Jim Morrison died at 27. What can he teach us about accomplishments and motivation, 40 years later?
I watched When You’re Strange (aff), the 2010 documentary film about The Doors, tonight. The film reminded me of the fact that Jim Morrison was a member of the so-called 27 Club – that he died at a young age, having seen great fame in his short life.
Morrison didn’t just ‘happen’ in 1965, springing from the ether to become a cultural icon. Sure, he was with The Doors for less than five years, but The Lizard King was reading Nietzsche and Blake from an early age. He spent long hours writing poetry and lyrics, and years expressing himself in music and film. He spent time learning and honing skills, which magnified his natural talent and charismatic, if erratic, persona.
For argument sake, let’s say Morrison started growing into the man he would once be when he entered his teens – when most people start trying to think for themselves, and start making choices based on those thoughts. In this view, he spent roughly a third of his time left on Earth in a formative stage, a third honing his craft in and around his college years, and a third setting the world on fire (yes, I know he didn’t write ‘Light My Fire’).
I sometimes look at who I am and what I do and wonder ‘what if’: what if I’d stuck with learning programming, or what if I didn’t spend five years in the Army, or what if… Sometimes I feel the urge to do something different or more, but I feel the momentum of my life keeping me where I am.
I’m 37. My life is on a track that leads in a direction. Is it not too late to do something new or great? Am I always going to be this Ed Healy, just getting older as the years tick by?
Then I look at Morrison. In thirteen or fourteen years, he accomplished his entire journey.
Hey, it’s just simple math. I could ignore everything I have done or learned up until today and, with hard work and talent and dedication, I might be able to do something new and great by the time I’m 50.
And 50 isn’t that old.
And I don’t have to ignore my past.
And I don’t have to start from nothing.
What would I like to accomplish?
What kind of man do I want to be?
Why not just do those things and be that man?
This is what I learned – oddly, I must admit – from Jim Morrison.