The first time I observed Pharrell Williams just “being himself” was in an interview. The main thing that struck me most about him, the thing that instantly differentiated him from 90% of most of the
other celebrities, was his genuine humility. The interviewer was in awe of him- that was obvious The interviewer’s mission was to find out what was the secret to his huge success. His song “Happy”, which is arguably one of the biggest hits in recent times, brought him to undeniable superstar status. However, his track record of artistic accomplishment long preceded that huge success.
But the interviewer seemed driven to find out his secret. Pharrell,in his typical generosity of spirit, plainly told the interviewer what he was looking for. Pharrel said that he does not really
take credit for his achievements. Most of the credit should go to his childhood teachers. Then he described in detail what these teachers gave to him. In a nutshell Pharrell said they gave him everything. In essence he said “no teachers; no Pharrell”.Then he used a an excellent metaphor to describe his personal belief system about his artistic development. He described himself as a kite and his teachers were the wind. If there is no wind there is no kite. What struck me most about this explanation for his success was its sincerity. This was not some line that a publicity agent wrote
for him. It was original. It was unique and it was delivered with such grace and peace that the listener was moved and enlightened at the same time.
But don’t box Pharrell into the artistic box alone. As a matter of fact, as far as Pharrell is concerned, he was always the kid who didn’t fit in the box; “I never saw any box in the first place”. (I love that!) Pharrell is accomplished in so many other areas of endeavor that to call him a Renaissance man would be a gross understatement.Here’s a short list of his current areas of involvement: Musician, Music Producer, Philanthropist, Fashion Designer, Media Mogul, Author, Furniture Designer, Jewelry Designer, Fine Artist, Textile Manufacturer, Tech Star, Gearhead, Architect.
So how does one man accomplish so much? There is no explaining genius, so I do not pretend to understand his creative process. But my research gave me two hints. First he told us that he starts his day with a shower and that’s when the ideas start to flow. But here’s the important thing: when he gets an idea (which he believes flows from his subconscious) he does not immediately start
critiquing it, improving it, editing it.He allows the idea to just be.He takes this idea as it is and does not let his ego disturb it. In other words, even in the deepest recesses of his thoughts he is humble enough to keep his ego out of it. He allows his inner life,which is bursting with vitality and new ideas, plenty of room to live, breathe and grow without tension, in perfect peace.
Amazingly his outer life utilizes this same “egoless” mechanism. He explained that when he is conversing with someone he is constantly trying to suppress his opinion (i.e. ego) in order to hear the other person. In an age when everybody is busy chatting and talking, Pharrell is using the bulk
of his communication energy to listen. What a timely and much needed lesson for our very talkative generation.
At the age of forty Pharrell has already given much to the world. But I suspect that his greatest legacy will be the person he has become. Maybe it’s this unique, creative person, not the artistic and commercial achievements, that will someday be his greatest gift to the world.