Are you looking for some words of business wisdom? Try your Spotify playlist.
Most of us listen to music to get pumped up for a gym workout or to pass the time during a long car ride. But if you listen to the actual words in some hit songs, you may find some surprising nuggets of advice that are relevant to your entrepreneurial career and easy to take to heart.
Song lyrics distill important truths into easily digestible lessons. Sometimes, hearing something in an entertaining way can be enough to spur us into action. Consider the power of musicals. There are many business lessons in Hamilton songs, for example.
Wondering what other music can apply to the life of an entrepreneur? Here are eight songs that will get you thinking about business, with release dates ranging from the 1960s to the present and spanning genres from rock to rap.
1. ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra (1969)
Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” still holds intergenerational appeal over half a century after its release (even Gen Z probably knows this one). The song speaks of a dying man looking back on his life and feeling satisfied with how it turned out.
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
These are words to live by, especially when it comes to business. Building a personal brand that boosts your business while staying authentic to your core identity ensures a successful career that doesn’t come at the expense of your values. When you one day look back on all you’ve achieved, you want to be proud that you did it, well, your way.
2. ‘Started from the Bottom’ by Drake (2013)
This Grammy-nominated hip-hop track isn’t the cleanest on our list, but the lyrics tell a story that is familiar to many successful business owners and entrepreneurs.
‘Cause we started from the bottom, now we’re here
Started from the bottom, now my whole team [expletive] here
In the song, Drake recalls how he grew up poor and points out how far he and his associates have come. This isn’t an entirely uncommon trajectory. Indeed, a research paper co-written by a Chicago Booth professor found that approximately half of billionaires grew up in middle-class households while 20 percent grew up poor.
These findings — and Drake’s own journey — suggest that no matter your background, it’s possible to make it to the top of your sector. A few things you can do to get started on your path right now include learning how to set SMART goals in your business plan and how to get a business loan.
3. ‘For the Love of Money’ by The O’Jays (1973)
This 1970s R&B classic found a new audience when it served as the theme song for The Apprentice, a reality show famously hosted by future United States President Donald Trump. The 2000s TV juggernaut encouraged a cutthroat atmosphere among its contestants and the song’s lyrics reflect some of the sordid realities of the business world.
For the love of money
People will lie, Lord, they will cheat
For the love of money
People don’t care who they hurt or beat
To be sure, The O’Jays probably weren’t endorsing the themes often seen in The Apprentice — they did call money “the root of all evil,” after all — but you can’t argue with the content. Any veteran business owner can tell you about the times they’ve been cheated. The lesson here? That it’s vital not to let people take advantage of you or your services. Instead, you should charge interest and late fees on unpaid invoices and make sure you get everything that’s rightfully owed, even if it means resorting to debt collection.
4. ‘You’re the Best’ by Joe ‘Bean’ Esposito (1984)
Is there anything that encapsulates the 1980s better than The Karate Kid? During the film’s iconic fight montage, protagonist Daniel LaRusso’s girlfriend screams, “you’re the best!” before Joe “Bean” Esposito’s song of the same name starts playing.
Never doubt that you’re the one
And you can have your dreams
You’re the best around
Nothing’s gonna ever keep you down
This classic song talks about how you “gotta hang tough” and that “a man’s gotta learn to take it.” As a business owner or entrepreneur, you’re certainly going to take more than your share of punches. But the lyrics here also remind us that we should never give up on our dreams, even if we’re getting beat up by the economy, unexpected expenses or competitors. If you stay committed, in the end, you could be the “best in town.”
For more business-minded motivation, check out these inspirational quotes about success from influential CEOs.
5. ‘Rich Girl’ by Gwen Stefani (2004)
Perhaps there’s a bit of irony about a wealthy singer rhapsodizing about what it would be like to be rich. Nevertheless, Gwen Stefani’s “Rich Girl” soared to the top of the charts when it was released in the early 2000s. The song celebrates the material benefits of wealth, but at its core, it’s about freedom and financial security. In the chorus, Stefani explains how having more money would allow her to be independent.
See, I’d have all the money in the world, if I was a wealthy girl
No man could test me, impress me, my cash flow would never ever end
Becoming wealthy is undoubtedly a dream for many entrepreneurs, but going into business for yourself brings other benefits. Nobody can fire you and you decide for yourself how to run things. In many ways, achieving work-life balance is one of the rewards of working for yourself. If you’re looking to enjoy financial freedom like Stefani, check out all the ways you can get rich without a college degree.
6. ‘She Works Hard for the Money’ by Donna Summer (1983)
Another relative oldie on our list, Donna Summer’s ’80s hit was reportedly inspired by the singer’s encounter with a restroom attendant. Back then, there weren’t as many high-level jobs available for women as they are now. But that doesn’t mean those in lower-level jobs weren’t giving it their all.
She works hard for the money
So hard for it, honey
She works hard for the money
So you better treat her right
Many people see being an entrepreneur or a business owner as glamorous because they only focus on the results. What they don’t see is all it takes behind the scenes to maintain a productive small business. The everyday grind of working “hard for the money” is anything but glamorous, but it’s worth celebrating. That means showing appreciation for your employees and recognizing not only your own hard work but theirs too.
Besides music, other pop culture mediums have powerful business lessons to impart. Check out what you can learn from Emmy-nominated TV shows, movies from the 2010s and fictional businesses.
7. ‘High Hopes’ by Panic! at the Disco (2018)
Brendon Urie’s pop-rock hit encourages people to pursue their dreams and build something, even though it’s “uphill for oddities” and people who may be considered “weird.”
Had to have high, high hopes for a living
Shooting for the stars when I couldn’t make a killing
Didn’t have a dime but I always had a vision
One persistent theme among successful entrepreneurs is that many had to overcome doubt. Whether it’s internal insecurities or people questioning your abilities, business owners have to decide whether to stay the course or give up. Urie himself is a great example: As various band members left Panic! over the years, he could’ve called it quits. Instead, he kept the group going as a solo project, which is when “High Hopes” was released.
In the song, Urie says he “didn’t know how but I always had a feeling” that he “was gonna be that one in a million.” With his mother encouraging him to “be something greater” and “make a legacy,” Urie did just that even with the odds arguably against him. Most award nominations for Panic! came when he was left as the only member of the band. As with Urie and several other artists on this list, many business owners are solo acts. Whether you want to run a one-person business or become a freelancer, be confident that success is possible.
8. ‘Break My Soul’ by Beyoncé (2022)
In an age where the majority of workers are planning to quit, Beyoncé’s song about abandoning the 9 to 5 to live the life you want seems extremely fitting.
Now, I just fell in love
And I just quit my job
I’m gonna find new drive
Business owners often begin their entrepreneurial journey by starting a business on the side while continuing to work full time elsewhere. Beyoncé’s lyrics talk about reaching that breaking point and wanting a “new foundation.” If you’re interested in “buildin’ my own foundation,” you can follow these steps for quitting your job to launch a startup. There’s also a lesson here for those of you out there who have already taken the leap and are now employing people at your own business. Beyoncé complains that her job “work[s] me so damn hard” and “work[s] my nerves,” and that drives her desire to quit. If you don’t want your staff to feel the same way, consider the ways you might be driving employees away.