Henry Rollins is about as punk as it is humanly possible to be. Integrity is a currency that the former Black Flag holds in rich quantities, and he is an ever-reliable source of advice for those in need. Rollins might be intense when he’s snarling away on stage, but when the show is over, he is full of compelling wisdom that can enhance the lives of many.
As hardcore missionaries go, you’ll struggle to find anybody more esteemed than Rollins. Even now that he’s semi-retired from music, the swirling punk attitude still exudes from everything he does. Whether he’s up on stage performing his one-man show in theatres or making a cameo as a guest judge on Ru Paul’s Drag Race — Rollins doesn’t do anything in half measures, and he brings bundles of earnest energy to every project he accepts.
Rollins is an unorthodox rockstar, and his personality evades almost every cliched rock ‘n’ roller characteristic. He’s lived a teetotal lifestyle – bar a few experimentations in his early 20s – and Rollins’ memory of his life in music is crystal clear, unlike many of his hazy contemporaries.
Remarkably, his life story is yet to be turned into a movie despite its fairytale-like nature. Rollins’ humble origin story began with him as a starry-eyed fan of Black Flag who was plucked from the crowd and miraculously became their lead singer. If there’s somebody who knows about the importance of taking opportunities, it’s Rollins.
In 2012, the musician opened up with Big Think about his advice to Young Americans and the life lessons he’s learnt along his wild ride.
“You’ll find in your life that sometimes your great ambitions will be momentarily stymied, forted and marginalised by those who were perhaps luckier, come from money were more doors open, and where college was a given. It was not a student loan, it was something that dad paid for,” Rollins passionately starts his speech by saying.
Rollins continues: “Some of the greatest Americans, some of the greatest thinkers, architects, politicians and other movers, shakers and creators all over the world have come from very meagre beginnings. Like my favourite American, Abraham Lincoln.”
He later adds: “You will encounter people who never have to pay in full,” he says. “They get to wreck the room and never have to clean it. They can get all the way through high school and never understand where a dollar comes from because they just get it given to them.”
Rollins then profoundly states: “You cannot let these people make you feel that you have in any way been dwarfed or outclassed. You must really go for your own and realise how short life is. You got what you got, so you’ve got to make the most of it. You really can’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about his.”
Rollins has battled against adversity all his life and made sure always to remain fighting the good fight in spite of unmerciful circumstances. He’s been an outsider who smashed the glass ceiling with his fist, and Rollins knows all too well about proving people wrong.
If you watch anything today, make sure it’s this motivational clip from Rollins. It will light a fire in anyone’s belly and provide the necessary inner strength to take on the world.