My response: Fast Company profiles “Sociopath” Alex Bogusky’s “New Age Midlife Crisis.”

Via Waylon Lewis
on Aug 19, 2010
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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.


Dear Alex,

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.


Alex Bogusky At Turning The Tide from BAYCAT on Vimeo.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


5 Responses to “My response: Fast Company profiles “Sociopath” Alex Bogusky’s “New Age Midlife Crisis.””

  1. mark kreloff says:

    Alex…love it that you call Boulder home. Gotta love the haters from the sterile, safe and shameless confines of corporate America. You've made yourself so easy to love!

  2. elephantjournal says:

    Facsinating: one of the world's leading advertising men, quits to find himself; and new purpose in life: evidence of a new paradigm emerging?… posted by Ben Ralston

    Richard Russeth One guy is not a paradigm shift.

    Richard H Hmmm. Perhaps a new paradigm in your misuse of grammar and punctuation.

    Tamara M This is something new?? Where have you been? You see, there was this decade called the 1960's….

    Leaves C did it too.

    # Yes, apologies for my atrocious grammar, punctuation, and sense of space and time this morning (ok the last two didn't affect any of you). But I stand by the idea that this guy's move is perhaps representative (as he says in his response to the article) of a *major* change in the way people are looking at things these days, especially in the light of the economic changes the world is going through. via Ben Ralston

    Tamara M My husband and I live off of investments made while we were cubicle jockeys, now we both stay home to raise our kids.

    Jodi Halsey Awesome!

    Tamara, the shift he's talking about is doing well by doing good. Something Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard talks about, too. Something I talk about (though I have yet to do well!). The 60s were more about leaving world of the man in the gray flannel suit behind…but now we have a chance to create a world of conscious consumerism, where those who live their ideals, who are responsible in their relationship to our environment, are the ones most successful financially.

    That said, Alex's journey thus far is pretty traditional—make big money doing big things that aren't necessarily good, and are often bad, sometimes good (like his anti-smoking campaign, or introducing small Minis to the US successfully), always hip and exciting…then leaving the corporate world behind once he's had children and wants to like who he is, not just what he's accomplished.

    One final note: Alex is a fundamentally good man, and has been supportive of ele and myself through some tough times for this publication. I'm excited to see what he accomplishes. I genuinely believe it could be world- and paradigm-changing. I hope his "new age midlife crisis" continues full-steam toward a fruition of eco- and social-responsibility, and meditation practice for his own sanity and compassion. Having someone with his brilliance, charm and cred exploiting samsara for the benefit of others would be a great help in these urgent times.
    ~ WL

  3. Jed Bentley says:

    Bogusky is obviously a really talented, powerful, charismatic man who also has a beautiful vision for how he wants to change the world. What concerns me about the article and Waylon Lewis's response is that appears that Bogusky has some real problems relating with actual human beings (which is what all this world-betterment is about right?, actual people). I think his quote sums it up: "I know you want me to feel bad that you're leaving," he says, pretending that I'm one of the quitters. "I know this is a big deal for you, but in the context of what the rest of my week's gonna be like, it's just not a big deal. Everyone wants that to be a very special moment, but unfortunately it's not." People matter, individuals matter, it's really awesome to have big picture visions and actions to make the world a better place, but doesn't it start at home with how you treat the people with whom you are actually relating on a day to day basis? People who have worked hard for you and looked up to you. That dismissal of the value and significance of individuals definitely seems to be indicative of something being off, which does not cancel out all the other beautiful things this man has done and I'm sure will do.

  4. Lisbeth Beasley says:

    Funny enough my favorite Nicole Kidman movie, during her time with The Cruise, was “The Others”. Which I found creepy as hell to watch. But I loved it.