9 No’s To Happy: 9 Lessons about Success We Learned From Pharrell Williams

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Tuesday June, 3rd 2014 is a day I’ll never forget. Since I’ve always preferred to dance in the driver’s seat on the way to work, I had strategically set the station to Power 106 where I was sure to find the songs that would take me to this happy place. Speaking of happy,” Big Boy of popular radio show, “Big Boy in the Morning” was interviewing 7 x Grammy award winning, executive producer, singer, songwriter, Pharrell Williams about the massive success surrounding his new song. “Happy,” written for the movie Despicable Me 2, would go on to reach an estimated 3 Billion, peak number 1 in the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and 19 other countries. While listening to all of his successes sounded great, I slowly found myself mentally exiting this interview out of frustration. How many times do we hear about so called ultra-successful people who are highlighted for their successes while their journeys to success are often shrouded in mystery? Just as my frustration was reaching its peak and my hand was quickly making its way to the seek button, something amazing happened. Big Boy asked Pharrell, “Did it feel hard or impossible?” As he began to share, I felt like it was one of those rare moments where I thought my radio had literally turned itself into the success coach I’ve always wanted and my car had transformed into a DRIVE-TIME-UNIVERSITY. Written below are the clear cut, not at all cryptic, 9 lessons about success I learned from 15 minutes of listening to Pharrell Williams.

1. Successful people aren’t disillusioned about what it takes to be successful

One of the first questions that Big Boy asked was, “did it feel hard or impossible?” I really appreciated Pharrell’s simple answer, “Yeah it did.” He neither downplayed the effort he’d given or acted surprised by the amount of work needed to produce this type of quality. Further into the interview he reveals that there were 9 other songs that were supposed to be “Happy” before the final song was accepted. I immediately thought to myself, “Wow, I would’ve probably quit after the second no and I don’t even have one iota of the success He has.” As common sense as hard work sounds, how many times do we meet people who think that just because they tried something once they ought to be good at it or just because they applied to a few jobs someone should have called them back? How many times are we ready to quit after giving something 100 % only one time? One could probably present some amazing reasons why Pharrell should’ve quit; top of his field, multi-millionaire who never has to work another day again, world renowned, has already proved he can make amazing hits, yet he still chose to journey through the valley to get to the mountaintop. What should that say to us? Hard work goes hand in hand with success.

2. Success has more valleys than mountains…the mountains just look bigger

“So I got to my lowest point, 9 times I bummed out” said Pharrell. What a powerful statement! Too often we can focus so much on someone’s successes and totally forget that it is only a small part of their story. I would argue, the bigger the mountain of success, the more failure that particular person has gone through. Each time we fail or enter a valley, there is a valuable lesson we can take and apply towards our future endeavor. As Pharrell failed the first 9 times, he finally realized that the answer to creating “Happy,” was using the word itself. Without failing first, he would have never made it to that place. Most people think success is a straight line, but more often than not, it is a squiggly line full of sharp turns and dips. In the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell discusses the idea of events vs. processes which I will compare to successes vs. journeys. The idea is, we love events or successes because they are exciting, emotionally charged, feel good and energetic. Yet, events won’t take us to where we really desire to be. Once the excitement dissipates and the bright lights fade, the process or the journey is really the “stuff” of successful events.

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Michael is a poet, speaker, blogger and human who who lives in Los Angeles and enjoys teaching people how to use their God given voices. He is also a dear friend and I’m excited that he has finally chosen to share his wisdom and imagination with the world.

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