I remember the first time I was introduced to Michael Jackson and his music. I was four years old. I was over my Aunt Angie’s house visiting for the afternoon and she told me that she wanted to show me something on her grainy turn-knob television set with aluminum foil wrapped around the antennas. I let out a heavy sigh, sauntered in front of the television and plopped down on the sofa. I thought she was going to force me to watch one of those black and white movies my mother made me watch with her and referred to as the classics. But much to my surprise, Aunt Angie showed me “Thriller”, Michael Jackson’s latest video. I was immediately drawn in by the nice bright colors and the movie quality feel of the video. I was on the edge of my seat by the time Michael Jackson and his girlfriend left the movie theatre and walked through the deserted streets. I could feel something was about to go terribly wrong and I was right. Michael Jackson turned into a scary monster and tried to attack his girlfriend. Instinctively, I covered my eyes, but kept peeping through a deliberate space I created between my fingers. I stayed this way until the very end of the video where the zombies finally got into the house and ganged up on the poor innocent girl. All I remember is screaming and jumping off the couch, landing flat on my butt in the kitchen. I sat against the wall with tears streaming down my face, peeking around the corner into the living room to see if the video was over. Trembling, I looked at my aunt and said, “That was decent… can you show me again?” And so began my lifelong love of Michael Jackson.
I wasn’t the only one in my house who loved MJ either. My brother would imitate Michael Jackson and dance all around our apartment. Dressed in some white socks, penny loafers with no pennies, and high-watered pants, he’d hee-hee and moonwalk all over our apartment. We couldn’t wait to catch Michael performing on television either. I remember watching him perform on the Motown Reunion show and the American Music Awards where he did the moonwalk. If there was a word that could capture awesome, great, and decent all at once, it would have to have been the word “doit!” My brother and I would say doit every time we saw Michael Jackson perform.
During that time, Michael Jackson seemed to be everywhere, on television at the various award shows, in videos and on commercials. All of my friends either had red leather jackets with the zippers from the video “Thriller”, posters, t shirts, or those Michael Jackson action figures. We never had one and I always thought it was because we were too poor, but I later found out that it was because we were in the church and my mother viewed getting a Michael Jackson doll as too worldy.
As I got older and learned more about Michael Jackson, I found it hard to believe that MTV was SLOW to play his videos and that he was the first black artist whose videos were regularly played on MTV. Growing up in the early 1980s and always seeing Michael Jackson on television, I took it as a given that his music and talent were always recognized and highly regarded by the music industry. I had no idea that he struggled to be accepted in the mainstream media. People close to Michael Jackson often remark that he was upset that his first solo album “Off the Wall” did not garner a Grammy for “Album of the Year” and that he felt snubbed by many mainstream magazines like “Rolling Stones” that did not want to put him on the cover or do feature articles of him. Although “Off the Wall” was critically acclaimed and commercially successful, that was not good enough for Michael Jackson. He vowed that those same magazines that rejected him would be chasing after him for interviews and cover stories and they’d better hope he’d grant them and that his next album would get the Grammy for “Album of the Year.” We all know that “Thriller” was the follow up album that made Michael Jackson a superstar and achieved those objectives listed above and so much more.
As a beginner student of the mind, I’ve read books like Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill that offer principles on how we can turn our dreams into reality. As I read those 13 principles, I realized that Michael Jackson’s Thriller success serves as an example or blueprint of how everyone can turn their dreams into a reality by using these principles. I’ll share a few of the principles and show how Jackson applied them to garner his Thriller success.
Autosuggestion: “Your ability to use autosuggestion will depend largely upon your capacity to concentrate upon a given desire until it becomes a burning obsession (Think, pg. 72).” While working on “Thriller” Michael Jackson wrote down the words bestselling album of all times on a piece of paper and placed it on his mirror so he could see it everyday when he looked at himself in the mirror. I can only imagine that this simple act motivated Michael to persevere and not stop working on his goals until he accomplished it. Do you think he succeeded? Heck yeah! We can all use autosuggestion to help us achieve our goals, too. Napoleon suggests writing down an objective or mantras that motivate us to take actions that will help us achieve our desires. Many people use affirmations or vision boards to achieve this. They cut out words and phrases that encourage them on a daily basis. Many people use Bible scriptures or favorite quotes to achieve this. No matter what you use to motivate you, make sure you believe that your thoughts are attainable and you’ll achieve whatever you set out to do.
The Mastermind: The Mastermind may be defined as: “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” (Think, pg. 195). Most of us know how instrumental Quincy Jones was in Michael Jackson’s early success, but Quincy was not the only one involved. Michael Jackson formed a team, a mastermind group that buoyed him to success. Members of this team included John Branca, Quincy Jones, and Rod Temperton to name a few. Each person brought something different, but essential to the making of Jackson’s success. John Branca served as a confidant and business manager. Quincy Jones lent his extraordinary musical abilities and Temperton lend his song writing skills. He actually penned the song “Thriller.” Please note that although Michael Jackson wa immensely talented and skilled in each of the areas I just mentioned, he sought out expert help and surrounded himself with individuals that added to his own knowledge. All successful people do this because they know that they don’t know it all and could benefit from other people’s skills and knowledge.
The other crucial element of the mastermind principle is selecting the right individuals. According to the definition, all members have to share the same goal. IN Jackson’s case all members did just that. They ALL set out to make Jackson a superstar and also set out to save the music industry along the way. Not only did Michael Jackson believe in his potential, everyone in the group did as well. You have to chose people who see your vision and support you wholeheartedly. Michael confided in John Branca and told him that he wanted to be the “biggest and most wealthiest star” in the world. Branca didn’t laugh at Jackson, he and the other members of the mastermind group set out to make it happen. In the end, they ALL benefited from their collaborative efforts.
Sometimes when we set out on a dream or goal, we realize that many people close to us don’t see our vision. You may find that strangers or people who you are not close with will come along and help you achieve your dreams. Michael Jackson was no different. In fact, he had to step outside of his family to achieve the massive success he always dreamed of, especially when he fired his father Joe Jackson as his manager and hired John Branca instead. Don’t be discouraged because your family doesn’t see your vision. It’s quite normal. Surround yourself with people who don’t put limitations or questions your dreams. They only set out to guide and help you along the way. Be careful who you invite into your Mastermind group.
Imagination: “The workshop wherein are fashioned ll plans creatd by people.” (Think, pg. 197) Michael Jackson had a vivid imagination. Often, society associates an active imagination with children and look down upon adults with active imaginations. But this is such a flawed way of thinking because all of the inventions that make our lives easier started with the inventor’s imagination. Albert Einstein had an awesome imagination. In fact, he credits his imagination with helping him to solve the theory of relativity. He imagined himself riding a beam of light and came up with the theory. I overly simplified it, but this is how Einstein came up with the theory. Thomas Edison used his imagination to create the light bulb, too. Steve Jobs uses his imagination to create this I Phones people crave. Michael Jackson was no different.
Michael Jackson’s videos are proof of one with an imagination out of this world. “Thriller” took the world by storm and created the standard for videos today. We like to call this “thinking outside the box”, but all it boils down to is having an active, creative imagination. It is essential to being successful. Get in touch with your inner child and see how creative you can become. When you learn to tap into your creative imagination, the genius within, there’s no limit to what you can create. It doesn’t become a matter of can you dream, but how big can you dream. Michael Jackson always pushed the limits on his creativity and usually ended up creating something new along the way like the Moonwalk. In many regards, he is the Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison of music if you want to put his musical contributions into context. But please note, that just like Einstein and Edison, Jackson was a genius in his own right. The beauty of it all is that we all have genius potential.
I could go into more details and illustrate more of how Jackson used the 13 principles outlined in “Think and Grow Rich”, but it would take too long. If you haven’t done so, I encourage you to read “Think and Grow Rich” and study how various individuals you admire have used these principles in their lives to achieve great success. These tools are available to you, too and anyone else who desires to achieve great things and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring them to fruition.
Be like Michael Jackson and never let anyone tell you what you can’t do or achieve. In his hit song “Bad” Jackson sings: “They say the sky’s the limit and for me that’s really true.” These are not only lyrics, but words he lived by, words for us to live by.
I leave you with the image I always associate with Michael Jackson’s greatness and creative imagination, the end of his first world tour in Bucharest. Michael Jackson envisioned himself rocket propelling off the stage and some doubted he could do it, but he made it happen. The sky was truly the limit for Michael and let it be the limit for you, too. R.I.P. MJ!
Do you think Michael Jackson was a genius, if so, why?
Be blessed y’all! Enjoy!
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