Story of Homeless Man with Golden Voice Teaches us how to Survive in Pennsylvania & across the Globe

Posted by By at 17 January, at 10 : 00 AM Print


Prior to news of the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, there was one story that went viral that’s irresistible for its hopefulness.

It’s the story of Ted Williams, a homeless man with an unmistakably distinctive voice, who was discovered along Route 71 in Columbus, Ohio. Kevin Joy, a reporter from the Columbus Dispatch, uploaded a Jan. 5 story about Williams showing him performing a few mock promotional spots. Within the next couple of days, the video generated millions of hits and Williams became an overnight sensation.

He received offers to do voice work for the Cleveland Cavaliers, completed commercials for Kraft and MSNBC, appeared on The Today Show, CNN and loads of other prominent outlets.

I learned about Williams’ remarkable story of transformation when I saw Willie Geist, a host on MSNBC’s “Way Too Early Program,” offer the world’s now most famous homeless person the opportunity to host the following day’s show.

It’s remarkable to think about how magical and odd life can be that an individual can go from homelessness to national fame and a slew of media opportunities in a matter of two short days. Within the space of the same week that began with him panhandling along Interstate 71 and later found Williams turning down some lucrative job offers in favor of going to work for the Cleveland Cavaliers, predictable developments followed.

A spate of national and local media appearances; meetings with celebrities like Koby Bryant and Dr. Phil; emotional reunions with Williams’ mother and family; and even a guest appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”

And then, unfortunately, the near-immediate slide downward. An apparent altercation occurs when Williams meets with his daughter in which he is scratched in the process, and police are called to the scene. Williams goes on the Dr. Phil show and later makes a commitment to go into rehab and undergo treatment for drug and alcoholism.

In a matter of 3 or 4 days, Williams undergoes an experience that typically takes years to play out for some stars in Hollywood: going from nothing to national stardom to a potential has-been. Fortunately for the former homeless man with the golden voice, the novelty of his situation is still so fresh and the opportunities so strong, any outfall over his need to check into rehab should not dismantle his journey on the way to a good, decent and prosperous life.

It’s an exceptional story, but I think there are some aspects of Williams’ situation that most of us – especially based on the country’s current economic situation — may have experienced on some level over the course of our lives: rejection, disappointment, thoughts of an uncertain future, perhaps even desperation.

As a career coach/consultant and former executive recruiter, I talk to people all the time who, though not homeless, are despondent, struggling or wondering if they will earn a decent living again. In a few cases, I can think of situations where people appeared to have lost the will to go on looking.

There are numerous lessons evident in Williams’ remarkable story. Pursue your passion and don’t give up on your dreams. When the reporter taped Williams doing his mock voiceovers alongside the highway, he demonstrated zest and enthusiasm showing love for his craft. Even the sign he held promoted his desire to perform for others.

The obvious joy he showed displaying his talent offered unmistakable evidence of the passion he has for this type of work. Such gusto is key to excelling at anything. Keep devoting time to what you do best.

While Williams was on the street, he was practicing his pitch all the time offering to do so for a few dollars or some spare change. He knew that using his voice was his greatest skill and he honed that capability every day.

Maintain faith that it’s still possible to build a brighter future. Williams was on the street for two years yet gave it his all amid dismal circumstances. His compass and inspiration: unwavering faith in God.

Your own inspiration might be like Williams’ or come from a non-religious source. No matter what, it’s critical to build one’s life around some kind of strong foundation of positive belief. Take chances and be willing to put yourself into challenging, even uncomfortable situations. What’s harder than standing alongside a highway and performing for complete strangers wondering whether you’ll make enough to pay for your next meal?

Williams did what he had to do and, at least some of the time, welcomed the discomfort. He knew that’s what success demanded. Don’t prejudge what others think: Williams knew that most passing motorists – even times after some witnessed his vocal skills – would regard him with contempt.

But the Columbus reporter and some executives who run networks, sports teams, corporations and agencies were open-minded enough to see his considerable skills in spite of knowing that his most recent job consisted of working to stay alive.

Put everything you have into leveraging opportunities: Once he had his break, Williams was getting up at 5 in the morning to appear on national morning shows, conducting interviews with print journalists, working in time for voiceovers during the day and then doing appearances for late-night TV.

If you’re like many of the working people in this country who’ve been seeking a decent career opportunity for quite some time, don’t scrimp on the time you devote to capitalizing on a new chance. If it means 12- and 14-hour workdays, accept it.

Overall, Williams’ story offers us inspiration. While there are many challenges to economic survival today, those dedicated to building a solid career need to focus on continuing to build their skills, put themselves out there and maintain optimism about the future. If a person can go from homeless to getting numerous job offers in the span of a few days, anything’s possible.

(Come Superbowl Sunday you will hear William’s memorable voice behind that commercial for Kraft — you can hear a clip by clicking on Rock The Capital.)

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Phil is a career survivor now helping coach others through their own employment struggles. A recent search executive specialist for Management Recruiters International, he has an eclectic background. He worked in journalism, then later as a public relations manager for Merck and GlaxoSmithKline, a vice president for leading PR agencies, and a director of communications in both the NJ Senate and for the NJ State Bar. He now splits his time between his work as a career coach with business credit counseling. Phil writes creatively and is the author of a published murder mystery and two unpublished screenplays. He is also a big fan of absurdist theater, which is why he loves to write about Congress. These days Phil often mixes searches for fossils of dinosaurs with quests for our most endangered species: the middle class. He recently thought he found a middle class property paid off in full only to learn the modest carriage home housed rottweilers raised by one of Wall Street's leading hedge fund managers. - Email Philip Gimson

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