Mar 092011
Authors: Emily Johnson

Juwon Melvin warns students to beware of the saboteur –– the wolf dressed in self-doubt, limiting beliefs and other sabotaging behaviors that keeps people from taking action.

“You have to raise your self-concept, to conquer the saboteur,” he said. “Self-concept is what we believe about ourselves to be true.”

Melvin, a 2008 CSU graduate in business administration and motivational speaker, gave his talk to an intimate group Wednesday afternoon in the Bohemian Auditorium in the Rockwell Building as part of the Social Justice Workshop Series offered through the College of Business.

He believes that one person can change the world and inspired students and faculty to look within for seeds of change.

Melvin has toured the world helping communities and also works with students on campus develop ideas for social change. He’s learned an important lesson in his life’s work.

“Most of the work in developing a social change programs comes not from the research and the class work,” Melvin said. “It’s more about overcoming their own fears and issues.”

He talked about how having a vision is what can get one out of bed, but taking action to see that vision through is another story.

“We make it more difficult than it has to be,” Melvin said.

Using a story to illustrate his point, Melvin reminded the crowd that a bamboo seed planted won’t show signs of growth for five years, then can grow up to 90 feet in six weeks.

“It’s about taking action steps, planting seeds,” he said. “We may not see immediate outcomes from our actions, but if we don’t get out there and try something, we’ll never see any results at all. If we keep planting seeds, we’ll eventually have a field.”

Melvin hasn’t always been this motivated. As a young boy, he suffered an injustice that resulted in a deep-rooted confusion that followed him to adulthood.

“My father left us when I was 8 years old,” Melvin said. “I haven’t talked to him since.”

He shared that he couldn’t understand how a father could just walk out and never come back.

“I thought it was my fault,” he said.

Melvin lived a troubled childhood and has no idea how he wound up in college, considering his circumstances. Soon after he arrived at CSU, he hooked up with a mentor and his life turned around.

“He said he believed in me,” Melvin said. “I had never really heard that before.”

Three years after graduating, he has published two books, presents motivational seminars all over the country and just started another business –– Life Soap, an organic soap company that donates 90 percent of its after-taxes profits to clean water organizations around the world.

That idea stemmed from a visit to Morocco last summer where Melvin witnessed children walking for miles to find water for their family to drink.

“I came back from there with a vision of all the children in the world having clean water to drink,” he said. “Children shouldn’t die because they don’t have clean water.”

He gave examples of people who win the lottery, wind up bankrupt or someone whose income drops from $50,000 to $30,000 and scrambles to find another job to replace the lost income.

“That guy believes himself to be a $50,000-a-year guy. The lotto winner believes himself to be broke for life,” Melvin said. “Whatever you think your self concept is, it is.”

Felicia Zamora, academic adviser in the College of Business, advised Melvin as a student but finds the tables have turned.

“Juwon is an exemplary model of what can be done in life,” Zamora said. “His remarkable inspiration makes me think about what I could be doing with my life.”

One lesson Zamora has learned from Melvin is choosing relationships.

“I have the choice to spend my time with whomever I want,” she said. “And that says a lot about who I am. I really take that into consideration.”

Melvin showed part of a “60-Minutes” episode that explained how Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian fruit vendor who lit himself on fire to protest police harassment, started the recent Tunisian revolution.

“While I do not recommend lighting yourselves on fire,” Melvin said. “This situation illustrates that one person can change the world. It takes a lifetime of effort.”

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at

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