I’ve been thinking about what to say in this post for hours. I even went to the gym for a 60 minute trip on the elliptical, where I organized pithy statements and reflective musings into a treatise of sorts that I thought could suffice. However, as I sit here in front of my keyboard, the script I had configured has commingled into what will just be a series of truths that I hope you will all understand.
Soul Pop U was an accident, similar to how parents (or drunken lovers) often describe a child. A beautiful, all-consuming accident that very quickly brought joy, encouragement, empowerment, and love to the world. Because of this miraculous accident, I learned to work, to lead, and to love for the sake of others and not just myself. I learned what it means to fight, to sublimate ego, to think with creative energy, and to work to manifest creative energy into tangible reality. In a very short amount of time, Soul Pop U achieved so many milestones that we must take a moment to cherish:
1) We assembled the best legal team in the world at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton LLP to structure (and now re-structure) the organization in a way that achieves maximum impact for children, schools, and communities.
2) We won a four month petition with the New York State Department of Education to call the organization “Soul Pop U” - you’d be amazed at how hard it can be to convince an entity that our programs exist for enrichment, not grades.
3) Over 2,000 cold calls turned into enrichment programs for over 5,000 students across NYC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and Montgomery, AL (where we were covered in our first television special and featured in five magazines!)
4) Donors came together to raise over $15,000 to support our programming.
5) We were named Semi-Finalist in Echoing Green’s 2011 Fellowship for our contributions to social entrepreneurship, and I was nominated for Small Businessperson of the Year in NYC for my contributions to education in the area.
6) We met AWESOME students like Love, Kevin, Ebony, Shanice, Kayla, and Raj - who are going to be our communities’ and our country’s leaders some day. They gave me humility, and they gave me hope for this country and the young people who occupy it.
7) Hamptons Magazine named me a 2010 “Most Eligible Bachelor” (go figure).
8) I learned the power innate to creative energy, and the devastation that comes when you lose sight of it. This, perhaps, is the moment I cherish most from the last two and a half years.
However, these two and a half years are over. Today, I submitted a deposit securing my place in the JD-MBA Class of 2016 at Northwestern University. Over the next three years, I will earn a Juris Doctor from Northwestern Law School and a Master of Business Administration from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management. I am thrilled, excited, scared, nervous, grateful, and humbled. Most importantly, though, I am focused.
Deciding to matriculate at Northwestern has renewed my focus and given voice to the evolution of my dreams, my passions, and the contributions I want to make to this world. In my essays, I had to write about how I envision my short- and long-term career paths unfolding. Initially, I struggled, because I felt a sense of duty to the entrepreneurial journey on which I had started with Soul Pop U, but as I gave myself permission to write authentically, I found renewed creative energy for my original path. The path that gave accidental birth to Soul Pop U.
I am excited to re-commit myself to understanding the intersection of music, technology, and entrepreneurship and to leveraging relationships with pop artists and stakeholders in the record business to answer the question “what content delivery systems help artists help themselves?” It is my destiny to MAKE music. It is my destiny to DISTRIBUTE music. It is my destiny to lead by example. It is my destiny to be an advocate for artists to help them MAKE and DISTRIBUTE their respective destinies.
There are important business and legal implications to answering this question that I will get to examine while at Northwestern, but more importantly, I get the space to step back in to myself, back in to my destiny. Wrapped into my dreams of making and distributing music were love affairs with Soul Pop U - and a gorgeous lost soul of a person who seemed the perfect match for who I was then, a frightened, equally lost shell of a man unable to see his beauty. Between the three of them, my heart was broken. My dreams were broken.
I sincerely hope that none of you experience the brokenness I describe. IT WAS DEBILITATING. But from the broken pieces of what was…comes the construction of what will be. Today, I finally am learning to give myself permission to construct what will be. Broken pieces become whole again. They evolve, transform, and find their way back together to create something hopefully more beautiful than what it was originally.
And it’s with this in mind that I will put my pieces back together in Chicago. Through academia, entrepreneurship and creativity (it’s in my DNA), and self-reflection, I know that what’s to come will be far more beautiful than what has been.
Objectively, I still believe in children. I believe in disrupting the classroom, and place strong faith in technology and pop music to contribute to it. I continue to work with my team at Cleary to restructure Soul Pop U to handle some intellectual property and digital gaming ideas I have that will make a palpable difference in the way that kids engage technology to educate themselves. All donations that go to Soul Pop U are still tax deductible, and are being managed by a third-party fiscal agent, New York Foundation for the Arts. There the donations will sit in cash (or cash equivalent assets) and accrue interest while I solve the MAKE and DISTRIBUTE problems for artists.
To the kids, the schools, and the communities we’ve touched and who have touched us, I promise you. Soul Pop U will be back.
In the mean time, Change is Coming. Be on the Lookout.