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How Wyclef Jean applied the lessons he learned in music to business

Wyclef Jean
Joe Raedle | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Wyclef Jean

Three-time Grammy Award-winner Wyclef Jean has been a force in the music industry for decades.

First appearing in the hip-hop group The Fugees, Jean went on to work with music giants like Shakira and Will.i.am to cement his place as a hip hop giant.

Speaking to CNBC in an episode of Life Hacks Live from the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, Jean detailed his passion for technology and how the lessons he learned in the music industry apply to the business world.

"You have to be kind but you have to have tough skin. That's for music, that's from movies, that's for anything," he said. "And you have to stand up for your dignity. Don't let nobody punk you. Don't let anybody talk down to you — woman or man."

Wyclef Jean performing
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Wyclef Jean performing

Jean also knows what it means to rise to the top. After emigrating from Haiti to the U.S. as a child, Jean made the most of the opportunities living in the U.S. gave him, starting with "getting a library card" and walking from one block to the next.

He said: "Sometimes when you think you've got it so bad, you'll be surprised when you look at how bad somebody else has it."

The musician wants aspiring artists to take a leaf out of his book, by not worrying about "the giants" of the industry.

"Sometimes when you start off in a game it can be so intimidating because of all these big giants. But always remember you're as big of a giant as anyone else," he said.

"I always tell people if you believe in yourself, if you're innovative and you know that you have an idea, then stand for something."

In working with some of the biggest names in music, Jean learned about standing up to industry giants himself — if not rather nervously.

"I remember the biggest intimidation I faced was when I wrote, 'My Love is Your Love' for Whitney Houston. I was about to be in the studio with the queen of pop and it sounded to me like Whitney hit the wrong note.

"She just said, "Baby, I didn't hit the wrong. I bent the note.""

Life Hacks Live is a series produced by CNBC International for Facebook, where tomorrow's leaders get to ask some of the world's biggest influencers for advice. You can watch the full episode here.