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Crystal Cathedral

Main Service Times: Main - 9:30 & 11:00 AM | Evening - 7:00 PM | Arabic - 1:15 PM

Guest Interviews

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Bob Knowling

2207 2020-05-20

Bob Knowling (BK) grew up in severe poverty, but despite hardship, betrayal and racism, Bob overcame these hardships and today is one of America's most inspirational and successful business leaders. Bob's new book is entitled, You Can Get There from Here: My journey from struggle to success and is available in bookstores everywhere. Lawrence Wilkes (LW) interviews Bob.

LW: I have the privilege of interviewing a wonderful guest, Bob Knowling. Bob comes from a family of 13 children. He grew up in extreme poverty, yet through various experiences that came his way, he became one of the top executives in leadership today in America. Please welcome with me, Bob Knowling.

BK: Good morning.

LW: Bob, I'm excited to have you here and to hear your story. Tell us about some of the people who changed your life.

BK: One of my earliest memories was a place called the YMCA. When we were all young children, my mother came home one day and said I have a place that you can go and you don't have to pay. So I ran to the YMCA. Six years old, I walked up to the lady at the front desk and said, my mother said I could come here, so I??m here.

LW: So through their ministry, you were brought to the Lord. Now you did grow up in a Christian home, is that right?

BK: That's correct. The YMCA was the seed, and that's where I received my first bible. They taught me all about values and Christian virtues. But it was my grandfather and my grandmother. You know being here today I was reminded of both my grandparents. I know that they would be very proud to know that all of their work, all of their investment has paid off.

LW: Bob, you have a quote here in your book: "my story starts in an unlikely place and then climbs, sometimes because I made it climb and sometimes because people I hold close to my heart reached down and grabbed my hand and helped pull me up." Tell us a little bit about that. Who were these people?

BK: I don't believe that anybody gets to a destination by themselves. We can have the greatest plans and the greatest aspirations, but at some point along the way, you need others that are willing to lend a hand.

LW: That's right.

BK: I was blessed to have wonderful coaches who invested in me. I use the word invest because we are not talking about the basketball or the football, but we're talking about investing in a young man who was trying to find his place in life. Many of those lessons carried forward, and I use them in my everyday life.

LW: Tell us about your high school experience. Someone there invested in your life.

BK: That's correct. I had one particular teacher who invested in me. Imagine a young African American kid, coming from poverty, and being in a Latin class. One day, the teacher came by and gave me my report, and it was another F. And as she went past my desk, she said, ‘you could do so much better.'

So after that class, I couldn't talk to the teacher because that's not cool for an athlete to talk to a teacher. So I went all the way around the school and came back through the other door. And I said, ‘Mrs. Holmes, what did you mean by that?' She said, ‘you're one of the most gifted kids in this school.' She said, ‘Robert, you can be somebody.'And from that day forward, I decided I was going to make Mrs. Holmes proud. Now it didn't happen overnight. But that night I took home a book for the first time and then I started bringing her my report card, and D's became C's, and C's became B's, and B's became A's.

LW: That's terrific. It was just a simple word from another person. What an encouragement that changed your life and turned you around; gave you a goal and a purpose.

BK: It doesn't take much. And I would be remiss if I didn't also say that's also the time in my life when I accepted Christ.

LW: Terrific. So at this point, there was a lot of positive change in your life. You also went on to college, which is very unusual for a child who grew up in poverty. Tell us about that experience.

BK: I went to Wabash College. It's located in Crawfordsville, Indiana and has about 800 students, all men, and I studied theology because I wanted to be a pastor. I played sports and I excelled in the classroom. It's a terrific school.

LW: Tell us about Grissom Air Force Base.

BK: Well along the journey of my childhood, my mother remarried. It was a very dysfunctional family, obviously with 13 kids, but she re-married and married a gentleman who was in the Air Force. It was there that I found I had an entrepreneurial spirit of launching businesses. I found I had a knack for business.

At 13 years of age, I had a lawn mowing service. One day, I went to the local golf course and there was a lake. I thought there might be fish there, so I asked the gentlemen could I fish there to get some fish for my family. And he says there's nothing but golf balls in that lake. So I asked if anybody ever went in to get those balls. He said no, but if somebody would, they'd pay you a lot of money. I went home, put on a pair of shorts, went into that lake, and thousands of balls later, I'd made a couple hundred dollars. So I've always had an entrepreneurial spirit to figure out how to make money.

LW: That's terrific! There was another event that happened at Grissom Air Force Base that changed your life.

BK: Well I have been through an extensive amount of training in my professional career, but most important, I was introduced to a man named Dr. Noel Tichy. He was responsible for management development training, and from him, I learned what it meant to be a leader. Quite frankly, whether it's being the pastor of the Crystal Cathedral, running a local hair salon, or being a CEO, at the end of the day, it's all about people and how do you bring out the best that people have to offer.

LW: And that became something very special in your leadership style. Not so much the management that everyone else sort of looks at. You look at people.

BK: You're going to find this book is an authentic story. It took 12 years to convince me to write this book. I didn't want to write a book because most CEO books tell you how smart they are, and if you follow seven steps, you too shall be successful.

This book is about the frailty of the human spirit. It's about being knocked down. It's about what do you do when you are on the ground, when you run into the wall. You get on your knees.

LW: So you're saying that anyone can get there from here.

BK: I believe that if you have faith in God, you're willing to deny yourself and do it for His glory, not your own, you can achieve incredible things.

LW: Praise the Lord. Well there's his book, You Can Get There from Here. It's available in book stores.

BK: That's correct.

LW: It's a great story, especially for young people who are hoping to become something and make something of their lives. There are some great secrets in here.

Bob, we thank you so much for being here. God loves you and so do we.

BK: Thank you.

LW: Thank you, Bob.


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