At age 14, according to his brother, Jermaine, Michael was caught between playing the same pranks of his youth and taking control over the creative performances of the Jackson 5. He was also learning about love from the romances of his brothers and decided the only one worthy of girlfriend status would be someone just as sweet and honest as Diana Ross.
In a way, Michael was gaining an appreciation of when it was okay to be obnoxious and when he needed to be serious. He was able to find a balance between the two, creating his audacious personality he carried until his death in 2009.
I love how my friend, Jennie explains audacity:
- groovy goal-setting, productivity + personal accountability, confidence + self-efficacy, and productive, proactive, adventurous dreaming.
Using this definition, I will show how Michael began to live with audacity, and my challenge to you is that you’ll reflect on these examples and look for ways to live audaciously.
If being a goal setter were not enough, audacity demands that the goals you set be groovy, exciting, and excellent.
The Jackson 5 signed their contract with Motown Records with the understanding that the songwriters, not the band, would create the songs. Initially, that was what the group needed: Michael was 8 years-old at the time, and his brothers weren’t much older. At 14, however, he became inspired to make changes.
The Commodores were the opening act for the Jackson 5 in 1972. The group had yet to release their first hit, but The Commodores had more creative freedom. Michael observed saxophonist, Lionel Richie, create songs and the band making the song their own during the tour’s off hours.
Jermaine explains, “When Michael … witnessed the Commodores’ songwriting autonomy, it strengthened his creative resolve”. Michael would be a songwriter; he would be the one to say how he would arrange and perform songs; and he would receive recognition in the Guiness Book of World Records. These “groovy” goals would later culminate in his collaboration with Lionel Richie creating the grammy-award-winning “We Are the World” in 1986.
Michael knew what was expected of him as lead vocalist of the Jackson 5, but he was not satisfied with mere expectations. If he was to continue toward being a serious musician, he needed to focus on making creative freedom a reality.
Productivity + Personal Accountability
Don’t just do it; make sure you do it. I’ve heard people talk about accountability buddies. We can always use someone to keep us in check. But, I have learned that a buddy comes secondary. In our lives, it’s not enough for us to avoid bad choices; we need to ensure we’re making right choices!
I’m reminded of a Who’s the Boss episode where Angela and Tony are taught not to use negativity when raising a child. When they get home to find their child playing with a broom, Angela yells, “Don’t do that!” Tony corrects her, saying, “Broom elsewhere!”
Michael took his first steps toward his goals by first insisting “his own take on a certain delivery” of “Lookin’ Through the Windows” superceed that of Motown choreographers and studio producers. Jermaine describes another instance of Michael’s taking control of his performance:
- For our 1974 single “Dancing Machine” … he wanted to try something “different” and perfect a dance he’d seen in street theater: “The Robot”. He used every spare minute to practice in front of the mirror at Hayvenhurst [the future Neverland Ranch] or in the studio, and probably before he went to bed. … when he finally showed us the polished version, it was incredible.
Michael’s teenage years show that productivity is not just action: it is motivation, improving upon what we already know of our talents and skills, and an upward progression toward achieving goals. Jermaine explains, “The Robot’ was his first signature move long before the Moonwalk moment”.
Confidence + Self-efficacy
Believe in yourself, and believe you can do it. You’ve set your goals, right? And, you’re checking yourself to ensure you’re aiming in the right direction? Congratulations! You’ve shown yourself that you have the follow-through and the ability to be successful.
Jermaine tells readers, “[Michael’s] interpretation [of ‘The Robot]’ and [‘Lookin’ Through the Windows’] was kept on the final cut”; and “Kids all over Los Angeles were busting “Dancing Machine” put us back in the Top 10″.
Proven success creates immediate confidence; it also convinces us that we have made the right decisions in the goals we have set for ourselves.
Productive, Proactive, Adventurous Dreaming
Finally, as the old Nike commercials used to say, “Just do it!” And, once you’ve done it, do something else. In other words, train yourself to be a doer.
Michael proves himself as a doer as a perpetual learner and as an active observer. It was in Jamaica that he decided he wanted to “make music that makes a difference”. The results of that decision can be seen in his songs –
- “Black or White”
- “Earth Song”
- “Gone Too Soon”
- “Heal the World”
- “The Lost Children”
- “Man in the Mirror”
- “There Must Be More to Life than This”
- “They Don’t Really Care about Us”
- “We Are Here to Change the World”
- “We’ve Had Enough”
Michael received numerous awards for his music including 15 Grammys, 23 listings in the Guiness Book of World Records, and a lifetime achievement award, awarded posthumously and received by his children. There is no denying he lived his life audaciously and provides us an excellent example of achieving our dreams.
I am certainly no expert in living audaciously. Everything I’ve learned is through reading and participation in a twitterchat. If you’d like to learn more, I encourage you to check out my friend, Jennie’s website. She is the queen of living with audacity and an incredible life coach!
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