You know Jay-Z. Aka Sean Carter, aka Hova, aka Young Hov, aka Jigga, aka Jigga man. Aka Beyonce’s husband. He’s arguably the most suave, confident, and swaggalicious dude on the planet, raking in hundreds of millions of dollars a year at this point.
But how in the H to the Izzo did this average (read: goofy) looking dude from Brooklyn’s impoverished Marcy Projects go from rags to riches and build a dynasty?
For those of you who don’t know, the man who now graces GQ magazine covers came from nothing. His dad skipped town at a young age, and to help support his mom he dealt drugs at a young age. While dealing, he started rapping as a way to get through the day. He realized pretty quickly he was talented, and I think it’s safe to say the rest was history.
But when we say “the rest is history”, we totally ignore the strategy and mindset behind the success. We resign to the idea that “some people are just that good”. And when we do that, we miss opportunities to learn and apply it to our own life.
So how do you build your own dynasty? Let’s break down 3 ways Jay-Z did it.
Build Your Dynasty Step 1
The first thing Jay did was realize it’s okay to not be the first person to do something. Here’s what I mean: Jay hit the music scene in the mid 1990s. By that point hip hop had about a decade and a half in the public eye. And in that decade and a half, there were all sorts of rappers, many of whom rapped about life in the streets, including Notorious B.I.G., 2pac, and N.W.A.
Now, he could have been like, “Oh shit, other people have already rapped about this, including 3 of the best acts ever...I better find something else to do.” But he didn’t do that.
Instead, he said,
"I have a unique voice, with my own perspectives. I can do this."
Even though rapping about the streets was a played out act, it was his unique voice and personal encounters that allowed him to do it and stay fresh. He knew that it's not about being the first, it's about having a voice.
How many times have you killed an idea you had because you said, “Oh, someone else did it already" ?
Takeaway 1: You don’t need an original idea to get started on something, your voice is what makes you unique.
Build Your Dynasty Step 2
The second thing Jay did was make shit happen. More specifically, after refining his craft while still dealing drugs, he made the decision that he wanted to say goodbye to the crack game and hello to the rap game. So he shopped his demo tape to several high-profile record labels.
They all said no.
That’s right, the man who is now arguably the greatest rapper of all time was told “no, you’re not good enough,” by the major record labels. So what did he do? He could have taken his ball and gone home. But he didn’t.
Instead he said,
“I’m not waiting for the world to give me what I want. I’m not waiting anymore. I’m creating what I want and putting that into the world.”
He created his own label, Roc-A-Fella Records.
He built a platform so he could put his music out and accomplish his goals.
When the world told him “you can’t”, he said, “oh yes, yes I can.” (Very much like Roman Reigns).
When was the last time you had an idea, maybe even started working on it, and someone said “no, that's stupid” so you gave up?
Takeaway 2: Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission. Give yourself permission and create your own platform.
Build Your Dynasty Step 3
It’s one thing to say, “I’m gonna go do this on my own!” and a completely different thing to actually do it. How did Jay create his own label, having no professional business training? Here’s the third thing he did. Remember how this whole thing started with him hustling on the streets? Well, let’s look at what actually goes into that. As a drug dealer, he learned firsthand:
- Supply and demand
- Costs, revenues, and profit margins
- Optimal selling times
- Inventory management
- Employee management and payroll (he had other dealers working underneath him)
While he had no formal business training, he had built his own business already (albeit illegal), and realized that the knowledge and skills he developed in one arena could be applied to another. He didn’t say, “Oh shit, I need to go and take classes so I can build a label.”
Instead, he said,
“I can take what I’ve already done, and merge it with what I want to accomplish.”
This is quite possibly the most overlooked aspect of building your own dynasty. We’ve been prescribed professional labels to the point where we embody that one thing that we are, and think that it’s not possible to break into something else. “I’m just a marketer”, “I’m just a designer”, “I’m just a teacher”, “I’m just an engineer”. Fuck that--you’re not JUST anything. When we think like that, we stay confined to those walls and never take action on our ideas.
We take for granted the skills we’ve already developed in other areas of our life. Do you work in PR? Great--you’ve pitched hundreds of people on story ideas, which means you know how to do sales too. Graphic designer? Awesome--you’ve compiled disparate images and colors to make one complete design, which means maybe you can construct and deconstruct the layers of someone’s personality and coach teams on how to better understand each other.
Jay didn’t say, “I’m just a dealer.” He said, “I know how to hustle, so I’m gonna hustle in a new way now.”
In fact, one of his most memorable lines in a song is,
“I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man,”
meaning his life is the business itself, he’s not a cog in the wheel. When was the last time you held yourself back because you said you were “just a _______”?
Takeaway 3: You have a wealth of knowledge and skills. Use what you know in one arena and apply it to the idea you want to take action on.
It’s easy to look at someone like Jay-Z today and think, “yeah some people are just lucky” but the fact is luck is the last card Jay-Z has ever been dealt. He architected his dream and built a dynasty.
He took a Hard Knock Life but said I’m not gonna Stick 2 The Script. He had a Moment of Clarity and said I’m gonna Change The Game. Now he’s Brooklyn’s Finest and he Runs This Town.
(those were all Jay-Z song titles by the way)
Don’t wait. Build your own dynasty.
Take care and be awesome.
What up! My name is Rajiv Nathan and I'm the Cofounder of Idea Lemon. That banana peel you slipped on to land here came from me. That's because I fancy myself a human Curious George, and the yellow hat I chase is life's authentic moments. I share my chase one story at a time through this blog, our email newsletter, and as a rapper.
Oh and I'm a WWE fan 4 lyf!