William grew up in a very rough part of East Los Angeles. His family survived on welfare and food stamps, but so did everyone else in the neighborhood. Even so, William never felt poor or disadvantaged. He grew up with a sense of pride for what he did have: family, friends, and a creative mind.
With over thirty gangs operating nearby, their neighborhood was a difficult place to stay out of trouble. Other local kids drifted in or were recruited early, but William’s mother encouraged him to be unique and stand apart. By maintaining a sense of himself and staying out of the life, he earned the gangs’ respect, and they not only left him alone, but even looked out for his well-being.
William’s mother also sought a better education for her son, arranging for him to attend school an hour away in Pacific Palisades. Every morning at five a.m., she had William at the bus stop, knowing that the extra time and energy to send him so far would better prepare him for opportunities later in life.
At school, William’s energy and individual style stood out. He looked different, dressed different, and was always dancing and rapping in the hallways. The teachers recognized his potential as well as his attention deficit disorder. They encouraged him to ask as many questions as he needed. This kept him focused and on track, and he quickly recognized all the possibilities available to him that had never seemed attainable growing up in the projects.
The desire to better his family’s living situation was a motivating force in William’s creativity. By the time he and his friends were in their early teens, they’d started both a dance group and a hip-hop trio, performing at house parties and squaring off with other crews at local competitions. Every moment of the day was a chance for self-expression and working on their craft, from dancing at clubs to freestyle rapping while walking down the block. At age seventeen, William entered a freestyle rap contest and decimated the competition, immediately establishing himself as the best up-and-coming rapper in LA.
Soon after, William and his group were offered their first record deal on a gangsta-rap label. Even though it wasn’t their style, it was still a deal, and it would give them much-needed exposure. However, when the label suddenly folded following the death of its founder, the group found themselves in limbo. William reorganized the group, shifting the lineup and playing small events, but they received rejection after rejection from record companies and industry execs who didn’t appreciate their unique style.
Finally, they met a producer who recognized William’s unique genius. He knew within their first minute of conversation that William was one of those rare individuals destined for nothing but greatness. Signing with the producer, the band was given the chance to do what they’d been working toward since they were kids. Thus began an upward rise that eventually saw William and his group become one of the biggest musical outfits in the world.
William “Will.I.Am” Adams is best known as the leader of the Black Eyed Peas, a band that has sold an estimated 56 million records worldwide. They are the second-best-selling group of all time in download sales, with over 42 million tracks sold. Their fourth album was certified platinum four times in the U.S., and, in 2009 the group became one of only eleven artists to have ever simultaneously held the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, with the single "I Gotta Feeling" topping the chart for an unprecedented twenty-six consecutive weeks.
Leveraging his success, Will.I.Am also launched a non-profit called i.am.angel, an organization dedicated to transforming lives through education, opportunity, and inspiration. And he made history in 2012 by being the first artist to stream one of his songs from the surface of Mars. The song? “Reach for the Stars,” of course.
Will.I.Am is living proof that, regardless of what you’re born into, your tomorrow can be something entirely different, and you can make your life whatever you choose. The world doesn’t need people who only have opinions. It needs people who take action on what they believe and are willing to pursue their dreams. Now is the time for you to reach for the stars, and remember that the size of your dreams matter. The sky isn’t the limit when there are footprints on the moon.
Until next week...
Live Your Dreams