ForCollegeForLife Podcast Ep. 12: Odell Bizzell


Casey J. Cornelius (00:02):

Hey everyone. And welcome to the latest episode of the ForCollegeForLife Podcast. My name is Casey Cornelius, and it is just a thrill. Like it, it is an actual pleasure for me to, to conduct these interviews with our team members. Um, some of these folks, maybe you’ve known for years and years, maybe you’re learning about them for the first time, but I’ll tell you one of the neatest parts for me is that I’ve known each of these people for a considerable period of time and each and every time I do one of these interviews, I learn new things about them. And I, I, I’m pretty sure today’s going to be exactly the same as well. This person is certainly not new to speaking, certainly not new, uh, to, to podcast interviews, social media, all that other kind of stuff. Uh, but we’re gonna have some fun today passing the mic.

Casey J. Cornelius (00:48):

So let me tell you a little bit about him before I bring him to the mic here. Uh, Odell bezel is the nationally known blogger speaker, author, internet personality, and expert in training leaders to overcome difficult obstacles in order to succeed. While in high school, ode started a small candy retail distribution center that earned him over $75,000 while also earning an academic scholarship to college. A successful keynote speaker ode has been featured in USA today, Yahoo finance, CNBC, and over 200 media outlets. There is company the impact student success program. Odell has partnered with over 200 colleges, probably more than that by now, maybe two 50 youth organizations in the military and has reached tens of thousands of students. He’s the author of five books and is nationally recognized voice in helping students turn their life story into a success story. His engaging in interactive presentations help students learn about the interaction of leadership and diversity, how to become more effective leaders in a diverse world. Adele has presented on the same stages as Superbowl winning coaches is as super bowl, winning coaches, national politicians, and celebrities like Stephen, a Smith, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey on and on and on. And now I get to invite him to the bike on the Fort college for life podcast. So without any further ado, ode, it’s good to have you, my friend,

Odell Bizzell (02:12):

Man, excited to be here, excited to be on the team and excited to, uh, be sharing some time with everybody listening.

Casey J. Cornelius (02:19):

You know, your bio it’s, it’s funny cuz you and I have known each other for years, but every time I read your bio, I I’m kind of like man, like that’s, that’s pretty profound. I, I guess I wanna, I kind of even chuckled in, in going through the bio for just a second, but I wanna, I wanna ask you about the one that probably jumps out to the most people and it’s not Steven A. Smith. It’s not David Letterman. It’s not Oprah Winfrey $75,000 candy distribution while you were in high school.

Odell Bizzell (02:46):

Yeah man. What’s

Casey J. Cornelius (02:47):

That story? What’s that

Odell Bizzell (02:48):

Story, man. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur. And um, I, I still remember being in, uh, my Spanish class, freshman year in high school and uh, Alberta shout out to be, uh, she played on the women’s basketball team. I was on the men’s basketball team and uh, she had these jolly rancher suckers. And for those of you listening, if you don’t know jolly rancher suckers, they were, they were so good. Like they were square. I’m not talking about the lollipop square. They just so good. And she just had a bunch of suckers and she wouldn’t give anybody any suckers. And then she started selling yeah, beta, she, then she started selling the suckers for a quarter and I’m I’m on the, you know, I’m on the basketball team, she’s on the basketball team. I’m like, ber just hook me up.

Odell Bizzell (03:40):

She said, nah, you a quarter and you get a quarter <laugh> and I didn’t have a quarter, but I saw it like in the matter of minutes everybody bought the jolly rancher suckers. And I said, huh, said, this is interesting. I said, Bertha, she’s not, she doesn’t have the gift of gab that I do. She’s not, she’s not even, you know, as good a basketball player on her team as I am on mine. I said, I wonder if I could sell the suckers. And then, um, we had team shoes that we had to buy. My mom didn’t have the money to, to get the shoes. So I, I basically was like, oh, I’m gonna sell candy. And I bought a bag of candy from a family dollar. I don’t know anybody listening. If you have family dollars, it’s just one of those, um, kind of discount stores or whatnot. And I bought a bag, sold the bag in one period. And I said, okay,

Casey J. Cornelius (04:29):


Odell Bizzell (04:30):

Let’s just start. And that’s literally, I did it to raise $150 to get the basketball shoes, got the basketball shoes, kept selling the candy cuz it kept working. And then my best friend at the time, who’s still my best friend today. Uh, he said, Hey man, I wanna sell with you. And initially I was like, nah,

Casey J. Cornelius (04:49):

<laugh> not cutting the profit. Yeah. Not cutting profit. Right.

Odell Bizzell (04:52):

He was like, no, I’m not gonna do it. And then he challenged me. He said, I bet I could sell more than you. And I said, P okay, sure. You can. And I said, 80, 20 split

Casey J. Cornelius (05:03):

<laugh> mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm

Odell Bizzell (05:04):

<affirmative>. And so he, he outsold me. And so then he said, all right, 70, 30 this time. And I was like, I’ll outsell you again. And I was like, no, you won’t. And he just kept outselling me. And then I was like, all right, man. All right. 50, 50 <laugh>. And so that’s kind of how it started. Our freshman year was suckers. Then we went to candy bars. We sold everything that the vend machines didn’t have for 10 cent less. And, um, kind of went from there, man. Then when our, our siblings came in, my sister, his brother, they started selling for us as well. And so it, we just made a lot of money. We didn’t know what to do with it, but spend it <laugh>.

Casey J. Cornelius (05:41):

So, so that’s no joke when you say candy retail distribution, that, that, that really is what you’re doing. Like you took the jolly rancher sucker to a whole nother level.

Odell Bizzell (05:52):

Yeah. We were making at our peak, we were making $250 profit a piece. So me and Justin would make collectively $500 profit every week. Wow. And um, yeah, it was a lot of money. Like it, it was a lot, um, I remember we used to count the money at Justin’s house when we were making like a lot of money. His mom came in there and was like, what are y’all really doing? <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (06:19):

Yeah. Right, right. There’s just a few too many bills here on the bed. What’s going on?

Odell Bizzell (06:22):

She said, what are y’all really doing? We, we had duffle bags full of candy and we were like, we’re selling candy. And she was like, oh, okay. I just wanna make sure y’all wasn’t selling nothing else. So it, but yeah, it was people now, like I played basketball. I was ranked in the state. I scored a thousand points on my high school. People don’t remember me for that. <laugh> they remember

Casey J. Cornelius (06:44):

Me. You’re candy

Odell Bizzell (06:44):

Guy for selling candy. That’s what they remember me.

Casey J. Cornelius (06:47):

Well, listen, I’m gonna remember basketball. We’re we’re gonna get into real topics here. Just a second folks, but ode referenced basketball. So I’m going to ask the question. Um, I seem to recall a story where you ended up at the same AAU tournament as a, as another pretty good basketball player. You, you wanna, you wanna talk a little bit about that?

Odell Bizzell (07:08):

Yeah. LeBron, Ramon, James senior. Um, and for, for people listening, you have to kind of go back in time a little bit with me to the year, the year 2000. So my AAU team, we were really good. We won a national championship in, in 1999, uh, right before I went to high school. So the next year, the way it worked then is you got an automatic bid. If you won, you won a national tournament, you got an automatic bid to the big AAU tournament. There was a bunch of different tournaments, but we got, you know, automatic bid. So when we were there in Tennessee, you know, everybody gets to see everybody, we all sit in the gym, you know, we’re all next to each other. And there’s cameras following around this team from Ohio. And we’re just like, who is that? Like, we’re just, you know, who are they?

Odell Bizzell (08:01):

You know, like whatever. And then people whispering. It’s like, oh, that’s the, that’s the team from Ohio, LeBron James and all this stuff. And you know, kids are haters, especially like, <laugh> like guys, true. We don’t want, we don’t wanna give, you know, another guy, his, his just due, especially, he’s supposed to be competing against that guy. At least that’s how I was raised. Um, and you gotta make him earn it. And so he’s, the team was big. Like it wasn’t just LeBron. He was really big, but nah, whatever. We beat big teams before. And so then people are just talking the whole tournament about this kid, LeBron James, I see LeBron James in the gym that day. He looked 30 Casey. Like he looked, he looked like a grown man. We’re 15. Nobody has like any Harley, any facial hair. He looked like a grown man. He was huge <laugh>. And so, you know, we just go play our games. We go play a tournament. We’re playing this team from Chicago and LeBron’s team was playing before us on the court and seeing him play. It was the first time in my like life as a competitor where I was like scared because I was like, yo, if we beat this team,

Casey J. Cornelius (09:13):

We have to play <laugh>.

Odell Bizzell (09:17):

If we beat this team, it was actually two teams. We had to beat the team from Chicago. Then we had to beat, um, a team from Kentucky. We lost to the team to Kentucky, but we beat the team from Chicago and we were like, yo, we might have to play that team for a

Casey J. Cornelius (09:32):

While. <laugh>

Odell Bizzell (09:34):

It’s probably why we lost the, the, the game to the Kentucky team. Cause it was like, oh my gosh. And he was huge, man. He was huge. He was running, he was dunking. He was doing all the stuff that he’s done. And again, that’s when I realized that I was not gonna play professional basketball. I was like, if they’re making them like that.

Casey J. Cornelius (09:51):

Right. I

Odell Bizzell (09:53):

I’m. And I, you know, I’m standing here as, as we are recording this I’m I’m five, eight. I was five, eight that day <laugh> so, um, I didn’t grow, but yeah, LeBron, uh, got to play in this Scholastic. Fantastic. LeBron James tour. That’s just when his, um, high school team was going across the country, beating everybody. We got to play in that tournament. We gotta beat really bad. Um, but <laugh> but we played and uh, got to play against Chris Paul. Uh, who’s a great point guard. Yeah. Jr. Smith, Carmelo Anthony, like a lot of people I got to play against and uh, when they weren’t, you know what they are today,

Casey J. Cornelius (10:30):

I think, I think what I love about this story too is, um, not to date you, I mean, you, you, you called the date. That’s fair, but like this was pre Instagram. This was pre Twitter. Like, no, like my space was, was my space even 2000. Probably not. Right.

Odell Bizzell (10:48):

Nah, I mean I did, I wasn’t on it.

Casey J. Cornelius (10:50):

Right. Yeah. Right. Um, so I, this, the only way you would’ve seen someone like this is on ESPN or something like that. And I, I can just, I can just close my eyes and imagine the first time hearing the name of LeBron James, and then realizing that you might have to play him. <laugh> that had to be just like, I’m kind of like, my hands are sweaty. Just thinking about it for you.

Odell Bizzell (11:14):

It was frightening. But to see him like that, the, you know, and we’re, we’re we’re professionals, we’re, you know, we’re speakers and consultants and all those different things. So we hear about, you know, the legends in our space.

Casey J. Cornelius (11:29):


Odell Bizzell (11:29):

But you know, you meet him, you’re not competing against them. Like you’re just, you know, you’re meeting them, you’re, you know, shaking their hands and all that stuff. But in a competitive fashion, seeing him and being like, wow, there’s no way that we can win outside of like divine intervention. Right.

Casey J. Cornelius (11:49):

There’s no way.

Odell Bizzell (11:50):

Right. Right. So you’re defeated mentally before that’s what happened. It was like, you know what, and I’ve, I’ve made videos, funny videos about how LeBron James ended my career. Like my mentality was different. I was like, man, you know what? That’s, he’s six, five he’s dunking on every I couldn’t man. You know, let me just go focus on these books

Casey J. Cornelius (12:10):

And, and this, this candy distribution this

Odell Bizzell (12:13):

Right. Let me be an entrepreneur.

Casey J. Cornelius (12:14):

Right. Right. You know, one of the things I think in, in not only the speaking space, but just people who’ve been around you and seen you on stage and so forth, admire so much about you and your work hotel is I, I think what people just heard just then is, is your ability to tell a story and to communicate complex ideas in a way that audiences get. And I’ve, I’ve heard you say this before and, and I, I want, I wanna pick your brain a little bit on it. I’ve heard you say before that communication is the primary means of transformation. Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by that?

Odell Bizzell (12:50):

Absolutely. And first and foremost, I want to, you know, give respect to, to my dad and, uh, and my grandma, um, they, they taught me the power of words early and how, how vital they are to, to our lives and what we say, not just to other people, but what we say to ourselves. But if you think about, you know, transformation, transf, uh, transformation and transforming, it all starts with communication. Where else would it start? If you ask somebody, uh, what are you gonna be when you grow up? You know, you ask a, a student, what are you gonna be when you grow up? Their thoughts, create words. Okay, well, maybe I’ll be this. And then they communicate those words to you. If they’re empowering thoughts, then they have an empowered thought empowering words, and they have empowering actions and they walk into that. If they’re disempowering, then they, they detract from that.

Odell Bizzell (13:52):

Hmm. And so it, it all stems from communication. And when I started learning, as when I went to college, I couldn’t, I didn’t know what major to pick. And I’d always been good in front of, you know, doing group projects and in front of people and doing those different things. And my mom actually suggested that, oh, you should try to be a, a news anchor. <laugh> she said, you should try to be a news anchor. Yeah. And I said, eh, I would be a sports anchor. Like I would rather do that. Um, be like, uh, Stuart Scott, you know? Right. And I was like, that’s what I would rather do. And, but it was easy for me to, you know, speak in front of a camera to do all that stuff. But that type of communication caused me to go into a deep dive. You go to school, you major in different things, you have different supporting, um, subjects and different things like that.

Odell Bizzell (14:42):

And so we went to interpersonal where it’s one-on-one communication. And we talk about mass communication, which was the major I was in mm-hmm <affirmative> your broadcast, you know, your, your voice and sound to everybody else. But then one type of communication that I was introduced to was intrapersonal communication. And that’s the type of communication you say to you about you and about your environment and about your experiences and your circumstances and all those different things. And in order for us to go from, you know, where we are to where we want to go, we have to have strong intrapersonal communication. Because if we pay attention more to all the other types of communication, it’ll be really easy for us to not be empowered and to not move forward. Mm.

Casey J. Cornelius (15:25):

You know, I, I wanna unpack this just to just a second, because I’ve, I’ve heard this said and, and, you know, candidly, something I’ve had to reflect on in, in, in my own day to day thought process as well is, you know, very few people, um, are as harsh on you as you, right? So like the, the, the conversation that’s happening between your ears were where you, you see all the flaws and you hear all the mistakes and, and all this other kind of stuff, and, and think of ways to improve. Like what advice do you give to people who are trying to, um, eliminate sort of those, those disempowering thought processes and, and replace them instead with something that is truly transformational for good.

Odell Bizzell (16:06):

I essentially use, um, the, the phrase and my presentations and, and different, you know, conversations that I have. You gotta put yourself on a mental diet. Um, if we think about our bodies,

Casey J. Cornelius (16:20):

Mm-hmm, <affirmative>,

Odell Bizzell (16:22):

If you want to get in shape, if you want to, you know, build muscle, whatever it is, it’s really more about, and anybody that’s halfway paid attention to fitness knows it’s more about what you put in your body than, you know, all the activity that you do around it. Yep. So if you want to, you know, lose weight, there’s certain things that you need to eat. If you want to build muscle, there’s certain things that you need to eat. And so you have to eat it on a regular basis. I got a physical trainer, um, not too long ago. And, uh, he was really, really good. Like <laugh> I was just, yeah, he was really good. And he looks it and he used, he told me when we first started, you know, you’re gonna have to eat more.

Casey J. Cornelius (17:10):

I said, what? Counterintuitive? Counterintuitive. Yeah.

Odell Bizzell (17:13):

It’s like eat more. He said, yeah, you gotta eat more, especially eat more protein, eat more. And I would take pictures of what I was eating. And I would share with him, he said, you, that’s not enough protein. And I’m like, dude, what are you talking about? I am full. I, I can’t. He said, trust me, you know, trust me, you gotta eat more. You gotta eat more. Cuz you gotta build muscle. You gotta break all that stuff down. And so that one simple step Casey was the hardest step for me to eat more was the hardest part. So if you’re talking about, well, how do I get into a, a mental space where I’m communicating more positive things to myself? How do, how do I do it? You have to get it on a mental diet and you have to feed yourself more positive stuff.

Casey J. Cornelius (17:55):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>

Odell Bizzell (17:55):

Because we wake up. Most people, if you’re listening to this, I don’t know how old you all know how young you are, but it’s the times that we’re in. We wake up and we scroll. We wake up. Maybe we go to the bathroom. We scroll, we look at our, our phones for the time we look at our phones to see what’s going on. We look at our phones a lot. And even if you have a clean timeline, there’s gonna be junk in there, right? There’s gonna be stuff that you scroll across. Some people are trying to be funny and they’re not comedians. And they’re not funny at all. And they’re sharing things that, that disempower your mind because our minds do not understand the difference between fantasy and reality. They only understand commands. So if that’s what you’re programming your mind, your mind will spit out what, what is programmed?

Odell Bizzell (18:41):

So what I would say to people is just, and this is what, you know, my nutritionist and my wife. She is a, she’s my nutritionist. Basically. She <laugh>, she’s a holistic health coach and we do, um, 85% eating clean. So 85% of the, the week we eat, um, you know, no to low carbs or complex carbs, we eat vegetables. We eat protein on the weekend. We wanna have some fun, Hey, you know, you can, you know, eat some cake or something. Right, right, right, right. You know, we want to do that. But most of the week we eat clean. I would say the same thing to you. If you want to build your mind up to have positive communication, most of the week, it feeds yourself positivity. Where can, where can you get stuff like that from where you can go to different YouTube channels, you can go to different podcasts that are feeding your mind with good information, good energy, good encouragement, and all that stuff. You have to overdo positivity. Now you have to, you have to, you have to overdo it because there’s always something pulling away from it. And Casey, if you think about this, people could try to say good things, but then we mess around and look into comments.

Casey J. Cornelius (19:54):

<laugh> right. Right. You, I, I actually, I actually did that a few years ago for, for lent, right? To like, what am I gonna give up for 40 days? And I gave up looking at the comment sections. I, I just, I was like, there’s nothing good that ever comes out, looking at the comment sections

Odell Bizzell (20:10):

It’s absolute truth. Somebody could say, oh, I’m so grateful that, you know, uh, I’m running for office, whatever. You don’t even know the person. Right. Running for office, all the comments or just, it’s like, they’re running for office. Like what are, but, but that’s the world that we live in and that’s how it is. So we have to kind of go against that. Programming also monitor what you’re, what you’re listening to. And this is something that I, I do with my kids. I said, what is, what, what you’re watching, what you’re listening to, what is it teaching you? Because what, what entertains you trains you. So what is that teaching you? What is that show teaching you? What is that song teaching you? And this is something that, again, I give credit to my dad. He always used to ask me that whenever I listen to rap music, he was like, okay. So what is, what is, what is biggie smalls teaching you? Is he teaching you that being a thug of school?

Casey J. Cornelius (21:05):

<laugh> you’re like maybe, maybe, yeah.

Odell Bizzell (21:10):

When you have, when you have that and when you face that, it’s like, oh wait, what is he teaching me?

Casey J. Cornelius (21:14):


Odell Bizzell (21:15):

Oh, he is well being a, and then, you know, my dad being the type, he is like, you don’t see any old gangsters, they’re either dead or there in prison. He said, where do you want to end up? And just little things like that. I would still listen to music. But just having that, that tweak in my programming to say, oh, this is fake. <laugh> like this isn’t real. If he was really murdering people, the statute of limitations on murder does not like ever end. So if he’s really murdering people and saying that their body is over here, he’s lying, it’s fake. It’s not real. So being able to make sure that the programming that we have in our mind matches the outcome that we want is critical. And so get, put yourself on a mental diet.

Casey J. Cornelius (22:00):

You know, we’re, we’re gonna talk about some, some heavy stuff here in just a second, but I’m, I’m gonna pull back the curtain and I’m gonna lean on our friendship for a second. Make sure you don’t yell at me for, for mentioning this. When you talk about being on a mental diet, I seem to also recall that you confessed one time that when you were traveling and on the road, that is when you would indulge in your sweet tooth, <laugh> outside of the, the presence of your beautiful and lovely and caring wife that maybe you would hit the, the snack machine a little bit on the road has, has that ceased as well. Like, are you done with that phase of life?

Odell Bizzell (22:37):

I have done so much better with that so much better. I got

Casey J. Cornelius (22:41):

It’s real though. It’s real though, right? Yeah.

Odell Bizzell (22:43):

Oh yeah. Cause I mean, you know, traveling. Yeah. You get in and it’s 9 38 and below it Illinois. <laugh> and

Casey J. Cornelius (22:53):

You’re getting some M and Ms. You’re getting some M

Odell Bizzell (22:55):

I’m getting some peanut M and Ms. I I’m, you know, to make me feel good about the protein and peanuts, but I’m getting some peanut M and Ms. I might get some Reeses too. I might. But what I’ve done now is I’ve started traveling more with just little fruit cups, like little things like that. Uh, so I don’t have to do that. Um, and like I said, a hundred percent, hasn’t been a hundred percent. Um, but just doing those little things, it, it helped me. And the same thing goes when I travel, when I have those long, um, lines in the airport or the long waits, the layovers I’ll think to myself, cuz I do this too. I’m gonna go on the road. I’m gonna actually relax. <laugh> like, I’m gonna relax. I’m gonna watch the office. I’m gonna watch, you know, this show, I’m gonna watch Ozark.

Odell Bizzell (23:45):

I’m gonna watch something. So let me go ahead in these, this three hour flight, this, this hour drive, all I’m gonna do is listen to, you know, the, my speeches cuz that’s something that I do. I listen back to my speeches. Right, right. I listen to my podcast, my own podcast. And I listen to, Ooh, somebody just had a, a new pocket or for college for life. Ooh. I need to go listen to, to this episode cuz I wanna learn more about my team member that I didn’t know. So I do that stuff. And then at the end, like, alright, I’m gonna watch what I wanna watch. So it it’s all about reshifting and reorganizing with intention, uh, because what you put your attention on, that’s where your energy goes, what you put your intention on. That’s where your, your activity goes. And then what you want to do after that is put the invention on what outcome you want.

Odell Bizzell (24:34):

So if you put the attention or the energy and the focus on, I want to run for a particular, um, student government position, or I want to make a specific grade or I want to get a promotion, whatever that is, that’s your intention, a fo your focus, then your intention, you have to have some sort of interactive activity. Then you go forth with that saying, I’m gonna go to these meetings. I’m gonna do this. I’m gonna do that. Then you have your invention, how I’m gonna put my own different spin on this activity and on the community that I’m going into to, whereas they will remember me. Maybe they will vote for me. Maybe they will hire me, et cetera, et cetera. But all of that has to be driven by your internal communication compass. If you will,

Casey J. Cornelius (25:17):

You you’d reference something in that answer on, on reorganization. And as, as someone who has been at the highest level of professional speaking for as long as you have, um, I think it’s appropriate for us to, to take just a second to talk about the reorganization that happened in March of 2020. Thinking, thinking back on that time we lived through it together. <laugh> yeah. What, what was it like for someone who th this is, this is what you do. Like you, you speak professionally and everything shut down and then speaking for your organization. Now we have to do this thing, virtual, virtual programming that none of us had ever done <laugh> to that, to that point. What was that experience like for you?

Odell Bizzell (26:08):

It was, I think like most of America and, and different parts of the world that, that went through it, it was traumatizing, man. Um, yeah. You know, I, I think, I can’t remember exactly when it was, but I know I was coming back from an event like right. When everything shut down, cuz I had to leave the conference early. I had to leave a day early and I remember texting you something like, Hey man, how do you think this is? How long this is gonna last

Casey J. Cornelius (26:36):

<laugh>. Yeah. Like, are we talking days and weeks? Like what’s

Odell Bizzell (26:39):

Yeah. You were like, um, listen <laugh> I don’t know, but I don’t think it’s gonna let up anytime soon. Yeah. And just knowing you and you, you you’re always, you know, super transparent and super honest. I’m like, oh my goodness. For, for two weeks I sat still and did nothing. I was afraid. Yeah. I didn’t know. I told my wife, I said, well, we got this much money left. Maybe I could drive Uber eats or something. <laugh> like, right. Gotta do something. And um, then you know, virtual, fortunately, you know, grandma’s basement, all that stuff. I had space and, and different equipment that I just had that I could use, but I didn’t, I didn’t know anything. I mean, and some of my clients, God bless them. They were, they were very helpful. Yeah. Like, Hey ode, would you come do something? I was like, yeah, for $250 for whatever I could do it at the time, because we didn’t know. Um, it was, it was traumatizing man, but it allowed me to sit still. Um, I, I mean, I know, you know, me, I’m always like doing stuff. So it allowed me to sit, still allowed me to, um, analyze the real reason why I was doing what I was doing. And I think that’s the, the biggest takeaway I got was, especially one’s virtual kind of kicked up.

Odell Bizzell (28:03):

I, I found the power in my voice again, because a lot of times when we, when we’re doing things, we’re in the motion, you, you forget or you lose sight of that. And I remember I’ll never forget this in reference my dad again. I said, uh, cuz I, I went to, I wanna say a place in Florida and I, and I did like a broadcast presentation. It wasn’t in person, but it was like in a studio. And I, I talked to my dad and I was saying it jokingly. I said, I guess I’m essential since I, you know, I get to

Casey J. Cornelius (28:40):

Go, oh yeah, yeah.

Odell Bizzell (28:41):

And he said, oh no, you don’t need to laugh about that. You are essential. He said, you give people hope. He said, that’s essential. Especially in a time in which there is no hope you give people hope. So you need to, you know, double down on that and you need to do it as much as you possibly can. Um, in these times, like we, he was specifically talking about, you know, the pandemic times where we were shut down times. And so saying that it got, it allowed me to reconnect. Okay. It is essential. It got me to, to look at, at my speeches at my, the things that I was actually saying when I was communicating to the, to the audience and I said, okay, well I need to hit this point home more. I need to use this illustration better. I need to tell the story better so that they can really get the, the full impact as best as I can.

Casey J. Cornelius (29:33):

I, I remember, you know, a lot of our folks referenced the, uh, the meetings that we started having internally during that time that have, you know, progressed all the way till today and probably will progress all the way for forever. And one of the things I remembered, some of our initial conversations were about this new virtual thing. And should we do it because, you know, prior to the pandemic, I would’ve given you 500 reasons why it was a bad idea. And then it was like, okay, well let’s give this a try. And then the other question that arose a lot was like, what, what does it cost? <laugh> like, what, what, what does one charge for this? And I remember you and you being at the, the top of the game, like this is, this is not just a, a, a thought that was passing.

Casey J. Cornelius (30:14):

It was someone who’s top of the game said I’ll never be too good to not look in a computer and speak to an audience who needs me. And I don’t care if their budget is X or Y or Z. I’ll never be too good to just say no. And you referenced also like, how can I look at my wife and my children and say like, oh, I turned down X amount of dollars because I’m too good for that. And I think you made it okay for everybody else to say, let’s do everything that we can, whatever people are bringing to the table. I remember that moment. It probably was like March, April of, of, of 2020 when you said that.

Odell Bizzell (30:51):

Yeah, man, it, I am professionally. I, I think I’m, I’m one of the best at what I do, but I also understand, you know, why I do what I do. Right. And I tell people, you know, people on the team, other speakers that I talk to, if you’re just in speaking solely for economic reasons, I would advise you, maybe you should do something different. <laugh> right. Like maybe right. Maybe there’s, you know, another avenue, something else that you should do. Um, because there, there are, there are quicker paths to a lot more money. And I know the, the people that have spoken into my life over the years that didn’t, I didn’t pay them anything. I’m talking conversations, I’m talking, you know, different things like that. And at that moment specifically, I don’t remember exactly what you’re talking about. I knew that of somebody had, they had $1,500. They had, you know, whatever we were helping each other out

Casey J. Cornelius (31:55):

<laugh> a hundred percent. Yes.

Odell Bizzell (31:57):

We, they were, they were helping me. Uh, cause I had nothing like everything stopped

Casey J. Cornelius (32:02):

Gone. So

Odell Bizzell (32:04):

Yeah, that part, but also they, they were in the same way. They didn’t know they will this work. We need somebody good to come in. And, and, and so I couldn’t feel good about it for the once. I know, no, I can do it because, you know, I’m, I’m, Odel, I’ve been doing this for 13 years. I mean, come on. What do you expect? No, like that’s, and, and there are there groups for that, are there times for that, you know, maybe, but for me at that moment, especially with some of the things that everybody was saying, it was like, look, y’all, this is still a privilege. Like <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (32:40):

This is,

Odell Bizzell (32:41):

Yes, this is a privilege. This is an opportunity for us to do this. Yes. And, and I just, and, and I still feel that way. And that’s one of the reasons why, um, you know, everybody that, that connects with me, whether, you know, it be an audience and everything, I have a lot of free content for them to consume because you, your, your organization, your school, your group may, might not have the, the budget to do it in person or to do whatever, but Hey, you can still follow me. You can still co uh, follow for college for life. You can see us at a conference and connect with us and still get value from it. So, yep. It’s all about distributing value and, and making an impact. And of course, I mean, this is a business. We wanna make money, but I think a big part of our business is, is sewing seeds to the, to the, um, organizations, to the audiences that value the information. And that’ll be able to use it to further their lives.

Casey J. Cornelius (33:39):

I, I, I wanna give you a compliment and I hope you don’t take it as any sort of like a, like embarrassing compliment. But, but I mean, this legitimately, I also think during the pandemic, when, when we could all slow down, some people looked internally and thought about the, the message that they were putting out to the world and how it could be tweaked, how it could be modified, how it could be altered to meet the day. And I think that you might have done some of your best work during the pandemic. You wrote a program that asked what would Dr. King and Malcolm X teach today’s students. And I remember it would, you know, one month wasn’t like, like 37, uh, engagements, virtual engagements in one month. So I, I guess I want to ask you, like, in the, in the course of, of doing that, that thought process and so forth, what would Dr. King and Malcolm teach today’s students,

Odell Bizzell (34:33):

They would all centered on communication. And the, that program came about because being still and thinking about what I was doing and what I was teaching and teaching, you know, kids, our kids, my wife and I, we had homeschooled our kids up through the pandemic. So they they’d always been at home. Mm-hmm <affirmative> mm-hmm <affirmative>. And so being able to, you know, take that time and my wife would ask me little things about what should we teach them, you know, during this month and what should we teach them during that month? And, you know, my wife, she’s very detailed. So she has like the curriculum for the year and all that stuff. And I said, you know, I said, it would be really cool if, if the, the kids could just like, learn beyond what, you know, surface level, um, and really learn about the men.

Odell Bizzell (35:26):

So we watched documentaries of different people and civil rights and social justice, and we kind of peeled back some things like, you know, man, Malcolm X, he was assassinated 39, right. At the time I was 35, 36. I’m like, wait a minute. They weren’t too much older than me. Right. And, and, and Dr. King, the same 39, I said, wow. I said, these were black men going on national, sometimes international stages, speaking of truth, that was not popular. That was dangerous. As, as we, you know, unfortunately saw it was very dangerous and they were the, they weren’t the only ones, but they were the ones out in front street. I said, man, Tom was so different. Like, what would they teach now? Like I, and it was just kind of like a question, like, what would they teach now? Then I started studying, I think a documentary about Malcolm X came out like who murdered Malcolm X came out.

Odell Bizzell (36:24):

And I said, you know, I, and then I just started thinking, I started connecting different research and different things, and they would teach the students of the, of the day, the leaders of the day to do the same thing they did, which was use their voice. But what they did differently is they used their platform that they got and that they didn’t get the platform because of merit. They got the platform because people were trying to embarrass them. That’s something else that I found out that you put Malcolm X on, oh, he’s a Muslim. Oh, let’s see what he says about this, just to make a spectacle out of them. And they turned that into content for their audience, people looking. And they also turned it into education for the people that didn’t agree with them. And so I said, man, they would do that.

Odell Bizzell (37:16):

They would, they would teach that who could do the same thing. And so that, that’s where the, the program kind of came from. And, and as I said before, most of what they taught would be in communicating, communicating with the right people, Dr. King had an open door policy with the white house because, and, and I, and I’ll say this, I say this respectfully, but truthfully, because he was deemed as less of a threat than a Malcolm X type person. Mm. So, because he was deemed as less of a threat initially. Yeah, sure. Dr. King, all Baptist preacher. Nice, nice, nice, nice black man suit and tie. Yes. We’ll talk to, but then some of the things he was doing and saying would help the politicians out. And again, you can do your own research, but help the politicians out. Oh, this is how we get votes here.

Odell Bizzell (38:08):

This is how we get votes there. So it’s a little give and take honestly, like, yeah, we’ll do the nonviolent thing because, and there’s a reason behind that. And so what we have to learn how to do in today’s time is figure out what exactly we want, the government, the administration, what exactly we want. So be clear on that. That’s something else that they would teach, like, be clear on that. And then only talk to, and spend time and energy with the people that influence those decisions. Social media gets us caught up in likes and comments and all that stuff. Most of the people that influence decisions, they are not scrolling on the same timelines as you are. Especially if you’re a student they’re not to dancing. Nope. The same, the same way that you are. They’re they’re in their offices, they’re in the boardrooms, they’re in all of that. And so we have to be present there and, and the brilliance of our voices in this generation needs to be present there. We need more people that are lobbying to be politicians. I know that sounds like, oh, I don’t want to join the system down with the system. Oh, okay. How will you either gonna be with it and work with it, or you gonna leave and go somewhere else and find out it’s worse.

Casey J. Cornelius (39:24):

<laugh> right.

Odell Bizzell (39:25):

So it’s, it’s a dance. Um, it’s, it’s not a perfect ideology, but it’s just, I believe that’s something that they would teach because it’s what they did

Casey J. Cornelius (39:36):

Are you, as, as you reflect on it. And I know your, your best work, I know this about you, that you believe your best work is always in the future. Are you most proud of the work that you did during that time?

Odell Bizzell (39:49):

Absolutely. It, because it caused me in case, you know, this as, as a presenter and some people that are, that are listening to this, um, if you’ve done presentations and different things like that, you kind of get into a rhythm, right. You okay? I know if I’m given a orientation talk, this is the type of, okay. They want a dynamic. They want, okay, this is what they want. Cool. I’ll go give them what they want. This is a leadership conference. Okay. The theme is this I’ll do that. So you kind of get into a rhythm and, and kind of just a rotation of, okay, this speech, that speech, this speech, that speech. Cool. Talk about that. That challenged me to create some stuff that I never, I never even thought of creating before. And you know, now as, um, as we are, you know, working through a lot of different things, working on curriculum to put it in, you know, schools and, and different things like that, because people are gonna use these historical figures and it’s not just Dr.

Odell Bizzell (40:48):

King and Malcolm X, others as well that I’m working on integrating. But it, it challenged me to do the research because a lot of people, um, they’ll, you know, it’s, it is easy to give people great quotes and, and, you know, give ’em some energy and, and high five. But, but you know, this as a researcher as well, having that, that research going through articles, scholarly articles, and, and different things, and finding that information, that one, factoid that one thing that could change the perspective on a framework that you were working on. It, it just challenged you to go to a whole nother level, but it also makes it easier for the audience to understand what you’re saying. And so then when you do that, it makes everything better. And so, yeah, I, I, I believe that to date that that’s easily been the, the best work that I’ve done,

Casey J. Cornelius (41:45):

Shameless plug. If you’re not yet familiar with Odell and his work, please go ahead and check out for college for, um, re show Dell, um, really, really important and impactful work. Um, man, this is, this has been a, this has been a fun interview and I, I sense that we probably could go on, I, listen, I know we could go on for hours cuz we’ve done it before. Um, but let me get you outta here on some, uh, some fun questions. You wanna do that?

Odell Bizzell (42:09):

Yeah. Yeah.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:11):

Okay, cool. Let’s imagine hypothetically speaking that you have an entire day to binge watch anything you want, what do you choose?

Speaker 3 (42:21):


Odell Bizzell (42:25):

I’m gonna say the office, man. <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (42:27):

Never gets old. Does it never gets old? Never

Odell Bizzell (42:29):

Gets old, man. That’s what I’m gonna say. The office.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:32):

Okay. All right. Here’s here’s what actually like I, I think I have a, some guesses, but I’m this is one I, I sense. Maybe you’re gonna surprise me. What is the most used app on your phone?

Odell Bizzell (42:45):

The most used app on my phone is probably,

Casey J. Cornelius (42:54):

It’s probably

Odell Bizzell (42:56):

YouTube. It’s probably YouTube.

Casey J. Cornelius (42:58):

YouTube. Okay. Tell me more. It’s

Odell Bizzell (43:00):

Probably YouTube. Okay. So I, I am a bender of content like entertainment or not. And so I’ve been recently on a kick. I’m thinking about doing a YouTube channel. I don’t know. So I just go to like my favorite YouTube channels for personal development for mm-hmm <affirmative>, um, for skill development and different things like that. And I just, I, I, I binge it. I fall, I fell asleep on an interview last night on YouTube. So mm-hmm <affirmative> it’s I just binge that probably one that’s one. And then number two is, is definitely Instagram.

Casey J. Cornelius (43:43):

Right? Right. That’s the one I would’ve get, see YouTube is a little bit of, that was a surprise for me. I think I like YouTube too. I think one of the things I like most is, uh, once, you know, sometimes we call it the rabbit hole. Like once you find one thing that you enjoy, it starts suggesting more and more the odd thing about YouTube and YouTube. If you’re listening to this is, you know, like if I search something really specific, like how do I fix this, uh, plumbing issue under my sink? I don’t want every issue about plumbing. Like I don’t like, you don’t have to give me like, like 27, like fix this plumbing issue. No, no, no. I’m not trying to become a plumber. I just need the, the, the one fix. But I, I, uh, I’ve gone down some rabbit holes on, on YouTube as well. Okay. Uh here’s here’s a good one. Who would you most like to have dinner with?

Odell Bizzell (44:33):

Li is living there dead?

Casey J. Cornelius (44:35):

It’s completely your call

Odell Bizzell (44:37):

Gotta be my granddad man. Odell Zel. The first never got to meet him, heard some <laugh> some crazy things about him. And I would love for him to clear the record or confirm it

Casey J. Cornelius (44:50):

<laugh> right, right. Because it could, it could be true. The stuff you heard could be true. All right. Cool. Uh, okay. What do you do to wind down? Do you have any like rituals or anything that tells your, your body and brain? Like, okay, now it’s time to relax. What do you do to wind down?

Odell Bizzell (45:08):

I usually at, at this stage, in my life, I stretch

Casey J. Cornelius (45:12):

<laugh>. Mm, okay.

Odell Bizzell (45:14):

I sit on the floor, uh, right next to my bed and I just stretch and I put on some sort of comical, either television show. If, if Sierra is still awake, I’ll put on like some sort of comical television show that she’ll easily fall asleep on. Um, if she’s not awake, if she’s already asleep, uh, then I will put on YouTube video interview or something like that. But that, that tells my body like, okay, we’re, we’re winding down. I’m gonna fall asleep to the, to the, you know, deep base of Earl Nightingale and the strangest secret or something.

Casey J. Cornelius (45:57):

<laugh> right, right. It’s funny that you mentioned, uh, stretching. So a, a mutual friend of ours, Chris Molina talks about stretching all the time. Don’t you wish you had started stretching earlier in life?

Odell Bizzell (46:07):

Oh my gosh. Yes. I was just thinking that, like, why wasn’t I stretching when I was in high school?

Casey J. Cornelius (46:13):

Right, right. We, we were done like, like in coaches and stuff, they would say things like, you know, make sure you stretch. Yeah. Yeah. Whatever. I wish I would’ve listened.

Odell Bizzell (46:22):

Gosh, me too.

Casey J. Cornelius (46:23):

Well, listen, if, if anybody’s listening to this interview, you should start stretching too. All right. Last one. I’m gonna get you outta here on this. How can listeners best connect with you?

Odell Bizzell (46:34):

Best way to connect with me? Um, if you want to go social Instagram, um, actually on TikTok now, um, McKayla runs my TikTok, cause I don’t know what to do with it. <laugh> but I’m, I’m on TikTok and um, yeah, that’s, that’s probably the best way also LinkedIn. Um, I’m trying to get that app use up more. So, uh, LinkedIn, Instagram and ode, BA Brazil. I’m my only ode BA Brazil own there. So we’ll love to connect and, uh, yeah. Love to share.

Casey J. Cornelius (47:05):

Hey, only for continuity’s sake. Um, and, and Kristen Pearson, our creative director always chuckles, when I say this for as, as heavily used as LinkedIn, is, is there a social media platform that has a worst app?

Odell Bizzell (47:20):


Casey J. Cornelius (47:21):

I mean, it is horrible. Wouldn’t do you like it? I,

Odell Bizzell (47:25):

I feel like they, they have to do that on purpose man. Right. I, I feel like they have to do it on purpose to try to get people like on the actual computer.

Casey J. Cornelius (47:35):


Odell Bizzell (47:36):

I feel like they have to cause yes, <laugh>

Casey J. Cornelius (47:40):

It’s that might be, that might be the best answer. I’ve heard they do it to drive you to the computer. So yeah. Yeah. I’m I listen, I’m on a crusade. Someone referenced it. This is, this is an old reference for anybody who’s old enough to remember, you know, I am John Stewart, LinkedIn app is my Arby’s. I, I just have some real issues with, with how it works. Um, but, but we’re all there. We all use it. Speaking of, uh, online and, and where to go and stuff like that. Again, please go to for college for learn more about his programs. If you want information on how to bring him to your campus, to your organization, to a virtual event, uh, be happy to help you. And, uh, I, I just have to say, like I started this, this episode. I always learned something new in these uh Odel and I have known each other for years and years and years, we used to be competitors and now we work together.

Casey J. Cornelius (48:32):

Uh, we’ve been up and down the road together and, uh, and shared a lot of laughs and a lot of, um, you know, a lot of overcoming some, some tough challenges externally. And I still learn things about him in, in this podcast. Uh, I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I hope you do all the things that you’re supposed to do with podcasts, please, like, and shared subscribe and leave a rating if you’ve enjoyed these. Also, if you would like to hear some additional content, um, specific to our speakers, specific to our consultants, maybe bringing some of ’em together, just let us know. We wanna make sure that it’s the best for you. And if for any reason you can’t find this podcast on your favorite platform, let us know, and we’re going to make sure to get it there as well. So ode, thank you so much for joining today. Genuinely appreciate it. And, uh, for everybody who’s listening, thank you so much. And we look forward to the next time until then be well.


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