The Last Person I Wanted To Be

Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run, changed the way I think about him, and myself too.  There are a lot of people I’ve wanted to be over my life:  Bernstein, Tolkein, Billy Joel.  Bruce Springsteen was the last person I wanted to be.


By that I don’t mean that he was the person I least wanted to be.  I mean that the very last time I wanted to be someone else, it was Bruce.  I wanted his power, his charisma, his life.


What’s interesting about his autobiography is that, aside from the music parts, I found out that his life isn’t all that different from anyone else’s.  It’s got his depression, his proudest moments, and his ongoing relationship with his family…things we all have.  It’s his life, not his art.


I have been inspired by the thing he created, the character who played the songs, who speaks from the albums.  Bruce is not that character.  He even said in an interview there were times he wishes he could be that guy!


And yet the thing I love about Springsteen’s work is that I see myself in it.  Myself at my best, the person I could be.  There’s something in that work that makes me feel safe, which is really funny considering where it came from.


Bruce created his work by living his life, being unsafe, making mistakes.  If he hadn’t lived it, nothing I love about him would be there.  If I want to create work that other people will love that much, I obviously have to live mine.


That means I have to do the scariest things imaginable.  I have to do what Derek Sivers says, say “Yes when I used to say no, and No when I used to say yes.”  I have to be willing to accept the mistakes I’m going to make, the things I’m going to do wrong, and to be careful with the people I could hurt.


I have fooled myself into thinking I was living my full life by making excuses.  I blamed my wife and family for holding me back.  They were never the reason.


Maybe I wasn’t ready.  On the other hand, what does ready mean?  That I’m going to do it “right” somehow?


Bruce was ready at 16.  He played in bar-bands for years before he finally crossed the line into the beginnings of success.  None of his triumphs ever saved him from being a person or dealing with the consequences of his actions.


So if I’m ready for anything, I’m ready to not be ready.  I’ll do the work, take the hits, and get up.  And if I start to act stupid, I’m counting on my friends and family to let me know as soon and as loudly as possible…I will need that kind of help.


Adam Cole is an author, educator and performer who blogs weekly on creativity and artistry.  To view more of Adam's work, please visit 

1 comment

  • Marilyn


    Great article. How fortunate you are learning all of these life lessons now. Some people never do.

    Great article. How fortunate you are learning all of these life lessons now. Some people never do.

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