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Talk show host, author, political commentator, entrepreneur, advocate and philanthropist Tavis Smiley was in town last week promoting the release of his new book, Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success From Failure.

Tavis talked with the Madd Hatta Morning show to discuss the new book where he dishes on his failures and how they have helped make him into the man he is today. He also sheds light of when he actually graduated from college, why it’s so important to hire interns, what he learned from being fired from BET, and wanting President Barack Obama to address the increase of blacks and unemployment.

On writing Fail Up:

I made a whole bunch of mistakes, I’ve learned more from my failures, than from my successes…It took me 16 years to actually graduate and get my degree, my parents thought I graduated but I didn’t go back to finish up those last classes until 16 years later….I was so busy trying to get my sisters and brothers through school and I hadn’t even graduated.

I went to jail when I was in college for writing bad checks, I was just tryna buy some pizza trying to eat, but I am serious about financial literacy now.

On why he believes in internships for students and aspiring leaders:

I wanted an internship so bad that I wrote him (former Mayor Tom Bradley)  a letter, every single day for 6 months, I eventually got the unpaid internship, and went on to own 8 different companies and now each of my companies have internship programs because I got rejected so long, that I want to give [opportunities] to other people.

What he learned from being fired (by fax) from BET:

I learned that a pink slip really can fire you up!

I made a decision to make sure that I own everything that I do before I got back on television. I want all of my shareholders to love me.

Sometimes God has more in store for you than you think for yourself, sometimes rejection is redirection!

On the Tavis and Obama drama:

We have to respect our President, and I do. We have to protect the President, and I do. But we also have to correct the President, remember he is a politician not a prophet like Dr. King.

We have to push him into his greatness for him to become a great President and hold him accountable, lovingly not with malice, but there are some things he has to step up on like black unemployment, wars, and poverty.

Black Unemployment:

We gotta check him respectfully, he can’t be afraid to talk about black unemployment, when he needed to stand up for the Jews he did, gays and lesbians? he did, immigration for the Hispanic community? he did so don’t leave black folks twisted in the wind because you are afraid of being accused of being “tribal” and giving negroes the “hook up”. We are the most loyal part of your base!

…If you want the deficit to go down, put black folk back to work!

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Fail Up is available in stores and online everywhere, so go get your copy!

FAIL UP: 20 Lessons On Building Success From Failure

By Tavis Smiley


ISBN: 978-1-4019-3390-6