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The Most Inspiring Advice From Common That We're Still Thinking About


Award-winning musician, actor, best-selling author, and activist Common recently addressed a full house at Hill Auditorium as the guest lecturer of the annual Joseph and Sally Handleman Lecture Series. The topic of the night: Using business as a force for positive change and fostering constructive dialogue to enable progress on the defining issues of our time.

Common covered everything from how he got his start to ways business students could channel their purpose when choosing their future careers. Here are six unforgettable words of wisdom that Common shared during the lecture: 

Money isn't always the driving force behind a career.

"If you find something you enjoy and really believe in, the money will come. Find something you dream about, and do something to follow that dream every day. Figure out ways to use that dream to help people. We all have that ability to turn that dream to help the world."

When you find your voice, share it.

"Once you find your purpose, your voice becomes something bigger than you. It can affect others by being something great. Share your voice."

Your gut instinct is important. Don't ignore it. Follow it. 

When asked how he maintains his center of purpose, Common said, "Everyone has a purpose. I create art for entertainment and purpose and look for more opportunities to share my purpose. One of the most important things you've got is your gut. Don't go out on that. If it doesn't sit right, then I don't do it, and I don't let anyone lure me away from that gut instinct. Because of that, people value what I do."

Business is an amplifier. Without it, you can't share your purpose. 

Based on his own experience with his career, Common noted he sees business as the amplifier to reach a larger audience with his voice. "If I don't have a speaker, no one hears my music. Business is the speaker," he added. "Business was important in promoting my music. I made sure to create a team that knew about business, are aware of what my business is, and because they understood, I let them manage the business."

Surround yourself with people who support you. 

"Our belief is important. There will be people who love and care for you, who have your best interest at heart, but they won't know what your purpose is, only you do. The people around you will eventually join you on your journey. Make people believe. And surround yourself with people who believe in you."

And most importantly ...

"This the most impactful and world-changing generation ever. Young people have such advanced things on their minds and, with what's happening in the world, these times are bringing out the best in people. Use your platform to inspire change and help others find ways to do the same."


Throughout his career as a hip hop artist, Common has earned three Grammy awards for his music, which primarily focuses on themes of love, struggle, and social and political issues. He has taken his talents into acting and writing, too, having been featured in a number of films and television series across genres. "Let Love Have The Last Word" — the most recent of his two best-selling memoirs — draws on personal stories to discuss how love and mindfulness can elevate communities.

Beyond his impressive list of awards and accolades as an artist, author, and actor, Common is dedicated to encouraging positive change through activism. He established the Common Ground Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to empower underprivileged youth in his hometown of Chicago to become future leaders through creative arts, mentorship, and educational programming.

Common was the most recent guest featured in the Joseph and Sally Handleman Lecture Series. Previous speakers include award-winning architect and designer Neri Oxman, bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell, Facebook Co-Founder Chris Hughes, and Ethos Water Founder Peter Thum. The series, focused on cutting-edge issues that keep students at the forefront of emerging business challenges and opportunities, was established by the Joseph and Sally Handleman Charitable Foundation in 2008.