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October 24, 2019

INSIGHTS 2019: Life lessons from Terry Crews

The award-winning actor and activist candidly shared the experiences that have shaped him and compelled him to start speaking out about living life to its full potential.

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Terry Crews didn’t need an introduction. In the lead-up to his Wednesday closing keynote at INSIGHTS 2019, the energy was both palpable and visible from the lines that formed well before the session was set to begin.

Crews, a Golden Globe winner (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, anyone?) and former NFL player (and don’t forget about those Old Spice spots), upped the energy when he took the stage, with some dance moves and a big smile that had the room cheering. While he kept the momentum going for the next hour, his conversation with the audience was decidedly more serious.

Crews candidly shared his journey – from growing up in Flint, Michigan with an abusive, alcoholic father and hyper-religious mother and making it to the NFL, to being broke and sweeping floors in L.A. and speaking out about his sexual assault.

Here are four life lessons from Crews’s experiences.

Competition is the opposite of creativity

Crews said a key takeaway from his time in the NFL was that competition doesn’t allow room for creativity. He talked about pushing so hard to compete against other teams, and even new and current teammates that it left him feeling broken down. Creativity, he added, comes from doing things because you want to, not because you feel you have to.

Don’t let anyone hold your dreams hostage

Crews shared a few experiences in which he perceived that other people had control over his path and his dream. One was the incident in which he was sexually assaulted by a high-profile Hollywood agent in 2016. Crews, acknowledging that this is something that many women and men face, said he grappled with coming forward because of the perceived power that person had over his career.

Another was when a coach consistently called him by a different name, something that Crews felt took his identity away. He persevered, though, because that coach was “holding my dream,” and it was supposed to be his way out.

By giving other people power over his dreams, he said, he lost perspective and compromised where he shouldn’t have.

“Sing love songs to your dreams,” Crews added. You can either ignore them and tell them they don’t matter, he said, or, like a child, love them, hold them, and take care of them.

Success is the warmest place to hide

Crews revealed that at one point, while he was on a career upswing, his internal life was in turmoil.

The challenge was that success gave him a cushy place to sit and avoid dealing with it. “Success is the warmest place to hide,” Crews said. “No one calls you on it. People take your word.”

He said that he continued to blame his attitude and behavior on other issues, like a tough childhood, or experiences with racism, instead of taking a hard look at himself.

Crews added that he was living by the “rule of pride” – that he didn’t want to look weak by asking for help or pursuing therapy. But when he did, he said emotionally, everything changed.

Understand why you’re on a particular path

One of the key outcomes of asking for help was that Crews was able to examine his long-held beliefs, and how they were impacting his decisions.

For example, he shared the realization that he had been raised with a mindset of toxic masculinity, which had translated into addictive behavior, and treating his wife and children as though they were less valuable than he was.

Understanding the cause and effect of your personal path, he said, is how you can transform your mindset.

The audience was clearly impacted by his candid talk, giving him a rousing standing ovation at the end.

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