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5 Business Lessons from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air

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Answer by Ross Simmonds, entrepreneur & digital strategist

A successful entrepreneur strives to constantly bring a fresh perspective to every obstacle and challenge. They recognize their weaknesses and strengths and bring in a wide variety of talents to help their business grow and become as successful as possible. One of the most successful TV Sitcoms in history was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. They found success through a compelling cast of characters and a variety of awesome punch-lines.

Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a 90′s sitcom that was a hit sensation across North America. It kick started the career of Will Smith and provided us with the infamous Carlton Dance. While filled with humour and comedy, the show also offered us a chance to reflect on our own lives and learn a variety of key lessons.

Knowing these lessons for business can make you a successful person. Especially if you're an entrepreneur or business founder.

When I got started as an entrepreneur, the idea of telling a rich story was one of the many lessons I learned from studying the Fresh Prince. A few other lessons I learned from watching this show reflect on business as a whole and how I can optimize my life for happiness.

Let me share with you the 5 most important lessons I learned:

Get thrown out. Don't give up.

Everyone knew it was coming. We all waited for it, and we all laughed when it happened. The moment when Uncle Phil gets so annoyed with Jazz that he throws him out the front door, followed by the beloved "aahh" scream from Jazz.

Jazz is Will's best friend, and from season to season, he never stopped loving Hilary Banks, Will's cousin. She wasn't interested in Jazz but week after week, he showed up trying to win the girl of his dreams with smooth pick up lines and a variety of shenanigans. Every time Jazz would bug Hilary just a wee-bit too much, Hilary would call her fathers name and have Jazz removed from the building.

As an entrepreneur, you're going to be met with rejection time and time again. Personally, I have yet to become fully comfortable with rejection, but it's something I've learned to take in strides. The key is to no longer be afraid of rejection. Our fear of rejection comes from the fear of humiliation, imperfections, and self-perception. Jazz knew he has a strong chance of being rejected time and time again but never gave up.

As an entrepreneur, you need to recognize and embrace the idea of being rejected. In reality, it's going to happen. Mark Zuckerberg's team at Facebook was rejected by several banks when they were looking for investors and Oprah was rejected by several networks when looking for somewhere to do her show. The key is to use rejection to motivate yourself to prove people wrong.

Money rules everything. Hustle. Hustle. Hustle.

Will Smith & Carlton were always getting themselves into some kind of trouble. Whether it was Carlton becoming a gang leader or Will getting everyone hypnotized, these two were constantly pushing the limits of friendship. In one episode, Will and Carlton were tasked with taking Aunt Viv's most prized bracelet to the jeweler to be reset, but instead decided to sell it to a pawn shop to invest in a company that later went bankrupt. In order to buy back the bracelet, the boys get the brilliant idea of becoming male strippers.

As an entrepreneur, you need to be resourceful and be optimizing your revenue stream to keep the doors of your business open. Some of the greatest entrepreneurs have come very close to belly up but found ways to generate additional income to keep their business alive. An example of a resourceful CEO and team is the guys from Airbnb who bought a bulk supply of generic cheerios and made up these cereal boxes to generate seed capital for their startup. Here's how one of the founders Joe Gebbia describes it:

We made 500 of each (Obama O's and Cap'n McCains). They were a numbered edition on the top of each box, and sold for $40 each. The Obama O's sold out, netting the funds we needed to keep Airbnb alive. The Cap'n McCains ... they didn't sell quite as well, and we ended up eating them to save money on food.


As Fred Wilson put it, this is a story of pure unadulterated hustle.

Never forget where you came from

The Fresh Prince was born and raised in the ghetto of West Philadelphia before moving to the luxurious life of Bel-Air. Yet, he never forgets his humble beginnings and always felt connected to the city he called home. In one episode, Aunt Viv and Uncle Phil organize a cleanup effort in the riot-torn remains of their old LA neighborhood where they raised Hilary and Carlton before having Ashley and moving to Bel-Air. Phil flashes back to when they used to live in the community and how connected and committed he was to the neighborhood. He remembers how he promised that he would never leave the community and immediately starts to recognize the importance of continuing to give back in this way.

As an entrepreneur, you are good at what you do. Your mom knows it. Your customers know it. Your colleagues know it. And, you know it. That said, don't get too caught up in your success that you forget about your own humble beginnings and those who helped you find success. The moment you do that, the confidence that you had as you built your business will turn into arrogance. Take the time to help out others who can't necessarily help you, and give yourself the time to reflect on your past and those who helped you achieve success.

Always be ready to make the sale

One of the most memorable moments of Fresh Prince are the various pick up lines delivered over the course of the show. Whether it was Will attempting to sweet talk his way out of a jam or sweet talk his way into a ladies heart; the pick up lines were always fresh and delivered quickly. The Fresh Prince was always on his toes to make his elevator pitch to a woman with respects to his value proposition and what he could offer them as a mate. While some of the lines were ridiculous, others actually worked and demonstrated a clear understanding of his audience.

As a founder, you need to constantly be making the sale. When I say making the sale, I'm not referencing the importance of selling your actual product but I'm talking about selling your ideas, your vision, your team or your core value proposition (Click to Tweet). No matter who you interact with in business, a sale is being made. You could be selling someone on an idea about your business or selling them your business as a whole. One way or another, you need to identify the key lines that will connect with people and what your business's value proposition looks like. Understand who it is you're targeting and optimize this value proposition to act as the best pick up line possible.

As Ben Affleck in Boiler Room once said,

A sale is made on every call you make. Either you sell the client some stock or he sells you a reason he can't. Either way a sale is made, the only question is who is gonna close? You or him? Now be relentless, that's it, I'm done.


Haters Gonna Hate

Carlton was one of the most hated yet adored characters on Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Whether it was his corny jokes or silly dance moves, Carlton was always the butt of the jokes in the Banks household. Will would often make fun of Carlton because of his height or because he was challenged in putting the moves on the opposite sex. As much as they poked fun and teased him, it's not unusual that Carlton stayed true to his love of Sonny the Seal and Tom Jones. Carlton was comfortable in his own shoes and accepted and embraced his own differences.

As an entrepreneur, you will come across a lot of criticism. The biggest challenge an entrepreneur will face with criticism is in their ability to differentiate between constructive criticism (the good stuff) and destructive criticism (the haters). It's important to push yourself to understand and identify the difference. Constructive criticism is great for actually making improvements to yourself or your business. The destructive criticism has no value and is simply someone who doesn't want to see you succeed or is being negative.

If you're confident in what you're doing and are focused on providing value to your customers; ignore the haters. Focus on what you do well and embrace your strengths along with your weaknesses. We all have our little quirks and no one is perfect. As an entrepreneur, you need to have the confidence of Tony Stark to persistently push through criticism. While I haven't done the statistical analysis, I have a feeling the more successful you are, he more haters you have.

Conclusion

In different ways, Will and Carlton showed the world how it's okay to be different. Will embraced his street swagger and Carlton embraced his book smarts. No matter who you are or where you come from; you have an opportunity to be successful and stay true to yourself. But you also must commit yourself as a business and an entrepreneur to forever provide value. To forever create a desirable, useful, and meaningful product.

Forget failure - Create value and succeed.

What lessons have you learned from the Fresh Prince?
Do you have a favorite episode?

Ross writes at RossSimmonds.com, where he shares his ideas and thoughts on life, business, startups and marketing. Subscribe to his Newsletter to receive additional content not shared or published online.More questions on Young Entrepreneurs: