Sometimes we are too quick to judge because our ego gets in the way. We know what we want out of life and spend every day trying to attain that goal or lifestyle. Because our minds are so set on our goals, we can push away people who are coming into our lives as a teacher or coach. We must listen to people who come into our lives and take in their wisdom. Charlamagne Tha God, author of BLACK PRIVILEGE, explains why we need to accept criticism and take advice from all people.
No matter who you work with—black or white, men or women, gay or straight—to reach your full potential, you must remain open to good advice. I don’t care how skilled you are, what sort of accolades you’ve received, or how big your check is. Your continued evolution depends on being able to accept criticism and advice from people who are more experienced than you.
When you make the mistake of thinking you know it all, you’re going to shut yourself off from so much wisdom. I see talented people fall into this trap all the time. They experience a little success and then think their talent is enough to carry them the rest of the way to the top. If they meet someone who doesn’t seem as gifted, or skilled, as they are, they’ll dismiss that person’s advice out of hand. But here’s a little secret: there are a lot of people out there whose main talent is their ability to coach.
Phil Jackson wasn’t a star as an NBA player, but he’s probably the greatest coach in the history of the game. Providing instruction, vision, and guidance is his gift. Imagine if Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen had ignored Phil just because he wasn’t an All-Star when he played in the league. They would have missed out on so much wisdom and might have never won all those rings.
Or take Coach K, aka Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. The man who is perhaps the greatest college basketball coach of all time. Coach K wasn’t a pro player himself. He’s a short white guy with a funnylooking face and an unspellable last name (you should have seen how I spelled it before this book was edited). Still, he has an undeniable gift of being able to communicate with and inspire his players. By being open to his instruction and buying into his system, a lot of guys have been able to make millions of dollars for themselves in the NBA.
There might be a Phil Jackson or a Coach K waiting to come into your life too. They probably won’t be a basketball coach, but they could be a supervisor, a manager, or just a coworker. Someone who on the surface might not seem to have the talent that you do but still can clearly see what is needed to be done in order for you to take that step to the next level. If that person approaches you, will you be receptive? As long as you give yourself the credit you deserve for being stupid, you’ll make the right choice. When you can freely admit “I don’t know everything,” then you’re always going to be open to more instruction.
I’ve been very fortunate to learn under some great coaches over the years. Individuals who were able to point out the aspects of my game that I needed to improve. Who didn’t back away from my brashness but stepped up and showed me how to turn it into a strength.
There was Ron White, the music director at Z93 Jamz in Charleston. As well as George Cook, who gave me my first full-time job in radio at Hot 98.9 in Charleston. George is the person who planted the seed in my mind that I could host a morning show.
I’m also indebted to Mike Love, who hired me at the Big DM 101.3 in Columbia, South Carolina. I actually dubbed him “Phil Blackson” because he was such a great coach and strategist.
One of my greatest coaches (and great friends) is Cadillac Jack. He’s absolutely one of the smartest, most driven and deliberate people I’ve ever met. He and Geespin are the reason not only that there is The Breakfast Club, but also that it’s the hit that it is today. I like to say that Geespin’s gift is identifying the talent and that Cadillac’s is showing the talent how to grow. There’s no doubt in my mind that Cadillac’s guidance is one of the reasons my career was able to go to the next, next level.
Cadillac blessed me with so many gems during our time together, but probably the greatest was teaching me the “Law of Ten.” It states that when a media personality puts an opinion or an idea out into the world, three people will like it unconditionally, three people will hate it unconditionally, and four people will be on the fence about it.
Cadillac taught me that a lot of on-air personalities waste their time trying to win over the three haters. It’s easy to understand why. If someone keeps tweeting, Charlamagne, you are such a moron, my natural inclination is try to show that person that I’m not.
Cadillac knew better. “Just ignore the haters, because nothing you say is going to change their opinion,” he told me. “They’re not interested in your ideas. They just get off on attacking you.” Instead of exhausting precious energy on the three people who already hate me, Cadillac coached me to focus on the four people who are undecided. “Those are the people who are worth your effort. The other ones are already a lost cause.”
Man, that advice truly saved me, especially in this time when everyone not only has an opinion but also a platform to express it. If I had kept paying attention to the haters on Twitter, Instagram, and the comments sections of YouTube, I would have gone crazy. Instead of playing verbal Whac-a-Mole with people who weren’t ever interested in having a real dialogue, the “Law of Ten” showed me the value in sharpening my “I don’t give a fuck” skills to a razor’s edge. I think I also gravitated toward Cadillac’s advice because it reminded me of something my father always told me, “You’re never as good as they say you are, and you’re never as bad as they say you are.”
Not everyone in my position would have made themselves so open to Cadillac’s coaching. He’s a lot older than me. He’s white. He’s a Top 40 DJ who never played a lot of hip-hop. He’s from Boston. The list goes on and on. But I didn’t care about any of those factors. I could tell that Cadillac was trying to help me, and I wanted to soak up all the game he had to share.
From Cadillac and Geespin to my current coach Thea, so many people have helped me grow and prosper professionally. But again, only because I stay receptive to both new people and new information.
For more advice from Charlamagne Tha God, read his book – now in paperback!
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