A remarkable man, during the course of his fifty-year music career, Smokey Robinson released more than four thousand songs featuring his signature tenor voice, impeccable timing, and profound sense of lyric. He has received numerous awards including the Grammy Living Legend Award, NARAS Lifetime Achievement Award, Honorary Doctorate (Howard University), the National Medal of Arts Award from the President of the United States, and the 2006 Kennedy Center Honors.
Smokey came close to throwing away his towering success: “I’ve been very blessed in my life, but it turned out that the biggest obstacle in my life was drugs. I had two and a half years doing weed and cocaine—when I was old enough to know better. I never did the pipe, but I mixed the weed with cocaine, and for me that was a recipe for disaster.”
It is not always easy to turn the mirror inward and take a deep and thoughtful look at yourself and your life. In fact, most people simply refuse to do it. They would rather maintain the status quo, and remain content with exactly the way things appear. But for Smokey Robinson, reflection has become a personal calling card. He said, “Those of us lucky enough to live our dreams can find ways to turn them into nightmares if we’re not too careful. I know this firsthand because I nearly threw all my blessings away.”
“The truth is that I’m probably one of the most blessed people on the face of the earth. I thank God all the time for all those blessings. See, my life truly has been filled with miracles, and I’m talking about more than my great group—The Miracles. We were all so lucky to be part of something historic—something never done before and never to be again—the whole Motown story.”
Today, Robinson remains very proud—and thankful—for the Motown experience: “People talk about Motown like it was just this big music factory, but I’m here to tell you that Motown was an amazing family. And in our family we were blessed to have some of the greatest artists of all time: Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Diana Ross and the Supremes—all of whom people around the world are still listening to today, and will be listening to for many years to come. Our family was very special, and we were blessed to have one another and share so much together. Then there was my “baby brother” Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5. They came to Motown a little later, and they took things to a whole other level. Michael was probably the greatest entertainer of all times and a total natural. I know because I saw it for myself.”
“Now I’m a national drugs spokesperson for the government, and I speak to judges and at drug rehab facilities around the country. As smooth as people might think I am, drugs destroyed me for a time. It was my toughest obstacle—and the way I overcame it was spiritual, through God. I went and got prayed for, and that made all the difference in my life. That was back in May of 1986. I had lost two and a half years of my life to drugs. At the end of it, I was virtually dead—and this was all pre-crack, thankfully!”
In 1989, Smokey opened up about his drug abuse when he wrote and published his memoirs, titled Inside My Life: “Success will tell you that you are a god—that you can do whatever you want. Drugs will tell you the same thing, and that’s a very big lie. Drugs were killing the best part of me. I had always been a spiritual person, but I let that slip away for cocaine and weed, and my life went to hell, literally. I had to look to God for strength, and since then I’ve never touched the stuff again or even been tempted. My advice is: We must each find our own God and truth system—something bigger than ourselves that we can rely on to tell us the truth about ourselves…even when we don’t want to hear it.”
“When I speak at rehab centers and talk to people who’ve been doing drugs for twenty years (and some of them are only thirty years old), I’m amazed, because two and a half years of drugs just about finished me off. Thankfully, a friend came and got me to a prayer service. I realized that I didn’t have all the answers in the world. It was the turning point in my life.” Sometimes you face your biggest obstacle in the midst of your biggest success.
SMOKEY’S EMPOWERING THOUGHT: “I’m at war against drugs because young people—and not so young people—need to know that drugs will kill your dreams and they will kill you. So follow your dreams, and don’t block your blessings with the drugs that will kill you.”
DO IT DAILY:
- Survey Your Life. Practice honest self-reflection to better yourself. Always work to be sincere with your life so you can provide an accurate assessment of your successes and the areas in which you can improve.
- Don’t Settle. The truth is that no one should hold you to a higher standard than yourself. When it comes to self-reflection, don’t ever be willing to go easy on your heart and soul. They need care and tenderness, but tough love will also do the trick.
Jerry Gladstone is the author of the International Best Selling Book The Common Thread of Overcoming Adversity and Living Your Dreams. Jerry is a success and life coach as well as a corporate speaker. TheCommonThreadGroup.com