How You Can be a Rock Star at Whatever—A Lesson Brought to You by Jimmy Kimmel


 Jimmy Kimmel failed a test as an undergrad at Arizona State. It wasn’t because he hadn’t prepared. Or because he skipped a bunch of classes in favor of playing Grand Theft Auto with his roommates. You will likely never guess the reason why. It was because he didn’t have a pencil on him and couldn’t bring himself to ask a classmate to borrow one. Yes. Jimmy Kimmel. The guy who was on the cover of the February 2018 GQ and hosts a daily show that more than 2 million viewers watch. A pencil? Wait, what? A freakin’ pencil. Ask the dude in the Reebok sweats next to you for a flipping pencil. For real? Before you say to yourself, That is nuts, let’s get curious… because we’ve got a lot to learn from this moment in Jimmy’s life.

All of us want to be a rock star. A rock star in class. A rock star in the throes of a heated game of Fortnite. A rock star on the basketball court. There is one thing that is keeping each one of us from becoming who it is we have come here to be.

Notice I did not say who is it you want to be or dream of becoming or wish to become—but who it is you are in this lifetime to be.

When we were visiting our son at his school in Vermont last fall, we attended a local church. Usually, during Mass, I’m hunting around for the message, thinking about how it applies to my life, making a list of what I need to pick up after the service at the convenience store. Some preachers and priests are natural storytellers, some aren’t. Father Tom caught our attention and held it fast. Including our 13-year-old son’s. “Your body is rented to you. Your mind, too. By God. It’s not yours forever, it’s just yours for now. And how you use it to do good work is what matters most to your soul.”

In those few sentences, Father Tom’s message resonated deep in my solar plexus; awakened what I suspect I have known forever but have spent the better part of 50 years ignoring because I have a bad habit, a habit that is keeping me smaller and less kind and decidedly less of a rock star. The Fear of Me.

The self-doubts that swirl round and round—an internal monologue. I’m never going to measure up. I’m afraid of putting myself out there. Who am I to think anyone would read a blog post of mine? And I got to thinking about the students I work with. What’s going on in their heads? And how are they measuring themselves against others? Let me say this: Our kids, teens, tweens, and young adults, have grown up being bombarded with the message that if you aren’t on top, aren’t a winner, didn’t get a perfect-score, failed to land an internship, aren’t doing research in a biotech lab, or aren’t shadowing at Sloan Kettering, then you are somehow less-than. If you haven’t conquered, aren’t confident, don’t wear the “right” clothes, then you are somehow less-than.

In the business I work in, if you aren’t getting into what your peers and family or you yourself consider to be a “top” school, then, well, sorry, but maybe you’re a loser.

Within your worst fears lie the greatest opportunities to become who it is you have come here to be.

At least 8 out of the 10 students I work with repeat these messages of “less-than” to themselves. There’s not a lot of self-compassion around here, and what’s wreaking complete and total havoc is that average (whatever that means) may not be an option given the prevalence of super-high expectations related to achievement, income, comfort, and accolade.

It is interesting to look specifically at all of the scientific literature on social media and its links with depression. For example, this article reads: “Researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called “Facebook depression,” defined as depression that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”

Although this article is long, I would recommend scanning through the topics listed and reading what interests you! Research aside, let's move back to Jimmy and his struggles. How Jimmy Kimmel overcame extreme shyness (because it was shyness, after all) and moved from the student who wouldn’t ask for a pencil to an internationally renowned comedian who is also standing up for health insurance for children is exactly how you, at your age, can go from doing what you are doing now to becoming the rock star you came here to be.

Within your worst fears lie the greatest opportunities to become who it is you have come here to be.

Image Source:, photograph by Eric Ray Davidson
Publication date: May 21, 2018


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