Scooter Braun – Family First
This is how the world’s biggest music manager, Scooter Braun, climbed out of his rock-bottom to make it to the top. What started as sweat, tears and hustle blossomed into a life of generosity and compassion, all because of one important piece of wisdom from his father.
You’re a liar. I was about 14 years old. My father came outside and I was shooting hoops in the driveway. The day before, I got grounded for lying.
He came outside. “I want to talk to you.” My Dad is kind of a force. He looked at me and he said, “Look, yesterday you lied.” I said, “I know, Dad. I’m sorry.” He goes, “No, no. We’re not here to talk about that. We’re here to talk about some truth that I need to give you. I always told you if you lied, you wouldn’t be successful in life, and that just isn’t the truth. Out of all my kids, you’re the one that I have absolutely no doubt will be successful in life. But you’re a liar. And you’re going to know it and I’m going to know it, and that’s just the way it is.” I just broke down crying.
I went in the house later and I said, “Look, I thought about it, and I’m going to go through life and I want to be a man of integrity. And it might be harder to be successful, but I’m not going to be a liar. And I’m going to show you that I’m going to have integrity in everything that I do.” He smiled at me. He goes, “Good decision.”
My dad was a refugee in the United States from Hungary, and my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. Both of them just really fought for everything that they got. I felt very guilty that I was the first person in my family to grow up with any kind of means. In a weird way, it kind of put a chip on my shoulder that I wanted to prove to myself, to the world, to my family that I could build something on my own. Most of the great advice I ever got was from great parents, not from great businessmen. He taught me there’s a difference between winning and truly winning. There’s a lot of people who win in the outcome, but because they don’t understand that living with integrity is a different kind of winning, they never understood how they actually lost.
I only lasted in college for a year and a half. I started my business my freshman year. I did that for three-and-a-half years and I had all these ideas about social media and no one was listening to me. Music artists were at their biggest when there was a feeling of self-discovery. For these kids, it was social media. By starting my own record label management company, I signed a kid off MySpace named Asher Roth.
Then four months after finding Asher, I went on YouTube and saw, by mistake, a kid singing who had 60,000 views in his church in Canada. I was so blown away with by what I saw. I knew I could make this kid one of the biggest artists in the world. I just knew instantly. That was Justin Bieber, a 12-year-old singing in a church. I called every school district in that part of Ontario until his mom called to get rid of me. I convinced her to get on the first plane she and he had ever been on.
I had saved money for about 13 to 14 months before I knew I was going broke. This was probably month 11. I ordered a pizza and I had to get out $11 in change from a bucket of change I kept dropping every time I came to my house because I had no money. I had Justin and his mother. I was paying their food bills, their electric bills. I was paying everything. I was trying to build this company. Everyone in Atlanta thought I was winning, thought I was successful. But I knew the truth.
My dad just called me to say, “Hey, what’s up? What’s going on?” One thing led to another and I just broke down hysterically crying on the phone. “Dad, I’m going to be a failure. I’m a joke. No one knows, and everyone’s about to find out.” My dad said, “You came this far. See it through.” I kind of wiped off my tears, said, “Okay.”
The next day, Asher Roth came to my house, played me a song called “I Love College,” and I instantly knew what to do. Within a month, I was able to get us a publishing deal for a million dollars commission. It saved my company. That was the first time I really understood that tomorrow comes. That the line … The homes of success and failure are next door to each other. That if I would have given up in that moment, I would have never known that success was waiting for me next door.
To me, that is success. It’s who’s going to keep swinging. We define, oh, you’re successful because you’re rich. We decide our eligible bachelors based on net worth. We should be looking at success as a very different thing. Are we happy? Do we have quality of life? Are we surrounded by loved ones? Are we able to take time to actually enjoy the victories? Do we even know what the victories are?
Yes, I know what haters say. “Easy for you to say this.” “You’ve already had success.” “You have wealth.” “You’re not dealing with what I’m dealing with.” But I have once. I was there. Now I can tell you that with all the monetary success I have, if it wasn’t for my wife and my children, I’d be so lost. Family and friends, that’s your real value. Each birthday I have, I don’t look around and say, “Gosh, I wonder how much money I got.” No. I look around and say, “God, look at the people I’ve collected in my life. Look at the family I’ve collected.” The rest is just house money.
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