Determined to Win

Sam Collier’s constant pursuit of helping others reach their greatest potential

written by LINLEY MOBLEY | photos courtesy of SAM COLLIER

“My twin sister and I were born into poverty, drugs and addiction. My mother was 21 when she had us, and she had three kids already. She knew there was no way she’d be able to take care of five kids, so she was faced with the decision of whether or not to raise us in poverty or give us up so we could hopefully have a better life.”

So begins the story of Sam Collier.

The Twins Find A Home

Collier and his twin sister, Sara, were born in Atlanta and given up at birth. Only two months later, Lamar and Belinda Collier went to the adoption agency, walked over to Sam and Sara’s crib, and said, “They’re the ones we want. We want the twins.”

A woman working at the agency heard the Colliers, and told them, “Those babies came from addiction and poverty; they’ll more than likely be mentally challenged. You don’t want them.”

But that didn’t deter the Colliers; they still felt drawn to Sam and Sara, and brought the twins home the week of Christmas in 1988.

Collier and his twin sister were raised in downtown Decatur by loving parents who taught them to be selfless, generous, kind and accepting of everyone no matter what. 

“Our dad would often bring homeless people to the house just to take care of them and give them a good meal,” Collier said. “That’s the kind of guy he is, but I also think he wanted to expose us to poverty so that we would learn to be kind to people and always be appreciative of what we had in life.”

The twins were blessed with many gifts — Sara excelled in academics and went on to attend Spelman College and Georgia Tech and is now an industrial engineer in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, Collier has always been blessed with the gift of music and communication. Starting from a young age, he could play almost any instrument and developed an interest in soulful R&B and Gospel tunes. 

Collier had record deals by the time he was in 10th grade and began touring the world to share his music before becoming a top 20 Gospel Billboard producer. He’s also worked as a radio host of the nationally syndicated “Sam Collier Show” as well as a communicator throughout local churches of metro Atlanta, including the many campuses of Andy Stanley’s North Point Ministries.

If You Can Lose, You Can Win

In 2010, Collier was touring with his self-titled band when he hit a speed bump.

“I was traveling all over, and I could never get a break,” Collier said. “God wasn’t making any sense to me at the time, and I felt like the world was crashing in on me.”

Collier experienced an especially dark night during this time.

“It was the first and only time I ever asked myself why I was alive,” he said. “I started praying, and I told God, ’I just feel like I’m losing at life.’ And God said to me, ‘If you can lose, you can win.’”

That one night of prayer changed Collier’s entire outlook on life. He had always pursued others’ ideas of what it meant to win, so he struck out on a search of what that meant to him personally. 

“My dad always taught us to never be defined by your circumstances, but to use your mind to deliver you into a better life,” Collier said. “When you change your mind, you change your life.”

Using his dad’s wisdom, Collier began to change his outlook on life. He learned about the 80:20 trap — the idea that most people do what they’re great at only about 20 percent of the time and do what they think they’re great at the other 80 percent of the time. This pushed him to seek out people who would be truthful with him and help him discover what his 20 percent was.

“After talking to my close friends, family and mentors, one of the things that consistently came up is that I really had a way of inspiring people with my words,” Collier said. “Once I heard that over and over, I ran after it and doors started opening up for me like crazy.”

Word by Word, Letter by Letter

Collier came up with five words that pushed him to live each day as his best self — think, act, focus, help and win.

“Once I was able to define for myself what it meant to win, I felt a huge pull to spread that knowledge to others and make a difference,” Collier said.

Collier knew there were people all over the world who were hitting the same spot he’d just come from, and he wanted to do everything he could to help. In 2011, he turned his five words into a five-step process, and created a nonprofit called No Losing. From there, he began to reach out to schools, groups and organizations to start mentorship programs to help those who were defining themselves by their circumstances.

“One of No Losing’s main projects is the ‘No C Campaign,’ which is a mentorship program for middle-school and high-school students,” Collier said. “Since we’ve started that, we’ve reached more than 80,000 kids in the Atlanta area and have seen a 50 percent increase in academic achievement in those schools.”

Thanks to partners ranging from Dave & Busters to Microsoft, the “No C Campaign” focuses on helping kids persevere through their circumstances and excel at life by raising their grades above the C level. Collier and his team of volunteers go to schools like Martin Luther King Middle School, Forest Park Middle School, Miller Grove Middle School and Cedartown Middle School each month to encourage, tutor and mentor the kids for an hour. They also consult with the teachers and talk through ways they can continue encouraging and motivating the students throughout the year. At the end of the school year, the students who have raised their grades and maintained A’s and B’s get to take part in a huge celebration full of giveaways, games, music and food.

“One time we had a student who had a 46 in a class,” Collier said. “By the end of the school year, he’d brought his grade all the way up to an 81. It really shows that when you offer kids encouragement, motivation and reward, they’ll break down any wall to get where they want to be.”

Collier and his team have worked to package the “No C Campaign” so it’s now easy to start within your own school, church group or organization. Along the way, he has gained support from an impressive board of directors comprised of influential names like Angela Watkins, a professor of psychology at Spelman University and the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

A Greater Story

In 2014, a couple of years after founding No Losing, a new chapter in Collier’s story unfolded.

“Our dad came to us one day and said, ‘It’s time you found your birth parents.’ Most of the time when someone says that, it’s meant to offer closure, but what’s really funny is that he just didn’t want us to grow up and marry our cousins,” Collier said with a laugh.

Collier’s sister wrote to the “Steve Harvey” show to see if the show’s staff could offer any help in the search for their biological family. Almost a year later, the show reached back out to Collier and Sara with plans to fly them out to the show.

Once Collier and his sister arrived at the studio, the staff of the “Steve Harvey” show told them they weren’t able to find their biological family, but they wanted them to still appear on the show to make a plea for anyone to contact them.

“It turns out they lied to us — we were on the show and they brought our mom out, and then they ended up bringing out our biological siblings as well,” he said. “At that time, I felt so many emotions and didn’t know which one to choose, so I just sat there. Should I be mad? Should I be happy? I didn’t know how to be in that moment.”

Despite his initial shock, Collier was able to talk with his biological family after the show and make some lasting connections. 

“My story has definitely been that of transformation and redemption,” he said. “Meeting my biological family really gave me a perspective on life that I didn’t have before. It allowed me to see how much God really did save [us] from tough circumstances. I’m more passionate and determined now to solve problems and leverage my gifts to help people and ensure that every day counts.”

After repeatedly sharing his story with different groups and organizations, Collier had the vision to create another campaign called “A Greater Story,” based around the idea that when your story connects with God’s story, it leads to a greater one. Through this initiative, Collier has launched a podcast by the same name that focuses on overcoming circumstances and allowing your plans to connect with God’s plans. His podcast currently reaches 45 cities and more than 600,000 listeners across the country. 

The wordsmith is also planning to release a book in 2018 that is based on his story and the lessons he’s learned throughout his life — so far, that is, because Collier’s inspiring story isn’t over yet.