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I Will Not Lose!


 
The  blueprint  for  greatness  when  good  is  not  enough.  
 
*Inspired  by  the  song  lyrics  of  Jay-­Z  
 
©2010  by  Duane  L.  Lawton  

 
 

Book Excerpt:
Intro
Pgs. 24-25, 57-59, 126-27, 210-11, 294-296, 305-307
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

For

Wife. Mother. Child.


      Shayla   Ann     Jalen  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Table  of  Contents  
 
 
 
 

Blueprint for Greatness


Intro....................................................................................................................... 9
Get  Your  Mind  Right   ................................................................................. 13
In  the  Trenches  of  the  Hustle   ............................................................................ 44
Jumping  Over  Life’s  Hurdles  ............................................................................ 128
Facing  Failure   .................................................................................................. 179
The  Sweet  Smell  of  Success   ............................................................................. 215
The  Game  to  Maintain ...................................................................................... 244
Reaching  the  Next  Level ................................................................................... 278
Outro................................................................................................................. 334
About the Author ............................................................................................. 339
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Song  List  
 
 

Song List
4 Da Fam...................................................................................................... 281-82
A Dream..................................................................................................... 299-300
A Week Ago .....................................................................................28-34, 137-39
All I Need ........................................................................................122-23, 279-80
Allure .......................................................................................................... 143-44
Already Home .................................................................................84-85, 261-62
American Dreamin’ .........................................................................55-59, 149-50
Anything .................................................................................................... 147-148
Beach Chair................................................................................................. 311-12
Best of Both Worlds ................................................................................... 301-04
Bitches and Sisters .................................................................................... 115-17
Black Republican ......................................................................................... 86-87
Blueprint (Momma Loves Me) ................................................................... 287-88
Bonnie and Clyde ‘03 ................................................................................ 120-21
Brooklyn Finest .............................................................................................. 212
Can I Live................................................................. 35-37, 68-69, 249-50, 283-84
Can’t Knock the Hustle .............................................................................. 247-48
Come and Get Me ..........................................................................157-58, 165-66
Coming of Age .................................................................................72-75, 271-72
Coming of Age (Da Sequel) ....................................................................... 90-108
Dead Presidents I ....................................................................................... 180-81
Dead Presidents II ...........................................................................40-41, 255-56
December 4th.............................................................................................. 184-86
D’Evils .................................................................................. 26-27, 60-61, 155-56
Diamonds from Sierra Leone (remix) ..........................................204-09, 234-36
Dirt Off Your Shoulder ............................................................................... 219-21
D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune)......................................................................... 45-46
Do It Again .................................................................................................. 232-33
Don’t You Know.......................................................................................... 305-10
Encore ................................................................................................ 226-27
Feelin’ It ..........................................................................................269-70, 285-86
Free Mason.................................................................................................. 163-64
Freestyle (DJ Clue) .................................................................................... 173-74
Gangsta Shit ................................................................................................ 88-89
Go Crazy (remix) ........................................................................................ 216-18
Guess Who’s Back ..................................................................................... 222-23
Guns and Roses ............................................................................111-12, 230-31
Hard Knock Life .................................................................................49-50, 76-77
Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love) ............................................................... 297-98
Hey Papi ...................................................................................................... 313-14
Hovi Baby ................................................................................................... 321-22
I Did It My Way ............................................................................................ 228-29
Imaginary Player ........................................................................................ 253-54
Intro (from Dynasty album)........................................................................ 129-31
It’s Like That................................................................................................ 159-60
It’s On .......................................................................................................... 259-60
Izzo (H.O.V.A.) ..................................................................................51-52, 171-72
Justify My Thug .......................................................................................... 197-99
Kingdom Come ........................................................................................... 328-29
Light It Up.................................................................................................... 169-70
Lost One .........................................................................................140-42, 315-16
Lucky Me ..................................................................................................... 151-52
Moment of Clarity ..........................................................................273-74, 291-93
Money Ain’t a Thang .................................................................................. 240-41
Most Kings .................................................................................................. 134-36
Mr. Carter..................................................................................................... 323-25
My 1st Song ..................................................................................113-14, 275-77
Never Change .................................................................. 82-83, 187-188, 251-52
Never Let You Down .......................................................................... 245-46
No Hook............................................................................................22-23, 124-25
NYMP ................................................................................... 18-19, 66-67, 192-93
Off That ......................................................................................................... 53-54
Oh My God ................................................................................................. 167-68
On to the Next One ........................................................................242-43, 326-27
Operation Corporate Takeover ................................................................. 331-33
Paper Chase.................................................................................................. 70-71
People Talkin’ ............................................................................................. 319-20
Power (remix) ............................................................................................. 175-76
Public Service Announcement (Interlude) ....................................20-21, 317-18
Regrets ..........................................................................................153-54, 202-03
Rhyme No More ........................................................................................... 80-81
Say Hello ........................................................................................109-10, 190-91
So Ambitious ................................................................................................ 38-39
So Appalled................................................................................................. 294-96
Some How, Some Way ............................................................................... 212-14
Soon You’ll Understand............................................................................. 145-46
Song Cry...................................................................................................... 118-19
Squeeze 1st................................................................................................. 194-96
Stick 2 the Script ........................................................................................ 161-62
Streets is Talking............................................................. 47-48, 132-133, 263-66
Streets Is Watching .........................................................................64-65, 200-01
Sweet ..............................................................................................182-83, 289-90
Things That U Do........................................................................................ 177-78
This Life Forever ............................................................................16-17, 210-11
U Don’t Know ....................................................................... 24-25, 62-63, 126-27
Watch Me ................................................................................................ 224-25
Watcher 2 ...................................................................................................... 42-43
What More Can I Say ................................................................................. 267-68
What We Talkin’ About....................................................................14-15, 257-58
Where I’m From ........................................................................................... 78-79

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
“When  it  seems  like  I’m  bragging  or  threatening  or  whatever,  what  I’m  actually  
trying  to  do  is  to  embody  a  certain  spirit,  give  voice  to  a  certain  emotion.  I’m  giving  the  
listener  a  way  to  articulate  that  emotion  in  their  own  lives,  however  it  applies.”  
 
From  “Decoded”  
Jay-­‐Z  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Intro  
 
Don’t  be  fooled  
My  game  is  mental!  
“Can  I  Live”  
 
I  still  remember  a  friend’s  reaction  back  in  June  2010  when  I  told  him  I  was  
publishing  a  blog  titled,  “The  Book  of  Hov”,  about  how  the  lyrics  of  Jay-­‐Z  are  
inspirational:  
“I  thought  Jay  was  just  about  [money,  cash,  and  hoes]!”  
I  laughed  at  his  response  (referring  to  one  of  Jay’s  hit  songs  from  the  late  
90’s)  because  it’s  one  that’s  typical  of  most  people  when  it  comes  to  Jay-­‐Z.  While  
many  may  see  Jay’s  story  as  inspirational,  his  lyrics…well,  not  so  much.  I’ve  been  a  
big  fan  of  Jay  from  the  beginning  of  his  career.  I  think  he’s  one  of  Hip-­‐Hop  greatest  
MCs.  But  I  also  truly  believe  that  he  has  delivered  some  of  the  most  insightful  lyrics  
ever  performed  through  music.  
Yeah,  I  said  it.  
It’s  true  that  Jay  has  recorded  many  songs  that  are  purely  entertainment  and  
some  may  find  certain  songs  like  “Big  Pimpin”  as  offensive.  But  this  book  is  not  
about  “Big  Pimpin”.  Jay  has  “conceived”  (he  doesn’t  actually  write  lyrics)  many  
profound  lyrics  in  songs  that  are  often  overlooked  and  many  of  these  gems  are  in  
some  of  the  radio-­‐friendly  “pop”  hits  that  were  successful  on  the  charts  throughout  
his  15-­‐year  career.  
Can  you  be  inspired  by  the  song  lyrics  of  an  ex-­‐crack  dealer  turned  music  
mogul/business  tycoon?  
Jay-­‐Z,  like  many  rappers,  is  criticized  for  the  arrogance,  vulgarity  and  the  
emphasis  on  materialism  in  his  lyrics.  Rappers  like  Jay-­‐Z  face  a  firestorm  of  criticism  
over  the  content  of  their  lyrics.  A  significant  amount  of  Jay’s  lyrics  reflect  his  
experiences  as  a  drug  dealer  when  he  was  in  his  teens  through  his  early  20’s.  How  in  
the  world  could  that  kind  of  lyrical  content  be  inspirational?  Well,  because  at  its  
core  Jay’s  lyrics  are  about  ambition.  We  all  want  to  be  able  to  overcome  struggle  and  
become  successful,  right?  Whether  you  love  him,  hate  him  or  are  indifferent,  it’s  
hard  to  dispute  that  Jay-­‐Z’s  life’s  story  is  the  epitome  of  the  American  Dream;  Hip-­‐
Hop  style.  
Allow  me  to  talk  about  why  I  wrote  this  book  and  elaborate  more  on  how  
inspiration  can  indeed  be  found  in  the  lyrics  of  Jay-­‐Z:  
Over  3  years  ago,  I  wrote  a  manuscript,  a  self-­‐help  book  inspired  by  Jay-­‐Z’s  
lyrics.  I  shopped  the  book  around  a  little  but  I  was  really  intent  on  self-­‐publishing  
the  book.  It  didn’t  happen.  The  manuscript  basically  “sat”  on  my  computer  hard  
drive  for  years.  Then  in  June  2010,  I  decided  to  start  a  blog,  “The  Book  of  Hov”  
largely  due  to  the  encouragement  of  Cedric  Muhammad,  a  business  consultant  and  
author  who  managed  Wu-­‐Tang  Clan  when  the  rap  super  group  was  at  its  peak.  The  
purpose  of  the  blog  is  to  reveal  the  inspiration  found  in  Jay’s  lyrics.    
The  great  feedback  I  received  from  the  blog  motivated  me  to  dust  off  the  3-­‐
year  manuscript  sitting  on  my  hard  drive.  I  completely  rewrote  the  manuscript  and  
added  some  of  the  postings  from  “The  Book  of  Hov”.  The  end  result  is  the  book  that  
you’re  reading  right  now.  
With  “The  Book  of  Hov”,  I’m  not  trying  to  get  readers  to  think  like  Jay  or  
accept  and  adopt  my  interpretation  of  his  lyrics.  I’m  simply  trying  to  motivate  
listeners  of  Hip-­‐Hop  (and  music  in  general)  to  develop  a  trained  ear  and  listen  to  
lyrics  with  a  greater  intent  on  finding  insight  and  inspiration.  My  greatest  source  of  
inspiration  is  in  conversation.  
Let  me  explain  what  I  mean  by  finding  inspiration  in  conversation.  When  I  
listen  to  Jay  (or  other  MCs)  it’s  like  I’m  having  a  conversation  with  him.  True,  it’s  a  
one-­‐way  conversation,  but  I  look  at  it  as  if  his  lyrics  are  the  point  in  the  conversation  
when  he’s  talking  and  I’m  listening.  
People  enjoy  talking  about  themselves,  don’t  they?  Think  of  the  
conversations  you  have  had  with  a  friend,  a  relative,  a  colleague,  a  neighbor,  etc.  
When  your  friend  is  talking  to  you,  he’s  telling  you  about  himself;  his  thoughts,  
ideas,  plans,  actions.  While  he  goes  on  and  on  and  on  about  himself  you  need  to  put  
your  mind  to  work.  Do  you  take  mental  notes  while  listening  to  someone  who  is  
talking  to  you?  What  are  mental  notes?  Mental  notes:  Special  attention  with  intent  to  
remember.  
Taking  mental  notes  means  you  give  deliberate  thought  to  what  is  being  said  
and  often  times  it  causes  you  to  think  about  your  own  set  of  circumstances.  
Someone  else’s  words  about  their  thoughts  and  actions  can  have  an  impact  on  how  
you  think  and  what  you  do  in  your  own  life.  I  take  mental  notes  in  my  conversations  
with  people.  They  talk  about  themselves  but  my  trained  ear  is  listening  for  
something  in  their  conversation  that  I  can  use  in  my  own  life.    
Don’t  get  me  wrong,  I  allow  others  to  “have  the  floor”  and  get  what  they  have  
to  say  off  their  chests,  but  there’s  a  selfish  motive:  I  want  to  find  insight  in  what  they  
say  that  can  give  me  inspiration  to  overcome  flaws  in  my  mindset  or  a  lack  of  
execution  in  my  actions.  Because  I  treat  Jay’s  lyrics  like  a  conversation,  I  listen  with  
my  trained  ear  and  I  take  mental  notes  seeking  insight  and  inspiration  for  myself.  In  
the  midst  of  praising  his  lyrical  prowess,  I’m  “selfishly”  empowering  myself.  
Critics  and  haters  say  that  all  Jay  does  is  rap  about  himself.  And,  the  point  is?  
Why  would  he  rap  about  you  or  me?  Every  artist  injects  his  vision  in  his  art.  Art  is  
personal.  The  nature  of  rap  music  is  to  rhyme  about  yourself.  Think  back  to  its  roots.  
Jay  rhymes  about  his  life  just  like  you  talk  to  others,  going  on  and  on,  about  your  life.  
I  can  learn  as  much  about  myself,  and  life  in  general,  from  listening  to  you  talk  about  
you.  
I  can  learn  what  to  say  (and  how  to  say  it),  what  not  to  say,  what  to  do  and  
what  not  to  do  (and  why),  and  how  to  think  and  how  not  to  think  just  from  having  a  
conversation  with  you.  The  same  dynamic  is  happening  when  you  listen  to  music  
whether  you  realize  it  or  not.  Jay  will  never  rhyme  about  you  or  I.    Yet  his  
“conversation”  with  us  in  the  form  of  lyrics  primarily  about  himself  can  give  us  
insight  that  we  can  “selfishly”  use  in  our  own  lives.  
Many  of  us  may  look  at  Jay-­‐Z’s  story  and  see  swagger  and  excess.  But  if  that’s  
all  we  see,  we’re  not  paying  close  enough  attention.  Jay  told  us  from  the  very  
beginning  of  his  career  on  the  song  Can  I  Live  that  his  “game  is  mental”.  It’s  not  his  
swagger  that’s  gotten  him  where  his  is-­‐it’s  his  mind.  It’s  because  of  his  mind;  he  can  
live  his  life  with  swagger.  The  mind  is  the  most  powerful  weapon  to  battle  against  
failure  and  to  capture  success.    
This  book  is  divided  into  7  sections:  
Get  Your  Mind  Right:  The  road  to  success  starts  with  how  you  think.  
In  the  Trenches  of  the  Hustle:  Once  you  get  your  mind  right  that’s  when  it’s  time  
to  get  on  your  grind.  (This  is  the  meat-­‐and-­‐potatoes  part  of  the  book)  
Jumping  Over  Life’s  Hurdles:  The  journey  to  success  is  not  without  its  roadblocks  
so  you  have  to  be  able  to  avoid  or  get  around  them  and  keep  driving  toward  your  
destination.  
Facing  Failure:  Being  able  to  overcome  adversity  empowers  you  to  move  forward  
despite  your  setbacks.  
The  Sweet  Smell  of  Success:  One  of  the  greatest  experiences  in  life  is  the  feeling  of  
accomplishment.  
The  Game  to  Maintain:  Obtaining  success  is  not  nearly  as  challenging  as  keeping  it.  
Reaching  the  Next  Level:  In  the  game  of  life  you  have  to  keep  playing  to  keep  
winning.  You  have  to  push  yourself  to  go  further,  harder  and  higher  than  you  did  the  
day  before.  
In  each  section,  I  spotlight  lyrics  from  songs  in  Jay-­‐Z’s  discography  and  share  
how  the  insight  in  his  rhymes  can  be  effectively  applied  to  your  life.  This  work  is  
inspired  by  Jay-­‐Z’s  lyrics  but  the  focus  of  this  book  is  not  about  Jay’s  greatness,  it’s  
about  the  greatness  that  YOU  can  achieve  with  the  song  lyrics  of  Jay-­‐Z,  Hip-­‐Hop  most  
ambitious  MC,  serving  as  a  valuable  source  of  inspiration.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When  You  Get  Your  Mind  Right    
The  Doors  of  Opportunity  Will  Open.  
 
If  somebody  woulda  told  'em  that  Hov'  would  sell  clothing  
Not  in  this  lifetime  
Wasn't  in  my  right  mind  
That's  another  difference  that's  between  me  and  them  
I'm  smartened  up  
Opened  the  market  up  
“U  Don’t  Know”  
 
 Jay’s  debut  album,  “Reasonable  Doubt”  is  the  first  time  that  I  heard  
criminality  (particularly  the  drug  trade)  intellectualized  in  music  on  a  high  level.    
During  the  time  of  its  release,  I  can  remember  talking  with  hustlers  in  the  drug  trade  
who  I  was  “associated”  with  that  told  me  that  “Reasonable  Doubt”  captured  the  
essence  of  their  lifestyle  from  both  a  physical  and  mental  perspective.    
Now,  there  were  other  great  albums  released  before  “Reasonable  Doubt”  
(such  as  Raekwon’s  “Only  Built  for  Cuban  Linx”,  Biggie’s  “Ready  to  Die”  and  Nas’s  
“Illmatic”)  that  had  profound  hardcore  criminality  themes,  I  just  believe  that  no  
other  MC  brought  as  much  insight  and  perspective  when  it  came  to  the  inner  
workings  of  the  illegal  drug  trade  and  the  street  hustler  as  Jay-­‐Z  did  on  his  debut  
album,  Reasonable  Doubt.  
On  the  “Blueprint”,  I  think  Jay  gave  us  more  insight  into  the  drug  trade,  but  
even  more  noticeably,  he  gave  us  more  of  his  personal  experiences  and  observations  
when  he  was  in  the  streets.      
I  started  off  the  Intro  of  this  book  with  one  of  Jay’s  lines  from,  “Can  I  Live”  off  
the  Reasonable  Doubt,  “Don’t  be  fooled,  my  game  is  mental”.    I  think  what  separates  
albums  like  Reasonable  Doubt  and  Blueprint  from  its  contemporaries,  is  that  the  
songs  on  both  of  these  albums  put  a  bright  spotlight  on  the  mental  game  needed  to  
succeed  in  the  street  hustle.  On  “U  Don’t  Know”,  Jay  shows  us  how  to  play  the  mental  
game  in  order  to  make  the  transformation  that  will  change  the  situations  in  our  
lives.  I  think  the  most  important  lines  from  “U  Don’t  Know”  is  when  Jay  says:  
“If  somebody  woulda  told  'em  that  Hov'  would  sell  clothing  
Not  in  this  lifetime  
Wasn't  in  my  right  mind…”  
This  line  in  my  opinion  is  the  most  important  part  of  the  song.    Why?  Because  
it  reveals  how  not  having  “the  right  mind”  can  keep  you  from  maximizing  your  full  
potential.  Jay  states  that  he  couldn’t  even  conceive  the  opportunity  to  get  into  the  
fashion  game  (Roc-­‐a-­‐wear)  because  he  wasn’t  in  his  “right  mind”.    That  doesn’t  
mean  that  he  was  crazy!  Jay  is  telling  us  that  he  wasn’t  focused;  he  wasn’t  open-­‐
minded  to  the  possibilities  in  life.      
Not  being  in  the  right  frame  of  mind  could  easily  apply  to  the  period  when  
Jay  was  in  the  streets.    In  fact,  Jay  has  talked  about  this  in  interviews.    You  can  be  so  
caught  up  in  what  you’re  trying  to  accomplish  that  you  miss  out  on  better  
opportunities.  Now,  to  be  fair,  there  are  some  opportunities  that  are  pretty  difficult  
to  conceive  due  to  your  physical  circumstances.    But  the  point  Jay  is  making  is  that  
the  right  mindset  opens  up  the  door  to  opportunity.  
Jay  reveals  that  the  difference  between  he  and  others  is  not  just  his  swagger,  
his  lyrical  prowess  or  the  amount  of  money  in  his  bank  account-­‐  it’s  his  mindset.  So  
many  of  us  (myself  included)  are  self-­‐sabotaging  are  our  own  personal  growth  and  
development.    Jay  tells  us  that  he  “smartened  up”;  he  came  to  the  realization  of  what  
he  could  accomplish  if  he  put  his  mind  to  it.      
When  Jay  rhymes  that  he  “opened  the  market  up”,  first  he  had  to  broaden  his  
horizons  and  by  doing  so  he  was  in  the  right  place  both  mentally  and  physically  to  
recognize  great  opportunities  and  take  advantage  of  them.  Once  Jay  took  advantage  
of  the  opportunities  his  net  worth  skyrocketed  to  millions.  We  will  always  limit  our  
own  potential  and  opportunities  until  we  smarten  up.  The  pivotal  point  of  “U  Don’t  
Know”  is  that  in  order  to  succeed  you  must  first  get  your  mind  right.    Once  you’re  in  
the  right  frame  of  mind  you’re  able  to  focus,  seize  the  moment  and  succeed.  
 
Aim  With  Ambition    
And  Change  the  Target  
 
Mama  forgive  me,  should  be  thinking  'bout  Harvard  
But  that's  too  far  away,  niggas  are  starving  
Ain't  nothing  wrong  with  my  aim  
Just  gotta  change  the  target  
“American  Dreamin’”  
 
I  think  the  American  Gangster  album  is  underrated.  I  don’t  consider  it  a  
classic  but  it’s  a  solid  effort.  The  film  of  the  same  name,  a  biopic  about  Frank  Lucas,  a  
drug  kingpin  in  Harlem  in  the  70’s,  inspires  the  songs  from  the  album.  The  lead  
character  of  Lucas  was  played  by  Oscar  award  winning  actor,  Denzel  Washington.  
There  was  much  hype  in  anticipation  of  the  film’s  release.  I  thought  the  movie  was  
good  but  in  my  opinion,  American  Gangster-­‐Jay-­‐Z’s  album-­‐is  better.  
One  of  the  things  I  love  about  the  American  Gangster  album  is  the  soul  
samples.  In  terms  of  musical  production,  the  album  is  a  kindred  spirit  of  the  
Reasonable  Doubt  and  Blueprint  albums.  I  love  soul  music  so  my  favorite  kind  of  
Hip-­‐Hop  records  are  the  ones  who  use  soul  samples.  Marvin  Gaye  is  my  favorite  
musical  artist  of  all  time.  I  think  the  guy  had  the  greatest  voice  and  he  made  timeless  
romantic  and  socially  conscious  music.  I’m  sure  you  have  figured  out  that  Jay-­‐Z  is  
my  favorite  rap  artist.  So,  the  song  “American  Dreamin’”  from  the  American  
Gangster  album  is  the  perfect  combination  for  my  musical  preference  because  the  
song  samples  one  of  my  favorite  Marvin  Gaye  songs,  “Soon  I’ll  Be  Loving  you”.  
In  these  lyrics,  Jay  plays  the  role  of  a  young  ambitious  guy  from  the  street  
that  is  hungry  to  succeed.  He  “should  be  thinking  ‘bout  Harvard”;  getting  an  
education,  but  he  states  that  “Harvard”  (pursuing  higher  education)  is  “too  far  
away”  and  that  he  and  his  crew  are  “starving”  for  success.  In  promotional  
interviews,  Jay  talked  about  how  the  American  Gangster  film  “took  him  back”  to  his  
hustling  days  in  the  drug  game  and  inspired  him  to  make  “American  Gangster”-­‐  the  
album.  Well,  the  song  “American  Dreamin”  in  some  ways  “took  me  back”  to  my  
“hustling  days”.  Before  you  roll  your  eyes,  let  me  explain…  
These  lyrics  represent  how  I  felt  straight  out  of  high  school  back  in  ’95.  I  
should  have  been  “thinking  ‘bout  Harvard”,  determined  to  get  a  college  education,  
but  instead  I  was  focused  on  becoming  wildly  successful  immediately.  College  
seemed  “too  far  away”  not  in  distance  but  in  terms  of  the  time  I  knew  it  would  take  
to  graduate  and  start  a  career.  After  high  school  I  didn’t  want  to  go  to  college,  I  
wanted  to  get  paid,  like,  yesterday.  I  didn’t  take  the  same  route  Jay-­‐Z  did  but  I  did  
get  involved  in  “questionable  activities”  in  my  late  teens  into  my  early  20’s.  People  
from  all  walks  of  life  can  relate  to  Jay’s  sentiment.  Many  of  us  are  quite  ambitious  
but  instead  of  pursuing  success  in  the  most  prudent  way,  we  seek  immediate  results  
from  risky  ventures.  
 In  his  memoir,  “Decoded”,  Jay  talks  about  his  experiences  of  leaving  
Brooklyn  where  he  grew  up  to  deal  drugs  out-­‐of-­‐town  in  places  like  Trenton,  New  
Jersey.  In  “American  Dreamin”  Jay  states  that  his  “aim”  is  fine  but  he  just  has  to  
“change  the  target”  which  seems  to  reference  the  days  when  Jay  took  his  criminal  
enterprise  out-­‐of-­‐town.  Incidentally,  a  year  after  finishing  high  school,  I  left  the  area  
where  I  grew  up  with  this  same  mindset  and  relocated,  truly  believing  that  I  would  
come  back  rich.  It  didn’t  happen!  
But  “changing  the  target”  is  not  just  about  physically  relocating  from  one  
place  to  another.  To  “change  your  target”  could  mean  to  change  the  way  you  hustle.  
It  could  also  mean  to  change  your  goals  or  to  at  least  go  a  different  route  in  
accomplishing  them.  This  is  something  that  I  have  done  throughout  the  years.  I’ve  
added,  subtracted,  modified  and  changed  goals.  But  just  as  importantly,  I’ve  changed  
how  I’ve  gone  about  accomplishing  my  goals.  Two  examples:  Nowadays,  I  avoid  
getting  involved  in  illegal  activity  and  I  no  longer  adhere  to  a  get-­‐rich-­‐quick  
mentality  even  if  I  truly  focused  on  legitimate  endeavors.    
I  used  to  think  that  the  only  way  to  make  things  happen  was  to  do  it  quick,  
fast  and  in  a  hurry.  But  now  I  realized  that  if  I  just  slow  down,  I  won’t  miss  out  on  
opportunities.  When  it  comes  to  pursuing  goals,  the  best  speed  is  neither  fast  nor  
slow,  it’s  “nice-­‐and-­‐steady”.  Accomplishing  your  goals  may  not  be  “too  far  away”  but  
it  will  definitely  take  time.  If  you’re  hungry,  “starving”  to  succeed,  sometimes  you  
just  have  to  change  the  target  and  be  patient.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Making  Your  Ideas  Move  
 
I  sell  ice  in  the  winter  
I  sell  fire  in  hell  
I  am  a  hustler  baby  
I'll  sell  water  to  a  well  
I  was  born  to  get  cake  
Move  on  and  switch  states  
Cop  the  coupe  with  the  roof  gone  and  switch  plates  
Was  born  to  dictate  
Never  follow  orders  
“U  Don’t  Know”  
 
These  lyrics  from  “U  Don’t  Know”  may  come  off  as  pure  bravado  by  Jay-­‐Z,  but  
there’s  depth  to  the  bold  claims  that  can  easily  be  applied  to  goals  we  have.  Jay  
sounds  confident  while  delivering  these  lyrics  and  that  alone  should  make  a  solid  
impression  on  us.  Confidence  is  both  underrated  and  overrated.  It’s  underrated  
because  if  you  have  little  or  none  you  won’t  be  mentally  or  emotionally  equipped  to  
succeed.  But  a  person  can  also  have  “blind”  or  misguided  confidence  that  makes  it  
hard  to  succeed  and  easy  to  fail  because  all  of  the  swagger  clouds  better  judgment.  
Still,  confidence  plays  a  vital  role  in  being  successful  and  you  gain  valuable  
confidence  when  you’re  knowledgeable  and  experienced.  A  hustler  is  able  to  adapt  
to  his  or  her  environment  and  make  things  happen,  turning  nothing  into  something.  
Any  true  hustler  who  is  confident  in  his  mental  game  (knowledge)  and  in  the  
mastery  of  his  skill  set  (experience)  would  make  the  exact  same  bold  statement  that  
Jay  makes  in  these  lyrics.  Any  ambitious  salesman  would  adopt  Jay’s  lyrics  as  he  
strives  to  make  a  mark  in  his  own  hustle.    
Selling  “ice  in  the  winter”,  “fire  in  hell”  or  “water  to  a  well”  is  not  literal  of  
course.  What  it  means  is  that  you’re  able  to  accomplish  extraordinary  things  
because  you’re  confident,  sharp  (intellectually),  charismatic  and  skilled.  You  don’t  
speak  on  confidence;  you  act  on  it.  Your  actions  prove  the  claims  that  you  make.  A  
salesperson  for  example  wouldn’t  have  the  credibility  to  make  the  statement  Jay  
makes  if  he  can’t  sell.  His  sale  numbers  will  back  up  his  boldness  or  expose  him!  
Only  a  smart,  skilled,  persistent  and  experienced  salesperson  with  a  proven  track  
record  of  success  would  have  the  chops  to  make  this  statement.  
Jay  tells  us  that  he  was  “born  to  get  cake”  (money)  and  to  live  life  in  the  fast  
lane.  The  root  of  this  statement  may  be  based  on  his  hustling  days  in  the  drug  game  
but  it’s  consistent  with  his  success  in  the  rap  game  and  business  world,  isn’t  it?  Ever  
since  I  was  a  kid,  I’ve  been  full  of  moneymaking  ideas.  I  tell  people  all  of  the  time  
that  I  should’ve  been  a  millionaire  many  times  over  by  the  time  I  was  30  just  based  
on  my  ideas.  But  ideas  don’t  make  millions,  people  who  take  action  do.  Ideas  should  
not  stand  still.  A  true  hustler  succeeds  because  he  makes  his  ideas  “move”,  brings  
them  to  life  and  turns  them  into  gold.  
Jay  states  that  he  was  “born  to  dictate”  and  “never  follow  orders”  which  may  
come  across  arrogant  but  there’s  a  greater  point  to  be  made.  It’s  true  that  you  have  
to  know  how  to  follow  in  order  to  lead,  but  I  also  think  embracing  leadership  traits  
within  yourself  is  empowering.  First  of  all,  you  are  “born  to  dictate”  how  you  live  
your  life.  You  are  essentially  in  a  leadership  role  when  it  comes  to  your  own  life.  
How  you  live  your  life  is  a  good  indicator  on  your  ability  to  lead  others.  A  true  
hustler  possesses  qualities  that  lead  to  personal  success  and  makes  others  want  to  
be  led  by  him.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Struggle  with  Swagger  and  Style  
 
In  the  midst  of  all  your  misery,  nigga,  stay  fly  
Never  let  ‘em  see  you  frown  
Even  smile  when  you  down  
Shit,  I  floss  on  my  off-­days  
Fuck  what  they  all  say  
“This  Life  Forever”  
 
It  wouldn’t  surprise  me  if  many  of  Jay-­‐Z’s  fans  weren’t  familiar  with  the  song  
“This  Life  Forever”  (Jay  “decodes”  the  lyrics  from  the  song  in  his  memoir).    Jay  
recorded  the  song  to  be  included  on  a  movie  soundtrack  for  a  film  titled  “Black  
Gangster”  that  was  never  made.  “Black  Gangster”  was  to  be  based  on  a  book  of  the  
same  title  written  by  the  legendary  urban  crime  writer,  Donald  Goines.  I  read  
several  of  Goines’  books  when  I  was  in  high  school  (including  “Black  Gangster”)  and  
I  can  remember  anticipating  the  film’s  release  when  I  heard  Jay’s  “This  Life  Forever”.  
I’ve  always  loved  this  song.  
Jay  gives  a  poignant  performance  on  “This  Life  Forever”.  The  song  tackles  a  
common  theme  in  Jay’s  music-­‐  street  hustling,  but  the  lyrics  (and  the  beat)  take  on  a  
particularly  serious,  hardcore  tone.  Jay  gives  it  to  listeners  raw  on  “This  Life  
Forever”  with  the  lyrics  revealing  the  intensity  of  both  the  physical  and  mental  
struggle  that  street  hustlers  have  to  endure  and  overcome  without  losing  their  
swagger.  The  lyrics  give  us  an  inside  look  into  the  mind  and  lifestyle  of  a  street  
hustler  but  the  rhymes  also  give  us  insight  on  how  the  proper  use  of  swagger  can  be  
a  powerful  weapon  in  our  personal  battles  to  overcome  struggle.  
“In  the  midst  of  all  your  misery”,  stay  confident.  Don’t  compromise  your  
dignity  and  integrity  because  of  your  circumstances.  It’s  true  that  stubborn  pride  
can  stifle  your  growth  but  resilient  pride  fosters  progress.  If  you’re  caught  up  in  the  
struggle  allow  Jay’s  words  to  give  you  encouragement.  Regardless  of  what  you’re  
going  through,  “stay  fly”  and  keep  shining  until  your  light  (your  hustle)  is  bright  
enough  to  bring  you  out  of  the  dark  times.  You  put  yourself  in  a  position  of  
compromise  if  you  allow  others  to  “see  you  frown”.  When  Jay  says  “smile  when  you  
down”  he’s  encouraging  us  to  be  optimistic  during  tough  times.  Optimism  is  a  great  
strength  to  have  during  struggle  because  it  broadens  your  mindset  and  inspires  
your  hustle.  The  following  line  from  this  song  has  stuck  with  me  since  the  day  I  first  
heard  it  sometime  in  the  late  90’s:  
“Shit,  I  floss  on  my  off-­days.  Fuck  what  they  all  say…”  
Sure,  the  line  is  clever  but  the  message  is  what  stays  with  you.  I’ve  had  many  
“off-­‐days”,  in  fact,  as  I  write  this;  I  have  some  issues  I’m  dealing  with  right  now  in  my  
personal  life.  But  I  know  that  I  have  to  keep  “flossing”  which  simply  means  that  I  
have  to  stay  positive  and  keep  living  my  life  to  the  fullest.  You’re  going  to  have  off-­‐
days  in  your  life  but  how  you  handle  these  days  will  determine  how  soon  better  and  
brighter  days  will  come.  Don’t  sweat  the  hate.  If  you  want  to  overcome  life’s  
struggles-­‐get  your  mind  right,  keep  your  hustle  tight  and  put  up  a  smile-­‐that  gives  
off  pure  swag,  on  your  face.  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Play  to  Win  BIG  In  the  Big  Leagues  
 
Dark  Knight  feeling:  die  and  be  a  hero  
Or  live  long  enough  to  see  yourself  become  a  villain  
I  went  from  the  favorite,  to  the  most-­hated  
But  would  you  rather  be  underpaid  or  over-­rated?  
Moral  victories  is  for  minor  league  coaches  
And  'Ye  already  told  you  ‘We  Major’,  you  cockroaches!  
“So  Appalled”  
 
I  think  Kanye  West  is  one  of  the  great  artists  of  this  generation.  Immensely  
talented,  West  has  made  an  impact  on  the  music  industry  as  a  producer  and  MC.  
He’s  a  lightning  rod  for  controversy  with  supreme  confidence  in  his  talent-­‐  I  
definitely  see  some  similarities  between  him  and  Jay-­‐Z.  I  have  to  admit  that  I  don’t  
buy  rap  music  the  way  I  used  to  anymore.  There  are  only  a  handful  of  rap  artists  
whose  albums  I  will  actually  purchase.  Don’t  get  me  wrong;  there  are  some  good  
MCs  in  the  game.  When  I  was  younger  I  used  to  buy  everything,  but  nowadays  I’m  
much  more  selective.  I  buy  Kanye  West’s  albums  and  looked  forward  to  purchasing  
his  highly  anticipated  album,  “My  Beautiful,  Dark,  Twisted  Fantasy”  when  it  was  
released  in  late  2010.  
Jay-­‐Z  is  featured  on  two  songs  from  West’s  album,  “Monster”  and  “So  
Appalled”.  He  gives  a  solid  showing  on  “Monster”,  but  his  lyrical  performance  on  “So  
Appalled”  was  profound.  I  heard  about  “So  Appalled”  before  I  actually  heard  it.  
There  was  chatter  in  the  Hip-­‐Hop  community  over  lines  from  Jay-­‐Z’s  verse  that  
many  saw  as  a  diss  to  90’s  Pop/Rap  superstar  MC  Hammer.    
Word  on  the  street  (and  on  the  Internet)  was  that  Jay  ridiculed  Hammer  for  
his  infamous  financial  problems  that  culminated  in  bankruptcy  filing  in  the  mid  90’s.  
Hammer,  whose  career  flamed  out  right  around  the  time  that  he  filed  bankruptcy,  
apparently  felt  like  Jay  dissed  him  and  a  beef  between  the  two  ensued.  20  years  after  
“U  Can’t  Touch  This”,  Hammer  came  out  with  a  song  in  late  2010  dissing  Jay.  Jay  
thought  the  whole  thing  was  a  big  misunderstanding...and  funny.  So  did  I.  
What  is  so  ironic  is  that  while  fans  and  the  media  focused  on  a  few  lines  in  
reference  to  Hammer,  which  I  believe  wasn’t  really  a  diss  and  seemed  to  be  
accurate,  they  completely  missed  the  insight  Jay  gave  us  all  on  his  verse.  Frankly,  the  
idea  of  Hammer  going  up  against  Jay-­‐Z  is  a  joke  and  doesn’t  interest  me  at  all  .  I’m  
much  more  interested  in  what  Jay  had  to  say  on  “So  Appalled”  that  might  have  
relevance  to  my  life.  
The  lyrics  that  are  featured  in  this  piece  are  just  before  the  “controversial”  
lines  in  reference  to  Hammer’s  financial  troubles  in  the  ‘90’s.  Jay’s  Dark  Knight  
(Batman  film  released  in  2008)  reference  is  brilliant.  Success  is  really  a  tricky  thing.  
Everybody  wants  to  be  successful  and  welcome  the  praise  and  accolades  that  come  
with  success  but  there’s  a  darker  side  to  accomplishment.    
I  like  when  Jay  says,  “Dark  Knight  feeling:  Die  and  Be  a  Hero.  Or  live  long  
enough  to  see  yourself  become  a  villain.”  The  line  is  not  really  about  actually  dying.  
People  may  show  you  love  when  you’re  successful  (be  a  hero)  but  the  more  
successful  you  become,  the  more  some  will  hate  (you  become  a  villain).  People  love  
the  underdog  team  that  becomes  a  champion  but  hate  when  the  championship  team  
becomes  a  dynasty.  You  can  be  successful  and  receive  adoration  from  others  but  the  
moment  you  get  “too  big”  you’re  likely  to  face  jealousy  and  resentment.    
Jay  states  that  he  went  from  being  “the  favorite”  to  being  “the  most  hated.”  
When  Jay  was  an  up-­‐and-­‐coming  rap  artist  who  grabbed  the  ear  of  the  streets  with  
his  debut  album  “Reasonable  Doubt”  and  went  on  to  release  successful  albums  
subsequently-­‐he  became  a  fan  favorite.  He  certainly  became  mine.    
Jay’s  career  has  skyrocketed  within  the  last  7  years  or  so  when  most  MCs  
from  his  era  (mid-­‐late  90’s)  have  either  declined  or  disappeared.  Though  he’s  still  
loved  by  many,  nowadays,  he’s  a  polarizing  figure  in  Hip-­‐Hop  who  is  as  hated  as  he  
is  loved.  But  the  love/hate  dynamic  hasn’t  hindered  his  grind;  in  fact,  it’s  only  made  
his  career  stronger  primarily  because  he’s  been  able  to  put  things  in  proper  
perspective.    
“Would  you  rather  be  underpaid  or  overrated?”  
 
One  of  the  constant  criticisms  toward  Jay-­‐Z  is  that  he’s  overrated  as  an  artist.  
You  would  be  asking  the  wrong  person  if  you  want  to  know  my  opinion.  I’m  bias.  
Jay’s  my  favorite  artist.  I  can  still  be  objective  when  it  comes  to  his  artistry,  he  has  
flaws,  but  I  actually  don’t  think  he  gets  enough  due  for  lyrical  genius.  But  anyway,  
the  underpaid/overrated  rhetorical  question  that  Jay  asks  his  listeners  in  “So  
Appalled”  makes  a  critical  point.  It’s  more  important  to  know  your  true  value  and  
receive  what  you’re  worth  than  to  get  caught  up  in  receiving  recognition  or  how  that  
recognition  is  perceived.  Check  out  this  line:  
“Moral  victories  is  for  minor  league  coaches.  And  ‘Ye  already  told  you  “We  
Major”  [title  of  a  song  by  Kanye  West],  you  cockroaches!”  
This  is  not  only  a  clever  line  but  also  an  enlightening  one.  I  don’t  know  about  
you,  but  I’m  not  into  “moral  victories”,  I  want  to  win.  It’s  not  good  enough  to  just  be  
competitive,  at  some  point  you  have  to  be  able  to  take  it  to  the  next  level.  As  Herman  
Edwards,  the  former  New  York  Jets  coach  once  famously  said,  “You  play  to  win  the  
game.”  This  is  a  results-­‐driven  society.  I  think  Jay  is  telling  us  that  in  life  you  
compete  in  order  to  win,  to  get  results  and  to  create  change.  Get  out  of  the  minor  
leagues!  Step  up  your  game  so  that  you  can  compete  and  play  to  win  in  the  majors.    
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Follow  the  Footprints  of  Success  
 
I  walk  leaving  four  footprints:  
My  hood  sense  
My  book  smarts  
My  faith  of  the  unknown  
And  a  good  heart  
“Don’t  You  Know”  
 
Jay-­‐Z  has  given  us  his  “blueprint”  for  success  in  lyrics  from  songs  throughout  
his  catalog.  But  I  think  these  lyrics  from  “Don’t  You  Know”  sums  up  well  the  
compilation  of  qualities  that  Jay  has  effectively  used  to  overcome  struggle  and  
succeed  in  his  life.  Rarely  is  there  one  absolute  way  to  succeed.  You  can’t  rely  
completely  on  a  specific  strength  to  accomplish  everything  you  want  in  life.  No  one  
is  perfect;  we  all  have  flaws.  Therefore,  you  need  a  set  of  strengths  that’ll  outweigh  
your  set  of  weaknesses.  On  “Don’t  You  Know”  Jay  reveals  what  qualities  has  
propelled  him  to  success:  
My  ‘hood  sense  
Jay’s  street  smarts  helped  make  him  successful  in  the  streets  as  a  hustler  but  
his  experiences  in  the  drug  game  has  also  proven  to  be  useful  in  his  hustle  in  the  
music  game  and  in  the  legitimate  business  world.  I  didn’t  grow  up  in  the  ‘hood,  but  
let’s  just  say  that  I  have  gone  through  “experiences”  that  I  could’ve  avoided  but  
actually  ended  up  embracing  (at  least  after  the  fact)  because  they  helped  me  grow  
up  and  gave  me  the  “chops”  I  needed  to  be  able  to  handle  very  challenging  
adversities  that  have  arisen  in  my  life.    
I’m  not  saying  that  you  have  to  go  out  and  sell  dope  or  engage  in  other  illegal  
activities  in  order  to  be  successful  legitimately.  Having  a  ‘hood  sense  is  not  simply  
about  being  from  the  streets.  The  truth  is  there  are  a  lot  of  people  from  the  ‘hood  
with  very  little  street  smarts  at  all.  You  can  survive  a  situation  or  you  can  thrive  in  a  
situation.  Someone  with  street  smarts  is  really  a  person  who  can  adapt  to  different  
situations  and  hustle  at  a  high  level  outside  of  his  or  her  comfort  zone.  
My  book  smarts  
If  you’ve  read  Jay-­‐Z’s  memoir,  Decoded,  seen  his  interviews,  followed  his  
business  moves  or  listened  to  his  music,  then  you  have  to  acknowledge  that  he’s  a  
smart  guy  and  his  intellect  goes  way  beyond  what  he  learned  on  the  streets.  For  
those  of  you  who  live  the  street  life  and  that’s  virtually  all  you  know-­‐pay  close  
attention  right  now.  Your  street  smarts  are  a  valuable  asset  but  a  lack  of  book  
smarts  is  a  costly  liability.    
To  those  of  you  who  have  degrees  hanging  up  on  the  wall:  having  book  
smarts  is  not  just  about  being  college  educated.  I  strongly  encourage  getting  a  
higher  education  (I’m  pursing  a  college  degree  at  the  time  of  this  writing-­‐at  age  34)  
but  having  an  insatiable  hunger  for  knowledge  is  the  foundation  of  book  smarts.    
When  you  have  book  smarts  your  breadth  of  knowledge  is  greater  than  the  
average  person  and  gives  you  an  advantage  in  a  competitive  society.  Years  before  I  
pursued  my  college  degree,  I  sought  knowledge  beyond  what  I  would  normally  
observe  and  experience  in  my  day-­‐to-­‐day  life.  Someone  who  is  book  smart  is  not  just  
seeking  knowledge  to  boost  his  grade  point  average.  If  you’re  book  smart  you  have  a  
great  breadth  of  knowledge  that  you  can  utilize  to  accomplish  a  broad  set  of  goals.  
My  faith  of  the  unknown  
Jay-­‐Z’s  “faith  of  the  unknown”  gave  him  the  confidence  and  strength  to  
believe  in  himself  even  when  his  circumstances  were  gloomy  and  those  around  him  
had  doubts.  I  think  having  faith  of  the  unknown  requires  a  spiritual  connection  with  
a  divine  force  higher  and  stronger  than  self.  This  doesn’t  mean  that  you  have  to  be  
religious  in  the  conventional  sense-­‐  I  just  think  you  have  to  tap  into  the  power  of  
destiny  and  utilize  the  right  mindset  and  take  the  right  actions  to  fulfill  your  life’s  
purpose.  
Having  faith  of  the  unknown  is  paramount  when  you’re  caught  up  in  the  
struggle.  Before  your  mind  can  think  up  a  solution  and  before  you  can  take  action  to  
make  that  solution  a  successful  reality,  you  have  to  have  faith  that  there  is  indeed  a  
solution  to  your  life’s  problem.  Basically,  you  have  to  have  faith  as  you  go  through  
struggle  in  order  to  have  success  at  some  point  in  your  life.  Jay  tells  us  that  despite  
his  struggle  he  kept  his  faith.  For  me  personally,  the  struggle  to  succeed  is  an  all  too  
common  theme  in  my  life  but  I’ve  never  lost  faith.      
You  can’t  rely  solely  on  your  intellect;  neither  street  smarts,  book  smarts,  nor  
both.  You  need  to  have  unshakeable  faith  to  keep  you  moving  forward  even  when  
self  seems  to  let  you  down.  
A  good  heart  
When  Jay  speaks  of  having  “a  good  heart”  I  think  he  means  in  two  ways:  He’s  
seems  to  be  saying  that  he  has  a  positive  disposition  and  the  courage  to  “keep  
keeping  on”  in  the  midst  of  the  struggle.  Even  though  your  life  may  not  be  where  you  
want  it  to  be-­‐  are  you  optimistic?  Even  though  your  struggle  is  painful  and  seems  
insurmountable-­‐  are  you  strong  enough  and  brave  enough  to  make  it  through?    A  
lack  of  heart  creates  doubt  that  damages  your  faith  and  weakens  the  effectiveness  of  
your  intellect.  Having  heart  keeps  you  going  when  others  stop.  You  need  faith,  a  
broad  intellect  and  heart  to  overcome  struggle  and  succeed  in  life.    
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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