What Produced Michael Jackson's Greatness

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You see it in the news:

  1. 'MJ had a gift.'
  2. 'He was born with it.'
  3. 'He was lucky.'

Yet, here's what you don't really hear:

  • Michael Joseph Jackson worked his butt off.

What people saw on stage at his peak was a culmination of decades of grueling hours of dedication to his work and perfecting his craft.

His childhood consisted of him spending thousands of hours in the studio rehearsing, practicing, and ensuring he hit every note.

He carried that mindset into adulthood, spending several consecutive days and nights in the studio to fine-tune every second of his individual records.

According to those who knew him most, he was the hardest worker they knew.

Spike Lee speaking on Michael's "legendary work ethic" said this:

I’ve met a lot of great athletes, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and these guys are known for their work ethic. And as great as Michael was, and as great as Kobe is, Michael could give those guys a run for their money when it comes to work ethic.

Kobe Bryant on his mentor:

When I say different, I mean different in the sense of being obsessed with your craft, paying attention to the details, and working your tail off day in and day out and being consumed with what you do. He made me feel it was OK to be that way and helped mentor me in that department.

Said Berry Gordy:

He was driven by his hunger to learn, to constantly top himself, to be the best. He was the consummate student. He studied the greats and became greater. He raised the bar and then broke the bar.

More quotes from those who worked with him (courtesy of gearslutz.com):

"He would be dancing up a storm while singing and doing all of those 'grunts', 'oohs', 'ahhs' vocal sounds that would pepper his tracks. He asked me to take up the carpet so he could dance, and in between takes, he would sing other popular songs of the day just to freestyle and acapella, and we would talk about the music we liked."

"The last weekend of recording on HIStory, he came to me and Eddie Delena, and said, 'I'm sorry, but I don't think any of us are going to sleep this weekend. There's a lot to get done, and we have to go to Bernie on Monday morning.' He stayed at the studio the entire time, singing, and mixing...I told him the story of John singing 'twist and shout' while being sick, and though most people think he was screaming for effect, it was actually his voice giving out. He loved it, and then went in to sing his heart out. . . ."

"I think very few people realized how deeply MJ was involved in his records. He had an incredible music vocabulary -- from showtunes to jazz, to whatever was on the radio. He studied."

Talent = myth.

We tell kids they can be anything they want to be if they set their mind to it.

So they jump from "I want to play in the NBA!", to "I want to cure cancer!", to "I want to win American Idol!".

What they forget:

  • Perfecting X takes decades of hard, strenuous, freakish hard work.

Professional athletes from the NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, MLS, etc, etc., etc., etc. have over a decade of experience practicing and improving and excelling at their individual crafts.

Likewise with Nobel laureates, world championship chessmasters, renowned programmers, and any other top X.

Michael Jackson's greatness didn't come from talent; hard, strenuous, work produced his greatness.

Prepare for the long road ahead to achieving greatness.

Rest in peace, Michael.

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Posted on July 08

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