If Beyonce Can Do It…

Picked up this from listening to Charlamagne the God’s audiobook.  He recalls the story of when Beyonce walked into the room.  According to Charlamagne there was several people in the room and when Beyonce came in she made it a point to walk up to each person and introduce herself.

Introducing yourself isn’t out of the ordinary, but it is when you are Beyonce – one of the most famous people on the planet.

She didn’t need to introduce herself.  Everyone would have known who she is.  But instead of assuming that they knew her, she was humble.  She was polite when she didn’t have to be.  As a result, I can only imagine how it made each person’s day – and more than that.  It made a lifetime memory that they would share with countless people.  The day that Beyonce took time to talk to them.

For Charlamagne, a famous radio personality, it also impacted him.  If Beyonce can do it, why shouldn’t I?

That’s the thing about role models, they show you that doing the small things makes a big impact.

 

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Don’t Know Who They Are…

Really enjoyed reading Charlagamagne Tha God’s new book.

One piece of advice he offers is about how to treat everyone with respect – you never know who they are going to be.

It’s not new advice.  It’s part of the old business axiom of treating people with respect as you go up because you never know who you will see on the way down.

The unique part of the music industry is that it’s not the same as the traditional corporate ladder where you work your way up.

Some artists go from unknown to Superstar overnight, or in a relatively short time.

Charlamagne’s story is about how you may have been lucky enough to go to the studio and see Jay-Z work on The Blueprint – one of his classic albums.  You could have been focused on getting access to Jay-Z.  If you’re a rapper, you may want to freestyle or showcase your music in hopes that he would sign you to his label Roccafella.  But if you only focused on Jay-Z you might have missed out on a couple of young producers: Kanye West and Just Blaze – unknown at the time, but now legendary.

As someone that has been in the music business for close to twenty years I know that this advice is true.

It’s part of the reason I always look to lend an ear to an upcoming rapper or listen to a beat that a young kid will send me.  I will connect with music business students and listen to their plans.

I’ve seen these young upstarts turn into buzzing acts and business professionals.

Recently I was in Germany for a music conference and festival.  I met a lot of musicians and business professionals.  Some of these musicians had worked with the biggest artists in the World – you wouldn’t notice it by how humble they were.  Some of these professionals were working at some of the top labels in the World – you wouldn’t notice it by how down to earth they were.

You stay at the top longer when you treat people with respect because even if you fall others will hold you up.

 

I can fail breaking bricks

“I can fail breaking bricks or I can fail making hits” – August Rigo

Loved this line.  Heard it on The Come Up Show podcast.  (Link below)

I’ve always been a fan of August Rigo.  He had several tracks play nonstop on the radio back when Flow was in its prime.  I knew he had been doing some songwriting but had no idea it included Bieber, One Direction and Chris Brown.  Heavy hitters.

As a musician you want to make the best music possible, but you also want other people to enjoy it.  You want it to be a hit.

That can lead to a lot of self-induced pressure.  But there is the other side of it.  You can give up.

Where is the fun in that?

I used to work at Burger King and sometimes I will go into a BK just to remember what it was like.  I will take a deep breath and smell the whoppers and fries that I used to make.

Those were my “breaking bricks”.  I don’t regret it.  It makes me appreciate where I’m at now and to realize that making music shouldn’t be stressful.  It’s supposed to be fun.

o

 

5 Minute Journal

5-minute-journal-300x285

Purchased the 5 Minute Journal a couple months back and have been enjoying it ever since.

The concept is simple.  You spend a few minutes in the morning responding to a few questions – what are you grateful, what are three things you want to get done, and an affirmation for yourself.

Then you return to the book at the end of the day and spend a few minutes reflecting on what you accomplished.

I’ve read alot of  success literature over the years.  One constant is – one of the keys to happiness is being able to appreciate more and complain less.

Focusing on what you are grateful for it is a great way to put you in the right frame of mind.

By focusing on a few key tasks it helps you stay centered and present and allows you to hone in on what needs to be done.

I prefer writing in mine but I saw they just released a new app.

 

 

The Power of Translation

Re-reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” and just finished the chapter on “Rumors, Sneakers, and the Power of Translation.”  The chapter focuses on the shoe company “Airwalk” and how their popularity exploded.  From 1993 to 1996 they went from $16 million in sales to $44 to to $150 and then to $175 million annually.  As Gladwell points out, at their peak they were ranked by a major marketing research company as the thirteenth “coolest” brand among teenagers in the world – as well as the number three footwear brand behind Nike and Adidas.   Impressive stats for a small company.

A large reason for their success was their marketing campaigns – they took risks that some of the larger companies wouldn’t take.  As a small company they were able to move on ideas quicker.  Gladwell calls these “Innovators and Early Adopters” – they are visionaries.  “They want revolutionary change, something that sets them apart qualitatively from their competitors… they are willing to take enormous risks.”  On the other hand, “The Early Majority” are big companies and thus “they have to worry about any change fitting into their complex arrangement of suppliers and distributors.”

This made me think of the music business and the difference between independent and major record companies.

The indie company does not have the resources of the major so they are forced to be creative.  They have smaller staff so they don’t have to go through a chain of command to make their decisions.

At their height, Airwalkers realized that their core consumers didn’t want to go to the chain stores for their product.  They didn’t want the generic shoe.  So the company was smart, they created a generic shoe for the Footlockers of the world, but they made a unique type for boutiques.  In this way, “the Innovators always got to wear a different, more exclusive shoe than everyone else.  The mainstream customer had the satisfaction of wearing the same brand as the cool kids.”

This reminds me of a Hip-Hop artist releasing a mixtape before their album.  The mixtape is a free product that the customer will seek out on blogs or will hear songs leaked by DJ’s.  The material is often more rugged, the sound recording a little dirtier – the artist is creating the type of music they were known for before they became successful.  Once the mix tape is out, then the artist will release an album that appeals to the mainstream – a broader demographic of listeners – to the innovator the sound is watered down, so they will gravitate to the more underground material.  The key is – the innovator will continue to support the artist.

The problem is when the successful artist forgets to do the mixtape – they alienate the core fans – the cool trendsetting fans – and as a result they not only lose popularity but damage their brand as a whole as well.

This is what happened to Airwalk when they switched strategies – they stopped giving the speciality shops their own shoes.  Sales went down across the board – from speciality to chain.  “The epidemic was over,” Gladwell writes.

The realization is “When we became bigger, that’s when we should have paid more attention to the details and kept a good buzz going, so when people said you guys are sellouts, you guys went mainstream, you suck, we could have said, you know what, we don’t.  We had this little jewel of a brand, and little by little we sold that off into the mainstream, and once we had sold it all [we realizes] so what? You buy a pair of our shoes.  Why would you ever buy another?”

In other words, when you start gaining popularity and your business is increasing don’t forget to pay attention to detail.  Focus on the areas that made you successful in the beginning, because when you lose your core audience and core customer your business will move on a downward spiral.

Drew Brees – “Coming Back Stronger”

I didn’t realize that Drew Brees had written a book.  If I did, I probably would have read it sooner.

I knew he had a great story to tell.  The classic underdog who rises to the top.  Even when he showed he had the tools to be a great NFL quarterback, his team selected another one high in the draft.  He goes through a major shoulder surgery and their are doubts if he’ll ever play at a high level again.   He lands in New Orleans a season after Katrina had displaced the team.  Perenial losers, he transforms them to champions in a few short years.

Brees’s life – and his book – are all about Defying the Odds…

“The ACL injury was a defining moment in my life.  I made a decision not to let something negative control my emotions.  And the interesting thing is that decision led to another that would also follow me the rest of my life.”

I didn’t realize that Brees had dealt with a major injury prior to his shoulder surgery in the NFL.  Just as he led his team through an undefeated junior season in high school, Brees tore his ACL in the third round of the playoffs.   It appeared his career would be over before it even started.  He had earned the starting position because of an injury to the original starting quarterback so he knew that someone was waiting in the wings to take over.

It was a pivotal time, entering his senior season he was looking at a colleges but not only did he have to recover from the surgury, he didn’t fit the mold – he was smaller than most quarterbacks.

Brees responded by bulking up – adding 25 pounds of muscle in his recovery – and then by winning every regular season game.  Approaching the playoffs his offensive coordinator asked him “Drew, is anybody recruiting you?”  – “No, Coach.”

Brees and his team go on to win the next two games as well as the state championship.

“I realized that injury was really the best thing that could have happened to me.  I was stronger.  I was more focused.”

Talk about having perspective!

When he arrived in the NFL in San Diego, he worked his way to the starting quarterback position only to be benched.

“The truth is, you don’t learn much from winning, but losing can make you a lot stronger.”

Brees talks about how it made him evaluate his attiutude.  “Human nature tells me to be resentful and defensive when things don’t go my way – to seek revenge.  I always have to fight that.”  Instead of dwelling on the negative, he focused his attention on the game.  He saw the veteran quarterback Doug Flutie step in and have success by making the good decisions and making the right plays.

“Anyone can see the adversity in a difficult situation, but it takes a stronger person to see the opportunity.”

Brees would get another chance that season, and become the starter again, but in the end the team was 4-12.  A big disappointment that led to buzz that the Chargers would think about taking a quarterback in the draft.

The Chargers acquired Philip Rivers – a highly touted qb prospect.  When a team selects a QB at the top of the draft, it signals the writing is on the wall – its just a matter of time before that pick is given the chance to take over the starting position.  But once again, Brees didn’t look at it like that…

“Immediately following the trade, i specifically remember storming into my garage and jumping on the treadmill.  Maybe it was partly to continue to build my edge and partly just to blow off some steam.  Regardless, I knew that right then I was working and the guy they’d just drafted was probably sipping champagne somewhere.”

Reading that made ME want to get on the treadmill.   Sometimes we want to complain when things don’t go our way – but the truth is we just have to get back to the fundamentals and trust the process.  Nothing beats hard work.  Then Brees takes it a step further…

“It’s easy to spend all our energy trying to prove people wrong.  We can spend our whole lives trying to debunk the naysayers.  But I’m convinced that’s not the best way… I made a choice: instead of being spurred on by those who doubted me, I’d be motivated by those who had faith in me.  These were the people who mentored me, supported me, and believed in me.”

I’m surprised I’ve never heard that more.  Most people talk about getting back at naysayers, but Brees’s perspective is true.  By thinking of the “teachers, coaches, mentors, teammates, and now the city of New Orleans” – he had all the ammunition he needed.

Instead of trying to get back, he said “This is for them.”

The year after the team had selected Philip Rivers, Brees went on to be NFL Comeback player of the year and selected to the Pro Bowl.

But it wasn’t smooth sailing from there.  The team had an average 9-7 record the following year, but what happened in the final game of the year would forever change Brees.  A hit he took from safety John Lynch knocked his shoulder out of his socket and Brees out of the game.  It would be his last play as a Charger.

Then there was the gruelling rehibilitation.  I can’t imagine what Brees would be going through.  Tearing your ACL is one thing, but a shoulder injury means that Brees can’t do the one thing that he loves doing – throwing the football.  As a rapper, its like me losing my voice.  You can take anything from me except that!

Bree’s comeback involved nine hours of rehab each day from eight months.

“A good friend of mine once told me that each morning when you wake up, think about winning the day.  Don’t worry about a week from now or a month from now – just think about one day at a time.  If you are worried about the mountain in the distance, you might trip over the molehill right in front of you.  Win the day!”

When you are going through a tough period its easy to get discouraged by how long the road is – you’ve got to focus on each day.

It’s as much about hard work as it is about faith…

“It’s about knowing that though things may not make sense on paper, you have to trust God to see the bigger picture.  You have to choose to live from the heart and trust what you cannot see.”

Brees would make it back, but even when he returned to the field he still had a way to go.  He had to relearn the mechanics of throwing.  It was like starting over again.

“As I look at the players who make it into the NFL and last more than a couple of years, I notice a consistent thread.  It’s not alwayst he first-round picks and the most naturally gifted players who rise to the top.  It’s often the journeymen – the ones who persevere through trials and are able to handle the unexpected challenges that come their way.”

I love this part.  As a sports fan I’ve seen it time and time again.  I was just watching a profile on Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson who has emerged as one of the best players at his position.  Not only was he undrafted, but the team had spent first round draft picks on running backs. Undeterred, he beat them out and became a dominant player.  Sure you might get a big first contract as a rookie, but that could be it.  In the NFL where contracts aren’t guaranteed, its all about what you do on the field – not just the potential for what you may do.

At this point, the story changes.  It’s not just about Drew and his way back – its about his affect on other people.  First its his teammates…

“One aspect of leadership a lot of people overlook is the importance of showing how much you care.  When other people see that you are genuinely concerned about them and truly invested in them, they’ll trust you… When your teammates know that you have their best interest at heart, the by-product is that they’ll go out there and fight for you.  They’ll win for you.”

“Some people look at their home team and think, if only we had that free agent.  If only our team could pay for that receiver or running back.  I don’t waste time thinking about those kinds of acquisitions.  If those players come to us, great.  But here’s the way I look at it:  I’ll take the less talented guy with the big heart every time.  I love the old saying “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”  Give me someone to depend on so I know what I am getting every time, and I’ll show you a winner.”

As a shorter quarterback, Brees knows what its like to be overlooked.  I don’t think he was taking a shot at a teammate, but what he is saying could be applied to high draft pick Reggie Bush.  Although Bush wasn’t a bust, he wasn’t the ‘destined for the hall of fame’ running back he was pegged to be out of college.  Instead the team had more success with unhearalded Pierre Thomas at the position, as well as wide recievers such as Marques Colston – a six round pick that became a pro bowl receiver with Brees.

Drew would lead the Saints to a division title, and one game short of the Superbowl – the conference championship.  Although they lost, it was a wildly successful year.  The following year, the team had hopes of reaching the Superbowl but they stumbled to a 7-9 record and missed the playoffs.  The following year they were 8-8.  After their first year of success, it seemed like things were only going to go up, but instead they had gone to becoming average.

“I love this phrase I heard a long time ago:  “Experience is what you gain when you don’t get what you want.”

He had to get back to the basics.

His mentor gave him some advice – “Sometimes you focus so much on the result that you lose track of the process.”

It made Brees realize that he “had forgotten that the game of football is simple.”

Once you have the done the work “you have to relax.  You have to trust what you’ve learned and put your confidence in the people who have put you in your position.”

I’m not ruining the book by telling you that the Saints would go on to win the Superbowl.  Sportsfans will already know that.  The win capped off an amazing turnaround for the Saints franchise, but also provided the validation that Brees wasn’t only one of the top quarterbacks in the game… but one of the best leaders in sport.

http://www.amazon.ca/Coming-Back-Stronger-Unleashing-Adversity/dp/1414339437

My two favorite quotes about reading from KRS-ONE

“And when you’ve read them shits, READ them shits again!
But watch what you’re repeatin
If you don’t know the history of the author
you don’t know what you’re reading!”

– KRS ONE “Build In Destroy”

I can’t remember the last time I heard a lyric that talked about the power of reading and got me thinking like this KRS lyric.

Its what I’m thinking about this morning as I’m re-reading Russell Simmons book “Super Rich”.  I’d read it once and enjoyed it, but when you read a book again you pick up on things you missed the first time.  The things you learned now become engrained.  The messages in the book sink in deeper.

The second part of that KRS lyric is such a powerful line as well…

“If you don’t know the history of the author then you don’t know what you are reading!”

When I’m reading a Russell Simmons book I know exactly what I’m getting.  I know its coming from a guy that started out selling fake cocaine to running the most powerful hip-hop label ever to expanding into other successful businesses while continuing to give back to the community.

I’ve always liked autobiographies because its like you are having a conversation with the person.  It’s a one-way conversation, but if I were to meet Russell I would just sit back and listen and soak up as much game as I could.