Twenty years ago, Jesse Itzler was straddling the line between a music career and a life as a startup-toting entrepreneur. As a favor to a friend (the late Jam Master Jay), Itzler took on an ambitious young intern named Curtis Jackson. The rest is history. Jackson became 50 Cent, and Itzler learned a powerful lesson about loyalty and generosity.
For more from Itzler, check out his new book: Living with a SEAL: 31 Days Training with the Toughest Man on the Planet.
Jesse Itzler: In your 20s, everybody is rising up the ladder. And in your 30s, the cream continues to rise and others stay here. And others rise too. And in your 40s, you’re really many times in a position of power or real leadership. It’s so important to maintain those relationships in an authentic way. And I’m a "thousand on my SAT" guy but I’ve been able to compensate for a lot of that through relationships and keeping great relationships and being able to contact people now that are in positions of power that 20 years ago, I would have never have thought. When I was starting Marquis Jet — even before Marquis Jet — I was in the music business and I was partners with a guy from Run-D.M.C. who has since been killed — Jam Master Jay, the DJ from Run-D.M.C. And he said to me that he was working with a kid, an 18-year-old kid at the time who was a boxer and he needed an internship. So he asked me if he could work as an intern. I said of course. His name was Curtis. And we ran a van, a promotional van for the New York Knicks and he would hand out keychains and stuff and come in. I was working on music at the time and he was helping me and blah, blah, blah, blah.
Eight years later, Curtis became 50 Cent. And I remember when we started Marquis Jet, I got a passenger manifest one day of all the people that were on our flights and he was a guest of one of the flights. So I had them write a note with a bottle of champagne that said Curtis, you’re never going to believe — because we had a small company. I mean, we all worked in one little war room. I said, "You’re never going to believe this but you’re on one of our airplanes and this is Jesse Itzler, you know. Haven’t heard from you. Congratulations on your success." But anyway the next day I got a note saying that he had changed in his rider that he would only fly with Marquis Jet. But it just reinforces the story that you never know what people turn out to be. And you just never know and loyalty always rewards itself. And that was a great lesson, a very valuable lesson for me and just the power of being nice to everybody and helping people. And I found that people in general want to help each other. And that’s been something that I found throughout my life that people in general want to help other people if you ask them.