“I have a natural ability to reach teenagers,” he said.
Coming from a career that can often become self-focused, Brown understands what it means to offer a helping hand. “I’m embracing being a mentor and role model. I don’t go into schools and say, ‘It’s all about me.’ I’m there to promote hope, optimism and healthy choices.”
It’s clear from Brown’s easy smile and long list of skating accolades what draws the kids near. It’s the authenticity and caring he shares that keeps them listening.
Brown’s new book is called “Speedy Entry: Advice for the rebel with a cause teenager.” In its pages he lays bare his adolescence, everything from his mother’s death when he was 16 to every familiar angst-ridden challenge teens confront.
Brown said, “I integrate everything from dating, to getting your driver’s license, to getting a job.”
Even though times have changed and challenges kids face may look different now, Brown feels the lessons are the same. “Kids aren’t passing notes anymore. They’re texting. Everything has changed, but everything is the same.”
Brown always knew he wanted to share his teen years, yet he didn’t plan on writing an advice book. When the unassuming author discovered people were responding to his message, the project just naturally seemed to fall into place.
“I never thought I’d be a professional author, skateboarder and speaker,” he said.
To Brown life is always about learning, growing, changing and never losing sight of the positive. The first lesson he offers kids? The teen years won’t last forever. Beyond that it’s a question of sharing his stories, no matter how personal.
“When my mom died, I could’ve gone either way,” Brown said. “I could’ve turned to drugs and alcohol or to a future and a job.”
Instead of becoming defined by the tragedy, he chose to honor her memory through the way he lives his own life. He doesn’t claim it’s easy, but he said it’s about a choice.
“It’s about believing in yourself and making your dreams come true,” Brown said.
His own life is a great example of how that attitude can shape a child’s future even when the dreams change shape over the years. Brown fully expected to be a musician before he was “discovered” skateboarding.
Through his Dream Big foundation he is often asked to speak at schools. There are no bells and whistles. He just shows up. And that is the key. He truly shows up and is present.
“I don’t tiptoe. I don’t do a PowerPoint. I get a microphone and share my story,” Brown said. “I talk about it all. Everybody is going to have something tough happen. Whatever it is, you gotta find that positive route and make the right decision even if it’s hard.”
Clothing, tattoos and all kinds of choices are part of Brown’s story and his school talks. He likes to share how he used to draw tattoos all over his arms when he was 14 and how glad he is now the ink was washable.
He shares his message through the stories of others as well. Because of his skateboarding notoriety, Brown has had the opportunity to visit with many hospitalized kids. One story in particular stuck with him: a 15-year-old fan, the victim of a trampoline accident who had been paralyzed from the neck down.
“He asked to see me. I didn’t know what I was going to say. I spent two hours with him and his father, and they inspired me. I went there to inspire him, and he is still inspiring me.”
That young fan finished high school as the valedictorian. That story helps Brown remind kids to keep life in perspective. Maybe a seemingly bad day isn’t quite so bad after all.
Of his book, Brown said, “It’s a book I have so much heart in. I believe in it. I want it in the hands of kids and parents. I’m doing this because I would’ve loved to have this book in my hands when I was 15. I wish I could just give the book out to everyone for free.”
For more information on Doug Brown’s Dream Big, to order the book or to inquire about a speaking engagement, visit www.dougbrown.org.
Published: April 17, 2017