6 Takeaways from Entrepreneur Lifestyle Expert Aaron Paxton Arnold

Former executive assistant to Sean Combs gives Syracuse University students tips for success during his speech at Newhouse.

When in doubt, quit.

For most people, this advice is the exact opposite of what you have heard from mentors, role models and educators for your entire life.

But if entrepreneur lifestyle expert and founder of MusicIsMyBusiness Aaron Paxton Arnold had followed the norm, he might still be married to his first wife, working for corporate public relations firms making a six-figure salary while dreading every day of his life.

After graduating from Florida A&M University, Arnold took a job working in corporate America before quitting and following his passion by taking an unpaid internship with Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records.

All along, Arnold’s goal was to share his ambitions with Combs, and when Diddy’s executive assistant left, Arnold found his opportunity. He begged the record label’s HR department to let him fill in as Combs’ assistant until they hired a new one.

Arnold scored an interview with Combs for the executive assistant position and was offered a two-year contract to be Combs’ assistant.

Arnold said no.

Takeaway #1: Find Lifelong Mentors

Knowing the importance of mentors, Arnold rejected Combs’ contract offer only to propose a counteroffer where he would serve as Combs’ assistant for one year for free as long as Combs promised to groom him as a music entrepreneur.

An educated, experienced communicator, Arnold was looking for a way out of corporate PR and hoped Combs would be able to teach him the tricks of the trade and drive necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur.

But without mentors like the late Stuart Scott of ESPN, Tom Calderone of VH1, or his mom, Arnold would have never quit corporate America to take a job as an unpaid intern, just one day after he got married.

“The president of VH1, Tom Calderone, once told me that I might look back on life and say you would’ve, could’ve, should’ve and you didn’t,” Arnold said. “I didn’t want to live with that regret.”

Takeaway #2: Trust Your Heart and Instincts

Even with the notion that you don’t want to live with regrets, Arnold notices time and time again young people shuddering in fear when it’s time to make a life decision.

"There is never a perfect time to take a great opportunity,” Arnold said.

According to Arnold, everyone told Hollywood sensation and American Idol host Ryan Seacrest that the singing competition would be a karaoke show, but his mentor, Dick Clark, told him otherwise.

So Arnold urges people to trust their hearts, instincts and mentors.

Takeaway #3: Money Alone will not Make You Happy

“My mom said ‘never do anything for a paycheck alone,’” Arnold said.

When Arnold made the decision to leave corporate America, he threw away a $50,000 promotion he had just received because in his late 20s, he realized the check was not worth it.

Groomed from an early age that money was the key to happiness, Arnold decided happiness was worth it and asked himself one question:

“If we lived in a utopian society where there was no classism, racism or sexism, what would I do? Music,” he said.

Takeaway #4: Never Settle for Mediocrity

After being guided to success by the mentoring of Combs, Arnold decided to start his own integrated music company and used the inspiration of his naysayers to become great.

“I don’t remember everyone who told me I was good or great, but I remember everyone who told me I couldn’t do something,” Arnold said.

But in order to be successful, Arnold encourages young people to persevere and work hard at a job until they see the fruits of their labor.

If you don’t work hard, and you just sit around being idle, you won’t make it. There are other people in the world trying to achieve your dream, giving it their best shot.

“As long as you’re in the game and not standing on the sidelines, things will work themselves out,” Arnold said.

Takeaway #5: Create Lasting Relationships

Once you’re in the game, it’s important to create and maintain relationships because the key to success in life are the people you surround yourself with, according to Arnold.

“Talent does get you far, but relationships get your further,” Arnold said.

He said it is important to note that you might have met a big timer in the business you are dreaming of one day working in, but unless they remember you, the meeting was meaningless. So, you must network.

“There’s a fine line between being persistent and bugging someone. They will draw the line for you; make them tell you, you are bugging them,” Arnold said.

Takeaway #6: Make Time for Yourself and Loved Ones

There are certain people in the world you will never bug and it is important to schedule time for them.  These people are your family, friends and yourself.

Arnold noted he plays Madden and hits the bar to make sure he stays sane, but encourages young people to get some rest and make time for your biggest supporters.

“When I first started working, I wouldn’t sleep or go home to see my family for Thanksgiving,” Arnold said. “Then I grew up because that’s stupid.”

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