Have you ever felt like your life story was not your own? Learn how to write your own story with JoJo.
There’s always the pressure to become someone who you aren’t. Social media is an obvious example. It’s a great resource for connecting and networking, but it can turn into a game of comparison.
Usually, people just post the best of themselves on the internet, and so the illusion is that everyone is living these perfect lives. So-and-so’s going to Stanford University. So-and-so’s got the perfect boyfriend. And so-and-so’s body is way healthier than mine.
This is so easy to do. But no one is perfect. You can’t compare your real life to a filtered version of someone else’s. Just live your passion, use your own voice and learn how to write your own story.
Sometimes the pressure comes from within, and other times it comes directly from the mouths of other people. It’s easy to let the outside world dictate who you are supposed to be, what job you’re supposed to pursue, or what person you’re supposed to date. People love to tell people what to do and who to become.
But you have your own voice in this world and you should learn how to write your own story. People can try to shout over it, but it’s up to you to make a stand for who you are.
“You can change your story, you can change your narrative whenever you want. You can be a victor. You can have victory over your circumstances, and you don’t have to be a product of your family of origin or whatever cards were dealt to you. You can create whatever type of life you want, and it can be amazing.” – JoJo
On this episode of The School of Greatness, I had the pleasure of talking with JoJo, a pop-icon, who shares about battling comparison, asserting her voice, navigating relationships, and writing her own story in the midst of extreme pressure.
JoJo is a pop and R&B singer, songwriter, record producer, and actress. She released her first album, JoJo, in June 2004, and the album’s first single, “Leave (Get Out),” was No.1 on the US Billboard Pop Chart. She was only 13 years old – the youngest solo artist in history to ever top the billboard charts.
In addition to being a music artist, JoJo has also starred in movies like Aquamarine and RV (with Robin Williams) and in TV shows like Hawaii 5-0 and Lethal Weapon.
In 2006, she released her second studio album, The High Road, which was also a great success, but her third album, Mad Love, was delayed due to record label disputes. The record label company no longer had the money to produce her music, and she realized she didn’t have power over her own voice. This was non-negotiable. When she was 18 years old, she sued the company due to their breach of contract. That legal battle lasted five years.
JoJo said she used to feel like a “caged bird.” She doesn’t feel that way anymore.
In 2008, JoJo founded her own record label, Clover Music, and re-released her previous albums. She is now in full control of her music. Her fourth studio album, good to know, is slated to drop in May 2020, and in April she will kick off an international tour, stopping at more than 35 cities.
JoJo was offered her first record deal at 6 years old. From a young age, she felt immense pressure from the music industry to become who they wanted her to be. She hit success at such a young age, and the fear that she couldn’t sustain that success haunted her for a long time. But JoJo made a stand for herself, and she wants to help other artists do the same.
I remember in high school, I was always on varsity sports teams as a freshman and sophomore. I was always the youngest starter and one of the top athletes on the team, and this gave me a lot of confidence in my self-worth. And then junior year came around, and I had this crippling fear – the bar was now set way higher. I needed to be even better because I was older and stronger.
JoJo empathizes with this fear, too. She turns thirty at the end of the year, and has been battling this fear for the last decade: What if I can’t sustain my success? What if I’ve peaked and there’s nowhere to go but down, down, down.
JoJo had so much success with her first album, and then her second, and by the time she turned 18 she felt like the clock was ticking.
“I started to not be the youngest in the room anymore. It just started to freak me out … it took me years to change my perspective on that and to not compare my journey to others.” – JoJo
One way that JoJo changed her perspective was stepping back and looking at her journey as a collection of stories rather than one giant story. Sometimes, you need to alter your idea of what success is. If it’s just getting more and more money or more and more famous, you won’t be satisfied. You’ll always be afraid to lose what you’ve gained. But, if you focus on different aspects of your life – maintaining positive relationships, self-care, and a healthy body, to name a few – you’re less likely to fall into a negative mindset.
Also – those fears that haunt you? (You know, the ones that tell you, “You can’t do this!”) The best way to get rid of those is to do the things that scare you. Challenge yourself. I recently started taking singing lessons from Valerie Morehouse. I’m terrified of singing in public, but I’m learning to conquer that fear, one step at a time.
When JoJo sued her record label, she was afraid. I mean, she was only 18 years old. Can you imagine that sort of pressure? But it was what she had to do to be true to herself. Ultimately, she didn’t want to be someone hanging on the puppet strings of the music industry. She wanted to sing in her own voice.
I asked JoJo what she thought her life would have been like in her early teens if social media was as prevalent as it is today. Would it have affected her negatively or positively? You probably can already guess her answer:
“I think that if I was [on social media], it [would be] very hard to not resist the temptation of reading all the comments and seeing what the feedback is. So I think that if I was a young teen like I was when I came out, and I had that, it would very much shape how I felt about myself and influence who I became.” – JoJo
Even without social media, JoJo’s self-worth often came from the amount of adulation, the applause, and the attention she received from the public. Now, with social media, everyone has a stage on which they can perform and be evaluated publically.
JoJo’s advice for young girls regarding social media is gold, and I think it really can apply to all of us:
“I think social media can be really detrimental, especially to an impressionable mind … but particularly for younger girls, I would say, turn off the comments maybe. You can not have your self-worth attached to the number of likes you get or to what boys respond to or what girls respond to. You have to find a way to feel good about yourself.” – JoJo
Comparison is the thief of joy. It makes you devalue yourself and become resentful towards other people. Of course, I’m not saying you can’t look at someone, value them, and aspire to become more like them. My whole podcast is about that, haha! It’s only dangerous when you let it determine your self-worth as “less than.”
Make a commitment to yourself. Invest in the things that bolster your self-worth. As JoJo puts it,
“You gotta like who you are … See what’s in your mind, and it’s okay if some insecure thoughts come in, but you can take responsibility for [those] thoughts and say, ‘That’s not true.’ Comparison is the thief of joy. I still do it sometimes, but I really check myself now. I pay attention to what thoughts are coming into my head, and I try to replace them with something else.” – JoJo
You are you and no one else. No one else is exactly like you. You have your own unique set of gifts, passions, and motivations. You have your own voice.
When you become famous, everything gets more complicated – especially relationships. So I asked JoJo how she navigated dating in the midst of her fame and hectic touring lifestyle.
JoJo is single at the moment, but she said she can be a really great girlfriend. However, relationships are hard to maintain because of her insane schedule. Right now, JoJo is more focused on being in a relationship with herself.
“So I’m single right now. I’m self-partnered … I knew that I had the potential to seek validation through the attention of other men.” – JoJo
You may have heard of the term “self-partnership” before. It doesn’t just mean “single.” It means that you are committed to understanding yourself better and growing as an individual person. For a while, I was self-partnered too!
I used to have to be in a relationship with someone constantly. The insecurity of being alone was crippling. So, I decided to push into that insecurity. I started doing everything alone – going to dinner alone, lunch alone, movies alone, etc. The first few months were miserable, but six months later, I fell in love with my thoughts. I connected with the people around me. And I didn’t need a partner.
JoJo took it a step further. A few years ago, she rented an Airbnb on a secluded beach. She didn’t bring her phone; she was silent for a whole week. While she was there, she worked on her album good to know which is coming out this year. She wanted to prove to herself that everything was good as it was – that she didn’t need a man to be happy.
“I just didn’t wanna share any power with anybody else. I wanted all my creativity and all my sensuality and all that passion to be channeled into music. I didn’t want it to be split up at all … and I think it helped the music actually.” –JoJo
And when you are in a relationship, it’s still good to have that individuality. JoJo doesn’t want to date a guy whose whole life revolves around her, like he’s just tagging along for the ride.
“…when I think about my future, my ideal situation, I would love for [him] to be able to come out a few times, but also he needs to have his own, total own thing in life … Even if [he] establishes boundaries and [he’s] like, ‘I won’t be able to come see you because I’m finishing this project … as annoying as it is, that’s hot. I like that.” – JoJo
I think JoJo and I agree that respect is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship – you respect someone who is committed to you but is also committed to bettering themselves and pursuing their passion in life.
Even if you didn’t grow up watching Aquamarine or listening to her hit song “Too Little Too Late,” I can guarantee you that you’ll enjoy this episode with JoJo. She’s gone through so much, emotionally. All that success and attention at a young age is certainly a first-world problem, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t do damage.
Through all of that, JoJo has found her voice. And she came out on the other side as a graceful, loving, kind, and talented human being.
Don’t forget to listen to JoJo’s new album good to know which is slated to drop around late spring, and go ahead and listen to her new single, “Sabotage” right now! And if you want to catch her on her 2020 tour (starting in April), you better get your tickets soon!
Finally, I want to share JoJo’s definition of greatness:
“My definition of greatness is falling down and never staying down. It’s resilience, an unshakable spirit of seeking and learning, staying open. I think growth is greatness, and yeah, just keeping at it.” – JoJo
Despite music label disputes, societal pressure, and personal struggle, JoJo has risen above the waves. She is pursuing something that she is passionate about, learning about the process, and inspiring other music artists to do the same. She is truly living up to her definition of greatness.
So, go ahead and start listening to Episode 919. Who knows? JoJo might even sing some answers to my questions on the episode…
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