By his own admission, Jon Bon Jovi is the world’s most boring rock star; but I can find nothing boring about a man who is real. From where I am standing, the world needs many, many more real men. What is a real man? A person who creates a life that is aligned with his values, treasures those he loves and serves the community at large. On all counts, JBJ scores a home run.
A consummate professional, he also happens to have been married to the same woman since 1989. The key, it would seem, is a profound humility that pervades everything he says. The same quality of humility one would expect to experience when hearing Gandhi or Mother Theresa speak, but not a rock legend. On being a rock star, he is quoted as saying “It’s not what I am … It’s just what I do …” (His 25-minute CNBC interview is well worth watching, and is included at the end of this post.)
Asked why he is so humble about his ability to vastly outsell younger top artists at the ripe old age of 51, JBJ replies, “It’s not the cure for cancer.” Yes, he likes to write and perform songs, but it’s his philanthropic activities that put a real fire in his grown-up belly today. In 2006 he founded the Soul Foundation, with the intention of “promoting innovation and long-lasting solutions to rebuilding pride in one’s self and one’s community, one soul at a time.”
One in six Americans are currently going hungry; and one in five households are at or below the poverty level. The Soul Foundation’s solutions: provide food and shelter in the form of the JBJ Soul Kitchen and JBJ Soul Homes.
The Soul Kitchen is a community restaurant in Philadelphia. As JBJ explains, “You come here, you eat. If you can afford to eat, you pay. If you can’t afford to pay, you volunteer.” Whatever you’re willing to do in lieu of payment, you do: it might be stocking bags, waiting tables or washing dishes. Hoping to replicate the concept around the US, this is no soup kitchen: JBJ will measure its ultimate success in terms of the number of jobs generated and job training provided.
JBJ Soul Homes aims to end homelessness by building affordable housing for formerly homeless and low-income families. Inspiring stuff. Concrete stuff. Such acts are the acts of a person who has made it through the gateway of mid-life crisis, gets the joke, and is sailing at full tilt into their ‘legacy years’, determined to give it everything they’ve got.
What has been dubbed ‘mid-life crisis’ is really a mid-life crossroads, a rite of passage through which every human passes somewhere between their 38th and 44th year. There are only two Alice-in-Wonderland-esque outcomes that can occur as a result of the struggle we experience at this time: either we spiral downwards, unable to shake the grip of our ego; or we spiral upwards, following the guidance of our inner self to create in ways that are meaningful and beneficial to others.
The route a person takes at the crossroads is easily distinguishable. In the first instance, an all-consuming obsession with one’s lost youth, in all its variegated – and equally unbecoming forms – drives us to ‘upgrade’ our bodies, our partners and various other aspects of our lives in a myriad of superficial ways.
In sharp contrast, following the path directed by the inner self takes the focus away from our own needs. Having spent the first half of our lives being net takers of energy, we now feel compelled to balance the books and ‘pay it back’, shifting gears to become net givers. The spotlight of our awareness begins to shine softly and steadily upon potential beneficiaries, and we look for ways to match our talents and skills to what is required. This path leads to fulfillment as we enter into our legacy years. In many indigenous cultures, a tribal member is not considered to be a true adult – which comes with the title ‘tribal elder’ – until they have entered this phase. In my not so humble opinion, Jon Bon Jovi has passed the test.
Whether you’d like to actively help, or follow their journey for inspiration, you can find JBJ’s foundation here: www.jonbonjovisoulfoundation.org. To watch JBJ’s CNBC interview: http://video.cnbc.com/gallery/?video=3000090593
Photo: Rosana Prada (originally posted to Flickr as Bon Jovi) via Wikimedia Commons