About Dr. Nguyen “Tom” Griggs

I always believed that a black belt signified something sacred. It is an honor that goes beyond the simple mastery of physical technique or an accessory to advertise how “tough” you are. Black belts symbolize a lifelong commitment to a “white belt mentality” – a state of mind characterized by an openness to learning, spiritual development, and practicing strength of character, even when it is hard or inconvenient. It is this attitude that has proven invaluable to navigating my life, building community, and resolving conflict, time and time again. It is a gift I want to share with anyone who will listen.


Speaker. Author. Educator

People often characterize me as warm, kind, and empathetic. I’ve been told that I’m the type of person they feel safe confiding in, without judgment. People are often shocked to hear that my upbringing was far from idyllic. My compassionate nature developed in spite of being reared in the family businesses of liquor stores and hourly rates motels, in some of Houston’s rougher neighborhoods. 

Growing up as a biracial child, I struggled to fit in and find a sense of community and belonging. My family was definitely an enigma in the black communities of my upbringing. My dad was black, my mom Vietnamese and my half-brother had a white father. While my background afforded me a great understanding of multiculturalism, it also made me stick out in a bad way. 

It certainly didn’t help my situation that I was that proverbial nerdy kid that loved public television, crazy sci-fi like Doctor Who (I still do) and literature. I remember the immense pain of trying to defend my heritage to adults and kids alike who teased and bullied me for simply being different. When the boys in my class were discussing the Houston Rockets, I was more interested in understanding the science behind space travel and cryo-sleep. 

I also didn’t subscribe to the painfully toxic and destructive models of masculinity that surrounded me. An example was when I was at the mall as a teenager and I started a conversation with a young lady. It was fun, comfortable and I enjoyed her company. My peers, all boys, derided and harangued me for not getting her number when I was happy just talking. 

When I got to college three wonderful things occurred. First, I was surrounded by a diverse array of people insearch of a community of like-minded friends. Secondly, I had professors that saw my potential and pushed me to grow and improve. Those amazing teachers inspired me in many ways. Lastly, I discovered martial arts which helped me focus my resentments and anger in a positive, constructive way. I remember numerous times after taking martial arts, that someone would try to start physical or verbal fights, and I had the control and discipline to walk away. My training not only revealed untapped physical abilities, but it instilled important principles of character, temperament, and discipline that I carried with me into the corporate world, and later, into the academic world. 

As an educator, I discovered a sense community, where I could shape the lives of others in the same ways that my inspirational professors did for me. I finally found a place where I truly belonged and had purpose.

In 2014, I founded my own consulting company Lead Connect Grow LLC. I develop black belt level leaders and teams that other people want to be part of and follow. Using the principles of martial arts, psychology, business, and storytelling, I teach organizations to resolve conflict, create more inclusive work environments, and train leaders to create cultures of care. 

Now I am bringing the same passion for success and achievement to TRIO programs. My mission is to provide customized learning experiences that help teens and adults achieve career and educational goals, develop strategies and the mindset for personal success, train students and staff to become better leaders 

My research and experience as an educator have taught me that students succeed when they have supportive peer groups, challenging yet achievable goals, and learn in an interactive, inclusive format. I may not be the person that pushes a student across the finish line. However, just as my mentors did for me, I can do my part to point students in the best direction and hopefully provide a much-needed nudge. 


Dr. Nguyen “Tom” Griggs is a native Houstonian. He holds a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership and an MBA in International Business and Finance. He holds certificates in Advanced Negotiations and Conflict Resolution from Notre Dame’s Mendoza School of Business. Tom’s writes a bimonthly column for MA Success magazine entitled Black Belt Leadership. Tom is a contributing author to Les Brown’s bestselling book, Fight For Your Dreams, and he is also a John Maxwell certified Success Coach. 

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Benefits of training



Transform oppositional team members into your greatest allies

Leaders commonly complain about their more challenging team members and their meeting alter egos such as the Motor Mouth, the Pessimist, and the Contrarian. Creativity, perspective-taking, and flexibility are key components that allow working groups to take difficult feedback and transform it into fuel for team growth.


Discover the benefits of adopting a white belt mentality

Aging is a privilege that bestows us with opportunities to develop talents, master languages, and accrue wisdom through lived experience. However, there is wisdom in knowing you don’t know everything. A white belt mentality is characterized by an openness to learning, spiritual development, and a continuing sense of curiosity about the world. 


Build stronger teams through compassionate leadership

If we live in a democracy, why do the social politics of our workplaces and schools so closely resemble the caste systems of feudal Japan? Why do we treat some people like emperors and others like indentured servants? Effective leaders empower their teams by developing a culture for people to share their knowledge, demonstrate expertise, and welcome feedback and input to further organizational goals. 







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3262 Westheimer Rd. No. 308, Houston, Tx, 77098