“You have to kill the person you were born to be in order to become the person you want to be ...”.
The second I heard that line, I leapt from the couch to grab a notepad and jot it down. It resonated so much with me that I wanted to remember it, word for word.
I was watching Rocketman, the biopic based on the life of Elton John, a living legend of the music world, whose path to success was filled with roadblocks.
Back in the day, when he went by his birth name Reginald Dwight, he was referred to as the “fat boy from nowhere”.
The question is, how does one go from “nowhere” — in his case, a town in Greater London called Pinner — to pretty much everywhere? Most people would accept such a transition as impossible, and resign to the fact that life isn’t fair; that global success is not on the cards for them, but not Elton John.
Early in the film, when he was a young man, Elton is seen playing the keyboard for a Motown singer. A mentor of sorts, the singer cautions him with words that I’ve always believed and that I now live by. That special line that caught my attention as I sat on my sofa: “You gotta kill the person you were born to be to become the person you want to be.”
The same line would likely resonate with every other person who broke away to fulfil their dreams. In fact, I suspect all of us struggle with the very same existential conundrum to some extent — but none so dramatically as Elton John.
In his case, the wisdom imparted on him by the Motown songster proved rather good advice, and that makes me wonder how many of us accept our lot in life without pursuing what we really want. How many of us live within the limitations that we impose on ourselves because of where we were born and what were born with — or without?
For most people, the unfortunate reality is that instead of serving as inspiration as they did for Elton John, the words of that Motown mentor represent a message that remains unanswered.
I can rant on this from personal experience. I was born into a great family, but into a community that defines “nowhere” even better than Pinner.
I grew up in Charleston, Illinois, right smack in the middle of farm country. Save for the occasional town, all that meets the eye are acres and acres of cornfields. Our only claim to fame was being the home of Jimmy Johns, which in my opinion is the best sub sandwich shop in the world.
I was born to be just another kid from a small town. Life had a clear path: I would be a high school athlete and then either stick around or move to Chicago. Yet, that Tommy is now a distant memory. I recall him with fondness, but I also celebrate his death.
Actually, life can be filled with many such “deaths”: those decisions and events that cause the person you were born to be to fade away, and the person you want to be to emerge. It doesn’t just happen once; as I continue to change, old versions of me die away to be replaced by new manifestations of the man I want to be.
Perhaps this whole topic is not for you, but allow me to close with some other lines from Rocketman.
“It used to just be the two of us,” said Elton’s long-term song writer, Bernie Taupin.
“Now there’s busloads of people just to do the music … don’t you want to just go out there and sing without this ridiculous paraphernalia? You know, just be yourself, Reg?”
The legendary musician replies: “Why ... would I want that, Bernie? You know, you wouldn’t say this to me if you were a real friend. People don’t pay to see Reginald Dwight. They pay to see Elton John!”
— Tommy Weir is CEO of enaible: AI-powered Leadership and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.