I listen to people reciting the words “Don’t judge a book by its cover” verbatim, but there’s more to this phrase than meets the eye. Never judge a book by its cover, for you may be astounded at what you’ll discover.

I would like to share a story about Leslie Calvin Brown, popularly known as Les Brown. He was born with his twin brother Wesley on February 17, 1945 in an abandoned building in a low income section of Miami, Florida, in the United States of America. At six weeks old, Les and Wesley were given up for adoption and taken in by Mamie Brown, a 38-year old domestic assistant and cafeteria attendant with little money but a big heart.

During his schooling career, particularly in primary, Les was labelled EMR – Educable Mentally Retarded – and this obliterated his self-esteem, image and belief. One day, Les was ordered to write on the board but he refused. Again the teacher gave the order and for the second time he refused, asserting that he was an educable mentally retarded.

On hearing this, his teacher came from behind his desk and placed a hand on Les Brown’s shoulder and said: “Never let anyone’s opinion determine who you are.” And from then on, Les Brown’s self-esteem was gradually restored and he worked on himself daily with the help of Mr Woods, his inspirational teacher, and his mother. Soon he was a progressive student obtaining fair marks.

After completing school, Les Brown had a passion for speaking and public radio was his first choice. He persistently went to a radio station which had no post available until he was hired as a coffee boy, but that didn’t break him; instead he accepted the job gratefully. One day on air, failures by the session DJ saw Les Brown make his break in radio and he was soon hired as the full-time DJ.

Upon Les Brown’s termination at the radio station, he went into politics and soon ran for, and won, the elections in the Ohio House of Representatives. Les Brown was of versatile talents and so he left the Ohio House of Representatives and turned to television, eventually ending with PBS – Public Broadcasting Service – and on September 6 1993, his show called ‘The Les Brown Show’ aired for the first time, with him as the talk show host.

Mr Les Brown overcame innumerable obstacles from adoption to being labelled educable mentally retarded, from rejection to pain, from loss to failure and he came out refined. He often uses the phrase “It’s possible” for he came from the gutter and today stands as a great man, simply because he was resilient.

His determination, positive attitude, resilience and curiosity ensured that success was his. He’s now worth over $10 million and gives motivational talks to tens of thousands from leading companies such as Nike, IBM and McDonald’s to name a few. Now this is what I call genuine success! From being labelled educable mentally retarded to using your very same brain to be a millionaire, moreover build a name for yourself, is inspiring and motivating.

I believe this story is the apt depiction of the title, since it begins from the root up until the spring blossoming leaves, high in the sky. On a daily basis this story inspires me and I know it’s not over until I win. No matter who you are or where you’re from, the bottom line is you can make it as Les Brown asserts.

His teacher labelled him educable mentally retarded from her perception years ago and I wonder what she says today when Les Brown moves millions of souls with his assertive voice and commendable motivational talks. He deserves all the awards, respect and honour bestowed upon him and, as a 71-year old, he can only inspire the aspiring, determined youth to pursue our dreams, no matter how tough it gets, since there is no gain without pain.

Now that it’s all said and done, I hope we can all adopt the same mind-set of resilience and having the end in mind. After all, never judge a book by its cover.