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Learning from Jay-Z

If you haven’t had the chance to sit down and read Jay-Z’s “Decoded”, you’re missing out (and this doesn’t just apply to hip-hop lovers). “Decoded” details Jay-Z’s very interesting life, describing each of his songs and their origin. As a result of reading this book, I have become an even bigger fan of his and also have come to realize how much of a lyrical genius he is. The section I wanted to share was the first time he met Michael Jordan.
Here is a transcript from the book:
 “I am the Mike Jordan of Recording”
“The first time I met Jordan was at St. John’s University, where he was giving the keynote address at their graduation one year. We talked briefly, but didn’t really chop at it. A couple of months later, in Chicago, I went to his restaurant at his invitation to have dinner with him. I had Ty-Ty and my friend Juan with me and I told Jordan that if I was going to sit and break bread with him, I’d have to be able to ask him anything. I meant anything.
It was so perfect that I had Juan with me because he’s a die-hard Knicks fan, and as much as he respected Jordan, he hated the way Jordan sat the Knicks down every year in the Eastern Conference play offs. Juan is a real sports fan; he’d be sick for a week, I’m talking depressed-he wouldn’t leave the house-after his team lost. That night he had to sit there and dine with his nemesis. Jordan told Juan the story of how he almost came to the Knicks. He said he was a second away from closing the deal, he was packing his bags to come to New York, when Jerry Krauss called and matched the Knicks’ offer at the last minute. Juan looked like he was going to cry.
I asked Jordan who was the hardest person that ever guarded him; he told me Joe Dumars. I found out how much Jordan loves Hakeem Olajuwon, he pointed out that he was a leader in steals, which is rare in n the center position. I asked him to name his five favorite centers, the best games he ever played, which championship meant the most to him. I got to be an unabashed fan. It was an absolute dream conversation for me.
The thing that distinguished Jordan wasn’t just his talent, but his discipline, his laser-like commitment to excellence. That’s something I always respect, especially in people who have great natural talents already. Making music requires a lot of that same discipline and commitment. It’s true that I’m able to sometimes come up with songs in a matter of minutes after hearing a track, but that’s a skill that I’ve honed over hundreds of hours of practice and work since I was nine. My earliest mentors taught me that making music is work, whether it was Jaz locking himself in a room working on different floors or Big Daddy Kane taking the time to meticulously put together a stage show. There’s unquestionably magic involved in great music, songwriting  and performances-like those nights when a star athlete is totally in the zone and can’t miss. But there’s also work. Without the work, the magic won’t come. There are a hundred Harold Miners (no disrespect) for every Michael Jordan.”
Obviously, we all haven’t been given the talent that Michael Jordan has in basketball or Jay-Z has in music, but hopefully each of us does something with the same passion as these two. There are many people who do what they love without anyone noticing. They may not get compensated in any fashion other than for the enjoyment (myself, for instance, and this blog!). But, doing what you love is worth all the effort.

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