Whitney Houston’s meteoric rise as a young star and her long, slow downfall offer life lessons for all of us. Sadly, her battle with addictions, which may have played a role in her death, threaten to overshadow her incredible talent and many accomplishments.
Whitney reeled off a record seven consecutive number one singles, won six Grammy Awards, sold tens of millions of CDs, and inspired a generation of singers. Her version of “The Star Spangled Banner” sung before the 1991 Super Bowl will forever be the standard by which others are judged. Later, Whitney branched out into films and found success on the silver screen.
Her life became a case of perhaps achieving too much, too soon, and offers important lessons for young people pursuing a career in entertainment or any other industry, for that matter.
There are plenty of things that small business owners can learn from Whitney Houston’s life:
• There is danger in accomplishing too much too soon. Sadly, Whitney Houston became accustomed to the celebrity lifestyle that often includes drug use. Having too much money at too young an age can be dangerous. The lesson for small business owners is that while your startup may be booming, don’t let early success cloud your judgment. Your company may be flush with cash — from a VC, startup loan, your own savings, or your revenues — but don’t spend it extravagantly or foolishly.
• Invest in your talent. Years of drug and alcohol abuse damaged Whitney Houston’s golden voice. She squandered the great talent she had been given. Small business owners should take heed. If you have talented individuals working for your company, nurture them, invest in them. Keep that talent as long as you can. It will benefit you business — and your employee personally — in the long term.
• Branching into related fields can reap tremendous rewards. Once she had conquered the pop charts, Whitney Houston made a successful transition into films, notably with The Bodyguard, a 1992 film that grossed $121 million at the box office. The starring role wasn’t that much of a stretch from her core strength; Whitney played a strong willed music superstar. Entrepreneurs should look for opportunities to expand into related businesses, but remember not to divert too far from their core competencies.
• Know your strengths and weaknesses. Certainly, Whitney Houston was aware of her great talents, but she also realized that she made poor judgments. While recent interviews indicated that the singer understood that her demons hurt her, she simply couldn’t overcome them. Small business owners need to self-assess. Always understand and nurture the qualities that make your company successful. Equally important is the ability to recognize your weaknesses and devote your energy to overcoming them.
• Your personal life matters. Whitney Houston’s stormy relationship with husband Bobby Brown took its toll on her life and career. Small business owners must assess their own work-life balance, refrain from overextending themselves at the expense of their relationships, and avoid relying on bad habits when things don’t go well.
Entrepreneurs who start successful small businesses watch them grow and flourish. If a company is strong enough, it may outlast its founder. Often these enterprises become successful big corporations. Hopefully, Whitney Houston’s enormous talents will outlast the memories of her sad demise. Her life is now a cautionary tale for anyone who dreams of building something big and leaving a meaningful legacy.
Whitney Houston Photo via Shutterstock