Identity Leadership | What I learned from Stedman Graham and Charles Ruffolo

photo by © Copyright 2008-2015, Theodora Voutsa

photo by © Copyright 2008-2015, Theodora Voutsa


I was recently invited by a friend, Snezana, to attend the Symposium at the WTC in Amsterdam, organised by the NetworKing- Charles Ruffolo. The speakers: Charles RuffoloStedman Graham and Joseph Oubelkas. I asked my friend what is the symposium about, and she replies “It is about you!”.  And it was about me! The title was “It’s all about you” and the discussion revolved around Identity and Leadership. The exact main points of the Los Angeles Method– how could I not attend?

It was an inspiring and memorable experience. All three speakers gave their best and brought the discussion to a very high level.

Stedman Graham, Macide Tezcan, Tamara Colje, Theodora Voutsa.

Stedman Graham, Macide Tezcan, Tamara Colje, Theodora Voutsa.


The symposium began and Fatima Elatik, Ambassador of the Giving Back Foundation, after a short introduction, presented Charles Ruffolo.

Charles Ruffolo.

Charles Ruffolo.


I had never met Charles before and I was impressed with his enthusiasm and energy. It brought me to a familiar state.

Charles is an Italian American. He shared with us events from his childhood and his journey to understand how to better connect with people. His idea of networking is about creating, building and maintaining a relationship.  “Only through time you can become my best friend” he shared.

The discussion moved on to values. You need to live by your values in order to lead the life you want, and may I add- and deserve.  Everything we do, reflects on who we are. We should treat everyone equally. The same way we know who somebody is, based on their actions- we are being identified by our own. We should be conscious and responsible for the actions we take. To take Charles’ thought a step further, if our actions are dictated by our values and not our confining convictions, then it is very easy to lead the life we deserve.

Two kids from the Giving Back Foundation joined him on stage. They discussed the values, values that Charles Ruffolo analyses in his book “Your wake up call”.  He did a very interesting experiment, which made the audience laugh at first and then contemplate on how many times they have been in the same situation. Charles asked the young boy sharing the stage with him what was the third value. The young man replied “Faith and Hope” and Ruffolo challenged him- “Are you sure?” He turned around to the young girl standing next to them “Do you think he is right?” You could see the big question mark hanging above the young ones heads. I was witnessing two very bright and intelligent young people standing in front of an authoritative figure- able to be trusted as being trusted, reliable and true, and questioning their own knowledge and opinion. Both of them looked at Charles with wide open eyes and hesitantly replied “Yes? it is Faith and Hope?” The answer that was an affirmative sentence 5 seconds ago now became a question. And when they were reassured by Ruffolo that the answer was correct, they sighed with relief and we all laughed at the little “game” Charles had played on the “kids”. Then Charles Ruffolo turned around and told them not to ever allow anyone to make them doubt about themselves. No one can take the wind out of their sails.

I know who I am and I do not doubt myself. It is all about me. I take responsibility for my actions.

“You are 100% responsible of the reality you are experiencing. You write, direct and star in your own movie.”

— The Los Angeles Method

As Charles’ speech came to an end, he talked about “the gut feeling”. You should always listen to that feeling, or as we say at the Los Angeles Method- your voice, because nobody knows you better than yourself.

Life is going to slap you in the face and you are going to wonder why, but as Charles puts it, just worry how you are going to get up again.  Because tomorrow is another day, better than today.

The giving Back Handshake, it is all about you!

The giving Back Handshake, it is all about you!

Fatima Elatik

Fatima Elatik

Joseph Oubelkas followed Charles Ruffolo. Joseph was wrongly accused and in-prisoned in a Moroccan prison for ten years. He talked about his experiences and how he overcame them. Oubelkas speech was in Dutch. Unfortunately I could not understand everything he was saying, since I do not speak the language, but his truth, the way he talked and his rhythm helped me understand his emotion and feel what he was talking about. My friend translated for me “If you want to succeed, you have to do it yourself”. This is what his mother wrote to him in one of her letters, which she wrote every day he was in prison.

Stedman Graham with Symposium participants.

Stedman Graham with Symposium participants.

The time came for the third speaker to take the stage, Stedman Graham.  You might know him as Oprah Winfrey’s husband. I have to admit that that was the first thought that came to mind when I saw his name. But that is only one aspect of his reality.

Stedman Graham is the author of more than 10 books.  He is currently teaching a 9 step success leadership online program at Phoenix University and has helped many organisations and individuals with his presentations around the world.

One of his books, “Build your own brand”, deals with how you can maximise your value for potential. The question is: Do you choose your own identity or do you allow circumstances to define you? The answer to this question was his main topic at the symposium.

The power of human potential is great and we have many bright examples of what an individual can do in the face of Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dr. King and more.

“Become the best you can be.”

— Dr. King

How good are you in life? In the Los Angeles Method we ask “Would you win an Oscar for the way you act in life?”.  Stedman Graham, like Dr. King, asked us “Are you the best you can be?”. What is your answer?

Even if you clean streets, clean them like Shakespeare wrote poetry, be the best of whatever you are! It is amazing what on person can do.

To be the best you can be and do that effectively, you need to mastery.

Can you master yourself?

The questions you need to ask, and of course find the answers to, are “How to create self mastery?”, “How to create self leadership?”, “How to take information and incorporate it in your own reality to shape your future?”.

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What are you doing with your life? We are surrounded by conveniences that make our lives more comfortable and that weakens our human potential. Who are you? When you tell the world “Look at me” you need to know who you are.

“Who am I?”

The world does not want you to know who you are. The world does not want you to have your own voice and be empowered. The world wants you to continue working. The world wants you to be part of the puzzle.

As I am hearing these words, I can not help but think of that poor little “clochard”, Charlie Chaplin in “Modern Times”.

When it comes to human development, to personal development, it is a failed system. People are slaving. How long can you slave for?

You need the time to think who you are and what is your potential.  It is a shame to have capable people who can not self actualise their potential.

Success is when preparation meets opportunity, and it is a shame not to have opportunity.

Graham Stedman talked about his personal experiences. He told us about his travels, how he realised it is not about race, or colour, or religion, it is about not knowing who you are.  Most of the societies are designed to keep you in a box. He shared with us his personal story about his two disabled brothers. He fought every day because people would call his brothers names. No one explains to you how to get out of a low self esteem state. He had a lot of rage and he was angry.

Rage is layers of pain and shame.

When you have low self esteem you like to brag, when you do not know who you are, what is there to brag about? Lies.

Stedman Graham and Joseph Oubelkas.

Stedman Graham and Joseph Oubelkas.

First lesson you need to master: learn who you are.  Do not let anyone else define you, because they will define you less than themselves. The point is not about how the world defines you, but how you define yourself.

Develop a process of continuous improvement. Where are you going and how will you get there?

Create more value in your life.

Create higher levels of thinking. Create a collective consciousness.

When you fall, find the strength to stand up again.

It was a wonderful afternoon, spent creatively and productively. Thank you to all three gentlemen for reassuring us that we are on the right track. Thank you for showing the way to real, soulful change. Thank you for inspiriting power and inspiring love. Thank you Snezana for passing on the information about the Symposium. Thank you Charles Ruffolo for making it happen.

I would like to borrow the poem Stedman Graham used to close his speech as the last note.  The poem is “The Race” by Dee Groberg.

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well,
excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race
or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son,
and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.

The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire,
to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd,
was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip,
the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace,
and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face.
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now.
Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.

But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all,
and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win,
his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace.
“I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”

But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!”
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last.
“If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!”
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten…
but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye.
“There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try?
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.”
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.

“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all,
for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place!
You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!”
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit,
and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been,
still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.

They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place,
head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace.
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place,
the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud,
you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”

And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face,
the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all.
And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall.
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face,
another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”




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