Inspired by Ashton Kutcher: I Didn't Think I'd Be Saying That, Either, But I Am

4 years ago

I never thought I would quote Ashton Kutcher (ever!), but here goes…

“Build a Life, Don’t Live One. Find Your Opportunities. And Always Be Sexy,” said the Iowa-born model, actor, producer and avid investor, Mr. Ashton Kutcher. His acceptance speech for the Ultimate Choice Award at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards this past weekend was insightful, inspirational, and most importantly, necessary for teens everywhere to hear.

You should watch the speech yourself, and get your teens to watch with you, but he ultimately focuses on three key points:

1. Opportunity:  He explains how, to him, opportunity looks a lot like hard work.  He admits that he never has had a job in his life that he was better than.  He has always felt lucky to have a job, and looked to that job as a steppingstone for the next job or venture.  Such a great perspective!

2. Being Sexy:  We know that teens today are inundated with messages defining “What is Sexy”.  How to improve their self-image, what to wear, what’s attractive, etc.  Kutcher flips any definition on its head by saying, “the sexiest thing in the whole world is being really smart!”  Followed by being thoughtful and generous.

3. Building a Life:  This point may be more in line with this generation’s current thinking, but a cool reminder that with hard work, intelligence (and perhaps many other attributes like respect and humility), you can build the life you want — not just live one that’s almost pre-defined for you.

Maybe it’s a coincidence that the United Nations’ International Youth Day occurred just after the Teen Choice Awards (and the very viral Kutcher speech), but for me, I thought…how appropriate!  While this year’s International Youth Day focused on youth migration as its main theme, the overarching purpose of the Day is to encourage youth around the world to MAKE AN IMPACT, and celebrate their peers who are doing so.

Actor Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs in a scene from JOBS, the biopic of Apple founder and CEO Steve Jobs, directed by Joshua Michael Stern. (Image: © Itar-Tass/ITAR-TASS/

I speak a lot about business and the workplace in my blog, but I also have learned a great deal about philanthropy from my daughter. Philanthropy is simply defined as goodwill to fellow members of the human race.As my daughter learns about what “neighbors” are and mentions how so-and-so are “her friends”, it reminds me how we are all part of a greater community that we need to embrace and help support. Whether it’s encouraging her to volunteer at a local food bank, donate her piggy bank to help give less fortunate kids toys over the Holidays, or build a house for “her neighbors”, it’s important to me to keep philanthropy a cornerstone in her upbringing.

My ultimate wish for my daughter is twofold: 1. Always Find Her Own Happiness, 2. Make an Impact. With reference to the latter, this can mean an impact on a single person, a local community or an entire industry. Regardless of what path she chooses in life, making an impact (or giving back, in a sense) is the greatest gift we can give each other. Turns out, teens these days may have already caught on.

  • Parents (84%), teachers (78%), kids (73%), and teens (64%) all say character-building skills are among the most important skills to develop along with academic skills in order to be successful in life.
  • Generation Z (those born in early-mid 1990s through 2010) are more socially responsible than other generations.

Teens are eager to give back, volunteer and live socially responsibly. Whether you are a non-profit organization, a parent or a corporate brand — you just have to give them the opportunities and tools to do so! They may have been called the “Me Generation” or labeled as “entitled” as a whole, but the World’s youth today are good at their core. Perhaps they just need an advocate and cheerleader, like Ashton Kutcher, to help them understand they have to put in the hard work and a certain level of “sexiness” to make a significant impact.

Mr. Kutcher’s Teen Choice Awards Speech was geared toward Generation Y or Z, but I believe it’s a poignant reminder to all of us. We can all build the life we choose for ourselves — find our own happiness and make an impact on someone — in business, life, or community.


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