Today marks the 31st anniversary of the killing of John Lennon. It seems hard to believe that John Lennon’s life ended this way, and for no good explicable reason. He did not want to become a martyr for any of his many causes. He was just getting back into writing music and was building his life with Yoko and their son, Sean. It seemed like he was trying to build a relationship with his son Julian, and he was trying to reconnect with his sisters, whom he had mostly run away from since their mother’s death. It does indeed seem strange that withall of that positivity building, John Lennon had to be cut down and cut out of this world by a crazy person.
That being said, his death is probably not what Lennon would want us to think about today. I suspect he would have wanted us to look at his life and see what we could garner from that. There is nothing we can learn from a crazy person’s motivations, after all, except that there is no such thing as “too careful.”
The following are lessons I pull from this man’s life. Maybe you can add some to the list, too.
Take care of yourself first
Although it probably fueled his creativity and music, John Lennon was in anguish for most of his life, and through all of his years of crazy celebrity and his very public life, there was always an immense load of baggage that John carried. A rough childhood led to his mother’s death when John was 18. When he was 21 his best friend died, and then the whirlwind of Beatlemania took over his life. Through it all, until he was in his late 30s, John didn’t really deal with his darkness. Who knows what this may have cost him. John would not find peace in his own life or beyond it until he dealt with his demons, and he was not able to connect with his wife or sons until he found that peace.
Lesson: A person who is drowning cannot save another.
Take care of the people who love you
Although you might call to mind songs like Imagine or Give Peace a Chance when you think of John Lennon, his personal life was almost anything but peaceful until his last five years on this planet. Over the last few years, Julian Lennon has expressed his very complex feelings about his father, who was never around and who completely ditched Julian and Cynthia once Yoko came into the picture. John’s relationship with Paul McCartney soured, too, and there were many instances when drugs or drunkenness made Lennon seem like a far cry from a Peace-nik. For some, this tarnishes much of the good that Lennon did in his public life.
Lesson: Practice what you preach with those nearest to you, then bring it out into the world.
PR for a good cause is good PR indeed
A lot of people thought John and Yoko’s “Bed-ins” were pretty ridiculous, but what they didn’t grasp is that their ridicule, so long as it remained public, accomplished exactly what John and Yoko wanted – it got people to talk about world peace. Supporting a good cause doesn’t always have to mean doing a fundraiser. If you can find a way to bring the issue to people, especially with all of the online tools available, you can accomplish a great deal.
Lesson: Talking about a problem is the first step in solving that problem
You don’t need to throw a parade every time you do something nice
Although Lennon certainly understood how to use media and PR to bring issues into peoples’ homes, there was a lot he did that was completely under the radar. He and Yoko Ono donated thousands of dollars to different organizations, often anonymously (we know now). Given how much negative feeling the couple attracted, it would have been easy enough for them to say, “Hey, look at this great thing we did!” But they didn’t.
Lesson: Examine your reasons for doing social good. Is it about you or about the people you’re trying to help?
Dreaming isn’t stupid
One part of Lennon’s complexity is that while he was very bitter about a lot of things, he was also, in a lot of ways, an idealist. He really believed that the world could be as one. He really believed race and religion and ethnicity and creed could become irrelevant in terms of judging a person’s character. This did not represent a flaw in Lennon’s character but rather showed the source of his great passion. With enough work, it seemed like his dreams could come true.
Lesson: If everyone starts dreaming the same dream, the world really could be as one.
Use great power for great good
This is what I admire most about John Lennon, for all of his flaws. No one had really experienced the kind of fame that the Beatles experienced in the early to mid-1960s. Elvis and Dylan were up there, but it wasn’t quite the same level of craziness. Lennon, by his own admission, went through what he called his “fat Elvis” period, where he and Paul would sit down to “Write a swimming pool.” But unlike a lot of stars, Lennon realized that he could use this immense power to shine the spotlight on issues that were ripping apart the world. Audrey Hepburn did the same thing, using her fame to give strength to UNICEF. Today, many stars use their power to spread social good, but it doesn’t need to be that kind of power alone. If you have thousands of people following you on Twitter, use that power for good. If you have thousands of blog subscribers, that is power that can be used for good. It’s worth thinking about.
Lesson: With great power comes great responsibility. It’s a privilege to have both.
What lessons do you draw from John Lennon’s life? What do you mark on this anniversary of his death?
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heardsy/2006642839/ via Creative Commons