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Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter / , (by Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent, 2020) -

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Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter /  ,   (by Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent, 2020) -

Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter / , (by Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent, 2020) -

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Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter / , (by Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent, 2020) -
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2020
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Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent
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Curtis Jackson, 50 Cent
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upper-intermediate
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08:16:50
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128 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter / , :

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: Hustle Harder, Hustle Smarter

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Introduction For years people have been encouraging me to pen a self-help book. Even waved a couple of big checks in my face. I always passed. Not that I didnt come close a few times. I even got as far as coauthoring one (The 50th Law) with the great Robert Greene, but I still never felt totally comfortable writing one on my own. I just didnt like the idea of presenting myself as an expert on life. That might sound strange coming from the one who has never been shy about telling you how much money he has, how many records he sold, or the TV shows hes produced. Yes, Ive been comfortable sharing my successes publicly, but privately Im sensitive to the fact that those accomplishments havent made my life all the way right. There are many things Ive fucked up: money, relationships, opportunities, friendships . . . you name it. Ive absolutely failed as many times as Ive succeeded. Which, ultimately, is the very reason I finally decided to write a book. There arent many people who have experienced success on the level I have. Within that elite group, even fewer had to pull themselves up from the bottom like I had to. Its a story Ive told many times before but is worth repeating here: my mother had me when she was just fifteen. As a single mother, she was forced to turn to selling drugs to support me. For several years she prospered on the streets, but as they do with almost everyone, those streets eventually caught up with her. She was killed when I was eight years old, and I was forced to move in with my grandparents, who were already raising nine children of their own. By the time I was twelve, I was selling drugs on the same streets that had claimed my mother. It was the kind of circumstances that knock most people down and keep them there. But I never stopped pushing. I got into hip-hop, made a little noise, and then got shot nine times over a neighborhood beef. That would have been the end of the road for most people, but I was just getting started. I recovered, kept working on my music, and ended up releasing one of the bestselling debut albums in history. By the time I hit thirty, Id sold tens of millions of albums, produced and starred in my own biopic, and become one of the first hip-hop artists to create a mainstream brand. I figured Id left the struggle behind me once and for all, but I was wrong. Over the next few years, my manager/mentor Chris Lighty died under tragic circumstances, I became a target for lawsuits, and most of the money in the record industry literally streamed out the door as MP3s replaced CDs. In my unprecedented success, people couldnt get enough of me. Even when things became complicated, I grew in popularity, but for the wrong reasons. The forces that built me up were now taking pleasure in my potential destruction. It was never a true rock bottomvery few rock bottoms are lined with Gucci wallpaper and have Lamborghinis in the garagebut my life felt like it was headed in the wrong direction. So what did I do? I rethought my approach and shed people and excess baggage like a snake sheds skin. I hustled harder and smarter. And, in dedicating myself to building a relationship with my youngest son, Sire, I would like to think I also became a better person. Within a few years, I made a series of moves that led to some of the greatest successes of my career. I created and executive-produced a hit show for Starz, Power. Soon I was dominating shows in the ratings the way I used to dominate other rappers on the charts. But Power was just the start of my master plan. This past October, my company, G-Unit Film and Television, Inc., signed a four-year deal with Starz/Lionsgate that is said to be the biggest deal in premium cable history. And thats just one of the many projects I have in the pipeline. The most accomplished and lucky ones achieve success once; Ive managed to make it to the top twice. In many ways, Im prouder of my second trip to the summit than my first. A lot of people wrote me off. Said that I was done. Even, to borrow a phrase from one of my albums, self-destructed. I saw all of the headlines. Heard all of the talk. Caught all of the celebrations of my failures. Which has only made my success in the television field even sweeter. Its also what finally spurred me to write this book. I need people to understand that there is no such thing as making it. That no matter how much money you stack, fame you achieve, or success you taste, there are going to be more struggles in your future. More drama to deal with. More obstacles placed in your path. The goal is not just to be successful. Its about learning how to sustain that success, too. A skill I had to learn the hard way. And one Im going to teach you in this book. Today Im forty-four years old, an age I once thought Id never come close to reaching. Hell, just making it to twenty-one seemed like it might be too much to ask at one point. Yet here I am in my fourth decade, with a few grays peeking through my beard and the wrinkles starting to set in (still got a six-pack and strong hairline, though). But Im comfortable where Im at. Its a more mature age, one that allows me to look at my life and accurately assess whats made me who I am. And when I try to sum up my ability to keep finding ways to stay on top, I can see it comes down to two main characteristics: Ive got the heart of a hustler. And Im fearless. My primary goal for this book is to help you develop those same characteristics. But before we get into how, I want to talk about those words: fearless and hustler. Coming from me, those words probably make you think of 50 Cent the Gangsta. The guy who openly bragged about selling drugs. Who got shot nine times and didnt seem to mind. Who got into beefs with some of the most feared names both on the streets and in hip-hop and never once backed down. Those exploits all belonged to 50 Cent, a persona I adopted in order to help deal with the chaos and insanity that I saw all around me growing up. But this book isnt designed to turn you into the next 50 Cent. Dont get it twisted: 50 Cent was, and still is, a real part of who I am. But if that persona was all there was to me, I never would have been able to maintain the success Ive achieved. Thats why, in this book, Im going to share the thinking of both 50 Cent and Curtis Jackson. I didnt start going by 50 Cent till I was older, but ever since I was a kid, Ive always felt like there were two sides to me. Two identities I had to be comfortable with. The side that allowed me to exist in my grandmothers home, where cussing wasnt tolerated and Sundays were for church, and the side that allowed me to survive on the streets. I needed both of those sides to get by. There were times when I would actually wonder if there was something off about me. Did everyone else have that sense of duality inside of them? Or was I slightly off in the head? Today, I can see that there was nothing off about it. Just the opposite. My ability to harness both personalities has been one of my greatest strengths. 50 Cent propelled me to the top. Curtis Jackson is the man who has been able to keep me there. At this point Ive been moving in corporate America longer than I was hustlin. I was only making dirty money from the age of twelve to twenty-four. Ive been earning legal, corporate cash from twenty-five to forty-four. Thats almost twice as long. Not surprisingly, at this point, the streets and the business world often dont seem that different to me. Neither play fair. Both are ultracompetitive. Theyre both ruthless. And you can still dominate each one if you follow several basic principles: Be fearless. Most people run from what theyre afraid of. I run toward it. That doesnt mean I think Im bulletproof (Ive learned the hard way that Im not) or that Im unaware of danger. I experience fear as much as the next man. But one of the greatest mistakes people can make is becoming comfortable with their fears. Whatever is worrying me, I meet it head-on and engage it until the situation is resolved. My refusal to become comfortable with fear gives me an advantage in almost every situation. Cultivate the heart of a hustler. Hustlin might be associated with selling drugs, but its actually a character trait thats shared by winners in every profession. Steve Jobs was as much of a hustler at Apple as I was when I was on the streets. The key to building up that trait in your own personality is accepting that youre never hustling toward a certain goal. Hustlin is a motor thats got to be running inside of you each and every day. And its fuel is passion. If you can keep that motor running, it will take you everywhere you want to go in life. Build a strong crew. Youre only going to be as strong as the weakest person in your crew. Thats why you have to be extremely conscious of who you have around you. Betrayal is never as far away as youd like to believe. Thats why its imperative to find a balance between establishing trust and discipline in the people you work with and giving them the freedom to be themselves. If you can establish that equilibrium, you will be in the position to get the very best out of your team. Know your value. One of the cornerstones of my sustained success is that I dont rush into deals. Even though Ive become synonymous with getting paid, I never chase money. I evaluate every new venture based on its long-term potential, not on what the first check I get is going to look like. The reason I do that is I have supreme confidence in my own value and ability. Im secure that as long as Im betting on myself, Im always going to win. Evolve or die. If Id been unwillingor unableto evolve as an individual, Id be dead or in jail right now. One of the keys to my success is that at every stage of my life, Ive been willing to assess any new situation I find myself in, and make the necessary adjustments. While Ill always draw from the lessons I learned on the streets, Ive never been limited to them. Instead, Im always looking to absorb new information from as many sources as possible. I dont care where you come from or what you look likeif youve created success, I want to learn from you. Shape perception. Everything you share with the worldyour words, your energy, what you weartells a story. You must make sure your narrative always presents you as the person you want to be seen as, even if your reality tells a slightly different story. One of the secrets to getting what you want in life is creating the perception that you dont need a thing. That can be a difficult energy to projectespecially when youre strugglingbut committing to that perception will make you more attractive professionally, personally, and even romantically. Dont be afraid to compete. Some people try to portray me as a troll, or a bully, but thats not accurate. My first instinct is always to build positive and mutually beneficial relationships with people. But if someone isnt interested in being friends with me, Im more than comfortable being enemies with them. The reason is I believe competition is healthy for all parties involved. Whether its taking on established rappers or hit TV shows, Ive always experienced my greatest success when Ive met my rivals head-on and without any hesitation. Learn from your Ls. As many victories as Ive racked up over the years, Ive experienced many more losses. That doesnt make me the exception among successful peopleit makes me the rule. I dont know an affluent rapper, mogul, executive, or entrepreneur whose losses dont far outweigh their wins. What separates those people from the pack is that instead of complaining about or hiding from their losses, they actively seek to learn from them. Avoid the entitlement trap. Nothing was ever given to me in life. Ive had to fight for everything Ive earned. Thats why the concept of entitlement has never seeped into my mentality. But almost everywhere I lookfrom the streets to the boardroomsI still see a lot of entitled people. Youre never going to find lasting success until you take full responsibility for what happens in your life. No one owes you anything. Just as you dont owe anyone else. Once you accept that fundamental truth and accept that you control your journey, so many doors that seemed closed are going to open up in front of you. Growing up, reading was often seen as an assignment that must be endured, instead of a tool that can help improve your life. Because of that mentality, no matter how many secrets I share in this book about happiness, business, and improving your life, there are a lot of folks in the hood who still wont ever find them. They simply dont sit down and read books. They might walk past a book like this a thousand times, until its covered in dust, before they even think of cracking it open. Its not entirely their fault, either. A lot of books arent written in a language that feels accessible to everyone. Personally, I didnt get into reading until I found writers like Donald Goines and Iceberg Slim who wrote in a voice that felt familiar to me. Their style made me comfortable, and once I had that, it gave me the confidence to start exploring authors who didnt come from the same background as me. Writers like Don Miguel Ruiz, Paulo Coelho, and one who has even become a close friend and collaborator, Robert Greene. Even if youre not from the streets (and given how diverse my audience has become, theres a good chance youre not), youve still made an important step just by picking this book up. These days a lot of folks have replaced reading with clicking. Theyll skim the surface of a topicmaybe watch a short video, maybe read a Wikipedia pageand feel like theyve put in work. Sorry, but a few clicks or scrolls just arent enough. Ive found that you need to learn about multiple examples and read about multiple scenarios before certain principles start to sink in. After you finish this book, you might only take a few of the principles with you. Even just one. Thats fine. That was the case when I read Roberts 48 Laws of Power. Ask me today what that book was about and all I can really tell you is, As the student, never outshine the master. There were forty-seven other laws in that book, but thats the one that stayed lodged in my brain. And because its never left me, Ive been able to apply it so many times over the years. Ive literally made millions by remembering to follow that principle. My hope is that youll leave this book with at least one fundamental principle lodged in your brain, too. Maybe it will be about fearlessness. Maybe it will be about controlling perspective. Or the importance of evolving. Whichever principle it is that resonates with you, hold on to it. Carry it with you until it becomes a part of your life. When you get to the top of the game, when you have all the money, then your perspective shifts, and you start to look at what really matters. How you help people. Im not someone who is comfortable resting on their laurels. If Im around at seventy, I still want to be contributing and participating. It may require less of me, but Ill still be a part of the culture. Helping push it forward. I might not be jumping around anymore, but Ill still be there, trying to help. Ive helped people in ways that maybe you havent seen or heard about before. But this book is one of the most effective and far-reaching ways that I can do it. For every reckless tweet or wild lyric from 50 Cent, trust that theres a method to how Curtis Jackson is moving. A strategy behind each action that is battle-tested and proven to work. This is my chance to share those strategies with you so you can move with purpose and confidence in your own life. Im excited that youre joining me on this journey. Chapter 1 Finding Fearlessness I wouldnt give a tinkers damn for a man who isnt sometimes afraid. Fears the spice that makes it interesting to go ahead. DANIEL BOONE A few years ago I hired a French guy named Corentin Villemeur to run my website. When he wasnt working for me, one of Corentins hobbies was to take selfies in spectacular settingsstanding precariously on the edge of a cliff or sitting on the roof of a high-rise with his legs dangling over the sides. When hed show those pics to the guys in my office, they would shake their heads and laugh, saying, Only a white guy would do that. To them it was like skydiving or trying to pet wild animals. An unnecessary risk that only someone who had never experienced real danger would take. I saw it differently. I saw an opportunity for freedom. So one day I took Corentin up to the roof of my old offices in Times Square to take some pictures of my own. But instead of just dangling my legs over the side, I decided to up the ante. On the roof was a water tower, a wooden, barrel-like structure rising several stories above us. Without any hesitation, I climbed up its rickety ladder and took a seat on its edge. I must have been forty stories up in the air. Below me, the people on the streets looked like ants at a picnic. If I slipped, it would have been a long trip down to the sidewalk. The stakes (and me) were very high, but I didnt experience any fear. Instead, I took in the spectacular view. The New York Times Building towered over me to my left, and the Hudson River sparkled behind me. I felt incredibly alive. Seeing my hometown from a birds-eye view filled me with the same ambition Id felt as a younger man. New York City was literally at my feet. The city of dreams. And I was going to keep hustlin my hardest to realize every one of them! I leaned back and Corentin snapped a spectacular shot for IG. When I got back down to my office, I posted it with this caption: I live on the edge. Im only free because Im not afraid. Everything I was afraid of already happened to me. A lot of people loved the post. Thats real, one wrote, with another adding, Man, what a powerful word. But not everyone appreciated it. About a week after posting the pic, I received a letter from my insurance company explaining that if I knowingly risked my life like that again, they would immediately cancel my policy. The insurance company shouldnt have been surprised, though. If theres one trait that has defined me since an early age, its fearlessness. A lot of people probably think I was born fearless. I might project that energy, but its not true. I was scared of the dark as a child. Just like I was definitely terrified of being killed when I was on the street, or petrified of failing when I started rapping. Ive experienced anxiety and angst of all kinds. The difference is I refuse to allow myself to grow comfortable in those fears. Comfort, Ive learned, is a dream killer. It saps our ambition. Blinds our vision. Promotes complacency. The number one thing most people are comfortable with is fear. Not that most of them would admit it. Ask someone if theyre living in a constant state of fear and theyll probably say, Of course not. Thats just pride talking, though. Fear dominates most peoples lives. Fear of loss. Fear of failure. Fear of the unknown. Fear of loneliness. I dont think theres anything shameful about experiencing fear. A little bit of paranoia is actually extremely helpful. There are a lot of real dangers out there. A lot of people with bad intentions. Being aware of those possibilities makes it easier to avoid them. What you cannot do is become complacent with any of those fears. If you fear loss, you cant spend your life avoiding intimacy and love (something Ive struggled with). If you fear failure, you cant stop taking risks. If you fear the unknown, you cant stop trying new experiences. It is not death that a man should fear, said the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius, but he should fear never beginning to live. I can trace the root of my own sense of fearlessness back to one specific event: the death of my mother. Thats a special kind of fear, one thats hard to describe. More than getting shot nine times, losing my mother was the most significant thing that ever happened to me. Even in middle age, I can still feel her loss. But through her death, my mother managed to give me a rare gift: the seed of fearlessness. It would take a lot of time for that trait to fully blossom in me. I would, unfortunately, have to experience a lot more difficult and dangerous moments until it became second nature. In this chapter, Im going to share some of the experiences and situations that helped encourage that sense of gutsiness in me. That allowed me to accept that what lives on the other side of fear isnt danger, or even death, but freedom. I want to show you that fearlessness is a strength you can develop, too. A muscle you can build, hopefully without having to experience the trauma that made mine so jacked. You dont have to lose your mother, or survive getting shot nine times, to develop the belief that you can survive anything that happens to you. That the only thing you cant overcome is never taking risks in the first place. DONT BE AFRAID TO GET HIT Team sports werent my thing as a kid. Didnt matter what we were playingfootball, basketball, or baseballif we lost, Id always be quick to point out whose fault it was. Yo, we got blown because you cant guard your fuckin man! I might tell a teammate who got burned on defense in basketball. He kept bustin your ass. We lost because of you, bro! It wasnt that I was trying to evade responsibility. If I made a bad play or couldnt guard my man, Id be the first to admit it. It was more that I didnt like having my success ride on someone elses ability or inability to perform. Its a feeling I havent been able to shake to this day. I always say that if I were ever going to bet on a horse at the track, then let it be me, goddammit. Because I know Im going to run as hard as I can. I was smart enough to accept I wasnt emotionally suited for team sports. I needed a sport where if I lost, it was my fault alone. Individual sports like golf and tennis werent sports anyone I knew played. (I only lived about twenty minutes from where the US Open is played in Flushing, but it might just as well have been in another state.) And in my hood, you usually only find yourself running if someone was chasing you. There was, however, a Police Athletic League boxing gym near me, run by a local fighter named Allah Understanding. He was from the nearby Baisley Projects and came up in the days when having a strong knuckle game was something people respected, aspired to, and feared. I training with Allah when I was around twelve years old, and I knew almost right away that boxing was the right fit for me. One day I was hanging out at the gym when a street dude named Black Justice stopped by, accompanied by one of his boys. Blackie, as we called him, was one of the most respected dealers in Baisley, a top lieutenant for the Supreme Team, the biggest drug crew in Queens at the time. His boy was essentially his muscle, a constant presence to make sure a rival would have to think twice before trying him. They were probably only eighteen or nineteen years old themselves, but already their reputations were well known around the neighborhood. The kind of young guns you didnt want any problem with. The gym got quiet as we all watched Blackie and his boy walk around. Then, without a word, Blackies boy stopped in front of one of the heavy bags and started laying into it. Bam-bam, bam-bam-bam. As the youngest kid in the space, common sense would dictate I keep my mouth shut and just observe. But, maybe because I was the youngest, I felt a little bolder and my big mouth got the better of me. As soon as the guy was finished on the bags, I called out to him. Hey man, you look good hitting that bag, I said, loud enough for everyone in the gym to hear. But that bag doesnt hit back. Blackie whipped around. What you say, young boy? You talkin to me? Naw, you a big nigga, I quickly replied. Im talking to him, I said, nodding toward his man. Most guys in their position might have whooped my assor worseon the spot. But these guys took my shit-talking in stride (Blackie had a generous spirit, free of the greed that infected a lot of his peers). Instead of taking offense, they both respected my outsize courage. Yeah, I like this kid, Blackie said, gesturing to me. We gonna have some champions come out of here, because these little niggas crazy. That recognition alone wouldve made my whole day. Instead, Blackie did us one better. This gym could use some work if we gonna get the most out of these fighters, he announced, looking around at the shabby setting. What kind of stuff do yall need? Write it all down. Two weeks later the gym was completely refurnished. Blackie had gotten us boxing shoes, trunks, new ropes, punching bags, and a new set of weights to replace our old rusty set that probably hadnt been updated since the sixties. From then on, Blackie took care of us. Whatever we needed, he got us. Although it was technically the Parks and Recreation Departments building, after that it was Blackies gym. I hadnt opened my big mouth just to get it fed, but thats what ended up happening. It was an important lesson for me to learn. You need to bend fear into moments of action at every opportunity, because the fearless not only recognize but also often reward one of their own. I entered Allahs gym as a chunky twelve-year-old, the 150 pounds I was carrying making me seem older than I was. You ever heard the expression punching above your weight? Well, in that gym I had to punch above my weight and age from my first day. There were no other kids my age in the program, so Allah Understanding had me fight whoever was in my weight class, which usually meant opponents four to five years older than me. That might not seem like a big deal, but theres a massive difference between a twelve-year-old and a seventeen-year-old. Those seventeen-year-olds were basically men, whereas I was still waiting on my balls to drop. I might have been in the same weight class, but I lacked their strength and maturity. It was intimidating as hell to step into the ring with those guys. I never gave in to that fearmostly because Allah Understanding refused to let me. One of the best things he and the other coaches did was refuse to coddle me. If an older boy hit me in the face while we were sparring, they didnt stop the proceedings and ask if I was okay. They were going to teach me to keep fighting no matter how scared or hurt I was. The lesson I learned from those ass whippings would be twofold. First off, I learned that I could survive them. Yes, getting hit in the face wasnt pleasant. It would leave you disoriented. It would hurt. It might leave your eyes watering. But those blows didnt kill me. Hell, they didnt even knock me out. Once I realized I could absorb them and then keep moving forward, most of the fear I had felt evaporated. Second, and Im forever indebted to Allah Understanding for teaching me this, I learned that if I didnt like getting hit, then I needed to do something about it. Keep your fucking hands up! hed yell if I let down my guard and my opponent tagged me. If my opponent started laying into me with body shots after trapping me in a corner, Allah would holler, Get back into the center of the ring! Punishment, Allah Understanding taught me, wasnt something I had to accept. I could always do something about it. They knew I was outsized and often overmatched, but they refused to coddle me. You ever see a kid fall down and scrape his knee? How he reacts largely depends on the parents reaction. If the parent runs over and worriedly asks, Oh baby, are you okay?, the kid is probably going to cry. But if the parent assesses the situation, figures the kid is fine, and doesnt ask if hes okay, the kid is just going to brush his knee off and get back to whatever game he was playing. Thats the kind of parent Allah Understanding was to me. He taught me to brush off being hit and get back to what I was doing. He wasnt being heartlesshe was trying to condition me to brush off the inevitable blows life was going to rain down on me and keep moving forward to where I was trying to go, instead of where I was being pushed. Once I learned not to be afraid of getting hit, I became a much better boxer. Instead of constantly staying on my heels, worried about what my opponent was going to do to me, I brought the fight to my opponent. I learned how to dictate the terms of the confrontation. If I lost, it wasnt because Id been backed into a corner and beaten down. It would be because Id gone for what I wanted and had simply come up against someone with more skill. Its been a long time since Ive gotten popped in the face inside the ring, but Ive tried to keep that attitude in everything I do. I refuse to be afraid to take a punch. I know the blows are going to come, and some of them are going to stagger me, but Ill be able to take them. A lot of yall are like the kid who fell off his scooter and waited for his mommy to come over and say, Baby, are you all right? Not me. When I fall off, Im not waiting for a sympathetic word or someone to check in on me. Im getting right back on my feet and continuing my journey. Ive accepted that the punches are going to come in life, and some of them are going to land. But Im always going to survive and keep fighting for the things I want. That has to be your attitude, too. FACING FEAR HEAD-ON As Ive said, my mothers death is what forced me to build up my immunity to fear. Learning how to get punched in the face only increased my insensitivity. For a while, it seemed like fear might be an emotion Id never have to deal with again. It wasnt to be the case, though. Getting shot definitely reawakened that sensation in me. First and foremost, in the weeks that followed the incident, I found myself very afraid of the people whod shot me. I knew that they were still out there, not very far away and eager to finish the job theyd started. In addition to the emotional anxiety, the physical pain of getting shot also reacquainted me with fear. Not in the moment I got hitthe adrenaline stops you from feeling too much of thatbut in the months that would follow. Once the adrenaline wears off and the doctor tells you that youre going to make it, you start to acutely feel the effects of bullets ripping through muscles and pulverizing bone. I felt pain everywherewhere lead went through my thumb or through my cheek. For months it was like I had headaches throughout my body: a relentless and deep throbbing I didnt know you could feel in your leg or your hand. Every time I had to go to physical therapy and put weight on my leg, or break through the scar tissue in my thumb, it hurt like hell. I realized I was scared of having to go through that process again. Maybe even more so than dying. But as my rehab continued, I also came to understand another important truth: I wasnt comfortable being scared. That might sound like an obvious thing to say, but I think its actually what makes me unique. Most people are extremely comfortable with their fears. Afraid of flying? Stay off of planes. Afraid of sharks? Dont go snorkeling on your Caribbean vacation. Afraid of failure? Well, then dont even try. A lot of people live their entire lives that way. Not me. I hated being scared. I hated looking over my shoulder. I couldnt stand the idea of staying off the block till things cooled down. To me, hiding would have almost been worse than getting shot. In some ways, the physical pain I endured was my friend. It pushed me further than most people are willing to go. Trust me, when you get hurt that bad, theres a shift. You want to approach the problem instead of run from it. Which is exactly what I did. After several weeks in rehab, I went back to my grandmothers house in Queens. Literally back to the scene of the crime. That in itself was a big step for me psychologically. The easyhell, the sensiblething would have been to move far away. A place where no one except my closest friends would know how to find me. It didnt even have to be far in terms of mileage. I could have moved to the Bronx or Staten Island, and it would have been like going to another country. I was determined not to give in an inch to my fear. I was going to go back to where I wanted to be, which was my grandmothers house. When I left rehab, the doctors told me to start jogging to build up stamina and strength in my injured legs. I was committed to their plan, but almost immediately I hit an obstacle. One morning I took a peek out my grandmas window and saw someone I didnt recognize in front of her house. To me, he was trying too hard to look inconspicuous and blend in. I was admittedly in a very paranoid state, so it could have been nothing. But paranoia sharpens your senses the way an antelopes acute sense of smell can identify a lion from hundreds of yards away. Maybe I was sensing my own predator. I canceled the jog I had planned for the day. And the next day, too, after I saw the same guy lurking on the street again. By this point I was experiencing a lot of confusion. Were my heightened senses tipping me off to unseen danger? Or was I imagining menace that wasnt really there? I couldnt tell. All I knew for sure was that fear was starting to consume me. I decided that if I stayed in that house and didnt follow my rehab plan, then I had already lost. When fear interrupts your routine, or makes you rethink it in any way, its gotten its hooks deep in you and will hold you back forever. Cowards die many times before their deaths, wrote Shakespeare. The valiant never taste of death but once. I wasnt trying to go out like a coward. The best way to get past a fear thats holding you back is first to acknowledge it and then come up with a plan to get past it. So thats what I did. First, I accepted that I was afraid. Then I gathered my most trusted friends in my grandmothers living room and explained that I was going to need them to go jogging with me the next morning. No doubt, everyone said. Well be back tomorrow. When the next morning rolled around, however, only one of them actually showed up: my guy Halim. I dont think the rest of them were scared of any potential dramatheyd proved themselves in that realm too many times already. I think they were more afraid of the idea of having to do some cardio in the morning. That wasnt something they were comfortable with. I decided to head out with just Halim, even though he wasnt the ideal candidate: he was in even worse shape than I was. More important, I had serious doubts about how he might react if a threat did present itself. In a crew full of dudes just looking for any excuse to let one fly, Halims nature was to look for a way to avoid confrontation. As for Halim, since he was out of shape, I gave him a bike so he could keep pace alongside me. As for my second concern, I opted to take matters into my own hands, literally. I found a small pistol, put it in my good hand, and then wrapped it with medical bandages. Everyone knew me as a boxer, so to the casual eye, it just looked like Id busted my hand in the ring. I used so many bandages that the gun disappeared into my cast almost completely, with only the barrel peeking out. I told Halim to pedal alongside me and keep an eye out for anyone who looked like they wanted to jump out of the bushes and take a shot at me. All he had to do was sound the alarm, and Id take it from there. Halim and I performed this routine every morning. I was committed to getting my strength and stamina back, and wasnt going to let a threatperceived or actualget between me and my goals. Was I actually scared on any of those runs? At first I was, but I took comfort in knowing that each time I set out, Id done all I could do to take the necessary precautions. I had both a lookout and protection, which was at least more than I had when Id been shot. It was an extension of what Allah Understanding had taught me: instead of being afraid of getting hit and just giving up, do the things that make you a difficult target. In the ring, that meant staying on my toes, moving constantly, and keeping my hands up. On the street, it meant jogging with a bodyguard and a pistol up my sleeve. No one ended up challenging me, and I was able to get myself back into shape through those runs. But looking back, I can see that I didnt have to be so aggressive in confronting my fears. I didnt have to run through the same streets where Id just been shotI could have just as easily gone to a local gym, or even put a treadmill in my grandmothers basement. I was just so uncomfortable that anything less than jogging outside, in full view of the whole neighborhood, would have felt like a complete concession to fear. A concession I wasnt willing to make. Today, Im a little less likely to be so aggressive in confronting things head-on. In fact, if Im being completely honest, there are still some fears Ive barely confronted at all. THE ONE THING IM STILL AFRAID OF We can spend our entire livesand many people dotrying to ignore something were actually carrying around with us every day. But you cant hide from something you never put down. To give you an example, when I look in the mirror and take an authentic assessment of where Im at in life, the thing Im most afraid of is family. Its a fear I havent wanted to admit, because I know for the vast majority of people, family brings incredible comfort. Security. A sense of well-being and connection. Ive never had that feeling. Family makes me uncomfortable as hell. It doesnt make me feel safe. It makes me feel extremely vulnerable. Thats probably not a surprise given my background. The number one fear every child experiences, no matter where they live or what their circumstance, is losing a parent. Its built into our DNA. You dont have to download that app onto your phone; it comes preinstalled. Psychologists say the fear of losing a parent is especially acute between the ages of four and eight. Every kid in that age range is going to start worrying when their parent is late coming back from the store, or goes away for a couple of days. Of course the parent always comes back, and in time the kid stops obsessing over the possibility that they wont. Well, my mother never came back. So when every childs worst fear actually came true for me, it made it very, very hard to open myself up to the type of love I had for my mother with anyone else. As youve probably gathered, things didnt get much easier once I went to my grandparents house. Their love was unquestionable, but the environment was chaotic even in the best of times. There was never enough money, attention, or stability. But there was plenty of drug and alcohol abuse. A lot of dysfunction. My grandparents house was not the ideal place to mourn my mother. But they were the only family I had. Ive never met my father. I dont even know who the guy is. A lot of people who have grown up fatherless have a desire to reconnect when theyre older, but Ive never felt that way. In fact, Im glad he hasnt come forward. The things he could have helped me withthe lessons he could have taught methose moments have all passed. I dont think theres anything positive he could add to my life now. Like many people do, at first I continued the cycle of dysfunction that began with my mothers death. When my son Marquise was born, right around the time my rap career was blowing up, I thought Id turned a corner. I remember telling an interviewer, When my son came into my life, my priorities changed, because I wanted to have the relationship with him that I didnt have with my father. That was my pure intention, but its not what happened. Instead, Marquises mother, Shaniqua, and I got caught up in an extremely dysfunctional relationship of our own. Ill talk about some of my frustrations with Shaniqua and Marquise later in the book. But for now Ill admit a lot of criticism Ive received for how Ive dealt with that situation has been justified. Im someone whos incredibly honest and transparent, and the things Ive said publicly about my older son are the same sorts of things a lot of parents who are stuck in bad relationships also think and feel. They just dont articulate it. That doesnt make it right, but it might make it a little bit more relatable. If I have done one thing right when it comes to family, its that Ive tried to break that cycle of dysfunction with my younger son, Sire. His mother and I arent together, but Ive tried to be much more present in his life. He lives with his mom, so I go see him whenever I get the chance. Well hang out at the pool, play video games, and watch sports. The normal things fathers and sons do. Most important, theres no tension when I see him. His mother and I are on the same page and do a great job coparenting. So when Sire sees me walk up for a hug, its nothing but love. It brings me a lot of happiness to know that Im always going to be a big part of his life and be there to help him navigate the inevitable peaks and valleys. To make sure that Sire doesnt have to make the same mistakes that Ive made. Thats what I wanted for Marquise, but neither his mother nor I was emotionally mature enough to create that foundation for him. The truth is, I was scared of having a family. Maybe she was, too. Our son suffered for it. And now my relationship with Marquise is just a reflection of the negative energy between his mother and me. My relationship with Marquise is the area in my life where Ive got the most work to do. There have been times, even recently, when Ive thought about writing that relationship off forever. I dont want to do that, but sometimes when youve been hurt a lotand youve done your share of the hurting, tooit feels best to walk away. I came extremely close not long ago, after I unexpectedly bumped into Marquise at my jewelers store in Manhattan. I didnt even know he was in the city at the time, so I was shocked to see him. I tried to start a conversation, but he immediately accused me of having him followed. I told him that was crazy, but things only went downhill from there. The energy between us was terrible. Marquise even said, What, am I supposed to be afraid of you? That really messed my head up. This was my firstborn son, my own flesh and blood, and we couldnt even speak to each other, let alone hug and laugh at an unexpected encounter. Finally, without a word, Marquise basically fled the store, leaving me dumbfounded. A couple of my guys went down to the street to try to catch up with Marquise and say, Why are you bugging? This is your father. Come and talk with him, but Marquise had already disappeared. He didnt want to be found. I couldnt even follow them into the streetmy mind was fuzzy and I couldnt think straight. I had to take several minutes to compose myself. There are very few times when Im knocked completely off-kilter, but when they happen, they always involve family. Let me bump into a rapper who dissed me, or a CEO Ive had a tense negotiation with, and Im good. In fact, Im great. Those moments dont faze metheyre what I live for. Only family seems to faze me. Its not just my relationship with Marquise, either. I dont even like going home for holidays anymore because seeing my family makes me so tense. Ill stop by my grandmothers old house a day before Christmas to kick it with my grandfather. But I wont come back on the actual holiday. Even if I bring only positive vibes into the house, someone is inevitably going to bring their negativity toward me. An aunt or a cousin will end up saying, Im tired of everyone kissing his ass because hes 50 Cent. Shit, he aint that special. Instead of a celebration, the entire night will be about what I did for one person but didnt do for everyone else. That sort of energy makes me extremely uncomfortable. I know my fear of family isnt healthy, and Im working on it. It may take years, but Im committed to the process. So by the time Im my grandfathers age, I hope Ill have a solid relationship with my children, and maybe their children, too. RAISE YOUR HAND! I know I have a reputation as a hothead, but in reality, no matter what private jet Im flying on or corporate boardroom Im seated in, Im always relaxed. The person operating under the least amount of fear. Im confident nothing that gets said, threatened, or promised in any of those conversations is going to hurt me. Sure, Id like to seal that $30 million distribution deal or land the role of a lifetime. But Im not afraid they might go away. Why would I be scared? Ive already been through some of the scariest shit life has to offer. So how do you harness the same sort of confidence I have? To keep cool where most people would be sweating through their shirts? Its not rocket science. The only way to access that kind of confidence is by putting in the work. Thats it. Have you truly dedicated yourself to learning everything that you can about your field? Do you give 100 percent every time you walk in the office, sit down in the classroom, or step onstage for an audition? If the answer is yes, what do you really have to be afraid of? Youve already done everything you can do. Now you just need to make sure the world recognizes it. That can be a challenge, especially if youre not someone whos been raised from an early age to think that you belong in those meetings. If youre not a white guy or didnt get into the right prep school, you might have to go a little harder to get the credit you deserve. It shouldnt be that way, but its what it is. For now. Youre going to have to project the confidence that you belong, that youve got the answers, even if the people youre talking to arent giving you the credit. All your hard work isnt going to be worth shit if youre not readyno, determinedto share it with the world. Ill give you an example. A guy in the music industry who Ive known for years hasnt been able to translate his hard work and talent into the success he deserves. I wont say his name because hes a great dude and I dont want to hurt his confidence. (See, I am maturing.) He started as a street guy, but thanks to his charisma, intelligence, and work ethic, he was able to make real inroads in the music biz. He became close to several moguls, myself included, who really trusted his judgment and taste. He made good money and was respected in the industry, but he was never quite able to reach the mogul level himself. And I knew that frustrated him. Hed ask me for advice, but I couldnt honestly put my finger on what was holding him back. Then one day we went to a meeting with some big executives at a record label. Smooth guys in suits with good haircuts and nice leather shoes. Guys who were extremely self-assured. They were confident, but they also didnt really understand the project we were there to discuss. My guy did, though. Up and down. Back and forth. Wed spent hours talking about it, and he understood it both factually and instinctively. Thats why I brought him with me, because he could articulate what needed to be done better than I could. I expected him to blow them away, but when those executives started asking questions and spitballing ideas, he just sat on his hands. Didnt make a peep. You would have thought he was just a buddy of mine along for the ride, instead of what he was, which was the one true expert in the room. At first I couldnt understand what he was doing (or not doing). Then it dawned on me: Hes afraid. Hes scared to raise his hand because he doesnt want to give the wrong answer. Hed put in the work, but in the presence of those executives self-assurance, he lost faith in himself. And that meant the executives never noticed him. Never made a mental note that he was a guy to keep an eye on. Never offered him the platform he was looking forand deserved. Instead, he stayed stuck in place. It was a pretty good place, one that a lot of other folks would have liked to reach, but not where he aspired to. He was stuck at a level that wasnt equal to his skill. When the money in the music business started to dry up, he found himself in a very vulnerable spot. If he had made it to that mogul status, he would have been okay. He would already have put away his rainy-day money. Instead, the rain came and he got soaked. He was one of the first to lose their jobs. (Its great to be a highly paid exec, but when things start to go south, those are the first people to get the ax. Sometimes its better to be a little underpaid.) Today, he tries to do consulting work, but hes on the outside looking in, becoming an old man in a space that prioritizes youth. Dont make the same mistake. If youve put in the work, and know your shit, raise your damn hand! Every single time. Theres nothing worse than being someone whos spent hourseven when youre off the clock at homestudying your companys reports, but when your boss asks for that information, you always let someone else provide it first. That person probably hasnt put in nearly the work that you have, but theyre also not afraid to be wrong. So when your boss looks at that person, she sees someone who is active. Who is participating. Who seems passionate. When she looks at you, she doesnt know what to think. Maybe she doesnt think anything at all. Its not fair, but that person with their hand always up is going to get promoted before you. Theyre going to get an office before you. Theyre going to leverage their promotion to a better-paying job at a competitor before you even get a raise. You were better trained, better prepared. But you didnt let the world see that because you were scared. That fear is going to stop you from getting full value for your work. Dont let it happen. On the other side of this coin is the person whos too quick to raise their hand. Theyre doing it because theyre fearful that someone else is going to get props before they do. So even if they dont know the answer, theyre going to say something anyway. I knew a guy like that, too. Wed go into a meeting, and hed be shouting out a solution before anyone had even identified the problem. He just wanted to be heard. Whenever hed start doing that, Id just shake my head and think, Yo, what is wrong with you, bro? It got to the point where I had to tell Chris Lighty, my manager at the time, not to bring this guy to any more meetings. It was unfortunate, because he was smart and talented. But he was doing too much. He was so fearful of someone else getting to shine that he ended up costing himself opportunities. Being fearful can trip you up in so many ways, in both your professional and personal lives. Thats why its so critical that you identify the things youre afraid of and put in the work to get past that fear. In your personal life, letting go of all that baggage will be such a relief. You wont know how heavy the load youve been carrying around all these years has been until you finally put it down once and for all. The moment you do, youre going to feel nothing but freedom. Chapter 2 Heart of a Hustler Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left by those who hustle. ANONYMOUS In 1978, a young Brazilian woman named Maria das Gra?as Silva received an internship at Petrobras, the countrys largest oil and gas company. It didnt pay, but the internship was a major accomplishment for Gra?as Silva. She had been born in one of Rios notorious favelas, the citys desperately poor neighborhoods that make the Southside of Queens look like Beverly Hills. She had spent her childhood picking rags and collecting scrap metal to help her family pay for her education. The internship represented a way out of the slums and into a better world. She was determined to give it everything she had. Gra?as Silva (later known as Gra?as Foster) ended up spending over thirty years at Petrobras. It wasnt easy to climb the corporate ladderBrazil has a notoriously macho culture, where women regularly face discrimination and harassment. She didnt let any of that slow her down. Shed already experienced much worse growing up in the favela and was determined to outwork all of the men who were her competition. She was so driven that she earned the nickname Caveiaro, which is the term Brazilians use for the iron cars police use to periodically clear out criminals from the favelas. In other words, she was like a tank. Slow, steady, and strong. A relentless worker who just kept moving ahead no matter what obstacles got put in her way. When Gra?as Silva started at Petrobras, she didnt enjoy any advantages. She was from the slums, not from one of the countrys fancy neighborhoods. She was never going to be part of the boys club at Petrobras. The odds were absolutely stacked against her. She overcame them by outworking her competition. It took her over thirty years, but her work ethic got her to the absolute top of her industry. In 2012, she was named Petrobrass CEO, becoming the first woman in the world to lead a major oil company. Forbes would name her the sixteenth most powerful woman in the world, while TIME magazine would put her on its list of the hundred most influential people in the world. From a childhood spent picking trash, she has managed to become one of the most powerful peopleman or womanin the world. When asked how she managed to overcome so many obstacles, she said the answer was simple: It has been a very long story of hard work and personal sacrifice. It sounds clich? to say that hard work is the most critical ingredient for success, but its a fundamental truth that has to be repeated over and over again. If youre not hustling your absolute hardest, youre never going to reach your full potential in life. None of the strategies in this book that involve hustling smarterlike building a strong crew, embracing evolution, knowing your value, or controlling perceptioncan be successfully implemented without also hustlin your hardest first. A strong work ethic is the one trait all successful people share. Ive never met anyone at the top of their industry who wasnt fully committed to their job, who was willing to give anything less than their best. Yes, there are some people who find success through talent, luck, circumstance, or even inheritance. But those same people never hold on to it. You might see a picture of my new car or a view from my apartment on IG with the hashtag workhardplayharder. The cars and the view are real, but the hashtag is fake. The truth is that I work much harder than I play. Thats because I enjoy the work more. My attitude toward my career is whistle while you work. Every eighteen-hour day on the set is fun for me. Every all-nighter in the studio is a joy. Every 4:30 a.m. wake-up call is a blessing, the signal that Im getting another chance to do something I love. I get bored easily when Im not working. I have places I like to go on vacation, like Montego Bay, Miami, and Dubai, but the first thing I pack isnt my swimsuitits always my computer. I know after the first day of jet skiing or hanging out in a spa, Im going to be ready to get back to work. Figuring out the next deal, working on the next script, or planning the next album is more exciting to me than any beach or five-star resort. My work ethic can be hard on the people around me. There have been many times when, after a long day in the office followed by a night in the studio, my driver has dropped me off at home at 3 a.m. And Ill still tell him, Yo man, come back and pick me up for the gym at 5 a.m. I know that means hes not going to be able to grab more than an hour nap in his car, but if you are rolling with me, you have to be prepared for nights like that. I just dont know any other speed to go at. Its why a lot of people who work with me compare me to a robot or a machine. Im made of flesh and blood just like everyone else, but I want it more. What really separates me from the pack is that Im willing to hustle harder and make more sacrifices than 99 percent of the population. Think about it: I have a good ear and a catchy style, but I admit Im not the most talented rapper out there. Ill never be as lyrical as Nas or as funny as Biggie. And while I pride myself on staying in shape, I know Im not the best-looking entertainer out there, either. Even though Im proud of Power, I know I have a long ways to go before Im mentioned in the same breath as some legendary TV producers. So, despite not being the most talented, best-looking, or most experienced, how do I keep finding success in so many different fields? I hustle as hard as I can, day in and day out. Plenty of people might be willing to outrap, outperform, or even outsmart me, but no oneand I mean no oneis ever going to out-work me. COMMITTING TO A CLEAN LIFESTYLE Its not enough just to say you want to work hard. You have to commit to lifestyle choices that allow you to have the energy, focus, and stamina to actually do the work, too. So many people prioritize lifestyle over work and then wonder why they cant get ahead. There is a reason I can get up and go to the gym after only a couple of hours of sleep. Or have the stamina to work consecutive eighteen-hour days: I prioritize leading a very clean lifestyle. Unlike most of my peers, I largely abstain from alcohol. I will have a rare drink from time to time, but thats it. I have never missed a session at the gym, a meeting, or an early morning flight because I had too much to drink the night before. That doesnt stop me from going out and partying. Im still in the clubs. I just dont need booze to enjoy myself. If Im at an event promoting Branson Cognac or Le Chemin du Roi Champagne or one of my other alcohol brands, I have a routine I always follow: First Ill pour drinks from a bottle of champagne for everyone who is in VIP with me. When the bottle is empty, Ill give it to one of my guys and have him quietly refill it with ginger ale. For the rest of the night Ill have that bottle in my hand. Ill take swigs every now and then just to keep the vibe right, but Im not drinking anything but Canada Dry. My energy is the same as everyone elses. Im smiling, and laughing, maybe even doing a little two-step to the music. Im also checking out everything thats going on around me, making hundreds of little calculations in my mind. A lot of artists want to stay away from the clubs once they get famous. That world begins to feel too chaotic, too dangerous, to them. Theyd rather stay home than find themselves in a hot, sweaty space where the energy is turned all the way up. Where something bad could always pop off. Thats never an issue for me. I always have my head on straight, and my judgment is never impaired. I can see issues coming from a mile away and be long gone before a situation gets serious. Being able to still hang out with people is the real advantage for me. The clubs always have been, and always will be, the incubators of whatever is coming up next in hip-hop. Its very hard to stay relevant and keep your finger on the pulse of the culture if youre afraid to go out and absorb the music in the club setting. Staying sober in a setting where everyone else is drinking can open up all sorts of opportunities for you. Lets say your boss invites you and all your co-workers out for drinks on a Friday night. Normally you might take full advantage of the company credit card and get trashed. Its understandableyouve been working hard all week and want to let off some steam. Doing it on the companys tab makes it that much more appealing. But next time you get that offer, as tempting as it might be to let your boss buy you that beer or vodka and cranberry, just get a seltzer instead. You dont even have to announce what youre doing. Stick a lime in there, and it will look like youre enjoying a gin and tonic of your own. As the evening progresses, youll probably start to notice how sloppy everyone else is getting, how theyre starting to let down the facades theyve worked so hard to keep up at the office. If theres information youve been looking to get out of your co-workersor even your bossthis is the time to get it. Your normally tight-lipped co-workers will be more than happy to tell you what projects theyre working on or what they overheard your boss saying about the future of the company. Put a couple of drinks in most people and they will tell you almost anything with a little coaxing. Outside of the competitive advantage you can gain from not drinking, Im also hyperaware of the damage alcohol abuse can cause. Ive seen it firsthand. When I moved into my grandmothers house after my mother died, a few of my aunts and uncles were full-blown alcoholics. I had one uncle in particular who was a cool guy most of the time, but put a few drinks in him and all of a sudden he became Marvin Hagler. Every comment, no matter how innocent, was taken as an insult, and hed want to put hands up. Even with a nine-year-old. My reaction was to stay out of his way as much as possible, but even from that distance it was still very clear to see that all booze did was bring out his weakness and render his character unstable. And it wasnt just him; across the board, it seemed that the people in my immediate family were prone to alcoholism. There is a lot of evidence out there that alcoholism is hereditary. If it seems to run in your family, sticking with ginger ale might not just be about getting a competitive edgeit might be about keeping yourself out of a lifelong state of dysfunction and addiction. Another advantage I have over my competition, especially within hip-hop, is that I also dont mess with drugs. To hear some rappers tell it, drugs open up a pathway to creativity. They claim they do their best work when theyre high. They might feel that way but, in my experience, drugs ultimately become a crutch. Something rappers can lean on when theyre feeling insecure or lacking focus. They might be helpful when youre getting started, but youre never going to get too far when you need a crutch to move forward. I witness this all the time in the studio. I know so many rappers who honestly dont believe they can make good music without being high in one way or another. They wouldnt dream of getting in the booth if theres no liquor to sip or weed to smoke. Theyre completely fearful that, without that support, they cant perform or properly connect with the music theyre trying to make. My thought has always been, Suppose that crutch isnt available? What if youre at the studio and suddenly get the call that Dr. Dre is coming through and wants you to record a verse for him? Or that Just Blaze, Timbaland, or Mustard is coming through? Youre gonna tell one of these guys you cant record until someone runs out and gets you a bottle or until your weed man rolls through? That opportunity might have passed by the time your man comes back. If youre a true creator, you have to be able to practice your craft in any situation. Its imperative that you can create your own comfort zone without depending on any substance for help. Yes, you might believe the weed makes you a better writer, or the liquor makes it easier to be yourself, but you also need the confidence to know that you can do it without them. Otherwise, youre never going to be in total control of your own situation. No matter what situation or setting you find yourself in, you dont ever want to depend on anythingor any other personto make you feel in control and comfortable. That sense of confidence should always come from within. Not from an external source. To be clear, I dont judge people who do like to drink or smoke. In fact, Im happy to sell you a bottle of Le Chemin du Roi to help you celebrate the next time youre out partying. All that Id ask is that you are honest in your appraisal of the role drugs and alcohol play in your life. Some people are able to truly be social drinkers or smokers. They enjoy participating in social settings, but they can also just as easily go without. They could have a bottle of booze in their kitchen, or a bag of weed in their dresser, and never feel the urge to consume it. I can have cases of Branson Cognac or Le Chemin du Roi Champagne in my office and never think about them until its time to do an event. Someone else might be tempted to crack open a bottle every single time they walked by. Or they might start drinking a whole bottle every day on the sly. If alcohol or drugs have that sort of pull on you, its important that you address it head-on. Its going to require a lot of discipline and focus, but you can build a lifestyle for yourself that doesnt need to be fueled by booze and drugs to get things done. I also understand that it can feel very overwhelming when youre the one person in your circle who doesnt drink or smoke. It can be hard, but Ive been that person for years, and I always manage to abstain, so it is possible. I doubt theres anyone in the history of the world who has said no to more blunts or booze than me. Ive spent hours in cafes in Amsterdam where everyone in G-Unit was blowing ruler-size blunts in my face. I might have gotten a contact high, but I never took a hit. Snoop Dogg, B-Real, Redman, Method Man, Wiz KhalifaIve hung with all those dudes. I have a great time with them, but I choose not to smoke with them. And please dont say, Well, they probably leave you alone because youre 50 Cent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone wants to be the one to finally get me to smoke. Im like the pretty girl who wont date anyone, so everyone wants to ask me out, but I just keep saying no. For example, I recently hosted my Tycoon party in NYC, and Snoop was one of my special guests. So when he tried to pass one of his blunts my way, everyone around us started cheering for me to hit it. Not wanting to kill the mood, I took a big hit . . . and then just let the smoke swirl around in my mouth before I blew it back out. Thats as far as it went. Bill Clinton has probably inhaled more weed smoke than me. Everyone was excited that Id taken a hit, but there was no way I was actually inhaling that weed, especially something as strong as the stuff Snoop smokes. The very few times Ive smoked its made me extremely paranoid. So why would I get high surrounded by a thousand people all pushed up together, and Im the one in charge of the entire event? I wouldnt have been enjoying the music if Id inhaledI would have been freaking the fuck out over all the things that could be going wrong at my event. Im always at my most comfortable when Im in complete control of my surroundings. And thats very hard to do when youre high. In order to truly be in the position to hustle your hardest day in and day out, its not enough to only avoid (or at least cut way down on) booze and weed. You also, especially as you grow older, need to proactively try to preserve your body. The best way you can do that is through eating right and working out. My diet is pretty straightforward. I avoid carbs and processed food whenever I can and focus on eating as many whole foods and veggies as possible. Im not really a breakfast guy, so just a smoothie or protein shake of some sort will do. For lunch, its usually a salad. If Im eating out for dinner, which is hard to avoid for me, Ill order something like a chicken and lettuce wrap or a steak with asparagus. Maybe its not the most exciting diet, but its simple enough that Im able to follow a version of it almost every day, and it features ingredients that are on most American and European menus. Consistency and availability are important when you spend a lot of time on the road, dealing with its constant temptations to cheat. While I might cheat on my diet from time to time, Im absolutely religious about working out. No matter how late I might have stayed at the studio or club the night before, Im going to hit the gym the next morning. Sometimes Ill switch up gyms (I actually have memberships to two near my apartment) just so things dont get repetitive or feel stagnant. If Im on the road, Ill hit the gym in my hotel or rent a private studio. Doesnt matter if Im jet-lagged, having trouble adjusting to the time zones, or not sleeping well because I miss my own bed. No excuses. Im still getting that workout in. Most days Ill do a session with my trainer that might include non-weight work like pushups and pull-ups, jumping rope, sledgehammer swings, and hitting a heavy bag. Then once my training session is over, Ill stick around the gym and hit some weights on my own. My go-to routine is lifting light weights with very short breaks for rest between sets. That helps me get toned and get a cardio workout at the same time. If Im preparing for a film role where I have to look really cut, then Ill also work with heavier weights to add bulk. If Im trying to lose weight for a role or photo shoot, Ill incorporate running into my routine. Generally I try to go between three and four miles per run. If Im at home, Ill usually work out on a treadmill in the gym. But if Im on the road, a lot of times Ill go jogging on the streets around my hotel. Its a good way for me to get outside without attracting too much attention. There have been times when fans have been lining up outside my hotel waiting to see me and Ive jogged right past them without anyone recognizing me. Theyre all expecting me to pull up in a limo, not jog past them in sweatpants and a hoodie. Unlike a lot of people, I dont look to caffeine to enhance my energy. Coffee has never really been my thing, and you wont find me knocking down Diet Cokes during the day (though I do enjoy a ginger ale with my salad). I get my energy from working out, and that hour or two in the morning carries me through the rest of the day. Working out is not only good for my health, but is a critical business tool as well. I absolutely do some of my clearest thinking in the gym. Im not looking at my phone, being distracted by calls or someone walking into my office with a question. The time in the gym gives me a chance to think about everything thats in front of me for the day. Instead of coming into the office wiping sleep out of my eyes and feeling scatterbrained, when I get in Im already feeling fully in control, energized, and mentally prepared. Its the only way to show up at the office if you want to make things happen. One aspect of my lifestyle where I know I need to improve is getting as much sleep as possible. When Im locked in on a project, I do become that robot. I can go eighteen hours straight and barely feel fatigue. I love knowing that Im outworking my competition, but I also realize that I need to find a way to make sleep a bigger priority. Like a lot of Nas fans, I got gassed up when he rhymed, I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death. It sounded so deep and mysterious that a lot of people began to associate staying up all night and burning the candle at both ends with the hustlers lifestyle. I contributed to that misconception for many years. I used to say things like sleep is for broke people or I dont like to sleep because I might miss the opportunity to turn a dream into a reality. The basic motivation behind those messages was correctthat you have to be willing to hustle harder than your competition if you want to win. But I shouldnt have connected hustling harder to sleeping less. In recent years, Ive learned that some of the most successful people out there are also big sleepers. Jeff Bezos says he prioritizes sleeping eight hours every night because it makes his thinking much clearer. Facebooks COO, Sheryl Sandberg, also makes getting enough sleep a priority, saying that staying up all night might help you get more things done in the moment, but in the long term proves to be very counterproductive because it makes people anxious, irritable and confused. Its a strategy echoed by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who says, The real secret is the most successful people have awareness of what their body needs and sleep whenever necessary. Im trying to learn from those leaders and adjust my own approach. Maybe I could get away with skimping on the sleep when I was younger, especially because I dont drink or smoke, but now I understand its a shortcut I cant take anymore. One way Ive tried to improve my approach is by going to sleep around midnight every Saturday night. Then I allow myself to sleep late on Sundaytill around nine or tensince its the one day I never have anything scheduled in the morning. My goal moving forward is to get those nine hours in another two or three times a week. Im confident if I can get those extra hours in, Im going to be even more productive than I already am. Good luck to my competition keeping up! A lot of the steps Im prescribing in this chaptersobriety, working out, eating right, and getting enough sleepcan feel very daunting if theyre not currently part of your lifestyle. Dont let that deter you. Im a firm believer that no matter how formidable they might feel, there are very few negative habits you cant break in thirty days. Whenever Im trying to improve an aspect of my life, thirty days is the goal I set for myself. And Ive always been able to meet my goal in that time frame. The key is how you approach adjusting the habit. Lets say youre trying to improve your diet, cut down on how much you drink, or reduce the time you spend on social media. Its not helpful to make a sweeping generalization like Im not smoking weed anymore or Im going vegan. Those sorts of statements might sound good in the moment, but they also can feel so ambitious that you give up before your transformation ever truly gets started. Instead of saying Im not smoking weed anymore, just say Im not smoking for the next month. Then just focus on the first week in front of you. If you see that youre supposed to be going to a party where you know everyone is going to be lighting up, choose not to go. Do something with your non-pothead friends instead that night. Then take a look at what you have planned for the following week. Is getting high before going to the club one of your rituals? Then plan a week where you have other things to do during the evening. Or just stay home and watch TV if you think being around smokers is going to be too tempting. Catch up on some shows youve been meaning to watch. Or better yet, go work out every night. Before you know it, youll already be halfway there. If you can have that confidence in your commitment, by week three youre going to be coasting. Your evolution is going to have some momentum behind it. Instead of constantly saying Damn, I want to light up right now, youre going to be able to take an accurate assessment of what your life is like without getting high. It might feel so natural that youre ready to make a more permanent adjustment in your lifestyle. Or you might say I dont need to give up weed entirely. I just need to set some boundaries about how and when I consume it. Thats a conversation thats going to be much more productive at the thirty-day threshold than at day one. Whatever it is you want to improve or correct, commit to it for thirty days, and see how it changes your perspective. Give yourself the opportunity to identify with something different. Youre going to find that some of the things you couldnt live without were actually standing between you and your best life. When you break those habits, youre going to be amazed by how much you can accomplish when you free up your focus and put everything you have into your work. FINDING YOUR FOCUS Hard work and dedication are two of the characteristics found in all true hustlers. Another is focus. Because if youre not able to focus and direct your hard work, you might be hustlin hard, but you wont be hustlin smart. One of my favorite examples of someone who was able to combine hard work and focus is a gentleman named Isaac Wright Jr. In the early 1990s, Isaac was wrongly imprisoned on a life sentence in New Jersey for being an alleged drug kingpin. In fact, he was one of the first people convicted under that statute in New Jersey. The one problem with that was he was actually innocent. Isaac refused to accept his sentence and began looking for ways to get it overturned. Even though he didnt have any legal training, he set about learning the law in the prisons library. He became so skilled that he began working as a paralegal on other prisoners cases, helping several of them get their sentences overturned. Eventually he was able to get his own life sentence overturned, but he still had several other convictions on the books that threatened to keep him behind bars for seventy years. Isaac still wouldnt give up. He eventually managed to find a police officer who had testified against him who was willing to admit that hed participated in misconduct and cover-ups. No one gets cops to snitch on themselves, except for Isaac. It was an incredible victoryunprecedented, reallyand after nine years behind bars and the suicide of the prosecutor involved in his case, Isaac was finally set free. Today hes a practicing attorney in New Jersey, the state that wrongly locked him up. Isaacs story was so compelling to me, I developed a hit scripted project called For Life on ABC based on his story. There are a lot of peopleway too manywhove been wrongly locked up but never came close to fighting their injustice the way Isaac did. The only hope for most guys in that situation is finding a prisoners rights foundation or big law firm to take up their case pro bono. Isaac wasnt willing to wait for someone else to decide if his life was worth fighting for. He took his fate into his own hands. So what allowed Isaac to achieve what all those other inmates couldnt? His combination of hard work and focus. When Isaac got locked up, he didnt spend his time debating who were the best rappers with other inmates, or writing to old girlfriends in his cell, or bullshitting out in the yard. He spent every single free moment he had teaching himself the law. He refused to allow any distractions to get between him and his goal. There was no confusion in his mind about what he was doing with his time: if he wasnt eating, sleeping, or on work duty, he had his head in those law books. At first it was hard. Those books are not written for amateursyoure not supposed to be able to understand them unless youve had training. But in time, the language started to flow more easily. As Isaac began working on briefs and seeing them help other prisoners, he started getting excited. That created its own momentum, which made him hit the books even harder. He ended up doing four years of law school in less than two years because he was so locked in (no pun intended). Once he had all that information at his disposal, he was able to set the process in motion that eventually led to his release. None of that could have happened if Isaac had allowed himself to feel defeated. If at any point in the process he had become confused about what he was trying to do, he wouldnt have been able to write his own ticket out of jail. It only happened because he was so determined to save himself. The story behind Isaacs journey was a natural fit for television. When we tested the pilot episode it received one of the strongest positive audience reactions in the networks history. Im not surprisedIsaacs hustle to get his life back is that inspiring. Keep in mind that Isaac wasnt hustling for jewelry, cars, or houses. He was hustling for the most important goal: freedom. And thanks to his focus, he was able to achieve it in spite of a corrupt system aligned against him. Yes, Isaac was a hustler. A kingpin even. But not in the way the government had tried to paint him. He was hustling for freedom. The one question Isaacs story should make you ask is What could I achieve with the same level of focus in my own life? What if you spent seven or eight hours a day working toward something without any distractions? Without guards telling you to turn the lights off at 10 p.m.? Without your stomach hurting from lousy prison food and your back aching from a lumpy prison mattress? Without someone in the next cell keeping you up all night screaming out their demons? Or loudly jerking off with mayonnaise from the prison mess hall? What could you accomplish without those kinds of distractions? Then consider the distractions that are probably keeping you from hustling your hardest. Right now. Bullshitting on social media? Arguing with your boyfriend? Feeling like you need to roll up a blunt? Sleeping late because you were out drinking the night before? If you were able to apply only a small fraction of the focus Isaac was able to tap into, after even just one month youd start to experience the same momentum and excitement Isaac did. That wave could pick you up and help carry you to whatever goal youre aiming for. PASSION MAKES PERFECT One thing I always try to assess in new business partners is what I call their passion stance. Just how passionate are they about making this thing happen? Someone with a weak passion stance will probably get knocked over the first time they meet a little resistance. Im not interested in being around that sort of energy. Someone with a strong passion stance, on the other hand, will really dig in. Get their feet planted and shoulders squared up. So no matter how hard the world pushes back, or how much negativity gets thrown their way, they aint budging an inch. Thats the sort of energy I want to work with. The type of people Im willing to put my money behind. A strong passion stance is what separates the hustlers who win from the people who always seem stuck in place. Passion is what allowed me to lose more than fifty pounds to play a football player dying of cancer in the movie All Things Fall Apart. In nine weeks, I went from 214 to 160 pounds by going on a liquid diet and running on a treadmill for three hours a day. Now that might have been a little bit easier for me than the average personI was more comfortable with a liquid diet because Id been on one after I was shotbut it was still an extremely challenging two months. I was dropping weight like crazy, but every day when I looked in the mirror, all I could think was I need to get smaller. I was passionate about nailing that role. Part of it was personal. The story was based on an actual close friend of mine, and I needed to do his story justice. But it was also professional. Id never received the accolades as an actor that Id gotten in the music business. As a result, I didnt have the same confidence as an actor that I have as a rapper or entrepreneur. My passion for acting, however, is just as strong as it is for music or business. Theres something about the craft thats always fascinated me and captured my imagination. Like a lot of people from my era, Ive been particularly inspired by actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in their gangster roles. I loved how they were able to convey a certain type of aggression through their body language. I wanted to bring that sort of energy to the screen. I knew I didnt haveand would probably never havethe same sort of acting ability as De Niro. That wasnt going to stop me from putting in the work. Id read about how he gained forty pounds for his Oscar-winning role in Raging Bull. So when I saw that my role in All Things Fall Apart called for my character to lose weight as he underwent chemo, I decided to commit physically to my role the same way De Niro did for his in Raging Bull. I didnt win an Oscaror any awardfor All Things Fall Apart. I also didnt care. Id proved to myself that I was passionate enough about acting to do whatever it took for the role. I saw some folks try to clown meClown thinks hes De Niro or something. Fuck outta herebecause Id put in so much work for a movie that ended up going straight to video. Those jokes dont slow me down for a second. I know damn well Im not De Niro. Im still going to work to get to that level. And even if I never win an Oscar, my movies have made over $500 million at the box office. Fair to say thats a number a lot of other actors would dream about putting alongside their names. De Niro was actually one of the people who taught me just how important passion is to acting. In 2008 I was supposed to star in a film with him called Streets of Blood. He invited me to meet him at his apartment and asked me point-blank if the movie was something I was serious about. He wanted to know whether I was only doing it for the money or the look. I told him I was absolutely serious about itif I just wanted money, I could easily make more touring for two months than being on a movie set. I took the opportunity to share with him how Id always loved his work and was honored by the possibility of working alongside him. De Niro ended up not being able to do the movie because of a scheduling conflict (and was replaced by Val Kilmer, another actor I have a lot of respect for), but we became friends after that call. Wed finally get to work together, alongside Forest Whitaker, on the movie Freelancers. However, that call with De Niro left an impression on me. He was one of the biggest names in the history of film, and Streets of Blood would have been a minor film for him, but he still took the time to call me to make sure I was truly passionate about what was in front of us. Thats one of the reasons hes an all-time great. He understands that if even one person in the cast is just showing up to collect a check, the film wont be a success. Everybody on the set has to share the same passion for the project. Music is another space where passion is paramount. Take Tupac. No disrespect, but he was not an all-time great MC if you judge him strictly by his skills. He wasnt able to articulate street life like Nas, talk slick like Jay-Z, or be funny like Biggie. He couldnt spit as hard as Eminem. What he hadin abundancewas passion. When he rhymed, his passion just poured through. Even if he was actually an art student playing the role of a thug, he delivered his lines with so much intensity that you felt every word that he said. Thats what made him an all-time great. A lot of rappers have tried to become stars by taking on the thug personaJa Rule, for examplebut they just werent as committed as Pac. Yeah, Ja growled a lot and called himself a murderer, but he wasnt believable. He didnt have the same hunger that Pac did. Pac committed to his passion the way De Niro committed to his role in Casino or Goodfellas. You could say that Pac was so committed that he ultimately paid for it with his life. Im looking for the same kind of passion in the people I work with. Maybe not putting your life on the line, but at least being willing to consider it. Might sound dramatic, but that level of commitment is often what it takes. WHAT ARE YOU HUSTLIN FOR? Not too long ago, after a hectic morning full of meetings, contract negotiations, and a photo shoot, I left my office in Manhattan to head to a movie lot across the river in Queens. As my car crawled through traffic on FDR Drive, I noticed a solitary man playing handball on a court near the road. The guy was just smacking that rubber ball against the wall over and over while the hectic city buzzed around him. The scene struck me so much that I picked up my phone and posted this on IG: Yo I just saw a grown man listening to music and playing handball by himself in the middle of the day. I been on the phone working, his life might be better than mine Of course, the internet accused me of trolling, as its quick to do. How could 50 Cent sit there in his air-conditioned, chauffeur-driven luxury vehicle and be jealous of some guy playing handball? I could see why some might have felt that way, but I promise I wasnt trolling. When I saw that guy, I saw someone getting in a good workout, listening to the music he liked, breathing fresh air, and enjoying himselfall without spending a dime. I mean, who knows? That guy could have been out there because his wife kicked him out of the apartment and he had nowhere else to go. Or maybe hed just lost his job and was smacking that ball off the wall over and over again to try to get his mind off it. All I know is that in the brief moment I saw him outside my tinted window, the only energy I felt coming from him was contentedness. It made me legitimately ask myself, Yo, is this guy fuckin beating me in life? I felt that mixture of envy and competitiveness because he seemed to have what Ive always wanted above all else. Freedom. The freedom to do what I want, when I want, and how I want. All the jewelry, watches, cars, and mansions youve seen in my videos or on my IGthat was never what I was truly working for. What I was hustling for, and what Im still hustling for today, is freedom. To be an effective hustler you must be able to identify what you want. It doesnt have to be a big concept like freedom. There might be something much more specific you have your sights set on. Your goal might be to be the first person in your family to graduate from college. Or to open your own restaurant. Or to save up enough money to travel the world. I have a friend who lives with his family in an apartment in Brooklyn, and his goal is to make enough to buy them a house with a backyard. Nothing too crazy, just enough space to let a dog run around and to sit outside with a cup of coffee when the weather is nice. When hes working late at night or on the weekend, the image of that little backyard is always in his mind, pushing him forward when hes tired or when things dont seem to be going his way. When he feels like hes adrift on the seas of his career, the image of that little backyard is his North Star that gets him back on course. You need to set a goal for yourself. Ask yourself: What is it that I want? Be honest. It might be something that will help a lot of people. Or it could be something incredibly selfish. It might be a seemingly impossible goal. Or something thats almost within your reach. It might be a plan youre proud to share with the world. Or something youre never going to tell more than a handful of people about. Any of those scenarios is fine, as long as you are crystal clear about whatever it is. Without that clear vision, your hustle is never going to take you anywhere significant. Its also important to accept that your vision canno, make that shouldchange. When I first started selling crack, my goals were very simple. First I needed fresh sneakers. Not the KangaROOs my grandmother got me, but Adidas and FILAs. Once I got the sneakers and clothes I wanted for myself, I set my sights on jewelry. Once I had the right chains, I focused on a set of wheels. At first, I just wanted a car so I wouldnt have to pay a cab to wait for me when I took a girl to the movies. A basic Honda would do. But soon, I needed a flashy ride to announce to the entire neighborhood that I was a force to be reckoned with. So I kept working on the streets until I was pushing a 400 SE Benz. (Ive probably bought a thousand more cars since then, but I still miss that one.) Once Id collected all the typical drug dealer status symbols, I turned my sights on signing a record deal. Once I had that, I wanted a hit record. That was my wish. And it came true. In a very big way. Still, I couldnt settle. Even with Grammys and platinum records under my belt, I set my sights on making my own movie. And so on and so on, all the way up to my work in television today. Id say my biggest goal now is to give back. When you reach a certain pay grade, you become more conscious of whats happening back in the communities you came from. Instead of worrying about what youre about to do, you shift to focusing on your legacy and how people are going to remember you. Am I going to be remembered for making popular songs and selling flavored water? Or positively impacting the world? I hope that it will be for the second. Thats why, on a local level, I put my money behind projects that clean up playgrounds and promote healthy living for young people. On a global level Ive developed projects that promote conscious capitalism (more on that later), and support the United Nations World Food Programme, which is going to provide a meal with every energy drink that is sold through our project. Being able to cop a new pair of sneakers is a much different goal than trying to make a dent in world hunger, but in my journey theyve both taken on the same significance and inspired the same amount of focus and hard work. A lack of clarity about what people really want is whats holding so many folks back. They dont even know how to ask for what they want when they have an opportunity. It is not enough to say you want someone to put you on, or even worse, to tell someone that your goal is to be famous. In order to get the most out of your hustle, you have to be able to clearly define what youre working for. For examples of how not to do it, take a look at my IG: you wont have to scroll far to find dozens of people pleading, Yo Fif, sign me to a record deal! or, Man, you need to let me jump on Power. I can act! Sorry, but those sorts of ridiculous asks do not constitute hustlin. Its even worse in person. People will stop me on the street, or even approach me on TV and video shoots. They think theyre putting in work, or taking advantage of an opportunity, by stepping up to me and asking me to put a brother on. But the second I hear those sorts of vague asks, I know Im dealing with someone who isnt worth any investment. If you cant even articulate to me what youre trying to do, why would I try to help you? It might sound out of character for me, but I believe vision boards are a very powerful tool in calcifying what youre working toward. When you force yourself to articulate your vision in words, you set a powerful energy in motion. You give something that was just a thought, or maybe even just a feeling, a real presence in the world. You make it a real thing. Its easy to get started on your computer. Go to Google Images, and type in everything you think youd like to have in your life: beachfront property, Range Rover, pit bull puppy. But what if your dream isnt a physical thing? If you want a promotion at your job, google an image of a corner office. If you want to design your own streetwear, google a picture of Ronnie Feig or Virgil Abloh. If you want to go to college, google Harvards graduation ceremonyyou should always aim high on your boards. If you want to fall in love, google an image of your favorite celebrity couple. Or even put up a picture of your grandparents if theyve been together for fifty years. I think vision boards are even a great way for couples to get on the same page. Put together your own board, and have your significant other do the same. Then compare notes. The things that show up in yours, but not your partners, are the things theyre going to have to learn to accept about you. And vice versa. Making boards with each other is a great way to get a lot of unspoken things out in the open. I once told a journalist from GQ to make one with his girlfriend. He did and wrote that when he looked at hers it had more babies than an orphanage. They hadnt talked about having kids yet, but that vision board put what she wanted front and center. Ive seen vision boards make a real difference in peoples lives, and the stats back me up. A study by Dominican University found that youre forty-two times more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. And a study in Psychological Bulletin found that people are 90 percent more likely to achieve goals that are challenging and specific. Thats not to say that the universe is going to just drop a bag into your lap because you said you wanted one. You still have to put in the work. A lot of it. But by identifying your vision and giving it a name, youre taking a big step toward realizing your goal. If youre feeling even a little bit of uncertainty about what you want, take the time to make a vision board. The power of vision boards is real and very accessible. NEVER BREAK YOUR STRIDE As you probably realize, hustling can also mean selling drugs. My mother was a hustler in that sense. I was, too. As were a lot of my friendsand enemiesback in Queens. Im not going to give you a crash course on drug dealing here. Ive talked about that stuff in my first book, my movie, and a lot of my songs. Chances are youve already heard those stories. What I want to address here is the attitude you have to develop to be a successful drug dealer. The mentality that no matter what happens to you on the street, youre not going to break stride. Lets say you bought some coke you thought was pure but was actually cut with laxatives. Instead of bitching and moaning, you have to address the situation and say, Its cool. Ill get my money back on the next pack. That has to be your constant attitude on the street. Ill get it back on the next one. In what Ill call the civilian world, a lot of times when people encounter setbacks, they dwell on them. Instead of moving on to the next one, they get stuck. If a deal they were working on falls through, or they dont get a promotion they thought they deserved, they let it slow their momentum. They start to feel sorry for themselves. They blame other people. They say the system was rigged against them. That their boss had it in for them, or that their teachers were biased against them. The list of excuses and rationalizations goes on and on. If they hit one little bump on the road of life, they pull their car over, do a U-turn, and head home. The streets dont allow you the luxury of excuses. If something goes bad and your reaction is to point the finger at someone else, hey, thats cool. Until that person hears what youve been saying and decides to blow your head off! You want to complain that the system is rigged against you? You can yell about that at the top of your lungs, but no one on the streets is going to give you a break because of it. No shit! Of course it is! Who didnt know that? Rather than complain about it, get to work outsmarting all those cops, POs, judges, and politicians who would like to keep you locked up. Theres no time for a defeatist, woe-is-me mentality on the streets. Your daily mind-set has to be Ill get it back on the next one, or youll wind up one of three ways: broke, dead, or locked up. We spend a lot of time talking about privilege in this country, about how certain people are handed things and put in position to win. Theres a lot of truth to that, but were not looking at the other side of the privilege coin. Those boys and girls who get sent to the best schools and best colleges, and then are walked into the best companies, certainly have a lot of opportunity. But what they lack is resiliency. Theyve never truly been tested. Okay, theyve been tested in the literal sensethey better get a good score on their SATs or else they wont get into their top college choice. But how does that really compare to overhearing your single mother say Damn, how are we going to keep the lights on this month? or hearing your father say They said if we dont pay the last two months rent, they gonna evict us. Thats a different level of struggle. (And to be fair, there are levels in other countries that we cant imagine. Theyre gonna turn the lights out isnt shit compared to If ISIS makes it over that mountain, theyre killing this whole village.) If youve spent your childhood worrying about past-due bills, family members in jail, or gunshots on your corner but are still out here trying to make it happen, you possess real resiliency. Acknowledge that about yourself. And then use that to your advantage. Contrast that with your co-worker whos been at an advantage their whole life, whether they realize it or not. Maybe they got the job because their prep school classmates father runs the place. That guy is comfortable with successhell, he expects it. What hes much less comfortable with is adversity. Even just a little bit of it. If his picks start coming up dry, he wont know what to do. He might start drinking heavily or start to blow his money on coke because hes so confused. Losing was not in his playbook. Ive seen Wall Street guys and high-powered lawyers take an unexpected loss and literally be ready to jump out of their office window. One loss and theyre ready to end it all. Coming from where Ive been, I would never let a defeat or setback have that sort of effect on me. And if you come from a similar background, you shouldnt either. If I somehow lost it all tomorrow, I promise I would not be fazed. Im sitting at my desk in my office as I write this. Looking out my window I can see a guy on the sidewalk selling peanuts. If I lost everything tomorrow, Im not jumping out this window. Nope, the next day Id be out there on the opposite corner setting up my own peanut stand. Lets call it 50s Nuts. Maybe to make my cart stand out, Id introduce chocolate-covered nuts and some cherry-coated ones, too. Because Im offering more selection than my competition, Id create a little buzz on my block. Then Id figure out a way to use that buzz to get 50s Nuts over to Yankee Stadium and sell them in the stands. And after that, open up a restaurant in the concourse. And then another one back in Manhattan. And before you know it, Ive got a chain. And with that, Im back in the game, baby! Having a hustlers mentality, I would never allow myself to think, Shit, I just lost everything. My enemies are going to clown me. My critics are going to have a field day. I dont think I can do this anymore. No. If it all goes away, Im confident Im getting my money back. And then some. This mentality is why people like me, Jay-Z, Puffy, Nas, and so many others have all done so well in corporate America. We keep finding success because we dont get thrown by lifes inevitable setbacks. Weve already experienced the type of lifestyle that a so-called loss might bring. We know its not going to break us forever. So we keep our momentum going. Look at Puffy. The popular perception is that hes been on top for the last twenty-five years, but hes actually experienced plenty of setbacks during his career. In 1991, nine people were trampled to death at a concert he threw at City College in New York. That was supposed to end his career. It didnt. Then he got fired from Uptown Recordswhere hed launched the careers of artists like Mary J. Blige and Jodecifor being a hothead. That would have been the final chapter for a lot of people. Not Puffy. He started Bad Boy Records and took that label to the top. Then Biggie, the artist hed built an entire movement around, was murdered. A blow like that would have slowed a lot of folks all the way down. Puffy didnt stop for a second. A few years later he got Jennifer Lopez, one of the biggest pop stars in the world, caught up in an attempted murder case. The same case that got his top artist at the time, Shyne, sent to jail for ten years. That would have been the final straw for most people. Not Puffy. He swallowed all those Ls, probably washed them down with a shot of Pink Grapefruit C?roc, and kept it moving. Bad Boy doesnt have hits anymore, people dont wear Sean John, and C?roc is losing its market share, but Puffy is still looking ahead. Now that his kids are grown, hes trying to put them on. When Puffy says Cant stop, wont stop, that dude really means it. And I respect his hustle. Heres the bottom line: whether youre a rapper, stockbroker, scientist, schoolteacher, or drug dealer, youre going to experience peaks and valleys. Even when you think youve been through it all, youre going to find out theres still more shit to go through. One of the most important realizations I came to early in my business career is that Im running through an endless tunnel. What I mean by that is I came to understand that theres no happily ever after. No matter how many records I sell, cases of liquor I move, and hit TV shows I create and executive-produce, theres never going to be a moment where I say, Okay, this is the end of the road. Ive finally made it, and then take my foot off the pedal. I know theres going to be another challenge right around the corner. And then another one after that. Some people might find the endless-tunnel idea overwhelming or even depressing. They spend their entire lives working toward finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, so it can be difficult to accept that there wont ever be one. But there isnt. I actually find it liberating to know that Ill be hustling for the rest of my life. Accepting that Im going to be working just as hard (though maybe a little bit slowly) at seventy as I am now makes me happy. In many ways that knowledge gives me the freedom that Ive always been looking for. I hope youll be able to understand the hustler attitude Ive developed in the streets and then apply it in your life. To have that sort of resiliency and positive outlook, but without having to go through the heartbreaks and violence I experienced. To move like the type of hustler 50 Cent used to be, but in the types of settings Curtis Jackson is in now. TRUST YOUR INSTINCT Another advantage Ive gained from being active in the streets is learning how to trust my instinct. Was another dealer going to rip me off? I had to go on my instinct. Is the corner Im about to set up on going to be targeted by the cops? I have to go on my instinct. Could I trust someone not to talk after they got busted? I had to trust my instinct. Ive noticed that a lot of people who werent raised in street environments have lost that connection with their instinct. Theyll go to business school and study how to move in the professional world. Maybe theyll internalize what their professors teach them long enough to pass midterms. And then promptly forget it all in a couple of months. Even if they end up retaining what theyve been taught, theyre still learning to rely on instruction, rather than intuition. A business professor might have some good tips, but nothing he or she can teach will ever outweigh simply listening to your own instinct. The neighborhood teaches you to always follow the most instinctive route. Its an invaluable power to possess. If you werent blessed by having to develop your instinct on the streets, dont worry. Its still a skill you can develop. Whenever you feel confused about a situation, its imperative that you find a way to turn the volume down and reconnect with what youre truly feeling. For me, working out definitely helps quiet that noise. At some point in the workout, the physical exertion Im putting myself through seems to wash all the BS out of my system. I can literally feel myself breathing the distractions out of my mind. When theyre gone, the only things left behind are my good ideas. My true instincts. The thoughts I need to listen to more closely. Its very important that you have something similar in your own arsenal. Some people can access that state through taking a walk in the park. Or gardening. Or even painting. Whatever it is, you have to incorporate some activity into your lifestyle that allows you to disconnect from the noise of both the past and present and reconnect with whatever youre feeling in your gut in the moment. A final word on hustling: just because Im encouraging you to trust your instinct doesnt mean I dont believe theres a strong role for strategy in hustlin. When people hear hustlers say things like Make it happen or Scared money stays home, they think it implies that theres a certain recklessness to the hustlers mentality. Thats not the case. You might have even thought this if you listened to 50 Cent the rapper. People loved it when I rhymed: Have a baby by me, baby, be a millionaire Ill write the check before the baby comes Who the fuck cares Im stanky rich, Ima die trying to spend this shit Sounds like Im just throwing money up in the air, right? But those lines simply created a perception. The reality is that Curtis Jackson is not reckless with his money at all. In fact, Im only putting my money behind things that (a) Im passionate about and (b) Ive done all my homework on. Even though hustlers are always aggressive, theyre not always gambling. A skilled hustler will always strategically assess all the risks and rewards before he commits to something. I have to understand something completely before Ill write a check to back it. Ill spend hours online researching the industry, tracking its history, and figuring out who the most important players are. Then Ill call any smart person I know who has experience in that space and try to pick their brains. Do you think theres room for growth? Or is the space flooded? Am I going to meet resistance if I make a move? Whats that resistance going to look like? Who do I need as an ally? Once I have those answers, Ill read gossip sites, blogs, and any other sources that can help fill me in on whats not being reported in the mainstream press. After I have all that information, if I still feel like I can make an impact, Im going all in. To me, thats not really gambling. Thats making a bet on a sure thing. When I feel that mixture of passion and understanding, Im operating with supreme confidence. So much so that I dont even bother to put together a plan B. Why would I need a plan B when Im dead certain that plan A is gonna work? The only time Ill get involved with something that I dont have a complete understanding of is when Im not putting up my own money. If someone approaches me to executive-produce a project, or lend my name to it in exchange for equity, Im okay with a slightly bigger risk. If theres already a strong team in place and all they need is a little boost from me to put it over the top, Ill be a little more willing to fly blindly into something. Even then, Ill get involved only if I feel a passion for what Im doing. Im not signing up for anything just for a check. Thats the easiest way to dilute your brand and lose your money. Your fans will know that theres nothing organic about what youre doing and wont support it. And if youre not passionate about the idea, youre not going to be emailing for updates. Checking in with your partners for any changes. Youre basically just hoping that you can write a check and wake up one day to find that someone has dropped a big bag of money in your lap. Thats not gambling. Thats basically asking to lose your money. The only time I got close to embracing gambling was when I was hanging out a lot with Floyd Mayweather. He would bet on everything$250,000 on if someone would make a half-court shot during halftime of a basketball game, a million dollars on a preseason football gamebecause he fed off that sort of adrenaline. When hed win one of those bets, hed ride that energy for days. All-night parties followed by trips to the auto dealership in the morning. But when he lost, it was a different story. If his team lost at 8 p.m., he could have thirty people in his suite ready to party, but hed be in bed by nine. The loss sucked all the life out of him. Then the depression would lift a few days later, and hed be back betting stacks on something crazy. Im not built that way. Id put little bets down, maybe $20,000 here or there, just to try to keep him company, but I just didnt have the stomach for it. First off, betting on things that I cant fully research gives me anxiety. Why would I do that to myself? The other thing is, team sports have never been that important to me. I dont really care who wins the Super Bowl. I dont bleed orange and blue for the Knicks. There was no emotional attachment to those bets. The one exception is boxing. I did all right when I bet on Floyd to win. But then I lost $20,000 when I bet on Adrien Broner to beat Pacquiao in 2019. After that, I was pretty much done with gambling. At the end of the day, I like betting on sure things. And the only sure thing you can always count on, 100 percent of the time, is yourself. Chapter 3 Constructing Your Crew If you dont have the right people around you and youre moving at a million miles an hour, you can lose yourself. DAVE CHAPPELLE Ask any successful entrepreneur what their greatest attribute is and you might be surprised by their answer. Its not their negotiation skills, strategic planning, or ability to understand new technology. No, theyre all going to tell you the same thing: their greatest skill is being an astute judge of character. Nobody, not even a rapper, makes it on their own. Yes, Im alone in the booth when its time to spit my rhymes, but outside of the booth theres a small army supporting me. Managers, attorneys, agents, engineers, producers, roadies, assistants, stylists, publicists, and friends I trust to keep it real with me (probably the most valuable members of my crew). People like to make fun of rappers entourages. (Ill admit having your own weed carrier is ridiculous. I dont smoke, but if I did Id damn sure roll my own blunts. Why would I want someone touching and licking something Im about to put in my own mouth?) But you must surround yourself with people who can help support, grow, and articulate your vision. Pick the right people and you can build a team that will take you to the top. But pick the wrong people and it can derail your vision before it ever fully gets on track. You can recover from blowing a lucrative deal, missing out on a change in the marketplace, or failing to upgrade your operation. Blowing those kinds of opportunities will hurt, but youll recoverprovided you have the heart of a hustler. But if you pick the wrong person for a job, especially a critical one, the results can be catastrophic. This is true for every kind of business. Back when I was slinging rocks, one of the jobs that needed to be filled in every crew was the steerer. This person wouldnt have any money or drugs on them, but would direct customers to someone who did. Lots of dealers wouldnt even think twice about who they hired for that jobit was an entry-level position, and anyone who approached them was viable. If you werent a cop, congratulations: youre hired. There was zero consideration about the persons character or who could vouch for them. Nonetheless, steering presented an extreme liability to the operation. Since steerers usually had the shortest tenure, they also had the least invested in the crew. Which meant that if they got busted, they had little reason not to name names to the cops. Understanding this vulnerability, instead of grabbing whoever happened to cross my path, I tried to pick people who seemed to possess a strong character. Who seemed like theyd be able to stay cool under pressure and have confidence that Id bail them out (more on that later). A lot of my steerers did get busted, but because Id considered their character before hiring them, they usually didnt flip on me. Dealers who hired without much thought? They generally didnt last too long. The ability to recognize characteror the lack thereofis just as critical on the corporate level. Lets say youre the CEO of a Fortune 500 company and you hire a new guy to be your CFO. Everything can be fine for years. You become very comfortable with the guy. Hes proficient with numbers, maybe more so than you are. You get to know his family outside of the office and go to his kids sweet sixteen. Hes so capable that youre able to increase your distance from the day-to-day financial details and start focusing on the bigger picture: mergers that are going to make you a legend, and gala events with celebs as you build your brand. Then one morning you wake up to find out the CFO has looted the companys accounts and flown off to Dubai with his new girlfriend. Time to kiss your legendary status good-bye. Maybe even your job, too. Sure, a true hustler can survive that sort of blow. Theyre always going to figure out a way to make more money, because they know the frequent lurches between feast and famine. But theyd also much rather put the right person in that position and sidestep any potential drama than have to deal with the betrayal. The importance of judging character is especially important in marriage. If you look at the guys who end up on the cover of Fortune, the column that shows where they took their biggest losses is always the same: divorce. Billionaires dont lose the bulk of their money to competitors or to new technologies; they lose it to their exes. Jeff Bezos of Amazon reportedly had to pay his wife, MacKenzie, $38 billion when they split up. I dont care what happens with Amazon down the road, but theres no way the company itself is going to lose that much money for him. People get divorced for all sorts of reasons, but a lot of wealthy individuals marry without knowing the true motive of their partners. I can promise you that every millionaire who has had to pay out a huge settlement has wished they were a better judge of character when they said I do. RATHER BE ROBBED Ive never had to file for divorce, but Ill be the first to tell you Ive got a lot of issues in my personal life. And at the top of the list are trust issues. A few years ago I was talking with a woman whod taken some psychology classes in college. We were discussing a situation where Id become convinced someone close to me was going to stab me in the back. When I was done venting, she looked at me and asked, You ever hear of the word pistanthrophobia? Nah, whats that? Its what you have. Look it up. I typed it into my phone and got the following definition: The fear of trusting people due to past experience and relationships gone wrong. Cant lie, it sounded exactly like me. I think everyone is a little afraid of being too trustful, but Im definitely worse than most. In my life, I feel like Ive been betrayed by people I deserved better from: people Ive given money to, opportunities to, love to, even life to. Because of that, for a long time the only thing I had faith in was money. I only trusted the paper that said In God We Trust. This is one of the reasons the theme of betrayal is so prominent in my show Power. Its an issue thats always on my mind, so much so that I even called the last season The Final Betrayal. Id rather be robbed at gunpoint than be betrayed (not that Id suggest you try it). At least getting robbed is exciting! Theres an undeniable rush when someone pulls out their piece and growls, Get on the fucking floor! Once its over (provided you dont get shot), you can go back and tell your friends, Yo, they just stuck me up! Your pockets might be lighter, but youll be much stronger overall for having survived the experience. Getting betrayed is different. You dont get a great war story out of it. Ive never heard of someone getting hyped to tell their friends, Yo, you wont believe this, but I just got backstabbed by my mans! There are no stripes earned for that shit. When you open yourself up to someone, either financially or emotionally, and they go left on you, its a different kind of pain, even more dramatic than a stickup kid physically taking something from you. Like Malcolm X said, To me, the thing that is worse than death is betrayal. You see, I could conceive death, but I could not conceive betrayal. Because I find betrayal so painful, I put incredible thought and consideration into the people who surround me. As I detail in this chapter, when I was first coming up, I made the mistake of confusing loyalty and location. Its a miscalculation a lot of people makewanting to believe that just because someone is from the same streets as you that theyre going to have your back forever. I learned the hard way that thats not the case. Sure, when you share a common experience with someone, theres a greater chance for loyalty and understanding, but its far from guaranteed. To achieve lasting success, you have to strive for balance when building your team. If you only surround yourself with people from your past, then chances are the past is where youll be stuck. But if you abandon the people who were in the trenches with you for people youve just metthe ones who might be charismatic but have never proved anything to youyoure probably going to get burned. If you look at my team today, youll find a mix of old and new blood, weathered soldiers alongside impressive people Ive met since my initial success. Walk into the G-Unit Records office and you might see guys who were right there with me on the streets of Southside, proving that they could remain cool under fire. Some people form that bond going to school or playing on a sports team together. Definitely from serving in the military. When your life is on the line and the bullets are flying, you form a very deep connection with the people who have your back. This is why I believe that you can learn more about what someone is made of in two minutes on the streets than twenty years in the boardroom. In business it takes a long time to get a gauge on true nature. Instead of having the luxury of watching someone in action, youll have to rely on instinct more. But once you do feel confident about someones loyalty and work ethic, thats a person you need on your team. Its a rare combination in the business world, but one thats extremely valuable. Thats why, in addition to those day one veterans, Ive tried to round out my roster with smart businesspeople who I feel I can trustdespite my hang-ups. Like my general counsel, Steve, who oversees my legal and business matters. Or my publicist, Amanda, who doesnt freak out every time I post something on social media and cleans up when I make a mess. Or my book agent, Marc, who helped put this project together. None of them have set foot in the Southside, but theyve all been critical in keeping my brand expanding and moving in the right direction. A great example of someone Ive only met in the last five years but who has really helped me evolve is Chris Albrecht, the former CEO of Starz Networks. Chris built HBO into what it is today before taking over at Starz. Hes taught me a tremendous amount about how TV works while giving me the freedom to be myself. Plus, hes from Queens, too, so its almost like our relationship was meant to be. Chriss number is one Im never deleting from my phone. I dont care where he goes; Im going to try to do business with him. I consider television to be my second career after music, and I would never have reached the level Im at today without establishing a relationship with him. Yes, were from different parts of Queens and have pretty different backgrounds, but weve clicked since day one and have really been able to help each other. Chris might not be one of my day one homies, but weve been through some wars of our own, and we know we have each others back. If I hadnt been open to bringing new people like Chris, and their knowledge, into my life, there wouldnt be a second stage in my career. Or whatever comes after this. If I had kept my circle exclusive to my day one homies, things would have stagnated. Id be yet another rapper who fell off after a couple of albums and was never really relevant again. Maybe Id make the rounds on TV shows and podcasts, spending my time complaining that the rappers today cant really spit. Maybe Id even appear on a reality show or two. But Ive avoided that fate. The key was finding the right balance of old and new, to keep moving forward, but without losing my footing. In this chapter Im going to share my strategies for assembling that resourceful, dedicated, and trustworthy crew that can help you build on what youve already grown and create new opportunities. BRINGING THE HOOD WITH YOU Growing up in the Southside of Queens, I knew that once I made it, I was going to bring my neighborhood with me. In the streets, you are taught from a very early age that the stronger your crew is, the stronger you are. The streets are a jungle, and you want to be perceived as being part of a strong pack. Not as prey. This is why almost all the top rappers in the nineties made a point of championing their neighborhoods. Nas got on and brought Queensbridge with him. Biggie got a deal and brought Bedford-Stuyvesant with him. In LA, N.W.A. put Compton on the national map, and Snoop repped Long Beach a few years later. I was determined to do the same with Southside. For the first several years of my career as a rapper, everywhere I went, the Southside came with me. Tony Yayo and Lloyd Banks of G-Unit werent guys I met at some industry conferencethey grew up around the block from me. You saw the neighborhood in my videos and during my live shows, and most important, you heard it in my music. I wanted that energy near me at all times. Today, I call that energy the homeboy complex: when you feel the need to keep your homies as close to you as possible. My homeboy complex was the main reason I bought Mike Tysons mansion in Connecticut. When I came off my first tour for Get Rich or Die Tryin, suddenly I had $38 million burning a hole in my pocket. Around the same time, I did an interview with a journalist who casually mentioned that Tyson was selling his home. Oh, Im going to buy that, I replied. I had just been talking shit, but a couple of weeks later I found myself in Hartford, Connecticut. I consider Hartford a music mecca. Its close to New York, but just far enough away that it has its own energy and taste. Ive found that if a song from a New York artist creates a buzz in Hartford, theres a good chance it can break in the rest of the country. So I try to stop through as often as possible and take the pulse of what people are listening to. On this trip, I realized I wasnt too far from Tysons place, so I had someone call up the broker and then went over to check it out. Once I was there, the vibe and scale seemed right for me. The money wasnt an issue. I bought it outright with a wire transfer the next week. There was no family living with me at the time, so I didnt really need a house with eighteen bedrooms and twenty-five bathrooms (not to mention a movie theater, indoor and outdoor pool, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a nightclub named TKO, and seventeen acres of land). But I bought it so that the Southside would literally be under the same roof as me! There would be nights, out in the middle of the country (the closest city, Hartford, Connecticut, was ten miles away), where if you closed your eyes, youd swear you were standing on a corner of Sutphin Boulevard. There was music playing, people dancing, and dice rolling. The same people I grew up with eating Chinese takeout on the stoop were now being served by waiters at my dining room table. And instead of watching a bootleg DVD on a grimy couch, I was able to show a first-run movie in my own movie theater. Doing things like that for the people I came up with gave me more validation than selling millions of records. At the time, it seemed like a necessary move. Today, Ive come to accept that it was one I didnt have to make. First off, that house cost waaay too much money to maintain. I was spending close to $70,000 a month on maintenance alone. I dont care how rich you are, you never get comfortable paying a $70K utilities and maintenance bill every monthespecially when youre on the road most of the time. Bill Gates would look at a bill like that and say, Do we have to run the AC every night? It was great to be able to have eighteen bedrooms at my disposal, but I could only sleep in one of them at a time. I had to concede that I wasnt using that home correctly. In many ways, the estate came to serve as a metaphor for my relationship with the hood. Yes, it served a purpose for me initially. I got a lot of support from my roots. And I gave a lot of people opportunities they would have never had otherwise. But it was time to cut the cord. I didnt cut everyone offthe core group I mentioned is still very much part of my life and business pursuits. But a lot of folks who had been with me for a long time got let go. The eighteen-bedroom mansion has been downsized to an apartment (though a pretty damn nice one). My two-hour commute is down to twenty minutes. Im not sure why I even waited so long to make the move. At first, money was part of it. At one point Id been talked into listing the house for over $15 million, which was an unrealistic price. When someone puts a number in your head, every time you move off that number, it feels like a loss. You cant get tricked into thinking that way. I might not have gotten what I wanted for the property, but in the end I didnt care about losing money (and I ended up giving my proceeds to charity anyway). I had won by moving on with my life. Id cleared my plate and refocused on the future, instead of being held down by a relic of the past. BACK IN THE BARREL Another mistake people make time and time again is that after theyve found success, they feel they still owe something to the place they came from. This is especially prevalent in the African American community. When a black person from the hood reaches a certain level of success, they seem to feel obligated to maintain their roots. You dont see this nearly as much in other communities. If a Chinese immigrant works his ass off for years and builds a chain of his own stores, hell probably move to a big house in the suburbs the first chance he gets. He wont feel like he owes anything to his fellow immigrants back in Chinatown. Hell do what theyd do if they came into money, toomove to the biggest house in the safest neighborhood with the best schools that they could. Same with a Mexican woman who grew up in the barrio. If she ends up, through her hard work and hustle, becoming a real estate magnate, shes probably not looking to stay in her old hood. Nope, shes getting that big house in the nice, safe neighborhood, too. Without any guilt. When the Irish, Italian, and Jewish immigrants started making money, the first thing they did was beat it out to the suburbs. It seems like its only in the African American community that we have a hard time walking away from our struggle. If we dont stay connected to that struggle, well somehow lose whatever it was that made us successful. I know that feeling very well. Being afraid to cut the umbilical cord to the hood is why I bought Mike Tysons place. But at least I had the sense to bring the hood to me, instead of staying in the hood itself. Ive known a lot of people who made that mistake, and some have paid the ultimate price for their unwillingness to walk away. A tragic example was my friend and mentor Jam Master Jay, who was from Hollis, Queens. As a member of Run-DMC, Jay personified the pinnacle of success in our neighborhood. He sold millions of records. He toured the world, rocking stages from Europe to Asia. As part of the first breakout hip-hop group, he was an inspiration to millions of black kids in Queens and around the country. Once they hit the big time, the rest of Run-DMC left Queens and never looked backRev Run and DMC went to New Jersey, and their manager, Russell Simmons, set up shop in Manhattan. But Jay stayed in Queens his entire life. He opened a recording studio in Jamaica, where he taught aspiring local rappersmyself includedthe finer points of constructing a song. It seems like a great story. Local DJ becomes famous, tours the world, and comes back to his old stomping grounds to share his gift with the next generation. In reality, it was a death sentence. By staying in Queens, Jay never separated himself from the negative elements close to hip-hop, especially in our hood. In Queens, the drug dealers were the first people to have real money. Hip-hop was a hobby, just something to do with your homies on the stoop or in the park. The cash was in selling drugs. Jays generation was inspired by what the drug dealers hadnice clothes, fly cars, and beautiful women on their arms. The peacoats and godfather hats that Jay helped make famous with Run-DMC? Thats what he saw the dealers wearing. Same with the gold chains Run-DMC and later LL Cool J helped popularize. They represented drug dealer fashion before they became hip-hop. Today, the opposite is truerappers can make way more money than drug dealers, thanks in no small part to the path early pioneers like Jam Master Jay helped blaze. Jays mistake was that he didnt keep moving forward. If hed followed Run, Russell, and DMC to Jersey, Long Island, or Manhattan, I have no doubt hed still be alive today. Instead, he stayed too close to the wrong kind of peoplepeople who not only didnt have his best interest at heart but were actually jealous of his fame and success. They didnt celebrate him for staying in the neighborhood and mentoring aspiring MCs. They actually hated him for it. By staying around folks like that, he made it inevitable for sucker shit to happen. It was a similar situation with Nipsey Hussle. I didnt know Nipsey as well as I knew Jay, but he seemed like a stand-up guy. When I agreed to shoot the video for YGs Toot It and Boot It, which Nipsey was featured on, I told the guy at the record company, Hey, make sure you bring that kid who looks like Snoop. Thats how we met in person. Nipsey was a great dude who seemed focused on both his community and his family. Sadly, the same sucker shit that got Jay also got Nipsey. When Nipsey was killed, people started pointing fingers at everyone except those suckers. On Twitter or IG, the first thing youd see was The government killed Nipsey! The logic was Nipsey had been working on a documentary about Dr. Sebi, the famed Honduran herbalist who some people felt had been jailed and later killed because of his controversial views on Western medicine. Dr. Sebis teachings were a threat to the pharmaceutical industry, so Nipsey had to be killed before he could help spread them to the world. To hear other people tell it, Nipsey was a threat to the government because he was teaching the hood about financial empowerment and social justice. If too many poor young people became enlightened because of Nipseys work, it would threaten the status quo in Los Angeles. So he had to go for that. Theres no doubt Nipsey was doing great work in his hood, especially with Vector90, a co-working space and STEM training center that taught tech skills. And though I dont have any strong feelings on Dr. Sebis teachings, I wouldnt be shocked if there were some elements in the pharmaceutical field who wanted to keep that work under wraps. But when people say the government killed Nipsey, theyre just not being honest or realistic. The government didnt kill Nipsey. Allegedly, a sucker named Shitty Cuz killed him. Thats the depressing truth. He didnt kill Nipsey because Nip was a threat to any status quo. And no one paid him to kill Nipsey to protect Pfizer or Johnson and Johnson. No, Shitty killed Nipsey because he was a hater, plain and simple. He was a snitch, and when Nipsey called him on it, Shitty reacted with violence. He couldnt stand that someone as successful and beloved as Nipsey didnt want someone as unsuccessful and untrustworthy as Shitty around. The crab-in-the-barrel mentality is what killed Nipsey, just like it killed Jay and so many other successful black folks who stayed in their community after they found success. Thats why, when I started making legitimate money, I left the hood and never looked back. Sure, Ill visit from time to time. But Id never move back permanently. If I did, theres zero question I would have been negatively impacted. Understanding that mentality is why I dont have any second thoughts about not sticking around. Do I give a lot of money back to the streets through my charities? Absolutely. Do I work to make sure those kids have better legal opportunities than I had? No doubt. Im not living under any illusions, though. On the streets, there just isnt enough space for both success and suckers. The quicker you understand that, the quicker youll get the most out of your journey. DEMAND DISCIPLINE Im not suggesting that you drop all your day one homeboys the second you taste a little success. Those are the people who know you best, and if theyre true friends, theyll keep it the most real with you. Theyll tell you when your verse is wack. Or your shirt is too young. Or that influencer who is promising big things actually seems like theyre full of shit. Those are some of the positive qualities that your day ones can add to your team. But they can also bring some of the negative qualities of the hood: beefs, dramas, and clashes of ego. To make sure that doesnt happen, you have to first instilland then demanda sense of discipline in your team. That became clear to me early in my career, when I was supposed to perform with Nas at a concert in Central Park. Getting to share a stage with him was a big deal to me. As a superstar coming out of Queens, Nas was someone I really looked up to. When I got to the venue, Nas was already there. And it looked like hed brought all of Queensbridge with him. There must have been a couple dozen guys from the Bridge standing backstage, drinking, smoking, and hyping themselves up for Nass set. I realized they didnt know what to do with the energy they were creating. It was like they were starting a fire they couldnt contain. Sure enough, they started fighting each other. It was Queensbridge versus Queensbridge. Even though his crew was turning on itself, Nas was either unwilling or unable to put out the fire. Soon the cops got called and the concert got shut down before Nas even stepped onstage. In my eyes, Nas had mishandled the moment. I understood why hed brought so many guys from Queensbridge with himCentral Park is no-mans-land and theres no telling who he might have run into there. A crew from Brooklyn. A couple of guys from the Bronx. Or maybe a rival crew from another neighborhood in Queens. It was smart to make sure he was surrounded by his own people. What wasnt as strategic was his failure to keep them in check. By failing to control the energy hed brought with him, hed lost the chance to perform that day. It probably cost him money down the road, too. When promoters hear there was a problem at a high-profile venue like Central Park, it will make them think twice about booking you. So while the impulse to bring Queensbridge with him was understandable, their presence came at the expense of his overall growth. Watching those Queensbridge dudes fight each other, I vowed to myself that when my crew and I hit the road, I would have zero tolerance for internal conflict. I knew that if I couldnt control my own people, there would be a pretty low ceiling on how high I could build my brand. Plus, I understood that there are no minor fights when youre living together on the road. Lets say two guys get into it over a girl. One of them ends up smacking the other one in the face. Whoever got touched is going to feel humiliated long after the physical sting subsides. Every time he sees that other guy on the bus, backstage, in the hotel lobby, waiting for a planehes going to want to reassert himself. That sort of resentment can boil beneath the surface until it explodes. And the fallout from a serious enough explosion can take down an entire tour. Thats why, as soon as G-Unit hit the road, I was very clear about my policy on guys getting into it with each other. I told them, Were going to encounter a lot of people who are jealous of our success. If you have some steam you need to let off, fight one of them. Ill have your back no matter what happens. Shit, Ill have your back if you end up punching some random stranger in the face. But if any of you guys fight each other, youre going home the next day. Period! For a while, everyone obeyed my edict. Yes, there were moments when it looked like something might pop off, but I was always quick to remind the would-be combatants, Im not playing. Youre going home if you step to him! Then in the quieter moments I would pull guys aside and explain my motives. I wasnt trying to police them, just trying to help them win. Were trying to build something with G-Unit, Id say. This tour, and the attention its going to create, are going to be the building blocks for something special. But if those blocks keep shifting, whatever we try to build is going to come crashing down. Then were going to be back on the corner, instead of out here eating lobster, staying in nice hotels, and meeting girls in every city! That little pep talk would usually get through to people, and I didnt have to send anyone home. That is, until we got to Philadelphia. The problem started when Mitchell and Ness, the legendary Philadelphia sports clothing company, sent some complimentary throwback jerseys to our hotel. This was the era when a Mitchell and Ness jersey was basically the official uniform of hip-hop. Everyone wanted to be seen in one, and some of the rare editions were worth thousands of dollars. Even though the shirts were meant for me, the package ended up in the hands of a guy named Marcus, who was our tour manager. He knew I always buy my own clothes, so he decided to take a couple of the jerseys for himself. He felt that since he was the tour manager, they were some of the spoils he was entitled to. Bang Em Smurf didnt see it that way though. Bang Em was someone from Southside that I was considering signing to G-Unit, so Id taken him on the road to help him get some exposure. Bang Em had potential, but he made the mistake of thinking that just being on the road meant that hed already made it. He started drinking his own juice before hed proved anything. He didnt have a single. He didnt have any buzz. The girls didnt look at him and say, Whos the cute one? To the world, he was just another dude onstage shouting the end of my lines. That experience alone got him so gassed that he thought the rules didnt apply to him. The morning after the Philly show, we were scheduled to get on the bus at 5 a.m. and head to the next city. But instead of my alarm clock, I got an early morning wake-up from the sounds of a fight taking place under my window. I pulled back the shades to see an unexpected sight: Marcus and Bang Em rolling around in the streets, trading blows over a Mitchell and Ness jersey. Its mine, I could hear Bang Em shouting. Nah, that aint yours! yelled Marcus. Yours had a piece of gum stuck on the side. This is mine! Apparently, Bang Em had decided one of those jerseys was his. And when Marcus wouldnt hand it over, Bang Em was just going to take it. Not what I wanted to deal with at the crack of dawn. I went outside and immediately broke them up. Then I asked Bang Em what the hell he was thinking. Nah, Fif, Bang Em started to explain. Hes trying to take my shirt. I had to check him. I wasnt trying to hear it. Man, you know I told everyone no fights on this tour! Then I looked at Marcus and said, pointing to Bang Em, Get this punk a bus ticket. Hes going home. It wasnt until that moment that Bang Em realized I wasnt playing. When I said zero tolerance, I meant zero. If youre going to maintain control of your team, you must make people respect the repercussions. Even if it means ending a relationship. So Bang Em got sent home right then and there. Hed have plenty of time to drink his own juice back in Queens. Bang Em thought he was bigger than the crew, but it turned out he didnt know how to move on his own. He started working with some other local rappers and from time to time would try to get me to support them, but nothing really caught my ear. Without my support, no one wanted to give him a break. Instead of being on the road with me, making legal money and seeing the world, he eventually caught a case back in Queens. He asked me to bail him out, but I explained to him that wasnt my job. He eventually got deported back to Trinidad, where he was born. To this day, he blames me, not himself, for his situation. Whenever you find success in life, there will be people who believe some of it belongs to them. Bang Em was that sort of person. When you remove them from your life, instead of looking in the mirror, they get angry at you. If I had let Bang Em slide with a warning, I would have lost my authority. All the other egos on the tourand there were plenty of themwould have started to bubble, too. Soon they wouldnt just be fighting over Mitchell and Ness jerseys; they wouldve been beefing over girls, who got the most time onstage, or who was getting paid what. That kind of dissension has ground many toursbefore and sinceto a premature halt. I wasnt about to let that sort of energy mess up our momentum. Almost twenty years later, Im still touring the globe. Ive performed in countless countries to millions of people. Recently, someone flew me overseas to do a concert for several million dollars. Not a bad little check for a flight on a private jet and one days work. But it was also the kind of check that comes only after youve established yourself as a seasoned, profitable, and reliable touring actthe kind of reputation that I was focused on building all those years ago back in Philly. Those choices dont have to be as dramatic as getting someone a bus ticket home. If youre a supervisor at a company, it could just mean transferring them to another department. If youre the manager at a retail store, maybe it means moving that kind of person to another location. If you run your own small business, it probably means firing their ass immediately. You wont have the luxury of carrying anyone giving you anything less than their best. No matter what position youre in, when you make rules that benefit the collective good, you need to enforce them. Dont let someone whos focused only on themselves ruin it for everyone else. They can be hard rules to live by, but doing so will always pay off in the long run. HANDLE INTERNAL PROBLEMS FIRST No matter how high you build your empire, youll never be able to maintain it if your house isnt in order. Just like I told Bang Em back in the day, if the blocks on the bottom arent solid, its just a matter of time before everything crashes down. A classic example of this is what happened to the Brooklyn rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine. Tekashi is a half-Mexican, halfPuerto Rican rapper from Brooklyn. His multicolored hairdo and over-the-top energy won him millions of fans across the countryespecially white kids. They might not be able to dread their hair like the Migos, but they could definitely put in all the colors of the rainbow like Tekashi. He went from being a virtually unknown SoundCloud rapper to one of the biggest stars out there in not much more than a year. Tekashis image was of a tough, reckless instigator, but he was actually a sweet kid at heart. Much closer to a WWF wrestler playing a role than an actual gangsta. So to reinforce his image, he started surrounding himself with street dudes. But those guys were not playing a role. They were the real deal. Once they realized Tekashi wasnt, they started seeing him as food. And food is never what you want to be perceived as by real street dudes. As his star rose, Tekashi and I began to build a friendship. I liked that he was brash. That he didnt seem to be afraid of the moment. A lot of people even said that Tekashi reminded them of a young me. One day he called and asked if he could come to my office. Hed had some run-ins with the law, and promoters were starting to get nervous booking him. He needed advice. When he arrived, I didnt see a brash young man. Or an arrogant rapper. I saw a scared kid. Settling into a chair in my office, Tekashi got right to the point: 50, what am I supposed to do? I had to give him credit. He acted wild in public, but in front of me he was willing to be vulnerable. He was smart enough to know he was in over his head. He and I had never had any conversations about what was going on, but as an experienced observer, I had a good guess where the root of his problems lay. Your biggest issue is going to be internal, I told him. Youve got too many people around you, and theyre not really supporting you. Theyre supposed to be your team, but they dont have your best interest at heart. If you dont get that situation together, its going to be a problem. I told him this because Id been hearing he was switching up crews a lot. One month hed have one bunch of guys around him; the next month theyd be replaced by a new group. He was swapping crews the way some guys swap cars. Ride one for a while, then trade it in for another. He probably thought that was all part of the act, but I knew it was a serious miscalculation. When you bring people around as a rapper, theres an expectation that youre going to provide them with opportunities. Help them get noticed as an artist themselves or get established as a behind-the-scenes player. Introduce them to brands they can get checks from. You only have a limited amount of time to make good on that expectation. If you dont, confusion will set in. It will grow faster if they see you suggesting the opportunities to other people. When that happens, the original crew will start feeling disposable. You never want anyone around you feeling that way. When someone perceives themselves as disposable, any sense of loyalty will vanish. Instead of waiting for an opportunity, theyre going to aggressively come after you for what they think is owed to them. Theyre going to extract that debt however they can. Being a smart kid, Tekashi saw the value in my advice and conceded that he was in a precarious spot. He even started to make moves to replace the guys he knew had it in for him. But it was already too late. Not long after our conversation, Tekashi was arrested on federal RICO and firearms charges. In the indictment, the government even alleged that several members of his crew had plotted to kill him. Im sure that was a scary realization for a kid who thought he was a WWF wrestler, not someone who was actually playing with life-and-death stakes. As Im writing this, Tekashi has just finished testifying against his own crew and was sentenced to two years behind bars. I believe one of the things that tripped up people like Tekashi and Ja Rule is that they grew up on the outskirts of the hood. They werent from the hood, but they had been exposed to it. It tricked them into thinking they were equipped to handle situations they werent actually built for. Contrast them with someone like Drake, who isnt from even the outskirts of the hood. Hes from a completely different environment. I never see Drake associating too closely with the artists he puts on. He always keeps a good deal of space between himself and whoever hes associated with at the time. Hes smart enough to judge his own character and concede that there are some forces he wont be able to harness. Tekashi was a great judge of what white kids wanted to listen to in order to piss off their parents, but he wasnt as good at assessing peoples characters and intentions. Sadder still, I really think Tekashi is a perceptive kid. If he had slowed down and taken the time to study the people around him, get a feel for their energy, he would have recognized that they werent the right fit for him. Instead, he was in a rush. The Instagram likes and retweets were coming so fast that he probably started confusing social media with reality. On social media, the guy throwing up signs next to you is your man until the end. Your ride or die. In real life, things are never that simple. Jealousy and envy grow very easily, especially when they start getting a taste of success. If you bring a bunch of wolves into your circle, you better be damn sure to feed them. Otherwise, it wont be long before the pack turns on you. If you want a textbook example of the right way to replace an existing crew with a new one, consider what Jay-Z did while president of Def Jam Recordings. At the time, a lot of people couldnt understand why an artist as successful as Jay-Z would want to switch up roles and take a job sitting behind a desk. Ill admit I didnt quite understand it at first, either. For a while I was running G-Unit Records, and I found that incredibly stressful. No matter how hard you work for artists, they are never happy. As an artist himself, Jay would know that. But as I observed his tenure at Def Jam, it began to dawn on me what he was up to. He wasnt there to run the label. He was there to construct a new team! Before taking over Def Jam, Jays crew had largely comprised Philadelphia rappers hed recruited and groomed under the State Property franchise, artists like Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Chris and Meek, and Omillio Sparks. Those guys were certainly (and still are) respected artists, but none of them broke out commercially the way Jay had hoped. His plan was for one of them to turn into the next Jay-Z (just like I was hoping for Tony Yayo to be the next 50 Cent). But it never happened. By taking over Def Jam, Jay positioned himself to make that labels preexisting superstars his new crew. Instead of being closely associated with Beanie Sigel and Freeway, he became associated with Kanye and Rihanna. It was a major commercial upgrade. And unlike when he was running Roc-A-Fella Records, Jay didnt have to put in any work grooming them or investing money in their careers. Def Jam had already done that. It was like moving into a fully furnished home. And better still, after he stopped running Def Jam, Kanye and Rihanna still saw Jay as their boss. He got to take all that furniture with him when he moved out! I salute Jay for a sophisticated strategy. There was nothing unethical or disloyal about it. He gave those Philly artists plenty of opportunities when they were on Roc-A-Fella Records. But when they never quite became what he had set them up to be, he was savvy enough to move on. A lot of people hesitate to make those moves. Theyd rather stay connected with the same group of people, even if those people arent getting them any closer to success. Jay didnt fall into that trap. Still hasnt. PROVIDE ENCOURAGEMENT In addition to maintaining discipline and stability within your crew, to be a truly effective leader you also have to be able to motivate people with encouragement. As tough as I can be on people who get out of line, I also pride myself on being able to deliver heartfelt pep talks when theyre needed. If youre primarily known as a disciplinarian, the moments when you step out of that role and show that you have real concern about someone will carry extra weight. Some of the best pep talks Ive given have been before boxing matches. Theres something about that setting that really brings out the motivator in me. One I remember specifically was when I was in the dressing room with Deontay Wilder before his rematch at the Barclays Center with Bermane Stiverne. One of the keys to delivering an impactful pep talk is being able to read the energy in the room. And my read of the energy at that moment was that it was not where it needed to be. Deontay had his whole entourage with him, and there was no focus. Everyone was laughing and talking shit like they were at a party. Deontay had already beaten Stiverne once before, and it was clear to me that everyone thought the fight was over before it had even begun. But thats a very dangerous way to approach a fight. Yes, Deontay had beaten Stiverne, but the fight had gone the distancethe first time that had happened in Deontays career. He needed to be locked in on the job in front of him. A lot of fighters have wound up knocked out because they didnt take their opponent seriously enough. I waited until I got Deontay into a corner of the dressing room where there werent as many people around. Youre not focused, I told him evenly. I see you hitting the mitts and everything, but youre not in the zone, man. Deontay didnt have to say anything. He knew I was right. Stop bullshitting. This man Stiverne is standing in the way of what you want. For the second time. Are you going to let him do that? Naw, Im not, Deontay replied. Good. So lets make him pay for his mistake, then, I told him, my voice rising. Suddenly, everyone around us realized the energy was changing. The room got quiet. Listen, man, I continued, my voice taking on a menacing quality. You are going to make him pay for thinking he can step into the ring with you again. You are going to take this man into the deep waters. And then drown him. Now I had Deontay locked in. He went back to hitting the mitts, this time with a purpose. Then I walked him out into the ring while performing Many Men. The party was over. Now it was time for business. It didnt take long. Deontay knocked Stiverne down three times in the first round, before the referee called it. The ref literally had to jump on Deontays back to get him off Stiverne. It all happened so fast that I didnt even have time to make it back from the ring to my seat in the skybox. Afterward Deontay said that he had felt possessed in the ring. I was standing on the outside of my body just watching and observing myself beat this man, he told the In the Corner podcast. I know he was able to get to that state because I helped bring him there. Before I spoke to him, Deontay was going to walk into the ring in an unfocused state. After our talk, he went in there with a laser focus, which is what you need when your opponent is trying to smash your face in. I gave a similar talk to Floyd Mayweather before his fight with Victor Ortiz. When I came into the dressing room before the fight, I immediately became uncomfortable with how comfortable Floyd was. It was clear to me that Floyd and his team thought this fight was going to be a walk in the park. Well, I wasnt going to let Floyd walk into the trap. I wasnt the only one who noticed Floyds energy was very nonchalant. It certainly seems like this is his office, the TV announcer observed as Floyd slowly made his way to the ring. Hes not worried at all. He has no fear. Or butterflies. Confidence is great, but too much of it can make a fighter vulnerable. Before a fight, a boxer should have butterflies. They should be a little nervous. They should feel like theyre about to run into someone whos going to try to kill them, because thats exactly whats going to happen. Even someone like Floyd, arguably the greatest defensive fighter of all time, should never allow himself to believe that his opponent isnt capable of knocking his head off. I needed to shake Floyd out of that state. If I couldnt make him scared, I figured I could at least make him angry. Ortiz hadnt demonstrated any animosity toward Floyd leading up to the fightif anything, Ortizs energy had said, Thanks, Floyd, I really appreciate the opportunity. I was worried that Floyd was starting to feel friendly toward Ortiz. I had to get Floyd in a more appropriately aggressive mind state. If you watch the video of the fight, as Floyd and I approach the ring, I whisper something in his ear. The cameras didnt pick it up, but this is what I told him: Fuck this bum. Hes trying to make sure you cant feed your kids. What you say, Five? Floyd responded. This motherfucker is trying to take food out of your childrens mouth. Do . . . not . . . let . . . him. When I told him that, its like he went into a trance. First he started stomping his feet, then he ran into the ring, a man on a mission. Floyd ended up knocking Ortiz out in the fourth round. After the fight we all piled into a van to go back to Floyds hotel. As soon as we pulled out, Floyd started yelling, Yo, Five said some shit to me! He was happy because he knew Id put him in the right headspace. Before I got in his ear, he was probably feeling bad for Ortiz. Probably didnt want to go too hard on him. I corrected that mind-set. Knock him out and make sure the money is straight going forward. Which is exactly what Floyd did. When I was first casting for Power, I had one person in mind to play the lead character, Ghost: Omari Hardwick. I had seen Omari in the movie Next Day Air, and I identified him as someone who could be the leading man in a hit TV show. The network had some other actors in mind, but I was focused on Omari. To me he embodied the combination of intelligence, masculinity, unpredictability, and violence that was Ghost. I just needed to help Starz see it, too. When it was time to begin casting, we first brought in Joe Sikora to read for the role of Tommy. As youre probably not shocked to learn, Joe absolutely killed it. From the very first page he was completely at home with the character. The energy in the room was vibrant as he went through his lines. As soon as he left, no one had to say a word. Joe had the role. Next up was Omari. I was excited because Id spent weeks hyping him up to the network executives. Now was his time to prove me right. But, unlike Joe, Omari was very flat. He read the lines, but his energy was lacking. It was clear he wasnt connecting with the character. Something wasnt right. When Omaris read was over and he left the room, one of the executives looked at me and said, Sorry, but we dont know if this is the right guy. I understood why they felt that way, but I still believed in my vision of Omari playing Ghost. I just needed to help Omari see it, too. So that night I got on the phone with him. Yo, you all right? I asked him. You didnt seem like you was into it today. Yeah, Im all right. Okay, but theyre telling me theyre not sure youre the guy. What are we going to do about that? Well, if they feel that way, then they should probably just go with someone else. That wasnt the reply I was looking for. It meant the conversation was going the wrong direction. I had to get Omari turned around and prepared to fight for the role, instead of feeling defeated. I needed to take the gloves off and be real with him. Youre talking about just give it to someone else, but then what are you going to do next? I asked him. Do you feel good enough about your career to just walk away from a starring role without giving it your best? Do you have a strong plan B for what happens when someone else gets the role and all the glory? If so, fine. But if you dont, you better get back in there and read that role the way I know you can. Omari kept telling me he didnt care if he lost the role, but I knew he didnt mean it. That was just his ego talking. He was disappointed that they didnt respond positively to his read. Omari knew he could act, he just was internalizing the information instead of performing it. Listen, theres a reason youre on the top of the call sheet, I told him. I insisted that your name was first. And the reason I did was because I saw you in Next Day Air. I know you can kill this role. We wrote it with you in mind. You are going to be the star of a TV series playing Ghost. Do not let your ego trip you up here. If those execs dont think youre right for the role, go back in there and prove to them that you are. Finally he began to see things my way. We started talking about Ghosts motivations and future storylines. His energy picked up. Omari began to see what I saw. Youre right, 50, he told me. I can be this guy. By the end of the conversation, he was excited and ready to read again. I set it up for the next day, and this time he was completely locked in. He had swagger and was menacing, but there was deep intelligence in his eyes, too. He was in the pocket. He was Ghost. Today, its almost impossible to think of anyone but Omari playing that role. But there was absolutely a moment where Omari was prepared to let that opportunity pass without putting up a fight. What a mistake that would have been. Not only would it have negatively impacted Power, but it would have cost Omari so many opportunities that have come with being the star of a hit TV series. Hes a household name now, with multiple movies about to come out. All because of what hes done as Ghost. In order to get the best out of the people around you, sometimes you have to clearly and forcefully articulate the opportunities you see for them. Just because you see something for them, you cant assume they see it, too. If someone is not responding to, or taking advantage of, the opportunities youve created for them, youre going to have to take them to that place. Thats literally what leading means. You cannot construct a team and then expect everyone to instinctively know what position theyre supposed to play. Thats how confusion, and later frustration, sets in. If someone is not in a competitive mode, then its on you as a leader to activate that mode for them. From your top lieutenant to the lowest person on the totem pole, you need to be able to articulate not only where you need that person to go, but also the steps they should follow to get there. Most of the time, getting people on the right path will require bringing their competitiveness and cockiness down a few notches. Helping them, like in the case of Bang Em Smurf, be a little more realistic about what theyre capable of and where they stand. But occasionally, like in the situation with Omari, youre going to have to take the opposite approach. Youre going to have to lift them up a bit. Remind them of what theyre capable of. Believe in them so openly that, eventually, they start believing in themselves. The key is understanding that different people require different tactics. You cant coach everyone on your team the same way. If I had barked on Omari the way I barked on Bang Em, Omari would have never come out of his shell. Just like if I had gassed up Bang Em the way I gassed up Omari, Bang Em would have imploded on the spot. Accept that everyone on your team is going to have their own hang-ups, issues, and insecurities, and then address them with the appropriate energy. You cant have a one-size-fits-all mind-set when it comes to effective leadership. You need to tailor a specific approach to every single person on your team in order to get the most out of them. LEARNING TO TRUST AGAIN On August 30, 2012, I was at my office, working on promo plans for New Day, a track Id just done with Alicia Keys, when I received an urgent phone call from a friend. He had devastating news: Chris Lighty, my longtime friend and manager, was dead. I had been standing in the middle of a bustling office, but when I heard the words Chris is dead, it was like all the noise around me suddenly got turned off. I cant really believe I just heard you say those words to me, I told my friend. Say it again so Im sure Im hearing you right. But there was no miscommunication, no mistake. Chris Lighty, the man who had helped guide my career both through the valleys and over the mountaintops, was gone. Even more devastatingly, I was being told that he had shot himself. That Chris Lighty, one of the smartest, most self-assured, and most motivated people Id ever met, had decided to take his own life. To this day, it doesnt feel right to me. Chriss death was a blow on many levels. The most devastating, of course, was knowing what his loss would mean to his children. Chriss daughter Tiffany and I in particular were close, and I knew she worshipped the ground he walked on. As soon as I learned he had passed, I made a vow that I would look out for Tiffany in his absence. Ive tried to live up to that promise, re-writing my will to include her. Im so supportive of Tiffany that I didnt even flip when she knocked the mirror off one of the Lambos I let her drive. Thats how you know its love! Beyond its impact on Chriss family, I was also worried about what his death would mean for me. Out of all my business associates, Chris was easily the one I felt closest to. I had met Chris early in my career, when I was first out supporting my mixtapes. Even though he had grown up in the Bronx and was a little older than me, I felt like I had known him my entire life. We were very similar in our backgrounds and our energy. Chris, going by the name Baby Chris, had come up with a Bronx crew called the Violators. From snatching peoples chains in clubs he graduated to carrying records for the legendary DJ Red Alert. That relationship led to him becoming the tour manager for groups like A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. He later became a successful executive at Def Jam, before launching Violator, his management company, with Mona Scott. Just like I was always seeking to find the balance between 50 Cent and Curtis Jackson, Chris had two distinct sides to him as well. Chris Lighty the executive could sit down in a boardroom and have no problem cutting a multimillion-dollar deal. But Baby Chris from the Bronx would still want to smack you in the face if you played too much around him. We were both constantly walking a tight rope between respecting our street roots and demonstrating our corporate character. For that reason alone, we deeply understood each other. With Chris, for the first time in my life I had someone outside of my immediate family who I trusted implicitly. With my money. With my visions. And with my future. A trust, as Ive said, that is very hard for me to build. I didnt realize how much I trusted Chris till not long after he died and I had to appear at a deposition about one of my businesses. As a lawyer quizzed me about how the operation was run, I began to realize that my answer to almost every question was, That was something that Chris handled. It really brought home to me what a huge role Chris had played in my career. Ive really struggled to fill that void since Chris passed. I know Ill never find another manager like him, but there is someone out there with similar qualities who could help me. Who could take some of the burden off me and allow me to focus on the bigger picture. Who could advise me. Push me toward even greater achievement. Who could understand both 50 Cent and Curtis Jackson. I started this chapter by saying that the greatest attribute of most successful entrepreneurs is being an astute judge of character. So the question I have to ask myself is, have I lost faith in my ability to judge people astutely? Or have I been uneasy about opening up my life and career to someone the way I did with Chris? Because to really let a manager do their best work, youve got to let them into almost all aspects of your life. I believe the answer is that Ive been too guarded in trying to find another Chris. One of the goals Ive got to set for myself is reestablishing my confidence in my ability to evaluate and read people. Ive always been confident in that regard, so I need to embrace that skill set and start the process of establishing that trust with someone again. It can be scary to open up your life to someone new, but when you pick the right person, it can also be incredibly beneficial. Chapter 4 Knowing Your Value Know your worth. Then add tax. UNKNOWN Wouldnt it be great if you always got paid your worth? Without having to fight for it? If every time you went for a new position, tried to negotiate a raise, or asked for a bonus, you were compensated fairly? Of course, life doesnt usually work that way. If anything, the opposite is true. Whenever you work for someone else, theyre going to try to pay you less than what youre worth. Doesnt matter if theyre a good guy, a friend, or even family. If they can save a couple of bucks, theyre going to try to at your expense. You cant even be madits just business. But what you can do is be strategic. Ensure that, instead of getting overlooked, swept to the side, or hustled, you always receive maximum value for your efforts. Its not as hard as it might seem. Even more surprising: oftentimes, the best way to extract that maximum value is by choosing not to drive the hardest bargain. Gimme the loot I got my mind on my money, and my money on my mind Fuck you, pay me! Those classic hip-hop lyrics and many others like them helped re-shape peoples attitudes about demanding their full worth. That energy is one of hip-hops greatest cultural contributions. The Isley Brothers are funky as hell, but they arent putting out fuck you, pay me energy. I love Earth, Wind and Fire as much as the next man, but they dont have folks ready to demand a raise. Hip-hop gave you that energyon steroids and washed down with a Red Bull. We made getting paid in full a cornerstone of the culture. The critics dont want to admit it, but hip-hop absolutely empowered people to stand up for themselves in a way no other art form has. As 50 Cent, Ive definitely promoted that mind-set as much as anyone. From the moment I picked up a mic, Ive been rapping about getting money. Do a GIF search for pay me and my face is literally one of the first images that comes up. Im proud to have helped spread that energy. Curtis Jackson, however? Hes become a little more nuanced. Ive learned over the years that, though the pay me energy is incredibly powerful, I have to apply it judiciously. If I walk into a situation with my aura screaming Gimme the loot, gimme the loot, it may match the 50 Cent persona, but it will also grind a lot of situations to a halt before they really get moving to the right destination. Today, Im extremely strategic when approaching a new opportunity. Instead of focusing on just how big my initial payday is going to be, I try to evaluate all the ways the situation could benefit meeven those that dont include a check. If theres been a single hallmark of my career outside of rapping, its been my ability to identify value in unexpected situations. If I had just followed the normal rappers playbook, I wouldnt have had much of a career outside of music. A couple of endorsements and then off to the hip-hop retirement home. Ive always had other plans, though. I was going to get all the money my talents deserved, even if it meant taking some unorthodox steps. THE RIGHT DEAL IS OUT THEREWAIT FOR IT Because Im known as a pretty aggressive guy who moves quickly toward the action, it might surprise you to learn that one of my greatest negotiating strengths is actually patience. No matter how much money is on the table, how much pressure Im under, or however good or bad my last venture performed, I will always wait for the best deal before I commit. The best example of this is my decision to sign with Eminems Shady Records and Interscope. Its a decision that, in retrospect, seems like a no-brainera layup that anyone could have made. Maybe, but I promise you that the decision wasnt so obvious at the time. A lot of people (including some very respected names in the music business) thought I was crazy for turning down some of the other deals Id been offered first. To understand why they felt that way, lets consider the context. My first record deal was with Jam Master Jays JMJ Records, which I signed when I was around twenty-one years old. Jay is the guy who taught me how to actually put together a song. Before I met him, I was just spittin over beats without any direction. Jay groomed me. He slowed me down and showed me how to incorporate melody and structure into a fully fleshed-out hit song. Those were critical skills for me to develop, but, at the end of the day, JMJ wasnt a real label. It was more of a production company. Jay had a studio where he recorded artists (and, sadly, where he would later be murdered). Once he thought an artist was polished enough, he would bring their music to an actual label like Atlantic or Def Jam to pitch their AandR department. If the label was into the music, Jay would sign a deal for JMJ. Then, in theory, the artist would get paid out of Jays deal. I wasnt aware at first that thats how it workedI thought once Id signed to JMJ, Id officially made it. I wont ever claim to be the smartest guy in the room, but I do catch on to things pretty quickly. Once I realized JMJ wasnt going to put my records out directly, I said, Nah, this aint it, and asked for an exit. Jay didnt want to let me go scot-free, and in the end I had to pay him $50,000 to get out of my contract. After that I hooked up with the production duo the Trackmasters and through them was able to land a real deal with Columbia Records. I recorded a bunch of songs for my debut album, but then things stalled (more on that shortly). Before the album could come out, I got shot. As the rumors began to spread about what was behind the shooting, Columbia panicked and dropped me. At that point I was almost twenty-five years old. Very young for a teacher, doctor, or lawyer, but not so young in a youth-oriented culture like hip-hop. Worse, I was perceived as damaged goods. On top of being shot, Id already forced my way out of one deal and been dropped by a major label. Most people in the industry didnt think I was worth the headache. A lot of rappers in my situation would have felt very uneasy. They would have worried that their dream was about to slip out of their reach. Racked by anxiety and confusion, if a labelany labeloffered them a deal, they probably would have signed it that day. And yet, that wasnt my mentality. I didnt care about what had already happened to me. I wasnt signing anything unless I was sure it was the best deal for mein that moment and going forward. My past wasnt going to cloud my vision for the future. The first deal I got offered was from Universal. They said they wanted me, but when I had a lawyer review their contract, I learned the actual deal they were offering was a joint venture with $1.3 million for a solo album and a G-Unit project. I saw it for what it was: a way for them to work with me while hedging their bets. I wasnt looking to partner with anyone who wasnt prepared to go all in with me. I passed on Def Jam. Then a guy named 3H from Capitol Records reached out. He flew me out to LA, my first trip to the West Coast. When I got there, I was surprised to see that he was this little white kid. It seemed crazy to me that he already had so much juice, but I thought it was ill that hed already maneuvered himself into a position of power. He was hungry and cocky, not unlike myself. I was very tempted to work with him. Then his boss at Capitol got cold feet. He told 3H I was too scary and that he didnt want bodyguards at his house. He wasnt incorrectthere was a menacing aura around me at the time, and bodyguards followed along everywhere I went. Still, I wasnt going to try to convince someone who couldnt see my value. As much as I liked 3H, I knew that Capitol wasnt the right situation either. At the time I was represented by Violator. Chris was my manager and someone I leaned on for advice. He supported me when I didnt take those deals, but I could tell it wasnt easy for him. Chris had to worry if I was ever going to give him a return on his investment in me. Yes, I had the streets buzzing through my mixtapes, but I had a lot of baggage, too. The safe move would have been to take one of those deals and finally get my debut album out. Things got even more complicated when Todd Moscowitz, who was working with Chris at Violator, lined up a deal for me with J Records. Todd said it was the perfect situation. Id be working with the industry legend Clive Davis, which would calm a lot of folks fears about me. Todd pushed hard for me to sign with J Records. At almost the same time Todd was making his push, I got word that Eminem was interested in signing me to Shady Records, his imprint on Interscope. I knew right away that that was the right situation. The Marshall Mathers LP had just sold 22 million. Em was the reason so many white fans were embracing hip-hop culture. It was the type of association you might get access to only once in a lifetime, if youre fortunate. I was faced with a difficult decision. Today, people believe I would have succeeded no matter what label I signed with. Go into chat rooms and message boards, and youll even see fans claiming things like 50 was so hot back then. He coulda signed with Koch and still sold all them records. Yeah, I was hot, but even if my ego would like to believe otherwise, my career wouldnt have had anywhere near the same trajectory had I signed anywhere other than Interscope. Not Koch, not Def Jam, not J Records. It wasnt just Eminems presence, either; Interscope gave me access to Dr. Dre, one of the greatest producers of all time. There was no other deal out there that could have matched the power of that tag team. I knew I had been groomed for the moment by all my other failures and misses. When that door opened, even just a crack, no one had to tell me twice to walk through it. Before I could take the step, though, Todd Moscowitz had to get out of the way. The J Records deal would mean money for Violator. The Eminem deal wouldnt. Todd refused to let it go. So some of my crew and I had to go to Violator to discuss the situation. Todd came on very aggressively, explaining that we were contractually obligated to sign his deal. I looked to Chris for help, but he shrugged his shoulders like there was nothing he could do. He was caught between what was best for his artist and what Todd thought was best for the company. It was a surreal situationlistening to this guy in a sports jacket and dress shoes trying to convince me I should pass up the opportunity of a lifetime to sign what I knew was a lesser deal. What Todd was saying didnt sit right with me or my people. We expressed our concerns. We might even have been a little aggressive in articulating them. At one point I remember Todd running out of his office and down the stairs toward the street, his dress shoes clicking and clacking on the steps the whole way down. Suffice it to say that was the last of any talk about my signing to J Records. Interscope would be my new home. We all know how the deal turned out. It made me one of the biggest stars in the history of hip-hop. But I have to stress this again: at the time, it was not a clear-cut decision. It was harder to tell Violator no. I didnt give a rats ass about what Todd Moscowitz wanted, but Chris was a good friend. Passing on J Records put him in a tough spot. Hed stuck with me when a lot of other folks had abandoned me. Hed kept it real when others had blown smoke up my ass. It would have been a lot easier to just sign the J Records deal, get a good check, and make everyone happy. It would have been a compromise, but one a lot of people could have lived with. Not me. You cannot, under any circumstances, compromise when its your vision on the line. You have to be prepared to go against popular opinion and turn down moneyeven if it jeopardizes your relationshipsuntil youre confident youve found the right opportunity. Would you marry a man just because he proposed? Or a woman because your friends think shes great? I hope not. You dont make a commitment like that just because someone else wants you to. I dont care if youre single, thirty-seven years old, and every time you talk to your mother the first thing out of her mouth is, When you giving me a grandchild? You wait until youre 100 percent sure hes Mr. Right before you even think about saying yes. Would you put an offer on a house because the agent youre working with is getting tired of showing you around and just wants his commission? Hell, no! Youd get another agent and go to open house after open house until you finally find the home you can afford and that youre excited to spend the rest of your life in. When you settle, youre demonstrating a lack of confidence. If your journey hasnt been easy, you might start to question the value of what youre doing. Maybe youd better grab the next thing that gets offered before you never get offered anything again. When you begin thinking like that, youve lost the hustlers spirit. I was recently talking to a friend who was struggling to find that confidence. Hed started a business from the ground up and poured his heart and soul into it. After years of hard work, he found success, and bigger companies started making offers. He looked at where his industry was heading and decided it was the right time to sell. He entered negotiations with one company and spent months and months going over the terms of the deal. He spent tens of thousands of dollars on lawyers. Then, just before he was about to sign on the dotted line, the other company pulled out. The deal was dead. My friend was stunned. It seriously messed him up. Hed already started thinking about that dream house he would buy with the proceeds. Vacations hed take his kids on. Hed seen all those zeros in his bank account, and now they were gone. He was depressed. He felt like hed spent so much time and money for nothing. The idea of starting new negotiations gave him anxiety. He told his lawyers to find the quickest deal they could. He wasnt worried about fit. He wasnt worried about long-term potential. He just wanted to get something done. Hed lost confidence in his value. It was time for a pep talk. He needed to reconnect with the hustlers spirit that had led him to start the business in the first place. Remember, if just one person was interested, that means your idea has value, I reassured him. Dont panic. Dont settle for something else unless its right. There are companies out there who prey on people in your exact situation. Dont walk into their trap. Get back to work and wait for the right partner to emerge. I could address his uncertainty directly because I could relate to what he was feeling. When you pour everything you have into something and it doesnt work out, insecurity sets in. Thats when youre vulnerable. The predators will sense that self-doubt and try to take advantage of it. I felt the same kind of vulnerability after I got dropped from Columbia. The self-doubt started to sabotage my energy. My fans probably didnt sense it, but it was there. Thankfully, my hustlers spirit was stronger than any pessimism that might have infiltrated my spirit. I had the confidence and patience to wait until the right deal was in front of me. I believed in my value, and eventually I was rewarded for it. In just a couple of years I went from being dropped to releasing one of the bestselling hip-hop albums of all time. Now, the guys I used to sit next to that I hustled with? They would say I was lucky that Interscope came after me. But, as my grandmother would say, You were truly blessed. It might seem obvious, but people dont always see the value of a strong association. Sometimesand this is especially true with artiststhey get so caught up in their own hype that they dont think they need anyone to cosign them. They believe their heat alone is more than enough to get the job done. Its great to have confidence, but never let your ego blind you to an association that can take you further than youll go on your own. I saw this happen firsthand with a Philadelphia rapper named Gillie Da Kid. He was brought to my attention by the legendary Philly disc jockey Cosmic Kev. At the time, I was riding sky-high off my first couple of albums and constantly had people pitching me their artists. Kev was seasoned, so he knew the best way to get my attention was to approach me humbly. Yo, Ive never asked you for anything, he told me, which was true. But I need one favor: I need you to listen to Gillies joint, cause this is gonna pop. I had a lot of respect for Kev, so I gave it a listen. He was rightit felt like a hit. I liked the song so much I decided I would walk Gillie into Interscope. If youre not familiar with that term, it means that instead of making him pitch his music to an AandR person, I would personally take his music to the executives in charge. Having someone walk you in is what you want as an artist. It allows you to bypass all the lower-level people and talk directly with the top brass. Its especially valuable if the person walking you in just sold 25 million records for the label. Then youve really got everyones attention. I played Gillies song for one of the top executives. At first they werent as sold as I was. Then I told them my plan. Listen, I dont think it makes sense to put Gillie on G-Unit, I explained. I didnt know if his sound would mesh with what we were doing at the time. But if you guys sign him, Ill give the project my full support. Ill put the battery in his pack. The executive said, Okay, that changes things. Lets do it. If I cosigned it, they knew it was going to sell. We sent word back to Gillie that there was a deal on the table at Interscope. I forgot exactly how much they were offering, but I remember it being fair. Evidently, Gillie didnt see it the same way. Nah, fuck that, he replied when Kev told him the number. They gotta give me a million to sign. I was surprised at his response, but out of respect for Kev, I went back and told the execs what he wanted. They felt it was way out of line for someone without much of a track record. They were willing to bring him on, but not for a million bucks outright. Gillie wouldnt budge. People tried to talk to him, telling him that there was momentum he needed to harness, but he had his mind set on that million dollars. And when Interscope wouldnt give it to him, he passed on the deal. It was an ill mistake. His error was he allowed himself to get in a zone where it was all about the money. His vision was too limited. Another factor was his environment. Philly is a big enough city, but its rapper community is pretty small. Everyone knows what the other guy is doing. Gillie probably heard about what Beanie Sigel had signed for, or what Phillys Most Wanted had gotten, and figured he had to hold out to be in the same league. It was the wrong way to assess a deal. Instead of focusing on what the next man got, he should have focused on the larger opportunity, which was having me get behind his project. With all my momentum, I could have given him the heat he needed and then some. I have zero doubt that with my cosign, Gillie would have ended up making way more than a million dollars from Interscope. Instead, he signed somewhere else, and several years later released an album that didnt get the proper support or attention. That was pretty much it. He never had his moment, despite his proven skills. Today, Gillies a respected OG on the Philly scene and has a popular podcast, but he never experienced the level of success he should have as a rapper. FOCUS ON THE POTENTIALNOT THE PAYDAY When we look back at how I evaluated the Eminem deal, notice all the positives I focused on: elite talent to work with, a lack of internal competition, and access to a new fan base. Now notice what I didnt mention: money. I knew whatever number we agreed on would ultimately be irrelevant compared to what I would earn long term with the proper plan in place. My signing bonus with Shady Records was only one million dollars. But I ended up earning so much money off that deal, the signing bonus is almost irrelevant. It might sound counterintuitive, especially in a chapter titled Know Your Value, but the first check you receive should never be your biggest concern. Always focus on the long-term potential instead. That was the principle behind one of the best business decisions I ever made, which was my deal with Vitamin Water back in 2004. Today Im celebrated for that decision, but like when I signed with Eminem, at the time it had a lot of people scratching their heads. That includes Chris Lighty, who was skeptical when I first told him I wanted to invest in a water company. Sell water? To who? he asked. At the time, a lot of rappers were making good money by promoting liquor like Hennessy and Courvoisier. In Chriss mind, booze was the smarter space to invest in. There was a method to my madness, though. I knew, through personal experience, people dont always drink alcohol at live events. Maybe theyre under twenty-one or dont want to shell out $20 for a stale beer. One thing that is always available and popular at any concert, however, is water. Its always going to be the top-selling beverage at events. One day I was walking through the water aisle in the supermarket and noticed a premier brand selling for $3. Then I saw the no-name brands were going for closer to 75 cents. I thought to myself, If you blindfolded me, theres no way I could tell which is which. The premium brands had just done a better job at marketing and promoting. That was another breakthrough. It had never occurred to me before, but just like booze, you could mark up water. Not to mention, water was a more authentic representation of my lifestyle. I dont really drink alcohol, but I definitely consume lots of water. And because I consume so much of it, I know drinking pure water alone got boring. To switch things up a bit, I started drinking flavored water. One day I was working out in a gym in LA and my trainer gave me a bottle of something called Vitamin Water. I took a swig and liked it so much that I made a mental note that it was a company I should invest in. Just to make sure I didnt forget, I actually threw my empty bottle in my gym bag. When I got back to my hotel, I called Chris and told him about the flavored water I liked so much. He did some research and found out it was distributed by a company called Glac?au that was based in Queens, of all places. With my insistence, we decided that this was the brand I should be working with. Once Id sold Chris on my vision, we hatched a plan. During a commercial for my Adidas sneakers that showed me working out in a boxing gym, we snuck in a shot of me taking a sip of Vitamin Water. It was barely half a second, but it was enough. A friend of Chriss who worked at Glac?au saw the spot and reached out to see if Id be interested in an endorsement deal. They had just developed a new product called Formula 50 (because it contained 50 percent of the RDA of seven vitamins and minerals). Who better to sell Formula 50 than me? I agreed, but I countered with something different than the standard endorsement deal. Instead of taking a five- or low-six-figure deal to appear in the ads, I wanted to invest in the entire company. Instead of taking cash from them, I actually wanted equity in the company. It was a very aggressive ask, and it caught Glac?au off guard. They werent opposed to the idea, but they were nervous about getting into business with me on that level. They only knew me as the rapper who had been shot nine times, and they werent sure they wanted to be associated with that sort of energy. I needed to put their minds at ease, so I took a meeting with the companys CEO. I didnt show up with an entourage, just Chris and me. I expressed how much respect I had for their brandI was already a loyal consumerand how hard I planned to work at spreading the word. I didnt give off the arrogant attitude or aggressive energy they were probably expecting. I presented myself as someone who saw a special business opportunity and was prepared to work his ass off to make it happen. And that was the truth. My approach helped them get over their apprehension, and we were able to strike an equity deal. The next order of business was to reimagine Formula 50. To me, Vitamin Water was just a more upscale version of quarter water, the flavored drinks you would get in bodegas for 25 cents a pop. As anyone from the hood can tell you, the most popular flavor of quarter water has always been grape. No one from the hood was trying to mess with lychee- or passion-fruit-flavored water, which was what they had been thinking about. Formula 50 had to be grape to resonate with my base. Glac?au respected my vision and changed the flavor to grape. Once everything was settled, I promoted the hell out of Vitamin Water. I was on billboards and bus stop ads across the country. I filmed an iconic commercial where I conducted a symphony orchestra playing In Da Club while taking sips of Formula 50. It seemed everywhere you looked, I was extolling the virtues of Vitamin Water. Glac?aus market share began to rise, and the beverage industry took notice. So much so that, in 2007, Coca-Cola purchased Glac?au for $4.1 billion. Of course I got piece of that. Id like to give you the number, but I signed a nondisclosure agreement to never name the actual price. Lets just say I did very, very well. It was the biggest come-up of my life, which I later celebrated in my song I Get Money: I took quarter water sold it in bottles for 2 bucks Coca-Cola came and bought it for billions, what the fuck? What the fuck? was definitely what the rest of hip-hop was asking once they heard about how much Id made. There had been groundbreaking hip-hop deals beforeRun-DMC and Adidas, LL Cool J and FUBUbut nothing even remotely on this level. In an environment where everyone was looking for the next deal, I had identified something that was sitting in plain sight but that no one else had been able to see. I was confident enough in my vision not to get caught up in worrying about the up-front money. To be fair, I was still riding high off of the success of my recording career and wasnt pressed for another $100K. I understand that not many people may find themselves in that position. Still, no matter what your situation is financially, if you really believe in something, Id always recommend you go for the piece of equity over an up-front payday. When you ask for equity, youre essentially betting on yourself. When I did that with Vitamin Water, it was a fairly unique bet to make. Now, with the rise of start-ups, its a form of compensation that a lot of people are looking for, especially in the tech and media fields. Its always smart to negotiate for equity, but you also have to be savvy about what sort of equity youre getting. Because all slices of the corporate pie are not always equal. If youre about to negotiate a deal with a company that might include equity, the first thing you must do is hire a lawyer. I dont care if youre broke, this is something you must do. Borrow the money if you have to. Then make sure its someone who is familiar with corporate governance. Dont hire your cousin who does real estate work or the guy who handled your divorce because theyre a little cheaper. Get someone who specializes in these sorts of contracts. Spending a few extra dollars at this stage, even if it hurts for a minute, can save you a ton of money down the road. You should also familiarize yourself with some basic issues so that youre educated when you do speak with someone. Most people arent going to be in the same position I was in with Vitamin Water, where I could actually get a piece of the company. Instead, youre probably going be in a situation where a company is offering you a lower salary offset by stock options. Before you can determine whether thats a good deal, you need to know the overall valuation of the company. If the company already put out an IPO (an initial stock offering), you can calculate its market value by multiplying the companys stock price by the number of shares outstanding. If it hasnt issued any stock yet, its going to be harder to figure out. Youre probably going to have to ask the founders what their method of determining the valuation of the company was. If they dont want to tell you, or give you a vague answer that doesnt make sense, then its probably not a deal that you want to pursue anyway. If youre being offered stock, you need to know whether it is vested or not. Most stock options are vested, which means you have to stay with the company a certain amount of time before you can cash them in. If your option doesnt vest for four years, you need to ask yourself if youre comfortable staying with the company that long. If not, the equity might not be worth it. A lot of times people hear the terms equity or stock options and think theyve hit the lottery. It is true that equity and stocks are one of the quickest ways to get a lot of money, but you just cant walk into a start-up situation blindly. You have to educate yourself and ask a lot of difficult questions early in the process. That way, if the start-up youre working for does become one of the rare ones that sees its value skyrocket, youre going to be perfectly positioned to reap the rewards. Ive seen a lot of people miss out on golden opportunities by chasing a check instead of maneuvering for a piece of equity. Probably the most egregious example is my former associate Sha Money XL. I met Sha when I was first getting into music. Before signing to Interscope, I recorded a lot of the songs for my mixtapes in a studio Sha operated in the basement of his house on Long Island. It wasnt a professional setupnot by a long shotbut it got the job done. More important, Sha provided a safe and secure space to record when a lot of bigger studios didnt want to fuck with me. Because of his loyalty and consistency during a difficult time, I considered Sha my partner. We never formalized the relationship, but in my head it was a foregone conclusion that when I signed my next major label deal, Sha would eat off of the situation, too. So imagine my surprise when one of the first things Sha did after I signed the Interscope deal was present the label with a $50,000 invoice. He wanted to be reimbursed for the recording sessions wed done at his house. That blew me away on several levels. First off, wed never discussed Sha charging me for the time at his place. And, if that was something he felt he was owed, why would he submit something so overinflated? Fifty thousand dollars to record in a basement? It was disrespectful. I decided to try to talk some sense into Sha. Look, I didnt think you were going to hand me a bill for what we did at your crib, I told him. But if you feel like you need to get paid for those sessions, just take $30,000 and a point of the album. I was offering less cash than he wanted, but it was actually a very generous deal. A point was an industry term that meant for every album I sold, Sha would receive 1 percent of the royalties earned. In the record business, points are what everyone is looking for. If an album really takes off, theres no limit to the amount you might make. Judging from the buzz around me, we were talking about an album that was definitely going to take off. Sha wasnt interested in the point. Even his lawyer told him he was crazy. Take the fucking point, the guy told him. Ill give you $20,000 right now for it. What the fuck is wrong with you? He wouldnt even listen to his own attorney. Sha wanted his $50K from me and wasnt going to budge. He ended up getting it, but it would be a decision that cost him dearly. That single point on Get Rich or Die Tryin ended up being worth $1.3 million. He didnt just lose over a million dollars either. After Get Rich or Die Tryin started flying off the shelves, Interscope offered me a $15 million deal for G-Unit Records. Once that deal was signed, I noticed Sha started hanging around my offices a lot; I guess he thought he was going to get some of that budget, too. Nope. You aint getting none of this money, I was quick to tell him. You took your equity out of the situation when you demanded that fifty thousand. Now youve been paid for everything youve done. Our relationship was never the same. In just a few months Id gone from seeing Sha as a partner I was prepared to share millions with to just another contractor. Sha undercut his own position by not understanding how to negotiate. He got fixated on that $50,000 and couldnt get himself unstuck. This is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when entering a negotiation: Never get fixated on a number. You want the person youre negotiating with to think youre stuck, but when the right moment comes, you have to be prepared to move off it. Thats not undervaluing yourself. Its just a matter of understanding that successful negotiations are built on give-and-take. If you refuse to concede anything, the conversation isnt going anywhere. If Sha had understood that basic principle, he would have seen that there was a very easy path toward getting what he wantedand then some. Let me show you how he should have handled it. When I offered him $30K and a point, he shouldnt have dismissed it out of hand. Instead, he should have come back to me with some humility. You know what, Fif? I was trippin by submitting that bill. Dont worry about the $50K. Even if he didnt believe it in his heart, he should have sensed I was pissed and softened his position a bit. Once he had gotten me to let down my guard just a bit, he could have come back with a stronger ask: I know I was thirsty with the bill. But I did put a lot of time into this album. We were really in the trenches together on it. And I really appreciate you offering the point. But instead of one, could we do two points? If he had said that, I wouldnt have been upset. He was in the trenches with me, after all. He had proved his worth and loyalty. I would have probably said, Lemme think about it, and then countered with one and a half points. In all likelihood, thats where we would have settled. Sha would have walked away with close to $2 million from that deal alone. Plus, our relationship would have remained on strong terms, and he would have likely gotten points on subsequent albums as well. Instead, he got only a fraction of that. I was offering him a chance to enter a new tax bracket, and he negotiated himself into nickels and dimes due to ego, insecurity, and, possibly, lack of faith. Thats not hustling stronger. Its hustling weaker. I believe one of the reasons Sha failed to negotiate his proper value is because he took the process personally. Maybe his pride told him he shouldnt have to ask me for anything. Maybe he didnt trust me. Or maybe it was just plain old greed. Whatever his reasons, Sha clearly let things get personal. This is the other huge mistake people make when they start negotiating. They take offense at whats being offered because they feel its an unfair representation of what theyve put in. Please understand this: negotiations are not personal. Again, I dont care if youre dealing with a longtime business partner, a friend, or a family member: the other person is never going to start at a number you think is fair. Its just not how the process works. Theyre always going to start at a lower number and then come up if you push back. Just how high they come up depends on how good a negotiator you are. But theyre never going to start at that number. Trust me. Ive been part of thousands of negotiations, and none of them have started exactly where I wanted them. Even with all the leverage I have as a proven entrepreneur and entertainer, to this day I still have to work to get to the number Im looking for. The key is I never react emotionally. Even if the energy Im projecting is of someone who is pissed off and about to walk away, internally Im cool. Im just waiting to see how my energy is received. If I push and push, and the other side still wont move, then I will walk away. But more often than not, a few pushes get me to where I want to be. And then we seal the deal. Once its done, its like all the posturing and threatening never even happened. Everyone hugs, raises a toast, and talks about how excited they are to be in business together. When I first started operating in corporate America, I cant lie, this threw me off a bit. In the streets, there are certain words that you cant come back from. In the boardroom, its different. People will call you outrageous, liar, motherfucker, and cocksucker but then act like it never happened once the deal is reached. In the streets those might be the last words you ever say if you say them to the wrong person. But in the corporate world, its different. Those words never really carry any weight to them. It is all part of the process, something that has to be tolerated to reach a common ground. You should always fight for your worth, but never take offense that you have to fight in the first place. When you do that, youre moving off of emotion. It might not be fair, but to get what you want, you can only move off of strategy. Anything less will leave you hustling backward. CREATING REAL POWER One of the best deals I ever negotiated was with Starz for my TV show Power. It was also, at least initially, one of my least lucrative deals. But that didnt faze me at all. My strategy when I started talking with Starz was not to get the biggest check possibleit was to create the biggest opportunity possible. From the moment I came up with the idea for Power, I knew I was sitting on something special. My goal wasnt just to launch a single TV show. I was looking to create a franchise where the characters were so compelling that eventually they could support their own spin-offs. What Marvel had done in movies, I wanted Power to do for TV. I wasnt trying to create a planet. I wanted to create a universe. To bring that universe into existence, I had to be very humble with my initial demands. Despite my success in music and movies, my track record in television wasnt as strong. My only other foray into TV, an Apprentice-esque reality show for MTV called The Money and the Power, had been canceled after one season. I had to accept that I didnt have the leverage to demand a superstar-size check. Yes, Starz believed in my vision, but they werent ready to break open the bank. The budget they were offering was limited. If I wanted the show to be a hit, Id have to spread that money around. Thats why I agreed to do the first season for just $17,000 an episode. Over eight episodes, that came out to $136,000. Mind you, it wasnt just $17,000 for acting in the show. I was also the executive producer. That meant I spent months in the writers room and working with showrunner Courtney Kemp. When it was time to promote, I had to be front and center on Good Morning America, calling in to radio stations, and shaking sponsors hands. I was making a total commitment to the show. For 136 grand. From a strictly financial perspective, it looked like a terrible deal for me. I could have made three times the amount just by doing a few club appearances or a ten-minute show. Forget about getting paid fairly. Given how much time I invested, I basically paid myself to make that first season of Power. When some people found out how much Id agreed to do the season for, they were shocked. They figured I would have told Starz, Man, Im 50 Cent. I can walk into a club, pretend to drink a glass of champagne for five minutes, and get paid fifty thousand dollars. No way Im signing this. That response might have seemed in character for 50 Cent, but it would have been a very shortsighted strategy. Thats how Sha Money or Gillie Da Kid might evaluate a situation. But not Curtis Jackson. By doing Power for well below my normal rate, I was betting on myself again. And this bet paid off spectacularly. Power quickly became Starzs highest-rated show by a wide margin. Over the past five years, its singlehandedly driven the networks success. That metric has given me a lot of leverage in negotiations. When I first started talking to them, I had to be a little down-to-earth. After the show blew up, I could afford to be more aggressive. I built so much leverage that I just re-signed with Starz for $150 million. The deal includes a three-series commitment and a fund to help develop other G-Unit projects. When its all said and done, it will probably be worth a lot more than even that. Even as I was hustlin on the set, in the writers room, and on the promo runs, I never for a second thought my true value was only $17,000 an episode. That was just the number I had to agree on to jump-start the process. My true value was going to lie in executive-producing and starring in a hit TV show that would birth multiple spin-offsand multiple revenue streams. Everything I was doing in Season 1 was meant to put me in a better position to make that happen. To be fair, I could afford to work for cheap that first season. I understand most people arent in such a fortunate position. For you, taking less money up front might mean encountering real hardship. It might mean having to work a second job on top of whatever venture youre pursuing. It might mean taking out loans or giving up your apartment and moving in with a roommate. I realize steps like that can be demoralizing, but I promise that these choices will be worth it in the long run. Securing the best long-term potential is always worth making sacrifices in the moment. JUST DO SHIT Not long after Power launched, I was at a party at Jamie Foxxs house in LA. At one point I was telling Jamie and a bunch of guys on his team a version of the same story I just shared with youhow I went to Starz with a vision, didnt get caught up on how much I was getting paid, and used that financial flexibility to fully execute my vision. You see that? You see how 50 just did that? Jamie told his friends when I was done. He just be doing shit. We gotta stop asking and just start doing shit, too! Lets go! Jamie was just trying to motivate his teamin reality, he makes as many things happen as anyonebut in that moment he managed to capture one of my fundamental principles in creating success: just do shit! It seems like an obvious enough approach, but we spend a lot of time waiting for permission to do shit instead of just making it happen. We fall into the trap of thinking the so-called gatekeepersa boss, an executive, an agent, a critichave to unlock that door ahead for us when, more often than not, its already wide open, just waiting for us to walk through. One of the best ways to bypass those gatekeepers is to go directly to the people with your ideas. The more time I spend with corporate executives, the more Ive noticed how clueless they are about how to connect with the public. Theyll form focus groups, commission studies, hire influencerseverything but go directly to the people. My strategy has always been the opposite. I always try to connect with people on the most basic level. Take my involvement in the spirits industry. When I first got involved with Effen Vodka back in 2015, the conventional wisdom said that the best way to sell vodka was to make it appear aspirational. Premium liquor had to represent a lifestyle that was slightly out of reach. That might have been what the marketing departments thought would work, but thats not how I was going to approach things. I decided the best way for Effen to increase its market share was for me to be literally within reach of my fans. The way I would do it was by hosting as many promotional events as possible. When I first got into the music business, meet and greets were an incredibly effective way to sell CDs. If I did an event at Tower Records, Best Buy, or Virgin Megastore, there would be lines out the door and around the corner. People wanted to shake my hand and get a pictureto have a connection with me, even if it only lasted five seconds. Then MP3s replaced CDs, and there wasnt anything to sell in person anymore. Meet and greets largely went out of style. I could understand the music business moving away from them, but why couldnt they be relevant for spirits? CD sales dried up, but last time I checked, no one had managed to figure out how to stream a bottle of vodka. I didnt see any reason why meet and greets couldnt be extremely effective to sell liquor. That desire for a connection was still there. To test my theory, I decided to do a series of meet and greets in liquor stores around the country. Specifically, I focused on smaller citiesplaces like Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonvillewhere I knew my presence would be a big deal. The meet and greets were extremely successful. People would hear I was going to be at a liquor store in their town, and theyd line up just like they used to for CDs. Even better, when people waited in line for a CD, they usually bought just one, but if you wait for two hours to see me at a liquor store, youre probably not going to buy just one bottle. Instead, you might say, Im gonna get one bottle for tonight. But I might as well get another couple bottles, since Christmas is coming and a lotta people are going to be over. Just like that, Ive sold three bottles to one person. And the line is around the corner. My in-store appearances were so successful that Puffy tried to copy them by having one in the Bronx with French Montana for C?roc. It didnt work for him, though. The problem was that French is always in the Bronx. You might see him pull up to the liquor mart on a regular day, so why wait in line to see him? What Puffy should have done was follow my lead and hold the event in a smaller market. Then he would have sold some bottles. In addition to meet and greets, I used social media to connect directly with the public. If someone posted a picture of themselves on IG holding a bottle of Effen, I might repost it to my page. That person would see their followers increase dramatically, and theyd become loyal to the brand. Other people would see what was happening and be encouraged to post their own pictures with Effen bottles. I was training my fan base to see the incentive in supporting Effen. It became a cool thing to do. I had created an online movement without spending a single marketing dollar. I see a lot of parallels between how we moved in the crack game back then and how savvy people are moving on social media today. People move based on direct interaction. Not on what a suit tells them. The internet is making the gatekeepers much less relevant. For instance, back in the day, if you had a great idea for a film, you had to pitch it to a studio. Because you needed access to their money and promotional potential, the studio was the gatekeeper that confirmed whether your idea had any value. Today, if you have a film idea youre passionate about, you dont need that studio to get it off the ground. You can literally shoot that movie with a smartphone, edit it on your laptop, and distribute it yourself on YouTube. If your work is good enough and speaks to your audience, people will watch it. It might take time, but eventually the word will spread that youve made something of value. Then the studios will reach out to you. Youve proved that you have an audience. But even more important, youve shown that you actually know how to make something. Thats critical. All sorts of people have ideas. Some people even have scripts. But very few people have proved that they actually know how to make something. To build it from scratch. Thats actually the most important thing to a studio. They want to know that if they sign you to a deal, youre not going to waste their money and never deliver anything. Sure, theyd prefer it not suck, but the most important thing to them is that it actually gets made. Do you ever wonder why in Hollywood some directors keep getting rehired even though they havent had a hit in years? Because at least the studio knows theyre going to deliver. By creating your movie on your own, youve already passed that test. Youve shown that you can make something, that if a studio gives you a check, youre actually going to give them something back in return. Combine that with a built-in audience and bam! Now youve got leverage! Youre not a dreamer with an idea hoping that someone takes a chance on you. Youre a proven asset who can sit back and wait for the best deal. Im using film as an example, but adopting a just do shit mentality will help you in every field. Dont sit around hoping someone will invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in your restaurant idea. Start a food truck for a lot less and make sure what youre serving is so delicious that the lines are around the block. If you do that, its only a matter of time before an investor shows up with a check. Another example that Im inspired by is travel bloggers. Those kids arent waiting for a big travel agency or a TV network to write them a check. They bought a plane ticket and a decent camera, traveled to some cool places, and started creating their own content. No gatekeepers told them they could do it, they just did it. In fact, a lot of older folks hated on the concept. These kids want to get paid for posting videos on vacation? skeptics would say. They need to get a real job. But those kids had a vision. They stuck with it and basically created their own industry. Today, over 30 percent of travelers say they consult travel blogs when picking their next vacation. Because of that, tourism boards pay travel bloggers hundreds of millions of dollars to promote different locales. Resorts give them free rooms. Airlines give them free flights. Theres a reason its become one of the most desired jobs for millennials. But it never would have happened if some young kids with a connecting flight and a camera hadnt said, Lets just do this shit! THE GREATEST EXPENSE Ive bought a lot of luxury items over the years: more watches and chains than I can count, enough Lamborghinis, Rolls Royces, Maseratis, and Ferraris to fill up a parking garage, and one of the most opulent mansions in America. But easily the most expensive thing I spend is time. Ive taken chains back to my jeweler (most of them, actually). I once even returned a Ferrari because I couldnt figure out how to start it. And yes, I did sell that mansion. But I dont have a receipt that can get me back the time Ive put into something. Thats why you have to place a premium value on how you spend the limited time you have. The person who really drove that lesson home for me was Eminem. Many years ago I was hanging out with Em in the studio, and I started thinking about putting together a massive world tour. It could be me, you, Dr. Dre, and Snoop, I told him. That show would sell out stadiums all over the world. Theres nobody who wouldnt want to see that show. Even as I was pitching it to Em, I could see the stadiums filled with excited fans. I could see millions of dollars going into each of our bank accounts. It was like a dream sequence in my mind. Em, we need to do this! I shouted, almost jumping out of my seat. Em heard me out and then said, Man, this sounds great. It sounds really amazing . . . but I dont want to do it. His answer didnt register with me. Did he just say were not going to go and get that money? That couldnt be right. Why not? I asked incredulously. Because I dont want to go on tour for months and then I come home and Hailies grown, he explained, referring to his daughter. In that moment, I didnt understand where Em was coming from. I couldnt get past what I viewed as a missed opportunity. But, over time, I came to understand Ems perspective better. Yes, its always nice to pick up a check. But a check is never more important than an experience you value. Granted, Em had the luxury of already having made tens of millions of dollars. He didnt have to worry about financially supporting Hailie. He was good on that count. He just needed to focus on emotional support. But I believe Em would have made the same decision even if he was still broke and living on Eight Mile Road in Detroit. One of the reasons Em has been so successful is that hes never chased things. Hes never let external forces tell him what to care about. Hes cognizant of what matters to him, and thats what he focuses on. And I would argue that not chasing dollars is one of the main reasons hes made so many of them. If Em had chased the easy money, he would have come out of the gate presenting himself as a Vanilla Ice knockoff. Or he would have made rock n roll records, which is what a lot of folks told him to do. But he had too much talent and respected hip-hop too much to ever do that. He was going to pay his dues and establish himself as a real MC, even if it meant putting off getting paid at first. Money is the goal, but oftentimes in order to get it, you have to retrain your brain to value experience. Especially if you werent born with a silver spoon in your mouth. Maybe you werent able to go to a college where your friends could walk you into their parents company and get you a good job. If you werent blessed with any of those advantages, you have to figure out how to get access to whatever world youre trying to get a start in. And a lot of times the easiest way to break in is by working for freeas an intern. I did that a couple of times when I was trying to get into the music business. The first time was when I was working with Jam Master Jay. I was getting frustrated that I was stuck out at Jays studios in Queens most of the time and wasnt really getting a taste of the larger scene. So Jay did me a solid. He was friendly with a guy named Jesse Itzler, who was active in the music industry. Jesse had written a bunch of songs for artists like Tone Loc, as well as the New York Knicks theme song Go New York Go. Through that, hed gotten a job to run the Knicks street team. After Jay introduced us, Jesse made me an offer: if Id help him with the Knicks street team, hed show me the ropes in the music business. Sounded like a good deal, so every day Id link up with Jesse and spend a few hours driving around New York in a Knicks van handing out team wristbands and keychains. Then wed head back to Jesses studio, and Id help with whatever song he was working on. Maybe help him find a sample, or figure out how to voice a chorus. My only payment was free Knicks gear, but it was a great education for a kid who was trying to figure out how songwriting and the music business worked. My most valuable internship came a few years later, after Id signed to Columbia. Once I realized they were stalling the release of my album, I was left with a choice. Was I going to just head back to the hood and bitch about how this label was fucking me over? Or was I going to do something constructive while I waited? I chose the constructive path. The way I saw it, Columbia might have been stalling, but I was still signed to them. I still had access to their office. I was going to make the most of that access. Nobody invited mejust do shitbut I decided I was going to be an unofficial intern at Columbia Records. Id been an unofficial intern for Jesse Itzler, who was just hustling for himself, and Id learned some valuable information, so why not a major company like Columbia? What were they going to do, tell me no? I knew they would let me intern because it was easier than having another conversation about why my album didnt have a release date yet. Every morning I would take the subway from South Jamaica to the Sony Building in Midtown Manhattan. When I got there, I wasnt messing around, trying to flirt with assistants or smoking weed in the stairwells like most of the visiting rappers. Nope, I got to work. I would pop in on every department and try to soak up as much information as possible. Id visit OJ, who oversaw street radio promotion. Id pick his brain and try to understand how he approached getting a single out to the right people. Then Id go and sit with Gail, who was my publicist. Id watch her work the phones with editors and journalists, trying to get stories placed in magazines. She was dealing with other peoples projects, but I wanted to learn how the publicity machine worked. Then Id go and shadow Julian, who was in charge of artwork. Id ask him about his thought process when he was designing an album. What sort of visuals were effective at selling albums, and what sort of images didnt work as well? I basically did that with every department. I kept asking questions and soaking up information until I finally came to a realization: the label couldnt do everything for me. This might seem like an obvious statement, but back then most rappers didnt truly appreciate the limitations of a label. They thought once they got signed to a major, they could just put things on cruise control and the folks in the offices would do the rest. Those artists thought the record companies were God, but after poking around, I learned that they were very human. Labels could do some things well, but there were other elements that were pretty much out of their hands. Through interning, I was able to see that I was going to have to make myself hot before OJ could get my songs played, or Gail would be able to get me magazine articles. I realized that the labels could build on momentum, but they were limited when it came to creating it. Thats why I ended up releasing How to Rob. I identified that I needed to create a buzz that was going to jolt the label into action. I needed to create my own energy, not hope that someone was going to flip a switch for me. I would have never come to that realization if I hadnt first decided to create my own internship. They werent paying me to come in every morning, but the information I absorbed was invaluable. Having a realistic understanding of what a record company wasnt going to do for me probably saved my career. Today, internships seem to get a bad rap. A lot of young people have complained that theyre exploitative. Some folks even want to make unpaid internships illegal. Thats shortsighted. If youre interning in an industry that youre passionate about, youre not being exploited. Its just up to you to get the most out of the experience. An internship is an open door. Once youre in, you must take it upon yourself to check out every room in the house. Lets say you want to be a sneaker designer. Through a lot of hustle, you manage to land an internship at Adidas, but in the marketing department. You dont care about marketing, but you take the position anyway. Smart move, because now you have access. You must attack working for marketing like it was actually a design position and win the respect of your bosses. Then you parlay being in the building into making other connections. Figure out who works in design and approach them in the cafeteria. Compliment their kicks. Strike up a conversation. Keep making a point to bump into them until a little bit of a relationship has formed. Then let them know that your true passion is design. Ask if its cool to come by their department one day and just be a fly on the wall. If that person senses that youre sincere in your hunger, theyll probably say, Sure, come through. Now you have an in. Youre around people who are doing what you want to do. Capitalize on that opportunity. Ask questions, make observations, and soak up game. Even if it doesnt lead to an actual job down the roadthough it mightyoull leave the situation with a tremendous leg up on your competition. Youll have real information on how your passion gets put into practice. Someone who really capitalized on the intern experience was Corentin Villemeur, the photographer I mentioned earlier. Corentin grew up in France, where he was a huge hip-hop fan. In 2006 he decided to move to New York City so he could be closer to the culture. When he got to NYC, one of the first things he did was look up the number for the G-Unit offices, since he was a big fan of our music and lifestyle. He called up, asked if we were hiring, and was told, Nope, no jobs are available. Corentin didnt accept no for an answer, though. Instead, a few days later, he physically showed up at the office and knocked on the door, hoping to make a case for himself in person. He explained that he had just moved to New York from France, was a huge G-Unit fan, and was willing to do whatever it took to work with us. He met Nikki Martin, who was intrigued by his story, but since there really werent any jobs available, Nikki told him, Well be in touch if anything opens up. Usually that phrase marks the end of the story, but Corentin still wasnt ready to give up. In addition to being a hip-hop fan, Corentin was also a skilled computer coder. At the time, we had just launched ThisIs50.com, which was running on Flash. Corentin knew the site would run much better on HTML, which, at the time, very few people were knowledgeable about. So he called the office back and explained he knew a way to improve our website. Now he really had our attention. When it was clear he knew what he was talking about, we offered him an internship working on the site. Corentin jumped at it and, true to his word, almost immediately made the site better. That established his value within the organization. I promoted him from an intern to the person in charge of all of my internet platforms. Since he was also a very skilled photographer, he became my in-house photographer. In that role, hes gotten to travel the globe with me, from Africa to Australia, taking pictures and experiencing hip-hop on a global scale. Corentin was able to make his dream back in France a reality because he understood two key concepts. The first was persistence. He didnt wait for us to post a job listing somewhere. He took the initiative to cold-call our offices. When that didnt lead anywhere, he showed up at the office. That visit didnt directly lead to a job, but it helped him establish a connection with Nikki. It allowed him to go from a name on an email to someone with a story, someone who made a positive impression. The second smart thing Corentin did was he didnt call us back asking for an internship. Instead, he offered us something. He studied our organization, saw where we could use improvement, and then saw how he could add value. I dont care if its hip-hop, film, or the financial sectorif you can make a convincing case that you can add value to an organization, theyre going to find a spot for you. Once youve got that spot, now you can build up your value. Either within that organization or in another one once you get some experience and titles under your belt. GET IT ON PAPER A final word on making sure you always get your fair value. While its critical to establish your worth, once you do, the most important thing you can do is get it down on paper. Getting all your agreements, promises, and plans down on paper in the form of a contract is absolutely essential. Never let your value rest on someones word. So many deals in hip-hop have been cemented with a handshake or a pound, instead of a signature on the dotted line. Ive heard so many big promises that never get delivered on. Its easy to promise someone half of nothing. Its easy to promise someone youre going to take care of them once we get on. But as soon as someone starts getting paid, those promises get forgotten. Handshake agreements arent worth shit. When the money starts coming in, the knives start coming out. In hip-hop, in particular, words like family and forever get thrown around freely. But they arent worth a thing. Ask Freeway, Beanie Sigel, or hell, Dame Dash, how tight Roc-La-Familia really was. Not very. Puffy loved to talk about Bad Boy for Life. Ask Shyne or Loon how long that life lasted. Hell, to hear Young Buck or Lloyd Banks tell it, I probably let them down, too. I see it a different way, as Ill explain later, but thats been their perspective at times. But the bottom line is this: promises arent worth shit. You have to get papered up. Whether youre collaborating on an album, a TV script, a landscaping business, or a brewery, you need to get the terms and expectations on paper before you sink too much of your time and equity into it. Trust me, everyone loves each other at the start. That handshake agreement feels firm when youre starting out. But jealousy and envy are real. They might be buried so deep in a persons nature that it could take years for them to come out, but theyll find a way if theres money involved. Protect yourself. Put it on paper. Chapter 5 Evolve or Die Look around you. Everything changes. Everything on this earth is in a continuous state of evolving. . . . You were not put on this earth to remain stagnant. STEVE MARABOLI In 1974 David Falk was a student at George Washington University Law School. He got it in his mind that he wanted to work at ProServ, a small sports agency in Washington, DC, that specialized in representing pro tennis players. For months and months he called the ProServ offices trying to get a meeting with the companys founder, Donald Dell. He never got a reply. One day he even called seventeen times during a three-hour period. Dell, either impressed or just annoyed by Falks tenacity, finally took the call. At the end of the convo, Falk had talked his way into an unpaid internship. Falk excelled as an intern and landed a full-time job at ProServ when he graduated law school. Falk wasnt much of a tennis fan, though. Basketball was his favorite sport. While the rest of the agents were focused on signing tennis stars, Falk started targeting college basketball players. He built a relationship with Dean Smith, the legendary coach of North Carolina, and signed several players from the program when they went to the NBA. That relationship really paid off when Falk was able to sign a young star from North Carolina named Michael Jordan. In the summer before Jordans rookie season, Falk set out to get Jordan a sneaker deal. At the time, the sneaker deals for NBA players were pretty straightforward: you picked a brand (Jordan himself preferred Adidas) and negotiated a contract, and maybe got a supply of sneakers to wear during the season. If you were a superstar, you might also appear on a promotional poster or a TV ad. That was it. The sneaker companies didnt want to commit too much to NBA players, because there was an unspoken belief that it would be difficult to market an African American athlete to mainstream America. Falk didnt have any use for the same blueprint everyone else was using. Hed noticed that when the tennis agents in his office struck a deal with a brand, it wasnt just for sneakers. If a tennis player signed with Nike, in addition to sneakers, theyd also rep Nike tennis rackets, sweat suits, shirts, pants, and socks. The tennis players were promoting a complete lifestyle, and Falk didnt see why an NBA playerespecially one as spectacular as Michael Jordancouldnt do the same thing. The agents and brands may have been stuck in their old way of thinking, but Falk sensed that the public was ready to embrace and support black athletes the way theyd supported white icons like Mickey Mantle and Joe Namath. Falk pitched Nike on a deal that centered on Jordan being the face of his own Nike lifestyle brand, which Falk later dubbed Air Jordan. Then he added a twist: at the time, players typically only got a flat endorsement fee, but Falk demanded that Jordan receive royalties on all Air Jordan sneakers sold. Nike agreed to Falks terms on a five-year deal, but with a caveat: if Nike didnt sell $4 million worth of Air Jordans in the first three years, they could walk away from the contract. They were still skeptical that a black athlete could connect with the American public. They couldnt have been more wrong, and Falk couldnt have been more right. Forget about three yearsNike ended up selling $70 million worth of Air Jordans in the first two months after the line launched in 1985. Turned out black NBA players could support a lifestyle brand after all. Falk would go on to become one of the most successful and powerful agents in NBA history, negotiating over $800 million in salaries. And, of course, Air Jordan would become one of the most iconic sports brands of all time. In 2020, its expected to generate $4.5 billion in sales. Falks deal for Air Jordan is the type that almost every entrepreneur dreams of. So what enabled him to execute such a winning vision? More than anything, it was his ability to evolve beyond whatever sorts of roles and expectations had been assigned to him and create a new model to support his client. Falk didnt talk his way into ProServ and then settle into the routine of repping tennis stars. Sure, tennis was extremely popular at the time, but he could sense that the NBA was about to blow. Once he got in the door, he started pushing the company to evolve. By pushing for change, Falk managed not only to change his own career but also to revolutionize the entire sports marketing landscape. In every profession or field, the most successful people are always the ones who refuse to settle into the status quo, who dont get satisfied and complacent once they achieve something, but always push toward the next goal or challenge. Conversely, people who get too comfortable or are unwilling to adapt are usually the ones who get left behind. KNOW WHEN TO SHIFT In 2009 I appeared on the single Crack a Bottle alongside Eminem and Dr. Dre. It was a big track. It went to number one in the US, the UK, and Canada, and would later win a Grammy for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. To capitalize on its success, I went on a quick world tour, hitting places like Croatia, Switzerland, and India. Everywhere I performed, people went crazy for the song. Theres nothing like standing onstage in a foreign country in front of 50,000 people and hearing them singing your lyrics. Its an electric energy you can feel running through your body. When I got back to the States, I decided to hit the road for some spot dates. When I performed the same song for American audiences, however, the response was totally different. Where the international audiences had been alive and pulsing, the US audiences were lethargic. It was a number one song, but people werent reacting to it. It would have been easy to come up with a rationale for the crowds reaction. Eminem and Dre werent performing it with me. It hadnt been properly promoted in the urban market. Or we were playing the wrong kinds of venues. Those would have just been excuses. Id performed songs without featured artists before. Just like Id performed songs that hadnt been promoted properly before in venues that were the wrong size. None of that had mattered before. Id always rocked the crowd. Im not interested in excuses. What Im interested in is analyzing information and coming to conclusions. When I took a hard look at my situation, the answer was clear: hip-hop culture had decided to give me resistance. I had come into the game as the underdog, but now that I was an international success, they couldnt see me the same way anymore. I knew I was still the same guy, but hip-hop had moved on. It was imperative that I diversify if I wanted to keep growing financially and professionally. It wasnt an easy conclusion to accept, but I understood it. I am a close observer of our culture, and I recognized that my own career had fit into an unmistakable pattern. Hip-hop loves things that are damaged. Its been the defining trait of the culture. Thats how its been since dudes were rhyming at park jams in the Bronx in the seventies, and it looks like thats how its going to be until they turn off the damn lights on this thing of ours. Think about it: every few years, a new dangerous and damaged rapper appears on the scene and captivates the culture. It started in the Bronx in the early eighties with groups like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. They might look funny today with their skin-tight jeans, knee-high leather boots and studded bracelets, but when they broke on the scene, they were dangerous. America had never seen anything like them before. And, most important, they were damaged. Dont push me, cause Im close to the edge. Im tryin not to lose my head. They set the tone for what the culture wanted from its heroes. By the late eighties, acts like the Furious Five had been phased out by newcomers like N.W.A. No one had seen a group that damaged and dangerous before, and N.W.A. made those OGs seem safe and cuddly by comparison. For several years, N.W.A. was the illest thing in sight, until Wu-Tang stormed onto the scene and grabbed that mantle. They were young, wild, and out of control. The culture couldnt get enough. Then Pac brought the West Coast back. No one was more thrillingly damaged than Pac after he signed with Death Row. He was taking shots at undercover cops, strutting in courtrooms, and surviving assassination attempts. Theres no telling how long his reign could have lasted if he hadnt been killed. After Pac, it was my turn. I raised the damaged bar as high as it could possibly goHe got shot nine times and didnt diebut eventually the culture didnt see me the same way anymore, either. I might have been phased out, but the pattern kept going and going. The most recent rapper to harness that energy was Tekashi, but he wasnt able to control it. By the time this book comes out, there will probably be another young boy who has filled Tekashis shoes. Or maybe even a young girl because nowadays female rappers like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B are going out of their way to let you know that theyre just as damaged as the guys. The fatal mistake a lot of rappers make is refusing to accept the pattern. In their minds theyre still damaged, still the same person who broke into the game. But, as I wrote earlier, people tend to stop viewing you as human once you taste success. In the publics mind, once you make it, youre fixed. Time to move on to the next one. The perceptive artists accept this reality and evolve. The non-observant keep fighting the inevitable, all the way into obscurity. If you look at the rappers of the past, which ones are still relevant today? Outside of myself, its Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Method Man, and Snoop. And its not because of their music. Times change, and no ones checking for that anymore. Its because those first three recognized that their time as a rapper wouldnt last forever, and they transitioned into other pursuits: Method Man into acting, Cube into acting and the Big Three basketball league, and Dre hit the jackpot with headphones and Apple. Those guys were smart enough and humble enough to understand that the public can never be wrong. When people dont respond to what you give them, theyre telling you theyve moved on, loud and clear. If you dont hear them, then youre just not listening. Im still passionate about making music, but its not my defining identity anymore. Lets say I went into the studio one night and was able to capture the magic thats behind every great song. The energy was right, the beats were slapping, and I laid down some of my best verses. When the sun rose in the morning, I was sitting on hits. I might have just created great content, but I still probably wouldnt release those songs myself. Instead, Id give all those songs to a solid youngblood. Someone with tats all over their face. Who is on Molly and lean. Who always looks like hes in zombie mode. Someone who seems like theyre really damaged. Why? Because Im realistic enough to concede that the public is going to be more receptive to it coming from their voice than from my own. Why not give that talented young artist something that can take him to the next level? I can have a piece of the song, and he can get a taste of success. Sounds like a good deal for everyone. Ive accepted that my role in the culture has changed. That doesnt mean I cant still impact it. I just have to utilize different methods. No matter what you do, you have to be able to accept that your role is going to change. When you first break into a space or industry, you view that inevitability as a positive. If a companys or organizations staff didnt evolve, youd never get a chance in the first place. That endless evolution is the key that opens the door for you. Then you work a few years and start to get comfortable. You start to develop habits. If youre good, you might make your company some money. Maybe even a lot of it. Then youll start to think that the company owes you. Not only for what theyre paying you in the moment, but for all youve done for them in the past, too. Maybe you start to take your foot off the gas a bit and begin to believe that your track record will secure your spot forever. Sorry, but the world doesnt work like that. The same change that brought you in the door can sweep you right back out if you dont keep pushing yourself forward. No matter how many promotions youve received, how many corner offices youve moved into, or even how many times youve seen your name in the headlines, you can never settle. You have to keep finding new ways to challenge yourself. A guy named Ray Dalio runs Bridgewater Associates, one of the largest hedge funds in the world. His personal worth is around $18 billion. He knows a thing or two about what motivates continued success. Here are his thoughts on the importance of personal evolution: Once we get the things we are striving for, we rarely remain satisfied with them. The things are just the bait. Chasing after them forces us to evolve, and it is the evolution and not the rewards themselves that matters to us and to those around us. This means that for most people success is struggling and evolving as effectively as possible. I can promise you that Ray understands what it takes. Ive gotten all the things Ive ever strived for, and then some. And Im still not satisfied with my situation. Ive sold almost 30 million records. Evidently, a few people like me as a rapper. But every time I step into the booth, Im still trying to come up with that killer line. I still want to prove that Ive got the best verse. Just like I want to create more great TV, sell more books, and launch more liquor brands. And a couple of years from now, I suspect Ill have some new project Im about to launch that Ill be just as excited about as when I was signing my first deal with Interscope. The moment I close the door on my personal evolution is the moment I need to hang it up. I dont see that door closing anytime soon. CHANGE WITH THE CULTURE Being willing to evolve in your own job or position is just part of the battle. You also have to be willing to change with your culture too. There are a lot of reasons why Power has become a bona fide hit. Ive received a lot of support from Starz. My showrunner, Courtney Kemp, has blessed us with fantastic scripts. Cast members like Omari Hardwick, Joseph Sikora, Naturi Naughton, La La Anthony, and Lela Loren all did an incredible job breathing life into our vision. But one of the biggest factors behind the shows success is that I constructed it to reflect my audiences evolution. I conceived Power for my audience and my audience only. I wasnt trying to tap into a new demographic or attract a wider viewership. I understood I was going to get one chance to get it right with Power, and in order to do that, I had to speak directly to my people. I was very confident in my ability to do that. I am nothing if not observant, and Id spent a lot of time paying attention to my fans over the years. When I first came out, my core audience was young: college-aged kids, or twenty-somethings who were going out to the clubs for the first time. So what did I do? I made music that I knew would connect with their lifestyle. Take the famous line, Go shorty, its your birthday / Were gonna party like its your birthday! That had to connect. My audience was in the clubs, and every night it was going to be somebodys birthday! That line reflected how they were living, and it could never lose its relevancy. By 2014, my audience wasnt in the clubs every night anymore. If it was their birthday, they might be having a quiet celebration at home with their spouse and young kids. They were maturing. This is why I built the show around themes that would speak to an older audience. What happens when a love from someones youth unexpectedly reappears on the scene? What is the fallout when a husband and wife dont have the same vision for their future, or when a son betrays his father? Those are themes that resonate with adults. At the same time, I needed to capture the energy and excitement my audience felt back when they were still out living the life, still partying and getting into drama every night. Thats why I insisted on Power being very graphic, especially sexually. It needed that spark. When I came into the game, rapping about Ill take you to the candy shop, let you lick the lollipop, it was still considered risqu?. Now you have women singing, Eat the booty like groceries. The ante has been upped, and Power needed to match it. It was no easy task. Saturday night has traditionally been a TV ratings graveyard. Outside of Saturday Night Live, there have been very few hits during that time slot over the last forty years. Its the night when the least number of people are sitting at home in front of their TV sets. By putting Power on Saturday nights, Starz was basically setting the show up to fail. Instead, we shocked the network, and the entire industry, by pulling in very strong ratings on a Saturday night. The executives couldnt figure it out at first, but I knew exactly what was happening: my audience was staying home on Saturday nights. I was giving them that old energy, but from the comfort and safety of their couch. Then younger people heard the buzz and started DVRing the show like crazy so they could watch it the next morning. Or they were watching it on their phone via the Starz app. We were killing it across all platforms. Its been a winning transformation for Starz, too. I allowed them to tap into an audience that they didnt have before. Before Power, the network lacked identity, but now theyre realigning themselves to be a younger and more diverse version of HBO. It all started with Power. Powers not done evolving yet, either. Were going to roll out four spin-offs on Starz, including one starring Mary J. Blige and Method Man that Im very excited about. Weve also got a drama about the Black Mafia Family coming next. Its such an organic project, combining the rap and music elements that are so fundamental to hip-hop. Im confident its going to be a smash, maybe even bigger than Power. If one generation knew me as a rapper, theres going to be another that knows me as a TV mogul. But only because I was willing to change with the times and my audience. REFUSING TO EVOLVE If the success of Power was one of my greatest accomplishments, then one of my biggest disappointments is the unfulfilled potential of Lloyd Banks and Tony Yayo of G-Unit. Both Powers rise and G-Units fall are testaments to how growth is often the key element in any successful journey. I always felt that if I had maybe done a better job teaching Banks and Yayo how to evolve and change their habits, they each would be in better places right now. Instead, they both stayed stuck in their mind-sets, and as a result, the success they desired has eluded them. In Bankss case, a lot of his failure to grow as an artist is connected to his emotional composition. Banks grew up in the same neighborhood as me but was never a part of it in the same way. While I was out hustling (I actually hustled with his father), Banks was more content staying on his porch and watching the world from there. Theres nothing wrong with that, but it underscored a particular aspect of his personalityBanks wanted things to come to him, as opposed to going out and getting them for himself. Thats not me trying to assassinate his characterthe guy has Lazy Lloyd tattooed on his arm. He literally wears his laziness on his sleeve. Hes always projected an unhelpful mixture of being both introverted and cocky at the same time. The kind of person most comfortable being a big fish in a small pond. If Banks was hanging out in the studio with a bunch of unknown MCs, hed be very confident. Hed enjoy being the center of attention. But if I suddenly showed up, then hed feel like he got demoted. Hed be bitter he didnt feel like the center of attention anymore. I get it. I can take up a lot of the air in a room. The problem is that hed never fight to get some of that oxygen back, which is exactly what a star is supposed to do. I believe a true star must possess four fundamental abilities: create great material, be a high-energy live performer, have a unique appearance, and possess a strong personality. Tupac had all four. So does Mary J. Blige. Chris Brown too. Biggie didnt have all of them, but he was able to compensate in the areas where he was weaker. His appearance wasnt strong initially, so Bad Boy got him new sweaters and put sunglasses over his eye that kept moving all over the place. He couldnt move around the stage so much as a performer, so the head of his label became his dancer. It was a great distraction. The overhaul worked for Biggie. He came into the game with transcendent material, and then they picked up the slack in the areas he wasnt as strong in. He transformed himself into a star with a little management. If Im being honest in evaluating Banks, he possesses maybe one of those qualities: he is a very good lyricist. Among what are known as the punch line rappers (rappers who will end their bars with a funny or tongue-in-cheek line), Banks likes to call himself the PLK, or Punch Line King. I dont know if hes the king, but Ill give it to him that hes in the conversation. He is not, however, a great live performer, stylish dresser, or domineering personality. So if he doesnt check those three boxes, how is he going to get bigger and become the star in real life that he is in his head? To me, one answer was to change how he interacted with the culture. Thats why years ago I told Banks to film a video of his life and post it on YouTube. Introduce people to his lifestyle. Let the camera follow him around for a while and see how he moves. Maybe something he says or does will create a spark, go viral, and then hell have some heat around him again. What I didnt want him to do was sit there writing punch line after punch line and then grow resentful when no one seemed to care about his mixtapes anymore. They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. If thats so, Bankss temperament was definitely a little crazy. Im not saying anything here I havent said to Banks directly. Another time I sat down with him, just when IG was starting to pop off, and tried to drop this gem on him. You gotta get on Instagram, I encouraged him. You can be a little awkward in person, so this is actually a better way for you to communicate with people. You just put pictures of what you think is cool on your page. That way you can control the conversation without having to feel uncomfortable. Its perfect for you. Nah, I dont want to do it, he said. Why not? You just put up the pictures and then write some witty shit around it. You can literally put punch lines under your pictures. You can utilize what youre good at to make some new fans! Nah, thats corny, he told me, before adding, Biggie and Pac didnt do that shit. Theyre dead, my man, I told him. They died before this stuff was even invented. And how do you know they wouldnt be posting on IG if they were alive? But Banks was adamant. Biggie and Pac didnt do social media, so he wasnt going to do it either. It was a line of thinking that really blew my mind. It suggested that if Tupac were alive, hed still be wearing leather vests and red bandannas tied around his head, sending girls his beeper number. Or that Biggie would still be wearing Coogi sweaters and playing Mortal Kombat II every night. Its ridiculous. Those guys would have evolved with their music, style, and personality, too. Biggie was hysterical. His IG probably would have been one of the most popular pages in the entire world. I believe Pac would have eventually returned to his revolutionary roots. He would have had an impact on society way beyond music. Hell, even I had evolved in my attitude toward Instagram. When it first came out, I also thought it was corny. In 2014 I told the UK Guardian, I think its messing up everything. Its giving us all really weird habits. Taking pictures of things you dont even like. I felt that way at the time, but I didnt close off my mind to it, either. Over time, I started to realize that I just didnt know the platform well enough. I didnt intuit the rhythm of how to post or understand what sort of content resonated. Most important, I didnt appreciate how effective it was in directly reaching people. So I jumped all the way in and embraced it fully. Today, its one of the most important public-facing tools at my disposal. Banks was resistant to that sort of evolution. His mind was stuck in the mid-nineties, and he was in no hurry to release it from that trap. To be fair to Banks, its actually a natural instinct. Scientists are starting to learn that the music we listen to as teenagers has a greater impact on us than music we might hear at any other point in our lives. Our brains are developing at their fastest pace between twelve and twenty-two, and it seems that whatever we listen to during that period tends to get embedded in our minds forever. Banks was around fourteen years old when Biggie and Pac were both popping, so that makes sense that they still resonate with him so deeply. I can relateI still love the music from when I was that age, too. The difference is that I havent patterned my career after KRS-One and Kool G Rap. What would be the point of that? They were both incredible in their moment, but Ive always been more concerned about creating my own moments rather than copying theirs. When Banks made that comment to me, I realized hed gone as far as he could go. In fact, my exact thought was This is someone I cant invest another minute or dollar in. Everyone knows someone like Banks. The person who only respects a certain era and thinks everything else is trash. It could be music, but it could also be TV, film, sports, or fashion. At first it seems kind of cool that theyre so passionate about protecting a legacy, but after a while it gets tired. Most people dont want to keep being lectured about why whatever theyre enjoying in the present isnt as good as what came before it. Its great to respect the past, but never to the point that it stops you from moving into the future, or even making the most out of the present. People who are stuck in the past age prematurely. Their drivers license might say that theyre thirty, but their mentality is older than a lot of folks in their fifties and sixties. Age isnt about what year you were bornits about how you approach the year youre in right now. If youre open to new experiences, willing to take chances, and curious about new topics, youre young. Period. On the other hand, if youre set in your ways and arent interested in trying new things, or think youve already learned all there is to know, then youre old. In fact, youre dying. My beard has a couple of gray hairs in there, but Im young. I feel and look fresh. Not because I still got a six-pack or wear cool sneakers, but because my spirit is youthful. Im as excited about whats going to happen this year as I was in 2002 or 2012. Someone could put me on to a new rapper tomorrow, and Id be as pumped up as the first time I heard Nas. Just like I could watch a new sitcom and laugh as hard as the first time I watched Sanford and Son. Im never going to cut myself off from new experiences. I really did try to help Banks, but you cant help anyone who is stuck in either a time or a mind frame. If you feel stuck yourself, then you have to have the courage to come out of whatever little cocoon youve wrapped around yourself and experience all the excitement the world still has to offer. Tony Yayos issues were a little different. Like Banks, Yayo was from my neighborhood, but unlike Banks, he didnt stay on his stoop. He was very much out in the streets and running straight into as much action as he could find. Yayo was wild from the day I met him. In our world, it was a temperament that served him well. He was liable to do anything at any time, and people gave him a wide berth because of it. At the time, I aided Yayo in being so wild. As a crew, we needed that aggressive and unpredictable energy. Even after we first started experiencing success, we were still living that lifestyle. We didnt see any reason to change. That meant we were going to be very aggressive in taking what we felt was ours. If someone disrespected us or got in our way, our response was to get them out of our way. Whatever it took. One of my skills is that I absorb information and process it faster than most people. So even as we were running wild through Americas stadiums, nightclubs, and hotels, I was beginning to pick up signals that we were going to have to change how we approached things. The most obvious sign was that there were police everywhere we went. Stadium concourses, hotel lobbies, out in front of clubsthe cops were always there. Youd think there was no other crime happening in whatever city we were in, considering the way they followed us around. Some of the other signs were less observable. There was a lot of nervous energy around us. Its an easy thing to miss when everything is moving so fast, but if you look past peoples acquiescence, the fear is evident. I could read it in the radio jocks, studio engineers, TV hosts, club managers, booking agents, and program managers. They wanted to do business with us, but not if they thought a gunfight might break out any second. Realizing this, I accepted that Id have to change how I approached disagreements and confrontations. I was going to express my dissatisfaction differently. I would have to press for what I wanted using managers and agents. I was going to have to fight with lawyers. I was going to have to diversify my strategies if I wanted to capitalize on the opportunities that success was presenting to us. I also recognized that wed have to change how we approached time commitments. In the streets, if you want to start selling crack at 1 p.m., then thats when you started. If you want to take a break at 5 p.m., you took it. Want to skip two days outright? Thats on you. Just make sure you get it sold. Its a lifestyle that conditions you to do what you want, when you want, so long as you got the product moved. Its not a lifestyle, however, thats conducive to interacting with corporations. If a radio station expects you at 8 a.m., you shouldnt wander in at 1 p.m. and still expect them to play your song. Just like if a record label books you to record in a studio for two weeks, you shouldnt wait till the tenth day to finally show up and start recording. Transitioning from the street lifestyle to a more public persona was going to require a new mind-set. Yayo didnt seem to register that. If I got into a disagreement with another artist, Yayos reaction was Lets just bang em, because that would have been his response back in the neighborhood. If we got $100,000 for a series of club appearances, Yayo wasnt thinking about putting it in the bank. His first thought would be Hey, this could get us three and a half kilos of cocaine. Lets flip those, and well be sitting on some real money. Time and time again Id have to tell him, Yayo, we cant do that. Nothing else is gonna work if were just running around doing that dumb shit. Were gonna be outta here just as fast as we got in here. In Yayos mind, I was being too uptight. We had always done what we wanted, how we wanted, when we wanted. Thats the attitude that had made us hot. Why did that have to change? In retrospect, a large part of the problem was that success initially came very easily to Yayo. He was locked up when Get Rich or Die Tryin first broke. As soon as he got out of jail I put him onstage. There was no transition period. He didnt have to spend time as an unknown MC slowly getting his feet wet, learning how to interact with industry folks and getting a feel of what it was like to be around corporate people. Instead, I dropped him directly into the national spotlight and put a lot of money in his hands at the same time. I should have realized that it was not the ideal circumstance in which to suddenly ask him to change habits that had been developed over a lifetime. If anything, I should have known those habits would establish an even tighter grip on him. I learned that when things are moving very fast and youre constantly being put in new situations and environments, most people tend to lean back into their old habits, not develop new ones. After years of begging, cajoling, and threatening them to start doing things differently, I had to accept that Yayo and Banks were not capable of doing much more than what they were used to. You can lead a horse to water, but you cant make it drink. Those guys had been standing by the well for years and were still going to die of thirst. It was extremely disappointing, but I had to accept that many of their dominant character traitsrecklessness, resentment, and a lack of disciplinewere always going to impede their progress. It was just who they were. It might not sound like it, but I worked very hard to ensure their success. As Ive said, I would have loved for Yayo to have become the next 50 Cent. If Yayo had been able to capitalize on his opportunities, it would have opened so many doors and empowered me to move even faster. I could have transitioned to focusing on other opportunities a lot earlier. Instead, I ended up having to be 50 Cent for a lot longer than I ever intended. It wasnt just Yayo who I wanted to elevate. The idea was for everyone associated with G-Unit to eventually become bosses in their own right. All they had to do was follow my example. I had set them up to succeed by putting them on my records and letting them share the stage with me on tour. Once they were established, all they had to do was replicate the same formula with new acts that they had selected, repeating the process all the way down. They never did it. Either they didnt want to, or they just didnt know how to identify new artists that they could then own a piece of. My intention was for G-Unit to be the first branches in a family tree that started with me and would go on to launch generations of rappers. Instead, I created a family tree that lived for one generation before dying. It shriveled up. I birthed my sons, but they didnt bear me any children. It all stopped with them. THE WRITING IS NEVER ON THE WALL Back in the days of the Old Testament, there was a Babylonian king named Belshazzar. He led a decadent lifestyle, even by ancient standards. Im talking about keeping a harem filled with beautiful women and throwing drunken orgies that would last for days. One night he decided to really push the royal envelope. He usually held his parties in his palace, but on this night, he decided to host one in the citys holiest temple. The king got so drunk that at the height of the party he started drinking wine out of sacred cups that had been brought to the temple from Jerusalem. They were only supposed to be handled by the temples priests, but Belshazzar was on a mission to prove that there wasnt any taboo he wouldnt break. Almost immediately after he finished drinking from the cups, the king suddenly saw a disembodied hand writing the following phrase on the temples wall: Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin At first he probably thought hed had too much wine, but when he took a closer look, he saw the words were really on the wall. That sobered him up quick. He called his wise men over to explain what the hell was going on, but they couldnt understand what the words said either. Then he called over the Hebrew prophet Daniel, who was able to translate what the words meant: God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. You have been weighed . . . and found wanting. It was a serious warning, but Belshazzar wasnt worried. He was the king of Babylon, after all. No Hebrew God was going to tell him what to do. So he kept the wine flowing and his party going. He should have listened, though. Fed up with the disrespect, that Hebrew God struck Belshazzar dead that very night and left his empire in ruins. I share that story because it represents the origins of the phrase the writings on the wall. Back then, it was about a king who defied God. Today we use it to describe a moment where it should be obvious that a situation is about to take a turn for the worse. In a business context, you might say that the writing was on the wall for BlackBerry once the iPhone came out. Or that the writing was on the wall for Blockbuster once everyone started ordering movies from Netflix. Of course, in hindsight, its easy to look back at what happened to the BlackBerries and Blockbusters of the world and identify when their fortunes were about to take a turn for the worse. To actually identify when that turn is happening in real time, especially when its happening to you, is a much harder task. Thats because the writing is never actually on the wall. If that were the case, it would be easy to know when to shift up your business plan, start looking for a new job, or even get out of a bad relationship. But no one flew a plane over the Blockbuster headquarters trailing a banner that read, Hey CEO! Renting DVDs is about to be a thing of the past! In the future, everyone will stream their movies! Just like youre not going to walk into your job and find a note on your desk that says, Just a heads-up: were going to be downsizing in the next year, and your jobs going to be eliminated. Might want to start looking for something else now. Or just like how youre definitely not going to come home one night and find a Post-it on the fridge that says, Hey baby. Just wanted to let you know Im having an affair with your best friend. No, if youre the CEO of Blockbuster, youve got to have enough vision to see where things are going and transition your business to a streaming model before Netflix corners the market. If youre that employee, youve got to have your finger on the pulse of the industry, realize your company isnt doing as well as it had been, and start looking for that new job while you still have some leverage. If youre that wife, you need to cut that friend off and have a serious talk with your husband. Or maybe even just kick that man out of the house. It would be great to get advanced intel whenever were about to enter a tough period, but unfortunately, none of us will ever be warned as plainly as Belshazzar was. You might not ever be able to read the writing on the wall, but what you can read is the energy around you. If youre willing to be observant and listen, youll find the messages that energy carries are spelled out almost as clearly as Belshazzars warning. For example, lets go back to 2009, the year I went on tour in support of Crack a Bottle. I had sensed that the crowds werent responding to my music the same way, and my album sales definitely confirmed it. When I dropped the album Before I Self Destruct later that year, it would go on to only move a million copies worldwide. A fantastic number for most artists (especially these days), but a dramatic drop for me at the time. In contrast, 2003s Get Rich or Die Tryin sold 14 million copies worldwide in 2003. The Massacre, which dropped in 2005, moved 11 million worldwide. My numbers were clearly moving in the wrong direction. But when Id visit the Interscope offices, people were still speaking to me like I was selling 10 million records. We love you, 50, one exec might tell me, while another might put his arm around me and say, 50, we want to be in this biz with you forever. That was nice to hear, but it wasnt the truth. The unspoken truth was that the record industry was dying. It wasnt just my sales that were falling off, but everyones. No label was ever going to make anywhere near as much from monetizing streams as they had from selling CDs. Unlike some of his peers, Interscopes CEO Jimmy Iovine identified the storm that was headed his way. He calculated that if in the future most people were going to be listening to music on portable devices, headphones were going to take on a much larger significance in the marketplace. Based on that intuition, he started evolving from someone who sold records to someone who sold headphones. That foresight paid serious dividends for Jimmy, but it didnt pay off as well for the recording artists on his label. Turns out that its not optimal to work for a record label that isnt actually focused on selling records. Thats why, if the writing on the wall were a real thing, when I showed up to the Interscope offices, there would have been a banner hanging from the side saying SORRY 50, BUT WE DONT FUCK WITH YOU ANYMORE. That was exactly what they felt, but again, no one was going to spell it out for me. I had to decipher that message through the energy that was being directed toward me. I had to notice the differences between how I was handled when I was truly important to the bottom line and when they were just acting like I was. When the money was flowing in, I was treated like a franchise player. My marketing budget was unlimited. No request I made got turned down. Every flight was first class, every hotel stay was in a presidential suite. When I stopped by the offices, people waited on me hand and foot. From the receptionist to Jimmy, everyone was excited to see me and showered me with attention. Why wouldnt they? I was putting money in all of their pockets. Once the sales started slowing, I felt the energy begin to shift, subtly at first. Contracts started to take longer to get done. My phone calls and emails werent getting returned as quickly. I was spending more of my time meeting with junior executives than with top dogs. Unlike a lot of artists, I try to be a student of the industry. I would read publications like Billboard, Variety, and the Hollywood Reporter. I was aware of the fact that music sales had dropped over 50 percent, from 14.6 billion to 6.3 billion, in the decade between 1999 and 2009. Nobody was selling like they used to. Taking into account the energy I had detected in the officeas well as the overall trajectory of the industryI decided to make my move. Instead of waiting for the inevitable ax to drop, I decided to beat Interscope to the punch. I set up a meeting with Jimmy and told him I was ready to move on. You guys arent really in the music business anymore, I told him. Ill be better off as an independent. Plus, Im going to start getting more active in movies and television. Thats what Im passionate about. Oh, you want to do both? Jimmy asked me. He presented it like he was surprised, but I could tell that it was more of a relief to him than anything else. I guess they wanted me out of their hair. It would have been easy to feel resentful in that moment. Jimmy was never my boss. He was my partner. And, as partners, wed done very, very well together. I could have taken a moment to ask why, despite that success, he hadnt always had my back. Why he hadnt done more to support my last few recordseven as hed sunk lots of money into clearly inferior projects like Puffys Last Train to Paris. (Actually, I do know why. Ill save that for the next book.) I was already focused on the future, a future that would find me becoming heavily involved in film and television. Instead, I read the energy in the building, sensed the way the industry was heading, and took control of my own future. Always a better plan than waiting for the writing on the wall to appear. EXPANDING YOUR MIND THROUGH YOUR CIRCLE Whenever I hear people say money hasnt changed them, I always think the same thing: that just means they havent made enough of it yet! Trust me, when youre making real money, a lot of things change. And one of the most important things is the type of people you hang out with. Ive made a lot of new friends over the last fifteen years. Many are just industry friends. People I see at events, take a selfie with, bullshit with for a couple of minutes, and then keep it moving. But there is a smaller number of people who have really had a beneficial impact on my life. Friends that have dramatically changed how I see the world through sharing their experiences, insights, and philosophies. One of my favorite new friends is Robert Greene, the coauthor of my book The 50th Law. Robert is definitely not the type of person who would have been in my previous circles. Hes a middle-aged white guy, and theres nothing street about him at all. Hes a real history buff, someone who is happiest when hes reading and studying. I didnt know anyone like that prior to my relationship with Robert. I had friends who would read a couple of books here and there (including Roberts classic The 48 Laws of Power), but I didnt know anyone who was a true scholar, who could speak with real knowledge on any number of different subjects and periods of history. Before becoming friends with Robert, Id never been too interested in subjects I thought didnt directly involve me. My attitude was, how could something that happened in ancient Rome or Imperial China have any significance for my life? The stories Robert told me made me realize I was being very closed-minded. There was, in fact, an almost unlimited pool of strategies and techniques I could draw on from the examples of history. Robert explained to me that when you read about a Napoleon or a Bismarck, you couldnt just think of them as old white guys in dusty history books, but geniuses who understood how to match strategy to their circumstances. And this is what maintaining power is really about. Of course our relationship is a two-way street. I educated Robert about my experience and helped draw him out of his books a little. By rolling with me, he got to see someone putting some of the strategies he studied into practice, in real time. I think that was exciting for him. One time he even told me, You know, in America, you and I arent supposed to be friends. People want there to be walls between us, because we supposedly come from different worlds. History and hip-hop arent supposed to meet. Why not? Weve both got a lot to learn from each other. Our friendship is a way to break down those walls. One thing I really appreciated about Robert was how, even though hes spent his life studying the various ways people manipulate power, its not actually the kind of thing he is obsessed with in his own life. Every year, he gets flown around the world to meet with kings, presidents, and heads of state (I cant say which ones), all of whom want to pick his brain on strategies. He shares his information with them and goes back home to his books. If anything, he can be a little too soft, especially in his personal life. There have been a few times Ive had to tell him that its okay to be a little ruthless with people. Its really not in his nature to destroy someone just because he can. He knows about manipulation, but at heart hes a compassionate guy. Thats a good person for me to be friends with, because some of that energy rubs off on me and helps me be more sympathetic in certain situations. Another person Ive formed an unlikely friendship with is Deepak Chopra, the bestselling author and wellness expert. If Robert Greene is something like my teacher when it comes to history, Deepak is my spiritual teacher. One of the most valuable things hes taught me is the importance of getting my head in a more conscious and relaxed space. Thats always been tough for me. Im someone whos constantly thinking and strategizing. Ive felt that if I take even a few seconds of mental relaxation, someone else is going to catch up and overtake me. Deepak helped me understand that the best way to ensure I stay mentally sharp is to actually give my mind a breather. The technique he taught me to help me take that break is meditation. He explained that there are a lot of different types of meditation you can practice, but the one he recommended is a mantra-based technique. If youve never tried it, a mantra is a phrase or word that you repeat over and over again in your mind until your brain starts to calm down. A lot of times its a Sanskrit word, but Deepak told me I could just use the phrase I am. He said that whenever I felt like my thoughts were racing faster than I was comfortable with, I could just sit down in a quiet room, close my eyes, and repeat I am, I am over and over again until the noise in my head was gone. I tried following his instruction, but I found that, after saying my mantra for a few minutes, there were so many thoughts racing through my head that Id get distracted and forget about what I was supposed to be doing. I didnt want to quit, so I hit up Deepak for some advice, and he told me that this was normal. The purpose of meditation isnt to stop thinking or to make you stop having thoughts, but rather to help you lower the volume on those thoughts, so that when youre starting to feel overwhelmed by whatever is in your head, you have a tool at your disposal that you can use to slow things down and begin to think more clearly. That made a lot of sense to me, so much so that I actually set up a little area in my apartment just for meditation. Whenever Im feeling a little stressed, Ill sit in that room and say my mantra for ten or fifteen minutes. Its a very easy way to regain control of my mind. Having that room is great, but I find that I do my best meditating on airplanes. Knowing that Im going to be stuck in the same seat for several hours, I always try to spend some of the flight meditating. Its tempting to open up my laptop and watch a movie or TV show, but thats not really doing anything beneficial for me. Instead, Ill commit to saying my mantra for at least a half hour. For the first ten minutes or so, Ill keep losing track of my mantra and drifting back to whatever thoughts were at the top of my mind. But if I stick with it, after a while I get into a groove. I might not totally let go of my thoughts, but I definitely get in a much more peaceful mind frame. When Im done meditating, I feel much more clear in my thoughts and my decision-making process. Its a great way to turn a flight into something constructive. When I was growing up in Queens, if you had told me Id end up being friends with a white dude who was a history buff and an Indian dude who was into meditation, I would have laughed at you. I simply didnt associate with anyone who seemed different from me. Today, I cant imagine a world where I dont have friendships with people like Robert and Deepak. Theyve both, in different ways, fundamentally helped reshape how I see and interact with the world. I concede that Im in a different situation than most people. Chances are youre not going to have the opportunity to meet one of your favorite authors or a world-renowned healer. There is nothing stopping you, however, from seeking out more well-rounded people and bringing them into your world. Not every one of your friends has to be into the same things that you are. For example, if every time youre out with your homeboys the conversation is always only about hip-hop and the NBA, then you have to do better. Or if all your homeboys still wear jeans and sneakers to every event, you need to do better on that front, too. I used to be like that. Growing up in my hood, suits were only for funerals or court dates. But Ive adjusted as Ive grown. Ive accepted that there are going to be occasions where I need to wear a nice tailored suit with leather shoes. I still get people asking me, Why are you wearing that?, but Im not going to stay stuck in one place just because thats where theyre most comfortable. Even if my natural instinct is to throw on a fitted with some jeans and sneakers, I appreciate people who can put me on to new designers or places to pick up great suits. You need people in your life who are going to invite you to places you might not normally go, or send you interesting articles you might not normally read, or have you try food you might not normally order. You must find people who are going to inject new energy into your life. Because if you keep having the same conversations with the same people year after year, your energy is going to stagnate. Your ideas are going to get stale. Your momentum is going to get stuck. Im not just expanding the circle of people I socialize with. Im also committed to expanding the circle of people I interact with professionally. In practically every corporate room I go into, I am surrounded by people who likely have had a lot more schooling than me. Who have read more than me. Who have been exposed to more culture than me. There was a time earlier in my career when those situations might have made me a bit insecure, where I might have looked for a reason not to enter that room in the first place because I didnt want to feel stupid or uninformed. I was able to get past that insecurity by accepting that those people werent more cultured than me; they just had been exposed to a different culture. The culture I experienced growing up in South Jamaica was every bit as real as the culture a kid who grew up in Beverly Hills or the Upper East Side of Manhattan had been exposed to. They just had different foundations and priorities. I also came to understand that, just as I was intimidated by what I didnt know about their culture, they might be equally intimidated by what they didnt know about mine. Their kids might go to a private school in Beverly Hills, but they were playing my music in the car on the way there. This meant that there was no imbalance, and we were on equal footing culturally. These days, Im not intimidated anymore. Instead Im looking for rooms where everyone else is more knowledgeable and educated than me. I love those sorts of rooms. Not because I dont value my own experiences, but because I know that when Im around highly educated people, Im going to be able to extract real value out of their input. When I combine that information with my own instincts and experiences, its the perfect formula to make amazing shit happen. Your time is never wasted when youre gathering information. This is why Ill always prioritize information over a check. Recently, I got a very nice check to play a show in Israel. I didnt have to show up until the day of the show, but I told my people to book me to arrive a day early. You want to see the sights? they asked. Thats not it, I explained. I need to meet the motherfucker who can write a check like that! I didnt know what this guy did, but I knew I could learn something from him. Its not only a professional priority. I love talking to anyone who can provide me with new information that can change my perspective. There could be a subject that I feel like Im rock-solid on, that theres no way anyone could change my mind on it. Then a smart person hits me with a new perspective on itan insight I hadnt considered beforeand everything changes. That happened to me recently. I was talking with a friend about the news that Vice President Pence said that he wouldnt meet a woman for dinner without having his wife present. People were upset with his remark, but I didnt see what the outrage was about. What is wrong with that? I asked my friend. When he said that, theres a side of me that identifies with him. Hes got a system that works for him. Leave him alone. But this friend wasnt willing to leave Pence alone. Or me, with my limited vision. Listen, 50, you need to look at this from my perspective, he told me. I have two daughters. And Im not having any more kids. Those two are my future. Lets say that one of them excels in school and wants to get into politics. She works her way up through the ranks, does all the right things, and gets involved with an issue. Now she has a chance to meet with the vice president for dinner. And his office tells her that his wife has to come along or she cant get the meeting. Thats not fair! Why not? I asked. Hes just trying to stay focused. Hes aware of his imperfections. We should celebrate that. Not attack the man for that. No, he deserves to be criticized, he replied. First of all, hes going to the dinner as the vice president, not as a man. So when he says he cant meet my daughter without his wife present, that means hes looking at her as a sexual object. Not as a lobbyist, a policy expert, a senator, whatever she might be. Hes seeing her as a sex object first and foremost. He had a point. I was starting to see where he was coming from. But my friend wasnt done. Heres the other problem, 50. You know that the vibe is different when its just two people talking business versus when one of their spouses is present. When its just two people, they can get down to the nitty-gritty. Talk shit about their enemies. Conspire together. Trade notes and trade dirt. Discuss stuff they might not talk about in front of other people. Thats how a lot of business gets done in the real world. But when a spouse is there, the vibe changes. The conversations about kids, vacations, or what TV shows everyone has watched. It doesnt get down to the dirt. If my daughter is talking to the vice president, I want her to be able to get into the nitty-gritty. I want her to be able to talk about making real moves with someone in a position of power. I dont want her to be penalized for being a female. To have to limit herself to a different type of conversation than a man in her position would have. Fuck that! Oh, shit. How didnt I see that? I asked my friend. When he put it like that to me, it was like a bomb went off in my head. I had been seeing the issue in black and white, and he helped me see it in Technicolor. My vision was limited because I had been identifying with Pence as a single man. As someone who is familiar with lust, I could appreciate his position. I had failed to identify with the woman in the situation, with how she was losing out despite doing nothing wrong. I live for moments like that, when I can identify where Ive been wrong about a subject and start to evolve my thinking. I dont live to be right all the time or to have a bunch of yes-men tell me, Thats right, boss, when I say some dumb shit. No, I want to have my mind expanded and my perspectives shifted by as many intelligent people as possible. Every single place I go, Im studying people. The way they say things, their attitude, information they share. I could be on the train, and Id be watching people and taking notes. Thats how I learned business, by studying people I admired and how they conducted themselves. Smart people give away so much information through their words or their actions. Grab every single one of those gems that you can. Hip-hop has brought about a lot of positive changes in this country and improved countless lives. One area it could improve, however, is to stop putting so much of a priority on being cool. We like our rappers to be damaged, but we dont like them to be insecure or nerdy. We need to change that up, to say its okay to admit you dont know things. That you dont have all the answers. That you feel unsure of yourself in certain situations. Its only by admitting that you have some growing to do that you can even start the process. There are some people who always try to position themselves to be the smartest person in the room. They do that because it soothes their insecurity. Theyd rather present the impression of being important than actually put themselves in the position to grow. Never be that person. Always challenge yourself to be around people who might be informed in different ways than you are, who have had different experiences, and, most important, arent intimidated to share that information with you. Those are the people who are going to supercharge your evolution into your best self. Chapter 6 Power of Perception The world will see you the way you see you. And treat you the way you treat yourself. BEYONC? When Get Rich or Die Tryin was released, I still had one foot very much in the streets. That connection to struggle made me very relatable. Once I achieved success on the highest level, however, that connection was lost. With fame and fortune, I stopped being human. I was closer to a comic book character than to someone with real feelings. The perception was that if you cut me, I wouldnt bleed. Over time Ive been able to let go of any resentment connected to the perception that Im not susceptible to the same pains, fears, and disappointments as everyone else. I accepted that there were certain assumptions about me I wasnt going to be able to change. What I could do, however, was hustle smarter to make those perceptions work in my favor. Ive noticed a trend in how the media covers me. When Im killing it, Im known as the music mogul 50 Cent. Let something go bad, and then Im the rapper 50 Cent. It would have been easy to develop a negative fixation about that irregularity. Instead, I saw an opportunity. By referring to me as a rapper when I do something controversial, the press offers me a kind of freedom, one that other people in my position dont have. We live in a climate where most people are afraid to openly speak their mindsespecially those in positions of power and influence. Theyre worried that if they say the wrong thing on social media or in the press, theyll lose something. An endorsement. A role. Friends. Maybe even their careers. Theyll be canceled. I never worry about being canceled. Ive been transparent about my issues since day one, so the expectations arent the same for me as they are for my peers. Theres an acceptance that I was messed up to start with. When I do say something wild, being labeled as the rapper 50 Cent becomes my shield. Any cancellation talk bounces right off it. Even the most critical voices out there will concede, Thats just 50 being 50. That freedom to be myself, warts and all, has become incredibly valuable. One of the greatest tools at my disposal is my Instagram page, which has 25 million followers. Why do so many people mess with my page? Because its always popping off! They gravitate to it because its raw, unfiltered, and actually run by me. Theres no publicist overseeing my posts, telling me what to take down. Or a twenty-five-year-old social media manager sitting in a cubicle trying to think of how to make a promotional post sound like me. Its a true reflection of me on each and every day. Very few of my peers can say that. Heres the twist: the popularity of my page has been one of the driving forces behind the success of Power and my subsequent mega-deal with Starz. When the press wrote about that deal, I damn sure wasnt the rapper 50 Cent. My hustle had shifted the perception. Curtis Jackson, the mogul, the businessman, and the entertainment executive, is who made that Starz deal happen. Now that I recognize the advantages it brings, Im comfortable with being known as both 50 Cent and Curtis Jackson. 50 Cent is the perception. Curtis Jackson is the reality. That doesnt mean 50 Cent is fake. Not at all. Ninety percent of the things Ive rapped about, Ive lived. Not to mention that there are plenty of things I lived through that havent shown up in my music. I can now use the persona of 50 Centthe persona I earned the hard wayto my advantage, to both protect and elevate Curtis Jackson. The greatest fear that many people have is just being themselves. There are probably some of you reading this book hoping that you can become the next 50 Cent. If that sounds like you, let go of that intention. Being me is not going to fit your journey, and neither is trying to be anyone else. When you pattern yourself too closely after another person, youre putting weak, ineffectual energy out into the world. Youre running away from your most inexhaustible power supply: being yourself. What I want you to take from this chapter is an understanding about how presenting the best possible version of yourself is going to have an incredible impact on your success. Influencing how people perceive you doesnt make you fake. It doesnt make you phony. It makes you someone who knows how to control energyto your advantage. Imagine your energy as being like water. For thousands of years, people have sought to channel the energy of water. The ancient Greeks built water wheels that used the power of rivers to grind wheat into flour. In ancient China they used pot wheels to lift water out of rivers and into irrigation canals. Islamic engineers in Africa and the Middle East used it to power lifting machines. In modern times weve built colossal projects like the Hoover Dam, which took the power of the Colorado River and controlled it to irrigate dry land, control floods, and supply power to millions of people. None of those measures, which brought so much change to civilization, altered the basic nature of the water involved. The only thing they changed was how it was utilized. Try to view harnessing the energy of how you are perceived in the same way. The fundamental essence of who you are doesnt changeyoure just using its innate power in a smarter way. SHAPING PERCEPTIONS My first experience trying to shape peoples perception was born out of necessity. I was around twelve years old and just starting to get into hustlin drugs. It was clear I was going to be an earner, but I had a problem on my hands: I didnt have any free time to get out on the corner. I was in middle school at the time, and there was no way my nana was going to let me drop out. The only possible time for me to hustle was between 3 p.m., when school let out, and 6 p.m., when I had to be home. At the time, my nana was in the habit of walking me to and from school, which would make sneaking off to hustle impossible. I had to come up with a reason to walk by myself. I was already around 150 pounds at the time, damn near the size of a small adult, so I told Nana that people were beginning to make fun of me in the neighborhood. There are kids in eighth and ninth grade who are smaller than me walking home by themselves, I told her. Everyones starting to think Im slow or something. You gotta let me walk by myself. It was hard for Nana to say yes to that, because walking to school had become our ritual. It was when wed talk about what was going on in my life, or any of the questions about the world that were going through my young mind. Those walks were where we really bonded. Still, no grandmother wants her grandson to be bullied, so she eventually let me start walking on my own. The next problem I had to overcome was how to explain why I wasnt home right after school let out. I might be able to buy an hour or so by claiming that I was playing basketball with my friends or taking a quick trip to buy candy, but there was no logical reason Id be out every day till my curfew. Then I came up with a solution. My school had an after-school program, where students could catch up on homework or take part in activities, that ran until 6 p.m. I enrolled in it and brought home the papers to Nana that showed I would be staying every day until six. She loved the idea of doing extra work and signed the papers. I went the first couple of days and then stopped showing up. The school was much more lax about attendance after school than during the regular day. If I didnt show up, they werent going to send any truant officers looking for me. I was finally free to hustle every day between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. I even figured out a way to finesse getting out of going to church every Sunday, which was mandatory in Nanas house. Everyone followed her mandate until one year when she joined a new church. After a couple of Sundays, it was clear that the new preacher was a bit of a hustler. My grandfather, who didnt like going to church any more than I did, saw his opportunity. I dont have to go to church on Sunday and have this guy try to tell me about God, he told Nana. Im just going to stay home and read the Bible on my own instead. When Nana didnt put up a fight, I made my own move. I wanna stay home with my grandpa! I told her. My grandpa was stunned, since Id never showed much interest in hanging out with him. The baby want to stay with me? he asked. But he must have sensed that I was a bit of a coconspirator, because he quickly took to the idea and overrode Nanas objections. No, no, let Curtis stay with me, he said. It will be good for the boy. We were both just looking for ways of getting out of church, but Sunday mornings ended up being where my grandpa and I really bonded ourselves. Before that, he was kind of a distant figure, someone who was at work most of the time. On those Sunday mornings, we got to know each other. We spent a lot more time watching football games or hanging out around the house than studying the Bible, but my nana didnt have to know that. We were forging a bond thats lasted to this day. It was during this period that my grandfather demonstrated another valuable lesson about the importance of controlling perception, especially in a relationship. My grandfather worked at the local GMC factory, and he had a ritual when he got paid every other Friday. As soon as he walked in the door on payday, he would give my grandmother his check. She wouldnt have to badger or hassle himhed just hand it right over to her. As a child it never made sense to me. You work your ass off all week and then just give your paycheck to someone else? I used to think. What sort of system is that? But recently we were on a trip together (I take him on at least one trip with me every year) and I said to him, Pop, I never understood how you just gave her all the money. You couldnt understand it at the time because you were too young, he explained. But I gave her all the money to stop her from looking at things that I couldnt give her. Instead of having her head filled up with fantasies, I let her work with reality. Having that piece of mind at home was worth more to me than a few extra dollars in my pocket. I finally understood his strategy. If he had been secretive about how much he made, it would have been understandable that my grandmother would have become suspicious that he was holding out on her. She might have bothered him for a nicer dress or an expensive pair of shoes. Hes probably got it, she might have thought to herself. Hes just being cheap. By showing my grandmother exactly what he was bringing home and then giving it all to her, my grandfather had shifted the energy in the house. If she wanted the nicer pair of shoes or the more expensive dress, she was going to have to justify that purchase to herself. Not him. And by handing her everything, my grandfather became a sure thing in my grandmothers life. Most people are always going to stick with a sure thing. When I looked at it like that, his actions suddenly made so much sense to me. While I was happy to build a closer relationship with my grandfather during those Sundays, I didnt particularly like lying to Nana, especially about what I was really doing after school. But I was beginning to understand that in order to get what I wanted at the time, I was going to have to learn how to juggle Nanas perception of me with who I was becoming on the streets. I could have done what a lot of kids did in my hood, which was just drop out of school and say, I dont give a fuck whether my family likes it or not. But my love for my nana was too strong. I had to let her hold on to her perception of me as her baby. More than anyone else in my life, Nana understood me, even if I tried to keep part of my life hidden from her. After she died, my aunt was reading my nanas old Bible and saw that she actually used to write down her prayers on little scraps of paper, which she would tuck between the pages. My aunt showed me one of the prayers, in which Nana wrote, Please keep Curtis safe from himself, because he has a temper. Lord, its not his fault because that boy has been through a lot. When I read that note, it was one of the most emotional moments of my life. I would have given my life to save hers in that moment. Thats how much she meant to me. My love for my nana is why I committed to keeping up two identifies. At home I would continue to be Boo Boo, the sweet kid who followed Nanas rule of no cursing under her roof. Who loved her pork n beans with franks. Who was polite and showed respect. Outside of her home, I developed a different persona. I wasnt known as 50 Cent yet, but I was becoming known as someone you didnt want to cross, as someone who was going to do whatever it took to get what he wanted. While my nana might have seen me as her baby, outside of her home I wanted the neighborhood to notice me, to view me as someone worthy of respect. There were a lot of elements I knew I couldnt controlbeing poor, parentless, and maybe a little funny looking. But I was determined that the elements I could controlmy appearance and presentationwere going to make an impression on people. The first thing I set out to change was my physical makeup. As Ive mentioned, as a kid I was overweight. Remember when I rhymed I love you like a fat kid loves cake in 21 Questions? I was that fat kid. I spent way too much time on the couch watching TV while wolfing down cheese sandwiches and drinking cranberry juice. I was headed on a path toward obesity, diabetes, and so many of the issues that plague way too many African Americans. Getting into the boxing gym corrected my sloppy physical presentation. Once I committed to putting in the work, I transformed from a fat twelve-year-old boy to a sleek and powerful young man. What surprised me most is that I began to crave the discipline of boxing more than I craved the cake, cookies, and soda. The cake made me feel good for a moment, but then that rush was gone. Training and staying in shape made me feel good all of the time. Outside of the physical strength it endowed me with, I liked knowing that my body could sway how people felt about me. If other males werent outright intimidated, they treated me with more respect. A lot of women were attracted, not only as eye candy, but to what my muscles said about methat I was someone who was disciplined, that I wasnt averse to putting in consistent work on something they were focused on. The indication of those qualities, even more so than rubbing on a mans biceps or broad shoulders, is extremely attractive to women. Ever since I first started shedding the pounds in the boxing ring, staying in shape has been a fundamental part of my persona. The only time Ive slipped up was after I went on tour to support Get Rich or Die Tryin. We were on the road constantly for over a year, and I wasnt properly prepared for challenges created by the touring lifestyle: lots of hotel room service and even more fast food. I slipped back into my bad habits from childhood and started eating whatever I wanted, while working out less and less. Not surprisingly, I put on way too much weight. Id started off the tour looking like the headlining artist, but by the end I looked like my own security. When it was time to shoot the cover for my second album, The Massacre, I had a problem on my hands. Or, more accurately, my chest. One of the lasting defining images from Get Rich or Die Tryin was a shirtless picture of me on the cover, looking muscular, with a diamond cross hanging from my neck. Thats the image people associated with 50 Cent. It had a proven track record of selling records. The reality was different when it was time to release Massacre. I wasnt obese, but there was flab where there used to be definition. I couldnt abandon the shirtless motif, so I came up with a solution: I used another shirtless photo, but this time I took a pen and drew in my missing muscles. To divert peoples eyes from the flab, I gave myself definition around my pecs, shoulders, and arms. I also put on gloves, so that the whole image took on a cartoon-like quality. The diversion workedno one was talking about fat 50 Cent. They were just talking about the music. The Massacre sold 1.5 million copies the week it came out and ended up moving over 10 million worldwide. Still, I vowed never to compromise myself like that again. PROJECTING THE RIGHT APPEARANCE Ever since I had to pull out my pen for The Massacre cover, my muscles have been real. I will admit, however, that there have been times when Ive manipulated how people perceive me in other ways to further my agenda. One of the first times I realized I could attract what I wanted through projecting success was when I was initially trying to make the transition from selling drugs to music. I was doing very well on the streets, but no one was really taking me seriously as a rapper yet. I knew I needed to meet the right people if I was going to progress. With that mission in mind, one night me and a couple of my boys decided to go to Bentleys, an upscale hip-hop spot in Manhattan. Bentleys would broadcast their Friday night parties on the radio, which drew a potent mix of rappers, athletes, celebrities, and models. If you wanted to break into the game, Bentleys was a great place to do it . . . provided you could get past their doormen. They were there specifically to make sure every hood dude in the five boroughs looking for a record deal couldnt get in the door. We pulled up in my 400 SE Benz, which was an extremely fly ride. Not many people had one. As I cruised slowly past the club, out of nowhere someone ran up on my car and slapped the hood. Im someone who does not appreciate being surprised, and my displeasure must have shown on my face. Yo, my bad, son! the guy quickly apologized. I thought you was my man Kenny. He got the same whip! Once my alarm subsided, I took a good look at who was talking to me: it was Jam Master Jay from Run-DMC! One of my heroes! I immediately pulled the car over, jumped out, and gave Jay a pound. I told him I was from South Jamaica and had always followed his career. He laughed and apologized again for running up on me, explaining he thought I was NBA star Kenny Anderson, another Queens native. I asked Jay if he was about to go into Bentleys. No doubt, Im about to run up in this spot and see whats up, he said. I decided to decisively seize the moment. Yo, we coming witchu, I told him. Jay looked at me, thought about it for a second, and then said, Thats whats up. Lets go. Just like that, we were past the bouncers and inside Bentleys. We would never have gotten in without himhe literally walked me into the music business. That night Jay and I formed a friendship, which eventually led to me signing with JMJ Records and everything else that followed. Heres the thing: Jay never would have invited me into the club with him if I hadnt been driving my 400 SE. If I had just walked up to him on the sidewalk, he wouldnt have even stopped to talk to us, let alone take us inside. Thats not a knock against him or his sense of judgmentrandom people approached him everywhere he went, and theres no way Jay could ever accommodate everyone. But the moment Jay saw my car and thought I was Kenny Anderson, I was operating under a powerful perception. Even when it turned out that I wasnt an NBA player, I was still somebody to himsomebody who deserved his attention. Once I had it, it was up to me to capitalize on it. Which I did. There are certain material goodsand cars are at the top of the listthat signal to other people that you are someone who should be taken seriously. That you are different from the rest of the herd. Especially in New York City. You cant drive your fancy apartment or brownstone down Broadway, but you can damn sure roll by slow in your whip. Picture this: an older rich white guy is driving around in a Rolls Royce, and I pull up next to him in a hooptie. Suddenly I notice there are flames coming out from under his car. If I motion for him to roll his window down, hes going to take one look at me and then just stare straight ahead. I might be trying to save his life, but hes not giving me any attention. His perception is that Im not someone he should be interacting with. Now lets pretend I pull up next to him in my Ferrari. I notice his car is on fire and motion for him to roll down his window. Hes going to roll down that window and say, What can I do for you? Ten times out of ten. I could look exactly the same and be projecting the same energy, but hes only rolling down that window when Im in a luxury car of my own. What Im sitting in controls his entire perception of me. Its not just cars. I was recently talking with a very famous media personality, and he mentioned that he always notices when someone is wearing a good watch. If he doesnt know who they are, it makes him want to know. Ill start to wonder, What the hell does he do for a living, he told me. And then Ill try to figure out a way to talk to him. Because he must be onto something. There are some people who are that way with sneakers. If you walk into the room wearing the right kind of kicks, that person is going to notice you. You might not have said a word, but that person is immediately going to single you out as someone whos probably worth their attention. For a lot of women, theres a similar energy around handbags. Most men couldnt tell the difference between a $20,000 Birkin and a fake Gucci bag from Canal Street. But to other women, the bag someones carrying speaks volumes. You come into a room with an ill bag, a lot of antennas go up. You can say, Well, that guy should have treated you the same no matter what you were driving, or You shouldnt be interested in someone just because of the watch they wear, but that statement doesnt align with reality. Every time you walk down the street, drive somewhere in your car, go to the supermarket, work out in the gym, or post a picture on social media, you are being judgedby a few people you know and a lot more youll never even meet. Theres no sense complaining about it or saying its not fair. Instead, its incumbent on you to accept that you control how youre perceived and then prepare the best presentation possible. I will tell you straight up that I judge every single person I meet on their appearance. As Im shaking your hand, Im also scanning your entire outfit for whatever clues I can glean from it. Especially if were meeting to conduct business for the first time. Before you open your mouth, your appearance has already initiated a conversation with me. Make sure its saying the right thing. I pay particular attention to the people who dress casually around me. Lets say you come to our meeting wearing a T-shirt and some jeans. That tells me youre comfortable. Not necessarily a bad thing. If I sense youre going to do great work, then that comfort level is appropriate. If you dont transmit a competent air, however, then Ill view it as a liability. It suggests youre not taking the situation seriously enough. Youd be surprised how many people do that. One time GQ magazine sent a reporter to interview me. He showed up in a T-shirt and jeans with scuffed sneakers. It might have been a hip outfit among his friends, but to me it signaled that he might not be totally locked in at his job. At one point we started talking about the importance of presentation, and the reporter asked me what I thought of his outfit. I told him maybe it was fine for him to interview me dressed that way, but I suspected that it was undermining how his colleagues saw him back at the office. Look, GQ may send you to interview 50 Cent because you come dressed casual, I explained. But they would send the guy in the suit to go interview George Clooney. The reporter admitted that I might be onto something. To find out, he conducted an experiment where he wore a suit to work one day instead of his normal outfit of T-shirt, sneakers, and jeans. The shift in how people viewed him was immediate. Several co-workers went out of their way to compliment him on his appearance, and one of his editors even took his picture and put it on GQs Instagram page. Thats a very big cosign at GQ. I dont know if they ever sent him to interview George Clooney, but theres no doubt that changing how he dressed also changed how he was perceived at his job. As I told him, when you clean up, people will notice. When I see someone has put effort and thought into their choice of attire, it tells me that they value our relationship. Whether I like their particular style or not isnt important. I just want to see the effort. The other day I met with a TV writer to discuss a potential project. He had jeans on, but they were crisp. He had sneakers on, but they looked fresh out the box. He wore a loose-fitting cotton sports jacket and had dark-framed glasses. Everything about his outfit said intelligent business casual. It projected the correct energy for what we were working on. After we talked a while and Id decided that I liked him, I told him that I was curious about his intent in picking out his outfit. Probably not the question he was expecting in a meeting about scripts, but he was cool with it. Oh, I wanted you to take me seriously, he told me, adding, but I also wanted you to think I wasnt too formal. That I would be a flexible person to work with. He added that the glasses were a recent addition to his look. For a long time I wasnt wearing glasses because I thought they made me look old, he explained. But a few years ago I decided to start wearing them because I figured theyd make me seem smart, which is probably a good thing if I want people to pay me a lot of money for my services. You nailed it. It does not register anything but intelligence to me, I told him. I look at you and go, Hes a smart guy. He put those glasses on so he can fucking see! Mind you, it was not necessarily an outfit I would wear myself. The sneakers were a little plain, and the sports jacket wouldnt have felt right on me. But I didnt need to see him dress the way I do. I just needed to register that he had the right aesthetic for the job. Some of you might not be in a position to afford stylish clothes or have a fresh new pair of kicks every time you go to a meeting. Thats still not an excuse. Whatever your situation is, you can afford an iron. Even if your clothes arent the coolest, if I notice that you ironed them and laid them out the night before, Ill register your intent. It lets me know that even if you dont have a big budget, you do have the right energy. I can work with that. Conversely, when I see someone who is consistently sloppy or doesnt seem to mind wearing wrinkled clothes, it tells me that they dont value themselves. That theyre not willing to put in a little extra work every day to present the best version of themselves. It doesnt take much to iron your shirt or clean your sneakers a bit. If you dont value your time and your appearance enough to do those little things every morning, why would I expect you to value me?
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  • Ratatouille /  (Disney, 2012)    Ratatouille /
  • Toy Story 2 /   2 (Disney, 2012)    Toy Story 2 /
  • Dumbo /  (Disney, 2012) -   Dumbo / (Disney, 2012)
  • Sycamore Row /   (by John Grisham, 2013) -   Sycamore Row /

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