So, young man, you want to be Henry Rollins? You must be prepared to sacrifice everything: home, long-term relationship, children, sleep. You must be ready, every night of the year, to step on stage in a new city and perform your heart out, then go back to your hotel room (or possibly your car) and type up two chapters of your new book. Then, when the sun peeks over the windowsill, you must spring out of bed, do 100 pushups, and start all over again. All while maintaining a sunny disposition toward those who have done you no harm and fighting the good fight against the forces of evil. 

This isn’t much of an exaggeration, really. Henry Rollins is the ur-Artist/Entrepreneur. And although not every solo artist has quite his intensity or diversity of interests, HR is a valuable mentor as to what it takes to survive and thrive for decades as a writer, musician, actor, photographer, or some combination of all of the above. 

[VIDEO] Henry Rollins: “You must be the French Foreign Legion of your own life.”

Uncle Henry’s Three Rules For Success: 

1) Say ‘Yes’ to Everything 

At any given time, Rollins is involved in and planning for multiple projects. He’s naturally curious and enthusiastic, and always eager to test his limits. Last year, he published a book of photographs. Next year, he’s got two documentaries lined up. He’s written and recorded numerous books and solo albums. This diversity of interests and openness to new experiences ensures two things: 1) That Rollins is never wanting for paying work. 2) That he’s constantly evolving and his work never gets stale.  

2) Work Your Ass Off

There’s no way around this one. Henry Rollins is a workaholic. The guy leads a more or less monkish existence and doesn’t sleep. Saying yes to everything means being busy 24/7, but in a world where no artist can rely on royalties or advances or any one revenue stream alone to sustain her, this level of dedication is the only way. And if the Godfather of Punk should run out of steam a bit at age 60 or so? He can always scale back his operation and take a creative writing professorship at Oberlin. 

When trying to stick to rule #2, it is helpful to have a raging fire under said ass. In Henry’s case, this is gratitude for the life he’s created and the ever-present danger of returning to the financial hardship he knew as a young man. 

3) Be “the French Foreign Legion of Your Own Life” 

In his downtime, Henry Rollins sits at a provisional desk, maps and calendars spread out before him, manipulating small plastic models of tour buses. If he smoked, he’d have an enormous cigar hanging out of the corner of his mouth, the ash always just about ready to fall. 

Rollins lines up projects sometimes two years ahead, then takes his time planning, pruning, sorting out logistics. You have to take an active interest, he says, in the unfolding story of your own career. 

So you still want to be Henry Rollins, kid? Bad news. The job’s already taken. The good news is that Henry’s three golden rules gives you strong odds of success on your own, unique path as an artist/entrepreneur – the one that only you can carve out.


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