He was born into a world of stereotypes. He knew he didn’t fit in. He created his own truth, based on a love for his art, the pursuit of excellence and an insistence on being who he was. He believed in himself, even when others didn’t. He stayed the course and became a legend.
Life isn’t easy even when you try to fit in. Most of us don’t have the courage to complicate it further by trying to break out of the labels others may use to constrict us because of what we look like, where we came from, or what we might have done in the past.
If we let it, this shrink wrapped existence can suffocate our creativity and ultimately our dreams. The lesson of Prince’s life is this: Be who you are.
Give lots of thought to your purpose. “A strong spirit.” Prince was once quoted as saying, “transcends rules.” At the center of a strong spirit is a strong sense of purpose. Nobody was ever put on this earth to be ordinary. That’s a decision we make after we get here. Seek what gives your life meaning, define it as best you can and start to chase it.
Choose excellence. Whatever you decide to do, do it to the best of your current ability, constantly stretching beyond your limitations, remembering that all limitations are self imposed. “The key to longevity,” Prince once said about his art, “is to learn every aspect of music that you can.” Even when he achieved the fame he sought, he never stopped expanding his knowledge.
Surround yourself with good people. When pressed about his detractors, Prince said, “All these non-singing, non-dancing, wish-I-had-me-some-clothes fools who tell me my albums suck. Why should I pay any attention to them?” Energy suckers are an inevitability in every Rolodex. But you don’t have to let them dictate your direction. Prioritize people who care.
Never give up, never surrender. Jason Nesmith’s famous quote from the film Galaxy Quest paraphrases the original World War II challenge issued by Winston Churchill. To paraphrase 1985’s She’s Always In My Hair: “Whenever I feel like givin’ up. Whenever my sunshine turns to rain… (My dreams are) always there.” As long as you can breathe, you can fight for your dreams.
Enjoy the ride. There are no un-bumpy roads. Highs and lows will happen, no matter what road you choose. The quote most often attributed to Prince these days is this one: “Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.” Be who you are. Be that best person you can be. Nobody can diminish you without your permission. Strap yourself into the roller coaster of life and enjoy the ride.