In today’s news, immigration is a hot topic. It seems to have been forgotten that so many musicians, actors, activists, writers, personalities, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and more, were once new immigrants to the United States of America.
Wyclef Jean is no exception. I recently interviewed him to find out more about how he’s been able to achieve such mainstream success.
With three Grammy Awards under his belt for his music, famously known for being a member of the 90s hip-hop group, the Fugees, Wyclef first immigrated to the United States with his family at nine years old. He is well-known for his social activism, particularly his efforts during the earthquakes in Haiti in 2010. And in 2012, he penned his debut memoir, Purpose: An Immigrant’s Story.
How did Wyclef climb the ranks to achieve such monumental success?
1. You have to be self-motivated.
As an immigrant to America, self-motivation was all Wyclef had in order to propel himself forward.
“You have to know what it is you want, and you have to be willing to go after it even if nobody else believes you can,” he said.
The hardest part about being self-motivated is the fact that it can be easily swayed. Especially if you are in foreign territory, it can become easy to fall into the beliefs and habits of those around you. But in order to become successful, at anything in life, you have to be willing to separate yourself from distractions and continue moving forward on your own.
2. Flexibility. Don’t be afraid to pivot.
One of the key points Wyclef shared was the necessity of always growing, adjusting, and pivoting along the way.
“Nothing is certain,” he said. “For example: the music industry 20 years ago was very different than the music industry today. If you try to operate today the same way you used to operate 20 years ago, you will fail. You have to pivot and adjust over time.”
The music industry is a perfect example in how massive industries are currently undergoing rapid shifts. The way money is being made has changed. The way brands are built has changed. Marketing and advertising strategies have changed. And in order to survive, you have to be willing to embrace what is new. You have to be part of the evolution process—not stand opposed to it.
3. You have to have a deep love for what you do.
There is a difference between chasing success because you think it’s going to solve all your problems, or give you a sense of purpose, and doing something because you truly love to do it.
Artists, in particular, speak highly of this process. Even though what’s seen is the status and critical acclaim, they do what they do because they couldn’t do anything else—even if they tried. They love the journey.
“Looking back, I would not do much differently, to be honest,” said Wyclef. “I have always loved what it is I do.”
Anyone aspiring to be great in life should take these words to heart. They are meaningful reminders that in order to truly become successful, your measures should not be external. Success is not defined by the amount of money you’ve made or how many cars you own. It’s defined by whether or not you are doing what you love, every single day.