Prince died yesterday and I am shocked and saddened along with the rest of the world. It is impossible to adequately describe Prince using words. He is a musical genius, he is an icon, he is bold, he is outspoken, he is mysterious, he lived courageously. As heartfelt reflections on the impact that Prince had on so many people’s lives are shared and our collective mourning begins, my attention is drawn to the lessons that we can learn from the inspiring way that Prince lived. My hope is that in addition to honoring him with memories and celebrating his music, we will also honor Prince by living boldly and courageously just as he did. Below are quotes from Prince and lessons from him that we can apply to our own lives.
“Despite everything, no one can dictate who you are to other people.” – Prince (Rolling Stone, 2004)
We can spend so much time trying to fit into a mold that society and our families set for us. Scared of rejection, we bend ourselves like pretzels in order to be accepted an affirmed. This can leave us feeling lonely and scared that if someone were to see who we really are, we would experience ultimate rejection. One of the most magnetic things about Prince was his willingness to be fully himself; to be masculine and feminine, sexy and covered up, risque and religious. I hope that we can follow his example and have the courage to break out of those old molds and fully embrace and express all of the quirky, contradicting, beautiful, funky parts of ourselves.
Lesson: Be who you want to be, not who you think other people want you to be.
“Everyone has their own experience. That’s why we are here, to go through our experience, to learn, to go down those paths and eventually you may have gone down so many paths and learned so much that you don’t have to come back again.” – Prince (NME 1996)
While scrolling through my friend’s timelines and looking at all of their amazing accomplishments and the beautiful trips they go on I can start feeling inadequate, like what I have done with my life thus far is not significant or exciting enough. It is so easy to get caught up in comparing ourselves and our lives to those of the people around us. I believe that the quote above and the way that Prince lived his life encourages us to embrace our own journeys. No matter what road bumps we run into or how unattractive the terrain may become we will live most vibrantly if we accept and can learn from all aspects of our lives.
Lesson: Respect your journey
“All people care about nowadays is getting paid, so they try to do just what the audience wants them to do. I’d rather give people what they need rather than just what they want.” – Prince (LA Times, 1982)
It’s hard not to spend a lot of time thinking about money or worrying about it if you are experiencing financial strain. However, life is not all about the money and many people who pursue careers only because they can make a lot of money are unhappy if they are not using their gifts and talents to contribute to the world. Prince’s ability to understand what the music industry and people in general needed, and to see how he was uniquely gifted to fill that need is part of what made him brilliant. We all have something to contribute to the world. It may not be big and sexy but it is significant. I encourage you to follow Prince’s lead and consider what you are uniquely positioned to give to the world; it might be through a career, a side hustle, volunteering or simply sharing your energy with people you come into contact with. Whatever it is, we need it.
I just listened to Van Jones talk about Prince’s significant contributions to communities across the US and the world. It is not something many of us know of because he did much of this work privately. Let us also follow his example of generosity and compassion to help those we see in need and contribute to solutions to systemic problems.
Lesson: Share your unique contribution with the world.
“Yea, everybody’s got a bomb, we could all die any day. But before I’ll let that happen, I’ll dance my life away.” – Prince (Song: 1999)
There are so many things wrong in the world today and it is easy to get caught up in worrying about all of the problems. While it is important to work to identify solutions to these ongoing problems, we must also find the joy in life. Whether it is through dancing, music, cooking, or spending with friends or in nature. Take the time out to enjoy your life and live vibrantly as Prince did. This will not only help to spread love and joy, it will also give us the fuel that we need to continue in the struggle against violence and injustice.
Lesson: Enjoy your life