This is a great article interview w/ Bay Area artist Ise Lyfe.. He offers some keen insight in the arenas of leadership, starting your own business and the complex relationship those who are in the ‘struggle’ have with making money.. It initially appeared in Nor Cal Magazine..
The business you start should be an organized expression of your spiritual self. Essentially this means that you should start a business that provides you with an opportunity to make money being who you naturally are. If you are working for someone else before or while you’re starting your own business don’t resent that. Don’t get too comfortable there either… But while you’re there my advice is to seek out and focus on interacting with experiences and people that are involved with things that trigger your passion.
When I started LP my vision was to create a company that made education provocative. I also wanted to be a part of producing events and products that were hella fresh and good for people; where entertainment and progressiveness went hand and hand. I’m living that now, but it didn’t begin that way. I’ll even admit that the first couple years I didn’t even know if it was possible.
The key was finding professional confidence in the way that people were reacting to me. You see, if your business is TRULY an organized expression of your spiritual self, then if people connect with you they’ll probably connect with your business or product! People often misstep when they pose or bend in attempt to survive in the market. This causes them to be looked over by most and ignored. When you’re posing, lying, or over compromising you’re not being yourself. Your self is the foundation of your business. Foundations are made of concrete and steel, not plastic and fluff. Trust that you’re great and step out with that.
On Getting Money:
It’s rarely discussed, but people who are considered “conscious” or socially aware have a real complex about making money, keeping money, and being financially astute. Somehow “struggling” is viewed as a badge of honor. But if you say things like “I’m committed to the struggle” and you struggle your whole life- then you have won in your task to stay struggling and should be happy with that.
I am of the knowledge that some struggle is divine and inherit to the beauty of life. However, the centuries of struggling that our people have gone through are nothing to marry or commit to. I believe that our commitment should be to always be one with and an advocate for our own personal salvation and the salvation of all people struggling. But if I was on a stretcher coughing (struggling) and the doctor walked in coughing over me (struggling) I wouldn’t think “Yo, that’s what’s up, we in this cough thing together!” No… I’d be like damn can we get somebody in here for both of us!? This fool has germs!
I make a lot of money. Especially compared to most educators and independent artist out there. In fact, many independent artist are also educators either in the classroom or in after school programs as either a passion or just a way to make ends meet while they’re waiting for their careers to take off. Sadly, most of those folks live financially challenged, which is a tragedy because they offer so much goodness. Not only am I an independent artist and an educator, but my work is deemed “conscious.” This makes my particular status of wealth really rarefied air because in general if you show me a “conscious” artist I’ll show you a broke person! However, there are a lot of folks out there with a powerful, conscious, and necessary message that are making money and doing what they love at the same time. Not only that, what they love to do is good for other people too! But they do not speak on and will even deny their wealth. Part of it comes from humility, but I believe much of the secrecy is due to guilt and or how misinformed bozo’s in the community will put them down or condemn them for not being broke.
The biggest lie artist are told is that you can’t (or shouldn’t) make real music and be heard and successfull. Hell (heaven), I was sitting in my office with six staff members, fresh off a tropical vacation, with two cars parked underneath me in the garage (all financed by my “conscious” work) and a music industry cat looked me dead in my face and said, “Ise, nobody wants to hear that conscious s*^%…” I would argue that nobody wants to hear that dumb s*^%, but its all that gets played… Imagine if a mother stopped up all the water faucets in her home, never exposed her children to water, and only gave them double chocolate milkshakes to drink. Then, as her kids got fatter and more out of shape the mother says, “What can I say, they ain’t with that water s*^%…”
Here’s some math:
Jill Scott- 4,192,900 albums sold
Erykah Badu- 5,018,000 albums sold
Lupe Fiasco- 3,500,000 albums sold
India Arie- 10 million albums sold worldwide
Common- 2,727,000 albums sold
Clearly, some people do wanna hear a different message…
So what I’m saying is if you are an Artist or anybody striving to live your dream you need to shamelessly ball on these fools. If you are a good person with morals and ethics your good fortune and abundance will naturally be a positive thing for your community. It will empower you to employ people, donate to youth, support family members, invest in projects you believe in, support organizations, and inspire others. These are all things that I’ve experienced first hand and they are the cornerstones of bliss in my life.
Haters baffle the player because we cannot at all relate to their existence. By player I mean people who are actually manifesting and progressing in life. Haters normally are just bothered by people who remind them of what they’re not doing. I use to try to win the hearts of haters by trying to reason with them. I realized though that it is impossible to reason with a hater because reason takes rational thought and honesty. Haters are filled with no rational thought and won’t honestly confront how wack they’re being, so there is no point in even approaching the conversation.
An adviser once told me, “Ise, when you argue with a fool after awhile it gets hard to tell who the fool is.” So keep it pushing and be grateful to be one of the few players in this world of puzzled ass lames. If you’re a hater and you’re reading this I send you my love and encourage you to tap into your inner light and believe in yourself. You can do anything!
On being in leadership:
First off, as children most of us are told that we are “The leaders of tomorrow!” Ehh, I disagree. Everyone is not a leader. That may sound harsh but it is reality. However, many people want to be in leadership roles because we live in a society that has a verticle view of roles and power that puts leadership “on top” and everyone else “beneath.” So naturally many people desire to be viewed as leadership but do not desire or have the ability to carry out the responsibility that comes with the role.
I’ve visited parts of the world where all roles are placed in a circle, not stacked on top of each other. So leadership roles are right beside the other EQUALLY important roles that make up systems. The first key to being a great leader is understanding that your role as leader does not mean you are higher up, superior, or better than the other people you are working with. This thinking contradicts terms that we normally hear like “This is my superior in the company”, “Upper management”, and ”Lower tier.”
Being the leader of a company, project, or family simply means that your job is to have a fully encompassed understanding of everything that is happening while bringing out and supporting the best attributes of the people and elements that you are working with.
Thing is, any emotion whether its one that feels good or one that feels bad can blur your vision and affect your judgment as a leader. Make moves and decisions based on what’s best for the goal, not based on what makes you feel best.
This part is important:
Many people who once loved and admired you, promised you loyalty, and who owe a lot of their success to you will at some point resent you, not be impressed by you, fear you, and may even betray you. This is not your concern in relation to leadership, but because it will affect you it is important to be prepared for this. Don’t take it personally (though it will hurt like shit at times), it comes with the territory.
People question and curse God, so of course they’ll question and curse something much smaller in comparison like an earthly leader. My aim is to make sure that everyone that comes into contact with me as a leader leaves more informed, experienced, and better equipped to fulfill their purpose than they were when they arrived. No one has ever left my company and this not be the case. Doesn’t matter if they feel great about me or have some different feeling, the fact is that they are better now because of being in contact with me and that is what matters (whether they’ll admit that or not).
For example there’s a person who was fired from my company that went on a pointless tirade of trying to slander me and our company. They even stole out of our office and tried to hold our property at ransom for a payout. We all just shrugged and laughed and kept pushing forward. But the real reward (beyond the good laugh) is that I know I impacted this person’s life and put them on a path they NEVER would have been on if they had never worked for me. Before being at LP they were doing menial cubicle drone work and were miserable. They were inspired while at my company to start their own company and even named it after a nickname I gave them. So now, even when they’re off speaking ill of me, every time they say their company’s name they have to think of me! If they change the name because it reminds them of me they’ll have to think of me as the reason they changed the name.
So you see, leadership is not about popularity or being loved- even though it is sublime to have that experience. Your job is to support people in maximizing their human potential. Its good for business and good for the world.
Ise Lyfe (Oakland, CA) is an HBO Def Poet, Educator, and Executive Director of Lyfe Productives- a social marketing and education firm focused on product development.
ISE LYFE BREAKS DOWN ALL 20 ITEMS IN THE PHOTO SELECTED FOR THIS ARTICLE AND WHAT THEY MEAN TO HIM:
1. Jay-Z’s “Decoded” is a fresh textbook. It reveals and reminds us all that Hip-Hop like all other art comes from a foundation of humanity and struggle.
2. It is hard to see it in the shot but this book is a book of poetry by Marcus Garvey. It reveals Garvey as an Artist and true user of heart.
3. This book “Freedom” is a picture history of Black people in the United States from slavery to present day. It is impressively thorough and touching.
4. “The Missing Piece Meets the BIG O” is the best book I’ve ever read on relationships. I want to read it to someone.
5. As an emcee it was a trip to record an audio book. The 1st time I saw it on a shelf at Barnes & Noble was surreal. I never would’ve imagined that. Lesson learned…
6. This is a copy of my 1st book, “Pistols & Prayers. I dedicated it to my mother, which was a great feeling. I hope it makes up for all the janky hand made birthday cards when I was a kid!
7. Prince Cometh
8. I’ve had this rhyme bad since I was 17. It hasn’t even been on purpose that I’ve kept it. It just always resurfaces wherever I’m at. Thought i’d add it to the heap…
9. How Europe Underdeveloped Africa is a thorough indictment of the exploitation of Africa for western world benefit. Out of all the books in my home this is probably the most significant one I have in relation to understanding the deliberate attack on Africa.
10. The Husia is love.
11. Solid gold from Mali…
12. This is the 1st copy printed of my 1st albim, “spreadtheWORD”. I remember how juiced I was to open it up and play it for the first time. Having this in my house reminds me to not get jaded and stay enthusiastic about everything.
13. I think the reconciliation of Malcolm and Martin is so deep on so many levels. Forget whatever beef you might have in the streets, these brothers were beefing over the destiny of our people and found a way to move through their differences and set eyes on a common goal.
14. Every morning when I rise I sit up and check in spiritually. The first thing you do in the morning should not be checking Twitter on your cellphone! Anyway, sage always centers me and genuinely holds power.
15. I never walk around with this much money on me, nor do I keep it in my house. In the hood you learn to keep hella g’s on you to floss but as you mature you learn that that isn’t what’s up. Money isn’t power, it is a manifestation of power. For intensive purposes though I pulled several (several) thousands in cash out to authenticate what I knew would be in the article. Then it was right back to the bank cousin…
16. 789= Balance Infinite Completion
17. I keep it modest on the designer/name brand tip- but I’ll admit that I’m weak for Ray-Bans. I WON’T ADMIT HOW MANY i’VE BOUGHT…
18. One day
19. This is Steve Jobs. I read his biography four times. Homie was flawed as we all are, but he never relented in building what he saw in his mind and making it a reality. I’ve studied and I’m learning from his successes AND mistakes.
20. WEAR condoms.