The Great Lessons You Can Learn From Bad People

“I was just a quiet girlfriend who was told to sit down and shut up.” – Michel’le Toussaint 

In 2014, Andre Young (AKA Dr. Dre) had the biggest payday of any musician in history. He sold his company, Beats by Dreto Apple for a reported $3 billion and became the first billionaire musician, ever. 

The path he took to get there, however, is both inspiring, and sickening.

Growing up in a poor neighborhood in Compton, California, Dre had little chance of becoming successful in life. He was raised without a father and became a father himself at the young age of 17.

But despite his poor circumstances, Dre had a vision and the willpower to pursue it. He worked odd jobs for 5 years while chasing his dream of becoming a great musician in the rising genre of “Gangster Rap”.

In 1986, he met rapper O'shea Jackson (Ice Cube) and they collaborated to record songs for Ruthless Records – a label started by local rapper Eazy–E. Their songs were hits and led them to create a group known as N.W.A. [1]

Dr. Dre knew that if N.W.A was going to succeed, they needed to be flawless.

So he would spend countless hours trying to create the perfect beats. He would make some artists in N.W.A sing a single line over 100 times in order to get it exactly the way he wanted it. [2]

He was so focused, so committed, and so relentless in his pursuit of the best possible sound that N.W.A's first album became a huge hit.

But his work ethic didn't stop there. For the next 25+ years, Dr. Dre kept grinding.

He kept pursuing the perfect performance, the perfect beat, and the perfect sound. Eventually creating the elegant design and beautiful sound of Beats headphones that would make him a billionaire in 2014.

But despite all of this success, Dr. Dre has done terrible things.


*The following is've been warned.

Throughout his life, Dr. Dre has been extremely violent and sexist.

At a Grammy's party in 1990, an angry, drunken Dr. Dre punched Tarrie B in the eye and then again in the mouth until she finally hit the ground. [3]

After Dee Barnes, the host of a TV show about hip-hop, had a segment showing Ice Cube (who had left N.W.A) yelling at his former collaborators, Dr. Dre attacked her. He slammed her head against a door, kicked her, and stomped on her fingers. [4]

Then he gave 5 black eyes, a cracked rib, and multiple bruises to the mother of his child and girlfriend of 6 years, Michel'le Touissant. [5]

Plus he has been arrested for DUIs, battery, and assault. Not to mention everything he has probably done without getting caught!

Now, to be fair, Dr. Dre has a clean record of late and claims those days are behind him:

"25 years ago I was drinking too much and in over my head. However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I've been married 19 years and every day I'm working to be a better man for my family...I'm doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again." [6]

Take that statement as you will, but if he is not a horrible person now, he certainly was a horrible person then.

However, does being a horrible person mean we can learn nothing from him?


Over the last 5 years, I have been researching and writing a book called “The Will of Heroes”. It tells the stories of 12 people who used their willpower to achieve extraordinary success.

I call these people “Heroes”, but despite all of their success, they also have faults.

- Kobe Bryant was unfaithful to his wife and charged with sexual assault.

- Steve Jobs let his illegitimate child and her mother live on welfare, despite the fact that he was worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

- Warren Buffet, even, is known for being a cold-hearted negotiator and has put thousands of people out of work for the sake of his own personal fortune.

However, just because these people made mistakes in their lives – or were not even good people to begin with – that does not change what we can learn from them about what it takes to become successful.

In fact, we can learn even more from them because they made mistakes!

We can learn from the consequences of others' actions whether they are negative or positive. The only mistake comes when we choose to ignore the negatives and focus only on the positives.


Regardless of your feelings of gangster rap, Straight Outta Compton is a great story of vision, passion, and underdogs achieving a dream.

After watching that movie, I was inspired to write an article on their story.

Then I started my research and found the violent facts about Dr. Dre - none of which were in the movie! Dr. Dre was portrayed as a visionary artist who overcame his harsh background and became one of the pioneers of rap music.

Dr. Dre was a hero! He wasn't, as he admitted, "drinking too much and in over his head."

Plus, his violent behavior was actually very relevant to the story. Dee Barnes, the reporter, and Dr. Dre's girlfriend Michel'le were both characters in the movie. But the violence against them was never mentioned or even suggested.

I know this is just a movie. And I know the director's responsibility is to entertain the audience, not give every single fact.

But this represents a crucial mistake that we make. 

Rather than confront the brutal facts and learn from them, we choose to ignore them. Because dealing with the things you don't want to be true is awkward and uncomfortable. 

By doing this, we miss out on the opportunity to truly learn from others. 

Kobe Bryant, for example, is one of my greatest heroes because I have learned so much from him about what it truly takes to achieve a dream. But I have learned just as much from his arrest for sexual assault.

Whether or not he really did assault that woman (she dropped the charges when it was discovered she was mentally ill) he still cheated on his wife. And now his reputation is forever tarnished - all because of one night's bad decision. I will never forget that. 


People are flawed. Even those who have seemingly heroic willpower. But just because someone has flaws in his or her life, that does not change what we can learn from them about what it takes to achieve a dream.

I wish that Dr. Dre didn’t do anything horrible while he was working relentlessly to achieve his dream, but he did. And I don’t have to follow his violent behavior in order to respect the will and vision it took to become the first billionaire musician, ever. 

Follow the good, learn from bad, and never ignore the brutal facts.