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A Lesson in Royalty

Yes, this week’s edition has something to do with Prince – I won’t lie – but let me assure you it’s not a schmaltzy tribute to him or a recollection of something that happened to me in my childhood that is forever memorialized by a particular Prince song. Actually, this week’s edition is about a Prince and a King – and by King, yes, I’m talking about Elvis Presley. Go with me on this. We’ll start with Elvis.

With a golden voice, Elvis Aron Presley sort of hit the genetic lottery: at the height of his success, he topped out at 6’0”, weighed a moderate 170 lbs., and had piercing blue eyes. He came onto the music scene when television was starting out, and the movie industry was really hitting its stride – something he and his manager, “Colonel” Tom Parker, were very wise to exploit. Selling the Elvis brand – not taking anything away from his talent or his manager’s finesse – wasn’t exactly rocket science. It was sort of like selling ice water to someone who just crossed the Sahara desert. Elvis released around 600 singles, had a boatload of #1 singles and albums, and snagged three Grammy awards – but he didn’t write a single one of his songs. No, not a one.

Born Prince Rogers Nelson, the artist commonly known as Prince, topped out at 5’2” and probably weighed 120 lbs. soaking wet – if you’ve seen some of his videos, you’ll know what I mean. Coming on the scene when image was already a HUGE part of selling your personal brand, Prince’s personal packaging left a bit to be desired, but that didn’t stop him. He garnered seven Grammy awards in his lifetime, an Academy Award, and had a very respectable number of #1 singles and albums to his name – and he wrote all of his own stuff. In fact, he wrote and collaborated on a number of famous songs many people don’t associate with Prince: “Stand Back” by Stevie Nicks, “Manic Monday” by The Bangles, and “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor, just to name a few.

While the success of these two men cannot be denied, their paths to these heights so few reach diverge quite significantly. Elvis (and The Colonel) chose to find other people to give him almost finished products to which he would attach his voice and personality – and that was a formula that had great results. There had to be many moments of stress and uncertainty, though, that Elvis experienced because he didn’t possess the ability to create his own music.

Conversely, not relying on anyone else, Prince not only controlled his own fate by writing his own songs, he lent his talent and creative energy to other artists – he reaped rewards from both his own music and the music of others because of that. I would imagine he experienced his moments of writer’s block, sure, but at the end of it all, he knew he had it in him to create something from nothing.

What type of agent are you? Are you a King or a Prince? Are you relying on your good looks and golden voice, or are you creating opportunities for yourself, regardless of how you look doing it? On a chessboard, perhaps there’s a reason the King can only move one space at a time while waiting for others to make their moves, and there’s no piece for the Prince – he’s off making a successful life for himself on his own terms rather than playing a game. That sounds like the right way to do it.

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