5 Lessons I learned from Kanye West
I can already feel the rage people have from seeing this title.
So to write this post I had to get in the zone, and put on some of his music. No.. No, Not “Late Registration”, not “Flashing Lights”
“ohhhh.. Gold Digger!"
That would make sense, but nope.
“Yeezus,” A recently released album which if you couldn’t guess it is a play on him being “Jesus.” This is the point where you’re saying,
First some background info.
Taking a step back, I think we can relate to some of his early career. He’s consistently chosen himself, even during a rough roller-coaster of his rise to fame.
He received a scholarship to study painting at a college in Chicago, but dropped at out 20 to pursue a career in music. Not an easy choice, especially when his mother, a professor, was extremely disapproving about this.
After working and finally breaking through, he was signed as a producer for Roc-A-Fella Records (Jay-Z’s label). This gave him access to famous artists like Ludacris and Alicia Keys, but his true goal was to be a rap artist. At this time no one took his rapping seriously, he was just a producer and behind the scenes guy.
Then, at his lowest moment, after waking up in a hospital from a near fatal car crash, he rose and created the life he wanted. Still in the hospital with his jaw wired shut, he wrote and rapped “Through the Wire” which became his first popular single. Using that as leverage he made “College Dropout” which won a Grammy for Best Rap Album that year.
Fast forward to today and he’s had his songs downloaded over 66 Million times, won 21 Grammy’s (More than Jay-Z, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney) and been named in Time’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2013.
Ok on to the “crazy” or “not so crazy” quotes he’s made.
“My music isn’t just music, it’s medicine”
One way to look at this is that he’s practicing a fundamental understanding of how marketing works. You don’t market a “product,” you market a better version of your customer. Your product is like a vitamin. Your product is the mushroom from Mario Brothers your customers take to grow big. Old spice doesn’t make you smell good, it helps you be a ladies man.
Or maybe he’s saying that his music is his own medicine. That creating music is his therapeutic outlet. We’ve all felt this when we find flow or find our passion. Creating our art can be a cure for our stress and can revitalize the soul. We all take many different forms of medicine.
“you can’t look at the glass half empty if it’s overflowing”
This proverb is about how our perception changes the way we see the world. There is no positive or negative. There is only perception and response. Sometimes there are no positive lights there to help you and you have to create your own well to drink from. If you can see it half full, then it’s possible you can see it overflowing with abundance. When your glass is spilling out the sides others will race to you to catch some of it.
How many times have you heard, “I was lucky it happened because now…” about something bad that had happened in the past?
When Kanye was at his lowest point, in the hospital with his only instrument (his voice) wired shut, he broke free. His misfortune started his career. From misfortunes come growth. This is the idea of a full glass.
‘One of the problems with being a bubbling source of creativity — it’s like I’m bubbling in a laboratory, and if you don’t put a cap on it, at one point it will, like, break the glass. If I can hone that… then I have, like, nuclear power, like a superhero, like Cyclops when he puts his glasses on.’
Our brains are our power sources that we recharge each night. We get to choose how to use the energy it provides us with each day. Today I was focused on many different things all day. I had meetings, bills, email and social media. By the end of the night I had no power left over for my most creative work.
That power has more potential when it is focused on one task. Or one idea. If we can hone our mental energy in, like a magnifying glass with the sun we can burn holes through steel. One of our biggest challenges is reigning in our creativity and ideas to actually create.
‘I’m a designer. A musician. A manager. The media try to dishumanise [sic] people who believe in themselves.’ “I am Worhol! I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare, Walt Disney, Nike, Google…”
We all get boxed in. We all are assigned titles that tell us what we can do or what we can’t do. Old, young, unexperienced, designer, manager, unlikely to succeed.
I want to sell companies. I want to have a clothing line. I want to invest. I want to produce an album. I just have been scared to say those things, both to others and myself. Because we all know the reaction people will give you. Because we know we could fail. He might not be those things now, but he has the potential to be.
The way I see it we have a 5 or so big at bats in life. A few will fail, but I can take a swing at clothing, music, business.
His point is to swing and go for the walls.
What’s wrong with this ambition? What’s wrong with wanting to create on a massive scale. To stand out and make impact. The first step in achieving this is not limiting your own beliefs about what you can achieve. Most of us aren’t who we want to be in this moment. We aspire to be something bigger than ourselves. First we have to believe it.
“I think that’s a responsibility that I have, to push possibilities, to show people, this is the level that things could be at. So when you get something that has the name Kanye West on it, it’s supposed to be pushing the furthest possibilities.
When I was a sophomore in College I met some other students through a business club who had already started businesses and were making pretty good money on the side each month. I remember thinking, “Oh shit, you can do that?”
I was amazed that someone my age, or even younger, had apps on the Appstore, e-commerce stores, personal brands. Some of the biggest growth has come from when others have shown me what is possible. When other people go big, it gives you permission to try as well. That’s why we’re so inspired by figures like Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Any Worhol. They made it acceptable to rise to their level. This works even better when it’s your peers showing you.
He’s felt negativity and created his own positivity. He consistently puts out his art to millions, knowing he’ll face backlash. I’m scared to just ship a blog post. He gave himself permission when others wouldn’t and refused to be labeled as just one thing. It’s easy to judge artists, and obviously he has his flaws. Sometimes things have to be radical ideas to pave a new path.
Maybe he's crazy. I don't know.
But I’m especially struck by this idea:
He dropped out of college but graduated himself.