On October 3, 1945, a ten-year-old boy stood onstage at the Mississippi-Alabama Fair and Dairy Show talent contest. He was dressed as a cowboy.
One of his teachers had encouraged him to enter the contest after hearing him sing during morning prayers. He had to stand on a chair to reach the microphone. He placed fifth.
A few months later, he received a guitar for his 11th birthday. What he really wanted was a rifle or a bicycle.
Two of his uncles and the new pastor at the family church gave him basic guitar lessons. He learned mostly by watching other people.
But he didn't like singing in public. He was too shy.
Yet something inside kept pulling him back to music. In 1948, his family moved from Tupelo, Mississippi to Memphis, Tennessee. The boy would spend every moment of his free time on Beale Street, the heart of the Memphis blues scene. He'd often bring his guitar to school.
Yet his eighth grade teacher gave him a "C "in music. She told him that he had "no gift for singing".
During his teenage years, he was often bullied by classmates, called a "mama's boy". Still painfully shy, he nevertheless stood out because of his appearance -- including long sideburns, slicked-back hair and funky clothes.
In 1953, the young man walked into the offices of Sun Records. In those days, you could pay for studio time and create your own record.
The receptionist asked him who he sounded like. The young man replied, "I don't sound like nobody."
But the record went nowhere. He tried out for a local singing group, but failed the audition. He told his father, "They told me I couldn't sing."
Unbeknownst to the young man, Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records, had been saying to his friends, "If I could find a white man who had the Negro sound and the Negro feel, I could make a billion dollars."
Then Sam heard this young man's record. Sam invited him back to the studio and asked him to sing as many songs as he knew.
Yet even then, the recording session was not going well. Things just weren't coming together.
The young man and his backup musicians were about to pack it up and go home, when the young man suddenly picked up his guitar and started signing a 1946 blues song, "That's All Right".
In the words of one of the musicians from that legendary session:
"All of a sudden, [he] just started singing this song, jumping around and acting the fool, and then Bill picked up his bass, and he started acting the fool, too, and I started playing with them.
"Sam, I think, had the door to the control booth open... he stuck his head out and said, 'What are you doing?' And we said, 'We don't know.' 'Well, back up,' he said, 'try to find a place to start, and do it again.'"
Phillips immediately began taping; he knew this was the sound he'd been looking for.
Sun Records released the album. No one had ever heard anything like it before.
And within three years, Elvis Presley was an international superstar.
A few years ago, I got the chance to visit Graceland, Elvis's Memphis mansion and now National Historic Landmark. I was speaking at a corporate conference and the company arranged for a private tour of Graceland for me and the company executives.
It was an amazing experience, one I'll never forget.
Elvis died on August 16, 1977, so his home is decorated in that distinctive 70's style and will remain that way forever.
One thing that surprised me is that Elvis's mansion is much smaller than you might think. For example, the kitchen is positively cramped.
The pool in the backyard -- the one you see in all those home movies -- is only average size.
But in one room of Graceland is an enormous display of his different costumes, shimmering sequins and bursting with color.
And then the small garden in the back where he, his mother, and stillborn brother are buried. It's impossible to be there and not stand in awe and humility.
Whether or not you're a fan of the man or his music, there's no question that Elvis Presley is the world's first modern superstar.
He transcended race, age, and has even transcended death. He continues to make more money every year after his death than he ever made while he was alive.
We have each been given special gifts, unique to us. Your gift may not be appreciated, or even recognized, by your teachers, your peers, or even your family.
Yet, it's there.
Nurture it. Thank God for it. Share it with the right people.
Soon, it will be seen.
Happy 76th Birthday, Elvis.
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Noah St. John is the inventor of Afformationsand author of the bestselling book The Secret Code of Success: 7 Hidden Steps to More Wealth and Happiness (HarperCollins).
Harvey Mackay says, "If you want to crack your own secret code of success, crack open Noah's book."
Noah coaches conscious entrepreneurs to DO LESS and HAVE MORE. He's been featured on CNN, ABC, NBC, in The Washington Post, Bottom Line/Personal and Parade Magazine.
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