A few months ago, Nyeeam (NYE-eem) Hudson, at the time ten years old, was playing in a park in New Jersey when another child started to relentlessly tease him about the outdated sneakers he was wearing.
Now, encounters like these are a part of childhood–everyone has experienced some version of it. But the difference is in people’s reactions.
Nyeeam’s was particularly ingenuous.
Unashamed, he calmly let the other child know that “These sneakers aren’t even going to fit 20 years from now,” pointing out that what really matters is “inside your mind: your wisdom, your knowledge, your power to inspire others.”
In a now-gone-viral cell phone video he recorded after the incident, Nyeeam pleads with parents not to raise their children to be materialistic because “Once they don’t have Jordan’s or the cool clothes on, they’re going to feel like they’re not important.”
Let’s take a moment here.
Does it not take some restraint not to leap to your feet and holler, “Preach!”?
“He’s his own thing. I just respect that,” says his dad, a single father who went from one foster home to another growing up as a fatherless child. Nyeeam explains that his dad vowed to one day be a different kind of father to his own son.
Not surprisingly, the young guy—who is homeschooled by his dad—has carved out a side gig as a motivational speaker via videos he posts on Instagram (where he goes by the moniker King Nahh), delivering advice with the simplicity of a child but the wisdom of a sage.
Undeterred by the prospect of encountering bullying on social media—the “haters” who might respond to him with ugliness, he says “You can’t expect to complete your dreams and do these different things without having the hate and people saying ‘you suck.’ What’s the point of getting upset and angry? You don’t say ‘you suck too.’ If you become ignorant like that person, you’re just like them. You can’t try to prove a point and do the same thing that person is doing. You gotta conduct yourself different.”
Intrigued by the insights of a kid who hasn’t yet entered middle school, I ask Nyeeam how people can achieve “greatness”—using a term that is a staple in his vocabulary.
“Make sure you’re working on yourself every day,” he replies without hesitation. He illustrates his point with a Lego example. When you’re building with them, he says, “You don’t see a masterpiece take shape until you add all the pieces. Greatness works the same way. Confidence is a piece, dedication is a piece, commitment is a piece. You’re going to need a little bit of everything on your journey to greatness.” People might not believe in you, he points out. Even so, “Never get discouraged. Just keep building yourself every day.”
He urges people to be fearless, and accept that they won’t always win. “A lot of people don’t succeed because they’re afraid to fail.” He wishes they understood that “All these failures are going to get you closer to your success. You have to lose some to win some.” That perspective on winning and losing might be of interest to a lot of adults determined not to be seen as on the wrong side of success.
Nyeeam also explains that it’s important to learn not only from those who have succeeded but those who have failed.
“Think about three people,” he says. “The first person is walking on his journey and falls in a hole he doesn’t see. The second person sees the hole and walks around it. The third person is you”—and you get to learn from both the successful person and the one who failed.
For someone sitting at their desk at school or work feeling discouraged about some aspect of their life, his advice is:
First, always remember to enjoy your life.“Don’t get so wrapped up in things.” To be happy, he says, “Appreciate and value every moment you have.” When troubles come along, remember that “Problems only mean you’re alive, so find a way to smile no matter what.”
Secondly, appreciate your accomplishments.He points out that many people focus too much on what they haven’t done instead of what they have achieved. “There’s someone in the world praying to be where you are right now. And the level you’re willing to quit at? That’s the level they’re wishing for.”
And finally, help other people. The obvious advice is to stay on the lookout for opportunities, but Nyeeam sees it differently. “Sometimes we’re so focused on accomplishing our dreams that we forget about the people around us,” he says, but “You have to give opportunities the same way you want opportunities to come to you. If all the people in the world just focused on what they wanted to do, there would be no one out here to help the next great person following their dreams.” The person you lend a hand to might lend you a hand tomorrow, he notes. “Opportunities are not yours to keep, so make sure you give them away.”
His dad’s perseverance through formidable obstacles in childhood may have planted a seed in his son, but this young boy is taking things to a level many adults wouldn’t imagine for themselves.
Nyeeam’s current project is a book he’s trying to self-publish by raising funds on acrowdfunding site—a book aimed at empowering children. His compassion is clearly a driving force. “In my community, there’s a lot of young men without fathers who are not motivated to follow their dreams. I see young men looking down—they give up on everything.” They may feel hopeless, but Nyeeam sees them as having a foundation for success and a need for motivation his book can provide. “I want them to have the structure and inspiration so they can do what they want. They can be great. I want them to learn that once you work for it, and dedicate yourself to it, everything will change sooner or later.”
Bolstered by the incident in the park gaining widespread attention, Nyeeam says, “When I encounter people with negative energy, I think my work is not done. So I make another video or give another speech so I can motivate that person.”
His ultimate dream? To speak to a stadium full of people some day. “That would really be amazing. I can already see it in my head. I know it’s going to happen!”
While Nyeeam will probably achieve this, I doubt fame will change him. This 11-year-old believes in keeping it low-key. “Always stay humble,” he says. “Once you become arrogant, you become ignorant and won’t care about anyone else.” He pauses, as if for a moment contemplating this alternate scenario.
Then he shrugs, “Nahhh.”
Schooled on life by a kid.