Author and speaker Stedman Graham said the key to success is organizing your life around what you love.
The Ball State alumnus spoke to an audience of about 100 adults and children at the Horizon Convention Center on Wednesday.
Graham's speech was based off his New York Times bestseller "Teens Can Make It Happen," in which he outlines a nine step plan for success and leadership.
Graham received his master's degree in education from Ball State through correspondence classes when he served overseas in Rammstein, Germany. He said Wednesday's visit was his first time on the Ball State campus.
Often known for being Oprah Winfrey's boyfriend, Graham joked with the audience about its intention for being there.
"That's been the greatest gift for me to be put in a situation where you have pressure on yourself every single day to be something other than what people define you as," Graham said about his relationship. "It allows you to think and the sad thing about our world is that we've never been able to think."
Graham said today's younger generation is programmed and defined based on someone else's definition. He encouraged students to first build a vision, set goals to reach that vision and then make a travel plan to make it happen.
"You need to look in your soul and say 'What do I love to do? What am I passionate about?'" Graham said.
The educational system is currently causing children to lose site of dreams, he said.
"We're programmed to take tests, memorize and then forget," Graham said.
With this method, Graham said, students aren't learning to maximize their full potential. He also said the television and celebrities who give distorted images of what success is are contributing to the loss of dreams and potential.
"We are programmed, but the truth is, you bought in to the message and you believed it," he said.
Graham said that success does not just mean financial or career success, but living a fully-engaged life in which all gifts and talents are developed and put to their highest use.
The first step in Graham's nine-step plan is to "check your ID." Love is the most powerful word in the world, he said and self-awareness and love for yourself is where success begins.
"The value that you give yourself is the value that the world gives you," he said. "If you give yourself no value, then guess what the world gives you."