People are inspired not by people who have only experienced success, but by people who have known failure and succeeded in spite of it.
That’s the message high school dropout, turned millionaire and entrepreneur extraordinaire Bobby F. Griffin shared with Bluefield College students during a lecture on campus in April.
As part of BC’s weekly convocation series designed to teach, encourage, inspire and bless students through speakers and performers with professional and spiritual expertise, Griffin shared how his newfound faith in God helped turn his life around.
Limited by a learning disability, Griffin dropped out of high school at the age of 17 after completing only the ninth grade. Faced with few options, he enlisted in the United States Army where he was wounded during active duty in Korea.
Back home, struggling to make ends meet in an economy with no need for a high school dropout, Griffin met a young Christian girl, who he later married, but who more importantly helped lead him to Christ. Armed with his newfound faith and determination not to let his past or current circumstances shape his future, Griffin came up with a unique idea while visiting an auto dealership.
“I never expected it to be a success, but God knew it was in me,” Griffin said about his idea to create disposable auto advertising floor mats. “He can do it for you, if you trust Him. God has a plan and a purpose for everyone. You will never know what it is, unless you give Him your life.”
Griffin patented the disposable auto advertising floor mat in 1968 and turned it into a multi-million dollar enterprise. In fact, he has since developed and launched several businesses from scratch, building them into lucrative operations.
“Every time I felt discouraged, I would pray and the Lord would renew my self-confidence,” Griffin said about his challenges and setbacks in life. “I believe that is what really made the difference. Being a Christian does not guarantee a person success in business, but it does give you an inner assurance to make something of yourself. Regardless of your situation, background or education, with God-given self-confidence, you can make it.”
Griffin also shared stories of tragedy and illness, including personal experiences later in life with his wife, who contracted Alzheimer’s disease — stories or experiences, he said, that prompt us to ask “why?” but prompt God to action.
“God can get glory out of anything,” Griffin said, “out of things we think are terrible, if we trust Him. Failure was written all over me, but I told God that if you help me, I’ll give it back to you.”
Today, Griffin is giving back to God by sharing his testimony to conferences, churches, college students, and to anyone who will listen. He’s also giving back by supporting mission work in Korea. A native of Bristol, Virginia, Griffin owns and operates a shopping center, several car washes, an advertising company, a printing business, retail clothing ventures, a promotional products company, and a variety of real estate. In addition, he conducts research and development for new products and serves on a collection of college boards.
His honors and awards include Personality of the South in 1979 and Who’s Who in Leading American Executives in 1990. He also holds honorary doctorate degrees from Emmanuel Baptist Seminary in Shelby, North Carolina, and Cumberland College in Williamsburg, Kentucky. And, in May 2010 he was awarded the Veterans Honorary High School Diploma by the Virginia Board of Education.