Longtime CBS news reporter, Anthony Mason, sat in a chair, in his blue plaid shirt and a leather jacket. Sitting opposite him in the recording studio, wearing a hat (a signature wardrobe piece), was Pharrell Williams. Most of the millions of people who love his work as a singer, songwriter, rapper, and record producer know him simply as Pharrell. The interview turned to the topic of Pharrell’s success and the reasons behind it. He wouldn’t accept praise and instead deflected it to others. Finally, Anthony asked him, “Are you afraid if you give yourself too much credit, it would all go away?

There was a thoughtful pause by Pharrell, followed by a noteworthy response.

For sure,” he said. “You see people spin out of control like that all the time. I mean, those are the most tragic stories, the most gifted people who start to believe it’s really all them.” Then, he delivered the line, the one that remains in my head because it’s not only powerful, but it’s true. He continued,

It’s not all you. It can’t be all you. Just like you need air to fly a kite, it’s not the kite. It’s the air.

I saw an example when I was walking on the beach while enjoying a recent vacation and noticed two young girls flying kites. These kites were not cheap kites, they were well built, beautiful and probably very expensive. Yet, Pharrell was right, as good as the kites were, they couldn’t fly without the air to hold them up. Without the air, they wouldn’t get off the ground.

We want to believe what we bring to the table; our gifts and skills are the reasons we are successful. It makes us feel good, like we earned our success, and we weren’t just lucky.

Your talents are very important, but never forget you can’t be successful on your own, nor can any organization be successful without its employees and customers. Individual success is a myth.

In the case of Pharrell, he noted his success was because people purchased his songs. He didn’t purchase them, people did. If they hadn’t purchased his songs, he wouldn’t be successful.

Who was the air that has helped your career kite soar?

My first gust of wind came from Kathy, my first manager, who took a chance to hire me fresh out of college with a degree and no experience. I needed someone to believe in me and she did.

Dave mentored me by pouring wisdom into me over many years and in many ways. I avoided mistakes because of him, and he helped me learn things from my mistakes that I might not have learned without him.

Bob was a professional mentor, encouraging and supporting me at a distance. He taught me how to build professional relationships outside of my organization, instead of just focusing on my work.

Ken was a broker I worked with for many years, who taught me countless things about employee benefits and pension plans. He was my safe place to say, “I don’t understand” and come away with an answer.

I was blessed to work with many great people who made me look good because they were good at what they did. I can’t name them all, but Kathy, Cindy, Mark, Kim, Jan, Anne, Gloria, Misty, Stephanie, and Lisa were significant contributors in helping me become a better leader. I wouldn’t be where I am without them.

You are a kite, it’s you, with the many gifts and skills you continue to develop. It’s important and critical to your career success. Yet your kite can’t fly without air.

Think about the air that has helped your kite to soar and be thankful for them.

Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:30-31

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