Be True to Your Own Spirit Like Jim Morrison
Do you know what you want out of this life, but for one reason or another, always seem to compromise your dreams? Let Jim Morrison’s fierce and unwavering pursuit of his own destiny motivate you to chase yours with relentless abandon.
If I have a “favorite” band, it’s The Doors. Lyrically and sonically, they just do it for me.
But if you’ve ever really been into The Doors, or any band for that matter, then you know it takes more than just songs to light your fire. The band has to offer something else—perhaps something seemingly intangible—that you can grasp onto and use as fuel to help you break on through to the other side.
When it comes to The Doors, for me, that something else was an idea that The Doors members conveyed through their attitude and the way they lived their lives. If I had to put in words, it would read something like this:
Know who you are, know your passion, pursue it relentlessly and don’t let anyone or anything ever stop you.
This was an idea that was particularly embodied by the intense and enigmatic Jim Morrison, lead singer of The Doors. Here, he puts it into his own words, much more eloquently than I:
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.“
One of my favorite Jim Morrison stories that exemplifies this spirit is rather hilariously reenacted in the 1991 Oliver Stone film, The Doors. In the scene featuring Val Kilmer as Jim Morrison, the band is booked to appear on the Ed Sullivan show in 1967 and waiting to take the stage when one of the show’s producers approaches with a seemingly innocuous request:
“I have one little thing to bring up. It’s a small thing, but it’s important. The guys at network have told us that they have a little problem with one of your lyrics. It’s the lyric ‘Girl we couldn’t get much higher.’ See, because you can’t say ‘higher’ on network, so they asked if you can say instead, ‘Girl, we can’t get much better.’ Can you dig that?”
Uh, no, Jim Morrison could not and did not “dig that” one bit. In fact, to change the lyrics of their song to appease “the man” flew in the face of everything in which he believed. And in the next scene, The Doors singer belts out the forbidden word on live TV like only he can:
You know that it would be untrue
You know that I would be a liar
If I was to say to you
Girl, we couldn’t get much higher
Think about how important this moment, this one decision, is to Jim Morrison’s legacy and destiny. I for one know that if he had changed the lyrics to “Girl, we can’t get much better,” the level of regard I have for him would have been diminished. And the teaching moment—to never compromise what you stand for—would have been lost.
Of course, Jim Morrison never in a million years would have changed that lyric. Why? Because he was a man who believed in himself and was deeply connected to his journey in life. He knew what he wanted to do, why he wanted to do it and why it was so important.
Ultimately, this is just one small example of how the lead singer of The Doors was relentless in his pursuit of living life according to his “be who you are” and never change for anyone ethos. In his short 27 years on this planet, he lived his life according to his own personal code. He took the road less traveled and it made all the difference. Had he not, there would be no Jim Morrison and The Doors.
What about you? How many things do you do everyday that are disconnected from your authentic self? How far have you veered off your true path in life? And how do you plan on getting back on track so you can fulfill your true destiny?
Let’s look at some of the profound words and actions of Jim Morrison to get you inspired and motivated to be true to yourself.
Change the World to Be What You Want It to Be
Jim Morrison was on a lifelong search for something that was not necessarily within easy grasp. He wanted to have vivid experiences that fully engaged all of his senses. He wanted to find freedom through revolt, chaos and disorder. And he wanted to reach the spiritual through the physical so he could confirm his own existence.
He envisioned a world in his mind that was starkly different from the realities of the world in which he lived. And he knew he would have to go sharply against the grain of society to create that world and live in it. In his own words:
“A man searching for lost Paradise can seem a fool to those who never sought the other world.”
The world in which you live may be tolerable or intolerable to you, but one thing is for certain: it’s not the world you want it to be. If it was perfect, you wouldn’t have so many great ideas to evolve it or change it.
In one way or another, no matter where your interests and passions are, that is what you want to do, right? In some way, small or large, change the world with your great ideas?
As a person of authenticity on a path to fulfilling your destiny, you have to change the world to be as you want it to be. And you have to be relentless in your pursuit. If you make compromises all the time and keep conforming to the status quo, you will never achieve anything you set out to do.
Be True to Yourself by Not Compromising
In the documentary, When You’re Strange: A Film About The Doors, by director Tom DiCillo, Anne Morrison, Jim Morrison’s sister, talks about how at a young age, Jim loved classic literature and read everything he could get his hands on. So much so that one day he got up from his chair in his high school class, told the teacher he had a brain tumor and left. Why? So he could go off and read some more.
His intense passion admittedly caused her concern:
“I just thought he would be a beatnik and be poor all his life,” she said. “I even spent one whole night crying about it, worrying, because no one was ever going to realize his talent. Because I knew he wasn’t going to compromise. I knew he wasn’t going to do just anything.”
She knew he wasn’t going to compromise? Wow. Think about that. How many people can you say that about in your life? Do you really know anyone at all who doesn’t compromise who they are, what they stand for and what they want at least some of the time? If you do know someone like that, then keep them close, learn from them and get inspired by them.
You also need to ask yourself, “How much have I compromised?”
Obviously, most of us need to make certain compromises at times to maintain relationships, hold a job and take care of our basic necessities in life. But when it comes to the big picture of your life, think hard about who you really are, what you really want and the seemingly simple compromises you make on a daily basis—for career, money, family, friends—that can derail your true destiny.
Are you in a long-term job solely for the money, while your dreams are put on hold? Do you spend time with people you have nothing in common with just so you won’t be lonely? Are you in a relationship simply to have help paying the rent? To compromise too often and too much is the surest path to a life unfulfilled.
Surround Yourself with Like-minded Supporters
Jim Morrison once said:
“Friends can help each other. A true friend is someone who lets you have total freedom to be yourself—and especially to feel. Or, not feel. Whatever you happen to be feeling at the moment is fine with them. That's what real love amounts to—letting a person be what he really is.”
The Doors, as a group of four men with differing wants, need and ideas, were not without their problems as a band. But the reason they worked so well together musically was because at the end of the day, they respected each other, supported each other and allowed each other to be who they really were.
Ray Manzarek, The Doors keyboardist, said the following of his band members:
“I played music practically my entire life. But the first time I ever really played music was with John and Robby and Jim. That's where it happened. It was an epiphany, a moment of profound clarity.”
Jim Morrison and The Doors were lucky to have Ray Manzarek—somebody who recognized the powerful relationship they had formed and wanted to protect it and nurture it so it could blossom into its full potential.
Be sure that the people with whom you surround yourself are there to protect and nurture you, and allow you the freedom to pursue your goals. If it takes you a while to find such people, then so be it. You’re better off going it alone for a while then being dragged down by the negativity of anybody.
Have the Courage to See Your Vision Through
In the book No One Here Gets Out Alive by Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman, they talk about those artists whom with Jim Morrison admired and most passionately identified: Nietzsche, Kerouac, Rimbaud, Poe and Byron, to name a few.
For Jim, “To be a poet, to be an artist, meant more than writing or painting or singing; it meant having a vision, and the courage to see that vision through, despite any opposition.” Just like his heroes.
It can be one of the most challenging things to pursue a vision that only you can see. But the fact that only you can see it is also the reason it’s worth pursuing. Because it’s yours and yours alone. If you don’t fulfill it, there’s a good chance you will have at least enjoyed the ride while trying. If you do fulfill it, it will be your legacy.
At the Paris cemetery Père Lachaise where Jim Morrison is buried and receives thousands of visitors a month, there’s a stone on his grave that bears the Greek inscription: ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ, which is literally interpreted as "True to his own spirit.”
What have you done lately to be true to yours? More importantly, what will you do now?