Enlightened celebrities want the same things we do in our search for meaning. A life well lived, and a day well spent. Here’s what I learned from my brief encounter with Rob Lowe.
(This article first appeared in the Huffington Post. Like my HuffPost contributor page to get notified of article updates – I don’t always reproduce them here or vice versa.)
It’s a good thing I hadn’t followed Rob Lowe’s 36-year career all that closely (Michael J Fox was more my vibe back in the day), nor fantasized about what it would be like to bask in his charm, wit and good looks.
If I had, I’d probably have swooned, gushed or gaped when he dashed into a hotel elevator I was in last week. It would’ve been easy for me to confuse who he plays with who he is. Fresh from what appeared to have been a run he’d taken around the hotel property, my unfiltered consciousness could discern that Rob glowed with the vitality of someone who truly loves life from the inside out.
We were at the hotel for a conference – he was a keynote speaker, I was an attendee. His latest book Love Life was part of our conference swag. Until he took the stage for his keynote, a few hours before our serendipitous elevator encounter, I hadn’t completely figured out why he’d been invited to speak. We’d gathered to talk about managing human resources (HR) in the workplace, and the running joke was that Rob had been invited because he’d be a magnet for HR managers who are typically female. (If there’s any truth to this, then well played conference organizers. Very well played.)
Rob’s keynote turned out to be as disarming and refreshingly relevant as he is. He drew parallels between show business and the businesses that we worked in. He talked about his relentless pursuit of both work intensity and life serenity. He made his own search for love and meaning relatable to our own. And he graciously answered our fan girl (and one self-deprecating fan guy’s) questions about Hollywood, mentorship, parenthood and living an authentic life. We lobbed our affection his way. He drank it in and loved us right back.
So by the time I did have those few unexpected minutes alone with him, as the elevator glided silently upward to our respective hotel rooms, I slipped into improv mode and initiated a human-to-human conversation about his adventures in keynote speaking. I learned that he’s been lending his celebrity to talk about cancer and sobriety, issues that have personally touched his family and life. This conference had been his first outing talking about the broader themes of meaning and loving your work and life, themes that I later realized formed the scaffold for Love Life. I urged him to continue talking about it – it’s a sweet spot that we all yearn for in our own way.
Like Rob’s manager and mentor Bernie Brillstein (who he lovingly writes about in Love Life), I’m good at reading a room and the people in that room. I felt that Rob’s zest for life was fueled by an inner calm, a strong sense of having settled into his own skin, and of liking and accepting what was there.
Before we parted company, my inner fan girl surfaced long enough to ask him for a photo. He obliged. Then in a flash, my 3 minutes with him were up.
I thanked the universe for this cherry on top of my already-sensational conference experience, and believed that would be the end of that. It would make for a titillating story at social gatherings, and little more.
My intuition and curiosity had other plans.
I started reading Love Life on the plane ride home. Rob’s unabashed love for storytelling and the written word are clear. You can tell that he’s thoughtfully caressed each line in the book, crafting them to showcase both his penchant for mirth and his capacity for introspection.
And thanks to Love Life and ‘the Google’, I’ve since uncovered our shared love for family, dogs, news, politics and America’s founding fathers, leadership, government, writing, the performing arts, activism, entrepreneurship and (of all things) Campbell’s Tomato Soup. I walked a mile in his son Matthew’s shoes, and understood my own mother’s anguish about my leaving home, when Rob wrote about sending Matthew off to college. I walked five miles in my Dad’s imaginary shoes (he passed when I was 8), projecting what my childhood and teen years would’ve been like if, like Rob, my Dad had been a doting presence at every school play and summer vacation. And I walked ten miles in his wife Sheryl’s shoes, when Rob penned how she’s the yin to his yang, how she’d hooked a complicated fish with him, and how he continues to want to dig deeper and love her better. That was how it was with the love of my life, who passed unexpectedly in the fall of 2013. In our intense and bittersweet time together, we’d taught each other the power of unconditional love. As hard as it was for me to read that chapter in Love Life, it also began to rekindle my desire for that deep soul connection with someone new.
Most of all, those 3 minutes with Rob helped to reawaken my innate light-heartedness and drive. In his keynote speech, he talked about the importance of casting, of surrounding yourself with people, mentors and role models who will help you thrive. I’m now adding Rob to my life’s cast, for his determination to live life on his terms, for being a model raconteur, for working like a dog (as of this writing, IMDb ascribes 89 acting credits and 9 producing credits to him), for staying sane and relevant in an uber-visible, hyper-measured and high-stakes industry, and for understanding that being youthful is both an inside job and a byproduct of staying physically active.
With the help of his two books, Stories I Only Tell My Friends and Love Life, investing in Miramax Films, and with the launch of his new men’s skincare line Profile4Men, Rob is making the transition from Hollywood heartthrob to astute writer and enthusiastic entrepreneur with flair. As his sons Matthew and Johnowen continue on their journey into adulthood, Rob is growing into more of himself as a husband, an artist and a concerned patriot. May his onward journey continue to be infused with the love for life that he holds so dear.
Footnote: Rob has since graciously thanked me on Twitter for the article.
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) June 19, 2015
What a nice, generous surprise; your thoughts really meant a lot to me. Thank you!! https://t.co/MlpCAzsF3g
— Rob Lowe (@RobLowe) June 20, 2015
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