Do you have an early childhood memory that has stayed with you to this day? For Will.i.am, that transformative moment came in the form of a family member, who gave him the advice that has influenced his decision-making and work ethic throughout his life.
Grammy-winning singer, producer and visionary recently sat down with Arianna Huffington on the Thrive Global Podcast, in partnership with iHeartRadio and Sleep Number, where he opened up about the fatherly role his uncle filled growing up, and the impact he had on his life. “My uncle [offered me] awesome guidance because I didn’t have a dad,” he explained. “I call him uncle Dad.”
Will.i.am remembers the exact words of wisdom that his uncle shared with him at a young age, encouraging him to pursue his music career and work hard to achieve his dream. “You have to be willing to carry everybody – and to do that you have to focus a little harder,” he recalls his uncle saying. “You have to discipline yourself just a little bit harder than the rest of your friends. It depends on how much you want it.”
Will.i.am has become an astounding success through his music career, extending his efforts to film, producing, philanthropy, and activism. But starting out as a 10-year-old rapper who would record his music after school, family was what inspired Will.I.Am to aim high.
In addition to his uncle, Will.i.am’s mother was another inspiration. “[She was] the strongest thing on the planet,” he tells Huffington. “My mom [was a] single parent superstar. She had four [children] of her own and adopted four others.” In fact, when the musician decided to change his name from William to Will.i.am, he kept a form of his mother’s last name, shifting from “Adams” to “Atoms.”
When asked what advice he would give to kids today, Will.i.am says he would ask them the questions his uncle inspired him to ask himself: “What is it you want to do? And how bad do you want it? And if you want it that bad, you have to focus just a little harder.”