Inspiration Part 2: Henry Rollins

A while back I published an article about the lessons I learned from Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary that I found very inspiring and enlightening.  Today I want to talk about a recent experience I had that affected me even more profoundly.

Back in August I attended Outside Lands, an outdoor music festival in San Francisco.  The very first act I saw was a spoken word performance by Henry Rollins, the former lead singer of Black Flag.  Henry is a fascinating person, and the most amazing and inspiring storyteller I’ve ever heard.

Here’s what I learned from watching Henry Rollins speak.

Get good at telling stories

This man is the most amazing storyteller I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing.  Right from the start when he told the story about how he tried out for the high school wrestling team, then quit after having his arm wrenched around while his opponent’s sweaty balls were jammed into my face, to the story about opening for Black Sabbath, to the part about visiting Iran, I was completely enraptured.  I wish I had had a seat so I could sit on the edge of it.

Being able to tell good stories is such a useful skill- it makes you fun at parties, helps you network, it makes your writing better.  Hell, if you’re good enough you can get paid to tell stories like Henry does.

When you get an exciting but risky opportunity, take it

Henry was working as a shift manager at a Häagen-Dazs ice cream shop when he was invited to try out for Black Flag.  He had to miss a day of work to drive to New York to try out. 

When he was invite to join the band, he had to immediately quit his job, move out of his apartment, pack all of his belongings into his car and go join the band on the road.  Scary, right?  But the worst case scenario was that if it didn’t work out, he would go back to working in retail; it’s not like he was giving up anything that couldn’t be easily replaced.

Be hungry for work

Henry will take almost any work he’s offered- singing, storytelling, acting, voice acting, comedy, you name it.  Fun fact: I’m not a fan of his music.  I first found out who he was when I saw him in a video game about rappers cage fighting.

He views every gig as a chance to practice his skills, build his career, and of course make money.  And that’s important because…

The terror of an ordinary life is a powerful motivator

Henry is up front about the fact that he’s always worked hard because he knew if he didn’t, he’d be right back at Häagen-Dazs making ten bucks an hour.  He’s running away from that life at least as much as he’s running towards his dreams. 

Of course positive has it’s place, but the fear of a mediocre life can be an excellent source of motivation.  It works for Henry.

That wraps up this article- in the third and final installment I’ll explain why I don’t usually talk about inspiration- then I’ll tell you how to find inspiration and use it to change your life.