The title makes me think of the start of Jay-Z’s Roc Boys! 

Anyway, this entry is definitely not about that, it is a sharing of the speech I gave when I was ‘made’ an Honoured Friend of Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA),  which is a performing arts higher education institution in Liverpool, founded by Sir Paul McCartney and Mark Featherstone-Witty and opened in 1996. I never went to LIPA (I probably couldn’t get!) but apparently I’ve been good to the school over the years and they thought I was worthy of the accolade, which I appreciated! The honour was given to me by Paul McCartney (who is a very nice man!). Anyway, as part of the presentation ceremony, they asked me to share some advice with the graduates. Below are my notes from my speech.

“For the occasion I have been asked to say a few words about lessons I’ve learnt or anecdotes or advice.

I generally and genuinely make it a rule not to talk too much in public, especially anything that could be construed as if I have ‘made it’ or ‘worked it out’. I can babble in private – as I’m sure my wife can attest to – but to talk like I am an oracle in front of genuine oracles would be blasphemous.

That said, I’m more than happy to repackage advice from others that I have taken on, used and seen positive results from.

  1. Number 1 – in an old music magazine called TRACE I read a quote from legendary producer and songwriter – Jermaine Dupri. He said ‘Pay attention to the person you were when you were 7 years old. Remember what drove that kid’. I remember who I was then – I loved music and vehemently defended artistry even though I couldn’t even play a recorder, I was enterprising (lots of jumble sales, even a video rental service and a weekly paper round before I was 10). I also loved aligning with the underdog and the unheard (school playground stuff) and trying to help them win. Interesting enough I work within a similar space within the music industry now.
  2. Number 2 – “Be The Change you want to see” – Gandhi – I read this when I was trying to start my own business and was told by many a gatekeepers in this city that what I wanted to do made no sense as there was no model or worse, variations had already been done so I should simplify my idea or do something different. I pursued the idea and found my own models and 16+ years later I’m delivering that vision.
  3. Number 3 – “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ― Winston S. Churchill. Now I never thought I would be quoting Churchill but this advice hit home. Never get too high with a win. Never too low with a loss or failure…but persist daily to become a master. Whomever gets up last, reaches mastery. 

So yeah, find your thing, hold it close, protect it then share it, contribute something new, unique, purpose-driven that adds value and just keep ploughing through. Yeah that’s my advice, but like everything that’s great, it comes through the greats that have come before. But with my own little remix 😉

So graduates,  please go forth knowing that you are unique – a 1/1 – but not alone. You’ve got the greatness of LIPA, the advice of those that have succeeded – and failed – before you – stand on their shoulders. But most importantly bring your own vision, heart, passion and faith to the party. Dig in. Write your story.

Thank You.”

By Yaw Owusu