4 Everyday Growth Lessons From Janet Jackson's Iconic Career

4 Everyday Growth Lessons From Janet Jackson's Iconic Career

  By Justin Biel, trends editor at Grow Wire


In short:

  • This week, Janet Jackson became the first black female to win the Billboard Icon Award, a top honor in music.
  • Though she was born into the spotlight, Jackson owes her career success to strategic planning that was anything but happenstance.
  • Her four trademark traits can teach plenty about growing a career or personal goal, even if you don't work in entertainment. 

On Sunday, pop culture superstar Janet Jackson received the Billboard Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards. The award goes, of course, to iconic musicians who have made outstanding contributions to the industry. (Past recipients include Stevie Wonder, Prince and Céline Dion, to name a few.)

With her win, Jackson made headlines as the first black female to receive the award.

Many know that Jackson’s career began in childhood: Her first job was an appearance on “The Jacksons” TV show in 1976, when she was only 10 years old. And her career has ballooned since then. Today, Janet is easily the most recognized Jackson -- aside from her brother Michael -- and one of the best-selling artists of all time.

We know this kind of achievement doesn’t happen by accident. 

Jackson has loads of natural talent, but she also grew her career in a smart, systematic way. Here are four foundational mandates that allowed her to develop from child actor into the veritable “Queen of Pop.”

1. Keep evolving.

As an artist, Jackson never became stagnant. She continuously worked on her craft and refined her musical style. This practice has allowed her to snag seven No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart during her career. She's one of only three artists to achieve No. 1’s in four separate decades. Janet is regarded as a leader in the contemporary R&B movement and a reinventor of the dance-pop genre. She has also inspired countless performers with her show design and performance style. Her dedication to creative exploration has kept her relevant for four decades and counting.

The lesson here -- whether in your personal life or business -- is to never be complacent. Continually push your creative limits, and you’ll live a fuller life while giving the world an opportunity to enjoy your creations too.

At this week's Billboard Music Awards, Jackson performed her old hits with a new look.

2. Commit to your personal brand.

In the entertainment industry, the “product” is often a person. Janet developed her personal brand over many years, refining her image from “independent young singer” to “sexy, mature woman.” She faced the added challenge of defining a career independent of her brother Michael’s, and clearly, she overcame it.

Those of us who aren’t in the entertainment business have personal brands too. And like it or not, most of us have a significant online presence. So instead of fighting the personal branding trend, accept it and be aware of the signals you send with your actions, activities and Instagram posts. Build a brand that’s authentic, positive and oriented to your individual values.

3. Fight for what's right.

As a black female and one of the best-selling musicians of all time, Jackson was pivotal in changing the relationship between music labels and black artists. She paved the path for better recording deals and distribution rights and broke through salary ceilings for an entire generation of entertainers. Jackson also addressed racial issues in her songs, using her platform to do more than just entertain.

In life, we must fight for what we know is right and use our platforms for positive impact. Find worth and value in your work, and others will respond to it.

Many music experts consider Jackson's 1989 album "Rhythm Nation 1814" a breakthrough for black female songwriters.

4. Face adversity head-on. 

Jackson made tough decisions on the road to success. Whether ending business affairs with the Jackson family, finding her identity as a black female artist or handling a wardrobe malfunction during the world’s most significant televised event, she often came back stronger, smarter and ready for more.

So remember that in life, adversity breeds education. Remember that each time you get knocked down serves as an opportunity to learn from your mistake and get back in the game with a new and improved plan for success.

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