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Bustin' Loose: Life Lessons from a Music Icon

18 Jun 2012 | Posted Under Attitude

With all the political activity and big time events on Capitol Hill, the biggest event this week is the funeral service for Washington Music Icon Chuck Brown! (I’m honored to be one of the guest speakers.) His death was front-page material on The Washington Post and all local papers and the biggest news on all the local television and radio stations.

Some called him the president of the District of Columbia because of his impact on multiple generations of Washingtonians. His funeral is a two-day event with a full day viewing at the historic Howard Theater and a funeral service at the Washington DC Convention Center.  

Tom Goldfogle, his manager, was moved by the interview I did with Chuck on my Sirius/XM Show several months ago. We chatted about the lessons learned from his life.

I believe some of the nuggets I uncovered will help you in your success journey!  

Your Past Does Not Equal Your Future.
First, Chuck taught us that your past does not equal your future! Chuck grew up in poverty, dropped out of school and left home at the age of 13. He grew up on the streets of Washington, DC and eventually got into legal trouble. He went to jail and traded 5 packs of cigarettes for a guitar!

He had to decide whether he was going to be a success or a failure. He said to himself that he was going to be a success and was willing to work hard in order to live his dreams. While in Lorton Penitenary, Chuck did not see it as a place of incarceration, but rather a place to learn! He got his GED and honed his guitar skills. Your past really does not equal your future. You can live your dreams! Chuck showed that dreams really do come true!

Be Teachable.
Second, Chuck taught us that you must always be teachable; and pursue excellence. He came out of prison and started learning how to be a better guitarist and singer. He studied jazz guitar, blues guitar and different types of musical genres like Afro-Cuban, Funk, Soul, Jazz, R&B, Classical and Latin. He became a virtuoso on guitar and a world-class singer. Chuck kept learning and pursuing excellence! He created the Go-Go Sound and recorded music that blended all of the styles into hit records and world tours. You must never stop learning and pursuing excellence!

Age Is Nothing But A Number.
Chuck taught us that age is nothing but a number. So don’t let your age limit your possibilities. He kept working and pursuing his dream, past the age when people think you should retire. And at the age of 74, he was nominated for a Grammy Award with Jill Scott.  

Chuck said the key to his success in his senior years, was that he always believed you should stay positive and have faith that you can continue to live your dreams, no matter what age you are. He said, “People ask me when I’m going to retire. Well, I am not going to retire because I still have the desire, and have the fire, to take people higher…that is why I’m not retired!” Age is nothing but a number! So don’t let your age limit your possibilities.

Think Legacy.
Finally, from Chuck I learned you must have legacy thinking. You must not just think about your impact today, but more importantly for your children’s children and their grandchildren. He taught that you must be willing to plant trees that you will never sit under.  

There are four and five generations of people who listen to Chuck Brown and love his music. Plus, he made family a priority, loving his children and grandchildren. After our interview he told me he was on his way to Virginia Tech to see his sons play football. He never missed a game.

From Convict to Icon.
Chuck went from being a convict to becoming an icon! He said, “For years I hated having the police stop me and take me to jail and take my picture - my mug shot. Today the police stop me and ask me to take pictures with them!”

Chuck Brown taught us to have an attitude of gratitude and to live our dreams as long as we have life to live!

Rest in Peace Chuck; and keep “Bustin Loose!“ I’m sure you are in Heaven and they are all shouting, “Play it again…Wind Me Up Chuck!

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