Sean “Puff Daddy, P. Diddy, Diddy” Combs is what many people like to call a Renaissance Man. He wears many hats as an entrepreneur. He is not only a rapper, but a record producer, actor and clothing designer as well. He emerged from the ashes of a life that many might have given up on to become one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry and worth an estimated $315 million. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t handed to him. So just how did he do it?
Sean was three years old when his father was shot to death in his car after a party. Growing up without a father was not easy on young Sean. His mother and grandmother worked hard to keep him off of the streets, determined not to let him get involved in a lifestyle like his father’s. He kept himself occupied growing up by participating in sports. At quite a young age when he made a deal with the paperboy in his neighborhood in which he offered to help the paperboy part time if the paperboy paid him. This helped him to see the potential he had with more money. After graduating from high school, he attended Howard University where he majored in business but gained a reputation for throwing parties and events.
While attending Howard University in Washington, D.C., Sean could not give up his business mindedness and between classes he ran a shuttle service for other students. When he met rapper Heavy D, he begged him to call Andre Harrell, executive of Uptown Records in New York City about an internship. Harrell gave him a chance and for some time, he traveled between the two cities, attending classes and working on his internship. He eventually dropped out of Howard University in 1989 without a degree, but continued to pursue his possible career through Uptown Records where he was eventually promoted from intern to A&R;, enabling him to work with artists like Mary J. Blige and Jodeci. This inspired Sean to start his record label, Bad Boy Records, in 1991.
Sean became rebellious while working at Uptown and running Bad Boy Records, so much so that Harrell had to fire him. “He was hot tempered, very passionate, very creative,” says Harrell, who now is a consultant to Bad Boy. “But Puff was like Dennis the Menace. Every now and then something would get broken.” His rebelliousness was the result of seeing his successes with his own label so Sean enlisted the help of his friend Christopher Wallace a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G. and together they managed to make Bad Boy a successful label and by 1994, Bad Boy was selling over 12 million albums and producing acts like Usher, TLC, Mariah Carey, Boyz II Men and Aretha Franklin.
Even though his entrepreneurial skills were turning him into a successful record producer, Sean always had a goal of being a rapper himself. In 1997, his song “Missing You”, a tribute to the late Notorious B.I.G., made Puff Daddy a household name and helped his album “No Way Out” win a Grammy for Best Rap Album. He also won the Viewer’s Choice Award in the MTV Video Music Awards for his hit song “It’s All About the Benjamins” But he wasn’t finished yet.
The music industry wasn’t the only industry he intended to tackle. Sean began making cameos on television and eventually made the jump to film in the 2001 film “Made”. The movie role that brought him notoriety as an actor was his performance in the 2001 drama “Monster’s Ball”. He starred in the Broadway play “A Raisin In the Sun” in 2004, which was made into a TV movie in 2008 that garnered some Emmy attention. Also in 2002, MTV enlisted Sean to help seek out new talent on the show “Makin’ the Band 2”.
Sean Combs still didn’t stop there. “I come from Harlem, New York,” he said, “and one of the things Harlem is known for is style, making something out of nothing.” He went on to tackle the fashion industry, targeting urban styles with his Sean John clothing and product line and bringing in about $400 million with his logo branded t-shirts, hoodies, baggy jeans and other clothing that he had hoped would expand beyond the urban niche. He endorsed his own products, helping to create a new attitude and lifestyle brand that could be easily identified by the urban culture he targeted. He directs the designers himself in a company that makes over 70 percent of its own clothes. He did what he had to do to make it happen. His ability to focus on a goal has been his greatest asset.
He knew that it was important to focus on more than just the goals. “I have learned to enjoy the ups for what they are, because those are the moments that feel like they go by the quickest,” says Combs. He realized the importance of harnessing the energy set forth by the small successes in order to transform it toward bigger goals. He made sure to utilize every moment to it’s fullest by doing his best no matter how small the task. He knew success would not happen overnight. “It takes time,” he spoke in an earlier interview from 2005. ” To make sure we take advantage of all the synergies…And that takes time. I’m taking the time to slow down, to strategize, to figure out where I want to be in five years.”
Fortune Magazine named Sean Combs One of the Most Influential Minorities in 2005, and even though Combs admits that other minorities such as Andre Harrell and Berry Gordy are among his most admired successes from the black community, he believes he should think outside of being a minority, aiming to be greater than the likes of Steven Spielberg and David Geffen. No matter what life was throwing at him, Sean never lost sight of his aspirations. He was never afraid to work toward his goals. He got involved in order to find out what was missing in the industry and what people were craving. He wasn’t afraid to take chances in order to be innovative. He truly felt that being creative and taking those chances was the real way to changing an industry that he felt was in need of a change.
Sean Combs is an inspirational example of what can happen when you really put your mind to it. When you focus on your goals and believe in yourself and what you are doing, no matter how small the task, it can eventually lead to bigger and better successes. His attitude towards his goals was one with no limits. “Keep on pushing the boundaries and reaching for higher heights.” (Sean Combs, 2005) Some might say he’s onto something.
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Tracie Rozhon (August 2005). Sean “P Diddy” Combes Sean John Empire. GNEXTING.com. Accessed 2008-06-24.
Evan Carmichael (2008). It’s a Rap: How Sean Combs Achieved Success. Evancarmichael.com. Accessed 2008-06-25.
Fortune Magazine (2005). The Most Influential Minorities. Fortune.com. Accessed 2008-06-25.