A lot of you have been asking me “what is The 12th Round?” The 12th Round was something that I came up with a few years ago when I was living out of my car (you’d be surprised what you can think up when you have nothing to keep your mind occupied.) I had no job, no money, literally nothing to my name but the clothes on my back. Hell, even the car I was sleeping in wasn’t mine – it was my older brother’s. I was the epitome of the boxer who had been outmatched and outworked with the only thing in sight being life’s referee counting me out. At that moment, I decided that I no longer was going to be a punching bag; that I was no longer going to be a loser. I decided that it was time to fight back!
After failing over and over, I came to the realization that life isn’t always a knockout; that in order to be truly successful in your life, you have to be prepared to go the distance. I would pour everything I had into something with the expectation that I was going to be an instant success. I had plenty of reason to believe that I would, too. I was a highly decorated saxophonist, who had performed all over the country, shared stages with some of the top musicians in the world, and been put on display on TV, radio, and newspapers – regularly. This created a culture of winning at everything I did. The problem though, was I got so used to winning that I didn’t know how to react to losing. I put all of my energy into the knockout I was expecting, that I didn’t have the gas to go the extra rounds in the case my opponent’s chin wasn’t made of glass. I never prepared to go to the 12th round because I rarely went past the 1st.
After that moment, I decided that I needed to get back into the woodshed and work on myself; get back to the basics of who I am. I realized that my talent was taking me places that my character couldn’t keep me. One of our core values is “change yourself, change your community, change your world”, so the first thing I had to do was change myself. I had made a promise to my wife one night as we were sleeping in the car, that I would buy her a brand new house. Her response wasn’t a “really!” or a “how sweet?!” … it was a “promise me.” Did I mention I had to work on my character? I wasn’t expecting her to take me serious! I thought that was something you were supposed to say when you hit rock bottom! She repeated herself, “promise me”, only this time, she had a tone in her voice that I hadn’t heard before. It was a tone that said “I need you to believe it before I can.” I paused for a second, because it hit me that I wasn’t sure I could come through with it, and neither was she. In a moment, something came over me. An overwhelming sense of confidence that I was going to be able to come through on that promise. I didn’t know how or when, but I was going to. I knew it wasn’t going to be a knockout; hell, I knew it wasn’t even going to be a TKO. If I wanted to come through on this promise, I was going to have to go all 12 physically exhausting and emotionally taxing rounds to win. With tears rolling down my face, I looked at her and said, “I swear to you. I will buy you the brand new home that you deserve.”
Over the course of the next few years, I spent countless hours working on myself to be able to fulfill that promise. I read more books in the last few years than I ever have in my entire academic career. I even decided to go back to school to improve myself on an educational level. I went to seminars, both in person and via the internet, to focus on my personal growth. I reached out to every creditor that I owed money to and got them paid up to build my credit. I built boats to help cross rivers because I had burned down the bridges years prior. When I tell you I committed time to improving myself, it is not an exaggeration – to the point where I am blessed beyond belief that I still have a happy wife to buy a house for! (The house will be completed in just a couple of months, just in case you were wondering.)
So where does The 12th Round play into any of this? Like I mentioned earlier – Change Yourself, Change Your Community, Change Your World. As a performer, I spent years in front of people telling a story with my saxophone for entertainment. Now, along with my brother Charles, we’re telling a different story. Stories of heartache and tragedy, but also stories of triumph from the heart of a lion. Stories of never backing down, even against a formidable opponent that you’ve lost to in the past, and coming out victorious. The 12th Round was created to help the lost; for people who’ve been knocked down and who aren’t sure whether or not they can get back up. The 12th Round was created to help empower and motivate you to go one more round, to help drive you through to those personal breakthroughs; to help you realize the greatness within you.
The 12th Round goes beyond the internet and social media. We’ve not only committed to changing ourselves, but we’ve made the commitment to change our community. We’re working with local non-profits and youth organizations to provide motivational consulting and mentoring, with a focus on at-risk youth. Through this work, we have an opportunity to help develop young men and women by breaking the chains that prevent them from living to their full potential. In every dollar we receive, either through merchandise or through speaking engagements, 20% gets put back into the community through local youth advocacy groups and non-profit organizations.
Lastly, we’ve made the commitment to change the world. All of our content will be on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, along with our website The12thRound.org, and our upcoming YouTube channel where we’ll have weekly, inspirational videos. All of this is free; we’re not getting paid any money for this. Why? Pablo Picasso said “The meaning of life is to find your purpose. The purpose of life is to give it away.” We’ve realized what our purpose is. We both had fallen so far down in our lives that we had to look up to see the bottom; but we made it to our feet, and we’re back in the fight. There are people around the world who are in the same place we were – we’re here to get them back into the fight. Even if after all of this, if we only make a positive impact in the life of one person – we’ve fulfilled our purpose. But we know that there are a lot of contenders out there who are hungry; who desire to be the champion of their own lives, but just don’t know how. This is for you. Don’t quit – commit, fight back, and win!