Building a Legacy with Michael Oher

Audio Description

Should you ever separate passion from purpose? Michael Oher, Superbowl champion and famed subject of “The Blind Side,” doesn’t think so.


This transcript has been generated by an A.I. tool. Please excuse any typos.

Stacie Jacobsen: [00:00:00] Thanks so much for joining us today on The Pulse, where we bring you insights on the economy, global markets, and all the [00:00:15] complexities of wealth management.

I'm your host, Stacie Jacobsen. This week we're introducing the big stage segment. Where senior managing director and co-lead of sports and entertainment, Adam Sansiveri interviews, athletes and entertainers about their legacy and impact.[00:00:30]

He'll sit down with a special guest. But first, let's take a pulse on the market. Yet recent headlines have prompted more investors to ask, is the dollar poised to lose its dominant position as the world's reserve currency?

We think we'll see more diversification into other [00:00:45] currencies over time, but the bottom line is that there just isn't a good single substitute for the greenback.

The dollars. Liquidity. Stability, and the US's deep capital markets. Continue to give the dollar a leg up. Now on [00:01:00] today's guest, NFL Champion Michael Oher.

Michael is a first round draft pick who spent eight seasons in the NFL, winning a Super Bowl title with the Baltimore Ravens and playing for the Tennessee Titans and Carolina Panthers.

However, a severe concussion in [00:01:15] 2016 took Michael permanently outta the game. But today through the Oher Foundation, he wholly dedicates his life to providing access and opportunity for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth.

Now, Michael's own childhood was spent overcoming the effects of [00:01:30] extreme poverty and homelessness.

It's a subject of a movie that you may have heard of the 2009 Oscar-winning film, the Blindside. You'll soon hear that Building a legacy and making a lasting impact has always been Michael's North Star.

He explains why the more [00:01:45] he gets, the more he gives and how through his foundation, he tries to help disenfranchised kids know that they too have the potential for success.

Michael also has us ponder the merits of the pillow test. We look forward to his newest book coming out this August when Your Back's Against the [00:02:00] Wall, which he describes as a playbook on life.

And after the conversation between Adam and Michael, stay tuned for my follow-up discussion about Legacy Building and philanthropy with Jen Ostberg, director of Personal Philanthropy Services here at Bernstein.

And wait, what is [00:02:15] the pillow test? I did ask myself that question, but I promise we'll find out when we come back right after the short break.

James Thompson: Hi, I'm James Seth Thompson. And I'm Macy Philitas. We are the hosts of Changing the Trajectory, [00:02:30] a podcast that engages people of color and wealth creators to change the course of their wealth impact and influence. Make sure to catch our recent episode with NASA engineer Gregory Robinson. He discusses the marvel of our universe overseeing the James Web Space Telescope [00:02:45] Program and the importance of representation.

Michael Oher: Listen to changing the trajectory on your favorite podcast platform.

Stacie Jacobsen: Welcome back to the Pulse. Here's Adam Sansiveri in front of a live audience interviewing former N F L Player and [00:03:00] Founder of the Oher Foundation, Michael Oher.

Adam Sansiveri: We are so thrilled that you are here. Mike, thanks for joining us on the big stage. Thanks for having me.

So let's start right from the beginning. You're from Memphis, Tennessee, [00:03:15] not too far from where we're sitting right now.

You're the sixth of 12 kids. You grew up in extreme poverty in an environment where people in your community struggled with drug addiction and incarceration As a child, were you [00:03:30] able to envision a life outside of those circumstances?

Michael Oher: Well, thank you guys for having me here. It's a pleasure. You know, my first memory is being homeless at three years old.

And from three years old to probably about 11 [00:03:45] years old, I was in a foster care shelters, you know, homelessness and just on the streets doing it. You know, I can remember for one, for a full year and a half that I, I didn't go to school at all.

I was just on the streets and, [00:04:00] uh, just trying to survive. So when I look back, you know, going through the things that I went through at that early age, thinking about where I am today.

And talking to so many kids around the country, not many kids took the [00:04:15] path that I took to get to where I am. That's why I believe in God.

I believe in a higher power. I think the only thing that I could do was try to survive and just try to stay alive and just trying to, you know, keep going and [00:04:30] maintain and, you know, starting this journey when I was.

You know, about 12 years old and from the time I was third grade, no one has ever had to tell me to get up or go to school.

I've always did it on my own from third grade up until now. That's why, you know, [00:04:45] I do what I do for kids, you know, doesn't have those resources and the opportunities.

Adam Sansiveri: Well, we're definitely gonna get into that, but the arc of your story is so remarkable, and I'm curious to continue this theme.

When did you start dreaming of playing in the N F [00:05:00] L?

And did you see that as your winning ticket out?

Michael Oher: The first thought of, uh, professional sports came when I was about seven years old.

It was, uh, watching Michael Jordan and the Phoenix Suns playing in the finals, and [00:05:15] everyone was around the TV and everybody was, uh, you know, they were, I'm like, you know, cheering, you know, Michael Jordan, this and that.

Just enjoying, and that was my first memory. I think the first thought when I really got on the journey, like I said, when I started to think. [00:05:30] About my future when I was about to turn 13 years old.

But once you turn 18, you don't get, uh, government assistance anymore. So a lot of the kids, you're grown, uh, and you start to get thrown outta your homes.

People [00:05:45] you know, they're turned off from you because they're looking at you as a grown man at 18 years old.

And I kinda, I understood how fast time was gonna fly for me, so I started to change my life right there in sports. I was a bigger kid. [00:06:00] Growing up in the neighborhood, you play everything. So I could, basketball, it just baseball, football, everything.

So 13 was when I decided that I was gonna be either an NBA player or football player. You know, I was smart enough to say I didn't have the body [00:06:15] type for a NBA guy.

So being, you know, over 300 something pounds can't jump like these guys. So, Uh, I went to plan B, Football, you know, that's when the thought of being a professional athlete first came into my head [00:06:30] and, you know, I, I had to do something.

Adam Sansiveri: Well, that determination and drive and resilience is clearly a part of what's made you so successful in so many areas of your life.

Can you share maybe one of the biggest lessons you've learned [00:06:45] about determination and resilience?

Michael Oher: You know, the biggest thing for me, it was the not knowing.

It was the doing everything right every single day and, and not knowing that what I was doing was the right thing when [00:07:00] everybody around me was doing the total polar opposite.

Uh, you know, that's drugs, everything else. And I'm going to school every day. I'm getting up on my own and, you know, I'm going through this process of doing something that I don't even know [00:07:15] is right.

I didn't see anyone that had jobs that. We're doing positive things. It was plenty of days where, you know, I wanted to give up, you know, I wasn't as motivated, but the most important thing, the determination for me was, uh, just staying consistent.

I [00:07:30] was gonna be the first one to school. I was gonna be the first one to practice every day because I knew if I was doing the right thing every single day, once I hit those landmark ages where when I turned 18 to get ready to go to college, or when I got to where I [00:07:45] am right now.

I was going to be fine because I was going to, you know, stay consistent every single day and just doing the right thing.

And I put that in my mind early on that hey, if you do right doing what's right, you're gonna be where you need to be.

Adam Sansiveri: What a great [00:08:00] message. And so clearly tied to overcoming adversity by staying consistent and doing what needs to be done.

That grind that you talk about. And in 2016, you did face some adversity.

You suffered a [00:08:15] very severe concussion, you retired from football, and I'm curious to know how much thought first went in before you retired on what you were gonna do next, but how did you exactly hone in on what you wanted to do next?

Michael Oher: My thought [00:08:30] process behind this whole thing is, like I said earlier, that my mindset.

Starting this journey was to be where I am right now was after football. I was working hard.

I was beating everybody in the facilities on the [00:08:45] fields, and because I wanted to be comfortable, I. After I was done with sports and my whole dream was to not do anything afterwards, I'd been, you know, working, just struggling my entire [00:09:00] life back against the wall.

But I was gonna save, I was gonna, you know, just be smart about everything, you know, unfortunately, you know, I had gotten injured, got a concussion, and, uh, never recovered from that.

Took me a couple years, but the thing I thought about [00:09:15] was, When I kind of decided I'm done, I'm gonna just walk away from it.

You know, a lot of people know me, the blind side, who I am.

I was always bigger than that, what you've seen on the screen. I always prided myself [00:09:30] on being smarter than the next person or going to school.

I really didn't like the legacy that I felt would be painted of me. I wanted a bigger legacy, and that legacy for me was still chasing greatness, but inspiring the next [00:09:45] generation.

You know, that's what, that's what greatness is for me. I felt that that's what I wanted my legacy to be is inspiring those young kids who aren't gonna go into the entertainment or being a sports athlete. I. [00:10:00]

And being something greater And the game that I'm playing now is, uh, I feel that it's 10 times the game that I played, you know, on a field.

Adam Sansiveri: Well, I loved what you just said cuz it's not something you hear often that [00:10:15] someone who aspires to play professional sports.

When they think about their dream, they're actually thinking past to that time period of what they want their life to be. And you mentioned it, I want to go right there, which is about the foundation.

Your [00:10:30] mission is to show those from similar backgrounds that no matter how dire the circumstances, there can be a bright future ahead.

So how exactly will your foundation or foundation seek to help disenfranchise kids?

Michael Oher: Tell us about it. When I got out [00:10:45] to the school that I graduated from, Briarcrest Christian school in Memphis, Tennessee, it was a holistic approach for me.

I was provided mentors, you know, we go take trips out of town. We do so many other things that I had never seen before.

You [00:11:00] know, I had people that was helping me with clothing, uh, everything. So eighth grade year, I wore the same white t-shirt every single day.

I got up, washed it, and the thing I, I felt that, I still think that it was a smart thing for me [00:11:15] because, you know, kids make fun of you.

So in order for me not to, you know, we were making fun of each other, but in order for me to not be made fun of about my clothing, I wore a white, a white t-shirt every day.

They didn't know I was wearing the same [00:11:30] shirt every day. You know, it was nothing on it, no design. So, When I was finally started to have two or three different pair of shoes I can pick from in the morning before school or different clothing, it started to give me the [00:11:45] confidence that I needed to be successful in the classroom.

Going to school with confidence and you know, feeling that I belonged around.

All these, these young people who were, you know, had all the resources and opportunities. So, uh, we're doing the [00:12:00] mentorships, clothing, everything that you need, transportation and providing the, you know, the education piece, putting them in schools, we're there to get a, you know, get a great education.

So it's the holistic approach, providing 'em with, uh, scholarship funds. Everything that I [00:12:15] saw changed my life. And gave me the confidence and the, the opportunity to go out and be great.

So, uh, that's what we're doing.

Adam Sansiveri: That’s great. What takeaways can you offer specifically for business leaders seeking to be impactful [00:12:30] in the work that they do?

You've found such a good balance of what you've built and the way that you're given back.

Michael Oher: The more you get, the more you give. You know, we're only as good as the people you know at the very bottom or.

The weak link on the team as they say. I [00:12:45] mean, I've been called the weak link, but on the team. But I, that must have been a good team.

Hey, that's what I was about to say. Hey, I guarantee you I'll destroy your weak on, so we're gonna win some games.

But, uh, you know, that's success and that's, uh, that's what [00:13:00] we all should be doing is, you know, hey, give and. Give back.

Adam Sansiveri: Awesome. I'm trying to dig deeper into, you know, understanding some, some sides of you that maybe other people haven't heard in your other interviews and stuff.

Um, and I wanna know if there's one thing [00:13:15] today that stands out to you that makes you the most proud.

Michael Oher: That's a tough question. Like I said, I'm proud of the family that I've created, the person that I've become coming from where I, where I came from, I wasn't.

A statistic or a [00:13:30] product of my environment, just being that person who can go out and.

Have a successful foundation or be a successful person off the field or off the courts and just shit so much more.

That's when I lay [00:13:45] my head down on my pillow. You know, I like to, you know, have a pillow test when I think of things in life, the pillow test, that's the true success teller right there.

You know, when you can lay your head down every single night and be able to sleep well, [00:14:00] you know, that's how you know you're doing something right and.

Like I said, chasing greatness and inspiring this next generation. That's what I'm doing every single day. That's the legacy that I want to live and leave.

Adam Sansiveri: That's great. Well, it's such a juxtaposition [00:14:15] of the story we started with to where we are today and the, the lessons you've learned and accomplished on your own and with help from others in your life are just so inspiring.

The, it's so powerful to hear and the way you're giving back now is just so incredible.

So [00:14:30] if someone wanted to know more about you and your story, the real Michael Lore, what would you tell them?

Michael Oher: You know? Oh, no, I always, um,

Adam Sansiveri: Well, and I'm thinking particular about something you and I talked about before, which is coming [00:14:45] this summer.

Oh. Uh,

Michael Oher: when you're backs against the wall. My new book Yes. Coming out August. Yes. Yeah.

This is, this is how humbling it is. Yeah. I totally forgot about it. I got caught up in the moment. But, uh, when you're backs against the wall, it'll be out August 8th, fifth. [00:15:00]

A continuation of where I left off last time from my book.

I Beat The Odds. It's going through the things we talked about a few of 'em today, but it's basically a playbook on life.

Talk about mental health, depression, just overcoming the obstacles, and it's an [00:15:15] entire playbook on how I got through these things and having a great circle. Looking yourself in the mirror, healing yourself first.

You can't help anyone else until you heal yourself first. So I, I think that's the most important thing and the reason why I'm [00:15:30] sitting right here today, healing yourself first.

And now I can go back and give, I, now I can go back and help others and, uh, continue to lay out a great message and continue to help people.

Adam Sansiveri: That's great. Well, looking forward to reading that book. So we always love to ask our guests [00:15:45] this one question, what is the best piece of financial advice that you've ever received?

Michael Oher: For me, it was to save. I think it helped me lay the foundation, what I have right now that I think. It has set me up for where I [00:16:00] am right now to be even more successful.

And that's what I tell a lot of athletes, you know, right now.

Because you have to learn. You have to learn where you're going, and you have to learn through time and through going through trials. So, For me in the beginning. Save. [00:16:15]

Adam Sansiveri: Mike, I can't thank you enough. It's always great spending time with you.

Thanks for joining us today.

Michael Oher: Thank you guys. I really appreciate you guys having me.

Stacie Jacobsen: That was Adam San interviewing Michael Oher, former NFL [00:16:30] Player, and now founder of the Oher Foundation to talk more about legacy building and aligning your values with your philanthropic purpose.

I'm here with Jen Ostberg, director of Personal Philanthropy Services. Jen, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jen Ostberg: Thank you for having me, Stacy.

Stacie Jacobsen: Now, the way that [00:16:45] Michael has chosen to create a foundation, uh, specifically dedicated to providing these opportunities to underserved kids, it's really inspiring and obviously a very personal decision for him.

Where do you advise that somebody begins their journey? Right?

When they wanna hone in [00:17:00] on what are the philanthropic aspirations, if they're really just starting from scratch?

Jen Ostberg: Yeah, I think that's a, a great question and you know, as we saw from Michael, who really, his foundation is rooted in his own personal experiences [00:17:15] as you know, a kid growing up, and that's really just part of who he is and what his legacy is.

For someone who's starting out with philanthropy, I think a great place to start is from within, right?

Like you said, it's very personal. It involves very personal choices and means a little [00:17:30] bit different meaning to each person.

Ask yourself. What are some of the things that I'm most passionate about?

What time do I have, right? How can I think about giving my own personal time? How much am I willing to dedicate? What do I want my legacy to look like?

Do I want my [00:17:45] family to be involved? And, and if so, how much?

And so just leading the groundwork for some of those more fundamental questions, you then can start to think more about, well, what causes am I passionate about?

Which communities, local or, you know, [00:18:00] beyond? Maybe it's from a, a global perspective, do you wanna give back?

And so just really starting from within and asking yourself, um, what you care about and what your priorities are.

Stacie Jacobsen: Yeah, I'd love that to actually sit down and put a plan together for philanthropy.

[00:18:15] And what is it that's gonna motivate you to continue going?

I've said in the opening the, Oher foundation, I use that word foundation, but there's a lot of different ways to give.

So for a baseline, can you really help us understand the difference between a donor advised fund or DAF and a [00:18:30] foundation?

Jen Ostberg: Yes. So those two vehicles are, I would say, probably the most widely used when someone is looking to really start a structured approach to philanthropy.

So let's start with a donor advice fund or a daf. So a DAF is [00:18:45] really considered to be a very low cost and flexible approach to giving. Think of it as like your own giving checkbook.

You can make a gift into the donor advice fund, and then from that point you are able to grant out money to various charities [00:19:00] whenever you wish.

One of the drawbacks of a donor advice fund is that you have less control with this vehicle versus a private, non-op operating foundation, for example. And what that means is that when you make a gift to a donor advised fund, the DA. Is [00:19:15] a public charity, so you are giving up control of those assets when you make the gift into the donor advised fund.

And as the name implies, donor advised Fund, you are the advisor and so you advise and recommend grants from the fund. [00:19:30]

The administrator of, of the donor advised fund will do the due diligence to make sure that the grant is being made to a qualified 501 charitable organization.

And so that's just one of the reasons why some people prefer a private foundation versus a daf [00:19:45] because you do have more control with where you grant the money to.

Stacie Jacobsen: And what about anonymity?

Jen Ostberg: That's also an important factor to consider. So with a private non-operating foundation, you cannot remain anonymous.

You have to disclose the granty [00:20:00] organizations that you are donating assets to. And with the donor advice fund, you can remain anonymous, which is a nice benefit for some donors.

Stacie Jacobsen: You know, I used to get the question a lot about is there a minimum that you would recommend for a foundation versus a [00:20:15] donor advised fund?

And more and more we're seeing really, really big donor advised funds. Is there a certain amount that you would recommend somebody go one direction or another? I.

Jen Ostberg: No, I think that with a donor advised fund, like you mentioned, we you can have a smaller donation [00:20:30] very easily.

Again, it's a low cost flexible vehicle with the private foundation. However, you do wanna structure that, I would say with at least a couple of hundred thousand dollars to start because there are costs involved, uh, including legal costs, accounting costs.

You have to file [00:20:45] what's called the tax form nine 90 every year.

And so just make sure that you're aware of those. Certain costs, which may again enable you to, um, think about giving a a larger donation

Stacie Jacobsen: once a potential founder knows what they do want to accomplish. What [00:21:00] advice do you give to map out this strategic plan?

Jen Ostberg: Yeah, so once philanthropic priorities are established, then it makes sense to move on and really create that roadmap to help you fulfill your philanthropic goals.

We wanna make sure that first and foremost, [00:21:15] that's aligned with your overall wealth plans.

How does that fit in with your wealth transfer, your own personal spending needs. And so we really start with calculating what your financial capacity is to make gifts, especially if you're looking to [00:21:30] establish something like a foundation.

And then from there we can talk about, you know, which assets on your balance sheet make most sense to give away from an efficiency standpoint as it relates to taxes, what vehicle and the investments.

That's gonna be [00:21:45] allocated to that structure.

Stacie Jacobsen: We here have been talking about foundation versus a donor advised fund, but there's a whole expansive world of ways that you can give.

So it's certainly not limited to just those two. All right. Jen, you mentioned the word tax, and I have to ask you about that one.

Um, [00:22:00] what are some of the benefits that donors do receive and how does that really reduce the effective cost of the gift?

Jen Ostberg: Yes. So in exchange for making a gift to charity, you are potentially able to get a charitable income tax [00:22:15] deduction, and that is dependent on a number of factors that's dependent on the type of asset asset that you give away.

We see many donors give away cash, right? It's easy. It is a, a flexible method of giving, either from a checkbook or a credit card.

But if you were to look onto your [00:22:30] personal balance sheet and actually find an asset that is highly appreciated, let's just say, for example, a publicly traded stock that you might have in your portfolio, you can make that donation to, let's just say a DAF or a foundation or even outright and.

You get a charitable [00:22:45] income tax deduction in exchange.

Now there's some caveats to that that I'm not gonna go into, but the point being is that there are tax savings that come, um, when you do make a charitable gift that you should be aware of

Stacie Jacobsen: Yeah. And importantly, the charity gets the same amount of [00:23:00] money no matter what.

It really just is the effect of cost of that gift to you. There are some complications, so yes, certainly reach out to your financial advisor for details on that one, but make sure that you do look to your portfolio if you're going to make a sizable gift, because there may be some, uh, hidden [00:23:15] benefits there.

Thanks Jen for joining us today.

Jen Ostberg: Thank you so much for having me.

Stacie Jacobsen: Thanks everyone for tuning in. Check out our show notes where you'll find a link to the extended interview with senior managing director Adam Sansiveri and NFL Champion Michael Oher.

You'll hear from us again in two [00:23:30] weeks when we'll talk about how to put together an effective wealth plan to meet your family's unique goals.

You won't wanna miss it. Don't forget to subscribe to the Pulse by Bernstein wherever you get your podcast. To ensure you never miss a beat. I'm your host, Stacie Jacobson, wishing you a great rest of the [00:23:45] week.

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