Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Lessons from Michael Jackson

Today we said goodbye to Michael Jackson. From the Staple Center in California, family, friends, and fans gathered to share precious moments of a life once lived with the greatest entertainer we have ever known. While only twenty thousand made it into the building, millions more watched from their television or computer screens.

While I could go on and speak about the events of the day, I have a slightly different agenda. Tonight, I would like to share some recent thoughts I've had about his life.

Take for example, last night. For hours, I sat at my computer watching old videos of Michael; not just the music videos but also those moments in interviews that may reveal something more about the man. I found that I needed to find answers to questions many have asked for years. The most obvious question is about the changes he made to his face and skin. Second, did he always talk so quietly? What happened in his life that made him the man he was?

Let me just say, I don't think I found an answer to any of those questions, but I did find I learned something. After hours of video, I realized that Michael indeed had a huge weight upon his shoulders. Some of which was placed upon him by his parents, media, but mostly by his own talent.

From an early age, Michael Jackson proved to be a gifted dancer, singer, and performer. He captured the hearts and minds of millions of people from the around the world. I am reminded of the concerts where grown men fainted at just his presence. That is crazy.

There is no doubt in my mind that we received a gift from God. Yes, there were some pretty strange things about Michael, but looking over his life I think I understand. From such an early age, I see that Michael has barely had the opportunity to be normal. Running from city to city and living out of a suitcase is hard in itself, but imagine losing your ability to walk down the street or shop in a grocery store. Of course, we may joke about the benefits of living plush, but think of what you or I would become had we lost our chance to live normally.

Take away school dances, trips to the mall, or just a casual dinner and a movie with a friend. Instead, imagine being chased and scrutinized for every little thing you do. It has to be tiring. Knowing no other kind of life, what can we expect?

In hindsight, I don't think I could comprehend how different my life would be had I been placed in such a position. I'm sure there are plenty of great moments, but then there has to be moments of loneliness and pain. Don't mistake that to mean we don't have similar moments, but how much greater do you think it was for him?

Like many others, I was disappointed in his need for plastic surgery, heavy makeup, and awkward lifestyle, but then I realized that my expectations were ill founded. The Michael Jackson we knew was always there. Whether he was dark, light, or somewhere in between, he was always Mike and we really didn't know who he was. We just wanted him to be who we thought he was. Once we learned to get passed all that, we soon learn that Michael was only being true to himself. He did what made him happy and it rubbed off on the rest of us.

For me, there are some take away lessons. Number one, we should always remain true to who we are. Forget what others may say and love our own contributions, no matter how different they are. Second, the lifetime success didn't happen overnight. No, it started when he was only five and continued all the days of his life. Like Mike, we need to hold fast to our calling and seek to explore and perfect every aspect of it. While we may never attain star status, we will know we gave life our all. Finally, I learned that fame and fortune are merely illusions. No matter the amount of money or power we gain, in the end we are all just people who will one day meet the great equalizer. Our life, no matter how great or poor we live it, is the sum of many NOW moments. The question I ask of you is what will you do with your NOW moment? How will you make the world a better place? How will you be remembered when you’re gone? Hopefully, I can someday look back over my life and be proud of how I spent my NOW moments. What about you?

Until next time...

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Damond L. Nollan, M.B.A.

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