As Justin Timberlake accepted the first-ever Decade Award at the 2016 Teen Choice Awards Sunday night, he didn't rattle off a list of his accomplishments. Instead, the industry vet passed on a few of the lessons he has learned during his career so far by encouraging millennials to be the best they can be, to look to the "greats" of the past for inspiration, and to be kind to others.
"As a former teen, a while ago, who's made a few choices along the way, I'm here to tell you: You and your choices matter," Timberlake began. "I grew up in Millington, Tennessee, just outside of Memphis, where I was blessed to be raised by parents and a family who taught me some big lessons. They taught me to respect them. They taught me to respect myself and to respect all people on the basis of their character—not where they live, not what they did for a living, or the color of their skin." He continued, "I try to live my life working most closely with, making music with, and spending so much of my time with an amazing group of people—male, female, gay, straight, every walk of life. ... We are all different, but that does not mean we all do not want the same thing."
As Timberlake went on with his speech, he told the crowd about music artists who inspired him along the way, name-checking icons like Michael Jackson, Elton John, Al Green, and Aretha Franklin. "I ask you to not learn from my example, but from the example of all the greats that have come before me," he said, before paying tribute to the greatest—Muhammad Ali.
"I believe we can all learn from the greatest of all time," he said. "Our world lost that champ this year, so tonight, I want to share three pieces of his undying wisdom that has helped me and may help you along your journey." Timberlake explained the three valuable nuggets, which were the following: "Don't count the days, make the days count," "Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth, so be generous, be kind, be fair. It's not just the right thing to do. It's the good thing to do," and "When anyone tries to tell you to give up, tell you to give in because whatever you're trying to do is impossible."
He added, "The champ said this: Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing. Greatest quote ever."
The parent to 1-year-old Silas with Jessica Biel continued with his words of wisdom. "So, as a relatively new dad and a former teen, I'm here to say you will make mistakes along the way," he said. "You will fall down. I have many times. Even Ali did. But what we do after that fall is how we make history because impossible is nothing. So don't waste your 20s. They're gonna be here before you know it, and they will go fast. Be nice to your parents ... I hope my son watches this one day. They aren't perfect, either, but they have been through this movie before, and they love you more than you can imagine. So go out, do the impossible and just go on and become the greatest generation yet."
In addition to this year's award, the singer has already racked up a record 22 awards at past Teen Choice Awards, the most ever won by any male.