When something substantive emanates from Hollywood, it’s worth taking note of. While so much of the celebrity world, and the pop-culture media, is egocentric, self-aggrandizing, and self-absorbed, infrequently does someone from that environment offer something visionary, insightful, inspiring, and non-hypocritical. Yet Ashton Kutcher did just that as he proffered some wisdom and hope to a youthful crowd this week.
Sunday evening at the Teen Choice Awards, Kutcher was presented the Ultimate Choice Award. His take on the significance of the award may have been implied by his joke about it, as he referenced it being the “old guy award.”
He then said that he wanted to share three things that he thought important for his young audience. And frankly, in retrospect, they’re three important concepts for people of any age.
His first point was, “I believe that opportunity looks a lot like work.” He described the various jobs that he’d had before he succeeded in acting, including helping his dad carry shingles for roofing jobs; a dishwasher at a restaurant; working in a deli at a grocery store, and sweeping the floors of a factory. He continued, “I never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. Every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job and I never quit my job before I had my next job.”
There are so many of all ages today who believe that certain jobs are beneath their dignity, so they choose to not work at all, refuse to accept responsibility for their own lives, and subsist in a state of dependency. But especially with those of Generation Y there seems to be the pervasive expectation of entitlement. They feel entitled to all the comforts their parents worked for years to acquire, but they want it now, and are convinced they’re entitled. Those of Generation Y, especially, must come to realize the self-worth and satisfaction that comes from hard work, and what it does to build character as well as provide for needs and wants, and that there is no job that is “beneath” them, and no perks to which they are entitled.
They’re not even entitled to opportunity, which, as Kutcher explained, looks a lot like “work.” They have to assume responsibility, exhibit discipline, and be trustworthy to earn a shot at a job. Each job, regardless of pay or station, is an opportunity to improve skills, improve character, become more responsible and accountable, thereby preparing for the next opportunity.
Kutcher’s next point appears cavalier, but it conveys much more depth than evident at first blush. He said, “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart. And being thoughtful and being generous. Everything else is crap. I promise you. It’s just crap that people try to sell to you to make you feel like less. So don’t buy it. Be smart. Be thoughtful and be generous.”
How refreshing! To have someone from the Hollywood in-crowd promoting character and intelligence as “sexy, as opposed to the superficial and physical attributes touted by his entertainment contemporaries! He’s right; everything else is “crap;” the hairdos, the tattoos, the plastic-surgery-enhanced body parts, etc. ad nauseam.
Kutcher’s final point was obviously inspired by his most recent acting role of portraying the inimitable Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, in the just-released movie “Jobs.” He said, “Steve Jobs said when you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way that it is, and that your life is to live your life inside the world and try not to get into too much trouble. Maybe get an education, get a job, make some money, and have a family. But life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing: everything around us that we call life was made up of people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things and you can build your own life that other people can live in.”
While not all of us may have the ability to technologically build our world or our life as Jobs did, we can all build our lives, and do more than simply subsist. We build our lives each day by the decisions we make, the volition we exercise, the character we infuse, the judgment we exercise, and the people we serve.
The fact that Kutcher would use his elevated pop-culture status, and such a venue, to promulgate such verities is encouraging. But perhaps even more significant is the fact that video clips of his comments are going viral on the internet. That such positive, elevating, and ennobling rhetoric would resonate with so many around the country is not just a good sign, it’s an indication that there may be room to hope that the heart and soul of our society have not been terminally infected with the debilitating notion of entitlement.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho and is a graduate of Idaho State University with degrees in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at [email protected].