Bruno Mars is one of those guys that just exudes cool. Anything Bruno does, wears or says looks and sounds cool.
He can rock any manner of hats, silk shorts and shirts that would look absolutely horrible on anyone else.
But when Bruno wears it? We all want to wear it.
Not only is he the personification of cool, he’s also super successful.
In 2010 at the age of 25, his single, ‘Just the Way You Are’ shot to #1 on the Billboard 100. This was his first single and it went straight to number 1. Crazy right?
Since then Bruno Mars has gone on to sell over 100 million albums & singles and currently ranks as the 33rd best selling artist of all time and the 12th best selling male artist of all time – and given he is only 31, he’s bound to be storming up these charts pretty quickly.
It’s this sort of success that makes it appear that Bruno was an overnight success, that he arrived as the full, complete package. And of course this couldn’t be further from reality.
As Tony Robbins is apt to say, ‘Success leaves clues’, and Bruno Mars’ journey provides 4 key learnings about what it takes to become a master at what you do – regardless if you are pursuing a career as a musician, speaker, author, entrepreneur or leader.
Lesson #1: Impersonate the Greats
I watch the best. I’m a big fan of Elvis. I’m a big fan of 1950s Elvis when he would go on stage and scare people because he was a force and girls would go nuts! You can say the same thing for Prince or The Police. It’s just guys who know that people are here to see a show, so I watch those guys and I love studying them because I’m a fan.
– Bruno Mars
At the age of 4, Bruno Mars was the world’s youngest Elvis Presley impersonator, travelling the world playing for audiences.
At the age of 15, Bruno Mars was a Michael Jackson impersonator. In fact he’s so good, that it’s hard to even tell that it’s not Michael Jackson performing.
What’s interesting is that while the advice ‘study the greats’ is common advice to anyone wanting to develop their skill and mastery of a discipline, Bruno took is a step further.
He didn’t just study the greats.
He learned their songs, their moves, their showmanship so intimately, that he could do it as well as they could.
Through impersonating the greats, he was deeply embedding what made them great within himself – he was applying the knowledge of his study to real world action.
Food for thought:
- How deeply have you studied the greats in your discipline?
- Do you know the greats tools & strategies so well that you can impersonate them?
Lesson #2: Develop a Diverse Personal Advisory Board
Bruno however isn’t one of the many impersonators that make a living travelling around cruise ships, and conferences impersonating other famous acts.
In most cases, these impersonators have mastered a single famous act. Bruno Mars had a different approach. He mastered as an impersonator Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Michael Jackson, and he also studied the work of Prince, The Police and others deeply.
What Bruno Mars did was consciously and intentionally develop a wide range and variety of masters to learn from, an ‘advisory board’ of the greatest musical acts of the past, which he could draw from in his own musical journey.
Bruno did this systematically, mastering one at a time with high focus, from Elvis, to Little Richard, to Michael Jackson.
And it’s not just Bruno who does this. Napoleon Hill in the best selling ‘Think and Grow Rich‘ writes about his ‘Cabinet of Invisible Counselors’:
Long before I had ever written a line for publication, or endeavored to deliver a speech in public, I followed the habit of reshaping my own character, by trying to imitate the nine men whose lives and life-works had been most impressive to me. These nine men were, Emerson, Paine, Edison, Darwin, Lincoln, Burbank, Napoleon, Ford, and Carnegie. Every night, over a long period of years, I held an imaginary Council meeting with this group whom I called my “Invisible Counselors.”
In Bruno’s case, rather than copy these famous artists as an impersonator, because Bruno has drawn from a diverse range of past greats, Bruno has been able to fuse these artists and their styles together to create his own unique brand.
A lot of people are really quick to say, “That song sounds like this.” Or you– “He’s tryin’ to sound like this.” And I’m always like, “You’re damn right I am. That’s how– that’s why we’re all here.” You know, we all grew up idolizing another musician. That’s how this works. That’s how music is created.
– Bruno Mars
After all as Picasso said, “Bad artists imitate, great artists steal”, and Bruno is a great example of this.
Food for thought:
- Who is on your personal advisory board?
- How are you fusing their diverse styles, and skills in your own life?
Lesson #3: There are No Shortcuts to Developing Mastery
When Bruno Mars first moved to Los Angeles, he was signed to the famous Motown Records at the age of 18, but was dropped after a year.
He could sing and dance like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson, but as Bruno describes it:
I don’t blame Motown. It’s simple – I wasn’t ready yet.
Bruno instead turned his hand to developing and honing his craft as a songwriter and a producer, because he’d discovered from his experience at Motown that:
You can have talent and music ability, but understanding what makes a hit pop song is a whole other discipline.
The result was that Bruno developed his ability to write hit songs and in 2010 he co-wrote and produced B.O.B’s hit ‘Nothing on You’, Travie McCoy’s ‘Billionaire’, and Cee-Lo Green’s smash, ‘Fuck You’.
So when Bruno finally dropped his own single, ‘Just the Way You Are’, he could sing, dance, and he now knew intimately how to craft a smash hit. It’s no surprise it went straight to the top of the charts!
Food for thought:
- Are you ready yet to reach the goals you’ve set for yourself?
- What key skills do you still need to develop, hone and master?
Lesson #4: You’ve Got to Constantly Push Yourself to Get Better Regardless of the Success
Despite Bruno’s success he hasn’t forgotten those lessons he learned about putting in the work to create something masterful.
In 2014, Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson released ‘Uptown Funk’ which became his most successful song to date, winning 2 Grammy Awards including ‘Record of the Year’, and reaching over 2BN views on YouTube making it the 4th most viewed video of all time.
In talking about the process it took to writing the song, Bruno shared that:
“Uptown Funk” took us almost a year to write. “Uptown Funk” was in the trashcan about 10 times.
A year to write a single song. Salvaged from the bin 10 times.
While Bruno makes producing hits, dancing and singing look incredibly easy, what becomes clear is the amount of work behind the scenes that makes this possible.
I was built for this. It’s dedicating yourself to your craft. Spending thousands of hours in a studio learning how to write a song, learning how to play different chords, training yourself to sing. You know, to get better and better.
– Bruno Mars
Food for thought:
- How much focused, undistracted time do you currently dedicate each week to honing & improving your skills in your craft?
- How many hours this year have you spent learning a new skill?
Bruno Mars had his first hit at the age of 25. But he’d been developing his mastery as an artist since the age of 4.
That’s over 20 years of dedicated focus to developing his singing, dancing, song writing, producing, and performing.
How long have you been honing your craft?
- Watch Bruno here with James Corden in Carpool Karaoke prove he can make any hat look cool!
- Watch Tony Robbins here talk more about how success leaves clues and how you can model success
- For more on Napoleon Hill’s ‘Cabinet of Invisible Counselors’ read this article here.
Hey, I’m Rowan. I’m the CEO of Art of Smart Education and I’m on a mission to help 1,000,000 young Australians answer the big question, “What am I going to do with my life when I finish school & how do I get there?”