I know you’re probably thinking…”Al, are you a Justin Bieber fan? Are you a “belie-ber”? Well, not especially but I was always interested in his story. Perhaps some of you know that he was discovered on YouTube and from there became a pop music superstar and is known all around the world.
I had heard about that too but I knew there had to be more to his story. What was so special about Justin Bieber? Was he just the first to put his music online? Did he and his parents have a marketing strategy from the beginning? Or was he just simply in the right place at the right time?
As I was intrigued by all of these questions, I recently watched his documentary called, “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” to find the answers. I must say that I really enjoyed the movie but in addition to that, I was able to pull out three valuable lessons that we can learn from Justin’s success and apply it to ourselves as English language learners.
Would you like to know what those lessons are? Great! Let’s dive in!
What is “Never Say Never” about?
As I mentioned earlier, this is a documentary that was made in 2010 (5 years ago at the time of this post). It follows Justin Bieber on his tour of the U.S. leading up to the biggest show of his life at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
The performance scenes are mixed with scenes from his life story which starts from his childhood. We learn about his natural musical talent from a very young age and how he loved performing in front of audiences at any opportunity he could get. His mother, Pattie Malette, says that she posted his videos on YouTube so that other family members and relatives could see him perform.
Shortly after, he became a musical sensation as thousands of people began to watch his videos from all over the world. They even caught the eye of musical producer, Scooter Braun. The rest is history.
Of course, there are lots of other details that led to Justin’s success so I’m going to write about three very important lessons we can take away from his story and apply in our lives.
So, here are the 3 Things I Learned from “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never.”
Lesson 1. Put Yourself Out There and Take Risks
Let me first explain what I mean. “Put yourself out there” means to go out into the real world and apply what you’ve learned. A lot of us spend a lot of time studying English and learning idioms and phrasal verbs, but for what purpose? Are you actually using them in your everyday life?
My students, at least, tend to stick to familiar phrases and don’t try new things they’ve learned. The ones that do try to use new expressions and grammar patterns either find success by using them correctly, or using them incorrectly and getting quick feedback so they can adjust for the next opportunity.
In the movie, Justin Bieber discovered his love for music at the age of three, particularly playing the drums. With the help of his mother’s and grandparent’s encouragement, he started to play with a local band in their concerts (yes, this is in the movie).
When he got a little older, around twelve years old, he started to play the guitar and sing on the steps in front of the local theater. He entered a talent contest and came in second place to another girl.
Did he get discouraged and quit? Absolutely not. Instead, he became motivated to be even better. In other words, he continued to “put himself out there” and “take risks” in order to build up his confidence and ability. In the process, he became very comfortable performing in front of large audiences as well as developing his musical talents.
You can do the same.
Take advantage of opportunities to practice English. Create your own opportunities to use English and practice as much as possible. Through this process, not only will your English improve, you will feel more and more comfortable speaking with lots of different people.
Here’s a clip of Justin performing on the street and in a local talent show:
Lesson 2. Have a Good Team Around You
One thing I noticed about Justin Bieber’s success is that throughout his life, he has had positive and encouraging people around him.
In his childhood, he lived with his mother and spent a lot of time with his grandparents. From what we can see in the movie, they supported his love for music and encouraged him to pursue that passion.
Once he was discovered by producer Scooter Braun, Scooter quickly gathered a team of people to help guide and support Justin’s music career. Everyone from his voice coach to make-up artists, guitar players, backup dancers, and even his childhood friends, were with him to keep him focused, give him tough advice at times, but most importantly, be a positive influence to him at every step.
Justin was also introduced to the pop artist Usher who he impressed with his talent immediately. From that point he was able to connect with some of the biggest artists and producers on the planet. In the movie, we see Justin perform alongside Boyz II Men, Miley Cyrus, Sean Kingston, Ludacris, and Usher as well as hear praise from legendary producer L.A. Reid.
When we see Justin perform in the live shows, it’s hard not to appreciate the raw talent and fearlessness he had at age 16. But he couldn’t have put on the shows he did without a strong, supportive team behind the scenes.
You can do the same.
Get positive people around you as soon as possible! I don’t care what it takes. This is such a powerful point, I can’t stress it enough. If you have negative people in your life who discourage you or don’t understand or don’t support your dream, you will not succeed.
Find people who share your same goals and connect to them. Identify people in your life on a regular basis who are bringing you down or holding you back. If you feel that they are not allowing you to follow your dream, you may have to consider breaking ties with them.
This is your life. Your one and only shot in this world. Don’t waste it by being around mediocre people. Find excellent people who want you to succeed and walk into your bright future with them.
In this scene, his vocal coach, manager, mother, and doctor have to give him some tough advice to help make sure his long term future as a musician is kept safe:
Lesson 3. Dream Big and Add a Deadline
In a very memorable scene in the movie, Justin’s manager Scooter is telling the story about how he and Justin went to see Taylor Swift perform at Madison Square Garden the year before.
After seeing Taylor perform, they had the following conversation:
Scooter: Yes, I believe you can do this.
Justin: No. I mean I can sell out Madison Square Garden in a year. I don’t care how hard I gotta work.
One year later, when tickets went on sale for Justin’s “My World Tour”, the concert at Madison Square Garden (MSG) sold out in 22 minutes. He became the youngest person ever to sell out MSG at the age of 16.
So, how did he achieve this goal?
Was it wishful thinking? Or did he put together a plan and work hard? Of course he wasn’t starting from nothing, but in the following year that led to his MSG concert, he began promoting and performing at any chance he could. He went on any pop music radio station around America and Canada that wanted to have him as a guest.
Having a dream is great. Having a dream without a deadline will likely turn your dream into simply “wishful thinking.” Justin clearly said he would do it within a year. This turns the dream into a clear goal.
You can do the same.
Let’s say you want to study or work in another country where you can use English and meet lots of new people. Many students I talk to have a dream like this. How many actually achieve it? Not too many.
But, YOU are watching the English 2.0 Podcast and reading the English 2.0 Blog so you know how to make this dream into a reality.
Set a deadline. If you want to go abroad to study or work, think of a realistic time you think you could achieve it by. Once you set the deadline, you can work backwards to plan out all of the action steps you need to take in order to reach the goal.
I have seen students get jobs overseas and get accepted to study abroad programs at universities. What do they have in common? They set a deadline and start taking action towards that goal. There is a clear reason for their success.
Here is the scene from the movie:
If you want to achieve something excellent, something big that will change your life, here is your action plan:
1. Put yourself out there and take risks. If you want to find a job overseas, find out who you need to contact and what kind of visa you will need. Start networking on places like LinkedIn and Twitter, that are free to join. If you want to find people to speak with, connect with new people on Meetup or Couchsurfing. Yes, there are risks but without taking action, you are unlikely to achieve anything excellent.
2. Have a good team around you. Get out a sheet of paper and write down a list of the five people you spend the most time with at the moment. This includes family, relatives, friends, teachers, anyone. Once you have that list, start with person number one and ask this question:
“Is this person AFFECTING me positively? Or INFECTING me negatively?”
There are only two choices. There is no middle. If the person is a positive in your life, spend more time with them. Share your goals and dreams and let them encourage you and motivate you.
If the person is a negative in your life, consider spending less time with them or cutting communication altogether. Your time is limited. Don’t waste it being around negativity. You will not achieve excellence with unsupportive people in your life.
Surround yourself with people who will support you, be critical of you in a positive way, and give you helpful feedback in line with you dreams. Think of these people as your “success team.”
3. Dream big and add a deadline. Make sure your goal is clear so that anyone can understand it. You should also know what the results will look like when you have achieved it. When you have a deadline connected to your dream, you are more likely to achieve it. Set a target date by which you want to reach it and make a list of actions you need to take.
I found “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” to be a very enjoyable film. Whether or not you are a fan of his music, there are some valuable lessons we can learn from his success. I hope you take these suggestions and apply them to your life as well. I believe everyone can achieve great things in the world. I can’t wait to hear about your stories of success!
Question: Are you a fan of Justin Bieber? Why or why not?
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