A Word From Mike Shinoda

*EDIT: Due to the surprising number of questions I got in regards to whether or not Mike is a father, I will support what I wrote it only by stating what I saw. Mike’s family was in attendance that day, including his parents and Anna, his wife. She was holding a baby in her arms the entire time and I saw the both of them attending to him. I don’t remember if he actually referred to the child in his speech, but from the way it looked, it seemed like they are the parents and he is the father. Then again, I could be wrong. The best way to find out would be to check with the man himself. My apologies to Mike and the LP fans out there ahead of time if I am incorrect. I will edit this post accordingly, but if anyone can confirm it–speak up! – my

It was gearing up to be a charming sunny day on this April afternoon. After a tortuous (and torturous) six and a half year love/hate affair with all that is transportation design, my boy Pete was finally graduating from the Art Center College of Design. Our friends and family could not have been more proud. The weather, with the sun as our greatest cheerleader, could not have been more uplifting.

The celebration was not unlike the other graduations you might have been to. There were students in their suits and dresses, family members, photographers, professors and a podium all underneath one big tent. And there were many exchanges: of diplomas, special awards/honors, handshakes, hugs, kisses and speeches. Surely, there were many moments to remember for those graduates.

But we were all in for a surprise treat. A former graduate was invited to accept a special honorary award and was slated to give the keynote speech. As I scanned through the program, I discovered that the guest speaker was, to my delight, none other than Mike Shinoda.

I always knew him as the guy from Linkin Park. The happa dude who spat

Shut up when he's talking to you.

Shut up when he's talking to you.

some dope lines and balanced out all the unbridled screaming from the white dude with glasses. Mike Shinoda, the rapper and rock star. But on this day, I learned about Mike Shinoda, the graphic designer, the artist, and son (that I certainly do know). More importantly, I learned about the man who wrestled and struggled and persevered in order to succeed.

Mike looked rather relaxed and nonchalant about the whole affair. He sat in the front row of the stage, right leg perched on his left, dressed in a rather casual yet perfectly fitting manner. His sunglasses and shaved head matched the blaze of the heat. He blended in so well with the students that if the program hadn’t mentioned it, and if he weren’t sitting on stage with rock star scruff and sunglasses, I wouldn’t have recognized him.

It was towards the end of the ceremony. After all the other students accepted their degrees, it was finally time for the last act. Mike’s name was called. Loud applause and cheer. He accepted an honorary award, shook hands with the director, and was now ready to give the closing address. As he stood before the podium, I thought about how cool it was to be in his position. And I also thought how much skinnier and shorter he was in real life than in his music videos.

Then, he began his speech.

He talked about the road he took to get to where he is. Mike shared about how torn he felt when he first enrolled at ACCD. He had a 100% commitment to the arts/graphic design, and 100% commitment to making music as well. This proved difficult, because he didn’t know which direction he should go or what to focus on. But with what he had and what he knew, he did both to the best of his ability–graphic design at school while recording samples in his room at home. Towards the end of his education, he met Joseph Hahn (who would eventually be Linkin Park’s DJ) who was also there for school and they started collaborating. Before he knew it, their band was signed. Mike just took whatever opportunities came before him and ran with it.

But when the band first got signed, there was pressure to sell records. The company went through a change in leadership at that time, and the AR rep was afraid he’d lose his job if the band he signed didn’t make money. So the rep looked at all the bands that were big and popular, looked at Linkin Park, and thought their sound was too different, too unorthodox. They needed to sound like all the other bands. So they were hit with an ultimatum: conform to the rest of the musical trend, perhaps sell a few records (then fade out?), or stick to their guns at the risk of losing the contract.

For Mike and his friends, they were faced with a call to sacrifice their personal integrity. To sell their principles for money. But that was when Mike stood up and decided that he was doing this for himself, not for other people or money. “I decided I was not going to back down,” he said. “Because I realized that I can never compromise my integrity.” Needless to say, after three multi-platinum albums and 50 million records sold worldwide, Linkin Park is still going strong.

His bottom line was this: pursue the things you have a passion for and don’t ever sell out. Be true to yourself and don’t compromise who you are and what you’re putting out for money, fame or popular approval. And with some hard work (what was it–10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will?), maybe you might just get somewhere. And if not, at least you’ll have the respect of those around you. And you can never put a price tag on that.

It wasn’t like these were revolutionary principles that I’ve never come across before, but his speech stood out because it came from someone real, someone who walked through the fire and came out the better for it. And it came at a time in my life when I feel most tempted to make personal choices that conformed to the pressures of society or peers and did not honor God or myself.

It goes without saying that Mike is an extremely talented individual. But more than his talents, I respect him because of his character. So I guess that’s what it comes down to at the end of the day. If whatever I am doing makes it hard for me to respect the man looking back at me in the mirror, Lord willing I will not do it. We might not know where we are going or how we get there, but let us never be ashamed of the path en route to our glorious destination.

So whatever grand dreams you have today, let it rip with all your heart and passion. And never be ashamed of what you got to offer. Just make sure that what you do is you–and not somebody else.

Because in the end, that is what really matters…(okay, you can scream again, Chester).