the 5 pillars of success: john hope Bryant

The 5 Pillars of Success

“History never feels historic when you are sitting in it. It just feels like another day. But that
doesn’t mean that it isn’t so. It takes 25 years to look back at a moment, and to see it as what it
was. History in the making. Go create some.”
-John Hope Bryant

John Hope Bryant Influencer
Founder, Chairman and CEO at Operation HOPE, Bryant Group Ventures and The Promise Homes Company114 articles Follow

The 5 Pillars of Success are:

  1. Massive Education.
  2. Understanding the Numbers (Money. Math.).
  3. Family Structure and Strength.
  4. Self Esteem and Confidence.
  5. Role Modeling (Success and Failure).

These are the fundamental building blocks of success by and from any individual, anywhere in the world. It’s best to watch the above video, where I break down the nuance in all of this, but let me touch on it all here.


When the world seems to be stacked against you, the great leveler of inequality, opportunity and confidence, is the consumption and absorption of as much education as you can possibly handle. When you know better, you do better. And once you get an education, no one can repossess it. It is yours for life. Your life is expanded and deepened (and better), because of the education you fed your inner soul.

When you know better — you do better.


While today not understanding how the money, economics and the numbers work is a real problem for everyone, is was an absolute death nail crisis situation for former slaves in 1865, when President Abraham Lincoln created a bank to ‘teach freed slaves about money’ called The Freedman’s Bank — and then Lincoln was killed the next month. Frederick Douglass tried to save it but the new institutions’ organizational protector was gone. As a result, African-Americans just ‘never got what I call The Memo (my new bestselling book)’ on free enterprise, capitalism, business, entrepreneurship, ownership and opportunity.


A strong family structure is everything at different times in your life. For me, it was before I was 10, hearing from my mother than ‘she loved me every day of my life.’ Thank you, Ms. Juanita Smith. There is nothing more powerful than a child being told that they are loved. Or my father, Mr. Johnnie Will Smith, who showed me how I could be a businessman because he was one.


Self esteem is how you feel about yourself. The inside you. Confidence is how you express your competence (or competencies). The outside you. Both matter. It’s really hard to achieve most anything, without at least one seated deep in your bones of belief.


Watch how you live your life, it just may be the only Bible that everyone else reads. Role models and role modeling matters. Why? Because we literally model what we see. As I said above, under Family, I am a businessman today because my father was. I love myself because my mother told me to. Whatever you model, you will be. And so, as I also outline in the book The Memoif you hang around 9 broke people, you will be the 10th. And if you hang around 9 computer engineers, you are also likely to become the 10th.

There are other factors that weigh in on and around success and failure. But as the video makes clear, if you lack say three of these five factors, it’s going to be really hard to climb that mountain called life’s aspiration and emerge victorious on the other side. Not impossible. Just damn hard. I want you to win. So I gave you at least one of the key formulas for success in life itself. And it’s never too late to hit reset in your life, and to re-emerge as the person you actually want to be and to see in the world.

Let me know how you are doing on your journey. And when and if you get stuck, go and see one of my HOPE Financial Coaches at the Operation HOPE powered HOPE Inside Network, the 150 HOPE Inside offices located increasingly across the country. Consider them your community private banker. The Starbucks of Financial Inclusion. Finishing, what President Abraham Lincoln started with the Freedman’s Bank. But this time, programs and services are for everyone who is striving for a better life in a complicated world. All services are free, thanks to the support of our partners and members.

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