I’ll be honest, I never thought that I’d be quoting Ashton Kutcher at length — not, I stress, that I have anything against Ashton Kutcher.
I really don’t. I mean, I know that all the hip, indie-type kids are supposed to eschew all things mainstream, and there’s little more mainstream than being a hugely successful TV and movie star, but the dude is just doing his job and doing it well. Plus which he is, if we are to be frank, very handsome. So I have nothing against him – he’s just not my jam. (Who is my jam? Let’s not discuss that here *cough*Tom Hiddleston*cough*).
But, that being the case, I never really expected to be quoting Ashton Kutcher at length. And yet here I am, about to do just that. He said the following at the Teen Choice Awards, so that room + those who watch the Teen Choice Awards were his audience — which is to say: People who don’t often hear the kind of thing he’s telling them here. The video of him saying all of the following (starting at about the 1:59 mark) is above, and it’s worth a watch, because it’s nice watching people being passionate when they say good things.
I believe that opportunity looks a lot like hard work. When I was 13 I had my first job with my dad, carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job at a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground. And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job. And I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.
Number two: Being sexy. 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.
The third thing is something that I just relearned when I was making this movie about Steve Jobs. And 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, and maybe get an education, and get a job, and make some money, and have a family, but life can be a lot broader than that when you realize one simple thing, and that is that everything around us, that we call life, was made up by people that are no smarter than you. And you can build your own things, you can build your own life that other people can live in. So build a life, don’t live one, build one. Find your opportunities and always be sexy. I love you guys.
Everyone’s already focusing on the middle bit, where he said those wonderful things about being sexy and the crap that we’re sold to try to make us feel like less, and I absolutely love that bit (and yes, Ashton Kutcher makes his money from selling things and being presented to the world in a conventionally attractive manner, plus he tends to date/act with women who are conventionally beautiful. That doesn’t make what he said any less true, and I would submit that for the audience in question, it gives those words a powerful added punch. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the kids who watch the Teen Choice Awards aren’t reading this blog).
But I also really loved the bits on either side of the middle bit. Now, I’ve already written about successful people talking about striving for success and how frustrating that can sometimes be to hear, and of course, in an extemporaneous, three minute speech at the Teen Choice Awards, no one is going to hit all the important points (like the ones I made right here, if you’re wondering), but whatever: He’s right. Opportunity looks like work, and often like very hard work. Not always, but often. If you really want what you want, it will almost never be handed to you, and I think that’s a good thing to remind people from time to time, especially young people who might be venerating The Famous.
And building a life rather than just living it — finding the things that you want to build and that are meaningful to you, because you are capable, too — that’s really powerful, and really important.
Have I gotten everything I wanted in my life? Do I always feel sexy (despite the fact that I am, in fact, really smart, and try hard to be thoughtful and generous)? I think that my writing on this blog is testament to the fact that no. Because I also try to be honest.
But that doesn’t make any of the above untrue, it just makes it part of a larger whole. We cannot expect anyone to deliver all of the truth in three minutes — but we can be grateful to those who tell some of it, particularly to an audience in particular need of hearing it.
Thanks, Mr. Kutcher. You may not be my jam, but you are A-OK. If you ever see Mr. Hiddleston, please tell him I say hi.