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5 Life Lessons We Can All Learn From Prince

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what can we learn from prince

Prince is dead. We’ve now had some time to let it settle in, but that really does little to take the sting out of those words, for with his untimely death (he was only 57) a great legend has passed from us.

You know what’s amazing? So few people actually know how important he was to music. Admittedly, that was to an extent Prince’s own choice as later in his life he rejected the internet and all that went with it.

He had his music taken off numerous streaming platforms, for he refused a system where profit came before art and the artist. He predicted to the Mirror in 2010, “The internet’s completely over. I don’t see why I should give my new music to iTunes or anyone else.

They won’t pay me an advance for it and then they get angry when they can’t get it. The internet’s like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can’t be good for you.”

And though announcements of the internet’s death might have been a bit premature, he was willing to put his money where his mouth is, is something we can all respect and do more of.

Here are 5 life lessons we can learn from Prince:

1. Be true to yourself

Prince made sure his music could never get boxed into one niche or one genre, so that he would never be defined as anything but himself. “I’m not the president of a record company.” He told Mojo in 1998, “I don’t want to be the CEO of anything. No titles. The minute you’ve accepted a title you’re a slave to it.”

We can take a page from his book in that regard, because of late it’s become ever clearer that instead of discovering and establishing our own individuality, we seem to think we can purchase it from the rack. And that is a truly frightful proposition. You cannot buy individuality or character. You can only get it by fighting your inner demons and the outer critics. And Prince came out victorious in both regards.

“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.” – Prince

2. A strong spirit transcends the rules

Instead, he believed that we should strive to be different, to be more than the system will let us be. He was both and there were few in the music industry who were stronger than he. In his 35 year career, he produced a mind-boggling 39 albums, while never getting boring, never getting old either as an artist or as a person. And yes he had his weaker moments, but that’s okay, as that’s how we learn.

And yes, he had his problems, which meant not everybody liked him. He was often divisive and had, by his own admission, a bit of an ego problem. But perhaps it was that ego that let him be who he was.

“Why does everyone think I’m mad?” he once reputedly asked a PR agent, “Because you do weird things and you don’t explain them,” was the answer. “But why should you explain things? Isn’t it the truly strong person who can do what they like without feeling the need to explain themselves?”

So get off your Facebook, get off your twitter and your Instagram. Don’t live life for other people, live it for yourself, like Prince did.

 

3. Practice and perfection

Of course not everybody can pull that off. If you’re just ego with nothing to back it up you’re not going to get very far. He was not anything but just ego, however. Instead, he was incredible at what he did. And that didn’t just come to him either. He worked very hard to be that good, being intensely devoted to his craft. In fact, on his first five albums Prince played nearly every instrument, most of which were self-taught. That’s both an ode to non-formal education and to his incredible ability, unmatched by almost all other artists.  

I myself discovered the need to excel only later in life. For many years I believed I was entitled to a good life. Only when that did not materialize on its own did I realize that you can’t just sit around and wait for things to happen – you have to go out there and take it by being better than everybody else. I just wish I’d realized that sooner.

 

4. Ignore the naysayers

“There’s nothing a critic can tell me that I can learn from. If they were musicians, maybe. But I hate reading about what some guy sitting at a desk thinks about me.” Prince told the Rolling Stones magazine in 1990.

He’s right, of course, because the guys behind the desk have it easy. They are backseat drivers who can sit on the sidelines and shout ‘boo’ at you when you fail. To go out there and perform, on the other hand, to thrust yourself into the limelight and give it everything, that takes guts and courage, both of which he had and both of which we could use more of.

So do what Prince did. Ignore the naysayers. Ignore those that snipe at your failures, but don’t call when you succeed. They’re dragging you down because they don’t have the courage to pull themselves up. You’ve got nothing to learn from them and everything to gain by ignoring them.  

“Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.” – Prince

5. Build character

If you’d have to sum him up, you’d have to use the word ‘character’. Yes, he was a character, but that’s not what I mean. I mean he had character and even if he was slightly insane (there were times when his former girlfriend couldn’t look at the staff and they could not look at her, while he made her call him ‘Messiah’) he left an indelible impression upon the world – an impression that added, that made the world greater, that left more behind than it took.

And that is an ambition we should all strive for. For if we all added more than we took how great this world would be. And we can certainly all agree that he did that. Now obviously, we don’t all have it in us to add 39 albums in a lifetime, but we don’t need to. We just need to put more in than we take out. And that is something we can all do.

What have you personally learned from Prince? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below!
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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Musah Abdulai

    May 31, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    great one there .Keep it up

  2. Fred

    May 31, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Prince was anything but boring … his success is something many can learn from!

  3. Tim Denning

    May 30, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Benedict thank you for writing this article. Prince is one of my all time favourite musicians. The reason we all know him so well is that there was no one else like him. He was uniquely him and he wasn’t afraid to be a bit out there. I was lucky enough to see him on his Australian trip a while back and it was something to remember. The passion he had for his art form just poured out of him. Thanks again for your article.

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Life

Why Do We Have An Unconscious Bias and How Can We Manage It?

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When I hear someone using my name once in a while throughout the conversation we are having, I cannot stop myself thinking “this person must have read Dale Carnegie’s books or must have been influenced by someone who read them…” Have you just recalled a similar moment and it felt nice?

As Dale Carnegie famously said, “Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and the most important sound in any language”. Why did Dale Carnegie highlight the importance of an individual’s name to that person in his “How to Win Friends and Influence People” book published in 1936?

Each and every one of us wants to feel special and unique. I guess he recommends using the person’s name in the conversation because that is one of the easiest ways to grab that person’s attention so that we can enhance the chances of getting our point across. However, I am more interested in this from the other side; hearing our names directly addresses our individuality, our need or desire to feel special and unique.  

Let’s park this one for now and we will come back. 

Categorization is essential to our survival

There is countless scientific research telling us about how our brains recognize similarities and put things into categories, which has been crucial to our survival in evolution and still helps us with a lot of things from learning new things to coping with the continuous influx of massive amounts of information through our senses. 

The continuous influx of information is mostly handled by our subconscious mind rather than conscious. It is estimated that our brains receive about 11 million bits of information every second through our senses, of which only 40-50 bits can be processed by our conscious mind. We process more information than we are aware of. The magic here is the subconscious mind.

An example is when you are at a very loud party where you hear a lot of words flying around without you recognizing each one of them, then suddenly, you immediately catch it when you hear your name. Your subconscious had been processing all of those words, without your awareness, but informed your conscious mind when your name was out there because it was relevant to you.

In order to most effectively process this much information and inform the conscious mind with only the relevant ones, our subconscious employs categorization as one of its strategies.

When our ancestors encountered some deadly predators in the African savanna, their subconscious prompted their conscious mind to immediately fight or flight by categorizing the information gathered through their senses into “predator / life threat / take action”. Most probably we are not descendants of the ones that were frozen rather than fighting or flighting! 

Although it is a completely different situation, the same strategy applied in remembering lists. Let’s look at the below two lists.

  1. lion, eagle, shark, leopard, hawk, whale, panther, falcon and dolphin 
  2. lion, leopard, panther, eagle, hawk, falcon, shark, whale and dolphin

The second list is easy to remember because it is reordered into relevant groups even though the content of the both lists are identical.

Subconsciousness is the magic and categorization is one of its key strategies. It is essential to our survival, learning new skills and processing information as well as bringing back the information we had processed and stored. 

This amazing skill has its drawbacks

As a result of our brains’ categorization strategy, we also categorize people, especially if we don’t know them as well as our closest ones.

Imagine I am sitting at the table next to yours while you are having your favorite coffee and working on your computer or reading your novel at your neighborhood coffee shop. I stand up, very calmly grab your bag, and start walking away. Your reaction might be quite different depending on my outfit. It could be much more vocal and harsh if I have a dirty T-Shirt and a pair of torn jeans on. However, if I have some navy colored, 3-piece suit and well-pressed white button up shirt on, you might even say something like “Excuse me, you might have picked up my bag by mistake”. (There is an experiment done by social psychologists which reported similar results)

Similarly, I would not be surprised to hear that my co-worker’s spouse is very skilled and knowledgeable in English grammar and literature because he is an English teacher. However, I would not expect it from my co-worker herself because she is an outstanding chemical engineer.  

This is defined as unconscious bias or stereotyping, as a result of our subconscious brain’s categorization strategy. The outfit I have at the coffee shop impacts your response to my action, because it puts me into a different category in your mind depending on my outfit. My co-worker’s and her spouse’s backgrounds make me put them into different categories, which might mislead me sometimes.

Just like we categorize things, it is very natural that we categorize people.  

The key question here for me is; how do we truly treat people as individuals so that they feel unique, just like as they would want, while we know that our brains categorize people

We can overcome unconscious bias 

Leonard Mlodinow, in his enlightening book “Subliminal”, suggests that “if we are aware of our bias and motivated to overcome it, we can.” That doesn’t mean that we need to fight our brain’s categorization strategy. We just need to employ our conscious mind more when we are working or dealing with individuals. 

Our unconscious bias might tell us scientists are bunch of technical nerds who cannot understand abstract concepts that marketers are talking about or it might say that marketers are some daydreamers who need to be grounded by scientists to the real world all the time. I am an engineer and I love thinking in abstract terms and I worked with quite a lot of marketers who thought primarily in factual and concrete terms. 

Spending some effort to learn more about individuals will help overcome unconscious bias. Gathering more information and qualities about them will make it easier for us to treat them as individuals rather than a member of the category we put them in our minds. 

The moral of the story here is to recognize the fact that our brains do categorize, and it is essential; but also, to recognize that every individual wants to feel unique. When we appreciate these two and keep reminding them to ourselves, we are one step closer to figuring out our own way to overcome unconscious bias and treat people more like individuals. 

What was the most interesting part of this article for you? Share your thoughts below!

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Life

The Problem Is Not Actually the Problem: Here’s Why

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With my understanding of the Three Principles, which is deepening month-by-month, I’m becoming more curious about whether the ‘problem’ that we think we have, is really a problem. Not for one second am I dismissing a persons’ experience; I’m human after all and I encounter challenges and what I think are ‘problems’ just like the next person. (more…)

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Life

5 Things You Can Do to Fend off Boredom and Stay Focused

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Curiosity is human nature and it’s only natural that humans will lose interest in a topic after a while. This has been a topic that has been extensively explored among children, teenagers and adults by a psychologist with similar results being reported from each of the categories. Human’s minds are therefore prone to boredom, making it important for each professional to spend some time to understand the factors that drive boredom and strategies the individuals needs to use to overcome boredom and focus on their profession and development. (more…)

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Life

Decision and Failure: Deciding That Failure is Not an Option

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Nobody likes wasting time, money or opportunities by making a bad business decision. We can certainly identify what “bad” looks and feels like, however we should be identifying what the “win” looks like too. Too often we focus on the bad, which puts us in victim mode that perpetuates a scarcity mindset which leads us directly into becoming frozen or stuck. (more…)

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