition to achieve greatness.
The same can be said for us.
World-renowned brands such as Coca-Cola, Heinz and Hershey have all been around for more than 100 years. Hard Rock International, established in 1971, has the potential to be a perdurable brand as well. Since we became a federally recognized Tribe in 1957, we have come a long way from conducting bingo games and selling tax-free cigarettes. Hard Rock has greatly expanded its enterprises after we purchased it, with plans of even further expansion. As the Tribe continues to progress, so should we individually and collectively to enhance the strength of our people’s future. If we don’t adapt to changes like our forebears did, our prosperity will most assuredly be brief.
As I reach the six-month mark in the ACD program I’m continuously learning what it takes to be a future leader for the Tribe. I refused to pass on the chance to be part of something as unprecedented as the Tribe’s growth. With the proper leadership, we can soar to greater heights. Change is inevitable.
I would often let people, doubts and money create ceilings for my accomplishments. Now that I’ve matured, I don’t see any limitations, only obstacles to conquer.
Albert Einstein said, “Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them.”
Mainly due to the strong influence my mother, Marilyn Brown, has had on me, I’m always seeking growth and improvement within myself and others around me. I’m all for maximizing potential.