My first thought on learning Prince died was how my friends Corianna and Brianna, better known as Coco and Breezy, had been telling me about him and the get-togethers he'd been inviting them to. In particular, how in this age where athletes post on social media during competitions, so starved for fame and addicted to the attention, Prince did the opposite.
We can all learn from him. I think it shows his fame will transcend and endure beyond most other mere celebrities.
Though this article is about Prince and what we can learn from him, I'd be remiss if I didn't explain who the entrepreneurs he'd befriended are. Who they are also illustrates Prince's understated generosity and taste.
Coco and Breezy are two young fashion designers who haven't stopped exploding on the scene since they came to New York City from Minneapolis with less than a month's rent, no connections, no job, and more passion and work ethic than nearly any entrepreneur I've met. Though they only finished high school, I've shared the stage with them at Columbia and Princeton entrepreneurship and business panels.
Their passion is sunglasses--more precisely, expressing themselves through their sunglasses in a way that allows them (and their customers) to be more themselves. Their first sale came when someone bought the sunglasses off their own faces that they had made by hand.
They upped production, trading schedules so one could keep hand-making product while the other got to sleep. In short order their sunglasses ended up on Beyoncé, Serena Williams, and Lady Gaga.
And Prince, who collaborated with them to make the sunglasses he wore on the cover of his 2014 album Art Official Age.
Prince invited Coco and Breezy to Saturday Night Live, where he wore their sunglasses, and I began hearing about his generosity and dedication to music and performance.
One habit of Prince's they told me about struck me as so counter to our times that I came to see it as illustrating what set him apart from today's culture of celebrity: he allowed no one near him to use a cell phone.
They told me this rule after telling me how he would call them to invite them to his events.
I asked Coco and Breezy, "How did he invite you if he didn't use a phone?"
They said, "His manager would call us, and his manager would have to leave the room to do it."
In an age where The New York Times reports our addiction to cell phones, and who among us businesspeople don't work on our social media strategies, Prince eschewed them:
A Gallup poll last year found that 73 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 checked their devices a few times an hour -- including 22 percent every few minutes. Fifty-nine percent of respondents ages 30 to 49 said they looked at their phones a few times an hour.
You might object: "He was already famous when cell phones got big. He just wants his privacy." I suggest he didn't change when cell phones got big, he remained consistent, and only revealed the traits already in him that rejected seeking fame.
He didn't avoid the limelight, nor did he reject surrounding himself with people. He generously brought these up-and-coming designers into his world--as big and as fast as they've grown, they hadn't played a Super Bowl.
He focused on his music, his craft, and his friends, not on self-promotion, not on entertaining and distracting himself.
And I believe that focus contributed to his talent and fame beyond what tweeting could have, and I think we all can learn from him.
UPDATE: Coco emailed me to clarify, and I don't think I could close the story better:
Also he did use a cell phone , but no one around him was allowed to use their phone in front of him. He was all about enjoying the moment while its in front of you :)