Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lessons Learned From Henry Rollins

As you might know, Henry Rollins is a modern-day renaissance man.  At the age of 50, he wears many hats, including that of singer, songwriter, spoken word artist, writer, activist, radio DJ, television show host, publisher, and actor.  You might have heard of Henry from his days as the lead singer for the seminal hard core punk group Black Flag or you might have had the pleasure of listening to one of his signature 3-hour performances.  Whatever the case may be, here are six life lessons that we can all glean from Henry.    
1. Your work should be more than just a job

“I take what I do seriously. I love it and I want to do well at it and work hard.”

Henry is one of the most disciplined and hardest working guys you will ever encounter.  He travels the world to gather stories for his spoken word performances, shoots documentaries, and hosts a radio show.  However, this is only the tip of the iceberg for Rollins.  In itself, his bibliography contains enough to fill a book.  So, if you motivation is pure and you sincerely want to perform well, do your work earnestly.   
2. Own Your Life

“It’ll destroy you if you make it mean anything to anyone but yourself.”
When you start letting other control the course of your life, you have effectively compromised yourself.  It’s important to always live your own life, because vicariously living someone else’s life is a severe waste of time.  Now, this is not to say we should not seek advice from others.  We should definitely look to our role models for advice, but ultimately we must own every decision we make.      
3. Have a strong sense of yourself

“I have never met a truly strong person who didn't have self-respect. I think a lot of inwardly and outwardly directed contempt passes itself off as self-respect: the idea of raising yourself by stepping on someone's shoulders instead of doing it yourself.”
In order to own your life, you first must have a strong sense of yourself.  You can come to know yourself inside and out by spending time in reflection everyday.  Write your experiences, thoughts, and emotions down in journal to preserve a little remnant of yourself for future reference.  Think about who you are and what makes you tick.  What makes you different from everyone else?  What do you know to be true about yourself?   
4. Always act honestly

“I see the truth as my shield. As long as I tell the truth I feel that nobody can touch me. I can't really explain it, but I feel as long as I tell them my dark sides there is nothing they can dig up. If I don't hide anything there is nothing to be scared of.”
Even if you never publish your own reflections, always be honest with your peers, friends, and family.  Many corporate scandals, divorces, and broken hearts could have been avoided simply by being entirely open and honest.  Furthermore, you own credibility in the eyes of other people will improve if you continue to tell the truth.  Even if you make a mistake, trying to cover it up with a lie will eventually come back to bite you.  Own up to your mistakes and be honest.     
5. Be a citizen of the world

“Knowledge without mileage equals nothing to me.”
Instead of relying on the television to provide him with information, Henry hits the streets.  He has traveled across the globe in search of knowledge and understanding of other cultures.  Last June, when I went to see him speak in Lawrence, Kansas, he told stories about his experiences in China, Iran, South Africa, Ireland, Great Britain, Malaysia, Singapore, and Bahrain.  In addition to traveling extensively, Henry also performs for United States troops through the United Service Organizations (USO).  
6. Never Doubt Yourself
“If I listened to all the things that they sad to me I wouldn't be here, If I took the time to bleed from all the tiny arrows I wouldn't be here, The ones who don't do anything are always the ones to try to put you down, You could spend your entire life in the nowhere land of self doubt, because when you start to doubt yourself the real world will eat you alive.”
Although Henry held a cynical view of human nature for most of his early years, most of this was justified.  When he was the lead singer of Black Flag, people who claimed to be fans stole his food, clothes, and even poured beer on their equipment.  Having a high self-esteem can take you a long way in this world.  Without self-confidence, your life will begin to deconstruct.  Believing in yourself is the foundation that we all need to accomplish great things.  

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