Wear sunscreen

sunscreenI have an iPod with loads of 80s and 90s songs held within its memory and, through the magic of ‘shuffle’, they randomly make re-appearances in my world (or at least my ears).

There’s one song that I really like popping up when I’m ‘away with the fairies’ running on the hills (this is fertile ‘brain fart’ territory).

The song is ‘Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)’, released in 1999 by Baz Luhrmann. If you’ve never heard it before then I’d describe it as a man eloquently talking through a series of life lessons, where his spoken word ‘rap’ is matched to an agreeable background beat. Groovy.

It’s pretty corny stuff…but that’s because there’s some level of truism in every line!

Now, there’s one short verse that I often think about whilst at work. Here it is:

“Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard.

Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.


Ok, I had better explain:

Why work?

I see a rather good analogy of:

  • working somewhere really great; and
  • working somewhere really not!
  • …and then, because you now ‘get it’, your work travels will become full of meaning.

If you’ve only ever worked somewhere really great: then you may not realise that it is great and, even if you do, you may not understand what makes it this way.

If you’ve only ever worked somewhere really terrible: then you may think that this is just what work is and, even if you wish for better things, you will likely be stuck as to what makes your work place terrible (I’m talking root causes)…and therefore whether it is changeable…and how to do so.

If you have worked at both ends of the spectrum: then you will likely have had some pretty important ‘aha’ moments and, even if you haven’t had these (yet), you are probably curious to explore the seemingly vast gulf between organisations.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with working for a figurative ‘Northern California’ all your life….but travel is a great thing – not for the destination, but for the journey 🙂

…and, whilst it might be great, I presume that even Northern California isn’t perfect.

How about me?

I realise that everything is relative, but yep, I reckon that I’ve spent years at both ends of the spectrum and I can confirm that I didn’t realise what good looked like whilst I was there! Looking back, I can say that it wasn’t perfect, but man it was GOOD!

Put at its simplest: it was about the people…and it was soooo about the customer…and it really was!

I can also confirm that, whilst I am a natural skeptic (where this is, I believe, a positive word), it was only on leaving my (unacknowledged) Paradise that my journey of discovery truly crystallised…and accelerated.

I might not work in Paradise now but, hey, I’m on an interesting journey.

Direction of travel?

Now, you’ll notice that the song lyric doesn’t give explicit advice on whether the order of habitation matters. Here’s my thinking on this:

  • if you prefer a smooth ride then I hope lady luck books you a ticket from New York to Northern California;
  • if you are a thrill seeker, and like a bumpy ride, then you should hope for the journey in reverse….you’ll probably learn a lot more.

…and for those of you struggling whilst on your travels, remember Charles Swindoll’s view that “…life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”


Oh yeah, and to conclude – here’s my favourite, favourite line from the song:

“The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself.”

That’s it – there’s nothing more to add to that.



Author of the song lyrics: One of the nice things about blogging is that, through checking things out before I publish, I find out a whole lot more in the process. I looked up the ‘Wear Sunscreen’ song and Wikipedia (and its source links) tells me that the lyrics come from an “essay written as a hypothetical commencement speech” by a columnist Mary Schmich in 1997. Baz Lurhmann then used it as the basis for the 1999 song.

Where you currently work: So there’s a small chance that your current boss happens to read this post, points it in your direction and then asks you whether you work in New York or Northern California.

If you honestly answer ‘New York’ and they respond badly to this…then they kinda prove the point. However, if they genuinely want to understand why this is so, then perhaps you’ve just moved a small step towards Northern California.

One thought on “Wear sunscreen

  1. Aahh! the sunscreen song and dance the funky chicken!
    Baz Luhrmann, the director who gave us the wonderful Red Curtain trilogy Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, and Moulin Rouge, my daughters favourite director! Oh and yes he did also direct Australia! Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in a very different arrangement than that of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut!

    Another wonderful post Squiretothegiants! or should it not be Sagetothegiants?

    Anton Lienart-Brown, another Christchurch Boys High contribution! But Ryan Crotty of Shirley Boys High is surely in the position!

    ‘Tis a pity about Kieran Read’s baby daughter’s infection affecting Todd Blackadder’s finale season!

    It did however provide Victor Vito and Cory Jane a fitting send off of little pain.

    Today I listened to Professor Barbara Simpson talk about dynamic flow and leadership-as-practice, in which it was about the verb and not the noun and the singular practice as different from the plural practices, with a dose of the pragmatists James, Dewey and of course Mead.

    Thanks again for another thoughtful post

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s