10 Nipsey Hussle Quotes To Help You Level Up In Life

By Dr. Christine Izuakor

On March 31st 2019, the world lost a legend. People across the globe, some who knew Nipsey Hussle well and many who never met him, continue to mourn the devastating loss, myself included. Based on the world’s reaction, it’s evident that he left a lasting impression on many. He lived with purpose. He lived with integrity. He lived to support others. While he inspired millions during his time here, it’s not over. His spirit lives on.

His brand is The Marathon, a race that continues. I’m committing to doing all that I can to take the baton and run my leg of the race to further spread his message and wisdom. With this in mind, I began to reflect on many of his lessons and how they apply in different areas of life. Here are ten quotes from The Great Nipsey Hussle that, no matter where you are in life can help you level up.

1. “If you look at the people in your circle and don’t get inspired, then you don’t have a circle. You have a cage.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

This is such a powerful statement. Smart people surround themselves with people who are even smarter, more ambitious, and more accomplished than they are. Doing so breeds an environment of continuous, growth, inspiration and elevation. Otherwise to Nipsey’s point, you may end up stuck. I’ve had many friends during my lifetime. As I continued to level up, some friends chose to remain in the cage and some friends chose growth. Those who chose growth inspired me, and are still in my circle today. This also doesn’t mean those who chose the cage were wrong or abruptly cut off. We simply had different priorities and I found that a natural distance developed. No love lost, but much growth gained.

I also learned that if I am not confident in myself, it can be intimidating to be around so many people who are doing epic things. If I was ever intimidated or threatened instead of inspired by people around me, I stopped quickly and asked myself why. I struggled with this A LOT early in my career. I found that there was insecurity behind it. Any intimidation or jealousy was out of my own internal struggle with self-worth, self-doubt, and the damning quest for external validation. Once I identified these things, I could work on it and grow.

2. “Instead of trying to build a brick wall, lay a brick every day. Eventually, you’ll look up and you’ll have a brick wall.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

We often publicize our wins and keep the struggle filled portion of the journey hidden. Social media has been great at showing us the end product and perfect ending, without sharing the often slow and taxing path to get there. It makes some people question why things aren’t happening quickly for them – especially when it comes to making more money, getting better jobs, finishing school, and more. From Nip, I learn that whether in my career, relationships, or any other areas of life…consistency wins. I’m reminded to take it one day at a time, one move at a time, one goal at a time, steadily. Epic things usually don’t happen overnight, but with this constant bricklaying and patience, slowly but surely I’ll get where I am going.

3. “Most important thing to get rid of is doubt. If you got doubt in what you’re doing it’s not going to work”. – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

I struggled with self-doubt quite a bit in my life. I felt I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough to succeed. Those doubts had a positive and negative impact on me. I worked hard to educated myself so that I felt “smart enough,” I embarked on a successful weight loss journey, and more. However, I also had to realize that with our without those things, as a human being, I am enough. I don’t need to overcompensate for things I feel that I am lacking. The answer all along was to simply understand myself, love myself, and be okay with being me.

4. “I just believe in ownership. I believe in investing in yourself – your foundation should be strong.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

The most successful people in life are eternal students and lifelong learners. I know I will never reach a point in life where I know everything, but I take ownership of learning as much as I can in life. Therefore, investing in myself and my continuous evolution has become a critical key to success for me. This isn’t just about degrees and books. My self-awareness efforts and ownership of who I am as a person has helped me set a solid foundation for greater contribution to the world.

5. “Some times you have to take two steps backward to take two steps forward.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

Some people don’t like to hear this one, myself included. I am all about progression. One of my mottos has always been “only up!”. However, this wisdom from Nipsey couldn’t be more real. We are going to get knocked down; we are going to get pushed back; we are going to have to start over sometimes or rebuild. From my experience, I’ve always come out stronger, and eventually, all of the setbacks begin to make sense. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. I walk in faith knowing that while I can’t see ten steps ahead, my God can. He guides my moves today, in accordance with a vision he sees that I can’t yet.

6. “Luck is just being prepared at all times, so when the door opens you’re ready.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

I don’t believe in or rely on luck. I believe in making deliberate moves and walking with intention. I do all that I can to be prepared for what’s coming next. Whether it’s a career goal or mission in another area of life – I can only blame myself if the opportunity I’ve wanted presents itself and I am not ready to take it. This has happened to me once and is probably one of the most frustrating moments in my entire career. I had no one to blame but myself for not being ready. Stay ready, so you don’t ever have to get ready.

7. “I’m focusing on music, but I still got a cold library of books that I’ve either read of I plan on getting to.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

I used to say I didn’t like reading. I am ashamed to even admit that. There is so much knowledge out there – knowledge that can change the trajectory of your life. The most dangerous position you can be in is when you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s an absolute blind spot. Books cannot only help you strengthen the areas you do already know, but it can also help you discover what you don’t even know you don’t know. Think about how powerful that is…

8. “On a mission, your worst enemy is idle time.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

We all have the same 24 hours and how we use them is up to us. I know that I can never get the time back, and so I always cringe at the thought of wasted time. I cringe at the thought of not maximizing the time that I have on this earth. This had led me to obsess over time and is probably one of the greatest enablers to my success. I started keeping track of how much time I was spending idle on a train, in an uber, in my car, on social media, watching tv, etc. How else could I be using that time towards my mission? This helped me cut out a lot of wasted time in my schedule. A key part of this though, is having a mission that motivates you to put your time towards better things. If you don’t have a mission, it’s easy to squander time unintentionally. So, if you don’t have a personal mission start there.

9. “And it’s possible to monetize your art without compromising the integrity of it for commerce.” – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

The way I view this, we are all forms of art. Our minds are art. We monetize ourselves (and our gifts) by working for and contributing to our jobs, selling our skills and our content, etc. As I do that, I always have to remember my values and what I stand for. Corporate America, artist managers, agents, your family, etc. may try to change you for better sales. Yes, I included family in this because your family can try to change you out too. For example, parents forcing their children into a familiar career path, telling them who to marry, teaching them to put cash under a mattress instead of investing money – family can compromise your integrity if you let them. I’ve always tried to remain true to who I am and know the difference between adapting to situations and fully losing myself through conformity. I know my core values and I don’t budge on those for any amount of money or acceptance at work or at home.

10. “I taught all my (people) how to fish. Some caught more than others. Some said they rather be fed. Some passed me up in the process. But at the end of it all, I know I ain’t hide the game from my people and I’m real for that. – Nipsey Hussle, The Great

This doesn’t require much explanation, it’s so real and clear. My goal in life is to inspire people to reach their full potential.  I do so without fear that someone will surpass me or use my skills to “outdo” me. To fear that my lessons will empower others to surpass me, means that I don’t believe in my own potential which couldn’t be further from the truth. So, if I help you and you pass me, I’m celebrating. Congratulations on succeeding for all of us!

Long Live Nipsey Hussle, The Great

3 tips to help you book public speaking gigs.

Last week, I had to honor of speaking at the largest cyber security conference in the world for the second year in a row. An estimated 50,000 people attended this year, and to be selected as a speaker can sometimes feel like trying to get into an IVY league university. Tons of people try, but only a select for make it. A question I get often is, “how did you start speaking at events like this?” Like most things in life, the simple answer is hard work. But, that doesn’t say much so here are 3 things to think about if you eventually want to hit a main stage.

Get comfortable with speaking in public. Early in my career, public speaking was absolutely TERRIFYING. I’m an introvert, and I was super shy growing up. The thought of speaking in front of people made me nauseous, and I would literally shake every time I had to present in my high school speech class. Like any skill, practice is what changed the game for me. I remember my first speech vs. my last speech in that class. I went from shaking like a stripper to a subtle “I feel a breeze and don’t have a jacket” kind of shake. I wasn’t perfect in the end, but I was much better. To continue improving, I joined a local Toast Masters next. It helped to practice, but I was still terrified and started avoiding the meetings. I needed a learning method that I couldn’t escape, and so I started signing up for real speeches – at work, at school, anywhere that would take me. I knew that being under pressure would help me commit and learn.

Determine your unique value proposition. It’s important to think about what you have to offer and why you want to speak in the first place. If you don’t have something to say, it’s kind of hard to book a speech. Think about your experiences, how they are unique, and how others might learn from them. Have you done something in your industry that people could benefit from hearing about? Have you researched a topic and gained new insight? Is there anything you think you can teach a certain audience? If so, share it!

Start somewhere. The first major speech I can remember delivering was during my Ph.D. program. I submitted a  research paper for publication in an international journal and ended up getting invited to present it in Rome, Italy. I prepared like a madwoman, and I delivered.  From there, I continued to submit papers and that year ended up presenting in Washington, DC, Chicago, and more. Eventually, as people watched me speak in certain places, they invited me to speak at others. Before I knew it, so many people were knocking on my door. Once you deliver a great speech to the right audience, magic happens. A key tip is that no matter how small a speech is, give it your all! You never know who might be in the room. I’ve spent a week preparing for a speech only to see 3 or 4 people show up in the crowd. I was a little disappointed initially, but one of those people came up to me after and asked me to present in London and in other places. No matter what, do you best!

You can see examples from my public speaking journey over the years here: Booking Christine.

How I learned to be okay with bringing my full self to work in Corporate America

When young professionals enter Corporate America for the first time, especially first generation corporate workers, the transition can be somewhat overwhelming. There are so many unwritten rules, biases, perceptions, and challenges you end up facing no matter who you are or where you come from. For me, one of my biggest challenges was being able to be my true self at work.

After 8 years in corporate America, I am finally at a place in my career where I am totally comfortable being myself and have learned that the great companies actually celebrate the very qualities I was trying so hard to suppress. You see, I am a somewhat reserved Nigerian girl who will take on any challenge head on and either dominate it or fail fast and learn quickly. I am also an avid philanthropist, social butterfly, scholar, world traveler, hip-hop lover, fashionista, and diversity advocate. Yet, early in my career I didn’t really plan to bring most of these traits to work. I didn’t want them to jeopardize my career in any way. So much so, that I work very hard to separate the two. I had two very different personas both in person and online. I went to work wearing a “mask” that helped me blend in as much as possible, and I cringed at the thought of anyone I work with seeing me outside of the office. The effort that it took to be two different people at work vs beyond become exhausting. As time passed, I realized that I could not do my best work if I was trying so hard to hide who I am.

How my employer of choice made a difference

Thankfully, I work for a company that increasingly makes a conscious effort to honor and celebrate diversity. Whether it’s through business resources groups or general events where employees have an opportunity to share their cultures with others, as each day passes I feel more seen for who I am, understood, and valued by my company. For example, my employer hosted a global diversity celebration where employees were able to set up booths representing their counties of origin. From Nigeria and Ghana to Mexico and India, the festival was filled with so many vibrant colors, tantalizing scents from international dishes employees brought in, music and cultural performances, and much more. Employees even came dressed in their native traditional clothing.

Can you imagine, a young Nigerian woman who was once afraid to let people in … bolding showing up to work in corporate America looking like a extravagant queen in a traditional abuba and a head tie? It was a magnificent feeling! Even more awesome, was the fact that this was celebrated by my corporate family! The experience always makes a huge difference for me and all who attend because it creates a greater sense of belonging and understanding between us all.

It’s  also important to remember that diversity is about much more than cultural differences. For example, this year the diversity and inclusion team took the event a step further to celebrate people with disabilities. We had the pleasure of watching an interactive dance performance from a deaf dance duo, and even learned some sign language in the process. This was very informative for me to understand how deaf people can feel music even when they can’t hear it.

I would encourage all companies to continue to find ways to empower your employees to trust in you and bring their full selves to work. That is where the magic happens!

What I did personally to further evolve

My employer didn’t always have the aforementioned programs. In the beginning, I started my evolution through self discovery and trial and error. I found that the most important first step was learning who I am. You cant bring your full self to work, if you don’t even know what that means. I had to really think about my values, what was important to me, what I willing to compromise, and what I’d be willing to walk away for. This can be tough to identify, but it’s extremely important. For example, I absolutely love fashion so much so that if I worked in a place that required “boring” uniforms or limited me to casual attire I may think twice about whether it’s the place for me. On the other hand, if my companies culture didn’t condone bright green hair that’s something I am willing to live with. Some people may not be willing to compromise on green hair, and that is totally okay. It’s up to each person to know and stand by their limits.

Once I identified the things that I cared about, I thought about how they fit into the corporate culture. I looked for people in positions that I eventually want to be in and I studied how they look, behave, speak, etc. If there are people who are successful and hold the same values I do, great! That means that for the most part I could bring those to work and I had role models to learn from. I also kept in mind that everyone is not on a level playing field and the same thing that may work for some, may not work for me.  If after searching, I didn’t find any leaders with common behavior or values – all was not lost. This just meant it was trial and error time! I’d set up personal experiments to test what I could get away with.

For example, I grew up a proud tomboy and I always keep a part of that with me. When I wanted to try coming to work with Nike Jordan sneakers, a bold t-shirt that says “Young and Powerful”, and drastic changes to my hair (all of which I have done at some point) knowing that this isn’t “normal” in my workplace, I had to find creative ways to test this out. I usually take the subtle route and introduce one  abnormal element at a time. This makes it a “controlled” experiment, where I have an opportunity to notice reactions, get feedback from trusted mentors, survey how it even made me feel to show up at work with each of these traits and whether it’s what I really wanted. Having this understanding of self and boundaries, along with the bravery to explore was critical to liberating myself at work. From my experiments, I learned that drastic yet balanced hair changes didn’t have negative impact on my brand, that I didn’t really care to wear Jordans to work and actually liked being a boss girl in heels, and that my bold t-shirt paired with a bright pink blazer made a fashion statement that I cared about and was willing to stand behind.

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Throughout my journey, my biggest take away is best summed up by the quote “There is only one you and THAT is your power.” Hiding who I am is not only exhausting work, but it does a disservice to me and to my company. Instead, I’ve decided to be the realest Christine Izuakor I can be. I know that as long as I am true to that, I can operate at unimaginable levels. I couldn’t have come to this realization without the courage to experiment and the support of my company in celebrating our beautiful differences.