When the world lost Michael Jackson, we lost, arguably, one of the most influential entertainers to ever live. For many of us, we can remember where we were, what we doing and how we reacted when we heard the news. Like many people, in the months after his death, my interest in his work intensified. I went back and listened to his albums, I read articles and watched documentaries about him. And needless to say, I was blown away.

Of course, as a longtime fan of Michael Jackson, I was aware of the immense talent and skill he possessed. Yet, I didn't know how deliberate Michael was about his success. It seems as if he knew exactly what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it — and boy, did he do it.

Here are four lessons which we can learn from his life and work:

1: Study the greats and become greater

A huge factor in Michael Jackson's success was the fact that he had an insatiable curiosity and was always open to learning. From his early childhood years, watching the likes of James Brown and Jackie Wilson, to his days at Motown Records as a 12 year-old studying the production skills of Berry Gordy and the musical ingenuity of Stevie Wonder, Michael found many teachers throughout his career. 

Even many of his signatures as a performer were rooted in his appreciation for those who came before him. His "vocal hiccup" technique heard on songs like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It" was used by many artists, like Little Richard, in the 1950s. Michael even studied dancers from the 1930s and '40s like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, the latter being Michael's inspiration for his "Black Shoes/White Socks" look.

Michael studied and drew from my sources of inspiration for his work, which may be a part of the reason why he was able to connect with so many different people across cultures and generations.

 Lesson 2: Speak/Write it into existence …

One of the most intriguing things about Michael Jackson is that he seemed to know that he was going to be a star. He didn't intend to be a "good entertainer" he intended to be THE entertainer, and it seems as if he knew the path he was on early on.

In 1979, at the age of 21, a little before his album, Off the Wall, dropped, he wrote what appeared to be a manifesto of all the things he wished to accomplish in his career.

He stated the following:

"MJ will be my new name. No more Michael Jackson. I want a whole new character, a whole new look. I should be a totally different person. People should never think of me as the kid who sang "ABC," "I Want You Back." I should be a new, incredible actor/singer/dancer that will shock the world. I will do no interviews. I will be magic. I will be a perfectionist, a researcher, a trainer, a master…"

Photo: CBS

Pretty prophetic, if you ask me.

 Lesson 3: … then, work it into existence.

 One thing which made Michael Jackson special wasn't simply the fact that he set lofty goals for his career, he displayed a persistence and work ethic to back it up. Since his childhood, he worked relentlessly to become a better performer, which, as we know, also played large part in him missing important parts of his childhood.

Yet, this childhood work ethic followed him into his adulthood. Reportedly, when he was creating the album, Thriller, he wrote over 60 songs, recorded 30 of them and only actually used 9 on the album.

When it came to dance and showmanship, he once said that he would practice dance moves for hours until he was physically unable to do so. When you watch one of his performances, that dedication shines through. Pick any Michael Jackson performance, from the Jackson 5's first performance on the Ed Sullivan show in 1969, to Michael's 30th year anniversary special from 2001. The work ethic shines through.

Lesson 4: Don't stop til' you get enough

As an artist, Michael never seemed to become complacent. He often described himself as a perfectionist who always was looking to broaden his horizons and challenge himself to grow in his artistry.

At a time when music videos were a fairly new concept, he helped to revolutionize the art form by creating highly elaborate videos, which he called "short films." They would become iconic.

In an era where black artists weren't getting played on MTV, Michael helped to break down barriers by making his videos and music so entertaining that MTV almost had to play it.

Even after winning a Grammy in 1980 for Best R&B Male Vocal Performance, Michael still wasn't satisfied. He said,  "It was totally unfair that [Off The Wall] didn't get Record of the Year and it can never happen again." 

Three years later, not only did he win Record of the Year, but he won a record total of eight Grammys for his album, Thriller.

If the lessons of Michael Jackson's life and career show us anything, it's that confidence, skill, creativity and work ethic can lead to incredible things. Rather than seeking to live up to the standards of the music industry, he sought to set the standards. It's no wonder why we're still talking about him nearly a decade after his passing, and almost 50 years since he first broke into the industry.  

Long live the King.