What You Could Learn From Dolph Lundgren of the Expendables and Rocky IV and His TEDx Talk

In this photo Dolph Lundgren feels the catharsis, relief and emotion that comes along with the vulnerability and authenticity of his powerful talk.

Photo Courtesy of Liz H Kelly, Founder, Goody PR

I had the honor of working with Dolph Lundgren on his talk for TEDxFulbrightSantaMonica and in the process he taught me some very valuable lessons.

First off, though, let me admit some of my preconceptions. Since he’s so good looking he couldn’t possibly be all that smart, right? Well, wrong. After graduating at the head of his class in chemical engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm he got scholarships to Washington State University, Clemson, and then a Fulbright Scholarship to MIT where he (almost) studied chemical engineering. The last year of getting his Masters Degree in Sydney, on scholarship, of course. He met the singer Grace Jones and ended up missing class because of her and then, before he was supposed to start MIT, he got pulled into the world of superstars by none other than Andy Warhol, which is a fun story he tells.

OK, so, he is a super famous actor, 40 plus movies under his belt, so he must think he knows it all, right? Wrong again. Dolph is one of the most open and coachable people I’ve ever worked with. He knew instinctively that the TED format is a different format and he listened actively and was very creative in how he applied the principles I shared with him.

But, of course, since he’s such a superstar he must have a huge ego. Again, I was wrong. When we sat down for the first time to talk about his upcoming talk for TEDxFulbright he opened himself up fully and shared the story you’ll hear in his talk. What I discovered is that he’s actually a very generous, committed and kind person. He is also brave far beyond just being big and strong, he’s brave inside and willing to face himself with the same ferocity he used to aim outwards.

His talk is all about healing and he starts with the story of how he first healed himself from the anger and pain of his abusive childhood. He then shares his revelation that once he healed himself he was able to see further and begin helping to heal others through his work to stop human trafficking. He wrote and made a move called Skin Trade and he also works with CAST (Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking), as well as Mentor Foundation USA. which was established by HM Queen Silvia of Sweden in 1994 in collaboration with The World Health Organization. That’s kind of cool!
Dolph’s talk is wonderful, so I won’t ruin it for you.

What I do want to do is point out a few key things that I learned from Dolph. First, don’t judge a book by it’s cover. People who are successful are usually successful for a good reason and it’s the insecure part of me that wants to box people in and minimize how wonderful they are, because my monkey mind feels threatened. That’s a dead end.

Second, I have to believe that one of the reasons Dolph has been so successful is because he is committed to being coachable. As an actor taking direction is a wildly important skill. Dolph Lundgren’s ability to bring that coach-ability to all of life is a huge gift, both for himself and for those around him. I remind myself regularly of what I learned from Les Brown: “It’s hard to see the picture when you’re in the frame…” I figure that I don’t have the right to coach others if I’m not getting coached myself. Dolph reinforced and cemented that belief for me. I was amazed at both how coachable he was and also at how much creativity and insight he brought to the process. I love working with people like Dolph because I give them some simple, actionable principles and they do creative, wonderful things with them that I’d never think of, myself. It makes me look good, for sure.

Finally, Dolph brought me back to the deep, moving power of vulnerability and the high value of a willingness to share one’s messes and the lessons learned from them. I still resist being authentic, sometimes. It seems like admitting my failures will make me seem weak, or less than. But, time and time again I see that when I share my failures and what they taught me people come to respect me more, not less. I think that’s the experience you’ll have with Dolph Lundgren’s TEDx talk. It will work for you, as well.

Now, I invite you to watch Dolph Lundgren, On Healing and Forgiveness.

My personal thanks to Dolph Lundgren for allowing me to share this. I’m inspired every time I think of you.

1 Comment

  1. Virginia MacCuspic on August 14, 2018 at 10:27

    Thank you for sharing this John. I respect him so much more than I did before. Vulnerability is so important and the people who don’t appreciate it are the ones that haven’t discovered its power yet!

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