Update: I wrote the below as a personal email to Alex Bogusky, modernday mad man, last night at 2:15 am.
It must be painful being in the public eye and being called the things the Fast Company article called him, so I hope that sharing my limited, positive experience of Alex publicly in this forum might provide some context and perspective.
As I say below in the comments section, Alex is a fun, good guy who just happens to be the best and most creative ad man in the US. He pushed horrible things on the American public, like Burger King’s chicken finger fries. And he got rich (rich) doing so. And now, big surprise, he wants to use his wealth to do good things, and feel good about what he does. There’s nothing new in such a career arc—nevertheless, I’m sincerely overjoyed that he’s doing so (He’s been greening his ways, getting rid of his truck the size of Miami, and moving 60% of Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s team to Boulder. He’s written a good book. He’s hosting a good talk show).
What I want to offer regarding Alex is simple: he is a good “dude” (see the video at bottom). His story reminds me of the Buddhist saint Milarepa, who did bad stuff, and then used his remorse to power his practice of meditation for the benefit of others. Milarepa became one of the great Buddhist bodhisattvas (a hero who helps alleviate suffering). Alex’s career arc also reminds me of the “Dharmapala” principle—in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Dharmapalas are troublemakers transformed into protectors of the Dharma (truth). Alex is perhaps like a modernday Musashi—a charismatic, wild ronin, tamed, who becomes a noble, fierce samurai (samurai, remember, practiced kyudo and meditation).
Alex, you’ve read The Art of War. Don’t dwell on complements or criticism. Practice meditation (training for using the present moment to its fullest benefit). Don’t enjoy figuring out who you are—in Buddhism, we call that therapeutic entertainment. Your talents and ready enjoyment of life are already just what this troubled world needs. And just in time. ~ WL.
Just read the Fast Company “Sociopath” profile you’d mentioned.
Two things: the whole article (click here for Alex’s response) is just another in a long line of complements and criticisms that are leveled at those who, like yourself, have the audacity to live life out loud.
As the Japanese say,
“it’s the nail that sticks out that gets hammered down.”
As the article itself ended:
“‘My friend…said, ‘You may be the most narcissistic person I know. It used to piss me off, and now I’ve come to be okay with it.'”
You could say the same about yourself: you’ve heard all the criticisms before. It’s important to listen and learn. It’s also important to be okay with yourself, and let go of all that. Sociopath? Good point. Move on.
Secondly, that “The” Mother Theresa poem (quoted in part at the beginning of the Fast Company article) is right on, saying some of the same things. It reminded me of one of the most-quoted poems ever, that my Buddhist teacher Trungpa Rinpoche loved, “If,” by Rudyard Kipling.
The dissonance between who we all want to be for our children and what we’re good at doing (in your case: creatively pushing some bad stuff on the masses) is painful, and remarkable. As the article said you said, “I heard my mouth disconnected from my soul.”
What matters now is now. You are perhaps one of 20 or 30 people in the world that I know, or know of, who are in a position to galvanize some real community for some real and needed change. I wish you jolly good luck.
Great to see the FearLess Cottage. Awesome.
Yours in the Vision of Enlightened Society,
Bonus, the video referred to in the Fast Company profile and in Alex’s response.