Lee Johnson has truly exceeded all expectations. His journey started through a life-altering experience where an accident changed the lives of his parents and two siblings. This would set Johnson on a path of pain, disappointment and eventually, affluence. Johnson released his first book, “Before I Expire” at the top of 2019 which became an instant best-seller and earned him a book deal with 13th and Joan publishing for his second book. He also started a successful business titled “Corleone Ventures” where he speaks and manages ghostwriters.
On his early tragedies in life and the inspiration behind his book, Before I Expire:
Before anything, I want people to know that I love my parents. I love my family. Regardless of how we operate, I love them more than anybody would ever know.
I grew up in the Metro Detroit area. My mom used drugs and my dad used and sold drugs. When I was 3, I was in an accident as a child where we were hit by an 18-wheeler truck. In that accident, both my sisters (ages 6 and 21 months) died instantly and my brother was paralyzed from the waist down for 6 months. He’s still mentally disabled to this day. My mom had severe head injuries and my dad was in a coma. For me, I had no broken bones or major injuries. As my dad recalled, I went home the same night.
When I was 8, I was abandoned. I was in Saginaw with my brother Greg and sister Gabrielle. We were on our own for months, eating creamed corn out of the can and ice cream cones. If my sister didn’t call the State of Michigan, I don’t know where I would be today. When they found out how we were living, they came in, broke us up and I went to live with my grandmother along with my younger sister Bobbi.
My grandmother passed when I was 16. She was the first person to introduce me to love. After that, I was in the system for two years and I’ve been on my own since I was 17. There have been constant tragedies since then. My family on my dad’s side conned me out of $17,000. Even more recently, my mom had a relapse which led me to write my best-seller, Before I Expire. I wrote that book for my mom.
Through everything, I never allowed my circumstances to break me. I built myself through my character and perseverance and became a monster. Everything that I dominate now is because of the disparities from which I came from.
On the process of becoming a boy to a man:
Becoming a boy to a man is a very personal process. It’s no different from a girl becoming a woman. But manhood invites a different dimension of desires. An authentic man what’s to be better, but the ability to be self-aware is key. Whether you’re a man or a woman, the ability to be self-aware will give you the aptitude to cross that bridge. The bible speaks on this (When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I set aside childish ways, 1 Corinthians 13:11). This process also invites a greater level of responsibility and requirement of self. Being present in these transitions all lies within finding the gaps in yourself. A boy gives excuses while a man takes ownership. Manhood isn’t a burden. I want the weight of my manhood to be as heavy as possible.
When you transition from a boy to a man, you’re responsible for yourself and others. I require the most of myself every day because I owe it to myself and others who believed, trust, confided and have spent their money with me. I must give myself this responsibility. The process from boyhood to manhood should be very intentional.
On trusting God throughout each step of his life:
My relationship with God is the most important thing to me in my life. My relationship with him is my compass throughout life. If you ever see anything I do, I let people know if I could take the credit, I would. Everything I do is for God. He’s the reason why I made it out of the accident, abandonment, theft, etc. When I lost the $17,000, I was in a dark place. I was depressed and suicidal because I felt alone, but God pulled me through.
The real relationship with God doesn’t lie in asking for things, but rather you being ready to receive them. You must be ready for God. Most people aren’t ready because they don’t give or have a heart for God. God looks at the heart. People think if they go to church and pay ties, God is going to bless them. That’s not how it works. You can’t con God. My relationship with God is very personal and my life’s work will be because of him. He gave his son for me so I must give everything in return. I’m going to touch millions of people and transform lives because of God.
Johnson is currently an operations manager for Sodexo at Romulus Community Schools where he oversees a staff of 30 frontline employees facilitating seven schools. Most recently, he spoke to a crowd of over 500 students at Michelle Obama’s STEM school in Park-Forest Chicago.