Tupac with all of the bad examples from his Thug Life ideologies is arguably the greatest rap artist of all time, even though he died at 25. Just in case we don’t realise how much of an outlier his accomplishments are; let me ask, what were you doing at 25?
It has been twenty-three years after his death; Tupac Shakur is still making music. His relevance doesn’t just come from music, but the trueness of the concepts he held. In a world where so many people are consistently inconsistent with where they consistently want to be, he was consistent and worked extremely hard in telling that thug story so excellently. Even though their music videos showed women, nightclubs and champagnes, the messages were deep regardless. Behind the scenes, away from the lights camera action, they weren’t just clubbing like the music videos depicts. They slept in studios delivering excellent art. I feel it’s something Nigerian artists need to learn. How else can someone explain how he’s produced 15 albums -10 of which are posthumous? In a period of five years from 1992-1996 he created a dozen albums, eight feature films, countless commercials, music videos and even two books of poetry.
These guys might have been drug and street junkies, but what you can’t take out was their brilliance and hard work. Tupac and Dr Dre were best friends. As a matter of fact Dr Dre produced most of his hit songs. This explains the law of network. In line with this, now, let me share something about Dre too.
Dr Dre is arguably one of the most successful producers in music. He is an American rapper, record producer, entrepreneur, record executive, actor, and audio engineer. He discovered and created the music legend Eminem. He is the founder and CEO of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats BY Dre Electronics (beyond just the success of their earphones, their woofers and speakers now come in all Chrysler cars. He got $3.2 billion to share from Apple acquisition of Beats by Dre) and was previously co-owner of Death Row Records, the label that made Tupac. But for those that know, he is that producer known to frustrate artists in the vocal booth. Even the legendry Busta Rhymes had to leave Aftermath records after he pushed him to go over his works tens of times. Jay-z calls him a perfectionist. He got Snoop Dogg to repeat his verse on the song “Gin and Juice” over 113 times; the result of this includes a classic album, the discovery of one of the greatest and one of the highest selling Hip-Hop artists of all time, Eminem.
After spending years in the studio, he was declared the man with the best eardrum in the world; this won him a multimillion-dollar deal on earphones (Beats by Dre) and the title, The Most Respected producer in Hip-Hop. But he records an album only once in about 6 years. This is because of his disposition to excellence. He is a perfectionist. He believes that beyond just what you do, is how you do it. He believes in taking time just to be excellent and consistent at it. It’s one of the secrets to greatness. To people like that, excellence is not a skill; it’s an attitude. They live by it. You should too.
I met a man who said to me, “Eizu, whatever you do, do it as if you want everyone else to remember you for it. Do it like it’s the last thing you’d ever do. Excellence is about going further, digging deeper than everyone else. Remember, you may not be able to increase the length of your life, but at least you can increase the width and depth”.
Still on excellence, there is a general disposition in the practice of the Korean Taekwondo. In it, it is taught “don’t be scared of a person who practices 100 kicks at a time, fear a person who practices one kick a 100 times”. That’s how pros are made. Amateurs work till they get it right; professionals work until they can’t get it wrong.
I totally agree that we are what we repeatedly do.
If you want to see more dispositions around excellence, look at the Germans and their products. It’s from that they draw their pride and superiority complex. Take for example; have you seen any badly built road by Julius Berger? How about a tumbled or smoking G Wagon by Benz?
A typically arrogant German company in Nigeria called Bosch took an entire billboard worth billions of Naira, not for ad but to simply write “QUALITY? We are Germans!!!”
I wish a Nigerian company could go to Germany to write “Quality? Integrity? Excellence? We are Nigerians”.
On excellence and as Africans, is it impossible for us to aim for that? According to Darwin’s Law of Natural Selection, I believe survival is a human instinct. If so, then I also believe that’s what the Germans and Hitler tried to do with the 2nd World War. I believe that it’s a human instinct to take over territories and people who don’t seem to know what they are in life for. A lot of us don’t, so we may be eaten up by competition if we don’t get better. It’s human and market instinct.
In one of my classes we called The Role of Excellence in the Dynamics of Power; I explained that there are different forms of power. A few examples are Referral Power (power by him that referred you, from the name upon which you speak, Christians use this a lot, especially in prayers when they say “In Jesus Name”). There is another form called Punishment Power (power you have from the consequences if you are not obeyed, parents use this a lot). And there is, Reward power (wealthy people use this a lot). But the most powerful form of power is the one drawn from expertise and superiority in excellence). It’s called EXPERT POWER. That is being respected because of what you can do like no one else.
As a businessperson, let excellence be your pride and the source of your power. It is long lasting for most people are too mediocre to get there, so the world will respect you for it.
From the Germans when you look through their superiority complex, the truth is, you can also see how quality is in their soul and in everything about them. It’s cultural to them, and that’s something we all can form a habit for. So I am talking to you as CEO and as a manager.
As your business grows, don’t just grow in figures and balance sheet; grow in quality and desirability too. To make this happen, you’ll need to invest in R&D. You will need us to rewrite your current structure and model. Also, you’ll need to hire better people than maybe the ones you have. You’ll need to build a stronger and more reliable production unit, supported by good Human Resources, distribution systems, inventory systems, marketing systems, customer relationship and support systems, research and development systems, effectiveness and performance measurement and improvement systems, accounting and hiring systems, and many others
As your business grows, think about the quality of what you give and sell as a product. Ensure you can compete globally. Just like the saying goes, “you cannot be an alligator in Nigeria and a crocodile in Ghana”. The world is now smaller and everyone is within reach. The same denominator judges us all. But you can be on top as a higher numerator like fractions and differentials to not be rationed out.
A few years ago, I was in a strategy session with executives of Lufthansa Air. Just before our meeting in the fancy top-level office in Victoria Island, I became a bit intimidated. Naturally, my confidence is easy to notice as if I am never under pressure. But this time, it was different. A week before, we were at Google. It was easy. But this one, I needed to pull this off. I told my team that something wasn’t connecting, but I can’t find the keys. This one was hard. Then I said to myself, what I always say in tough situations, “if we can’t find the keys to this door, then we break the damn door! This is our typical disposition at Hexavia! We code call it “going Roger Banister on them’. Let me explain it.
There used to be something in athletics called the 4 Minutes Barrier, no one had ever crossed it. So it was said that the human body does not possess the ability to run so fast, that it can go past a mile in less than 4 minutes. It was a scientific fact for over a thousand years, till 1954.
In 1954, a man called Roger Bannister broke it in the Olympics. Wow, tens of century myth and has been broken! But guess what? It took almost a thousand years for just one person to break it, but ever since 1954 to today, over 20,000 people have ran past the 4 minutes barrier including high school kids. So what changed in these years? Breaking doors and new grounds is usually followed by an epidemic of others doing the same after you. That’s how trends happen. It always starts with someone who is aggressively ready to create their own door when no one gives them the keys to get in but their gift, consistency and excellence give way for them. All greatness, all revolutions are sparked up by one person to challenge status quo, is all it takes. As the year-ends, and a new one begins, my question to you as a part of an organisation is, what new grounds are you breaking?
Let’s measure our individual and corporate dispositions to excellence and high performance while we also set 2020 targets, using vision boards and strategic mind maps together.
It’s the end of the year, a perfect time to review performance, set goals and mind map a better new year ahead. I look forward to working with you and your team on that.