John Hope Bryant remembers the moment things began to fall into place.

He was 9 years old, living with his family in Compton, California, and had already experienced enough tragedy and loss to last a lifetime, including the murders of two friends.

One day, a banker visited his elementary school class to discuss the importance of financial literacy, Bryant tells Quad Chief Marketing Officer Josh Golden in the latest episode of Quad’s Building Blocks, a video interview series with leaders in business and marketing.

Fascinated, Bryant asked some pointed questions and heard the word that changed his trajectory: entrepreneur. The seed was planted. Within a year, he’d started a candy-selling business.

Since then, Bryant has launched more than 40 other organizations, entities and companies, including the one he believes has the potential to change everything: Operation HOPE, which champions financial literacy, inclusion and economic empowerment among youths and adults across the United States.

Founded six days after the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles in 1992, Operation HOPE is a “radical movement of common sense” geared toward “unleashing untapped human potential at scale,” Bryant tells Golden.

Through his work as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Bryant has advised three U.S. presidents as well as countless senior corporate executives. He is credited with helping the U.S. Treasury design the pandemic-era Paycheck Protection Program; after 9/11, he and Operation HOPE worked with the Bush Administration to develop a new federal policy framework for emergency financial disaster preparedness, response and recovery work.

In his appearance on Building Blocks, Bryant discusses his origin story, why he sees financial literacy as the “civil rights issue of the 21st century,” the powerful economic rationale for inclusion and diversity — and his advice for young people (to “ignore the noise”).

In addition to serving as Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE, Bryant is also Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Bryant Group Ventures and The Promise Homes Company, the largest for-profit, minority-controlled owner of institutional-quality, single-family residential rental homes in the United States.

On the power of financial freedom

“I like math — it doesn’t have an opinion! This is demographics or destiny. And this is GDP. This is economic opportunity. This is the memo most people miss. And this is something you can control. Financial freedom just might be the only freedom that you control, that no one can take away from you.” 

On diversity & inclusion

The most profitable to be very clear, economically profitable companies in America, the largest economy in the world, are the most diverse and inclusive. The most profitable and wealthiest regions of America are the most diverse and inclusive. The math speaks for itself. 

On human nature

“A baby is born of love. We learn evil. We learn hate. We learn insecurity. We learn fear. It takes a few muscles to smile and a lot of muscles to frown. It takes up energy to be a miserable person. I can’t guarantee you that being positive is going to make you a success, but I absolutely guarantee you that being negative will make you fail.”

On his advice for young people

“Be reasonably comfortable in your own skin and ignore the noise. Most people around you and most things around you is just noise…there’s nobody in the world, eight billion people, like you. Stop being somebody else and be yourself.”

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