No one wants to be average. But, by definition, most people are.
That didn’t sit right with Jesse LeBeau.
Between basketball trick shots, the actor-turned-motivational speaker shared his story of conquering self-doubt with A+ Charter School students Sept. 21.
The Alaska native spent most of his life feeling exhaustively average — or less than. For him, the confidence to take risks and pursue goals made all the difference.
“I’m from a little island with no roads and no stores,” he said. “People don’t leave to do stuff where I’m from. But I took action. I worked hard, I believed in myself and, most importantly, I tried my hardest at every opportunity to be the master of my attitude.”
That attitude landed LeBeau starring roles in commercials for NBA superstars like Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade and Blake Griffin. He later made it to the big screen in Hollywood in the Warner Brother’s film Thunderstruck with Phoenix Suns All-Star Kevin Durant and starred on the Emmy-nominated TV sitcom This Just In.
The Arizona-based motivational speaker was a treat for the Maricopa charter school of just 163 students — his going rate is $15,000 to $20,000 for public appearances.
Heeding the message
Kevin Howard, a senior at A+ Charter, said he related to LeBeau’s underdog story — one of a 5’8” aspiring basketball player who, despite being laughed off by his peers, went on play under coach Dennis Rodman in nationally-televised games on Fox Sports.
“For me, it was about not listening to other people doubting you,” Howard said. “If you mess around with negativity, that’s all you’re going to believe. It’s not ‘I can’t,’ but ‘Am I willing to try?’”
Samuel Ferguson, also a senior at the school, said he thought the message was especially relevant to younger students still learning about themselves.
“The whole ‘don’t give up’ attitude is a really good message,” he said. “I think it was important for the younger kids to see this guy succeeded. If you take a little bit of advice from this guy, you can too.”
Attitude is everything
Focal in LeBeau’s foundation, Attitude is Everything, is a year-long social-emotional learning curriculum called The Attitude Advantage Program. Its lessons address such topics as self-awareness, confidence-building and creating healthy habits.
It’s a program LeBeau said didn’t exist for him in childhood.
“It’s the things I wish I would have learned growing up — how to deal with adversity, how to choose the right group of friends, what to do when you’re handling stress from school or social media,” he said. “Kids are dealing with so much today. This is just a way for us to make it fun and meet them where they’re at.”
LeBeau plans to return to Maricopa at least once per month this school year to coach A+ Charter students in the classroom. He’s also hosting livestreamed sessions for parents and students to discuss relevant topics.
Nate Wong, the esteemed Dean of Academic Services, said the program would benefit students.
“With Jesse, it’s a different voice coming from the outside and his social media presence helps with that connection,” he said.
Digital media teacher Daniel Mayo agreed.
“Some of these kids are really tough on themselves, so I think it will be an eyeopener,” he said. “I hope they just learn to be confident and stay motivated to reach their goals. I think if they focus on that, it can really push them forward to wherever they want to be.”