Cliché sayings can become so annoying when you’re not seeing them acted upon, but merely applying the golden rule, while leading from the front is the primary piece of advice. There’s also a formula called the Q.Q.M.A. formula which is accomplished when implemented from a leadership position by rendering a larger quantity of services than required, at a higher quality than required, with a positive mental attitude. This will attract major results, but also serve as an example throughout the office.
As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian A. Street, MSW.
Brian A. Street, MSW is a Cognitive-Behavioral Coach, Founder & CEO of Your Legacy Begins Now, LLC, and COO of The People360, LLC, and co-founder of Hobson & Street Business Associates LLC. Brian works as a social entrepreneur, running multiple companies with a focus on providing empowerment-based services to individuals and groups across multiple industries. The mission behind all of Brian’s work is to generate revenue to help develop and sustain transitional-aged adolescent mentoring and leadership programs. In all that Brian does, he aims to always keep mental wellness as the core of the relationship.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
First off, thank you for the opportunity. Let me start with the fact that I grew up in the deep south of Southern Mississippi. Most of my childhood was lived in a single-wide mobile home where we had to avoid about 5 different soft spots throughout the house where the floor was about to fall through. The toilet in the kids’ bathroom had begun leaning to the right due to moisture causing a soft spot. I remember having to place a short wooden rod between the toilet bowl and the side of the cabinet. While that’s a core message from my childhood that appears in much of my current work, there was so much good as well. At the age of four, I began to play organized baseball, and fortunately, I had great athletic genes, therefore I was pretty good in sports. This was the start of my constantly elevating mental growth. As I got older, just as many kids and teens, I suffered some bullying, was shoved against lockers, and had items taken from me…it was tough at times, but I always went back to sports regardless of what life threw at me. That was my place of solace; where I felt untouchable. My childhood was loaded with a tug-of-war between that which pulled me into dark places where I felt less than, then back into the positive spotlight that helped build onto my self-confidence and increased mental wellbeing. After high school, I went on to college and was no longer a student-athlete, and I had no idea how to be that, as I was a student-athlete my entire life. This newfound identity threw me off track and after my sophomore year, I ended up flunking out of college and having my first child all in the same year. It was 2007 and I was only 20 years old. It was at this point that realized that I needed to get my act together. After some undesirable working conditions, I eventually returned to college in 2010 and graduated with a degree in Psychology and another in Spanish in 2012. From there I moved to Miami, FL where I eventually entered the child welfare field. It was there that my career took off, yet ultimately leading to a sense of unfulfillment which triggered me to branch off into the social entrepreneurship direction from where I currently invest nearly all of my time.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Oddly enough, after moving to Miami and working with the child welfare agency, I started to hear more and more stories of adolescents aging out of the system and either having their lives taken, ending up in prison, and/or having children that immediately ended up in the child welfare system themselves. This really bothered me and I even brought it up in meetings with members of the administration. After approximately 6 months of no action being taken and an even deeper sense of unfulfillment in the work I was doing, I decided to leave Miami, FL, and return to Southern Mississippi. How backward does that sound!? I had left one of the most racially tense states in the nation and started a beautiful life in sunny Miami Florida only to return 3 years later. The feelings of sadness set in during the last week of living in Miami. After making this decision I caught so much flack from those who didn’t see my vision, but I was driven to make a specific difference in the lives of the young people back home. I wanted to take the professional I became in Miami, Florida, and apply it to the community that was there for me during my developmental adolescent stages. I returned to Mississippi to attend the University of Southern Mississippi to pursue my Master’s degree. This seemed to be the most logical way for me to get in front of the right people that would help my vision slowly become a reality…but no one around me thought it made any sense. I had to completely bank on myself.
Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?
Ha! It tickles me just thinking about it. Depending on your sense of humor, you’ll take this one way or another. So I returned to Mississippi with an insane amount of self-confidence. Before leaving Miami, everyone that I worked with saw my value and often came to me for social and emotional support; I was the go-to-guy. I brought that same energy into this master’s level program with me, and to say it didn’t bode over well with fellow classmates would be an understatement. While the professors saw potential, classmates saw arrogance, a show-off, etc… (yes I hear it through the grapevine). To continue with the story, I started that chapter of my life off as Mr. Save the World. I was always seeking to uplift and motivate the students around when they started to make negative comments and displaying pessimistic attitudes. I started trying to mentor everyone around me by telling them what they needed to do to increase the likelihood of a better future for themselves, but they more often than not, didn’t give a flying flip about my sunny disposition, and eventually, I was nicknamed Mr. Positivity and it became more and more evident that I was viewed as more of an annoyance than support to my fellow colleagues. Well at this point I realized that my words meant nothing to these people, they didn’t know me like that, so I decided to shut up talking about it, and just be about it. After earning the privilege to travel the nation as a presenter, help develop companies, nonprofits, and mentoring programs with the university body’s assistance while many of those pessimistic colleagues were stuck in data entry tasks, filing, copying, and grading exams all day. They hated the fact that I ‘seemingly’ was favored by the faculty to take on prestigious projects while they were stuck with grunt work. Ultimately some of those same individuals started to reach out to me for help to take their career to the next level and increase their exposure, but I didn’t have the time to slow down for them by now. I spent so much time trying to drag them along at the beginning and it was only slowing me up. Only after I stopped talking and started showing them through my actions did they listen. I thought that was hilarious when they started reaching out to me after my success and accolades went through the roof.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
That is very true, honestly, there are multiple individuals I would love to mention, but since my most exponential growth took place during the time in this master’s program that I continue to mention, I have to spotlight the coordinator of the program, Dr. Jerome Kolbo. Dr. Kolbo was the one that made the decision so easy to leave Miami and return to Southern Mississippi. He saw that ‘something’ in me before anyone else had the opportunity to. There were numerous occasions that he was able to help design opportunities for success for me, but I will speak on the first project that he made possible for me. It was the first semester of my time in this program and there was an annual Blue Cross Blue Shield Social Business Competition held in our state. Dr. Kolbo called me to his office one day during my graduate assistance work hours. After I got there he started telling me about this team of students in the nutrition department that are standout students who are working on a pretty cool project that he felt I would be a good fit for. He mentioned what it was about, and I agreed simply because I trusted his guidance. I was eager to attend the first meeting with these students he mentioned so I could start this ‘cool project’, but initially, I was even more excited because this was going to count towards my graduate assistant hours (remember, lots of grunt work is done in graduate assistant hours). So I returned to the graduate assistants’ work area with my colleagues and they started asking me what the meeting was all about. Two of them specifically were clearly annoyed that I got this opportunity, but not because of the opportunity, it was because I got out of the grunt work that they were stuck doing. They thought it was so unfair that I had these opportunities when they didn’t, but remember, they didn’t want to listen to my suggestions at the beginning. Well, this project took nearly a solid month before I saw the value that I brought to the team. I was literally a few hours shy of telling Dr. Kolbo I was pulling out of the team when I discovered my purpose with the team. We ultimately won the competition on our campus, won the competition against all other schools competing at the state level, and even became published authors for our work, not to mention thousands of dollars in cash winnings. This was such an annoyance to some of my colleagues, but hey, “I told you so.” Dr. Kolbo was the reason all this was possible for me and he continued to help me maximize my opportunities over the next 3 years, even beyond my graduating from the program. The reason I chose Dr. Kolbo as the one I’m most grateful for is because of this one phrase he would always say to me. “Brian all you have to do is lean forward, everything else will work itself out for you.” What he meant by “lean forward” is to always be willing to take the challenge first, always be the first to take initiative, always position me to stand out more than those around me, and everything else would work out. That was already part of who I was, but he reaffirmed it and he made sure certain opportunities presented themselves during this process. He vouched for me to professionals all across the nation. He helped get me in front of numerous individuals that had the capacity to completely alter the course of my life, in a positive way. Dr. Kolbo was the first one in Mississippi that truly saw me for the value that I was, and thanks to him, that value has only increased since.
What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?
When it comes to advice-giving in my industry, I can be a bit unconventional. Amongst all of the hats that I wear, I claim the behavioral health industry. In speaking to individuals in this industry, I say leave the field unless you’re in love with the work that you do. You have to look at your work from the perspective of “If I don’t do this, it will never be done.” You have to feel like your clients will not be ‘blessed’ with any truly structured and impactful support if you aren’t the one doing it. That will bring you to thrive in this area if you seriously implement it into your belief system and your daily operations. In saying that, one must have a genuine desire to be of service to those in most need while also being aware that we will deal with some emotionally and mentally draining clients, so we must practice highly intentional self-care. We must know when to disconnect from the work and plug into a source of refueling. Burnout is very real, but there are levels. Some burnout and have no more desire to work in the industry again afterward, while for others, burnout is viewed as “leaving it all out on the field”; you gave your all and have no more to give for now, but you are excited to get rest then jump back on the horse the next day or next week. This is more applicable to those who have earned flexibility in their agency or organization, or either those operating independently. Ultimately though, you must be in love with the work you do or you will live a miserable shell of a life.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
Cliché sayings can become so annoying when you’re not seeing them acted upon, but merely applying the golden rule, while leading from the front is the primary piece of advice. There’s also a formula called the Q.Q.M.A. formula which is accomplished when implemented from a leadership position by rendering a larger quantity of services than required, at a higher quality than required, with a positive mental attitude. This will attract major results, but also serve as an example throughout the office. On top of this, there must be a culture of celebrating small wins. One thing that many people enjoy even more than making money, is recognition. Giving regular recognition for small wins will keep individuals feeling appreciated and having a desire to continue to achieve greatness.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have a mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness. Can you please share a story or example for each?
There are many angles of approach in optimizing one’s mental health, but based on my personal and professional experiences, along with my research, I propose that before you even start to implement these steps, first start searching for the root of your troubles. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re on as it pertains to your mental wellness, it’s important to know that all components of our mental processing stem from a past situation or circumstance. Also understanding that ~95% of your life is being lived on autopilot based on the auto-programming you received between birth and 7 years old. This is important because it can help explain the subconscious nature of many of our behaviors. With that in place as a preface, the following are 5 steps anyone can take to optimize their mental wellness.
1.) Prioritize self-care above all professional and many personal obligations.
In today’s fast-paced world where most of us are either in a frenzy of non-stop multitasking or trying to keep up with the latest trends, we can often lose focus on who we are and why we do what we do. We lose alignment with our mission, our purpose, and we become these robotic-like shells of a human being, neglecting the realization that we’re wasting away at our soul. Yes, wasting away at the soul. I say this because of the countless clients I have worked with, nearly 80% of them never include themselves as a major focus point in their day-to-day activities. The majority arise in the mornings with one thing in mind; to go serve others until it’s nearly time to settle in for the night. When we stick to this likeness of existence for too long, we lose any ultimate sense of true purpose of self. Determine a certain portion of every day that you dedicate to yourself. You determine for yourself what activity you do during that time but aim to partake in some activity not related to “serving” anyone outside of yourself. Some examples may include meditation, going for a walk alone, doing a solo workout, reading a guilty pleasure novel, or watching a movie/TV show that brings you joy. Just remember, it’s all about you.
2.) Start a journey of self-education
“Education?! Ugh! Who wants to even think about school again.” This is a common reaction that I receive. It may not sound like any fun, but that’s because most people connect education with traditional schooling. Self-education is nothing of the liking. Self-education does just as it says; it allows you to focus on education the self, but on whatever you desire. Self-education is so much fun and so good for your mental wellness because you get to choose anything under the sun that you want to learn more about. You get to choose from who/where you want to learn these things, and you get to choose when and for how long you want to learn. This journey is for you first and foremost, but you can use it eventually as an additional stream of income, or to simply add value to others’ lives if you desire to do so. I run a weekly live podcast show where we had a guest in December of 2020 that began self-educating on sewing when his daughter was a toddler. It brought him joy to be able to make clothes for himself and his daughter but he never has had any intentions to shift it to a stream of income. It brings him to a place of solace and serves as bonding time with his daughter. He even mentioned maybe giving it up altogether someday, as it’s served its time in his life, and he mentioned potentially learning a new skill soon. A few years back I started self-educating on religions of the world and even diving deeper into the historical teachings of the religion I have been following for the majority of my life. It has developed me into a more well-rounded and culturally sensitive and respectful individual. It’s a great feeling when you can get along with and have good conversations with individuals so vastly different from you based on societal measures.
3.) Replace a stagnant relationship with a new, healthier one
This step could seem rather vague at face value and you may be asking why this is important. Well, as I referred to earlier, our current life is a collective of our past situations and circumstances. These situations and circumstances include those who you allow to hold mental real estate in your life. There are some people that you speak to on a regular basis that are like leeches. Every time you speak with them the conversation is one-sided. They are draining you with their complaints, their excuses, and gossip about countless areas of non-importance. On top of that, they never take any advice or constructive criticism to improve those things they’re complaining about. You find yourself being that giant glass of water that they come to regularly. You could pour into them, but what benefit is it if they have proven that they will not use it to their benefit. They never ask about how you are. They never ask how they can be a support for you nor do they give you much time to even initiate a conversation around what’s going on in your life. I will not tell you to completely cut that person out of your life, because they may genuinely need you, but I am encouraging you to give them less and less access to you and allow someone a new tenant to occupy that mental space in your life. Any one-sided relationship can not be a good one for your mental wellness over the long term.
4.) Go on a solo road trip
During these pandemic times obviously, we shouldn’t be making pointless trips where we are putting ourselves and others in danger of increasing the probability of spreading the dreaded virus going around, but for a solo trip, you can avoid human contact while enjoying yourself in a few specific ways. Before I list these ways, it’s important to pack your own snacks so also decrease the need to be around other people.
- On your trip be intentionally play some loud music of your choice and sing loudly with the windows down. Singing loudly can help release endorphins which are associated with the feeling of pleasure. This has a significant impact on your mental wellness in spurts, and over time it can alter your personality ever so slightly in a positive direction.
- Take the opportunity to stop at a rest stop if you’re traveling overnight (make sure it’s a safe one) and crack your windows to take in the sounds of nature between the sounds of passing vehicles. Listening to nature while also staring up at the stars or clouds can take your mind off the constant demands of your life and realize how massive the universe is in comparison to our trivial problems that the day-to-day throws at us.
Repeating this on the way to and on the way back from your destination can be highly beneficial to your mental wellness, and the destination does not matter at all. It seriously is about the journey in this case. You may say that you can do this at home, well remember, a change in environment will cut the monotony of your life and allow these tasks to be experiences in a completely different manner.
5.) Perception is your reality
This is one that is the most powerful in my opinion. Whereas we so often run our day-to-day life based on external stimuli, that can be very unhealthy for us. When we are constantly reactive to what is happening outside of us, we are not actually in control of the direction of our life. There are countless atrocities that we’re exposed to on a daily basis that trigger us into action, into silence into jealousy, envy, etc. From as trivial as someone making a negative comment about our weight or our attire to someone telling you that your business or relationship is going to fail, none of that matters at all unless you perceive it to be at least partially true. You are at the helm of the ship of your emotions, and as the captain, you must determine how you perceive all that is in your wake. A small exercise that I do with my children when my daughter tells me that her brother made her mad or hurt her feelings, I ask her brother to repeat what he said/did, but I make sure that my daughter can’t hear him. Then I ask if he hurt her feelings again. Of course, she says no because she didn’t hear him. So I explained to her that he still said the same thing though, so he didn’t make her mad. It’s what she heard and the meaning that she gave to what she heard that made her mad. So I broke down how she can control how she feels about what others say if she just gives it a different meaning in her mind. Mind you, I did honor her feelings and didn’t disqualify her right to feel her own emotions, but I guided her to take more control over her future feelings. This is an elementary example, but it is applicable across the spectrum. Your perception is determined by the meaning you have given certain words and actions. Different cultures apply different meanings to certain words and actions. We can create our own mental processes that change the meanings to things that we don’t want to control us in the future. Always remember, that person on the outside can only view you and your situation through the lenses of the life that they have led and it is not an obligation of yours to abide by their rules of someone else’s perceptions. Start today to create your desired reality by reprogramming your thoughts so that you can start living your life of purpose regardless of those around you.
Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.
There are numerous things that people can do, but first, we must redefine what retirement means. We have been conditioned to believe that retirement is an age. That is not the true definition, at least not in modern times. Retirement can start at any age as long as you have sufficient income to provide your standard for the entirety of your life. With that in mind, unfortunately, that approach to enhancing retirement may no longer be an option for those who are already in the 60+ age range. The bright side is that there is little that one as a senior owes to the younger generations, therefore they can become more and more selfish in the activities they partake in. They can stop worrying about being a caregiver and support for their children, whereas usually, the roles start to reverse by this stage. With that in mind, there can be more focus placed on individual enjoyment or enjoyment with their spouse or partner. Similar to the aforementioned self-education step, this is a great time to pick up a new skill or hobby, but even better if it’s something that can be done with at least one other individual. This will combat mental deterioration that can be caused by stagnation and lack of human interaction. We need human interaction to thrive in life, and this is even more of a truth as we approach our traditional retirement years.
How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?
Teens and pre-teens are some of my favorite clients, they are old enough to start making up their own minds, yet young enough to help mold into a better version of themselves. A huge part of these stages in life is the constant seek of approval from peers and being able to fit in. While this is understandable there should be one practice that is implemented on a regular basis. I say this directly to the teen or pre-teen reader.
Regardless of your voice, your glasses, your clothes, your acne, your athletic ability, your beauty, or anything else that you could be teased about, know that you are good enough. You are good enough but good enough is never good enough. Stick with me. You should only see yourself as good enough for the current moment in time. Looking in that mirror before you leave for school, love every inch of who and what you see in that reflection. Don’t simply think about or mentally verbalize it, but say it aloud as well. That’s not where you stop though. When you are back home and about to go down for bed, look in that mirror again, but now you’re even better than you were when you looked in the morning. Do not allow any peers to tell you who or what you are isn’t enough. It doesn’t matter if that is face to face or on a social media platform. You are your only competition and as long as you love yourself for who and what you are, and you aim to improve yourself, for yourself and nobody else’s approval. If you surround yourself with others that take a similar approach to life, you will grow into one of the most competent and self-confident young adults in your peer group.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?
Oh my goodness I love this question. Being that I’m an academic and have read or listened to countless books, I love discussing this subject, but one thing I’d like to mention before I go into the story is that I’ve stopped reading books in the conventional sense of it; I don’t read full books all the way through anymore. We were always taught from a young age to read books cover to cover and do so in one sitting if possible. About 5 years ago I started studying all books just as I studied my books for school/college. In school, we read a part of the book then apply what we learned in a test. Well, what makes that different when we finish school? Now I will pick a book up, read a few pages, then when I catch a lesson that I can apply to my life, I stop reading and go implement it to see what results I get…just like in school with our tests or quizzes. Now to my book of choice; “The Strangest Secret in the World” by Earl Nightingale. This book really helped me understand the power of the human mind. I lead seminars, enrichment classes, coaching sessions, and more with a foundation stemming from this book. The one most impactful portion of the book is when it speaks about the human mind being like fertile land…not carrying what you plant in it but returning to you an abundance of what you plant in it when you’re consistent and really care for it properly. You can join one of my weekend sessions where I go deeper into this subject if you desire to learn how to change your life by changing what you plant into your mind. Listening to the audio version of this book and applying it across all areas of my life caused me to completely change the trajectory of my life.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That’s a good question, but I would have to say that the movement I would start would be one that I’ve already started, but very few have I discussed it with, so here goes. So many of us always follow in the footsteps of our parents, and that doesn’t stimulate any true growth from generation to generation and we continue to be the “status quo”. We have to create “The New Status Quo”, so the movement’s call to action would be to find at least one person per quarter that is where you would love to be in life or has a certain level of expertise that could add immense value to your growth and reach out to that individual to establish a professional yet real connection with them. This will bring about more personal and professional growth than you could ever imagine and create a movement across the globe if we all continue to implement and pass down the task from one generation to the next. This is how I got to where I am and how I will continue to level up and create the new status quo for my family.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
This quote is more of a phrase and definitely has a story around it that is relevant to my life. I grew up around so many individuals that ended up allowing the circumstances of their upbringing to dictate the course of their life and never changed anything to disrupt that pattern. After moving to Miami I started to see the same thing in the young people that I was working with. They let their past be the detriment to their future. Also after moving to Miami I was surrounded by professionals that turned around their lives and became huge successes regardless of their toxic backgrounds. Therefore, a life lesson quote that I use all the time is, “It doesn’t matter where you came from or what your last name is known for because you can start today to surround yourself with the right people and put the right information in your mind so you can start to l live YOUR life of purpose because Your Legacy Begins Now.”
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
I can be found across most platforms under the same name is my company:
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!
Brian Street of ‘Your Legacy Begins Now’: 5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.