Find this episode and subscribe on

Have you ever wondered why it is so hard to make a lasting change in your life? In this episode of the Be the Bridge Podcast, host Latasha Morrison is joined by life coach BJ Thompson for a dynamic conversation about how change starts in our mindsets. BJ opens up about some of his personal journey. And then they discuss the importance of taking care of yourself in a meaningful way and being part of work that is purposeful. BJ also shares about his book, Awaken a Better You: 4 Simple Steps to Create the Life You Want, and his movement, Build a Better Us. 

Consider this a coaching session for the Be the Bridge community! Remember, working on your own healing and health isn’t selfish. It’s participating in the work of redemption and restoration. No matter your story or your struggle, you are not stuck. Hope, healing, and health are possible and you are loved for who you are!

Jump over to our social media pages on Facebook and Instagram to let us know your thoughts on this episode!

We love our community of listeners and we want to know more about you! Find the Listener Survey Here. (One participant will receive a Be the Bridge swag bag! Survey link will close June 30th.)

Host & Executive Producer – Latasha Morrison

Senior Producer – Lauren C. Brown

Producer, Editor, & Music – Travon Potts with Integrated Entertainment Studios

Assistant Producer & Transcriber – Sarah Connatser

Quotes:

“If you have the right tools and the right resources and the right mindsets, you can accomplish things much quicker, you can accomplish them with less trauma.” -BJ Thompson

“There’s certain corners in growth you can’t cut, because it’s just a part of the process.” -BJ Thompson

“Your beginnings do not determine your endpoint or your middle point.” -Latasha Morrison

Links:

Ad:
Spotify for Podcasters [Record, edit, distribute your podcast. Download the Spotify for Podcasters app or go to www.spotify.com/podcasters to get started]

Resources Mentioned:

Awaken a Better You by BJ Thompson

Awaken Conference – online replay

Build a Better Us

The 45 Day Challenge

Connect with BJ Thompson:

His Website

Facebook

Instagram

Connect with Be the Bridge:

Our Website

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Connect with Latasha Morrison:

Facebook

Instagram

Twitter

Not all views expressed in this interview reflect the values and beliefs of Latasha Morrison or the Be the Bridge organization.

Narrator  

You are listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast with Latasha Morrison.

Latasha Morrison  

[intro] How are you guys doing today? It’s exciting!

Narrator  

Each week, Be the Bridge Podcast tackles subjects related to race and culture with the goal of bringing understanding.

Latasha Morrison  

[intro] …but I’m gonna do it in the spirit of love.

Narrator  

We believe understanding can move us toward racial healing, racial equity, and racial unity. Latasha Morrison is the founder of Be the Bridge, which is an organization responding to racial brokenness and systemic injustice in our world. This podcast is an extension of our vision to make sure people are no longer conditioned by a racialized society but grounded in truth. If you have not hit the subscribe button, please do so now. Without further ado, let’s begin today’s podcast. Oh, and stick around for some important information at the end.

Latasha Morrison  

Be the Bridge community, I am excited. Like I say I’m always excited for the guests that I have on the podcast. But I love bringing people that I know to you, our community. And so this is just such a welcoming community. And I want you to welcome Mr. BJ Thompson, also known as Coach Thompson. He is here. BJ is a life coach, a speaker, and author who helped launch one of the largest faith movements in recent history – the “116 Movement” with Grammy Award winning artist Lecrae. He also served alongside Bryan Loritts to expand groundbreaking racial reconciliation work in Memphis, Tennessee. BJ has worked with 10s of 1000s of individuals and couples over the world, helping them to experience personal and relational growth. Currently, BJ serves as the executive director for Build a Better Us. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of North Texas and a master’s degree in Christian studies from Union University. He has been featured in Relevant Magazine, Propel, Christianity Today, Barna, and other publications. And so, he has also worked with the History Channel, ERLC, Desiring God, universities, and all of these things. And his wife, Vanja has been married for 16 years

BJ Thompson  

20!

Latasha Morrison  

Oh. Okay. Let me say that again. He and his wife, Vanja has been married for 20 years. And they live in the beautiful city of Atlanta. Okay, now, listen. I’m not interviewing everybody from Atlanta – which I would like to interview everyone from Atlanta – he just happens to live in the great city of Atlanta with me, and they have three children. So I am so grateful to introduce our community to Mr. BJ Thompson. BJ, how you doing?

BJ Thompson  

Good, good. Thanks for having me on Be the Bridge today!

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah, first of all, that was a mouthful. That was a lot. Like, you know, from your work…like everybody that’s listening to me, they probably stopped at Lecrae. They probably said, “Lecrae, what? Is this Lecrae?” (laughter) They probably heard that, you know, and all the things that you’ve done. I met, we met probably, I think we met online on Twitter, I think, originally. And I saw that you were from Atlanta, and I started following you when I was living in Austin.

BJ Thompson  

Years ago.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah, yep. Yeah, years ago. And then we connected on just, you know, just following each other. We knew some, we had some mutual friends. And then when I moved here, I was trying to get reacquainted with the city and meet different people. Because a lot changes in five and a half years when you leave a place. 

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, it does.

Latasha Morrison  

You know? And so we met and had lunch. Well, I had lunch, you had half a lunch because you were vegan, I think. 

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, yeah.

Latasha Morrison  

So there was not a lot that you could eat there. (laughter) And so, so yeah. But we sat and talked and, you know, and just had a great conversation. And so I’ve been following you ever, even before then, but following some of your things closely. And I know you’re good friends with Beth Moore. And I consider Beth Moore a friend of mine also. And so we have a lot of friends in common and stuff. So tell the audience, who is BJ Thompson? What’s going on? Who are you? Like I read your bio, but who are you really?

BJ Thompson  

Great question. Well, first and foremost, thank you for the warm welcome. We love the work that you guys are doing at Be the Bridge. And you know, I think is a very essential work because oftentimes, well really we live in a world of tribalism. People are in their own tribes. They, and I specifically say that because that’s what it feels like, it feels like everybody’s about their own individual agenda. And it’s very difficult but necessary to create more of an integrated, pluralistic society, where people can have meaningful dialogue and connection across different races, backgrounds, and understandings. And so I’m just super proud of the work that you are doing. And the trainings that you guys are doing. Again, I remember when you had Austin Stone, and just trying to put it together. And it’s like, man, just to watch where this work has grown to now to where, man, the small groups, the trainings, the connections and all these different things. But more about me, so I’m a Texas man. I come from the great nation of Texas. That’s what they call it.

Latasha Morrison  

Oh, we’ll forgive you for that. (laughter) I love Texas. I love Texas.

BJ Thompson  

That’s right. So you know, the thing is, I didn’t know this until I left. I thought every state knew their state bird, they state Pledge of Allegiance. So, you know, we moved from the regular pledge allegiance to the Texas Pledge of Allegiance. I didn’t know that wasn’t normal. The Blue Bonnet flower. I mean, literally, when you’re in Texas, you are in it’s own world. I’m a Dallas native, not a Cowboy fan or hater. I was raised by a mother who had me at the age of 17, a dad who left school in 10th grade. And I grew up at the height of gang culture in Dallas. And so much of what, you know, my early lifestyle was having to navigate tons of volatility. And thinking I had everything I needed. Well, I moved away, an hour away to University of North Texas, and realized that the skills that I had learned, only really worked in that setting. And so that was a very eye opening moment to realize that, you know, maybe you were the flavor that you are, but there’s way more, you know, different types of people that look just like you and more life skills than you. Met my wife, Vanja there. Actually in August, we’ll be celebrating our 21st anniversary, 21st year anniversary. That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  

Congratulations.

BJ Thompson  

Thank you so much. And I am just a proponent of seeing people championing their own growth, championing their healing, taking agency back over their life, and helping create more of an integrated with seamless experience that allows people to grow.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah, that is so good. Tell us about, like one of the main things I hear you talk about your, the organization that you are the executive director over. And it’s called Build a Better Us. And this is kind of like modeled after…your book is kind of modeled after this, the mission and vision of the organization. And so, part of your mission says, “We are a growth and development organization for people and for families.” So tell us a little bit about what you do. And what are some of your goals? And then also, how can people connect with it, with your organization? Because it’s needed. I mean, just when you start talking about families, Build a Better Us, all that stuff is like exactly what we need, you know, in this world today. So I would love to hear more about that strategy.

BJ Thompson  

No, that’s a great question. So I mean, I kind of mentioned this, I came from a mother who had me at 17. Right? One of most eye opening moments. My daughter right now is 19. She’s almost 20.

Latasha Morrison  

Wow.

BJ Thompson  

I almost have a 20 year old walking around here.

Latasha Morrison  

Oh my God. First of all, you don’t look like it. And it’s probably surreal…

BJ Thompson  

You know Black don’t crack, Tasha. You know Black don’t crack. I don’t crack.

Latasha Morrison  

Yes, yes. Black don’t crack. (laughter) 

BJ Thompson  

So here’s the eye opening moment for me. Right? So this is for the audience, when my daughter was 16 years old, I remember looking at her, and I had this thought, “My mother was my daughter’s age right now when she was pregnant with me.” And then when my daughter was 17 years old, I had this real epiphany. I thought, “My mother birthed me at this age that my daughter is.” Then I stood back and I asked myself, if I were to let my daughter have now full control over a baby, what all could she give to that child at the age of 17? And I was like, she can barely even clean a room. I don’t know what she can give this child. Right? That limiting amount of skills, tools, resources was my reality. My father left school in 10th grade. And I’ve always found myself going from different environments, from the suburban communities to the private networks to the rural communities to the urban communities. And I found that quickly, I was lacking critical skills to grow. Because of it, I’ve had, you know, I have one what’s called the gift of development. Right? And I didn’t know that’s what it was called. I’m the oldest of three, have always had to figure it out for myself. What I learned was, if you have the right tools and the right resources and the right mindsets, you can accomplish things much quicker, you can accomplish them with less trauma. And that’s what Build a Better Us was birthed out of, was how can we give working adults, working professionals, the growth tools, resources, and relationships that save them time and keep them from experiencing trauma around transformation. And so the organization was really birthed out of this. It’s coaching. Right? But it’s holistic coaching, because we really believe you are a whole person. You are encompassed of a mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, we don’t camp out on one particular area. Again, you know, we come from this background, where everything’s spiritual. Right? Everybody is spiritual, and then when you think you’ve gotten it, they give you a deep spiritual term you’ve never heard of before. And now you’re just scratching your head worrying about that thing. But you don’t know how to build a healthy relationship with a friend. You don’t know how to manage your finances. You don’t have any idea on how to develop your career. So Build a Better Us essentially became a coaching network for working professionals to give them the programs, the products, and the experiences that would allow them to develop these critical skills, even though they have a busy life. So yes, that’s essentially what we do.

Latasha Morrison  

Oh, wow. So how long have you been doing, have you been the CEO of Build a Better Us? How long have you guys been in existence?

BJ Thompson  

12 years. So we about 12-14 years. But I didn’t become full time. I didn’t go on full time till the last five years or so.

Latasha Morrison  

Okay.

BJ Thompson  

So fives years ago I got super serious. I said, “Alright, it’s time to go all in. And really get clear about what we do.” Again, this is one of our resources, Awake a Better You.

Latasha Morrison  

We’re going to talk about that. (laughter)

BJ Thompson  

Right! So, this is one of our resources is writing books, programs, courses, and experiences, providing experiences for people to grow.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah. And I know one of the things you talk a lot about is just even your personal health, like you went through this journey. Tell us a little bit about the journey you have gone through to build a better you.

BJ Thompson  

Oh, yeah. So well really one of the reality, so 2013, my dad died unexpectedly from a stroke, heart attack. It’s very unexpected. He wasn’t sick, he wasn’t overweight, wasn’t any of these things. Get a phone call. I was actually living in Memphis at the time. And I had just come back, actually from Atlanta, I was living in Memphis, but I just come back from this event in Atlanta, this conference. I’m sitting on a porch. My mother calls me and she is like, weeping. And I don’t even know, she’s uncontrollable. I’m just like saying, “Mom, just get it out, say what happened.” So then she blurts out, “Your dad just passed away.” And I’m just sitting in shock, Tasha, because I just, I can’t even grapple what is actually happening. It just, you know, things become a blur. So my brother and I drive to Memphis and it is true. You know, he’s passed away. And we’re trying to figure out like, what does this mean? Because now, you know, we’re having to deal with this. And that was very shocking, because my dad was a loving, kind man. But his ability, him taking care of him was never a priority. And he was always taking care of other people. Had, you know, certain things he coped with. So he worked a lot, you know, had a poor diet, smoked. This is like little things. And these things like literally made his body collapse. And so you know, after really after that moment, it really just kind of sobered me. But nothing about my life had changed just yet. 2018 or so, I started just looking around, I realized my health was on the same trajectory, almost one for one. My work habits, my personal life. The only thing was missing was like, I don’t smoke. And I remember looking in the mirror and thinking, “If I continue down this pathway, I’m going to leave the exact same way.” My dad passed at 53 years old. I was like, “Oh, my life will end unexpectedly.” So you know, I did something very radical. I just started saying, “I’m very afraid of changing. I don’t know what’s going to happen.” That’s what we do, right? Your body gets scared.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah.

BJ Thompson  

I get scared, I want to make a change. I don’t know what to do. But I said, I would rather give everything I can trying to be a new version of me, then to simply allow myself to go where I know things are going. And that’s when I made the change. I made the change to – and this is specifically around like my health and my fitness – but I made like several changes, major changes that you know.

Latasha Morrison  

Right.

BJ Thompson  

And after seeing that change, you know, for a year or so, I wrote a course. I actually wrote a course, called the 45 Day Challenge. And I invited a few people into it, they were like, “Man, this works really well.” And now, man, we’ve probably had about 3 to 5,000 people go through this course.

Latasha Morrison  

What?! Oh my goodness. I remember when you started it. I remember when you started it, and you were getting people. And I was tempted. I was tempted. You know, so we’re gonna have to talk offline about it. (laughter)

BJ Thompson  

So listen, but I think this is where people started taking my coaching seriously.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah. Okay.

BJ Thompson  

You hear me say, “Oh, I’m a coach, I started this major movement.” You know, this, that, and the third. See, that’s one thing. It’s another thing when I can be a utility to your health transformation. And remember, I’ve mastered the principles. Right? So I know the spiritual formation, I know the mental health. Now it’s like the physical. And when people started seeing, like, “Man, these are the consistent results.” I honestly, really, that’s when I turned the corner as a coach. That’s when people like “Oh I trust you. Anything you say, I do.” So, yeah.

Latasha Morrison  

Wow. Wow. I mean, how, you know, just and I know, this has made like, just everything kind of awaken for you just doing this yourself and then leading others in this. And I know, I know a few people, I know a few people that have gone through your program. And I’m seeing the results. You know? And so you just hosted recently an Awaken Conference online.

BJ Thompson  

Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Latasha Morrison  

At the start of the year. You had Beth Moore. You had Christine Caine. You had Lecrae. You had Sam Acho. You had Kyle Korver. And I’m like, “Oh, these are all people I’ve had on the podcast, except for Christine Caine.” I need to get Christine Caine over here.

BJ Thompson  

You do. I got you.

Latasha Morrison  

(laughter). So this was designed to encourage and awaken the mind, body, and soul. Tell us a little bit about that conference. Why you chose these people? And what did you want people to take away from the conference?

BJ Thompson  

So great question. So you know, some of the things I think that happened is, you know, I’ve just been sitting on a lot of content for a long time. I’m an introvert. So I’m not in front of the camera, right? So now this is my new life. Like my new life is in front of cameras, talking in microphones. I’ve never really enjoyed that. And so part of the kind of overgrowth of the fruit is a book. When you develop so much content and so many courses, now it’s like when you have to package it for others to be able to consume them. And so when I wrote the book, one of the things that we wanted to do is we wanted to launch in a way that gave visibility to the work that we were doing, but then also bring some of these subject matter experts. And so we brought in NBA player Kyle Korver, ESPN analyst Sam Acho, Grammy award winner Lecrae, New York Times best seller Beth Moore, and then sex trafficking and CEO Christine Caine. And we just allowed them to speak into these respective areas about how people should not give up, how they can use the resources that they have accessible to them right now, and what are the ways that they can begin to apply the principles to see their own lives grow. Actually, if you’d like to check it out, go to BJ-Thompson.com. I don’t know, it’s BJ Thompson dot. I forget the website.

Latasha Morrison  

We can put it in the show notes.

BJ Thompson  

Okay!

Latasha Morrison  

We can put it in the show notes.

BJ Thompson  

See that’s how much I don’t be on my own website.

Latasha Morrison  

(laughter) That’s Okay. I wouldn’t know either. So don’t worry about it. But we can definitely add the Awake event.

BJ Thompson  

It’s BJ-Thompson.com. That’s what it is.

Latasha Morrison  

Okay. Okay.

BJ Thompson  

BJ-Thompson.com. And you can go watch the replay. But again, we wanted to bring together these incredible voices to talk about what everyday people can do. Right? Remember that. So much of what we think is, we think we got to be somebody super connected and have this award or that award. Really, you just have to be somebody with a passion and desire. And that’s what I really love doing. I love helping regular people make sense of their own lives and gain back power and agency and control.

Latasha Morrison  

Wow, I am so excited. And we’ll make sure that it’s in the show notes so that those of you who missed that, that you can go and take a look at it. Now let’s talk about your book. You got it sitting there, right there in the back.

BJ Thompson  

Oh this little thing?

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah. (laughter) I remember, I remember when you get that deal. Right? It’s so exciting. I think we’re under the same publisher, too. Yeah. But yeah, I love the, you know, and let me just say this…okay, I’m so grateful that we’re seeing more people who look like us to get book deals. I’m just gonna say it. And you know, and not just for, I’m grateful that more people that look like us are getting book deals because, you know, and then also book deals on, I mean, different diverse topics.

BJ Thompson  

That’s right. That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  

That’s the thing.

BJ Thompson  

So let me just say this super candidly.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah, yeah.

BJ Thompson  

I am an expert in growth and development. So you just got to understand for somebody who’s a true coach, to have to be pigeonholed to subject matters, because they’re typecast to me is very, like, daunting and it’s inconsistent with who I actually am. And so you know, as a coach, as somebody who writes programs and courses for human beings and people to develop across the spectrum of mind, body, spirit in its integrated way. I needed someone who was like, “Man, I believe you can do that, not be to diversity champion, not be the token, not be the this, not be the that.” I needed the space to be me. And I love that for us. I love that the things that we’re actually great at, passionate about, and have put in the 10,000 hours – I put in more than 10,000 hours into these works – I can now like publish books about it, not just put out courses. And those books are everywhere. You can go to Target, Barnes and Nobles, Walmart, you know, you can pick that up. It is a globally published book. So yeah, we’re excited about that. I am also excited about the diversity we’re able to write on.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah. And, uh, you know, I’m so grateful for people like you and Jemar, and different ones, we have, like, I have different text groups with different people. And, you know, let me tell you, when we’re someplace and we’re together, believe me, we’re on a text group and we’re like talking about everything. (laughter) Everything. I like to cut up. So we do that a lot. And I know, you know, even during the pandemic, we connected a lot, because we were all trying to figure out like, “Oh, my goodness.”

BJ Thompson  

That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  

“This is gonna…”

BJ Thompson  

We weren’t about to die. We were just trying to survive. That’s right.

Latasha Morrison  

(laughter) We were trying to survive. And we were trying to come up with every kind of idea on how we’re going to raise money for these nonprofits that we’re running. And, you know, and how we’re going to get attention in the midst of everything that’s going on. And so I mean, you know, but it’s good to have that support of people who are leading things and growing things and developing things, that created things, like yourself and so many others. Where, you know, I don’t even have to explain certain things to you. Because you know; because it’s your story, too. You know what it’s like. And I like the way we, one thing we do like, is like people are just very open to sharing in our space. It’s not like anyone is hoarding information, but we freely give. Like if we have a resource or if we have a contact, you know, because we’re all trying to do this very difficult work and leading sometimes without the social capital or financial capital in this work. And so I’m really, really grateful for that. And so in your book, you give readers a four step process to unlock greater mental, mental, spiritual, relational, and emotional health. You say there is a desperation, “I think there’s a desperation of information, application, and transformation.” And can you share a little bit about each of those? And how would those intersect with the life of bridge building? So we got bridge builders here. We got to take care of ourselves as we’re some difficult work. And so what I’ve noticed, especially in this work, we take out. You know? Especially those of us who are people of color, like it is a lot. And I always tell people, hey, take breaks, you know, go sit on the sidelines. But, we understand that sometimes our very survival and our thriving depends on us getting back in the game. What would you say to each of us as it relates to those, the information, application, transformation that could help us as a bridge builder, those who are listening.

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, That’s great. So first and foremost, if people are not listening, make sure you take this episode and share it with at least five people.

Latasha Morrison  

So good.

BJ Thompson  

We want them to get all of these episodes. It’s incredible work that you’re doing. And that happens because you as a listener, you subscribed, you hit share, and you liked the podcast, you liked the Instagram post that give a preview. And this is what allows us to bring visibility to people who are often not visible. I love that you mention about even just the work that we do. I was sharing this, you know, within what we do in coaching and development, we also do charity. Right? Because we also want to give back and do development work with kids. We work with orphans, we work with an orphanage to provide that.

Latasha Morrison  

I’m gonna have you talk about that. I just want to, I’m gonna have you talk about the orphanage that you’re working with too.

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, but I just say that to say, when you share, like, subscribe, you bring visibility to that work. And you will allow us to be able to continue that work in very essential and critical ways. You know, for us, for me, for somebody who’s the oldest who’s always giving away, one day you wake up and you realize you are out on fumes. And you have served and helped everybody else but yoself. You is tired boss. What’s that lady, that meme? Remember before the pandemic, when they released them Popeyes chicken sandwiches, and a lady was bent over on the side, that lady was bent over on the side with that meme? Because she was so tired from serving them new chicken sandwiches, those spicy chicken sandwiches, it’s a meme on the internet.

Latasha Morrison  

Yes. (laughter)

BJ Thompson  

That’s how we are. We all look like that when we pour out, pour out, pour out, pour out and don’t do anything to take in. So this book is specifically about how you can start caring for yourself. Right? How you can start stopping, pausing, understanding your narrative, understanding your story, beginning to bring to order the parts of you that you’ve neglected, the parts of you that you’ve invested in, and allow them to work together in a way they bring you alive. Right. And I use a lot of my story in his book, because I want to show people, I come from some of the most challenging environments with the least amount of resources and the least amount of relationships. But I learned these key principles. And the reason why these principles work is not because I’ve used them for myself exclusively, to go from rural to suburban to urban to the private community to the public sector to the corporate sector to the sports world to this, and it all worked. That’s not it. I’ve actually worked with real people. And I love, that’s really probably the keys to our work. Right? Is I work with actual people. So I work with people who are athletes, I work with Fortune 500 companies, I work with people in the inner city, I work with people who, you know, are newly graduate college students. I’ve worked with all these individuals to be like, “Oh, that’s why it works.” It works because it works across the spectrum.

BJ Thompson  

So what’s the process? The first thing you have to do in your mind is to make a decision. Right? Everybody’s teetering. We all scared, you know, “I’m so scared, I want to do something.” Well, you got to be desperate. You have to make a decision. And so until you make a decision, there can be no growth, there can be no change, there can be no progress. Because everything starts, right, change starts not with your circumstances. Change starts with your mindset. You make it up in your mind, this has to change. “I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and do the same thing. I’m going to wake up and do something new, even if I don’t know.” Right? But then you move from out of that place. And so now you need to know something. Right? So now you said, “Alright, I’m gonna make up my mind. I’m gonna do something different. Now I need to get the right type of information about it.” You know, people will tend to spin their wheels on things that you know, will burn them out or traumatize them. And really, it was like you didn’t do any research. You took no time to research. You just started doing some things. And I know this personally. Right? I know this from somebody who used to skip school, shoot dice, beat people up, right, like I did all the different things because I was cutting corners. Well there’s certain corners in growth you can’t cut, because it’s just a part of the process. So you need a process, right? And you need a research process. So now it’s the information, the right information. Remember the wrong information will have you stuck. The right information will have you excel. Then from there, and I’ll just kind of say this quickly, but feel free to ask any questions about this. Now is application. Okay, so I moved from making a decision to researching to now I have to apply the thing that I just learned. Remember, when you get to this place, it has to be practical application. It can’t just be this random thing. PhD students, my friends who are PhD students, and they reading 600 pages a day. Tasha, I don’t know how I’m gonna read 600 pages a day. Even if I use my Audible. (laughter) Even if I got on my Audible, there was no way for me to read 600 pages a day. I don’t know what they doing. I don’t know if they just waking up in the morning and just going into a book, there is no way for me to do that. So that’s not practical. Now, if you said I needed to read 10 pages a day. That makes sense. Right? So practical application means what is it that you have the capacity to do in order to engage the process that you’ve developed? The last thing is the transformation. And this is a great part because you start to see the change. Well, here’s the only caveat. You have to be aware of self sabotage. Right? Many of us have, you ever heard the phrase, “Better the devil you know, than the one you don’t?” You ever heard that phrase before?

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah, yeah.

BJ Thompson  

So it just basically means people get scared. That once I start coming to this new place, and I started seeing a little bit right, so I changed my diet just a little bit and I start seeing these health benefits, well it gets scary because I’ve never been here before. Now I have to guard myself from self sabotage. And I have to believe I’m not an imposter. That I actually belong here. I belong in this healthier, more experienced, more freeing version of myself. 

AD BREAK

Latasha Morrison  

I’m like, I’m sitting up here thinking, you know, just, I’m still thinking about, like your story and your beginning story. And really basically how you have overcome, yourself personally. You know? And, I’m just thinking like, what was the thing when you were a kid? I’m sure it had to be like, you know, although your mom was young, the family that you had around you or the support system. I’m just like, how am I sitting here talking to this wise, young man that has, you would never, like how you say, you don’t look like what you’ve been through. And it just, you know, I think it’s just something, it’s just really telling for anyone that’s listening to this. Just your beginnings does not determine, you know, your endpoint or your middle point. What was that thing for you, BJ? I mean, I’m just thinking like, are you very disciplined? Are you a very disciplined person?

BJ Thompson  

I mean, sometimes. It just depends. If we talking about being on time, maybe. (laughter) Sometimes. I mean, literally, I’ll give you my secret. I have a adverse reaction to negative outcomes in my own life. Right? I remember growing up, you said as a kid, I was like this as a kid. I thought about, you know, I have family members who were strung out on alcohol. You know, whinos. I remember looking at them thinking at it as a seven year old. “I don’t know what I want to be, but I’ll never be that.”

Latasha Morrison  

Yes. Yeah, yeah.

BJ Thompson  

And so, like I was making decisions at six and seven. “No, that’s not the life I choose.” And I think as life, again, you get these limiting, these self limiting beliefs, because you come from a certain environment or a certain thing. And you see, this is not working out. You’re kind of left with a choice. Do I want to keep doing it like this and experiencing the same thing? Poverty, sickness, relationship confusion, spiritual confusion, gender confusion? Whatever I’m doing, I’m doing the same thing over and over again. Or do I want to make a new choice? And I think what happened over time is I just kept making new choices. Well that means I had to become a new person. And you know, again, I think the thing that people get from me specifically as to how people can connect with me. I think because I think what people get from me is like, my environment was so volatile. I talk about a story in there where, you know, people bring this up to me all the time. Random people too. “Oh, I read the story about you getting into this…” I tell the story about me getting into this fight with three guys. And I went three and oh.

Latasha Morrison  

(laughter)

BJ Thompson  

I did. I went three and oh.

Latasha Morrison  

How old were you?

BJ Thompson  

17, I was 16, 17 years old.

Latasha Morrison  

Okay, okay.

BJ Thompson  

And I went three and oh. Okay? But let me tell you what happened. And listen, I’m not saying I was right to get into the situation. The way I got into it was really kind of bad. I got into it with a young woman. She had friends that were her brothers. They was like, “We’re going to see you. We’re going to beat the brakes off for you.” That’s basically what they told me. And instead of running from the fight, I call one of the guys like, “Where are you at? Let’s meet up.” So we met up, and we handle business. And then the next guy. I wrote the story in about how I got off the bus. I had a choice. I could have got on a city bus, because, you know, this is back in the day. This before helicopter parenting. Right?

Latasha Morrison  

Right, right.

BJ Thompson  

I grew up having to make it to and from school, either on a city bus or on the school bus. And I could have gotten on a city bus, which would have taken me right in front of my house, right down the street, or I could’ve rode the school bus, which would have dropped me at an adjacent school. I knew that the next guy that I needed to get into an altercation with was at that school. I made the choice to get on that bus. I made the choice, not knowing who was even waiting on me. And I think the thing that people get from me is I’ve been in so many volatile environments. I’m not saying I’m fearless. But it’s hard for me to be afraid. And it’s because I’ve seen so much. I know the real threats. I know the real predators. And so I think that what people pull from my story is, they kind of draw upon my strength. That’s what it is. They’re drawing on my strength to go, “Oh, you’re not afraid.” So then I say to them, “You should stop being afraid to ask for that promotion.” “You should stop being afraid to start that nonprofit.” “You should stop being afraid to begin to repair that marriage if it’s repairable.” “You should stop being afraid to reconcile with your family.” “You should stop being afraid to do this thing and this transformation in your health that you’ve always been waiting for.” And I think what people start to see with this kind of integration of me sharing my whole story. Because for the longest, Tasha, I was only sharing one part of my story. I was telling about the time when I came to faith, and when I changed and wanted to help people. I was not telling all chapters of my story. So then again, I was washing out my own story. Right? Instead of, again, if it’s a 1 to 35, 1 to 40 chapter story based off your life, I was only telling chapter 20-27. I wasn’t telling chapter 1 through 35, 1 through 42. Right? I wasn’t telling that part.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah.

BJ Thompson  

Right. And so, because I started telling my whole story, now it makes more sense. “Oh, that’s why you’re not afraid.” “You done bullies?” “Yes.” “Did you duck bullies?” “No.” “Oh you never duck one of them.” “No, not any of them.” “That’s why you’re not afraid to do this. I don’t have to be afraid.” “No, don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid of this.” So.

Latasha Morrison  

And man, boy has things changed now. Because now you don’t know if that person is gonna meet you at the bus stop, like kids don’t fight like, like, especially here in Atlanta. You know? Yeah, the gun violence now is like a whole nother level even with young kids. You know? In the beginning of your book, you say, “Every thought in this book and the basis of who you are is undergirded by one basic principle…” And this is something I hear you say, I think you posted – I don’t know if you’re still on that bird app. I don’t even want to say it. But I’m not sure if you’re on that app still. (laughter) You say, “You’re a mess, yet deeply loved by God.” Why is this important to start from there and build on that?

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, that’s a great point.

Latasha Morrison  

You always post about it. I think you may have a t-shirt and stickers.

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, I do. People love the t-shirt.

Latasha Morrison  

You are a mess, yet deeply loved by God. Why is that important to start from there and build from that?

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, because I think most of us start out of the personal development. We started out of guilt and shame. We start our changes out of guilt and shame. Right? That’s the sisters: guilt, shame. You trying to change yourself by guilt and shame. And that’s never sufficient. Because if you move forward and you fail, they just gonna scoop tighter to you. Right? They’re gonna move in closer to you, and remind you why. And you have to know that you are loved first, that you are deeply loved.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah.

BJ Thompson  

For who you are. Not for who you pretend to be, who you project to be, for who you are. When you know you are loved for who you are, it changes the tone of how you’re able to be courageous about changing your life. And so when I talk about that, I talk about the “I am a mess” part, it means you are who you are flaws and all. Right? None of us need to lie about that. We’re in very essential work in coaching and bridge building. But you got to admit your own biases. Right? Like your own explicit and subconscious biases. You have to. Because this is just a part of this journey. But you’re not just those biases and the weaknesses, you are the strengths, you are the beauty, you are love. And when you do that, now, it’s not so paralyzing every time you make a mistake. You can say something stupid, I’m sure y’all probably covered this in your training. Maybe y’all call it saying something stupid in a conversation and you can recover from it because you’re loved. You move into these environments, where you are loved and it doesn’t characterize you. It’s just a part of the journey. It’s just a part of the process. And so I talk about this self growth, self actualizing journey. It has to be rooted in that, otherwise it’ll be rooted in shame and guilt, and it’ll lead us back to the places that we really don’t want to see.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah, yeah. And I think sometimes if we’re just honest with, “You know what, this is a mess. This is a mess.” But it doesn’t have to remain a mess. You know? And I think you know, just admitting that. I always say, you know, in this world of racial literacy, we always say you know, it’s broken; it’s a mess. It’s a complete mess. We didn’t create the mess, but it is our responsibility to bring about solutions for it. You know? And so I think that’s, you know, exactly what you’re saying there. What encouragement or advice would you give to those of us in the racial justice work, those who are listening, they’re in this work of racial justice, and they need to make time for rest, self care. I mean, so many, I mean, I was just thinking about I think the young lady that was in Texas, I think her name was Atatiana, her sister just passed. And her sister was very young. It was the little boy that she was actually playing video games, her nephew, his mom, just passed from heart failure. You know, you hear about…I heard about the guy up in New York, his name, it’s so many names. But Eric Garner, I think that was Eric Garner up in New York, where his, I think it was his daughter, you know, her health. I mean, it just like, you’re hearing about suicide of a lot of activists and just all these things. And so we know that rest and self care is important. I mean, even with our organization, we probably give a little more vacation than the typical, you know, organization. We have a period of time during the summer where we just, we just all shut it down. Because it’s one thing when you take vacation, but when everybody else is working, when you come back, you gotta whole pile on. But we take a time during the summer where we just kind of give everyone a time to reset. We have to do things a little different than the typical organization because of what we deal with and the stress that it causes. And so, but a lot of times that’s overlooked and not prioritized. What are some of the things that you do that can help those that are listening there are involved in the racial justice space? What are some things that you’re doing that can cause them to center rest and self care?

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, that’s a great question. So two things. One, pick up five copies of the Awaken a Better You book. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, wherever books are sold. And I mean that very seriously. And go through it. Because it’s detailed instruction on how to take care of you in a holistic way. Right? I think this is really important it’s like, we’re kind of winging it. And self care means like taking baths, getting massages, but it doesn’t resolve all other meaningful areas. And I would just say, you know, especially as you go check it out, buy five copies, go through with friends, especially for those who are doing the critical work. Because you do need to have a mutual knowledge on how to take care of yourself. The second thing is, and this is what we do, you talked about charity. One of the ways that keeps me from being burnt out, is not just the rest that I take, it’s the work that I do. And the work that I do with like orphans and with kids, that recharges my spirit. Right? Because it’s not about contention. It’s not trying to argue with anybody. It’s not about trying to create some type of emotional trap. It’s, I am working with human beings, helping them flourish by providing their basic needs like clean water, clothing, beds, education. And when I watch those seeds grow, it inspires my hope. It keeps me from being caught up in foolish talk, keeps me from being caught up in foolish debate. One of the best things I did, you know I say this a lot. I left certain groups and my mental health cleared up. Because I don’t have to engage in argument and debate. I’m only engaging in the things that build people up. That bring shalom to my soul. So I think you got to find those things. What are the things for you? For us it’s s BBU cares. That’s one of the things that I do. But you got to find your thing. So what are the things that you do every day or that you’re doing intentionally that bring peace and rest to your soul to where now as you’re doing some of this difficult work, you really have a better balance and you’re not burnt out. 

Latasha Morrison  

Can you tell us about the I think it’s BBU, the group that you’re working, BB cares. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do? And I think you’re doing some things in Africa, right?

BJ Thompson  

Uganda.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah, Uganda. Can you tell us a little bit? I had the opportunity to go to Uganda a few years ago, to Southern and Northern Uganda. And, you know, incredible country. So I would love to hear more about, let’s tell the audience about what you’re doing and what you’re working on there.

BJ Thompson  

Absolutely. So first and foremost, you know, if you’re a person of faith, you know, there’s a passage in James, which says pure religion, undefiled religion is caring for the orphans and the widows. Right? So one who can bridle their tongue and care for the orphan and the widow. And this means is just these are people who need support. Everybody doesn’t need, you know, we all need relationships, everybody doesn’t needs support in a specific way. And so pure faith looks out for people who truly need support. And so one of the things that we discovered as a growth and development organization is that, you know, in America, there’s tools and resources, courses that we can just give. So we send you through a course, you go through this program, you gain this experience, it works. But when you try to do that in places that lack clean water, the ability to go to school, the ability to like have safe shelter, the ability to have clothing and a nutritious meal, you’re asking people to pull themselves up by bootstrap with no shoestrings. And so because of that.

Latasha Morrison  

Repeat that again.

BJ Thompson  

Okay, what I said is, in America, we can give people or any developed nation, courses, programs and experiences, and it will benefit them in ways that we’ve intended, because they have all their essential needs. When you go to places that are underdeveloped, that don’t have social safety nets for kids, for adults, for disabled people, and you try to give them those courses, those programs that develop, you’re asking them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps with no shoe strings. There are no shoe strings. So if you are a child and your parents die, and your family can no longer afford to keep you, feed you, and take care of you, you literally go to the streets. There’s no in between, there’s no buffer, there’s no child protective services; you literally become a homeless two year old. You become a homeless four year old. And that’s what a true orphan is, right? The work that we do, and we decided to do this intentionally Black led, because the organizations that we saw working, were 99% majority of white led organizations. And we had to ask us tough questions. Are we comfortable with seeing black and brown people only having initiatives being developed by white non melanated people as their primary exclusive way of developing programs, agency, and support? And we were not comfortable with that. Right? And because we know that less than 5% of minority led organizations receive funding, it didn’t matter. So we said we’re going to first and foremost, provide basic needs. Alright, we want to partner with reputable people, vet the, go through all of the processes to ensure certifications, everything else. Figure out what’s needed. Get down to the basics. You ever heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs? Right? The first thing is shelter, food, clothing, water. If that’s not there, we are establishing that. So what we do now is we’re establishing consistent education. Because if you go to places like That, there’s an opportunity when you went there, you start kids walking around. Right? It was a school day, and they’re walking around. Did you notice that when you went to Uganda?

Latasha Morrison  

Well, yes. Yeah.

BJ Thompson  

Okay. And the reason being is because there’s no public school system. Right?

Latasha Morrison  

Right.

BJ Thompson  

That’s why. So you saw kids with uniforms walking up and down the roads, because they were not paying tuition fees. Their parents could not afford tuition fees. They went to school anyway, and were turned around. So the educational gap is large, if you cannot afford to go to school. So one we provide education. Two, safe shelter. So right now, even as we speak, we’re working on getting our facility up to code. So our children live where there’s no running water. They have a water pump at the front. So we’re getting a new clean water pump well. But then we have to figure out the facility. How do we get bedding? Because the kids are sleeping on concrete on the floors, and like these little thin mattress deal. So now we have to get like beds built that are going to fit within this temporary structure for 28 children. So it’s like how do you build sustainable beds so that when it’s rain, they’re not sleeping in puddles of water? Right? And these different things. And so, you know, essentially, it’s all the little things that you and I just take for granted. It’s things that we don’t think about. So we’re bringing operational dollars to, but then a holistic program that not only helps them survive, but to thrive. One of the goals that we have is providing a supplemental education where we bring in a tutor. Because again, many of those kids are behind. The little ones who started in the pandemic, they missed a year and a half of school.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah.

BJ Thompson  

Because when COVID came, they were sent home. But these are their critical years of education. This is their primary education. So now the four year old is missing years four through six in education. There’s no headstart, there’s no anything, they’re just at home writing on a chalkboard. So now there’s a lot of educational gaps. And we know that education is the number one way to pull people out of poverty. So now we have to bring in supplemental education to ensure the tutoring happens. But then not only that, one of the other goals is to make sure that we bring them like technical training, like coding, teaching them about digital currency, teaching them how to do the things that will allow them to be sustainable, long term and through empowerment. And, so we’re doing that in West Uganda. You say you were in North?

Latasha Morrison  

I went to Southern and I also went to Northern with another organization, a program called, I forget the name of the program. But I also do work with Africa New Life down in Rwanda, too. And they have like this holistic approach. I’ll have to tell you about some of the work that Africa New Life is doing, which is Rwandan led. So I have to tell you about that.

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, but all that to say.

Latasha Morrison  

I love that. I love it.

BJ Thompson  

Go ahead.

Latasha Morrison  

No, I was just saying I love what you’re doing in West Uganda. And I’m glad. We can put some information in the show notes about what you’re doing. And I like that, you know, as a Black led organization, that you’re leading those efforts and doing that. And that is important. It is important for them to see, you know, people like us, I guess people somebody listening will say, “Well, no, it’s important that they see anybody that’s going to help them.” But no, it’s really empowering when they see people like them. You know? And then it’s also good for us to go to, what we call the motherland, and visit and become familiar with the culture. So I love the beauty of all that you’re doing. Tell me, you know, as we get ready to close now, tell me what are some things that you’re lamenting right now? Some things that may be causing deep sorrow for you right now?

BJ Thompson  

Yeah, I think some of the things that I’m lamenting is our lost sense of identity. What we actually are. I’m also lameting what seems like a very, it’s a grave mistake that we have as far as like developing children, and how we help them like gain confidence and what they’re confident in and why. And then, I’m also just grieving the fact that we have so many, what feels like this intentional misinformation is about like, critical things like health. It’s just a weird thing. I’m just lamenting, like, man why are there, feels like there’s these voices that are keeping people from getting healthy food. That are knowing about like all of the poisons. It’s like, what is that? Why is it trying to drown us out? And so I just been really talking with my children and trying to just come to a healthier place. But those are some of the things I’m grieving right now.

Latasha Morrison  

Oh, that’s good. That’s good. And I love the fact that, you know, what your demonstrating, is just how we as people are not monolithic. And that we have different passions and different goals and desires. But they all take us to a place of beauty. You know? They all take us to a place where we can flourish and thrive. And so, you know, what are some things now that’s bringing you hope? What is something that’s bringing you hope?

BJ Thompson  

Oh, yeah. So what’s bringing me hope is the work that we’re doing in Uganda. So I mean it’s a beautiful thing. I sat on the steps a couple of months ago with our kids. And I was like, “Man, these kids are really depending on us.” So it just really brought me hope. And just made me realize that you know, even with all of the you know, publishing deals and the courses that we do, what really brings me hope is like being able to do charity, being able to give back, and to empower marginalized groups. I think what’s also giving me hope is I’m watching people here like change and watching people self actualize, watching working professionals like do a better job of taking care of themselves, integrate, and do critical work with others. And so it’s been really rewarding to see, man, it’s not just about you being selfish, right? You are healing, like recovering what’s broken, restoring what’s broken, but then now you want to help somebody else. So that’s been really like hopeful for me.

Latasha Morrison  

Yeah. Okay, okay. Well, thank you so much for just joining us. We’re gonna make sure, we’ll have in the show notes, everything about your book and everything and how people can get in contact with you. But we’re so grateful for you, BJ. And we’re so grateful for Build a Better Us. We’re so grateful that you wrote a book, Awaken a Better You, and how this is helping so many people. And you know, and it’s a cornerstone for what your organization is doing in helping build healthy, strong people, individuals, and families. And so we’re grateful for you and I’m thankful that you’re here in Atlanta doing all these amazing things. We look forward to connecting with you more in the future. So thank you all for listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast. And I am Latasha Morrison, and this was BJ Thompson, Build a Better You.

Narrator  

Thanks for listening to the Be the Bridge Podcast. To find out more about the Be the Bridge organization and or to become a bridge builder in your community, go to BeTheBridge.com. Again, that’s BeTheBridge.com. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, remember to rate and review it on this platform and share it with as many people as you possibly can. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Today’s show was edited, recorded, and produced by Travon Potts at Integrated Entertainment Studios in Metro Atlanta, Georgia. The host and executive producer is Latasha Morrison. Lauren C. Brown is the Senior Producer. And transcribed by Sarah Connatser. Please join us next time. This has been a Be the Bridge production.