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How An Unconventional Path Got Nabil Ayers To President Of One Of The Most Influential Music Labels

Nabil Ayers, Chase Jarvis

How An Unconventional Path Got Nabil Ayers To President Of One Of The Most Influential Music Labels

Nabil Ayers, Chase Jarvis

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Class Description

There's a common misconception that artists have a monopoly on creativity...But the very act of making waves - no matter the career - is a creative one. The Chase Jarvis Live Show is an exploration of creativity, self-discovery, entrepreneurship, hard-earned lessons, and so much more. Chase sits down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders and unpacks actionable, valuable insights to help you live your dreams in career, hobby, and life.


There is the path that society influences us to take in our journey towards purpose and success, and there is the voice that may call us to an unbeaten path when we don’t quite fit the mainstream mold. This was the case with Nabil Ayers, who, at two years old fell in love with music when he was given his first drum set. Though Nabil did end up going to college, his marks did not reflect the typical success of a college student as most of his time was spent on other endeavors: starting a college radio station, putting on great concerts and parties and doing an internship with a record company. However, as it turns out these unconventional college experiences were the very opportunities that lead Nabil to the greatest successes in his future.

Choosing a Different Path

Regardless of where we live, we all exist within the context of a culture and a society that has influences and expectations of what our paths should look like. Especially now with the globalization of our planet, the pressure to fit in and look like everyone else is heightened. But what happens when we realize that something doesn’t feel right with the path we’re on? We all face the inevitable fork in the road: a choice to continue in the same direction or to take a different path. The pull to conform to society is so strong that many choose to ignore the voice within and continue on the trodden path. But sadly, many also look back later in life with regrets for not listening to the voice within them to choose a different path.

Nabil’s journey through college brought with it many stresses as he struggled to pass courses and keep his grades up. But his passion and drive to stay on the path of music and entrepreneurship kept him moving in a direction that was very different from his college peers, but one that kept him doing what he loved and feeling satisfied.

It can feel very scary to choose a path that strays from the one you’ve been on or is different from those around you. But when we think about it, all it takes is putting one foot in front of the other step by step in that new direction. Breaking it down into small moments, all we need to do is the next thing that feels right. This is what kept Nabil on his journey and pursuit of music and business (doing what felt right), which ultimately led him to become the president of one of the world’s largest and most influential record label groups.

Being Both on the Inside and Outside

A phrase I often mention is, “You can’t stand out and fit in at the same time.” So which do you want? The pull to be accepted by those around us is so strong that when we start to listen to the voice within us telling us to take a different path it can create friction between opposing desires. Nabil and I spoke of this when I asked him about the dissonance he felt being in college where many of his peers were working hard studying while he spent his time at the college radio station and putting on parties and concerts. For Nabil, there was no other option than to pursue the path he was on, as unconventional as it was. The drive within him pushed him forward even as he struggled with anxiety when it came to his studies. A pivotal memory Nabil shared from his college years was being nominated and receiving an award recognizing his accomplishments. This truly validated the path he had taken, as different as it was from the majority of his friends.

Systems exist to teach us and direct us to do things a certain way and in a certain order. However as we’ve seen by Nabil’s journey, we don’t always have to choose between doing things exactly as they’re “supposed” to be done or rejecting them completely. Sometimes it takes hacking the system to make it a little more our own. And that is what Nabil did. It is ok to be both on the inside and the outside and to trust that you are the one who knows what you need to do. And that trust… it comes from within.

Trusting Yourself

In a world where we are constantly exposed to outside voices from our families to school to our workplaces, television and the internet, it can be hard to distinguish your inner voice from all the noise around you. And it can be even more difficult to not second guess your voice, especially when it is leading you off in another direction.

Nabil always had this strong drive to follow his passion for music and business, but only later in life did he begin to discover where that drive came from: his father. In his memoir, Nabil shares his journey of searching for his father and discovering his roots through family. And even though the relationship with his father has not evolved in the way Nabil may have hoped, what he has gained in his searching has only furthered his belief and trust in himself, and the path he has chosen.

Trusting ourselves doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but through practice and repetition, we can learn to block out the surrounding inputs and start to recognize our own voice. On a recent show, Lisa Bilyeu shared some of the practical steps she’s followed to help her gain radical confidence and learn to trust in herself and choose her own path. That path, though painful at times, has led Lisa to become more herself than she’s ever been.

Whatever path we find ourselves on, healing ultimately becomes a part of that journey as we begin to open our eyes to who we are and what we really want. For Nabil, the disappointments and rejection he faced when searching for his father lead him again down a new path and another creative process.

The Creative Process and Healing

Whether we consider ourselves creative or not, we are all by nature creative beings. Even by way of our unique thought processes and the different ways we see and interpret life. For some, creativity may take the form of music or art or writing, while for others it can be in the form of building or organizing or coming up with new solutions to problems. The creative process for each of us may look different, but what is common is the emotional outlet it provides to us.

Nabil never considered himself a writer but he felt compelled to start writing down various stories from his life. He never set out to write a book but says he tricked himself into it with his stacks of papers and stories. Little did Nabil know that reliving and recreating these experiences on paper would bring up new emotions and open doors for healing wounds he hadn’t previously known were there. Writing has now become therapeutic to him just as music has always been.

It is often a struggle to give ourselves the space we need to heal as the pressure for progress and to keep moving forward can keep us at a pace where we don’t stop to process what is happening, or enjoy the steps along the way. If my conversation with Nabil reminded me of one thing it is that when we tune in to our own voices and start making the path our own, all it takes is doing what feels right now which will get us to where we want to be.