What Kanye West Taught Me About Drive

For my money, the greatest stage bombing of all time goes to Old Dirty Bastard of Wu Tang Clan for interrupting Shawn Colvin’s Grammy win for Song of The Year.

“I don’t know about you, but when it comes to the children, Wu Tang is for the children,” ODB exclaims after announcing that he bought a new outfit for the occasion.

Dirty was upset that his band was bested by Sean “Puffy” Combs in the hip-hop category.

He does concede that “Puffy is good,” before claiming that “Wu Tang is the best”.

If you haven’t seen it before, here it is.

While this is my favorite example of on stage interruption, it is certainly not the most famous.

No, that goes to my man Kanye West grabbing the mic from Taylor Swift during MTV’s Video Music Awards in order to proclaim that “Taylor is good, but (fellow nominee Beyonce Knowles) had one of the best videos of all time.”

This act of defiance by Ye got so huge that it led then President of The United States, Barack Obama, to call West a “jackass” for his actions.


While much has been made of the social overtones of West’s action, not too much has been discussed when it comes to his motivations.

Was he drunk? (He was uncharacteristically carrying a bottle of Courvoisier with him on the red carpet)

Was it simply hubris? (Kanye has certainly been known to champion his own greatness)

Was it the early signs of West’s now fairly publicized mental health battle?

It’s impossible to say definitively. But I have my own theory when it comes to Kanye’s motivation to storm the stage.

He was looking to make an enemy.

If you’ve seen the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls documentary “The Last Dance” or the movie “Unbreakable” you’ll see these same themes play out.

At a certain point, some successful people need additional drive to continue to be successful.

In Jordan’s case, he was unquestionably the best player in the league. So, in order to stay motivated, he would create stories in his head about other players disrespecting him. This allowed him to train and play remarkably hard during his entire career.

In “Unbreakable” Samuel L. Jackson’s remarkably fragile Mr. Glass creates a public catastrophe – a horrific train crash – in order to reveal his arch villain, an injury-proof security guard played by Bruce Willis.

Without these rivals (whether real, imagined or conjured) our heroes couldn’t be fully formed.

And this leads me back to West. I believe that after four blockbuster albums, Kanye simply needed a motive and a subject to create his next work around. So he became public enemy number one for a while. And subsequently created, in my opinion, the best work of his career. Filled with feelings and reflections about how it’s him against the world.

All of these examples take the practice to the extreme, but I do believe there is something for all of us to glean from them. That, particularly when intrinsic motivation starts to lag, creating adversity can be a positive driver towards your goals.

Training is a wonderful way of accomplishing this without actually having to target another human being. Let the weights or the rower or your run be a thing to conquer rather than, say, a songwriting sweetheart from Nashville.

And while I try to always bring these musings back to training, I think the actual takeaway is so much bigger than that. We can often find ourselves in a mindset of seeking comfort. Of wanting things to be simple or easy. To not be on the road to success but to be at success itself.

I believe that is a fool’s mentality. Show me someone who has easily met their goals without adversity – whether real or created – and I will show you someone who is not satisfied with the outcome.

It’s a strange thing about human nature. We so want to be at the top of the mountain but we absolutely need the climb. Without it, the apex feels hollow. It’s the very reason that most successful people create new mountains.

And my hope for you is that you can maintain that outlook not only in training but in every aspect of your life.

Because your goal should not be to arrive at a life that is easy. It should be to achieve the ability to persist in a life that is hard.