Lessons from a Master: Jay-Z's Advice to Dreamers

You may have heard that Oprah launched her own television network called OWN on January 1 and you may or may not know that I am slightly obsessed with Oprah (I mean who doesn't love a billionaire black woman with awesome hair and incredible announcing capabilities?!). One of the shows featured on this new network is called Oprah Presents Master Class where famous people who are “masters” of their craft share their stories.
The first one featured Jay-Z sharing his story from childhood to his rise to stardom. I can't say that I am a huge fan of Jay-Z. While I do like some of his music, I have a major beef with his frequent use of the N-word. Its so disrespectful to the experiences and legacies of African American people in this country. And while he claims to have changed the N-word's connotation, I strongly, nay, vehemently disagree.  That said, I was inspired by his Master Class and could not help but share some of the lessons.
Grind harder than the next man.”
What does that mean? Work harder, smarter and faster than your competition. Jay-Z talked about how he pushed out new albums one after the other. He exceeded his competition in creating new music. How can you do the same? Create better content, offer better customer service, create a smarter business model or simply work longer hours. On New Year's Eve when many of my friends and family were out partying, I was working on my business. Sometimes it just comes down to wanting it more and working harder. By the way, if you don't think you have competitors, you need to do more research. You absolutely do have competitors. Everyone does.
“Set goals for yourself.”
Jay-Z's first goal was to create an album that went Gold. Everything he did was for the purpose of achieving that goal. Once he reached that goal, he set a new one. The next one? He wanted to show the rap world that an artist can become an executive in the music industry. So he became the CEO of Def Jam Records. Be goal oriented. Set clear, actionable goals for yourself. Once you have achieved them, set new, bigger ones. Achieving your first goal will motivate you to climb the next mountain.
“Be true to yourself.”
Jay-Z discussed how his second album didn't do very well because he wasn't true to himself and his style of creating music. He said, “Don't do what someone else does. Do what you do and do it well. Do it better than you can imagine yourself doing it.” In business its so easy to look at someone else's success and think you need to do what they are doing to achieve your own goals. In fact, the opposite is usually true. You need to do something different. Phoniness is obvious and a huge turn off. So to thine own self be true! It may take a while to learn how to express your own voice. In the meantime, David Siteman Garland suggests that you emulate the people you admire. Allow a mentor to influence your style in the very beginning and slowly but surely you will begin to discover your own voice.
“Picture the pinnacle.”
When he first started out, Jay-Z imagined himself being a millionaire at 30 years old. That vision motivated him to keep going when he faced challenges. Jay-Z had trouble getting signed to a recording label so he created his own recording label. When you envision your success it feels so close that you have no choice but to keep going, find creative ways to reach your goals and pretty much do the so-called impossible. Don't picture a little success, dream BIG! Picture it, see it, believe it.
You are in control.
None of this advice is necessarily new but that's because good, old-fashioned hard work, goal-setting, honesty and believing is a tried and true formula for success. The best part of Jay-Z's Master Class was when he shared memories of being a young boy sitting at the kitchen table, writing rhymes and dreaming. How many of us can relate to that experience? My point: Jay-Z is just a regular guy who didn't quit. Recognize that you are in control of your destiny. You get to decide whether you will achieve your dreams or not. Make a decision never to quit and you can count on accomplishing them.
What do you think? Was Jay-Z's advice any good? Do you believe that you can accomplish your wildest dreams?
Picture courtesy of SOHH.com.

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