“I don’t think about that. Why would I? There’s no gain in that. Being in control of someone’s thoughts? You’ll second-guess your writing.” – Prince, speaking about his influence on culture, in an interview with Touré, 1998
The recent passing of musical icon Prince has become a touchstone event throughout popular culture. One only has to read the thousands of quotes from musicians crediting him as an inspiration to begin to appreciate his widespread influence.
Clearly Prince’s ability to inspire the masses was due in part to his rare natural talent and charisma. However, there are some traits he exhibited that can be utilized by any artist who wants to maximize his or her influence. Here are three key characteristics of influence embodied by Prince and others of his stature.
Excelling in your craft
By all accounts, Prince was a relentlessly hard worker. In Possessed: The Rise and Fall of Prince by Alex Hahn, one of Prince’s relatives recalls a statement by the then-teenage musician: “I’m going to practice my behind off like James Brown’s band.” Prince’s tremendous work ethic, combined with his talent, made him a musical force that inspired legions of musicians. We, too, can influence others through the excellence of our creations. While we may never have the global impact of a star such as Prince, we can reach others by producing works of unquestionably high quality, which in turn inspires our followers to reach for greatness.
Empowering others to succeed
Without Prince, we may have never learned of Shelia E.(renowned percussionist) , Jimmy Jam (producer for Janet Jackson and others), and other prominent musicians that were brought on to his musical team. Prince had a propensity for finding lesser known artists and lifting them to higher levels. Likewise, we are only truly influential when we value the success of our peers just as much as we value our own success. If you want to influence others, you must be willing to invest your own time and energy into their lives.
Embracing your uniqueness
Whether or not you agree with the ways Prince chose to express his beliefs and ideals, no one can deny his commitment to being true to himself. His refusal to bend to the status quo of musical and cultural expectations made him a leader in the eyes of many, even if that wasn’t his goal. In the same way, every artist has a unique voice and role that can not be duplicated. When you embrace your unique voice as an artist, rather than comparing it to others or compromising it to fit in, your influence will grow naturally out of that commitment. You cannot influence others while being simultaneously obsessed with their opinions.
In his book “The Artisan Soul”, Erwin McMannus asserts, “Every word, every action, every creative act should have as its ultimate intention to bring life to others.” Just as musical legends like Prince left a lasting mark on the culture, you too can be an artist that imparts value and meaning into the lives of others. When you do that, others will be able to carry on your legacy, long after you play your last song.