5 Things You Can Learn About Success From Justin Timberlake

photo from www.justintimberlake.com

Justin Timberlake? Really, Mark? You can’t be serious about asking us to apply a pop star’s success principles to our lives as business professionals.

Yes, yes I am. 

Justin Timberlake (JT to his fans) is releasing a new CD today. His first new CD in seven years. It’s going to be huge. Know why? He doesn’t just know how to make music. He knows how to be successful.

Last week, JT appeared on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Not just once, but every single night. He sang a few of his new songs, he made cameo appearences in sketches, and partnered with Jimmy on The History of Rap Part 4, a recurring musical montage of rap songs throughout history (ok, the last 30 years).

Every once in a while, a performer comes along that mesmerizes me. Not in a creepy-old-man-stalker kind of way, but in a “there’s something different about this one” kind of way. JT is one of those kind of performers. He’s not the best singer, actor, or dancer on the planet, yet he has gathered a tremendous amount of star power. 

I don’t know all of his secrets, but after watching him on Jimmy Fallon last week I jotted down five things I think we can all learn about success from Justin Timberlake:

1. Let go of your fear of looking stupid. 
Nothing — I repeat, NOTHING — holds you back more. Justin will put on a dress, wear a wig, sing a parody, and take on movie roles even though he’s not a classically trained actor. He tries new things and doesn’t worry if they make him look silly. In fact, just the opposite happens. He appears down-to-earth, human, and approachable in an industry typically obsessed with appearance and perfection. 

Ask yourself: “What am I not doing right now because I’m afraid I might end up looking stupid?

2. Keep improving and evolving.
His new album has a new sound. He’s taken on new ventures, new roles, new challenges. He’s even evolved his look. Where do most people stop? Typically at their first level of real success. For Justin that was The Mickey Mouse Club. Could you imagine if he was still trying to milk those Mouseketeer ears? It would be pathetic. 

Ask yourself: “How have I improved or evolved lately?” 

3. Love what you do and let it show.
Know why I like to watch Justin perform? It’s because he LOVES to perform and he obviously works very hard to make it as great as he can. You don’t have to be an entertainer to love what you do and let it show. Accountants can create amazing spreadsheets, a front desk attendant can create instant connection with visitors, and leaders can develop a team of champions around them.

Ask yourself: “If I truly loved what I did, how would the world know it?

4. Cultivate friendships in good places.
JT and Jimmy Fallon have been friends for more than 10 years. Justin was the first guest on Jimmy’s first Late Night show. Most stars shy away from the first week of any new show because they don’t know if it’s going to flop or fly. Because they were friends, Justin said “Sure!” And because they’re still friends, Justin appeared every single night last week. And because of that, JT will sell a gazillion CDs today.

I don’t believe in seeking out friendships to get ahead, but I DO believe that the quality of your friendships and connections has a lot to do with your success. When you surround yourself with successful people — and you work hard to be successful yourself — let’s just say you’ve got much better odds in your favor.

Ask yourself: Do my friendships and connections lift me up or drag me down?”

5. Know who butters your bread.
Justin plays to his fans. Who are his fans? The same people who watch Jimmy Fallon. The same people who watch Saturday Night Live. He goes to where his fans are, he doesn’t make them come looking for him. Sometimes that means he has to let go of the fear of looking stupid (see point #1 again). 
Ask yourself: “Where are the people who are most responsible for my success?” Do I make it easy for them to connect with me? Do I give them what they want?”

Oddly enough, the last performer I shared success secrets from was Justin Bieber. Check out that article here. I might have to watch some Justin Long movies and write another article to complete the famous Justin trilogy. Watch for that sometime in 2014.


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