Five Lessons from Henry Rollins


Henry Rollins durante un concierto de Rollins ...This past Saturday, I saw Henry Rollins speak at a local theater. Do you know him?

Basically, he is a Punk Rock 2.0 legend who upgraded the music scene to include more gay and “minority” kids — and a lot more girls. That’s where I come into the story: wannabe Punk Rock 3.0 in the early ’90s.

So I hauled my middle-aged ass down to the local theater and watched Rollins get on stage and talk about work, power, politics and money. I was really excited to see the show because, as a public speaker, I struggle with the difference between being viewed as an entertainer and thinker or being watched like an animal at a zoo.

Being watched is creepy. And it’s a fine line.

One of my friends sent me a text and said, “You should write the five lessons you learned from seeing Henry Rollins.”

I wrote back, “Pffffft.”

But that’s actually a good idea. So here you go.

  1. Don’t be a workaholic. Be a workslut. Henry Rollins works hard, but he doesn’t have one job that defines him. He speaks, he writes and he plays music. He works in media, he travels and he volunteers. He doesn’t say no to opportunities that can lead to more opportunities. What’s the alternative? Sit at home and let your muscles (and your brain) atrophy?
  2. You can’t throw money at a problem and expect to solve it. Rollins talked about his trips to Senegal, Uganda, Tibet, Burma and Haiti. He shared heartbreaking stories about the need for water, decent sanitation and landmine removal. It’s great when Americans go abroad build latrines; however, people need local solutions to local problems. There are no simple answers to complex problems like human trafficking, political corruption and weaponized rape.
  3. The unexamined life is not worth living. It’s up to you — not your job, your boss or your colleagues — to figure out who you are and what you believe in. Be curious. Continue to learn. To be undecided about anything in life is to be irresponsible.
  4. When you retire from life, you die. I saw Rollins, a 51 year-old man who doesn’t have to work, plant his body on stage for 2.5 hours and never take a sip of water as he delivered his monologue. I saw a man who loved his work and loved his audience. He was prepared. He was mentally focused. In his words, he was switched on. It was inspiring.
  5. Even if you’re stuck, keep fighting. Rollins talked about a spectrum of distractions and afflictions: anxiety, depression, diabetes, drugs, alcohol and high-fructose corn syrup. When you are stuck, someone else makes money and advances an agenda that is not in your best interest. Don’t go down without a fight.

The other thing I learned by watching Henry Rollins? I need to stay healthy and continue to exercise in order to manage my anxiety, improve my speaking skills and be ready to take the fight to the next guy who tells me that Planned Parenthood is a waste of taxpayer money.

You want to tell me what to do with my body? You better be able to run faster than me because I’m coming for you.

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