What Will Cure What Ails Justin, Miley and Kanye—and much of Hollywood?


The headlines from Hollywood these days are relentlessly bad: “Justin Bieber Acts Like A Total Jerk During Deposition.” “Miley Cyrus twerks on Santa.” “Kanye West charged with battery.” Every other week yet another celebrity implodes. Hollywood is experiencing a monumental meltdown of human decency.

It’s not just celebrities behaving badly—these are real people who have real impact, making really dubious choices. I’ll leave it to the psychoanalysts to debate the causes, but I think I know the cure.

What is it that these stars all have in common? Their everyday lives are completely detached from the reality the rest of the world lives in. They drive in chauffeured cars and fly in private planes. They are catered to by assistants, consultants and endless lawyers. They may work hard for their money, but they’re not working hard to stay connected to the common man.

And why should they, when the real world is full of such hardship and misery?

Because for many of the young, rich and famous, things aren’t looking too rosy up there in Hollywoodland. Yet if they were to experience a good dose of reality through service—through really giving back—it could utterly transform their lives.

Avoiding a train wreck

Celebrities are on the fast train to nowhere if they stay sealed off in their first class cabins. The world outside their window whizzes by in such a frantic blur, it’s easy for them to ignore it. After all, if you can’t see it, it doesn’t really exist, right?

I say they could avoid the constant train wrecks by putting on the brakes through being of service to others. An old fashioned idea for a whole new crowd. Invite the celebrities off the train and reunite them with the world they have left behind and forgotten. The most effective and rewarding way to do this is by helping those who are less advantaged.

I’m not talking about walking the red carpet at a charity event, spending five minutes with a terminally ill child—while the cameras roll—or auctioning themselves off for a “once-in-a-lifetime” date. I’m also not talking about meeting in a boardroom with an executive director, or writing a big check as a mea culpa for inappropriate behavior. While these efforts certainly have their place, what I’m talking about is having the stars roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.

Countless studies have shown tangible emotional and physical benefits of generosity. Most critically, the act of spending time with people who are benefitting from that help can have a profound effect on the giver’s feelings of self-worth, and thereby lead to better decision-making.

Whether you are providing a meal for someone who may not otherwise eat that day, helping a child with homework, or spending time with an elderly man confined to his house, being of service to others is both life-changing and empowering. It takes you out of your comfort zone, giving you a chance to see and feel something new. And the best thing is, anyone and everyone can do it.

Check your ego at the door

Of course, some people reap more benefits from being of service than others do. Those who are able to check their egos at the door and truly be present while giving to others experience the greatest return. Which brings us back to Justin, Miley and Kanye. From observing their behavior, there’s little doubt that they buy their own hype—and their massive egos are the key to maintaining their unhealthy levels of detachment.

So the challenge for these stars, as it is for all of us, lies in finding a way to surrender to the service opportunity. How? By remembering it’s not about us, it’s about the person we are helping. It doesn’t matter whether we’re famous or not, as long as we reach out, lend a hand and remain open to the lessons being presented to us.

I’m sure Justin, Miley and Kanye are generous to others. After all, these are people who have souls. But, based on how their behavior is hurtling them toward inevitable disaster, what they’re currently doing clearly isn’t enough.

They deserve more. They deserve the benefits of serving—and we deserve the benefits of their sincere efforts.