Jay Z isn't just a rapper. He's also a highly successful business mogul who has shown the world the concept of originality and how a teenage drug dealer from the projects in Brooklyn turned his life around through dedicating himself to his craft, staying disciplined and persistent, and always being able to adapt to any changing environment.
For Shawn Carter’s 45th birthday, here are the lessons I gathered from his iconic Forbes interview with Warren Buffett:
1. Age Is Not A Factor
Jay Z was 26 years old when he released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Although he was an up-and-coming rapper who gained some exposure, it took him a while to get a record deal. Instead, he took to selling tapes from his car with his longtime friend, Damon Dash.
Jay kept waiting patiently, and used his experiences and maturity to his advantage. The album finally pulled through and was just the beginning of his legacy.
2. Stay Present
Just like most things in life, it’s easier to focus on the future or dwell on the past rather than being present.
In the interview, when asked about his achievements, Jay Z said that finding the truth about where he was during the time was incredibly important for his success without sacrificing his true self.
3. Be Consistent
Jay was always great at being present and adapting to changes when necessary. He made very wise decisions during his entire career in order to fight against shiny new objects, and he clarified that in another interview:
I’m not concerned with noise, I’m in for the long game.
By encouraging his loyal fans to mature with his passion, we saw him create versatile music and have unorthodox collaborations.
4. Have A Mentor
Many are aware of his close relationship with Jaz-O, Damon Dash and The Notorious B.I.G.; however, Jay's first mentor was back in his school days — Ms. Lowden, a sixth grade teacher.
Ms. Lowden once took her students on a field trip close to her apartment and allowed them to visit inside. This opened Jay Z to a new world, as he grew up on the streets of poverty. The simple things began to inspire him. This one memory in particular changed his life.
Interesting fact: Ms. Lowden dropped a voice message to Jay's publicist back in 1999 after hearing her name mentioned publicly. Without expecting a return call, she was taken by surprise an hour later when the phone rang and it was Jay Z.
5. Be Determined
Having a laugh during the interview, Jay Z said for him, a record company never existed.
The genius thing we did was, we didn’t give up.
Without any business education background, he simply questioned, 'What do record companies know that I don’t?' After Roc-A-Fella Records was established, one label came back to renegotiate, but this time, Jay Z had more power.
It was clear: Although they were billions of net value apart, Jay Z and Warren Buffett had mutual respect for each other. Warren didn’t feel intimidated at all when he admitted Jay Z teaches in a bigger classroom through music and storytelling. “He’s the guy to learn from,” Warren claims.
7. Be Open-Minded
“Adapt to the landscape” is how Jay Z likes to put it. It shouldn’t affect who you are or how you operate, but change how you want to go about it.
Jay Z proved time and time again how he managed to release classic albums and collaborations without portraying himself as a sellout, but rather, maturing as an artist. “Want my old sh*t, buy my old albums” is a verse from one of his songs on The Blueprint 3.
Jay Z has never shied away from collaborating with other artists because he believed ego shouldn't factor in when there's an opportunity for everyone to bring something special to the table.
From DMX to Mariah Carey to R Kelly, 50 cent, Ja Rule, Cold Play and Eminem, Jay Z calls himself a "serial collaborator." Most artists make the mistake of chasing shiny new objects, and if one rises to fame quickly, ego takes over.
9. Stay Humble
Throughout the whole interview with Buffett, both were honest, but most importantly, they kept their humbleness by supporting each other. They both urged people to develop habits, look around for people they admire and observe how they operate differently from others.
10. Lead By Example
Jay Z has inspired the younger generation in music (and continues to do so), as Forbes acknowledged, and is also connected to some of the greatest entrepreneurs in the world.