7 Things Madonna Taught Me About Business

Madonna was on The Ellen Show this week. Something I wouldn’t usually care much about (the Madonna part… I adore Ellen.) But I tuned in and was much more intrigued by the performer than I have ever been.

See, being born in the 80’s means you know of Madonna and you’ve heard her music, but she’s not part of the era you lived through when you start to become impressionable about the arts. So I’ve never paid too much attention to her. Until this week when I realized just how much I could learn from her and implement into my business.

Madonna? A Businesswoman? Hell ya. That woman is a brand all. day. long. And that means she has a lot of wisdom when it comes to representing herself in the most professional and impressive way possible.

These are the 7 things Madonna taught me about business:

1. Channel your idols

When talking about really important moments in her career and how she composed herself to prepare to execute the best she could, Madonna talked about how she channeled her idols like Cleopatra and Elizabeth Taylor.

I thought that was some really interesting perspective because many of us who run a business probably have some inspiration that we can think of who we’ve pedestaled so high that it would actually calm us if we thought about what they would do in our situation. Channeling my idols is officially a part of my daily routine, ultimately helping me become the business owner I’ve always hoped I could be.

2. Make Connections, Especially when they’re deeply meaningful

Madonna, not ever meeting Ellen Degeneres in person, reached out to her in the days leading up to Ellen’s announcement about being gay. Not knowing her personally didn’t matter. It was all about Madonna wanting to let her know that she had the support of other strong women in the community, therefore making a lasting connection between them. Here is a quote from Martha Graham that Madonna shared in her letter to Ellen:

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.

It’s simple gestures like this that build a strong network of people you can trust and who will trust you. Personally. Professionally. Throughout your life.

3. Don’t complain. Be thankful.

When you’re interviewed, you’re constantly being asked about the hard times. The difficult obstacles that you overcame to get where you are. It makes sense because people want to know you had to go through it too and that you weren’t just handed an opportunity. I loved the way that Madonna explained these things in her career because it was always followed up by the fact that she’s not complaining because of how thankful she is for the good that comes from hard work and trials and tribulations. Don’t complain. Be thankful. Appreciate what you’ve accomplished.

4. “For anyone who cares deeply about what they do, nothing is ever quite good enough. And at some point you just have to let it go.”

Sing it, girl. This statement rings so true when you’re devoted to your work. And even though it is total common sense, many of us still don’t take the advice. Things are going to happen that you can’t control. Let it go. Learn. Do better.

5. Be kind. Even to those you’re not fond of.

Ah the Lady Gaga and Elton John comments. Everyone knows Madonna’s not a fan of even some of the most loved pop stars in the world. But does that mean she has to be a blatant ass about it every time she’s asked? No. She simply smiles and moves on, not dismissively but kindly. And even if you can’t be like that all the time (you know not even she is) you can remember that philosophy and come up much more mature in less-than-comfortable conversations.

6. Have the best team working with you. Then, brag about them and show them off.

On the show, Madonna claimed that she had the best dancers in the world. And you could tell by her expression she really, truly believed it. Then, they took the stage and showed off their skills, without Madonna fronting them. I thought this was such a brilliant reflection of how to work with others, especially when you’re their boss. Make sure you have the best working with you, do things to let them know it, and then show them off to everyone.

7. Be excited about your work, but be more excited about your family.

There was a moment when Madonna’s son came out on stage for one of Ellen’s funny stunts. The look on Madonna’s face when he came out was light years beyond what you saw for the entire show. You could really tell how proud she was to have her son with her and, like her fantastic dancers, show him off. A lot of times us business people get wrapped up and forget, briefly, what’s important. Why we’re doing this. Make sure you remind yourself every day. And get really excited about it.

Which advice inspires you to be better?


photo credit: Brayan E. Old Flickr via photopin cc