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T.D. Jakes: This Generation Must Reinvent Themselves, Become Entrepreneurs

 T.D. Jakes on the Oprah Show
T.D. Jakes on the Oprah Show
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T.D. Jakes

CHICAGO — Bishop T.D. Jakes visited DNAinfo Monday to discuss new projects, including a new Lifetime biopic and his latest book.

Jakes pastors The Potter's House, a nondenominational megachurch in Dallas with more than 30,000 members. He's in Chicago promoting MegaFest, which will be held in Dallas next month and feature Chicago speakers.

Jakes also is a filmmaker, producer and actor and author. He’s working on a Lifetime movie about Antoinette Tuff, the woman who saved students at an Atlanta elementary school by confronting a gunman in 2013.

Jakes' latest book will focus on entrepreneurship, he said.

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Jakes also spoke on the importance of black pursuing entrepreneurship, which he called the way around around a system not designed to see people of color succeed.

“It becomes the only way to reinvent yourself,” he said.

Jakes said he's been focusing more on millennials lately because he wants to see them succeed.

“My perspective is that a lot of us took the advice of our parents which was true at the time,” he said. “If you go to school, you get a good education, you’re going to get a good job. Well they went to school, they got a good education and they’re working at Burger King.”

Now it’s about “reinventing” themselves. His church is working on a $25 million youth empowerment wing.

“Instead of waiting for somebody to give you a raise, maybe you need to open another stream of income,” Jakes said.

He understands what it means to work hard he said because he comes from a family of entrepreneurs.

I watched my father start a business with a mop and a bucket and ended up with 52 employees,” Jakes said, adding that he also watched his father suffer from a kidney disease.

“He got sick, and he was still running his business from a kidney machine,” he said. “I grew up tough and hard with adverse circumstances.”

Jakes wasn’t always on the top, he said. In the early days of ministry he would preach to a small group of no more than eight or nine, he said. Starting from the very bottom, he said he had to quickly learn how to make the church a success.

Pastors who are voted into a church receive some sort of salary, Jakes said, but that’s not the case for a pastor who builds from the ground up.

“You’re part preacher, part entrepreneur because that rent is coming,” he said. "I tell people you can’t be like the CEO of Campbell's Soup. He’s the CEO, but he’s not the soup. You have to be the soup and the CEO. You got to jump from the can to the board room.”

Jakes said that “bootstrap mentality” has always been in his family. It’s also what makes him relevant to the African-American community today.

He first started selling his cassette tape sets out of his car with the help of his children.

Life has drastically improved for Jakes and his family. He said he has more than 300 employees working for the ministry. There are for-profit and nonprofit wings of his work. And he’s working on other film opportunities.

“I’m saying to our community, 'It doesn’t matter where you started at, it matters where you finish,'” Jakes said.

Rejection is something that a lot of people are dealing with in the African-American community, Jakes said.

Multiple closed doors in the workplace become harder to deal with over time, especially when one is experiencing a form of rejection at home, he said.

“Most of our kids, unfortunately, see the destruction of their parents' relationship as a rejection of them,” Jakes said, adding that social media’s representation of success hurts more than helps.

The false image of happiness and acquired material things have convinced a lot of young people that if they don’t have that all the time, they’re failing at life, Jakes said.

“They live in a world where every picture is filtered, and you can show people all your successes. And when they confront failures, they don’t know failure is a part of success,” he said. “I’m trying to retrain people to understand that nobody starts at the top.”

Jakes' definition of success is making one’s vision come to fruition.

“Whatever you envision for yourself, you birth that until your vision is standing in front of your eyes instead of behind it; that’s success,” Jakes said. “It’s your job to open up the birth canal of possibilities and to push with all of your might until you see on the outside what you saw on the inside.”

But some people are afraid to start and make excuses, he said.

“A lot of us don’t go after our dream because we don’t have everything we need to get started,” Jakes said. “You have to build an airplane in a bicycle shop. You have to start where you are.”