How shutting up can advance your career


Say what you will about hip hop music or hip hop culture, but it saved my life. I started out doing radio where I played (primarily) hip hop, rode those coattails and my talent to a spot with one of the highest trafficked hip hop sites in the world and used the skills I learned there to help launch ambitious online ventures, rebuild others and tell stories on the public relations side of things.

Ain’t life grand?

I only bring that up because hip hop culture taught me a lot of the skills necessary to succeed in “the real world.” There are examples of consistency paying off in Bun B and E-40, both of whom enjoyed regional success for nearly two decades before getting shine nationally; and examples of believing in yourself against all odds (Master P’s deal with Priority Records immediately comes to mind).

Perhaps those will be blog topics for another day.

I’ve talked a bit about knowing your worth and being willing to walk away from a bad deal. The other side, is knowing when to play your position and take a back seat. Top Dawg Entertainment’s Isaiah Rashad is a perfect example of the latter.

For those not in the know, Rashad is the latest signee of the label that birthed the career of Grammy-nominated artist Kendrick Lamar. After making waves regionally, the Chattanooga artist was snatched up by the West Coast collective.

And the waiting game begins.

With five additional artists on the label, the 22-year-old will likely not get a look from the mainstream for some time. But that doesn’t mean he’s letting his career go from drive to idle. His 14-track EP, Cilvia was released earlier this month to critical acclaim and he’ll tour with label-mate ScHoolboy Q this year as well. During an interview with XXL, Rashad says the biggest lesson he’s learned thus far is the value of “learning to shut up.”

“Learning to shut up,” Rashad says, “learning how to be quiet, learning how to play the background and be the lil homie. I’m used to being the big homie with my friends, but I’m only 22 and these guys are hella older than me, so if anything it’s probably the best thing that could happen to me, being around some people who have been around forever, to just chill out, pick up stuff and pay attention.”

So what does this mean for non-rhyming, young professionals? At some point in time, you’ll reach a plateau in your career. Being the big person in your college or grad school organization doesn’t mean you’ll walk into your next role and take over. Know when to have a seat and know when and how to quietly build your skills so you’re ready to seize the moment.

And  most importantly, know when and how to connect with people that can take you to the next level.


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