A well-known teen motivational speaker spoke to hundreds of students in Red Deer last week in hopes of inspiring them with his message.
Josh Shipp, 31, who has appeared on Oprah, Anderson Cooper and Good Morning America, among others, shared his message to “Be better, not bitter” after going through struggles in his childhood and deciding to learn from them rather than dwell on them.
He has also written a book entitled The Teen’s Guide to World Domination, has a television show called Jump Shipp and has spoken to more than two million students and parents.
Shipp grew up in Oklahoma. His biological mother gave birth to him at the age of 17 and left him at the hospital after he was born.
“I am an orphan. I have never met my real mom or my real dad. Truth be told I’ve never met anyone related to me except for one person in my entire life,” he said.
By the time Shipp was eight-years-old he had lived in a dozen different foster homes.
“Because I was hurt as a kid I became angry and I didn’t trust any adult including some of my teachers and foster parents.”
After being kicked out of a number of foster homes, Shipp was put into a group home. Fifteen people aged five to 21-years-old lived there. During his stay at that group home he was raped by an adult.
“In that instant I made this decision – I hate myself, I hate my life, and I’m done,” said Shipp.
In his teenage years, Shipp said he became defiant and rebellious. He eventually met his current foster parents and slowly began to turn his life around.
Despite his trials and tribulations, he has decided to take his experiences and create a message and one that young adults can relate to. Shipp began professionally speaking when he was 17-years-old.
“I’m not here in your town talking to you guys because I think I’m perfect and I have it all figured out. I hate that people call me a motivational speaker because people think I am always positive. ‘Let me guess, motivator-boy, when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade’. Nope. Every time life gives me lemons, I squirt life in the eye with the lemons.”
As a teenager in school, Shipp said he was bullied and as a result tried to end his life several times.
“If you have a heartbeat, it’s not too late for you,” he said. “If someone is being a jerk to you, saying words to you, unfortunately as much as we wish we could control that person and shut them up, we can’t. You can only control how you respond. How do you shut them down? Be kind, be calm – meaning what they’re trying to get out of you is a reaction. If you do not respond, they’ll go find someone else.”
He added even though society encourages everyone to live a perfect life, everyone has imperfections and it’s unrealistic to think a person can be perfect.
“Your imperfections make you human and it’s actually your humanity that makes you influential. Some of you right now believe this lie that everyone’s life is perfect and yours is not. Some of you believe that everyone has it figured out and you don’t, everyone else is confident and you are not,” he said. “The truth is that no one’s life is perfect. And the good news is when you realize we’re all a bit messed up and we all have our stuff, it gives you not only the permission to know that you aren’t weird, you’re not broken, but rather you’re human, that’s it.”
He told students it is important to talk out their problems and to not ignore them because they won’t go away on their own.
“What you do not talk out, you act out. Turning your back to your problems, pretending they don’t exist, trying to act perfect because everyone else around you is acting perfect, is only going to haunt you, chase you and follow after you,” said Shipp. “But if you want to be brave you could turn around, find a caring adult, talk to them, and have the courage to turn around and face that ghost. This is something that few of you will do, but frankly most of you won’t. But if you do, it will make a difference in your life.”
Shipp left students with a challenge and that was to try and live their best life possible.
“You can choose to live an average life, or a meaningful life – to be unsuccessful or successful – to waste your talent or to embrace your talent,” said Shipp. “You have that choice every single day – to bring your best or to not.
“Success doesn’t care whether or not you’re perfect or your parents are rich or poor or your parents are together or they are not. It cares whether or not you are willing to do what it takes.”