Jay-Z has sold about 50 million records, received 17 Grammy awards, has a net worth of about $US500 million, and still manages to produce several songs and albums every year. In honour of Jay-Z's birthday, we decided to take a look at some of the ways he's managed to be insanely productive over the years.
Jay-Z's been active since the '80s, but he really came into his own in the '90s when he released his first album, Reasonable Doubt. Since then, he's had lots of best-selling albums and singles, released collaborations with everyone from Kanye West to R. Kelly, is credited as a producer for the video game NBA 2K13, and was once a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets. He has run a record label, clothing line and a marketing team. Basically, he gets more done in a day then most of us do in a year. Here are a few tricks we've picked up from him over the years.
Train Your Memory Everyday
Your memory is important and you can train yourself to get better at memorising things. For someone like Jay-Z, that means memorising lyrics. While most of would take those lyrics down as notes on paper, Jay-Z prefers to memorise them. In an interview with Fresh Air, he reveals his method:
I would run into the corner store, the bodega, and just grab a paper bag or buy juice — anything just to get a paper bag," he says. "And I'd write the words on the paper bag and stuff these ideas in my pocket until I got back. Then I would transfer them into the notebook. As I got further and further away from home and my notebook, I had to memorize these rhymes — longer and longer and longer. ... By the time I got to record my first album, I was 26, I didn't need pen or paper — my memory had been trained just to listen to a song, think of the words, and lay them to tape.
"I've lost plenty of material," he says. "It's not the best way. I wouldn't advise it to anyone. I've lost a couple albums' worth of great material. ... Think about when you can't remember a word and it drives you crazy. So imagine forgetting an entire rhyme. 'What's that? I said I was the greatest something?' "
Sure, it sounds crazy, and Jay-Z himself admits that it's really not the best way to keep notes. But getting rid of the notepad really is better for some people, especially if you're as prolific as Jay-Z. Sometimes, you just need an editor, and your brain can do that for you. For the rest of us, it's all about actively deciding to use your brain and memorise stuff. Easy? No, but it's still worth a shot.
Collaborate and Work with Who You Want
Few artists have the collaboration history of Jay-Z. He's recorded songs with everyone from Shaquille O'Neal to Coldplay, he's danced with Marina Abramovic, and he's even released a ludicrously high-end fashion collaboration with clothing retailer Barneys.
The fact is that as good as Jay-Z is, he wants to work with other quality creatives, in other industries, and do as much as he possibly can. Nobody can do it all, and while he certainly has no trouble patting himself on the back, Jay-Z knows when to go to other creatives for work.
Learn Budgeting Early
Jay-Z didn't build his empire on just his music. He expanded, budgeted and worked for it. He started young too, and he learned a lot about finance when he was young and dealing drugs. In an interview with Vanity Fair, he talks about the importance of budgets:
Jay's checkered past taught him a few things that he says will come in handy in his new role as a sports agent: "I know about budgets. I was a drug dealer," he tells Robinson. "To be in a drug deal, you need to know what you can spend, what you need to re-up. Or if you want to start some sort of barbershop or car wash — those were the businesses back then. Things you can get in easily to get out of [that] life. At some point, you have to have an exit strategy, because your window is very small; you're going to get locked up or you're going to die."
We've talked plenty about budgets of all kinds and walked you through whether or not starting your own business is a good idea. While we're not going to recommend anyone starts dealing, when it boils down to it, Jay-Z's basic advice is really all you need to follow: know what you can spend and when you need more.
Play the Long Game
It's really easy to concentrate on the short term for goals, but that doesn't do you much good in the long term. What's worse, we'll all often quit trying for those long-term goals when something makes more sense in the short-term. Jay-Z spends a lot of time sticking to his guns and thinking about the "long game" with his albums. In an interview with Elliot Wilson, Jay-Z explains:
In America we have an overreaction to everything. I'm not concerned with noise because I'm playing the long game. I see 10 years down the road and then we'll really be able to judge the album for what it is.
It's not just music though. The long game matters in everything. Men's Health echoes the idea as well:
That's a quality he brings into the boardroom as well. He's far from just a figurehead or a media front man. He takes his businesses as seriously as his artistry, and he goes at both with the same level of determination. He's clear about his own views, willing to listen to others, eager to keep everybody loose and motivated, and far more interested in long-term strategy than short-term gain. Even in the current economic environment, which is challenging to say the least, he's insistent on executing his game plan rather than making changes that might not ultimately be right for his brands.
It's really easy to lose track of long-term goals, and even harder to think that far in the future. It's possible to focus those goals down, but sometimes your brain is just trying to screw with your future. Don't let it, and keep those 10-year (or more) goals in mind whenever you can.