A: Tell us about what you do?
T: I wear many hats. I am a:
- Parent to Shayna, John and Mikal
- Management consultant with Green Seed Solutions
- Real estate consultant with Royal LePage City Centre
- Board of Directors for Toastmasters International
A: What legacy would you like to leave?
T: I would like to be remembered as someone who really cared about people and who believed in paying it forward each and everyday.
A: Where were you born?
T: I was born in St Louis Missouri and raised in East St. Louis Illinois.
A: Tell us about your education?
T: I have a Masters degree in Public Administration and another Masters in Organizational Management.
A: Whom do you admire and why?
T: Nelson Mandela, who chose love and justice as the way to rule a divided South Africa. He chose the rule of law instead of revenge for those who persecuted him. It is my opinion that it takes a really strong person to not strike back after having 27 years of his life taken from him.
I admire Barack O’Bama, for really trying to help the middle class in the United States and helping to bring health care to those who did not have it and for standing up for gays, women and the poor people.
And finally but not least, My father, Reverend Thomas Jones, for teaching me that you must first lead yourself before you can lead others.
A: What is the title and content of your upcoming book?
T: Autobiography, “But for the grace of God - a love story”. This is a book about my life and how I realized in retrospect that I never walked and was carried all the time by my Higher Power/Universe. It is about the highs and lows of surviving one's self.
A: What is the motto you live by?
T: To Whom much has been given, much is expected.
A: If you had all the money in the world, where would you be right now and what would you be doing?
T: I would be heavily involved in helping the disenfranchised and the marginalized people of the world. I would be an instrument for change as I worked with others to teach them to fish and to become independent and self-sustainable.
A: Could you share with us your most difficult challenge you have faced yet?
T: The most difficult challenge of my life has been Surviving self, the voices that constantly tell you what you cannot do and that always tells you that you are not good enough and also overcoming homelessness.
A: How did you become homeless?
T: As a result of my addiction I got caught up in the party life, living in the fast lane, and the constant search for something to numb the feelings and the pain. One day I realized the party was over and everyone else had gone home and I had lost everything. Quite a moment it was. (Short Version)
A: What kind of music do you listen to?
T: I love music; it truly can soothe the savage beast. It has always been an outlet for me, a means to an end. It has always taken me where I needed to go. It has helped me to get around corners and to make the connection between my thoughts and my feelings. Rap, Jazz, Comtemporary, Classical, Broque, Pop, Rock, Easy Listening, Blues, Country/Western, Deep Soul.
A: What was it like to be raised by your father who was a revered minister in your town?
T: It was absolutely terrible for me personally and therefore I became the proverbial "preacher's kid" and rebelled against everything that was good. I would like to blame my father for this but today I know I made bad choices and chose to rebel.
A: Tell me about your childhood, what is it like to grow up in the hood so to speak, were you recruited to a gang?
T: I grew up in East St. Louis Illinois. I survived East St. Louis, it was and is a jungle where only the strong survives. It was and is the murder capital of United States, per capital. I had to be a part of a gang to survive. I was shot in the stomach at the age of 16 and was hospitalized for 3 months and nearly died. I have been stabbed and cut for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It was terrible growing up in E. St Louis but I would not change a thing because of the valuable life lessons it gave me.
A: What kind of skills and aptitude did you develop or learn from that violent upbringing?
T: I learned how to survive. Many people stopped and gave up, they surrendered and became a part of it unable to escape. For me, I knew there had to be a better way so I was always biding my time and looking for a way out. I was caught in a conundrum so to speak. My parents divorced, my father was affluent and well-off living in a plush neighbourhood in St. Louis, and my mother was extremely poor living in the ghetto which was most of East St. Louis. I spent time in both of these places and was never accepted in either. My childhood and the story of my life is one filled with paradoxes. I learned to fight outside of school, received straight A’s in school and adapted to my environment. I became a chameleon in order to survive my circumstances. Adaptation was the key!
A: Advice for young people fresh out of college?
T: There were many lessons I learned from the streets. When starting a new job or anything, you first learn by listening, you learn by watching, you learn who’s in charge, the lay of land, and then you determine how and what you can do to first assimilate within the organization. After assimilation, you can then begin the process of making changes from within the organization. And none of this can occur until you learn how to communicate effectively with others and how to see the big picture.
A: Your daughter just married, what would your advice to the new couple be?
T: I have 3 kids, a daughter Shayna 24 years old, John 18 years old and Mikal 16 years old. My advice to Shayna and her husband Mark is to be nice and compassionate with each other, to learn to listen and most importantly to know when to be quiet. (This sage advice goes both ways).
A: What do you tell your sons about how to be a man in today’s world?
T: It’s tough raising sons and trying to save them from what you have experienced. In reality, you must allow them to discover the world at their own pace. I remind them that I love them and that contrary to the world of video gaming, in real life there are no do-overs. They are both great boys and I know they will be ok in the end or not. The bottom-line is, I have to let go for ultimately, I have no control over their choices.
A: The traditional definition of being a man has really shifted in recent times, when I say the Sacred Masculine, what does it mean to you?
T: My definition of a man has evolved over the years, the definition given to me in East St. Louis was a recipe for disaster, because it was based on ego, ancient male sterotypes, which often left few alternatives other than to die to preserve some pseudo code of honour. I can only speak about the code for young men living in the inner city of E. St. Louis, it was based on violence and power. To show anything other than one or both of these meant you had an excellent opportunity to become a victim. The paradox of this was, if you lived the code then you also became a victim for there was always someone tougher or faster with a gun or a knife. This sounds amazingly like the wild wild west and maybe that's what it was.
A: How did you turn your life around?
T: After years of this insanity and finding myself with a contract on my life, I sought help by moving to Chicago, Illinois and my life began to change. I was fortunate to find that I was not alone and that there was a way out. It was a process that began with me acknowledging that I had a problem and then me being willing to do whatever it took to change myself.
A: What type of environment stimulated your growth?
T: Where I had been a loner before, I sought out environments that were nurturing and where practice spiritual principles were practiced such as honesty, willingness and open-mindedness
A: Any pearl of wisdom you’d like to share with our members?
T: Never ever give up. It does not matter how far down you may fall, you can get up and your life can be transformed. We cannot save our ass and our face at the same time. We must let go of our ego and ask for help so that we can learn that we are not alone. I would like to share that paying it forward really works that we must practice gratitude on a daily basis and that we must live in the Now.
Seed Solutions Ltd.
Tel: 604 210-3884
Tom Jones will be Social Butterfly Club 2013 Holiday Party's Keynote speaker tonight from 7-8pm, party is 6-9pm, come join us and hear about his amazing tale of triumph.