Hip-Hop Entrepreneur Swizz Beatz: ‘If You’re Not Making History, You’re Wasting Your Time’
At just 40 years old, hip-hop entrepreneur Kasseem Dean, more popularly known as Swizz Beatz, has amassed a track record, lifestyle and nearly $70 million net worth that would inspire most of us to retire early.
Here are just a few of Dean’s achievements:
• Grammy Award-winning producer of songs for everyone from DMX, Eve, Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Chris Brown, Gwen Stefani, and Whitney Houston.
• Creative director for iconic brands such as Reebok and Lotus.
• Curator of the Dean Collection of art and creator of No Commissions, an innovative traveling arts event.
• Husband to global superstar musician Alicia Keys. (I consider this an achievement given that Dean himself says his wife is smarter, more talented and more successful).
The list goes on.
So why does Dean continue to both work extremely hard and also attempt projects that come with the risk of rejection?
That’s a question I often have for entrepreneurs after they’ve “made it,” but I was even more curious to hear Dean’s answer given his celebrity. He no longer needs to take risks, especially if they come with public humiliation or scrutiny.
Perhaps a key into Dean’s drive can be found in the last year of his life.
In late 2017, Bronx, New York-born Dean graduated from Harvard University Business School’s Owner/President’s program, a prestigious three-year graduate program that had previously denied him acceptance not once, but three times.
Why did he apply to Harvard yet again? Why does he continue to work around the clock, producing, creating and supporting countless artists?
What drives Swizz Beatz?
During our interview for Uncommon Drive, a video series for USA & Main that seeks to tap into the motivations and magic of world-class business people, Dean provided a memorable answer.
You only have so much time – once it’s gone you don’t get it back. Don’t focus on money, focus on building something greater than yourself. “If you’re not making history, you’re wasting your time on Earth,” Dean said.
When you dissect his answer, you will learn two important lessons.
The first is in “making history.” Doing so requires awareness. You must fully understand what has and has not been accomplished in the market you’ve entered. Dean approaches each endeavor with the goal of creating something important that has not been done before and will be remembered for its impact beyond his years.
The second part of his statement is just as powerful. In this interview, he never once said he is “trying” or “attempting” to make history. Instead, he has told himself that regardless of the obstacles, it’s just going to happen. “I’m going to make history,” Dean said.
After talking to Dean for nearly 45 minutes, it was clear to me that he has removed all ego from a statement that might otherwise be misconstrued as false pride. I believe it’s a brilliant hack – rather than focus on all the reasons why a project can’t be realized, he has convinced himself of the possibility.
Does it work?
One look at Swizz Beatz’ body of work proves it.