What Prince taught us about career success

Prince and Wendy

On Thursday, April 21, 2016 the world cried purple tears with the announcement that Prince had died at his Minnesota home.  In the days following his death, much has been talked about and speculated about Prince, but today I’d like to share with you the things that made his career successful, because these very things can make your life at work happier and more connected as well.


He offered his brilliance to others without being asked

A gifted songwriter, Prince is behind many songs that you may not be aware that he wrote because he freely gave these musical gems to other musicians to record – without being asked. Artists who have received these songs have said that Prince would call out-of-the-blue and say, “I wrote you a song.” Inevitably, the majority of those songs were huge hits that changed the trajectory of the career for those artists.

He was humble about his good deeds and activism

Van Jones detailed in this video clip that because of his Jehovah’s Witnesses religious beliefs, Prince did not brag about his good deeds but he was behind a lot of financial and community support anonymously.  Prince financially sponsored so many causes, including helping to fund Yes We code, an organization striving to put 100,000 low-opportunity young adults into high-paying careers in technology.  He also provided a  $250,000 donation to The Eau Claire Promise Zone to support the commitment of doing “whatever it takes” to ensure that the local children were prepared to graduate from college and be successful in their careers.  I’m sure in the coming weeks, we will hear of other good deeds that have yet to be made public.

He offered a hand-up to those around and below him (especially women)

On his rocket ship to stardom, he was sure to take the women that surrounded him (including, but not limited to: Sheila E, Vanity, Wendy & Lisa). It would have been easy for these women to blend into the background or fade into the shadow of his talents, but he made sure to prominently profile them. He also made it a point to support the next generation of singers/songwriters/performers by performing with them and mentoring their success, especially in dealing with recording contracts.

He touched the lives of those around him by connecting

The reason that so many people were incredibly sad at the news that Prince had died was because he touched people. He was aware that his life purpose was to be a singer/songwriter/musician/entertainer and he passionately pursued that goal. While doing it, he created and maintained connections with those in the industry and with his fans. This included opening his Paisley Park home to “Paisley Park After Dark” events where he would share his gifts with a small group of local fans. It is this conscious connecting with those around him both personally and through his music that made him such a force.

He believed in his talent and never gave up

He knew that he had a gift and he tirelessly pursued his craft. He wrote his first song at age 7, and released his debut album, For You, in 1978 at age 19. While he will be remembered for the phenomenal success of Purple Rain, it took 6 years and 3 more records (Dirty Mind in 1980, Controversy in 1981 and 1999 in 1982) before he would find the success of Purple Rain.  The key is that he had a vision, he believed in his talents and he never gave up.


So, how can Prince’s example help YOU at work? By implementing these strategies, you will form a more connected, cohesive network that will support and uplift you in times of trouble and will go to bat for you when you need an advocate.


  • Offer your talents to others without being asked. See a team member struggling and you can help? Do it. Without being asked. And without requiring kudos.
  • Quietly do good deeds. Do good things for the sake of doing them, not to seek recognition. It will come back to you.
  • Give a hand-up to those around and below you. Notice the talent in those around you and nurture it. Pay attention to those that have diversity challenges or who otherwise have a harder road and help remove roadblocks for them. Mentor those under you.
  • Make REAL connections with people. We are encouraged to be less human at work, but it is the REAL, human connections that help make life bearable at the office. Share your humanness with those around you – this includes sharing your skills and core genius, but also making time for conversation and real connections. The people that you connect with today may help elevate your career tomorrow.
  • Believe in yourself and never give up. Not everyone is going to recognize your talents and abilities. Sometimes life situations will require that someone with an MBA takes a job as a janitor. Know that whatever hurdles are presented in your career path, you can overcome with time.  And remember that we love to perceive success as “instant”, but in reality it usually never is…there is usually a LOT of work behind any “instant success”.


Each day, we have the opportunity to connect with those around us or to shelter ourselves. I hope that today, you choose to help rise those around you by providing support where you can and making real, human connections.