How important are others in our personal narratives of success? At the age of 41, Pharrell Williams is experiencing the height of his career. During an interview with Oprah, the Grammy-winner and media mogul came to tears after watching his smash-hit “Happy” being performed by fans all over the world.
As a producer, the singles he’s collaborated on with the likes of Robin Thicke, Jay Z, Daft Punk, and numerous others have sold over 9.7 million copies from January through September 2013 alone. In a recent interview with Anthony Mason from CBS, Pharrell shared that his success comes not from his music, but from an audience making a choice:
Where it’s coming from…the people. There are lots of really good writers. And there’s actually great writers that are out there. Maybe I’m a good writer. Maybe I’m a good producer. Maybe I’m good. But there are great writers and producers that are not being heard. And we are the most connected that we could ever be as a species, right? We have the internet.
But there’s tons of songs that you’ll never get to [hear] ’cause there’s too many people in the world – 7 billion people and a third of them online. You’ll never get to it. So for me, I always find it necessary to point out that if the people don’t download it, or purchase the songs or vote for the songs or request the songs or upload the videos like they have with Happy, then there is no success.
That’s what success or big or huge means – the people have made a choice. I know that these heights that I am seeing and experiencing these days is a hoist. I know that I’ve been hoisted up. I know the people have lifted me this high. Those YouTube views are not mine – I didn’t do that. I just did the song.
That’s the only thing I did. I didn’t purchase the song as many times as its been purchased, or purchased my album as many times as its been purchased. Those are the people. And I just find it super important to always highlight that.
Pharrell strategically aligned himself with people whose success he could share in. From Snoop Dogg, Britney Spears and Gwen Stefani to Kendrick Lamar, Miley Cyrus and Frank Ocean, one could argue that he’s been preparing for this level of success since 1992.
The lesson here is humility, and recognizing the role that others play in your narrative of success. Gratitude. Whether he’s paying homage to Pusha T at Coachella or respect to fans on Oprah, if there’s one thing that Pharrell did in Year One that continues to influence his wild success today, it’s being conscious and appreciative of the importance of others in his personal evolution.