The title of this post may sound like the beginning of bad joke, but it is a focus on another thing we have to be thankful for – childhood heroes. When I was growing up, I admired many people for many different reasons. This is natural as you are growing and looking to establish your own identity. One of the first people I can recall thinking was ‘cool’ was Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of the Australian band INXS. He was the singer of a popular band, he was kind of dark and mysterious, dated models and appreciated good food and wine. Then I remember seeing a James Bond movie. Other than wondering why a British spy would have a Scottish accent (Sean Connery) I admired the cool that dripped off him. Always dressed to the nines, enjoying a martini, “Shaken, not stirred.” He stopped the bad guy, got the girl and never seemed to get his suit dirty. Lastly, there was John Wayne. What young boy back in the day didn’t play cowboys? It wasn’t the shooting and horse riding that I admired about this cowboy. No, I admired that even in the stickiest of situations, he managed to stick to his principles and always do the right thing, even if it wasn’t the easiest thing.
As I grew older I appreciated my heroes for an entirely different reason, their faults. I could learn from their mistakes. The Aussie fell victim to many of the excesses he enjoyed. As well as a fateful argument with a taxi cab driver while intoxicated. This lead to bouts of depression and ended with his assumed suicide. I learned there are limits to even the finest things in life. It may have taken me a while to learn this lesson, but I got there. I also learned that physical altercations while intoxicated never have good outcomes. Still, I enjoy good food and wine. On a side note, I am also dating a lady that should be a model, but chose baker instead. The spy certainly had his faults as well. Too many martinis does not help you catch the bad guy, it usually turns you in to the bad guy. Seldom, if you are doing any kind of work, you will get your suit dirty. I don’t wear a suit, but I have plenty of adventures and did end up with my very own Bond girl. Lastly, John Wayne. I do my best to always do the right thing especially in tough situations. If I don’t, it isn’t because of my intentions but my lack of knowledge. I don’t settle things through physical means as The Duke was sometimes known to do. One thing I did get from John Wayne, as well as my favorite book How to Win Friends and Influence People, is to always afford the other party a chance to save face. Especially if you are right or have come out ahead in a particular situation. Embarrassing or humiliating the other party only makes your ego happy. The side-effect is you come out looking like the jerk. Not to mention you create an enemy. This isn’t the wild west, but you never know when the two of you may cross paths again. If they remember the respect you showed them when you were on top, that can go a long way. This lesson has paid off several times in my own life.
Think of your own childhood heroes. Why did you admire them? What positive qualities did you strive to emulate? Do you have them currently or are you working towards developing them? What can you learn from their faults? Heroes or not, nobody is perfect. We can learn from their faults just as we can learn from our own. Life is too short for any of us to make all the mistakes and learn all of the lessons we need to. If you do all of this, you will find your life not only begins to resemble the life of your heroes, but you will look in the mirror one morning to discover you have become your own hero.
I once heard someone say “We have to learn from the mistakes of others because we can’t possibly make them all ourselves.” At the time I heard it, I thought that was one of the stupidest things. Who wants to make a mistake anyway? I am not going to try to make them all. In fact, I am going to try to make as few as I can. If I was going to study anything (I wasn’t really much for studying back then) I was going to study what people did that worked. I want to learn how to be successful, not to make mistakes.
That was when I was young and thought I knew everything. Now that I am old and realize I know hardly anything, it makes a lot more sense. A great example was the fellow pictured above. I always thought Michael Hutchence of the band INXS was the living definition of the word cool. He had a killer voice, a stylish yet dark look, an intriguing aura, he had a way of charming the ladies and he fronted a really great band. I thought to myself, “That is the guy I would like to be like!” There were a few things standing in my way such as not being Australian, not having curly hair and millions of dollars to be able to put together a great wardrobe and just grow my creativity. I did manage to front a band of amazing and talented musicians. I never stopped focusing on developing my creativity and learned all I could on how to be charming and witty.
On November 22, 1997 Michael Hutchence was found dead at the Ritz-Carlton in Double Bay, Sydney. He apparently died by suicide, hanging himself. Although there is some debate behind the motive, the result was tragically the same. The world had lost a great musician and I had lost a man who I believed to define what it meant to be on top.
I do not recall how much I read or investigated after his death. Recently, I listened to some documentaries on his life, career and of course his death. I learned that he was a shy and reserved individual who turned into another person all together on stage. I learned that to deal with the pressure of fame, he often used drugs or alcohol to dull the pain. There were many failed relationships and heartache along the way. There was a terrible injury he sustained while having a drunken fight with a cab driver. This resulted in brain damage that caused a diminished sense of taste and smell. Although he found a woman he loved and had a child that he said caused him to be unselfish for the first time in his life, there were struggles there too. She was still involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle over the 2 children she had previously. This often left Michael unable to see his own child on holidays and special occasions. All of this stress coupled with the prescription drugs and illegal drugs he was taking took their final toll that day in November.
Listening to these stories and learning all of this really made me think of what I thought was cool then, and what I think is cool now. I certainly had my days of partying with bands and as a bartender. I have had failed relationships. What I did was learn from them. I valued my creativity throughout everything. Michael Hutchence died at the age of 37. Here I sit at the age of 44, almost 45. I learned that dulling the pain is not as healthy as taking steps to heal the pain. I learned having the ability to be loving and charming to one woman and deepen that love is far more fulfilling than anything else I can think of. Right now I am still friends with some of my old band mates. I am able to use and grow my creativity daily. Best of all I have the most beautiful woman in the world to share it all with. As I look back, I believe Michael Hutchence might look at that and think to himself, “That is one cool mate.”
Think of your heroes. Look at the mistakes they made. It can really teach you a lot.